Thursday, July 31, 2008


It's not everyday that a guy turns 36, and it's not everyday that it happens in London. Of course, it happened last year, but I was only turning 35 then, so this year is 365 days better. I had a banner birthday, mostly because of the wonderful group I'm with here, as you will see. But I also was a little homesick, because I know that no one loves birthdays more than my crew at home. And I was touched to see a photo my kids holding the happy birthday sign at home, where my birthday was celebrated with treats, prizes, and underpants in my absence.

Daniel and Liz Whiting went with me to lunch at the Kensington Orangery. It's always one of my favorite places, and you pay for it. Mostly in ambiance, but in this case, also with cold chicken and salad. And lemonade. And Eastern European waitresses who won't split the check. But I have good past memories of the Orangery, and one strange one. Today was another good one. Afterwards we looked at Diana's gardens, which are undergoing some kind of re-design.

I have to admit that I purposely scheduled the tickets for Brief Encounter on my birthday, because I knew it would be fantastic. And it was. If I could copy it entirely, I would. And I probably will. You can count on giant sheets with trains projected on them in all my future productions. This play used mixed media. Live actors interacting with a giant cinema screen. And they would jump into the screen and sing these old Noel Coward songs. There were pre-show credits, commercials, and an audience sing-along with an angry father wielding a shotgun. I don't even know how to describe how fun it was. Think Casablanca meets the Squirrel Nut Zippers. That's a close approximation. Afterwards, we met the director. I told her it was my birthday, and she looked at me like "awesome."

For dinner we went to the Stockpot. I like the Stockpot because you get giant servings of food, so it's basically non-English. It's also affordable. By London standards, anyway. While enjoying my bangers-n-mash the students presented me with an antique map of the London Underground, and it was very touching. I didn't know they had done anything, and I sort of teared up. That was embarrassing. And then! The waitress brings a little tray to me with a ticket on it to the Of Montreal concert next week at Victoria Park. And I love Of Montreal, and they knew it, and they all went in on a ticket for me. So I felt loved - I know how tight money is for them. And that made it even kinder.

They were rewarded for their kindness by getting to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson LIVE at the X-Files premiere in Leicester Square. Daniel and Anne cheated by getting up on Alex's shoulders (separately) but it didn't matter - because in the end the two actors got pretty close to us. And YES they are short. Surprise! Duchovny looked like a hobbit. I hope he doesn't google this! Gillian Anderson was very pregnant - she seems to have lost that affected English accent she was going for a few years ago. Check 'em out:

Is that a squid, or an ALIEN???

Once we rubbed the stardust out of our eyes we wandered Chinatown, and found a really great poster shop a few blocks away, where I bought a Vertigo poster. So it was like a present. You know, like a present for myself?

Finally, my one request was that we take a ghost tour. And that's just what we did! So let it be haunted, so let it be done. We met our guide at the Holborn Station, and he was very dramatic. He looked like Peter O'Toole, if he had a baby with Willem Defoe. He led us through Bloomsbury and showed us all kinds of haunts, and told all kinds of spooky tales. make it....creepy. Other times he would TALK REALLY LOUD MID-SENTENCE, even if it wasn't a scary part. We learned about the Charles & Mary lamb murders, which I had no idea about. I like the Lambs and often plagiarize them in my Shakespeare plays. Also we learned about a man who had a ghostly encounter with himself! This is not hard for me to imagine, since 50% of British men have shaved heads and plastic framed glasses. I'm always bumping into myself, and sometimes it's alarming.

We finished our tour at Covent Garden, but only after stopping at Nell Gwynn's pub house for a pint of Coke, and some hilarious antics at the Drury Lane Theatre. For my birthday I didn't see any ghosts, but I had several encounters. And it's good to be alive.