To London, to London

Well, actually, I’m back now. I’ve still a bit of my post-Christmas break to enjoy before I properly get back to work on Thursday, but I’m back in Glasgow after three nights in London.

Want to know what I was up to?

Sure you do.

Well London has tended to be a kind city to me through the years and I tend to hit it hard when I’m there. Planning one of my trips is a bit of a military operation. This time I was lucky to be staying right in Westminster, which makes it much easier to buzz about.

The main reason I go to London is to go to the theatre. I do that here of course too but there is nothing quite like the choice in London and it is one of the things that I’ve always missed since I lived down there for a couple of years.

This time I managed to see five (count ’em) shows.

  1. The first night I was there I caught the Comedy of Errors at the National. It was good but not quite as good as I was hoping for. Lenny Henry was the headline actor but it was essentially an ensemble piece. I like the spectacle of a big National production and this certainly had that though somehow it just wasn’t quite enough for me.  I was surprised to see some members of the audience standing at the end. Good but not nearly that good was my verdict.
  2. Then the next thing I saw was another Royal National Theatre piece – The Pitmen Painters by Stewart (Billy Eliot) Lee. I loved this – wonderfully committed left wing theatre. Was worried that we might be treated to a noble savage kind of story but no – this was the real thing. I’d missed it when it was touring so really pleased to see it at the very bijou Duchess Theatre.
  3. Next up was a bit of a mistake. I saw the Gershwin confection Crazy for You. Lots of leggy dancing, complete absence of plot. It was all done very well indeed if that’s what you want, but it began to make me depressed. Something about the whole boy meets girl inevitability started to get me down somehow. Five star routines, one star satisfaction. I sat there thinking that perhaps I should have gone to see the English National Ballet Gershwin show starring our own, our very own Ross Sharkey. On reflection, I think that would have been a better idea.
  4. Then to the wonderfully underground Criterion Theatre for The 39 Steps. Now I can’t be bothered with Hitchcock  or Buchan as a rule, but this was Hitchcock as a farce with four actors playing over 200 parts. Wonderfully funny.
  5. Finally it was across the river (I know!) to Southwark to see something that was a bit of a punt. I’d heard of Pippin before and the basic show was recommended by Mother Kimberly. This was a Pippin on acid though. Of all the theatre that I’ve seen in recent years, this is the one show that has pushed the digital envelope further than anything else. The entire staging was projected and changing mesmerisingly throughout. The show had been updated so that each of the parts was a different actor in a cyberspace gaming landscape. It was completely bonkers, had received some very poor reviews and I loved it. I’ve not seen anything like it and it raised all kinds of issues about liturgy (regular and the online variety), reality and myth. Completely compelling, glorious theatre.

In addition to all that, I managed to get to services in Westminster Abbey, St Matthew’s Westminster and St Bartholomew the Great. St Bart’s has Benediction once a month and it is a simply extraordinary experience. The earth moves. No kidding. Well, the earth moved for me. It is also the church that I belonged to for a while when I lived in London quite a while ago.

Oh, and Tate Britain, Tate Modern and an exhibition on William Morris.

In three days.

As I said, I do get around.

I go to the theatre like that, by the way, because what I see and hear and feel there makes it possible to do what I do the rest of the time.

And yes, there is a place for glitter canons in the liturgy of the church.