Tuesday, 9 August 2011

They're in the trees, they're coming...

We've just been to see Betwixt at the Trafalgar Studios. It's a fairly surreal experience from beginning to end, and not without its flaws, but it's well worth a punt... particularly if you're interested the almost extinct art form of musical theatre written by British composers. The cast are tremendous. Steven Webb, who I'm told is also the partner of Stephen Fry, is a very fine comic actor, but it was most exciting to see the legend that is Ellen Greene live on stage. Greene played Audrey in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. The Trafalgar Studios is a tiny theatre which seats less than 100, and we were right on the front row. The man who sold us the tickets joked that, "Ms Greene will be siting in your lap." And he was right. I wouldn't want to have been sitting anywhere else. She is a remarkable performer particularly when she bursts into song. She has a fragility about her; a deeply moving vulnerability. She ripped herself apart in her last number - rather needlessly in terms of the material she was performing, but it's what we all wanted to see, because it's what she does like no other performer. It will go down in my list of all time theatrical highs, which include watching Bernadette Peters singing Send in the Clowns and Maggie Smith performing A Bed Amongst the Lentils.

London is bristling tonight. It's on edge. There was rioting all last night, and more is expected. I don't like the idea that my birthday could go down in history as the date of the worst rioting ever experienced in this country. I wish they'd all go and do something more constructive... like commit suicide. My Dad rightly points out that we probably just need a few days of solid rain to send everyone back inside.

It's the only topic of conversation I've heard on my travels today. I've walked past countless people in little clusters on street corners proffering various thoughts and philosophies. "Society is melting" said one woman in a broad New Zealand accent, "I blame the parents. They don't even know their childrens' names." "It's the olympics" said a cockney bloke outside the dole office, "they're diverting too many funds away from people who need it." "Too many years of prosperity," said the Asian man in the shop, "those looters are just too used to having everything given to them on a plate..." And so it goes on. Reason after reason. But we don't need reasons. We need curfews, and jail terms.

We've heard that Kentish Town is in danger tonight, which is suddenly a bit too close for comfort. Our gym was closed early, and as we drove through the district tonight, the place was like a ghost town with shops that would usually be open, dark and shuttered, and all the pubs closed and boarded over. We saw no signs of violence or looting, but the night is young...

We bought tomatoes in Muswell Hill, where people are also worried. Rumours begin to fly around. A homeless person was telling the world that a gang was coming up from Camden Town. I think he was frightened. Though it pains me to say it, I've felt a remarkable sense of community in London today; people wishing each other a good night, and urging each other to stay safe. Perhaps a little external threat does no one any harm...

350 years ago, Pepys wrote an incredibly long diary entry with very little substance! Mr Pearse, the purser was apparently dying, and called Pepys to his bedside to ask him to remain a friend to Mr Pearse after his death. Pepys didn't think he seemed that ill, so took the request with a pinch of salt. Whilst Mr Pearce was dying, or not dying, Thomas Hayter, Pepys' clerk, was about to become a father. Elizabeth Pepys was dispatched to help with the birth (long before official midwives, one assumes), but by midnight, there was still no sign of a child. Pepys, meanwhile, was out drinking and ogling the ladies... Some things never change...

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