Some say London is a Nation in its own right. It has a GDP that could make it so. That’s a rather political statement and I, for one, want a much fairer distribution of England’s, Britain’s, benefits than we have at present. The controversy that engulfed the idea to move a world renowned collection of photographs from Bradford to the V&A in London is but the most recent example. Stop it, you rotters in charge of these things.
Rant over, this post is about those places in London that have National in the title. Like Royal it’s a badge of honour but, as my opening suggests, I present these with a little squirming.
The National Maritime Museum.
This is in Greenwich and I mentioned it in G is for Greenwich the other day. If you like all things nautical and especially if our maritime history interests you this is for you. I’ll be honest.
I’m unaquatic to my core and I feel a little uncomfortable about naval battles of long ago – not that I don’t admire the bravery and the tactics employed – it’s just the end product wasn’t exactly the epitome of altruism.
Beautiful buildings though.
The National Theatre
The antithesis. A shit looking building that doesn’t pass the Judge’s Song test from the Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera: Trial by Jury – check out verse three, on how to get used to ugly.
I can honestly say that in the years of man’s development from the stone age to the age of technology, the single most retrograde step was the introduction of Brutalist Architecture post WW2 as epitomised here.
But do not be put off. The complex of buildings that sit either side of and under Waterloo bridge on the south bank of the Thames:
The National Theatre
The Hayward Gallery
The Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Rooms
The British Film Institute
The Royal Festival Hall
And now the purple cow, the Udderbelly which
is a great new comedy venue.
They are a wonderful mix of entertainment and exhibition spaces with beautiful views of the river and the north bank.
The National Theatre itself currently has four stages: The Olivier, the Lyttleton, the Dorfman (what used to be the Cottesloe until a year or so ago) and the Temporary.
The red cardboard power station is the Temporary.
It’s bookshop is excellent if you want a play (er, this isn’t the bookshop).
It’s cafe and restaurants fine but it is the combination of great settings, the most imaginative artistic directors not afraid to do something lunatic like put a wooden puppet at the centre of a moving WW1 drama and create the sensation that is War Horse and, best of all, subsidized seats that allow plays to be within the reach of many pockets. If you come to London, check out in advance and get tickets. You will not be disappointed. We saw an excellent play there this week: Another Place: How Islamic State stole our children, about which I will be writing next week.
The National Gallery
It dominates the centre of London by Trafalgar Square.
Even if the best art is on the fourth plinth just now.
It has the most wide ranging art collection you can imagine. It’s free. How can it not be my favourite?
Well, you see, big tends to be indigestible.
You simply will die from a combination of sensory overload and necrotizing-flatfootitis as your crippled metatarsals eat you to make you sit down.
You do have to go.
The espresso cafe in the basement is excellent
try the lemon poppyseed cake.
Here are some more of their classics
But if you really only have time for one art gallery go to the Tate Britain – here – or…
The National Portrait Gallery
Here’s the thing about portraits.
They are as much about the subjects as the artist.
They range from pen and ink to photos.
Ok they can be staid and as grey as a pair of over washed underpants but then how many fat babies can you take in renaissance art?
The Portrait Gallery tells you about history, gives you a contextual biography and allows time for a little bit of art appreciation with the coffee and mints. Love it.
PS I didn’t mention the Tate Modern. There’s nothing wrong with the Tate Modern. If I had an empty power station and a few hundred million that’s what I’d do.
And while I’m on the subject of the best bits, the National Gallery allowed this artist in
paint and all. I call that encouraging.
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