Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Two Ians

Saturday, October 25, 2008
London

High Holborn is like a churchyard on Saturdays at dawn when the legal world grinds to a halt for the weekend respite. Having fallen into something of a routine by now, I awake before it is quite daylight, snap on the table lamp and read in bed for a hour--right now, I am devouring The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards which my own daughter Chriselle pressed upon me as I said my goodbyes to her upon my exit from the States. She had raved about it and said she knew that I would love it. And she is right--I am enjoying every word. It is an intriguing plot indeed that is bolstered by a lyrical writing style and while I want to know what happens next, I am pausing frequently to admire the elegant turn of phrase.

Then, I switch on my PC and check my email (only that part of it that has originated from the East has reached me by this point in the day ). If it is urgent, I respond right away; if it can wait, I turn over and climb out of bed. Force of habit (one my Dad inculcated in me decades ago), motivates me to make my bed right away--this means nothing more than straightening the down comforter in its waffle weave buttermilk duvet cover, then reaching for my sneakers (a very new development) so that I pad on cushioned comfort towards the bathroom.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy my morning shower because my bathroom is so comfortingly white, clean and uncluttered--never knew I would ever appreciate domestic minimalism, but it has grown on me. The shower head is wonderfully voluminous and the temperature just perfectly right--some might say a little too steamy--and because I have never been one to linger in the bath, I am toweling myself dry in five minutes. At precisely this time, the automatic fan comes on and clears the room of accumulated steam. It is a contraption that then whirs rhythmically on for the the next half hour. I even have a towel warming rack in my bathroom which is the height of luxury to me and by this time, when it is close to 9. 30 (or "half nine" as they say here), I pad into the kitchen to switch on the Gold Channel on TV that is currently showing reruns of Britain's best-loved sitcoms. As Time Goes By comes on at 9. 20. On days when I arrive in the kitchen about 9 am, I get the last bits of BBC's Breakfast show which allows me to catch snippets of the news as well as the weather forecast. So it is a leisurely routine, sans alarm clocks or household traffic to disturb me. With a large bowl of cereal and sometimes a cup of coffee, I am ready to start work about 10 am and then I work steadily till
1. 30 or 2 .00 pm at which time I stop for a sandwich or salad lunch.

While I used to enjoy a daily afternoon nap at home in Connecticut, I have given up naps here altogether as I did not want to waste any of my precious time in London sleeping during the day! I have continued to work at my PC through the afternoon, stopping to watch a film from my Love Film selections at lunchtime. Occasionally,I pause for a cup of herbal tea and a snack at 5pm, but most times I do not even do that. Instead, I work through the day until about 7.30 or 8. 00pm by which time I am ready to relax with a movie and a bit of dinner. As long as I am able to get work done, I do not mind being cooped up in the house all day. Since my foot affliction began, I have been punctuating this routine with foot exercises and massages, chats on the phone with Llew and my parents and pouring over the web to find out all the happenings in London that I am missing.

Not that I have allowed myself to stray too far away from the theater. This afternoon, for instance, I left the house at 2.00 pm for another memorable theatrical show. Just a little earlier, I received a call from Ian Seqeuira, a close family friend from New Jersey, who is in London for a week-long conference. He had just checked into his hotel and wondered what my plans were for the rest of the day. I told him that I was about to leave my place for Shaftesbury Avenue to see Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of An Author. Ian and I made plans to meet about 5. 30 pm at the theater. I got there easily enough by Tube and found myself in the marvelous Gielgud Theater, named, of course, for the legendary Sir John Gielgud, whom I always associate with the role of Lord Irvin in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.

There is something superbly special about these London theaters--they are just so strikingly opulent. Located right off Piccadilly Circus, the Gielgud is all stained glass and wrought iron on the outside and a combination of stately columns, gilded plasterwork and painted frescoes within. Fat cherubs cavort on the walls amidst skeins and floral garlands and the carpeted floors make the space old-fashioned yet very elegant. My seat in the Stalls was, as the English would say, "not too bad", but then, just minutes before the curtain call, we were told we could occupy the empty seats in front. This put me just about 10 seats from the stage, much to my delight.

Pirandello's plays with their Post-Modernist twists are challenging at the best of times, but in the hands of Rupert Gold and Ben Power, this one became intensely cerebral to the point where I felt the need to read a few of the reviews to make complete sense of what was happening. For me, the biggest attraction was the presence, in the main role, of Ian McDiamid, former Artistic Director of the Almeida Theater in Islington. He played the Father in the play so incredibly well that he carried the play off independently but was ably assisted by Noma Dumezweni who played the Producer. The play within a play within a play was so complex as to leave the audience completely baffled yet bowled over by the sheer technical brilliance. I cannot wait to read the reviews tomorrow. Suffice it to say that by the end of the performance, I was so swept away by the intricacies of plot as to be overwhelmed by them.

I met two people in the lobby outside while waiting for Ian to arrive (thankfully on a chair so I was prevented from straining my feet)--Dan, one if my NYU students who had arrived to attend the 7. 30 pm show and Noma whom I ran after to compliment upon a truly great performance. When I told her that McDiamid was amazing but that she matched him scene for scene in histrionic virtuosity, she almost hugged me--so pleased was she by my assessment. We spent several moments chatting during which she revealed to me that she has had no formal training in Acting whatsoever but has been "learning loads" on the job itself.

After a half hour, the other Ian arrived--Ian Sequeira and we took leave of Dan to go to Costa, a coffee shop just opposite the theater as I could not do much walking. We settled down with a pot of tea for him and a hot chocolate for me and chatted incessantly, catching up with all that has transpired in our respective family lives since we last met at my birthday bash at Southport in July. Indeed we had so much to say that, before we knew it, it was almost 8 pm and we decided to grab a small bite in Vietnamese House, a restaurant right around the corner. There, over hot soup and Pork Spring Rolls, we continued chatting until at 9. pm, then decided to call it a day. We took the Tube together and while I hopped off at Chancery Lane, Ian carried on to Canary Wharf where his hotel and his conference are based.

We have made plans to meet again tomorrow morning and since I cannot do any walking, we've decided to take the Route 11 bus that goes from Bank right across London from East to West offering perhaps the cheapest tourist trip that could possibly exist.

In spending a stimulating evening with the Two Ians, I realize that I managed to take my mind completely off my ailment and truly felt as I could take it in my stride--ooooh, awful pun that and so unintended!

And so to bed...

1 comment:

prem kishore said...

Hi Rochelle
Your energy, upbeat vivacity allows no time for frustration, annoyance and depression.
Cheers again.
Have you seen Bhowani Junction, starring the fabulous Ava Gardner and Queenie with Merle Oberon who was an Anglo Indian herself?
Very engaging films beautifully made with a haunting sadness.