Saturday, August 02, 2014

it's a mystery

Miles and I headed to Hampstead Heath this morning to say hello to my friend Jeff Parkin. Jeff has been here since June with his family; he's the director of the BYU film study abroad program. I know Jeff chiefly because he's practically my neighbor, but also because he directed the Pretty Darn Funny web series starring my wife and, occasionally, me. We met at the Holly Bush pub in Hampstead. It's a great place, because it's tucked away on Holly Hill and you really see mostly locals there. And the food is great, even though the little round tables are so small that you have to constantly watch your plate for tipping. The Holly Bush is sort of famous for it's fireplace; I guess in the winter people gather in there to warm up. But since I am always here in the dead of summer I've never witnessed that. Anyway, we had a fun lunch with Jeff. I love hearing his theories about film and theatre and life itself. He took his son to a Kanye concert. He's a way cooler dad than I am.

We saw a matinee of Shakespeare in Love today and glory be, I thought it was fantastic. I wasn't sure what to expect. The film is a long time favorite of mine, and you just don't know how these things will translate. But the director is Domonic Dromgoole, who is the artistic director of the Globe, and you could instantly tell. The show felt authentic and, had there not been an Oscar winning film, you would have assumed it always existed as a play. It's funny, passionate, and moving. The script is just about perfect. And the performances were so heartfelt and committed. You sort of fell in love with everybody. I hope Shakespeare in Love plays for a long time - it should be a London institution, like The Mousetrap. Loved it.

We had a few hours before our evening show, and we didn't feel like coming back to the flat. So everyone went their separate ways. Miles and I grouped with Amber, Chantel, Kailey, Kacey, and Caleb and explored Covent Garden. We haven't spent much time here during this trip, so it was nice to see a few places I like before we leave. I always love going to Benjamin Pollack's toy shop - it speaks to the inner theatre nerd in me. We all admired the puppets and creepy doll heads and toy theatres and kind of wanted to buy everything. I broke down and bought Margaret a paper doll cat, and I bought Phoebe an Alice in Wonderland shadow box. The gentleman working at the counter seemed keenly interested in the shadow box and kept giving me pointers on how to use it. Eventually it was revealed that he had actually designed it! I geeked out and took his picture. They make toys! People design and make toys! It's not just robots in Taiwan! What a thrill.

We walked through Covent Garden a bit more; we tried to find the ice cream store that uses breast milk but to no avail. Chantel was bummed - she had dared me to eat it. And I need money. We headed over to Neal's Yard, that colorful little hipster nook, and took a few photos including this one, in which everyone tried to look cool.

We also stopped by the Neal's Yard Cheese shop, which smells amazing or horrific, depending on your nose. The guy behind the counter was from Exeter so I kept him talking about all things Exeter while he absently kept feeding us pieces of cheese. Man, is there anything better than fresh cheese? Cut from a giant wheel?

We stopped by a hipster t-shirt store, and then a place called Mysteries, which is one of those new agey stores with lots of crystals and ladies who need bras. We didn't buy anything at Mysteries, but we did talk about horoscopes in some depth. Miles is a Taurus and I'm a Leo. Isn't it fascinating what we chose for our intermission snack tonight at the play? See above.

Finally we spent a little time at Forbidden Planet: Your Cult Entertainment Superstore. This may be the nerdiest establishment of all time, but Miles went bananaz in there. As did some of our group. So many, many action figures, so many many video games, so little time. So little money. I promised Miles we would come back tomorrow. Reminder to self: bring a book.

Following a well deserved Chipotle (we deserved because we walked! Walking is hard.) we saw an evening performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Everyone's been looking forward to this one - they had to read it for class - and it didn't disappoint. It's a sweet story about a boy with pretty severe autism who somehow finds his way from a country town to downtown London to find his missing mother. The staging is pretty spectacular: the walls and floor are digital, and they light up and jut out randomly to show the way the lead character sees the world. It's really staged so beautifully. And the script is funny and touching. Miles declared this his favorite play. Certainly it's in my top five this year. I particularly loved the ending, after the curtain call, when the lead character comes out and solves an incredibly difficult math equation for those lucky patrons who stayed behind. The crowd goes wild, like a rock concert.