Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thursday: Theatre Royal Haymarket

I had been waiting with great anticipation for Thursday night because Maurene and I were to see Dame Judi Dench in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. I am a HUGE Judi Dench fan, and I was very excited about seeing one of her live performances.
The night started off on a more positive note than yesterday's tourist adventures. I was relieved that the package I left in the Beatles Store had been found, and better yet, that Maurene had retrieved it for me on her lunch hour. After work, we met at her office, pictured below, which is located in a beautiful area known for its Victorian architecture.

Photo by Maurene Miller

From there, we walked to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Although it is one of the oldest theatres in London (built in 1720), it was renovated in the 1990’s and air conditioning was installed. Another good omen. We were both thankful that we wouldn’t have to sweat through a performance as hot as yesterday's Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Like last night, there was not quite enough time to eat so we settled for a nice glass of wine before the first act. After ordering our intermission refreshments and purchasing programs, we headed for our seats.

Here is perhaps a good time to note two distinct differences between conventions at cultural events in London and in NYC. The first difference is that snack bars allow you to place your order and pay in advance for intermission refreshments. While the first act is in progress, your order is set out on a counter in the snack bar area. At intermission, you simply look for your name card and start sipping and munching. Quite civilized, wouldn't you say? The second difference is that theatres and concert halls charge for programs. The programs are much nicer than the free ones we get here in NYC. The British programs contain many glossy photos on beautifully laid out pages with lovely artwork as well as extensive background notes. However, you have to pay. We paid 4 pounds per program at the Royal Albert Hall and 5 pounds each at the Hay Market Theatre. One pound sterling equaled $1.85 USD at the time of my visit, so those programs were not exactly cheap!

Getting back to the play, though, it was a jewel. Just BRILLIANT. It seemed to take Judi a little while to warm up her voice, but we can all forgive her that. She is 70, after all. She projected great energy throughout, and her comic timing is that of a consummate pro. It was a treat as well to see Peter Bowles (from the British comedy series To the Manor Born) who played opposite Judi Dench. Actually, the entire ensemble of eight actors were equally talented, which is what made the play such a delight to watch. I felt Noel Coward’s drama, set in 1925, held up well. (The Times review of April 22, 2006 agrees.) Being in London for the week intensified my awareness of the play's nuances as Noel Coward poked fun at the British upper class. However, the intrigue of family relationships holds the same fascination today for audences everywhere.

Afterwards, Maurene and I went across the street for a proper dinner in an Italian restaurant. The food was very good, and we were both in fine spirits. It is not often that one can experience such a wonderful performance of a well crafted piece of writing followed by good food and wine, all enjoyed with a friend you don’t see very often. Indeed, it was a very special night. Definitely the high point in my trip so far!

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

No comments: