February 2007

Well another trip so soon, who would have believed it! So this is what happened. As usual it began at Cardiff Railway Station and a thankfully uneventful train journey to London.

This was a bit of a different trip as the primary reason for visiting wasn’t theatre, there was theatre but it wasn’t the main reason for being there. The primary reason was a thing called the Video Forum 2007, a trade show at Earls Court 2, a place I’d never been and an event I’d never considered.

Why now? Well to be honest the way that video is developing I felt I was missing out on things, not necessarily things I could afford, but things to plan for and consider for future updates. Anyway enough of the boring bit and to the theatre.

I arrived in London on Tuesday the 6th February, just before the big freeze and after a day at Earls court it was to MAMA MIA! Now I really wanted to re-visit this show for a number of reasons:

1 – I hadn’t seen it for a number of years

2 – I’d never been to it’s current home the Prince Edward

3 – I “know” someone in the cast. A very talented lady called

Sarah Lark, who I’d heard would be moving on after a few years with the show, and I wanted to see her in it.

Well it was a case of good news / bad news really. I managed to get a ticket as part of the GET INTO LONDON promotion. Which offers reduced price tickets during the ‘quiet months’ of middle of January to April. Now the seat was good but a little high up in the Dress Circle so although I could see everything, with the costumes and speed of the show I’m still not sure if I saw Sarah or not! But I enjoyed the show none the less. I did go to the stage door to try and say ‘Hi’, but didn’t see Sarah leaving, although one person who could have been her did exit while I was fending off the attentions of one of London’s street people asking for the usual £20 for a cup of coffee.

So if you were performing that night and read this Sarah good luck with your next project.

After this show I attempted to find a venue I’d heard of on the Dress Circle message board, the ‘Theatre Bar’. Now I was relatively certain it wasn’t actually called the ‘Theatre Bar’, but I was at least hoping for a clue on the outside of a building somewhere although it was not to be, and as I had no idea I got some food and headed back to the Royal Adelphi my home away from home for this trip.

Wednesday 7 February

So to day two and a couple of lessons for young Rob. One the GET IN TO LONDON offer only works if you book at least one day in advance, probably written on the literature but I didn’t read it, and two the prices of London theatre really has gone through the roof recently. I was undecided as to what to see, as being on a limited budget due to the quick nature of this trip, buying the top price tickets was not an option. So it was a case of what was on offer, how much did it cost, and for that price do you go for a safe bet of something you’ve seen before and know you will like, or try something new?

Well for show 2 of 3 this trip I decided to go with a safe bet, but with a codicil. I decided to book for SPAMALOT through the box office over the phone, why over the phone when I was in London? Well earlier I met probably the most unhelpful box office person I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with. Okay I could have worded the question a little better, I asked ” do you have any standing seats?” but I mean being in a theatre box office you would have thought he know what I meant, but no all I got was “no you have to sit down on our seats” said without the hint of a personality.

Well after wandering back to the hotel considering my options I decided that of all the shows on offer what I really wanted to do was try and see a performer I have followed for a number of years, Hannah Waddingham who is currently playing the Lady of the Lake in SPAMALOT.

So I rang the stage door of the theatre to try and confirm if she was performing that night, and was told probably yes as she had recently returned from a week off, so back onto the box office telephone number and I booked a £20 restricted view seat.

Now to be honest I’ve been to the Palace Theatre a number of times before, to see both Les Miserables and The Woman in White, so my thinking was I should be relatively safe, as at my size I may be a nightmare to sit behind but 99% of the time I can see over the heads of people sat in front of me.

So I got to the Theatre, found out that they have eventually released the souvenir brochure, this turned out to be a very new development as I found out later, and I headed for my seat. Well it was to the side and did mean you couldn’t see the very bottom stage left, but other than that … oh and being sat behind the only person I’ve ever seen who watches a whole show bent forward at about 45 degrees resulting in me having to use all my height to see over his head, I really enjoyed the performance.

The enjoyment of this performance was definitely due to Hannah, as to be honest I believe played well The Lady of the Lake steals show, now and I may be biased but based on the clips I’ve seen of Sara Ramirez who created the role on Broadway and Hannah, I would give Hannah the edge, her voice is remarkable but her personality and comic timing are a wonder, if you want to hear what I’m talking about regarding her voice then check out the original cast recording of The Beautiful Game and listen to “Our Kind of love“.

The rest of the cast lead my Simon Russell Beale, who had taken over from Tim Curry both on Broadway and now in the West End, were excellent and the pace of the show and it’s silliness really grew on you, it is a fun irreverent night out and for anyone looking for that check it out. Stand out numbers for me were “I’m not dead yet”, “The Song that goes like this” and “The Diva’s Lament”.

Well after a little remote research, I rang home and got my brother to check the internet for me, I found out that the theatre Bar was actually in a downstairs room of the bar called KUDOS which is on the junction near the Post Office by Trafalgar Square and Charring Cross Railway Station.

I ventured in a it was a nice little space the music was definitely Musicals themed but I felt a little out of it as there was no space by the bar and everyone else seemed to be in groups, and as the space was so small I felt a little like a spare something at a wedding, so after one drink I returned to my hotel.

Thursday 8th February

Well this was my culture day, as the predicted 3 snow flakes had brought travel chaos to the country I decided not to venture to Earls Court as to be honest I’d seen all I wanted to on the previous two days. So I thought I know Museums, now okay Nikki and others who know me when you’ve recovered from the last sentence let me explain, it was snowing out they were warm and they were free so I thought why not.

Now to be honest I’ve released a number of historical videos and DVD’s of my home town but history or at least history before the 1940’s never really held much personal interest to me, from a work point of view yes, but my interest is more of the modern era Second World War onwards.

So my first stop was the V&A, The Victoria and Albert Museum, which was one of the large museums which is free to enter, now to be honest I found this a bit of a cheek, as with all the advertising of this fact, the first thing you were greeted with was two ‘PLEASE DONATE £3.00’ boxes then there were maps available to guide you around the 5 floors and next to that ‘PLEASE DONATE £1.00’. Now I know this is a business and I know they have to make money but don’t say it’s free then tell people how much to donate for everything in the building, oh and the specific Exhibitions cost more as well. Not sure how much but as there was a Kylie exhibition that had opened the night before and there were loads of people queuing for that one, they no doubt make a fair amount of money for the Museum. So after about an hour I hit the streets again having had my negative impressions of museums confirmed: stuffy, boring and of no interest to the casual visitor. Don’t get me wrong the students there looking at the different artefacts were no doubt using a valuable resource, but from my point of view not targeted at Joe Public, at least not in a way that interests me or I may venture quite a percentage of modern attraction seekers.

Well wondering what to do I remembered the Cabinet War Rooms, another museum, but relating to an era that interested me, well I found it and headed in. Now this Museum charged £11.00 entry fee but for that you get one of those digital recording gizmos that you type a number into and get a recorded description of the item or location your looking at.

Now this is the way museums should be, interactive, informative and professionally run, you get charged a fee on entry and then they’re not after your money at every turn unless you want to eat at their café of buy from their shop at the end.

This building which for the uninitiated was the actual location from which Churchill ran this Countries participation in the Second World War. Apparently it was literally a case in 1945 of “put the papers on your desks in order and last one out switch off the lights”, in the case of this set of rooms the first time they had been switched off for over 6 years. And it was like this that these rooms were discovered in the 1970’s.

This really is a must see for anyone with even a passing interest to see the conditions that “the (unknown) few” worked in during this pivotal time in our history.

It is a scandal that this absolutely brilliant national treasure does not get any Government funding, I mean come on if it were not for this location there is a good chance there wouldn’t be a ****** Government in the first place. Oh and the good news is that it IS a tax-deductible charity…in the United States!!

Come on this sort of interactive themed museum MUST be the way to go surely. You had amongst other attractions newsreel footage of the War, Filmed interviews with evacuees, actual items owned by the main figures Churchill included, yes including some of his cigars. You had a large table with a ‘timeline’ of years projected onto it, but when you touched it you could expand any of the years and actually see letters from the period, as I said an amazing place to visit!

Anyway rant over… well this rant anyway, so I left the War Rooms and headed for central London, even in the bad weather that was prevalent in the City at the time it was a pleasant walk back to Trafalgar Square.

I’d decided I would like to go to the Cinema during this trip and definitely top of my list was ROCKY BALBOA, also known unofficially as ROCKY VI. It tells the continuing story of the Italian Stallion who fought so valiantly against insurmountable odds over many years but asked the question this time could he now beat the greatest battle that faces us all… Time.

Starring, written and directed by Sylvester Stallone it catches up with Rocky after his wife Adrian has died and he is running a small restaurant, and spending his evenings telling the customers stories of his boxing past, and having his photo taken with them.

I won’t spoil the story by telling you the end but all I will say is that for me it was THE most powerful Rocky of the series on a dramatic level and was a fitting way to say goodbye to an icon for males of my generation.

Well to rant number two, as I said earlier the price of tickets is too expensive in the West End. I was trying to decide which show to see for my last night, and was considering Dirty Dancing or Billy Elliott, well I went to the Aldwych theatre, home of Dirty Dancing to be told the only seat they had under £35 was a restricted view.

So it was to Billy Elliott and a brilliant show, but again a very uncomfortable seat I paid £35 to risk DVT in a seat in the Grand Circle, about as high up as you can get without an oxygen mask but it did have a clear view of the stage.

This show is based on the movie of the same name released in 2000, and tells the story of the boy from a Northern mining town who finds himself in a dance class and develops a love for ballet.

This musical version, Music by Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall, was when I saw it well into it’s run, so I couldn’t say there was any individual casting involved that I specifically wanted to see. As a result I’m afraid I’m a little general when it comes to whom I saw. Also the fact that there were a few alternates on when I saw the show and at any one time 4 different boys playing the lead.

The Musical, and I must admit I’ve never seen the movie, although starring children is I would say not for children, especially young ones as the language can be a little … fruity.

The performances were to a person excellent, I must admit I didn’t take a lot of notice as to who was being covered on the night I saw the show, as after seeing it I don’t care. One stand out character for me was Mr Braithwaite who gives inspiration to all us large gentlemen. And the quality of the ‘child’ actors was remarkable. Stand out songs included “Electricity” and “Born to Boogie”.

So a great, if uncomfortable way to end a trip, and although maybe not a show I would want to see over and over again, a great show none the less.

So as I stands it’s looking like May for my next trip to London, I told you I was like a bus, nothing then a load together but hey I’m ff…fffo… fffo … 40 this year so that’s my treat to myself, a trip for the guys which will no doubt include more drinking than usual but must have at least one show…. Well it will be my birthday…See Ya

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