Monday, August 10, 2009

Visit to London: Sunday 2nd August 2009 including Helen at the Globe

If it's Sunday, it must be Spitalfields day!

We're up and out for the tube to Liverpool Street in good time, exiting via the side exit past the refugee statues before heading down to blow rasperberries at the RBS headquarters on the corner of Brushfield Street. We dive straight into the S&M cafe for breakfast and once full of breakkie we head into Spitalfield market.

As my poor Paperchase plastic multi-coloured stripey handbag was now losing its coloured plastic at a rapid rate, I had decided that I really must replace this bag so keeping my eye out for something unusual we scoured the stalls. I finally found a very fetching leather handbag made from recycled leather pieces and decorated with mult-patterned African fabrics (mostly on the inside but with some strips of colour on the outside too). Since it was capacious enough to accommodate my exisiting stripey handbag I thought this would work in terms of size!

We further rummaged amongst the goodies of the market, even picking up a few CDs there:

  • Voodoo Drums
  • AS Mercenarias (Brasilian post-punk 1982-88)
  • In the Mind of Nitin Sawney [this was mostly because they were playing this CD and I was just captivated by the tracks we heard]

We then proceeded to meander further through the astonishingly muffled sound streets around Hawksmoor's Christ Church before doing our pilgrimage to Rough Trade. After several abortive attempts to locate certain albums (and my ability to forget the band is called A Hawk and a Hacksaw, so they were stored under 'A' not 'H' - doh!) we had to finally stop ourselves as the pile grew ever higher!

  • 17 Hippies: El Dorado
  • A Hawk and A Hacksaw: Delivrance
  • Thee Headcoats and thee Headcoatees [aka Wild Billy Childish]: Live at the Western Rooms
  • Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire: Punk Rock at the British Legion Hall
  • Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca
  • Marvellous Boy: Calypso from West Africa
  • The Mummers: Tale to Tell
  • Red Light Company: Fine Fascination
  • Regina Spektor: Far
  • Richard Swift: The Atlantic Ocean

We loitered briefly in the old Truman Brewery Headquarters, admiring the Eagle figurehead, and then wandered along through the more dog-eared ends of the market areas, past street vendors selling their finds but also very fine food stalls with every large bowl of fruit/veg for a £1. If we lived there we'd have been buying up the scrummy looking goodies for our cooking for sure.

We then proceeded to head back to the hotel to drop off our purchases before heading back out again. We ended up going for the delights of fast food at
Leon - something Neil has been nagging me to do for some time. Though I must admit it was only when I was nosing in the excellent cooking and recipe book they had on sale that I clicked why Neil was so fond of Allegra McEvedy's recipes in the Guardian: tis she who co-founded Leon to provide healthy quality fast food. Anyway, Neil had Moroccan Meatballs with rice and salad whilst I had Sweet Potato falafal with Aioli, rice and salad. This was a lovely sunny evening meal and quite set us up for the evening at the Shakespeare's Globe.

Yes, finally we were going inside for a play, after our tour last time around. Okay, so it wasn't a Shakespeare play (we must get back there for one of those), but it was starring lovely Penny Downie and Paul McGann. This was
Helen by Euripides, by way of Frank McGuinness and based on Fionnuala Murphy's literal translation.

Reviews have been at best variable for this production: which feels a shame because we really enjoyed it (even if I did get the play's length thoroughly muddled and confused that this was 3 hours long... what WAS I thinking?!) The 90 minute production was lively and full of verve and vigour - Downie really gives it her all and I wanted her gold dress sooooo badly it almost hurt. It was witty, disruptive and ultimately a joyful experience, albeit with the disturbing undertone that the Trojan wars had been for nothing: is the ghost created by Hera the classical equivalent to the clones that litter science fiction texts? I really enjoyed the light touch and humour in the production - the relationship between hapless Angels Castor and Pollux was especially entertaining - and the sheer physicality of the production: Downie totally throws herself into the production, climbing and hanging from heights that show off her dramatic and lithe sense of rhythm and movement. McGann was compelling as the shipwrecked and baffled Menalaus and captured the strain of re-starting his relationship with Helen in a new light. And I even found the counter-tenor that Billington so disliked rather apt: a chorus of dramatic if distanced observation on the action.

Anyway, for us at least it was a great experience. Okay, so there was the (minor) distraction of one woman a short distance from us (thankfully enough distance for us to not suffer) who passed out and then barfed profusely - leading to a frantic disinfection of the location by the Globe staff. But otherwise it was excellent - and yes, the cushions, and indeed the wooden back rests, were wonderful for making it comfortable.

There was one small additional frisson to the evening: as I waited for Neil to go and take our seats I spotted a woman wearing large dark sunglasses dressed in black. A couple of quick sliding looks later and I was convinced: yes, it was
Kathy Burke who now focuses on work behind the stage rather than on it or in front of the camera. Stood with my back to her I managed to waylay Neil's return and alert him to her much to his giddy "ooh, it is!" delight. We could see her on the middle gallery at the end of row from our seats on the Upper Gallery. When we exited she was having a good laugh and a drink with two male companions, and although Neil hesitated he didn't bit the bullet to go over and declare his undying affection for the lovely Kathy. (It would have gone somewhat against my ethics of approaching people since she was clearly 'off-duty' on a night out with friends - but then again it was Kathy and Neil does rather adore her. Still, I did offer to be the butt of the occasion and do the approach and Neil still declined. So we left it at that with the general frisson of pleasure that the evening had given).

Still buzzing from our evening we subsequently went for another walk - having grabbed our jackets from the hotel - and ended up having a bite and a drink in
Bar Italia in Soho (not worthwhile for the prices but definitely for the Pulp connection and because it was quiet enough to grab a seat).

Another day over!

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