Thursday, July 25, 2013
Tate and Theater:
Since a lot of exciting things have been happening in my London life, but not too much by way of work, I decided to knuckle down and get some done. Awaking at 7.00 am, I had a quick brekkie (toast w/peanut butter and apricot jam and tea) and started to work right away—I am editing one of the chapters of my book for inclusion in an anthology on Anglo-Indians in the World Today that is being edited by Robyn Andrews of New Zealand and Fr. Brent Otto (S.J.) of Boston. They had returned the chapter to me with some recommendations for change. Once I got working on it, time just flew and before I knew it, it was 2.00 pm! I jumped up because I was hungry again: more toast for lunch with Stilton Cheese and a Salad (I am loving Pizza Express’ Balsamic Vinaigrette with its mustard overdose—nice and spicy!) and then I was off to greet the city.
Traipsing Among the Tate’s Collection:
The trouble with going to a museum to see one set of works (the Turners) is that you realize what a wealth of art exists in the rest of the museum—and you simply must see it all! So I took the Tube to Pimlico, walked to the Tate Britain and began at the beginning—literally! I progressed chronologically from the 1500s to the present. It was a treat to go from the Tudor portraits to the work of the Bloomsbury Group. I was especially delighted to see David Hockney’s portrait of Mr and Mrs. Clark and Percy which is one of Marina Vaizey’s 100 Masterpieces of Art—and which I had never seen before. I was under the impression that it was at the Tate Modern where I have often looked for it. So coming upon it was not just a surprise but a delight.
I spent about two hours at the Tate, then hopped into the 88 bus and rode to Trafalgar Square—I caught a quick glimpse of Katherina Fritsch’s newest sculpture on the Fourth Plinth that Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled yesterday—it is called Hahn/Cock and is a bright blue cockerel in what looks like plaster of Paris. Already a great deal of humor is being generated about it in the press and on the internet, not the least having to do with the double entendre of its title.
I did want to get to a printer at NYU to print out some revisions of my chapter but there wasn’t enough time. Instead I took a bus from Trafalgar Square that was heading towards Covent Garden as my next appointment was for dinner with my friend Rosemary.
Dinner at Dishoom:
I have mentioned Dishoom earlier in the week—the new(er) Indian restaurant on Upper St. Martins Lane in Covent Garden with a twist: this one serves Bombay street food which is really derived from several different cultures (Chaat and chicken tikka from North Indian, pau bhaji from Maharashtra). I was curious to see how good it was and Roz was game. We met at 6.00 pm, found a table inside (it was already packed) and ordered black daal, pau bhaji and chicken tikka with chai for her and a rose and cardamom lassi for me. I have to say that although the menu has been beautifully designed and is made very enticing by its unusual descriptions of very humble food, I was not impressed at all by the taste. Nothing really was exceptional. With a roomali roti that we split, we just about managed to finish everything (and were glad we did not take the advice of our waiter to order 6 dishes to be shared by two people—even at 3 dishes, our order was a tad too much). Not a place to which I will go again—that’s for sure. I will stick to Carluccio’s and Hare and Tortoise (where I can eat repeatedly and never get fed-up—pun intended!).
To The Duchess Theater:
Our next port of call was the Duchess Theater on Catherine Street to see August Wilson’s Fences. Roz’s brother-in-law Colin McFarlane has a major role in it (Bono) and she suggested we go to see it. I did not realize that she had seen it twice previously—she gave nothing away by way of the plot, thank goodness. I had never seen or read the play, so all was a revelation to me.
Fences is set in the American South in the 1950s and consists of a bunch of African-Americans in a domestic environment tussling with their ‘issues’—most of which have to do with difficult childhoods through tough parents. The adage” The Abused becomes the Abuser” came home to me again in the main character of Troy Maxson, played by the comedian Lenny Henry (of Chef fame). As Roz said, it was startling to see him in a serious role (although last year, I had seen him play a double role in Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theater—in one role, he was rather serious, in the other, he was a joker).Needless to say, he did a great job but Colin as Bono was just amazing—in fact, I think he was a much better actor in a terrific role. The production was directed by Paulette Randall and has been on a nation-wide tour. I understand that on Broadway, the role of Troy was played by Denzel Washington and Gabe was played by James Earl Jones. Well, these West End actors might not have been stars (well, Lenny Henry is, I suppose), but they did a sterling job and the play was very well received.
Meeting Theater Royalty:
Roz had told me that there would be an opportunity to meet the show’s actors at the Stage Door after the play—and sure enough, when we did congregate there after the curtain came down, it was only a 10 minute wait before the cast emerged to the warm congratulations of those of us who were privileged enough to meet them. I exchanged a quick few sentences with Lenny Henry and with the actress who played Rose (Tanya Moodie) and then Colin emerged and suggested we get a drink at PJ’s, a pub around the corner which is a common West End hangout. So if you want to spot stars, go there!
We spent the next hour gabbing. Colin has a beautiful voice and I was not surprised to hear that he makes the bulk of his income from voiceovers—tomorrow he has a gig with Disney. The unexpected surprise was the appearance of Costanza, playwright August Wilson’s widow, who happened to be in London (from Seattle where she lives) and came to see the show. She joined us at our table and we ended up having a very interesting discussion on the play’s rather strange and baffling end. Other cast members also popped by and soon I had exchanged a few words with most of them. They are pleased with the good reviews and reception the play has received but were clearly exhausted—mainly from the heat in the theater.
While I am reveling in all this great London theater, it is pure torture to sit in these ancient theaters that have no air-conditioning, indeed no circulation of air through any means whatsoever. I was afraid I would pass out—it was so uncomfortably hot and I was fanning myself like a lunatic throughout. During the intermission, I had to get a beer as I felt deeply dehydrated inside. It is simply my bad fortune that I am in London during its most brutal summer in years and although I am used to the harsh heat of New York and the humidity of Bombay, I no longer have the ability to withstand them.
It was about 11. 40 when Roz and I got up to leave. We walked to the Leicester Square Tube station together where we parted to take different trains. I got off at Marble Arch, switched to a bus and was at home by 12. 20--not bad at all. A few minutes later, I was in bed after what had been another productive day in London Town.
Until tomorrow, Cheerio!