Friday, August 12, 2011

Animals in various forms...

At about midday yesterday I turned up at the New London Theatre in Drury Lane and got an amazing ticket to see War Horse that night. Right in the middle of row I. It was the perfect distance from the stage, smack bang in the middle.

I then had seven and a half hours until show time, so I did a bit of wandering. I bought my cousin Maggie the cutest dress in Monsoon that fulfilled the request that it be 'good for twirling', I wandered through Covent Garden but much like last time I went there, I wasn't all that taken by it. I liked Pollocks Toy Theatres though, it made me think, imagine if your parents were rich enough that they built you an actual working theatre in your house to play in when you were little? Like a Wendy House but a Wendy Theatre. That would be amazing.

I wandered so much that I found myself near the British Museum, so went in for a sit down. I got a map but that museum is massive and to be honest, a whole lot of things in cabinets gets a bit boring. The atrium is amazing though.

So I sat for a while, went and looked at a collection of clocks (one from the 1500s or something crazy like that), a library-type room, and then went to meet my friend Hayley, who I haven't seen for six months and who just got back from holiday in Ireland.

We stopped for a drink at a pub just down from St Paul's Cathedral. I didn't go inside but the outside is impressive enough. Even the slightly ill looking statue children in the grounds to one side.

After a cider (am becoming quite a fan of Bulmers, don't know if we have it in NZ) and lots of talking, I made my way back to Drury Lane to have some dinner before the show. I checked to see if Lonely Planet recommended anywhere nearby, and sure enough, they recommended a place just a few doors up from where I'd sat down on Great Queen Street.

Obviously I am fine doing things by myself, and that's how I've spent the majority of my time in London so far, but for some reason it felt a bit weird being inside (as opposed to a table outside where you can people watch a bit easier) more of a restaurant-type place than a cafe having dinner by myself. On the plus side, I think the waiter felt a bit sorry for me so I got very well looked after. And because I felt like trying something new, I ordered the pigeon. I don't know whether the following is going to make Alex regret asking for food photos, but she hates birds so maybe she'll love it. Vegetarians may want to opt out of the next paragraph.

That's a whole pigeon. With butternut squash and 'sticky' shallots. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't a complete bird. An image of rabid-looking pigeon I'd seen on the way to St Pauls kept popping into my head. I didn't even know where to start. I wish someone had been secretly filming me try to eat it because it would have been extremely amusing. I had been given a sharp, steak-like knife, so I started out semi-successfully trying to carve it like a chicken. But that technique soon deteriorated and after a while I was kind of hacking at it like some desperate mad woman because it was really yum and I didn't want to waste it but it was so difficult to get any meat off. I had expected the meat to be white, like a chicken, but it was actually red and had a quite a distinct taste, it reminded me of venison, not so much because of the taste just the type of meat. The squash and shallots were really yum and overall it was a delicious meal, but I was slightly distracted by feeling like everyone was watching me struggle with this freaking bird that didn't seem to want to be cut and kept slipping all over the plate. It was an ordeal. I walked out half expecting to be spattered with pigeon juice.

Anyway. War Horse. Amazing. Someone had seen it over two years ago when it was first on at The National Theatre and had come home and raved about it, so I'd seen some footage of the puppets and listened to the music. Seeing it live though was something else altogether. Overall I thought some parts were a bit long and the music got a bit same-y, but those puppets. It's almost beyond imagination how alive they become. The horses are operated by at least 3 people at any one time, two inside the body and one operating the head. They way they move the heads, make the ears twitch, the tails swish, and their chests even rise and fall like breathing, is magic. There's a video here but it's hard to see how the puppets are actually operated in it. If you watch it and then select the one called 'War Horse montage' that appears underneath when it's finished playing it gives a much better idea. It's just amazing, the actors can sit on the horses and 'ride' them and some clever staging can even make it seem like they're galloping along on them. The other puppets were mainly birds, including a very funny goose were very cool.

I had a bit of a cry at the start and again at the end, because the music is very moving and the horses are so alive. The guy who played the main character, Albert, was great. The overall design and staging was impressive, although the theatre wasn't as big as I'd imagined it to be. I sat by an American guy who said, 'Pretty good for last minute seats a? Whoever the couple was who were supposed to be sitting here missed out' (because it was obvious I also had a single seat). It was momentarily awful to wonder what had happened to allow these two amazing seats to become free, but as with many things, one person's misfortune is someone else's very very good fortune. I hope whoever they are, they're okay, and thanks for the seat!

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