I thought it would be good to do some emergency, catch them while you can, specials this week.
First – free theatre by Scoop. If there is one event I’ve done so far which has truly picked up the spirit of the 1000 things to do in London, it is the marvellous Scoop theatre, which for the last nine years has performed free theatre in the shadow of City Hall, the administrative heart of London. From August to early September they put on two free plays a night. When I say free plays, I mean really professionally performed productions, with set design, props, lighting, sound and everything. It is running until 4 September, so there’s still a little time to go, and if you can, you definitely should. Details are given here: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/the-scoop-theatre-feature-event-3994.html. They play rain or shine (unless the rain is so bad it is physically unsafe to do so).
The first performance is a family production – a musical version of 80 Days Around the World, and starts at 6pm. It was packed, but pleasantly so. The whole free thing gave the proceedings a friendly and informal air I rather liked. People came with food of quite exotic sorts, boxes of Pizza Express pizza, bottles of pop and wine. Children ran round, sometimes bellowing they were hungry, sometimes crying because they were bored. There was a constant sense of movement – every time someone left there would be a flurry as we dashed to get better seats (I came in late, and so got the worst seats in the house, but was able to upgrade three times. This does not ordinarily happen in the theatre). It was all very friendly and chaotic, and people clapped along with the songs, many of which were unexpectedly good. Particular favourites were a treastise to the benefits of bigamy, a song to cheer up a gay elephant called Eugene, and a rather sweet love song called “That’s what I love, I think.”
The first play ended to thunderous applause, and I found a Pret to get something to eat before the next show at 8. I wandered down by the river at sunset, with the Embankment lights shimmering, and lots of loved up couples taking in the views of Tower Bridge, generally snogging and looking soppy. Musing that pottering around romantic hotspots solo isn’t as much fun as you would think I heard a weird siren sound. I turned back to see the two wings of London Bridge raise to let a tall ship through. Apparently Tower Bridge does this about a thousand times a year (and you can get details of when it does from this site here: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/TBE/EN/BridgeLiftTimes/), but to just happen to stumble across it is a rare treat indeed, and apart from the sirens it pulls off this marvellous feat of engineering entirely silently as far as I could tell. I scuttled off to fetch my carb free dinner, and got spouse a Love bar because I love them, and I didn’t know if he’d have eaten.
Spouse came to join me for the second play, a rather more high brow work than the first – The Mother by Bertold Brecht. It tells the story of a mother who at the beginning of the play was entirely innocent of all things political, but by the end had lost everything in her pursuit of workers’ rights, which she had begun to save her son. I hope I’m not giving away too much here, but it didn’t turn out that well for either her or the son. If this doesn’t sound like a barrel load of laughs, it wasn’t, but there were a few. If I’m honest, I thought the first half hour was the best bit, which is a shame because spouse arrived half an hour late, and so formed a much dimmer opinion of the gig than I did. I passed him his love bar. He declared it a capitalist bar which was not fit for a Bolshevik like him, but he guzzled it down regardless. He then proceeded to point out that the guitarist who kept wandering the stage had no idea how to play. I’m not sure he was really in the mood for pre-revolution Communist Russian drama, to be honest.
As the performance played on, the sunset rolled on into night, and the stage became darker and more atmospheric. Being both outside and surrounded by Sir Norman Foster’s work lent a lot to the play – it felt grey and industrial even on that late-summer evening, and the communist flags, leaflets and newspapers fluttered around in the balmy air. Spouse and I huddled together for warmth, as the play ended, and cheerfully donated £2 each at the end of the play, in hope they would return for the next year. As he stood, spouse murmured: “I don’t know what I’ve just seen, but there was a lot of it, and my buttocks hurt comrade.” I told him to stop oppressing the workers, and walk me down by the river, to our old friend London Bridge.
We stopped to take arty photos, and a tourist asked, “Is this London Bridge?” “Oh yes,” I said. “There’s been a bridge of one sort or another round here since about AD43, and one medieval one stood here for 600 years.” The tourist nodded, and scuttled away at speed. It suddenly occurred to me I was beginning to learn a little bit about London, and wandered arm in arm with spouse to get some more capitalist food from M&S to tide us over the long tube ride home.