T is for Theatreland #atozchallenge

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Lord Olivier, the greatest?

London is one of the best places to enjoy live entertainment, never more so than its theatres. Theatreland around Leicester Square is where you would naturally aim though as I pointed out in N is for Nationals, the National Theatre is stunning (inside) and probably the best value for money.

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The National Theatre

In addition some of the fringe venues such as the Donmar Warehouse, the Tricycle, the Old and New Vics and the Royal Court

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The Royal Court, Sloane Sq

are well worth the effort of checking what is on. I know Google is the almanac of choice these days but, for me, nothing quite beats Time Out to grab details of the listings.

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The Garrick in St Martin’s Lane

Some shows rival Broadway for expense but unlike my experiences of New York good value and excellent theatre are almost always available somewhere.

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The Ticket Booth Leicester Sq – Shakespeare is to the right of shot but the picture I took was woeful so…

One place to start, as with the ticket office in Times Square, is its counterpart on the south side of Leicester Square

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Empire, Leicester Sq, where a number of first nights occur

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The big screen again Leicester Sq

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The Hippodrome which, tbh you’d probs want to miss though the building is nice enough

where tickets for that night’s shows will be available at a discount.

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Thriller at the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue

 

Currently there are rather too many musicals for my tastes – I feel a little like I’m watching synchronised football, it’s like the real thing only rather saccharine and artificial.

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Stomp

Still as with Art and Marmite, everyone has a strong view.

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The always impressive St Martin’s. Guess where?

Most central London theatres have maintained their aged splendour and while a few feel a little tarty they created a beguiling atmosphere and allow you, perhaps more easily than the functional National, to suspend disbelief more easily as you settle into some plush velveteen seating that was designed with Size 0 bottoms in mind.

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Eros and the gaudy neon

If you start at Piccadilly by Eros, a meeting place for decades, you can go along Coventry Street to Leicester Square and take in the rather bizarre Swiss clock

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before arriving at the theatres in St Martin’s Lane

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Spot the Wyndhamas in St Martin’s Lane… one for bus lovers everywhere.

or better still head along the curving Shaftesbury Avenue

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to view the various theatres.

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a bit passé…

Off to the left, almost immediately is access to the still seedy Windmill Theatre, a expert exponent of rule bending that, post WW2, allowed naked women to be displayed in static tableau while the cream of up and coming comedy acts tried to engage the audience between sets. You had to be dammed good to snag those punters’ attention.

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The Apollo, Shaftsbury Ave

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The Gielgud, after Sir John – I saw him on stage back in the very early 80s

Now, despite a somewhat tacky feel it is nothing to the all round griminess of this area circa 1979 when I arrived, as it was the edge of the sex shops and sex shows that made up Soho. Today they’ve pretty much disappeared form here – Raymond’s Revue bar exists but for a wander not much else. Indeed you can see the money has come back in with more expensive boutiques.

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Cambridge Circus

At the top of Shaftesbury Avenue you are inevitable drawn away from the Cambridge Theatre, original home of Les Miserables and alter Spamalot today the Seven Dials (a junction with 7 roads)

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The Seven Dials with the Cambridge in the background

and Covent Garden which we explored in an earlier piece.

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The Novello, near Covent Garden

Had we left Piccadilly Circus and headed south on either the Haymarket or Lower Regent Street

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The Harold Pinter just off Haymarket

then we would have encountered other theatres,

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The Theatre Royal, the big daddy

bigger and more grand than most in Shaftesbury Avenue.

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Her Majesty’s being refurbed so the cloth gives an impression

There are many and if their particular offering suites you tastes and budgets then they are good to visit. I’ve loved pretty much every minute and, one disastrous children’s Christmas show apart, have yet to walk out. Which is more than I can say for films.

Since I first came as a young man in the mid 70s I have had some brilliant nights and have experienced a gamut of emotions.

I’ve been rendered speechless by Tom Stoppard’s incomprehensible brilliance with Jumpers and baffled by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I’ve been intellectually flattered that I understood Quantum Mechanics after Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen only to be provided wrong when I tried to explain it later.

I’ve laughed my ribs out of their sockets at the Alans Aykborn and Bennett especially the Norman Conquests and the History Boys and learnt that farce is worthy of my time with One Man, Two Guv’nors.

I’ve squirmed with embarrassment at the sight of Nicole Kidman’s and Diana Riggs’ bare bottoms even if later I was disappointed to find the second bottom was a double. I realise I’m a bit of a prude and nudity on stage has me thinking my mother is watching me, as she did when the TV delivered something salacious circa 1974. I really can’t concentrate.

I’ve grimaced at the violence of Howard Brenton and others; I can cope with this better nudity. Not that I enjoy it either; it seems to me the imagination is a stronger tool and this sort of reality isn’t so much shocking as crass.

I’ve cried at War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time. Now I do cry. A lot.

I’ve been enraptured by Judy Dench’s Cleopatra and nearly had a heart attack with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein and his unexpected bell ringing about 15 foot from my head

And best of all, I will remain forever grateful that I saw Michael Gambon in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller – who is probably my favourite playwright. I don’t think I have been so involved in a production as I was that night.

Of course, I can’t talk about theatre without mentioning Shakespeare. The other day i mentioned a sculpture that represented the seven ages of man speech and the fourth age, the soldier who was ‘bearded like the Pard’. I took a proper picture of this fierce beast, my ancestor.

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Yes I’ve been lucky and if you have the chance to experience a little bit of British Theatre I really do encourage you to do so.

 

This is part of the 2016 A to Z Blogging challenge. Please click here to find your way to other participants.

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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19 Responses to T is for Theatreland #atozchallenge

  1. Ritu says:

    Oh memories!!! I love to visit Theatreland!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. davidprosser says:

    A different show every week for a year?
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw The Mousetrap nearly 20 years ago, and it just keeps on going.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful things theatres aren’t they – and you have so many! Last time I took in a show [Cats] in London we exited to scenes post world war 3. London was dead. It was the night of the Poll Tax Riots. Now that was a memorable day to be wandering around London!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Wow, yes that would be something. 1990 or thereabouts?

      Like

      • Yes, 31st March 1990. We planned the weekend in London celebrating my daughter’s 21st doing touristy things and taking in a show. We were on a tour bus in Trafalgar Square when the police moved in to close everything down. The bus and we were abandoned. And so began a day and a half of surreal existence. I dined out on these stories for many years. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I remember ring to get around town and pretend things were normal. But like the anti capitalist protests in 2008/9 too. And of course on 7/7 and the days after, very edgy city then. Plus when the Bishopsgate bomb went off and not forgetting Princess Di’s funeral and the surreal atmosphere as people filled the roads in advance. Strange when a city gets into a grip, like a diverted river it takes on a new skin

        Like

      • It’s amazing isn’t it – you have experienced so many moments of surreal chaos and i just the one. In a way I am now glad I was there to witness it. The power of the people!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Yes even when I disagree I want them to have the right to create some chaos

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful to stroll down Theatreland Geoff. Love the theatre don’t get to go enough. Hope I manage to visit Edinburgh during the festival this August to take in some plays, dance acts and shows.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw The Lion King (can’t remember which theatre) and The Reduced Shakespeare Company at Piccadilly Circus. Need to return and visit all the museums and theatres. 💕

    Like

  7. restlessjo says:

    Thanks Geoff. 🙂 Spoilt for choice!

    Like

  8. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Bełchatów | restlessjo

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