Monday, 5 July 2010

London trip Sat 3-Jul-2010

I've been trying to use the Woolwich extension of the DLR since it opened about 18 months ago; this would have been my first trip to Woolwich. I set out at 05:45 to make the most of the coolest part of the day. Instead this happened.

On leaving Shadwell station I headed north through a very run-down 1960s residential/shopping centre, Watney Market, where market stalls were being set up. Emerging on Commercial Road, there was a 10min+ wait for a no. 15 bus westwards, which was fairly full.

I was trying to get back on plan but arrived at Borough Market at 08:30, which proved to be too early as not enough stalls were ready, though it opened at 08:00. I carried on via buses RV1 and 77, arriving at Lambeth Palace at 09:15.

Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library was fascinating - stunning old books, documents such as the death warrant for Mary Queen of Scots...

I went next door to the Garden Museum, a lovely little museum with a very popular tea room attached.

Next stop was Aldwych Tube station for the Transforming the Tube exhibition. The exhib. was good but the attraction was this rare chance to see the disused station - still very much looking 1930s-1950s.

Next I went to Somerset House's Terrace Rooms to see City Living – highlights from the Fleming Collection. They showed a much wider selection than the old favourites such as the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. On the way out, a troup of young women danced in the fountains in the courtyard.

After lunch I arrived at the Comedy Theatre to see La Bete, starring Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce, and Mark Rylance. As usual with plays with big names, it attracted people who don't know how to behave.

David Hyde Pierce opened the piece with a monologue of about 8 minutes, setting out his character's artistic credentials as actor-manager of a serious troup and ranting about the popular performer his patron, the Princess, has lumbered him with. Then Mark Rylance comes on and has an even longer monologue putting his case for populist entertainment - mass appeal. There's no plot to speak of, just argument and counter-argument, done with style and wit, all in rhyming couplets. David Hyde Pierce was particularly fine: a subtle, nuanced performance, with little looks and gestures. Mark Rylance (as so often) gave a rather larger-than-life performance, suiting his character. Joanna Lumley wasn't on stage that much but was suitably regal. The last third was rather dull and drifting. [Review]

An odd couple got up and left about a third of the way through the interval-less performance. (Why do such people bother to come and then leave? Didn't they check first?)

On leaving at 16:20 I tangled with the end of the Gay Pride March & Traf.Sq. rally, so I headed into the City by bus for peace & quiet. Unusually lots of pubs were open, even after 5pm, due to World Cup (Germany getting their just reward of a semis place for their earlier good work in knocking England out).

    [An aside, on a favouite theme: this is a notable step forward. In the last 10 years the numbers of people in the City at weekends has been rising. Many coffee & sandwich bars have noticed and are open but pubs stubbornly refuse to open. (There are exceptions in the high-volume tourist areas of St Pauls and Tower Hill.)

I've given up on the rush&crush of afternoon/evening Kings Cross return trains and go with the civilised calm of Liverpool St ones (usually 70mins instead of 50mins).

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Cambridge, United Kingdom