Dateline: London, England
Today was another low key, but busy day. It started with a morning rehearsal of the piece for tomorrow night. It just keeps getting better and better and I think we’re going to be proud of the end result. The composer was in attendance at the rehearsal and seemed pleased and he will be at the concert. It’s a new piece, having only been written in 2019. It’s been recorded but not yet released due to Covid delays. It’s been done in Belfast and Kent and some other places in the British Isles but this performance will be the London premiere. Fingers crossed that there won’t be any major hitches tomorrow but the folks behind Vox Anima seem to know what they’re doing and everything has been efficient and well organized so far.
After rehearsal, as it was another day of simply glorious weather, I wandered down past Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Park to Westminster where Vickie had spent her morning. We met up and headed over to Westminster Pier and took a brief cruise down the Thames from Parliament to Tower Bridge and back. It gives another perspective on the city which would not exist were it not for its vital, navigable waterway. The Thames has been a water road between sea and countryside since the ancient Celts and Britons. The Romans used it and constructed their town of Londinium around what is now Tower Hill. Then came the Angles, the Saxons, the Danes and the Jutes each adding a layer, culminating with the Normans in 1066 with William the Conqueror who began construction on his great fortress, the White Tower of the Tower of London in 1075. And here we are nearly a millennium later, the Tower stands. The monarchy William founded stands, although greatly changed. The English people stand despite some of the recent idiocies of their government.
Apres boat tour, we grabbed a quick snack and rode the London Eye. Vickie had never been on it and I had never been on it during daylight hours. The weather was perfect, the views panoramic, the crowds somewhat dismaying. Fortunately, we had had the good sense to pay extra for Fast Track passes and were able to jump the queue. We eventually descended to earth, after sharing our pod with, from what I could tell, was an extended family of Germans, and several French couples, and ambled up the south bank toward the National Theatre where we had our show for the evening. We were several hours early, so we found a table in the shade outside of the NT where a riverside stage was occupied by the London company of ‘A Strange Loop’ who were having a tech rehearsal prior to doing some preview work for their opening next week. I haven’t yet seen the show but I quite liked some of the music we heard.
This evening’s show, Dixon and his Daughters, at the National Theatre was a compact play about the effects of domestic violence and sexual abuse on family systems. The six actresses in the cast were all fantastic. The script is tight and nuanced, but it’s not the most comfortable of things to sit through. I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not a feel good night at the theatre. It was in the small house in the complex formerly known as the Cottlesloe and now known as the Dorfman. Vickie and I, being theater people, immediately assumed that it was named after Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean/American academic and playwright of Death and the Maiden. We couldn’t figure out why the NT would be honoring him so. I then looked it up and it was renamed in honor of a Lloyd Dorfman who gave the NT a rather enormous sum of money. Oh well…
The show was not long so we had dinner after at a South Bank eatery called Giraffe. Why I could not say as there was no giraffe on the menu nor was there anything about the decor to suggest the savannah. Forty years ago, nay even twenty years ago, the South Bank was pretty much a desert. It’s been transformed into the place where young Londoners go to relax and party and avoid the tourist crush in the West End. Restaurants, bars, musical entertainment, and lots of Gen Z and aging Millennials doing what young people do. At times I miss being that age and not being able to keep up with them but then I remind myself that I’m exactly the right age for one born in 1962 and I had my chance to be a twenty something in the 80s and it’s somebody else’s turn now.
Some thoughts about London today: There is construction everywhere and the skyline is dotted with construction cranes promising more and more large buildings and public works. The service workers are cheerful, kind, and really want to help. I presume that this is because those sort of jobs are paid better and the pandemic hasn’t decimated the workforce as it has in the US so those remaining in the sector aren’t overly worked and stressed out. They also don’t have the issues of employment based health insurance here which lead to so many problems on our side of the pond. It’s a cosmopolitan and welcoming place. It’s June and there are pride flags everywhere and no one seems to care at all one way or another. I am reminded of Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s famous quote regarding homosexual relationships. ‘My dear, I don’t care what they do, as long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses’.
Long day tomorrow… and so to bed….