Friday, August 06, 2010

big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary

Whenever people ask me what they absolutely have to see while they are in London I usually tell them two things: the Imperial War Museum and Sir John Soane's house. Neither sound very exciting, and maybe that explains why neither are overrun with tour groups. If I had a museum that I wanted to keep a secret I would call it "Drill Bits and Handkerchiefs: The Chris Clark Museum." But the people who DID come to my museum would love it. And that's basically how John Soane's house is.

If you go to John Soane's you have to, first of all, make sure you DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. Because I was snapped at three times in there for touching things, and one of those things - honestly - was the wall. One time I was trying to lift a latch that opened a secret passageway, and the guard came flying in and said "NO. You don't touch NUFFINK!" And in this case he was right to do that. They are very guarded about this place, and with reason: it's packed with archeological treasures. It's the most amazing little house. Soane collected items from all over the world, and he designed his home to fit them all. He also designed the house to be lit from natural light, so the stained glass ceilings make everything colorful and mysterious. And there are mirrors everywhere that trick you, and walls that aren't walls, and a hidden skeleton, and a giant Egyptian sarcophogus, and a shrine to a dead dog, and another shrine to his "friend" who was a monk (and who was also imaginary), and you could spend all day in there finding hidden places and unexpected objects. I love it there. You should go.

After the museum we all split and went our separate ways. Daniel and Alex and I made a very important stop at Pizza Express, where Daniel sampled his first, and likely last, anchovy pizza.

Then I made the guys go with me to the Charles Dickens Museum. I go to little places like this to see if they would be of any interest to the rest of the group, and the verdict on the Dickens museum is that nope, it would not. It's very sparse in there. They don't have much to show. It's housed in Dickins' old house, which is cool, and there is a writing desk he actually used, which is also cool. But then they have rooms decorated "in the style" of Charles Dickens and it's not that impressive. We did, however, watch a very informative 30 minute video about him which doubled as a 30 minute post-pizza nap.

We decided to go into town. The tube was very full today, and there were giant gusts of wind down in the tunnel that were very pungent. We called it "blast of body." We devised a line of perfumes and colognes based on various tube stops:

A wisp of Westminster

A touch of Tottenham Court Road

A hint of Holborn

And so on. Basically they would all smell like sweaty people. We went into town and braved the crowds at H&M and Topman on Oxford Street, and then took some refuge at Ben Sherman on Carnaby.

We met early tonight for our show since it was at Regent's Park and we wanted to have some kind of picnic before the performance. Even though the skies were overcast and threatening all day, nothing had really happened. We hoped that the weather would hold out for the show, which it luckily did. Regent's Park was awesome, as always, and it was really fun to sit by the fountain and play Silent Football, which has now become sort of a tradition. Nicholas lost, and his punishment was that he had to ask some English ladies if this was the Globe, and when they said no, this was Regent's Park, he had to ask for directions to the Globe. Regents Park is miles away from the Globe. That was the joke.

I was excited for tonight's performance of Into the Woods but man, was it a hot mess! The Open Air Theatre at Regent's Park is the perfect place for this show; in fact the set was very striking and exciting. All of these levels and stairs and everything built right into the trees. I loved that. And they would light it all up and it was fantastic to look at. Too bad the lights didn't come on half the time and we couldn't follow the action because the mics sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. And the acting was sort of flat, even though the witch was played by Hannah Waddingham - who I've seen in Spamalot and A Little Night Music - and is usually amazing. Judi Dench was the voice of the giant, and they made the giant puppet really cool - about 40 feet tall and made of umbrellas and massive pointy fingers. There were interesting visual ideas throughout the piece - the wolf in Granny's bed was especially cool - but there were so many technical problems that it became tedious to watch. Tonight was their first night with an audience and it really showed. The Baker hit a note so flat that the entire audience gasped. I'm not making that up. And some Einstein decided to have the show narrated by a little boy, which begs the question: is there anything more irritating than child actors? Anything? Little monkeys shouting their lines at us? Nope. This was a bad idea.