Sunday, June 04, 2006

From Paris to [London]: Part One

From Paris to [London]: Part One

So DA went on holiday (and yes I know it's a little weird to be refering to myself in this weird DA tense, as if it were me and I were it, but I can't help it at the moment. Hopefully, like my attraction to a fluffy orange hat when I was 12, it will prove to be a passing - if painful - phase) and I guess, since you've had to put up with me buggering off for great chunks of the last month or so - and I promise this will not continue as I have a lot of stuff to do this month to make up for being, as D has labelled me, a 'socialite'. I don't, after all, have Paris's bank balance - I should provide you with some kind of run down of the week before I get into the reviews and mock travel guides. This means that this is the blog you can laugh at. Out loud. Preferably in somewhere where you shouldn't be laughing, because that's my favourite kind.

Basically, London went something like this:


I am on holiday! Holiday! Give me a 'H'...give me an 'O'...give me a 'L' - right you get the picture. So I was excited. And even more so because a trip to London with Cat and Val means there is going to be wine. It is the only civilised way to travel. Especially when it is served in En-ger-land plastic cups from the pound shop.

So there was wine. And some nibbles. And some getting lost on the way to the Travelodge, despite the fact that we were only there barely two months earlier. This might have been connected to the wine, but I wouldn't like to make such accusations against my friends. I'll let the facts speak for themselves.

Once we'd gone the right way down the road, made ourselves beautiful and drunk some more wine it was onwards for a pre-theatre meal and, what is this? A happy hour? Or more precisely a happy two hours? How did you know I was coming? Because happy hours make me very happy indeed, especially when there is a drink named Dorothy's Orgasm on the menu. Since it was happy hour, I had two. Which might be seen as being greedy, but I would bite my, erm, thumb at anyone who says so. It is bad manners, after all, not to make full use of happy hour in all its guises.

Obviously I'd decided to risk servere weather conditions and leave the travelodge wearing my rock-chick jacket and pashmina rather than my BIG Coat. And obviously this meant that it was right on cue for London to serve up one of its biggest downpours of the year. I thought there was a water shortage going on? And it choses today - when I've spent twenty minutes straightening my hair - to try and prove otherwise? Not. Impressed.

So, rather than an elegant walk, the entrance into the Palace Theatre turns into an inelegant run, complete with pashmina over my head. And not in an Hepburn esque way either. But the theatre itself - it's lovely. All thick carpets and unknown corridors. I've been told that the changing room for the FoH-ers is the size of a small broom cupboard and getting changed requires you to have the ability to stand on one foot whilst someone puts their elbow into your ear but - hey - I don't work there. And did I mention the carpets?

Whistle Down the Wind starts and I amused that my only contact with the music from the show is from such great pop luminaries as Tina Arena and the might Boyzone. I get particularly over excited when 'No Matter What' starts and I have to hold in the urge to start my 'chic a cha cha cha's.

Normally I'm not one for stage school children (other than the fact that my children are going to be on stage quicker than you can say 'Annie') but this lot - they're good. In time. More incredibly, they're in tune. I'm impressed.

Forty minutes later and 'No Matter What' is coming round for the tenth time. Once again Lloyd Webber seems to be eating himself.

Ten minutes later? What's that? You've guessed it, 'Chic a cha cha cha'

Ten minutes later? No, that's not 'chic a cha cha cha' - that's the sound of me sobbing.

Two minutes later? Yep, still sobbing.

It's over - phew, I might stop crying now. For the first time in as a long as I can remember the audience for a musical stay sitting. I'm - strangely - pleased.

After a quick bit of stage dooring and a quick - if expensive - drink at a local pub where closing time seems to be 10:45 for no clear reason it's on to Soho's finest Too2Much. We get in free - hopefully not because we're mistaken for being in drag but because we're fabulous - and what's that I see in the corner? A drag queen in pvc swinging around a pole, and Girls Aloud playing in my ear? Seriously, this is really spoiling us.

Kylie's 'Better the Devil You Know' comes on. I try in vain to remember the Steps dance. I can't so resort to generic Steps moves.

They play the gay disco song. In a gay disco. I lasso dance. The night can't get any better.

Some hour in the morning. It's cabaret time. Ohhh.

Some later hour in the morning. Back to the travelodge. We pass some kind of comic/sci-fi shop and I'm like a rabbit in the headlights at all the wonderful Dr Who stuff. I vow to get a David Tennant Doll so that I can play with it though, sadly, I don't think you can take its clothes off.

Bed. Cat kicks me. An hour or so later I return the favour.


It's off to our breakfast cafe. Aren't we cosmopolitan having a cafe several hours from where we live?

Then it's Covent Garden where we are mostly going into Urban Outfitters and trying to spot celebs. Because if any of you read Heat's Spotted page you will know that you're just tripping over celebs in the Covent Garden area. But today - not one. Not even a former Big Brother contestant. Where are they all? And don't try telling me that they're at work because I'm not buying it.

Nik joins us. We continue to try and spot celebs. There are none.

We take the tube over to near the river. I claim there is a Pret close by where Nik will be able to get something to eat. There isn't.

We arrive at The Globe. The sun is shining - predictably I've decided to wear my BIG Coat - and, god, the place looks beautiful. I love The Globe more than I can say. It feels like you're touching something incredibly special when you're there. And all that Shakespeare. Bliss.

Time for Titus and Val and I have taken the seats for the first half, something we're pleased about having calculated that this would be the longer half. We're also slightly pleased about the decision when wine is sprayed over the front few rows of the groundlings. Heh heh.

There's no Boyzone or Tina Arena here but - wow - there's blood. Lots and lots and lots. But that's not my main concern. No - I'm more preoccupied with how much I'm enjoying this production. I've never seen Titus before, but as the play itself - well, it's good in the way that lots of Shakespeare is good, but it's not a particular favourite of mine. I'm partial to a bit of revenge melodrama of the Jacobean type (of which Titus is the grandaddy) but it's early Shakespeare so - well - it's no Lear or Hamlet. And when you're measuring on that scale then it's bound to come off worse. Which is undoubtedly unfair - what with them not being written when Titus was - but then so is life.

But today I'm struck with just how vibrant this play is. And how the term 'horrid laughter' - a book about which I read on my way to my Oxford interview in preparation for being quizzed on The Changeling - was so apt. Because what is portrayed on stage is horrific. Rape. Mutilation. Murder. But it's so horrible, so beyond comprehension that it kicks in the reaction of laughter. And Shakespeare - and this production - was astute enough to recognise this. You shouldn't laugh - but you do simply because otherwise you couldn't keep watching.

And I'm moved because here - in the seeds of Titus - I'm seeing all of the other tragedies. I'm seeing what Shakespeare would build on and twist - there's the splash of Iago - of Lear - of Macbeth - of Brutus and of course of Hamlet and what would become Shakespeare's great take on the revenge tragedy genre. Watching Titus is to peer into the brain of young Will and see all that endless possibility. And once again I can't help but be in awe of everything he was and everything he wrote.

By now it's deep into the second half, and Val and I are now groundlings. We've seen pints of blood, hands cut off, heads waved around the stage - but now - now - I'm acting as a slightly unsuccessful sheild because there are two (fake) dead birds a few metres away from us. They clearly forgot to put that warning on the door.

When Titus is over it's time for one of the other great pleasures in my life - a giftshop. And The Globe has one great giftshop. But I am sensible. I have restraint. I stumble to the till with 2 postcards - three badges - a pen - and a large cool poster that is basically a large timeline of all of Will's plays, with important events tacted on for good measure. I call this restraint as the dent to my bank balance could have been much more servere, I could have bought more Arden Shakespeares after all.

Obviously since I am still lugging the big coat the weather is still glorious. Which also means that the time must be ripe for going to a pub. And then - if only for Sakis and the great god of Eurovision - to a Greek restaurant on the south bank. At this point I spot someone who I recognise. Not recognise in that I went to school with them, but recognise them because they're some kind of famous. Only I don't know her name. And no one else gets a good enough look at her - what with her hat pulled down and refusal to make eye contact - to be able to help. But she's an actress. I know she is. And I'm not just making it up like I did about the Pret.

We've eaten and I still don't know who she is. Now this is starting to bug me.

Kali spera Sakis.

No, I can't remember. This officially makes it a Crap Spot.

Nik and I wave goodbye to Cat and Val at Kings Cross. And then get on with the important business of taking Nik's photo by the 'Platform 9 3/4s' sign.


Am lazy and listen to the entirety of the Breakfast Show before making any kind of reasonable movement.

It's off on Coza's Literary Tour: Bloomsbury. Get only a little confused that we can see the reflection of the BT Tower on one of the buildings but we can't see the tower itself. How is that possible?

We find the tower. And Ginny's house. The sun breaks through the clouds just for that moment and it feels like we're in a movie. Not a blockbuster movie, admittedly, but a movie nonetheless.

Surely it's lunch time now - and what's that on Tottenham Court Road - a pub? Well, if we must.

Back on the literary trail. Find the Bloomsbury Group plaque. Get odd looks from the people inside the building as I pose next to it.

It's Ginny's Tavistock Square. And in the corner of the garden there's her monument. I wonder how many times she walked around the garden. Nik wonders how to get a stray leaf out of her picture of the plaque.

Onwards to Russell Square. We walk the wrong way round it, but find a fantastic fountain in the process so all is not lost. T S Eliot's plaque is hidden round the corner of one of the houses but you can't fool me that easily.

I can't see a single tat shop selling anything Bloomsbury related. Points to the Night and Day cafe and to the weird bar that has Virginia Woolf on its door for no clear reason, but I want more.

I trawl a gift shop. T-shirts with the underground map on? Check. Beatles tat? Check. Anything to do with one of the most iconic groups of writers of the 20th century who lived mere footsteps away? No no no.

I see a business plan. I have the shop and products in my vision. I could run tours. That's it, forget the girl band and the writing, a Bloomsbury shop is where it's at.

Literary Tour over, I continue my tour of Prets that weren't the one I mentioned yesterday and we make our way to Oxford Street. Nik buys a pashmina. I am proud.

Back to Nik's. I hate re-packing.

Google is a wonderful thing. Coupled with a vague name, I discover that my mystery spotted of yesterday is Frances Barber. All is right with the world.

Bed. I have a weird dream in which Edith Bowman shouts at me. Don't worry though, I shout back at her.



Billygean said...

Hm, new present tense blogging style of which I approve.

Titus is a wearier Lear I feel. And I like titus for those reasons too. And all the hand puns...

cat said...

did I really kick you that hard? I thought it was more of a fleeting tap? :-/ whichever, I apologise. also, you make it sound as if Nik and I didn't realise the pre-interval standing would be the longer, rather than us realising we have more hard core stamina ;-) can I work in your Bloomsbury store please? Cx

Nik said...

yeh, exactly, we're hardcore us. plus we're not stupid and weren't standing anywhere near the front for the wine incident. bonus points for nik and cat. thank you.

Val said...

I loved being a groundling for Act 2 - at times it was like promenade theatre - I was just worried that those flippin' pigeons were going to promenade too close to me! And, given the Globe's aim for authenticity, I'm not convinced they were fake!!