Last week I was back in London yet again but this time for only two and a half days before whizzing back to DFW---much more of this and I'm going to qualify as a member of the Jet-lag Set.
The reason for this, I hope final flurry of travel for the year, was the quite un-Jet-Setty task of picking up my 14-year-old daughter Rowena after her very long, and not terribly hot, summer with her grandparents.
Anyway around noon my parents shoved her onto the one through train of the day from Beccles (apocryphally giving the engine an encouraging pat as it left) and I eventually met her, very late and (by accidents apparently beyond the control of the Fat Controller) thoroughly unthroughified, in London’s Liverpool Street Station. Her lamentable journey illustrating the interesting phenomenon of the inverse law of railway company names: in the old days when they were called ‘British Railways’ they were wonderful and on time and so forth; then as ‘British Rail’ they slipped and became slow and unreliable and Beechinged; and now, with the remarkably short name of ‘One’, you can imagine just how horribly bad they are---but probably only if your imagination is influenced by Stephen King.
Anyway having finally rescued the poor thing from the bowels of One we spent the remaining two days visiting London and various old time friends of me.
However the high point of this short visit to the Capital of Civilisation was going to the Globe Theatre to see a performance of Love’s Labours Lost---well the actual high point was the guest appearance of the mobility challenged pigeon, but more of that later.
Loves Labours Lost (which, of course, should never be confused with Loves Labours Won, since unlike the latter, or rather later, play it currently does exist) goes down well with such modern fads as the carbohydrate-less diet, say, or reduced fat milk, in being pretty-well plot free. Well, I suppose that’s being a bit hard, but the plot is really weak, and one goes, of course, primarily for the Shakespearian language, the Shakespearian poetry, the Shakespearian dirty jokes (of which 14-year-old Rowena got an alarmingly high percentage). And of course that handicapped pigeon.
I assume you all know that the Globe (or as they rather nervously seem to call it ‘Shakespeare's Globe’) is an historically informed reproduction of an Elizabethan theatre, complete with wooden benches to sit on and groundlings standing in the middle (and being fed cheese by some of the actors during the interval) and a thatched roof---with a big hole in the middle, open to the sky and the weather and the local wildlife. To add excitement to the play (and make up for the plot) they had a food fight, and an old curate moon the audience; and one or other of these seemed to attract a considerable number of the pigeon component of the local wildlife, and one of these pigeons had a pronounced limp, and perhaps because of this came early for the food (or the bottom---they both appeared at about the same point in the play) and lurched randomly around the stage until the audience was laughing (British audiences are so insensitive and so cruel) laughing so much that the actors (who were barely avoiding hysteria themselves) had to pause while the pigeon limped off stage and everyone composed themselves.
All in all it was a very enjoyable afternoon, though to my jaundiced and over-informed eye (not to mention other parts of my anatomy) there were some glaringly anachronistic departures from strict HIP (you know Historically Informed Performance). Apart from the fact that they weren’t using anything even vaguely approaching Early Modern English pronunciation, the most obvious was (as is usual with all performances everywhere) the music, though in an unusual direction, you see though they did play a lot of actual Elizabethan music, every so often they would suddenly leap back a couple of hundred years and do a mediæval saltarello or trotto, sometimes on a hurdy-gurdy that looked as though it belonged in an Hieronymous Bosch painting ! That I could live with (though I doubt that Shakespeare himself ever did), but the thing that really got up my nose (or more accurately, as you’ll see in a mo, DIDN’T)---the most glaring anachronism---was that they actually had lavatories!
I mean, if a wall was good enough for Shakespeare himself...??
Cheerio for now
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