Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sequins Reign Supreme

I understand that England limped out of the World Cup today, losing to Germany by 4 goals to 1, which is an almost tragic result. On the plus side, it will finally bring to an end the state of blind delusion that seems to have been gripping our country. So many people I’ve spoken to over the past few days seem to have been convinced that England could pull it out the bag when it mattered, despite absolutely everything pointing towards the fact that our national team are nothing but a worthless bunch of overpaid layabouts. I firmly believe that the squad should be drawn exclusively from championship league players; that way, at least, they might stand a chance of actually functioning as a team instead of a group of preening have-a-go, goal-hanging heroes. A hugely embarrassing episode…

It’s the hottest day of the year today and temperatures in London have reached 30 degrees. I sat in a pocket park in Islington earlier on and could have been in Madrid. I'm terrified that the weather will break before we start filming The Yorkshire Symphony on Friday and am still being haunted by horrific images of 'cellists slipping down the sides of muddy mountains and violinists refusing to take their expensive instruments outside in case they’re destroyed by flash storms. I pray that God will bring us long days of sunshine, and glorious sunsets.

Today began with breakfast at Penny’s house in Hackney. We ate eggs and delicious croissants whilst sitting in her gloriously bohemian house, which reminds me of a commune on the outskirts of Potton that I spent much of my childhood exploring. Penny is the woman to whom I owe my career. She is the person who commissioned Hampstead Heath: The Musical, and allowed a failing theatre director to become  what I am today (a failing film maker!) We had some work to do, and our meeting started at the breakfast table and finished in a community centre watching Penny’s 7-year-old daughter, Sparky, doing a ballroom dancing exam!  It was a suitably eccentric way to go about things and it introduced me to another world, where sequins, pushy mothers, and extraordinarily camp dance instructors reign supreme!

I’ve just returned from Sadlers Wells theatre where I watched Nathan performing in The Day Before Spring. He did a wonderful job, playing a larger than life Tigger-like character in a piece which was charming in a light-weight kind of way. The audience was full of old people, all of whom seemed to be classical musical theatre fanatics. And who could blame them? This musical comes from an era when people knew how to write music. Lerner and Loewe were serious melodists. I can’t remember when I last came out of a theatre humming tunes from a musical I was watching for the first time. So few modern day musical theatre writers seem to understand the importance of a stonking tune.

After the show, I sat in the pub talking to the wonderful actor, Harry Landis. He was uplifting company. He’s a direct contemporary of my mentor, Arnold Wesker, and grew up, like 'Nold, in the old Jewish East End. We talked for hours about beigels, cracked Yiddish gramophone records and the Blitz. We then discussed the golden age of British theatre in the 1950s and 60s, where politics and drama collided magnificently both on and off the stage. This was the era of the workers revolutionary party; the time when playwrights boycotted productions of their own plays and when Arnold Wesker sued the Royal Shakespeare Company. Ah! Those were the days…

Pepys, too, was in a nostalgic frame on mind on this date 350 years ago. He spent some time at the end of the day in the garret in the turret of Montagu’s London residence playing music in the dark, appreciating the acoustic up there, no doubt also rejoicing in the thought that he’d moved on so comprehensively from the situation he was in when he lived with Elizabeth in that tiny attic room. The official papers had been signed earlier on which officially made him Clerk of the Acts, on a salary of 350 pounds a year. He was rocketing through the echelons of society. 

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