My new life as a theatre goer is proceeding apace – of which perhaps more in a later post (if the idea ever manages to jump across the band-gap from draft to post) – but I do seem to have fallen in love with the National Theatre. I’m even starting to develop a fondness for its neo-brutalist exterior architecture – but that may only be a consequence of association or familiarity.
Anyway, once past the concrete exterior the interior is a joy. Both the Olivier and the Lyttleton (named for some relation of Humph’s I believe) are excellent places to watch a play: comfy seats with plenty of legroom which all have an excellent view of the stage. I’ll be able to comment on the Cottesloe on the basis of first-hand (and leg) experience in June.
Each time I have been, there has been free, live music on offer to entertain those that arrive early – and there always seems to be a free seat in the extensive foyer space to sit down and take the weight off my ageing limbs (why do my limbs always feel older in London than in South Cambs?). They always seem to have an exhibition of interesting photographs as well – so stimulation for both the eyes and ears while waiting for the main show to start.
Regular readers will be unsurprised that my first ever visit to the National, in the dying days of 2011, was not to see the followers of Thespis but to eat. The complex has a decent restaurant and the tapas-style cafe is rather nice too – with views out across the Thames. Even more importantly, as I have subsequently learned, it has quite the finest interval offerings of any performance space I have yet attended. Wonderful interval cakes and blackberry frozen yoghurt – and with their efficient service, you can manage to fit the consumption of both into the break in the dramatic action (well, you may struggle but I can do it comfortably).
However, it would seem that food can act as a gateway drug to the theatre – a fact, other arts institutions might like to consider (assuming that I am typical of the potential theatre going public, which might be a challenging assumption to justify in the face of even mild cross-examination). In 2012, I have been to four NT productions (so far) – 3 at the NT, and one at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in London’s glittering west end (may not contain actual glitter). This has taught me that if you do visit the West End, you may enjoy more classical and roccoco architecture but they do charge you extra for the privilege (or possibly, the maintenance) and the aircon is nothing like as effective.
So far my theatre has been rather skewed towards comedy – albeit classics from yesterday and today: The Comedy of Errors (by one W Shakespeare), She Stoops to Conquer (by Oliver Goldsmith – and nothing to do with the fruit of the horse chestnut) and One Man Two Guvnors (originally by Goldoni, but really the work of Richard Bean as I’m fairly sure Signor Goldoni never visited Brighton in the 1960s), all of which have been a joy and actually funny (not something you can take for granted) – but this is not to last. To support my OU coursework (well, that’s the excuse I’m using), I will be seeing Antigone by Sophocles in June and my limited classical education suggests that if Sophocles was once famed for his light-hearted comedies then posterity has not preserved them for me to enjoy (but you never know what Tony Robinson may dig up – it can’t all be arrow heads and pottery sherds). A BBC4 documentary I saw earlier in the week also suggested that Timon of Athens may not have an entirely happy ending – though might be quite topical.
However, last night I saw a new play entitled Travelling Light penned (or, more likely, word processed) by Nicholas Wright. As with some of my recent cinematic viewing, this covered the early days of movies – but for my money (and it was my money, no-one is yet paying me to visit either the cinema or the theatre, more’s the pity) it was worth ten of the much lauded film, The Artist. The play was lovely, warm, funny, moving at times and leads you to care about the protagonists. Better yet, I couldn’t predict the ending (and most of the plot after the first reel (scene?). In fact, I found myself caring rather too much about the “hero”, and spent much of last night fretting about Motl – a rather pointless (and tiring) exercise as he is a fictional character and even if real would now be more than 130 years old (so unlikely to gain any benefit from my concern).
Mr Collins does suggest that an anthem should be sung, and I do realise that this paean to the NT has been written in prose. However, readers should not view this as a barrier when the phrase to “sing the ‘phone book” has made it into the language: a feat apparently performed by Celine Dion back in 2002 (and to greater critical acclaim than her work on the Titanic). I feel this post makes for much more promising material for the sopranos and tenors among you than any of BT’s printed output, so feel free to let rip!