Monday, June 25, 2012


I finally made it to the Roof Gardens on Kensington High Street. I've wanted to check this place out for a few years, and have even made a few attempts to see it but it's always been closed for some reason or another. Private parties? The Queen? Spice Girls? Anyway, this morning I made a last attempt and found that the gardens were open and actually pretty empty.

The Roof Gardens are three themed gardens sprawling across 1 1/2 acres on top of a six story building on Kensington High Street. The gardens themselves are seventy years old, and once you're up there you have no idea that you are just one hundred feet above the craziness of the High Street. There's a Spanish garden, a Tudor garden, and then an English woodland garden. And these plants aren't growing just in pots and planters, the ground is sod with actual grass growing, rivers and fountains flowing, and ducks and flamingos puttering around. All on top of a Marks and Spencer! It's really surprising in many ways and so peaceful in others. You forget where you are. It's quiet and very zen. I got some great ideas of planting all new flowers and trees on my roof in Provo. Can't wait! (Lisa begins to breathe anxiously.)

Daniel and Emily came with me to Brixton, which is not the sort of destination anyone really looks forward to. But we were headed down there to see the house where Vincent in Brixton, a show I'm directing at UVU this Fall, is set. Van Gogh lived in the house for a year while he worked as an art dealer. He was nineteen. In the play he falls in love with a young lady who lives in the house, and then transfers his attentions to her mother. It was amazing to think of all of this drama happening in this simple, crumbling townhouse. But it did. And the grammar school is right across the street, just like the play says it is. I sat on a curb where Sam Plowman probably did his sketches. It gave me a really tremendous new sense of place and energy for the show. So fun to be able to do that.

After this I parted ways with Dan and Emily and tried to do some errands, but Brixton is not an area of London I know. I act like I knew, because I'm always acting like that so I don't get murdered. I got on buses, I got off buses, I walked up and down streets, and never found the shops I was looking for. It was one of those treks. Finally I took refuge in a Nando's somewhere in Balham and had some chicken. That gave me greater resolve and I jumped back on a bus, then a couple of tubes, and hit up Covent Garden. I bought Margaret some feline paraphernalia per her request, and stopped to listen to this little orchestra combo play Bolero.

Tonight I met up with my friend Peter White in Greenwich. He's a much in-demand musical director here in London, though he''ll be too modest to admit it. He's the real deal. We had dinner at a nice place in Greenwich called Rivington, and I had toad-in-the-hole. It was so delicious that I took a picture, but the picture looks really gross so I'll spare you. But Peter had fish and chips, and claimed that he hardly ever eats that. It was a nice meal. I like talking to Peter; I always learn so much about the UK theatre world. He's smart and he has some really cool ideas for shows, which I also love to hear about.

After dinner we walked to the Borough Hall to see a show called Crow, which was devised by the Handspring Puppet Company. This is the same company who created those amazing puppet horses for War Horse, so I was excited to see this. It's a version of Ted Hughes' poetry collection Crow told with crow puppets. Peter and I both liked it a lot. It was super ambiguous and sort of mysterious, but that was half the fun. The music was grinding and dissonant, and the crow grew from a little hatchling to a giant behemoth who took up the entire stage. Along the way he tempted Eve in the garden, ate a worm, grew some legs, and ran around terrorizing people. The actors controlling the crows made some really effective squawks and caws. And there were contemporary dancers huffing, puffing, and shrieking up and down a hill, and nothing made sense, and it was kind of awesome. Peter has been on tour with Legally Blonde and I just finished The Sound of Music, so it was nice for both of us to take a little detour into a world of bizarre puppetry and non-linear storytelling. Just for the sake of balance.