Saturday, June 16, 2012


I was awakened this morning by a low, loud rumble that reminded me of the 4th of July jets flying over my house in Provo. That's because they were jets, flying over South Kensington in honor of the Trooping of Colours - the Queen's birthday. They were red jets, and flying in a tight arrow-like formation. Really loud, really cool, really...pointless? Not to be hater, but hasn't the Queen had enough parties lately? Do you think she gets sick of herself? Weren't there giant parties for her two weeks ago, and a bunch of Olympics stuff coming up? I'm not a royalist, but I'm not an anti-royalist. I have the same fascination with the royal family that most Americans have, with a touch of the disgust that most of the British have. I just wonder if maybe they don't need to have so many special parties to make special people feel more special?

All the same, it's always great to see Buckingham Palace in full party regalia. The bunting and flags were out, and they were flying a very non-traditional flag over the palace that seems to suggest that today is a massively important day and they're painting the roses red. People turned out in droves, and they opened the Mall as a pedestrian street, which is kind of fun. It was also fun to see so many people decked out in their regalia, including these two:

I tried to have lunch at the Portrait Gallery restaurant, because I've heard it's amazing and the view is incredible. So I went to the top of the gallery and found the super secret steps and took a seat. And then I saw the prices and almost had an aneurysm. I can be spendy when occasional calls for it, but not usually. So I did what every respectable LDS, PhD, father of five would do: I faked a phone call on my Droid and bolted out of there. But they were right about the views! Amazing.

I had lunch instead at the moderately priced and modestly tasting Pret across the street. I sat outside in the square and had a nice conversation with two couples from somewhere in the Northeast. They were going to see War Horse and were amazed that I had seen it twice. I gave them lots of advice which they politely pretended to care about. Then some wind started up and blew my lunch off the table onto the ground, where pigeons devoured it.

I saw a matinee of Abigail's Party, a play Mike Leigh wrote back in the 70's. I love Mike Leigh. He wrote and directed Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets and Lies, and Topsy Turvy. Always very funny and astute glimpses of English life. This play was right in that realm. Set in the 70's, it tells the story of a woman having a small cocktail party with her awkward neighbors, which turns disastrous. It was hysterical. Fantastic acting and such smart, snappy direction. So quintessentially British - as was the audience. This isn't the type of shows that tourists go to; there aren't any witches or haunted chandeliers, so it's fun to be with the English in their own element. Loved this play.

In the evening I saw Ragtime at Regent's Open Air Park. The students saw this before I got here, and I wanted in on the action. Also, I'm directing this at the Hale Theatre in West Valley next year and I've never actually seen it. So I was excited for that. And here's the thing, I mostly liked it! It started off as one of those "we hate America" pieces, but then became something else entirely, mostly because the director was a little unwilling to commit to his concept. As I walked in the theatre I could hear the voice of George Bush and the sounds of bombs, etc, and the stage looked cluttered and post-apocalyptic. I snapped a pic:

These kinds of things irritate me, and they really irritate me if, as with this show, they are never referred to during the show. It was basically a traditional staging of Ragtime on top of a bunch of blasted rock and Starbucks marquees. With no explanation whatsoever why. Hey, director! It's not enough to just transfer a show into a different period or setting: you have to have something in the text that supports it. Anything. Help us make that connection. Otherwise it's just a giant blown out picture of Obama and a bunch of people dressed like the turn of the century. That being said, the performances were wonderful. Beautiful voices and some really clever staging and choreography. The show was too long; I could have lost about 30 minutes of special moments and earnest singing, but I'm excited to take a crack at it!

And then, because I apparently hadn't seen enough, I travelled to Fulham Broadway to see a midnight screening of Jaws. It might seem odd that I would want to see Jaws over here when I could just watch it from my couch at home, but I love classic film and I love seeing it on a giant screen. We almost never get that at home. And watching a masterpiece like Jaws, projected in a giant state of the art cinema house, is a really fantastic experience for cinephiles like myself. I got home via bus and foot at 2:45 am, with John Williams' signature shark tuba creeping around my head.