Who doesn’t love exploring somewhere like London? Random stalls and street food, history on every corner and in every crack in every wall.
Friday brought a magic stolen day in London with a friend from college days. This is a girl who can make me laugh, talk and brings me to a very happy place. We were getting a chance to have some real fun! I really couldn’t believe we actually had gone. A cheap flight was booked about six weeks ago with a vague possibility of going but times were tough in the Paper house (Why is Everyone Crying?) And I really thought I wouldn’t be leaving. I know some of you might be getting deja vu…didn’t she rabbit on about similar feelings like that before? ? Yes I did! I didn’t think we would get away to Castle Leslie either but we did indeed. It is possible that all mothers for this. We all plan for cancellation and getting to go is just a bonus.
In this case, we went.
And really, everything on tour was coming up golden. Connections seemed to wait at terminals just for us. Tubes glided in at our whim. The sun shone. Music and gigs played in parks. People smiled. We were really there.
Our friend was working until four, so we had a full day to fill. Both of us having lived near London in the past, we have already seen the Tower, Big Ben, Covent Garden and all the galleries so we had a massive opportunity for new explorations. London is a time eater so you cannot over plan. We chose afternoon tea. Much research into many teas at hotels, shopping centres and favourite places brought me to the tea and tour at the National Theatre. Great value at 35 pounds, you receive a fantastic tour (thanks to Sarah our professional, highly informative and passionate guide) and then a lovely tea in the House restaurant overlooking the Thames. I cannot fault this experience. If you love theatre, then it is a must. Who doesn’t love tea and little delicacies? Win win!
We got to spy on rehearsals for The Plough and the Stars, being produced due to the centenary of the Easter 1916 Rising. (I assume!). The theatre is quite unusual at first sight. Not my cup of tea (no pun intended) but I was convinced as to why it was built like that by the end of the tour. Not meant to be attractive in the way Victoria theatre etc is, you are meant to be free of all aesthetic distraction in order to focus on the art on stage completely. The interiors remind me of the Canal Bank or the O2 theatres in Dublin. Modern and purpose built, it isn’t conventionally pretty.
I wasn’t allowed photograph inside but you can imagine the grey insides of a multi story car park with theatres free from chandeliers, ornate excess or box seats. Royalty mingle with the common folk here. We were shown much of the interiors and backstage including the impressive factory workshop, churning out purpose built props and backdrops. The National theatre is composed of three actual theatres, the Olivier, the Dorfman and the Lytteldon. We did not see the Olivier as productions for Young Chekov season were bring rehearsed. Passing large trolleys, a quick peep would show you the labeled and itemised props for The Seagull or an equally classic play.We were shown secrets behind the illusion, warned not to lean against walls as everything was not as it seems and joyed at the sight of a horse prop from War Horse dangling overhead.
The Dorfman (named after a very generous donor) is intimate and modern and we were lucky to see the most amazing set in full glory for Sunset at the Villa Thalia. Realistic to a fault, what looks like a concrete front yard is in fact a styrofoam base. This theatre has ‘clever’ chairs that sense body temperatures and can also ‘tell’ you when they malfunction. Lights worth thousands are everywhere. We are told there is no wiggle room for props here to be vaguely real as you are so close to the stage from all sides. You need to perfect the props to a fault. They have recently experimented with innovative sensory theatre too, soaking rugs in beer to give the sense of a typical British bar or even roasting a leg of lamb onstage, leaving a salivating audience living and breathing the atmosphere.
You can see I loved the tour…
Even better, when it was over we went upstairs and were handed Bellinis.(champagne with peach puree). Luxury. The actual tea (the drink) menu was extensive but I wanted tradional breakfast tea. My friend had a flavoured tea. The meal itself was themed (yes a theatrical theme!) quirkily naming courses and making ordinary ingredients more exciting.
So much fun. Such a treat! Especially ‘A Taste of Honey’ cake and a really unusual but delicious pie named after Sweeney Todd. Don’t panic- it is just pork.
A little ‘interval icecream’ with an edible purple flower rounded off the experience perfectly. Cross the bridge and you can have a tipple in Gordon’s Wine Bar, following in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling.
Time then to hop on the train and head out to Finchley…
I recommend this tour to any theatre lover. You will not be disappointed and tea just makes it extra sparkly! Don’t forget the theatre is on Southbank (get tube to Embankment and walk over either bridge, and enjoyable experience in itself) then you can wander the Southbank until the tour starts.
So much to see and experience in this part of London. Watch out for the urban beaches appearing everywhere too. My friend was particularly loving the deckchairs that seemed to appear just when needed all over the city. Who could fault such loveliness?
So this Mammy had a wonderful time in Southbank and had another two lovely days to come.
Missed the babies and their Daddy though..!