Saturday, August 06, 2011

an end to the west end

There’s always a sense of slight anxiety for me on the last day in London. It’s not that I worry about the Scotland trip, necessarily, as much as I worry that I didn’t do everything I wanted to do in London; that I missed something I love to do, or that I forgot one thing I promised I would try this year. There were entire neighborhoods I didn’t even get to this summer, but of course it’s the same way every year. Each trip has it’s own flavor and personality, which are associated with the places we spent our time.

Anyway. A group of us got up early to snag play tickets. It’s a great day to finally see the stuff we’ve been hearing about, though that generally means that everyone else has heard how great these shows are as well. So you have to get up early. Dan and his cohort went to the Donmar to get tickets to Jude Law’s Anna Christie, while Cherie, Zoe, and I went to the National to get tickets to One Man, Two Guv’nors, which is the hot ticket there. When we got to the theatre there were already 25 people ahead of us, which shouldn’t have surprised me, but sort of did. A lot of them were old! We were all prepared to wait three hours. I got a little breakfast and then settled in for the duration.

Once the tickets were in hand, we went our ways. I headed up to Kensington High Street on bike, stopping at Hornets. Hornets is a "gentleman's shop" for English hunting jackets and hats and it's known for it's eccentric service. For example, the greeter is a dog. I liked all the tweed and twill hats and cuff links, though they were oddly both too fancy and too second-hand for me to seriously consider buying anything. I liked the feel of Hornets, though. It’s old England, it’s proper, and it’s sort of costumy. Nobody really dresses like that.

We had lunch at the Kensington Creperie, since that’s where we started our trip. I branched out and got a crepe that had one different ingredient than the crepe I usually get: potatoes. It was delicious! Aren’t you glad I wrote about that? Following this delicious potato crepe, I rode my bike back up to Hyde Park and snapped a few pictures of the Serpentine Gallery. Every year the Gallery brings in a different artist to recreate the pavilion. This year it was Peter Zumthor, who created something called Hortus Conclusus. It’s basically a giant black box that looks like this:

But on the inside….surprise! A flower garden!

One Man, Two Guv’nors was fantastic. It’s a modern telling of Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, set in 1960’s England. Every scene break gets live music from an early Beatles-esque pop band in skinny suits , and the whole thing is really commedia. All of the stock characters are there, falling down stairs, switching genders, making fart jokes, and pulling people out of the audience to do horrible and embarrassing things. The lead actor, James Corden, was absolutely amazing. Comic timing better than anyone I’ve ever seen – every line was funny, and he found humor in everything. I could watch that show over and over and still learn more about comedy. It was an absolute blast. Another audience member who enjoyed it was Dustin Hoffman, who sat right in front of me. Tootsie’s looking old.

Then I had dinner again with Peter White, who I met up with last week. I would introduce Peter as Jenny Latimer’s boyfriend, but he’s really my friend now and I think we can leave Jenny out of it. We had some Indian food in Covent Garden, and it was delicious despite the fact that neither of us could understand our waitress and we didn’t know what we ordered. We resolved to eat whatever showed up. Risky, but worth it. And great to see Peter.

And tonight we got to see Jude Law in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. I’ve never seen the play, or read it, or knew much about it. But it’s basically about the immigrant fishing community in Boston with specific focus on Anna, who was abandoned by her father after her mothers’ death and has come looking for him. Jude didn’t show up until about 30 minutes into it, but he made up for lost time by ambling around without his shirt on and making all the men in the audience feel like giant blobs. Meanwhile, the ladies among us started to invoke, yet again, Surprise Party Sue (“I didn’t know this was gonna HAPPEN!”) But of course it’s demeaning to relegate a great actor to his abs, especially in this case, when the actor gives such an inspiring and daring performance. The whole show was engaging and beautiful and sad. And a perfect ending to three invigorating weeks on the West End.