London: West End Theatre

MONDAY, OCT. 3

I arrived London Gatwick Airport around noon. Found my way to the shuttle taking me from the North to the South Terminal to catch the Gatwick Express heading for central London. Once on the train, it was a smooth and fast ride, just 30 minutes and I was at Victoria Station. My cousin was already waiting for me there to begin our 5-day escapade. After settling into our lodging it was already mid-afternoon. What to do with just a half day in London?

We decided to take the Tube and head to Leicester Square to check out bargain tickets for the shows that evening. We had nothing planned, no agenda, and in no hurry… for a change. And that’s what I call a holiday.

Leicester Square is the place for buying cheap same day theatre tickets. We had nothing in mind. We stopped by several ticket booths and nothing really piqued our common interest. Several we’d seen; the one  I’d really wanted to see before wasn’t on anymore, and that’s Skylight with Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy. I came to the West End two years late.

Then we turned into Shaftesbury Avenue, and we knew what to see: The Go-Between at the Apollo Theatre. My cousin wanted to see Michael Crawford—the original Phantom—without the mask, albeit thirty years older, and I wanted to see the stage musical adaptation of L. P. Hartley’s famous novel. That scene in the movie with Julie Christie and Alan Bates rolling on the haystack in the barn emerged in my mind. Wow, that was some longterm memory. That’s a 1971 movie.

We quickly walked back to the Square to find the TKTS ticket booth. Why the TKTS? It’s the official London theatre ticket booth, operated by the Society of London Theatre with all profits going to support the theatre industry. I was delighted to be able to get two very good seats, dress circle centre, at 70% off, £25 each.

Ticket.jpg

We still had about two hours before the 7:30 pm show began, so into near-by Chinatown we went. I saw tourists taking pictures of the BBQ ducks hanging inside the windows of eateries. No, I’d never thought of photographing ducks other than with them swimming on the pond. Anyway, that’s what I had for dinner. A bowl of noodles with two kinds of BBQ meats, duck and pork, only £6.50, a very good price I think.

The Apollo Theatre opened in 1901, a month after the death of Queen Victoria, making it the first Edwardian theatre to open in London. It was already dark when we got to the doors so I didn’t have a good view of the architecture. But once inside, I was mesmerized by the beauty of its historic glamour.

apollo-theatre

On the stage you see a chest, the centrepiece. Instead of a red box that stores mementos and a diary as in the novel, the playwright had turned it into a large chest, which is appropriate, for we see the boys Leo and Marcus step on it as they sing. The same with the chairs, they’re for standing on.

When Leo Colston (Michael Crawford) in his old age opens up the memory chest, his past as a youngster acting as a go-between for two secret lovers of different classes rises up to haunt him. The time is the turn of the twentieth century, in a setting like Downton Abbey. Come to think of it, Downton has a much more progressive outcome, chauffeur Tom can have Lady Sybil, but not farmer Ted and Lady Trimingham, Marian.

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The Go-Between is a musical, but not your spectacles like The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, or The Lion King. It’s a chamber work, small scale, and drawing you into the story more readily rather than showing off grandeur and technicalities. Richard Taylor’s music, however, may not be as readily inviting as the popular tunes from those larger productions. With only a piano as accompaniment, the characters at times sing a cappella, and at times in dissonant chords. Michael Crawford, 74, loved it, but indicated in an interview that the music had been technically demanding.

What did I get from the show? The book’s famous intro line sure hits home:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

That says about my early days as a teenaged cinephile, and actually just arrived Canada from a foreign country. Going to see The Go-Between movie in the cinema was itself a coming-of-age episode for me. I remember that was a more ‘mature’ film than this musical play, or is it because I was just a tender lass. No matter, now, I should get hold of the novel. I’ve never read it.

Only a few hours in London and it already felt like a full day. Four more to go.

***

Related post on Ripple Effects:

Here’s the link to my New England Fall Foliage Road Trip, last year’s escapade.

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review.

22 thoughts on “London: West End Theatre”

    1. Ti,

      Yes, I still remember reading your posts about how excited it was to see your son and daughter perform in musical theatre. Great to hear that your son is now in Arts Management with an emphasis on Theatre. All the best to him! You must be one proud mom. 🙂

      Like

  1. Arti,
    Really enjoyed reading your post.
    Dinner and a musical at London’s Apollo Theatre with Michael Crawford
    for under £35 🍜🎭🎤👏🏻👍🏻Unbelievable!!!!
    Yinling

    Like

  2. I read this book five years ago but have never seen the movie – nor the stage production. I think I’d like to see this although I do find some modern ‘musicals’ where characters ‘sing’ amelodically tiresome.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m off to source the movie!

    Like

  3. Glad you came upon something to see and for a good price. These are the kinds of adventures I enjoy. Looking forward to more about your time in London.

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  4. This seems the perfect start to a holiday for someone like you, who so enjoys the theater. It’s wonderful that you were able to get afforrdable tickets, too. I’ve never heard of “The Go-Between,” but I certainly do appreciate that opening line. They certainly did things differently in the past — and much of it, they did rather well.
    I’m looking forward to more adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda,

      I haven’t read the book but that’s a famous line that I love. Interesting to see books into films, and then, books into musical stage plays. Definitely a different experience from reading.

      Like

  5. Arti,
    Have a wonderful time on your trip. You do the most interesting things in your life — and this week in London will not disappoint — how delightful. You got a total bargain on your meal (and tickets) too! The location brings to mind an old song “Walking in the Wild West End” by Dire Straits (1978).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heather,

      Thanks for your kind words. Actually that was two weeks ago and I’m capturing the highlights from memory. Hope you enjoy my virtual travel journal. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, and song. 😉

      Like

  6. That is EXACTLY how I would start a holiday — with theatre tickets (a musical if possible), great seats and a wonderful show. I think I would enjoy this chamber style more than the overblown musicals we see now. Not that I don’t like those — but sometimes they are a bit much. I’ve always liked Michael Crawford — long before Phantom when he was Barnaby in Hello Dolly and in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum — always the comic relief then. It’s fun to see him having a more serious turn.I was interested to see that Gemma Sutton (Marian) is the woman who played June in “Gypsy” — the production that will be on PBS in November. Julian Forsyth’s face (I looked at the website) looked familiar too — perhaps from watching lots of Brit mysteries!

    Lucky you — ace seats and a good show. Can’t wait to hear more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jeanie, you’d love to have a theatre show shopping like we did. As a matter of fact, I was only interested in the book to musical adaptation, not so much about the actors. Don’t know them except Michael Crawford and it’s only after my cousin told me who he was. She was much gratified to see Michael Crawford again, in real person, without the mask, but I must say, he’s not given much for his musical ability. BTW, playing farmer Ted is Stewart Ward. Doesn’t ring a bell? Well the program says he was in Downton Abbey. And I checked on IMDb, and sure he was. In the episode “A Journey to the Highlands”, when the Crawleys were visiting Shrimpy and his nasty wife in the Highlands, the servants went to the fair. Well, this Stewart Ward is the thug who beat up Thomas when he protected Jimmy at the fair. Remember that scene?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I DO remember that scene! I like it — “Thug.”

        No, MIchael Crawford has never been the greatest singer ever and probably less so as he has aged. I’ve seen Phantom several times and while I never saw him in the role, he’s on the CD. I much preferred Colm Wilkinson in the role.

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    1. Charlotte,

      Then again, there are so many choices for you in the West End. But I tell you, the music in this show is very different from those in other large scale musicals. Maybe you’d like the ‘chamber’ style of performance. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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