Monday, August 10, 2009

Visit to London: Monday 3 August 2009 including Time and the Conways, National Theatre

Monday arrives, and only two(ish) days left in the capital.

I'd foolishly not recharged my phone so was unable to send the texts I usually use of record of what we get up to so this is a more improvised review of the day's events!

After breakfast at... well, you know the drill... it was off toward the National. Taking a diversionary route we spotted a poster at the Canadian High Commission on Trafalgar Square and nipped in through the security to see an exhibition of Arctic photography: The Accessible Arctic. This was very beautiful and gave a nice chance to browse the ground floor of the 'embassy' with its fancy chandeliers and stairwells.

We then mooched through the Square, pausing to view a bikini-clad, feather dressed woman promoting bingo on the plinth. We then nipped into the National Portrait Gallery to see some rather wonderful 1960s photographs of Mr Bob Dylan looking exceptionally cool.

We then proceeded to have a wander through the area around Jermyn Street, looking in the fancy tailoring stores. Very snazzy!

As the day progressed, we further meandered towards the South Bank planning to get late tickets for Time and the Conways at the Lyttleton, National Theatre: we were even hoping to attend with lovely Poly Gianniba; however, this was thwarted with delayed receipt of a text from her. Another time we hope.

We headed for a repeat visit to Leon for tea - this time having the Sweet Potato curry for me - before ultimately grabbing two top price stalls tickets for Time and the Conways just £16 each. Bargain!

We then slotted in a quick visit to the viewing platform at the Oxo Tower giving us great views over the river (and gatecrashing a party, but then it is free access and a public right of way - thank you Red Pepper mag for alerting us to this!). We also skidded down to the Globe again so I could pick up a copy of the playscript for Helen (sadly no repeat encounter with Kathy).

The play, again, like Helen, has had mixed reviews. Perhaps it was because I had so enjoyed Rupert Goold's direction of the magnificent 'Last Days of Judas Iscariot', I was less disconcerted than some at the technical bravado that Goold injects into the production. Yes, the play is what it is: a three act 1930s piece of Priestley with all the arch manners one might expect of such a play But rather than seeing what Goold adds as unnecessary distractions -- two old dears in front of us were most put out -- we experienced them as vibrant visual encapsulations of the themes of the play. Time and simultaneity are given physical form and for me the key to why Goold plays the ends of his acts in this way is captured in the way he - quite literally - frames the opening scene of Act One. (I don't want to spoil too much as the production still has a little time to run but if I describe it as a widescreen cinematic experience you will understand what I mean when you see it).

The performances were lovely and the set managed to convey the changing financial status of the family very well. Of the actors, I especially liked Paul Ready as poor hapless Alan, the eldest son who is possibly the wisest of all the family, but everyone captures their class prejudices, maliciousness, carelessness and so forth with great clarity.

And as a second celebrity spot of the weekend, Barry Cryer was sat a couple of rows in front of us and held the door open as we exited behind him.

We had a drink in the bar and then retired, ready for our final day in London.

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