Yesterday, I went up to London for a little theatrical fun. Partly because this may soon become trickier with rail strikes on the cards, but mostly because Southwest Trains were offering a special offer fare: £12 return rather than the usual nearly £40 (I could also have taken some children for £1 each, but I lack my own and felt that abducting someone else’s would probably cause problems down the line†). Southampton may only be 50% further from London than Sawston, but rail fares are approaching 200% higher – so this was quite a good deal (or the normal fare is quite a poor deal – and, on balance, the latter statement may be the more apposite). The special offer does not include access to the services of TfL, so in the spirit of thrift I chose venues within easy (for me) walking distance of Waterloo.
I started at the National and a matinée of George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem. This was huge fun – a comedy from more than 300 years ago, written by a man who was both destitute and dying, which is still laugh-out-loud funny. I can’t even manage that today, whilst enjoying both good health and reasonable economic circumstances. It also boasts some decent female roles – something many a more modern piece lacks. The Olivier has a number of advantages as a venue, including excellent sight-lines which allows one to go for a cheaper seat without loss of amenity. Even better, it’s economics do allow a play to run with a larger cast than my usual more fringe or regional haunts permit – and, very pleasingly, the production ran to five live musicians (for the avoidance of doubt, they were not discussing the football). Finally, the refreshing of the NT’s public spaces – whilst incomplete – does seem to have made it feel rather more welcoming, which I think may be down to improved upholstery. This did lead me to wonder if we, as a society, have under-estimated the importance of the upholsterer’s art? Another possible future career for the author?
I then strolled up to 10 Greek Street for sustenance and to pick up some more recipe and cooking tips. It seems I may need to experiment with passion fruit curd – assuming I can find the ingredients – as its partnership with Gariguette strawberries is simply divine. Given the limited offerings in the typical supermarket, I may be stuck pairing it with an Elsanta (who, I presume, is the Spanish counterpart to our Father Christmas).
10GS is very handy for the Soho Theatre where I took my second dose of theatre for the day. The production of The Harvest by Pavel Pryazhko had been recommended by one of my fellow “actors” (actually, he really was an actor) at the Glass Menagerie Playdate (he played Jim, and I’m still not worried). Screen-based entertainment is often preceded by dire warnings as to its likely content, just in case you are unable to handle infrequent, mild slapstick (to choose but one example). However, this was the first time I’d seen warnings when booking tickets for the theatre – though they were just as weird. Before booking, I was warned that this production contained “large amounts of feathers and fresh apples”. Is a phobia of fresh apples widespread in the populace? Are apples, like nuts, prone to send the unwary into anaphylactic shock? Suffice it to say, I was expecting apples – though was prepared to be disappointed – but the show certainly delivers on the apple front! They are there in quantity both in wooden crates and hanging by strings from above: the last time I saw so many apples in one place was at Cam Valley Orchards (one of the things I miss following my move to the south coast). According to the play, these were Queen Reinette, also known as Reine de Reinettes or (confusingly) King of the Pippins – this suggests both an unexpected degree of hemaphroditism and a surprisingly close link between Madame de Pompadour and Peregrin Took (one for the geeks, there). For practical reasons (as will become clear), I would say that the apples used in the production were Bramleys – I suspect sourcing the number of Queen Reinette would have been a challenge (and significantly upped ticket prices).
The play is a pretty dark comedy, and whilst things start happily enough as time goes on an increasing number of the apples are bruised. Later, apples are entirely destroyed in a number of increasingly violent ways. One can sometimes forget what a visceral experience theatre can be (even when the viscera in question come from the fruit of Malus domestica) – certainly when compared to screen-based entertainment – and sitting in the front row I jumped more than once and was struck by a few flakes of Bramley (though was missed by more complete examples) – and could certainly have grabbed a few “windfalls” to take home (some residual sense of propriety just about held me back). Once again, the Nuffield’s outreach had done me proud: the play was well worth-seeing and at an hour long didn’t overstay its welcome and meant I was delivered back to my coastal eyrie at a reasonable hour. I must admit I am now very keen to source a Reine de Reinettes – and they do keep well (both according to the play and subsequent internet research by yours truly) – but I fear the illusion of choice offered by our supermarkets will deny me my fix.
† Weak pun fully intended.