Monday, March 4, 2013

London Journal - Classy, classy Dames

London's West End is the largest theatre district in the world. From Leicester Square through China town and into Soho, the theatres are feet apart, tucked around corners and featured with massive three dimensional signs advertising the latest incredible musical or drama or comic performance. It's an area of London which I normally avoid, given the high density of tourists and, especially on a Friday, drunken loons out for a good time with friends.

The only time I venture there is when I am going to see a performance, and the only time I usually see a performance is if the pull is particularly strong due to the cast. At upwards of £60 a ticket, I'm very particular about what I'll go see - but there have been some shows which required no question.

When Whoopi Goldberg was in the stage production of Sister Act my partner and I snapped up tickets as quickly as we could, and truly, Whoopi made the show. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd have gone to see but the twinkle in Whoopi's eye made the entire thing fully worth it, especially considering she was playing the mother superior.

Since then I have also seen Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey performing on stage and both performances were absolutely incredible. It's an entirely different way to watch such well known actors and really shows the strength of their talent when they are just as powerful and convincing in the flesh as they are on screen.

Living in London has taught me to keep my eyes open to these opportunities so, last year, when 'The Audience' started selling tickets, my partner and I agreed that we had to go. Here was a calibre of performer who, in my opinion at least, outshines even the magnificent Spacey and Stewart. Returning to her role as the Queen of England, only this time on the stage, was Dame Helen Mirren.

Having bought the tickets in the autumn of last year, the general excitement of what was to come had died down somewhat. It wasn't until the Dame herself walked on stage at the March 1st performance that I felt the familiar thrill of seeing a performer, an artist I so admire, in the traditional setting of their craft.

Every Tuesday the Queen meets with the Prime Minister to discuss the occurrences of the last week and coming week in the House of Commons. 'The Audience' shares a snapshot of what the playwright imagines these meetings to be like. Alongside Helen Mirren's outstanding performance were a collection of incredible character actors portraying the likes of Churchill, Thatcher and Blair, to name just a small selection. My personal favourite was Richard McCabe in the role of Harold Wilson - not least because of how much the scenes involving him made me laugh.

These sorts of experiences are a large part of the reason I do love living in London, despite the noise and the crowds and the aimless tourists. Before I moved here I would say that it would be amazing to see certain actors perform on stage. I included these speculative experiences in my list of Everything To Do In My Life - but I don't believe I ever thought they would come to pass.

Well, I've now seen yet another person I hadn't ever expected to see and come April I will be ticking off the final actress I've wanted to see live. Another incredibly powerful performer who I have admired since the first time I saw her as 'M'. Yes, in April I will be seeing Dame Judi Dench perform in 'Peter & Alice'.

I shall have to revisit my list and see if there is anyone else I can add to it now, since I've completed it so beautifully in the last three years.

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