Travels: London: Saturday 25th November 2000

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Highlights

Seeing Art again with an exceptional cast; going to the London IMAX.


I caught the 09:05 to Liverpool Street as the Kings Cross line was still affected by works resulting from the Hatfield disaster. This was the quickest train between 08:30 and 11:30. As of 09:00 the WH Smiths on the platform hadn't opened - very poor service. The run down to London was fine - the carriage gradually filled up as far as Tottenham Hale, where many got off. We were due at Liverpool Street at 10:14 according to the emergency timetable but got in at 10:25. I took the Cicle/District Line to Kings Cross.

The third major event of the day was supposed to be to go to Tate Britain to see the just-opened William Blake exhibition. However the Victoria Line was closed beyond Warren Street down to Brixton as a train had broken down at Victoria. [Quite why that should close both up and down lines...?] So I winged it and decided to go to Warren Street and change there for the Northern Line and then decide what next: Covent Garden or South Bank. There were copious station announcements about the breakdown at Kings Cross and the train driver mentioned it as people boarded. We travelled on to Euston where there was a long station announcement about the situation with much repetition, insisting that the train would stop at Warren Street. Then the driver took up the theme again at length. I timed all this at 5 minutes and only then did three people suddenly leave the train, suggesting that the repetitions are needed to get through to some people. At Warren Street I noticed the [original?] tiling naming it as Euston Road. The Bakerloo line was also out of action in central London.

I chose to go on to Waterloo and left the station via the Tenison Road exit. As I thought, that was the closest physically to the IMAX but the road system blocks direct access - one uses the somewhat-complex subway system to get there. I'd booked tickets by phone earlier in the week and picked them up now, in case it saved time later.

By now the morning sun had gone and the predicted rain had started.
[Square Meal magazine did a revealing survey in December: expensive but poor-quality food, long waits and problems asking for variations all figured highly.]
I strolled along to the Fish!Diner in Belvedere Road for opening time at 11:30. This time I had snapper with the red wine fish sauce and new potatoes - a very reasonable 13.50 including coffee. The service can be patchy: I had to wait 15 minutes to get the bill and the other problem in evidence was the apparently well-known one of a waiter hassling you to order before you've had time to read more than a couple of lines of the menu. Then once you're ready, there's no sign of the waiter for 5 minutes.

I strolled around to the front of County Hall, past the spot where the BBC Breakfast weather reports have been done since 2nd October. I did wonder if they had something special set up but there's nothing. It's one of oh-so-many TV mysteries: why did some half-wit TV producer decide it's a fine idea to move the delivery of forecasts from the studio to an unremarkable spot outside?

Carrying on to the National Theatre, I managed to get what was apparently the last ticket for Life x 3 for 9th December, having failed to buy one online. This was the only occasion I could go for the forseeable future and the ticket was for the Circle, which I prefer.

As it was still raining and there was nothing else I was desperate to see thereabouts, I decided to kill time till the IMAX by simply sitting and reading in the public spaces in the NT. In one section a jazz pianist was busy with some awful, tuneless modern jazz tootlings, occasionally abetted by a female singer droning. The singing included that quirk of modern jazz singing whereby the singer goes up and down octaves during a line of lyrics. Why?

I sat in the mezzanine area outside the Lyttelton, which was acting as an overflow area for the Circle Cafe above. As I noticed when seeing Noises Off a few weeks back, about 95% of the people there looked over 45 and 50% over 65. Where's the younger audience for theatre? Mind you, Art is attended by all ages.

Cyberworld 3D

After the short walk to the London IMAX, I had to hang around a bit in the lobby before the public were let into the cinema - 10 minutes before the performance. We were given special "3D" plastic glasses on the way in. The 14:30 show was very popular with all ages.

The show started with Pearl & Dean adverts, apparently using the same recording of the so-familiar jingle as was heard in the Sixties, judging by all the crackling and other signs of age when played through such a high-quality sound system!

After a short explanation from a member of staff, the show proper started with a series of demo clips, including:

Cyberworld 3D is a set of animations from various sources, including the Simpsons, linked together by an animated story, led by a female character. Altogether the performance lasted an hour.

***

I crossed Waterloo Bridge (the rain had stopped) and went into the little Hogshead in Wellington Street. The place was about half full. I chose Hampshire Wild Thing (4.2%, 1.12/half) - a very tasty light bitter. Other beers on included Flowers IPA, Buchanans Best Bitter, Pedigree, Brakspear Bitter and Kimberley Best Bitter. The place doubles as a Costa Coffee outlet.

On the other corner with Exeter Street is Livebait, the hyped fish restaurant. I went in there to book a table for my next trip, timed to be after the pre-theatre crowd. To kill time I strolled via Long Acre, Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly through huge crowds of shoppers over to Wyndham's Theatre for 16:30.

In Shaftesbury Avenue Daryl Hannah was playing in Seven Year Itch next door to Jerry Hall in The Graduate. I find this sudden enthusiasm for Hollywood actors and models to perform in the West End curious, to say the least.

In Leicester Square there was a very good Chinese choir of about 30 youths in smart red and white costumes.

Art

There was some confusion over my ticket from FirstCall: "Balcony B20" turned out to be the Top Circle, which was even harder to find than the Dress Circle last time. It's a long way down to the stage and it's bench seating. Of the four benches, only one and half were occupied.

Anyway, Warren Mitchell, John Fortune and Ken Campbell were superb. WM played a crustier version of Marc than Paul Freeman and there were differences with the other two - part of the interest was to see the differences in characterisation and emphasis. JF played Serge, the character with the painting, previously played by Patrick Duffy. At one point KC as Yvan has an impassioned monologue of about 4 minutes - he got a round of applause.

***

Upon leaving I was surprised at how many people there were about and apparently mainly heading into the area - the time of year seems not to be a factor. Via the Central Line I arrived at Liverpool Street and found the JD Wetherspoon there. It's at the far end of the balcony area around the main circulation space. As there weren't a lot of people about, I thought it might be quiet. Hah! It was packed so I didn't bother going inside.

The train ran more-or-less on time and I was back at 20:42.


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