Sunday, December 21, 2003

A London weekend Dec 13/14

Two plays, a Victoria and Albert (VA) museum expedition and a shop-up on Oxford and Regent streets.
The plays:
Jumpers (Tom Stoppard, an early 1970's one revived to good effect) and Sweet Panic, a drama by Stephen Bukianski(sp?). Jumpers was the clear winner. Tom Stoppard's play is in some measure even more relevant now than then: he rails against the relativism that in the 70's was making inroads into philosophy, and that now is still excusing aspects of other ways of life even as those same 'other ways' are actively seeking our own culture's demise. Sweet Panic was billed with Jane Horrocks ('Little Voice') leading, but she wasn't there on the night, which doubtless contributed to our lower opinion. Jumpers was very verbally and gymnastically clever, and the lead actress (Essie Smith) turns out to be Australian. A great night. Both productions were in West End theatres, one near Picadilly Circus, the other near Trafalgar Square. There was a circus nearby in Leicester Square, with a large traditional merry-go-round and...dodgems! Hadn't seen those since I was a kid. Short movies of each were in order. Picadilly Circus has the statue of Eros, but the greater interest there is a magnificent statue in one corner of the Circus itself - horses leaping from a fountain.
VA: it's affectionately dubbed 'Britain's attic' - it certainly is. There were two exhibitions mounted when we went in: a Gothic (14th to 16th centuries), and a Zoomorphic one (natural world reflected in architeture). VA is just huge: we concentrated on the Gothic and the paintings, but there were another 6 wings we didn't look into at all. There's only so much one can take in: we've found 4-5 hours is it. You'd need a week to get around VA alone at that rate, and it's only one of a row of three: Science and Natural History are the other two. Then there's the British Museum up in Bloomsbury. It just goes on and on. Samuel Johnston said something to the effect that 'if you're tired of London, you're tired of life' and that's so true. Mind you, he hadn't seen Shadwell or Wandsworth.
Oxford and Regent streets are a strange mixture of high-end stores and absolute tat: we went to Hamley's, the famous toy store on 5 floors, but it was crammed to breaking point. Wonderful ship models. Looked in on quite a few shops but nothing memorable. However, Virgin Megastores had a good DVD deal so we accumulated a few old favourites and got an airline voucher too. The choice of CD's was simply the best we've ever seen anywhere. And the obligatory gadget buy for W further down the street: a Creative MuVo memory stick/music player. A 128Mb stick with track hop and volume controls, powered by an AAA battery. Depending on compression used, can fit a couple of hours of selected tracks on this.

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