While Boris is in London on business, I tagged along to enjoy the city while the hotel room is “free”. We just concluded a long weekend to Paris celebrating a milestone birthday for Boris. This part of the trip will be all work for him. We usually stay near the West End, but this trip our hotel is next to the Tower of London in the Financial District, close to Boris’ firm’s office.
Our hotel is not in the best location for tourists, although we are right next to a Tube station. I just need to plan out my routes, get a oyster card-prepaid travel by local trains, and allow more travel time. The Tower of London is a major tourist attraction, but I have been several times and there is always a long queue, so I will not make another visit on this trip. We do have a wonderful view of the Tower and Bridge from the hotel elevator bank.
Since the dollar is not particularly strong against the pound right now, I did my shopping in Paris and will be spend my time in London enjoying the theaters. The last few trips over, I took several excursions, even some out of the city-Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden where the Harry Potter films were shot and where currently the sets and props are stored and Highclere Castle and Bampton Village where the Downton Abbey television series was filmed.
One of the wonderful things about theater in London is that they have matinees multiple days of the week at various theaters. On this Tuesday, I got a matinee tickets to see An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theater right on the Strand. I realized that our location at the Waldorf (last trip) would have been perfect for the theaters I am going to on this trip.
Just across the street from the theater is the famous Savoy hotel. Their traditional tea is very highly rated and begins early. It starts at 1pm and the last seating is at 5:45. I booked the first seating at 1 pm so I could make the 2:30 curtain across the street. It was a fabulous tea.
They are currently offering a special tea in honor of Price Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. They also have an English sparkling wine and I decided to go with that to accompany my tea. After champagne for four days straight, it would be a shame not to continue with more sparkling.
I completely threw the waiter when I asked for no chocolate offerings with my tea. His flustered reply was “but almost everything is chocolate.” Actually, there was plenty to enjoy without it. I am more about the sandwiches anyway. When I was almost finished, I made a quick trip to the restroom to freshen up before the play. There was a woman there so heavily made up, I wondered. A few minutes later she appeared in the foyer as our pianist. She did a wonderful job, but since she didn’t start until 2 pm I didn’t have long to enjoy the music; I needed to close my tab in order to make the play.
The Thames Foyer is a large, lovely room just off another dining area. In the center sits a gazebo covered in (fake) wisteria, rather ironic after our trip to Giverny and the Monet’s wisteria-covered bridge at the water garden. The ceiling is a beautiful glass dome.
I had waited in a seating area just outside where there are comfy sofas and a gift shop where they sell the pastries and teas served in the Thames Foyer. There is also a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. I was able to sit here, having arrived early for my reservations. However, there was no time at the end to stop in the shop. I needed to get across the street quickly for my matinee performance.
I made the play with no problem at all. It was a wonderful performance. I am familiar with Oscar Wilde’s comedic play An Ideal Husband and have also see the film adaption with Rupert Everett, Minnie Driver, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, and Jeremy Northam. The stage performance was a hoot and in this small theater the intimate seating made it even more special. That is another thing I love about English theater, many of the performances are given in smaller venues.
One of the things that made this performance particularly memorable was that real-life father and son Edward Fox and Freddie Fox starred as Earl of Caversham and Lord Goring respectively. The set was well done, the costuming spot on, and everyone gave a wonderful performance. I highly recommend the show.
My evening show is also in the West End near Covent Garden, very close to the Vaudeville Theater. I found the next venue, the London Coliseum, easily. Remember what I said about small theaters, forget it for this one.
After I found the theater, I had dinner at a bistro nearby. I guess I am still channeling the French vibe from Paris. Champagne and dessert have somehow become part of my routine the last few days.
I am seeing Chess “written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Evita) [The musical] tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends.” (from the production’s website) It is the first revival in more than 30 years; the original production was in 1986.
The audience loved the performance. For my dime, I think a limited run is a good thing. Because much of the action takes place around a chess match, it is hard to stage in a large venue. They have chosen to use cameras to catch the action and close-up facial expressions. I was impressed with the additional adjustments the actors had to make, but I found that I was very distracted by the large screens where they projected the images the cameras captured, not the mention the distraction of the cameras and cameramen on stage. This is live theater; I don’t want to see projected images. Perhaps this is a new production wave, but I was disappointed.
The only memorable song was One Night in Bangkok. If you want a different type of production, maybe give it a try. Otherwise, I think the story is thin, the staging distracting, and the songs unmemorable. Spend your theater dollars elsewhere. I have no qualms with the acting or vocal performances; they were top notch.
After the show, I made my way back to the tube station and took a direct line back to the station near the hotel. I feel pretty safe in London, even traveling alone at night. Lots of people about in the West End with all the various productions going on. Just stay alert and plan your route ahead of time; you’ll be fine.