Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Both Sides of the Footlights

The annual mother-daughter trip to London has taken place - except now it can be legitimately called the mother-mother-daughter-daughter-daughter trip, or perhaps the grandmother-mother-daughter-daughter trip as I fit into both mother and daughter camps. 

It started quite a few years ago when, to help us through the dark January I would arrange to meet the intrepid granny in London for a theatre visit, a little light shopping and a nice dinner. My end of the  deal? The theatre tickets. Granny's? Our accommodation at The Rag, or the Army and Navy Club as it is more correctly known. Back in the day, I could be confident of bringing down the average age of its clientele by at least 10 years, but now, like junior doctors and policemen, they all look a lot younger.

Over the years, we've sampled War Horse, Matilda, One Man Two Guvnors (when it was the hottest ticket in town with James Cordon in the lead), The Importance of Being Ernest, Miss Saigon and this year's offering, The Jersey Boys. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First there was a little window shopping with a tour round Fortnum's where the intrepid granny kids herself that there will be bargains amongst the post-Christmas sale items. Even the mince pies. Christmas cakes and decorated biscuits didn't look like any kind of bargain to me. Fun to look, though. And then we went to meet my two oldest for dinner at the family-run Italian, just round the corner from the club. We've been a few times and they always get us out in time for the start of whatever show we're going to. 

And it's such a treat for both the grandmother and the mother, ie me, to have the two big ones to ourselves. Number 1 is in London in rehearsal for her play which starts in Plymouth in a couple of weeks and number 2 is in London every week running the power industry - or so it would appear to us proud parents. They're funny and chatty and the conversation ranges from deals and meetings to theatre and wedding invitations, and bridesmaid dresses, which, by the way, are still in a state of indecision. Then granny and I gallop off in search of a taxi to the Piccadilly theatre and the Jersey Boys - an unlikely choice from granny but a brilliant energetic, vibrant show as it turned out. And the girls went to the pub (you can take the girls out of Yorkshire but ...)

Now the thing about going to the theatre with the now rather aurally-challenged granny is that when we book we book disabled seats and these have to be done on the phone. So when the operator says "row C" you assume there is also a row A and a row B. Well, there isn't and we are in the front row whilst Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sing, groove, dance, play various musical instruments and generally gyrate just inches from our heads. And the choice at various points in the action is either to be blinded by the spotlights if we looked at their faces, or keep our eyes on the action at knee-level and below. I can't speak for the intrepid granny but in my case it was mostly the latter.   Anyway, all good fun and then it's back to the club for a nightcap before retiring - in the entirely not ageist sense of the word.

The next day, with the intrepid granny safely tucked in a taxi and on her way to the station, I wended my way by foot and tube to a studio tucked next to the Old Vic where The Solid Life of Sugar Water was in rehearsal. Having seen the production twice at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, it is a beautifully-written piece that number 1 is most fortunate to be a part of. And listening to Amit Sharma, the director, working with number 1 and Arthur Hughes for it is a two-hander, was such a lesson in reaching beyond the dialogue and into the intense emotional sub-structure beneath. Admiration doesn't even cover it; the power of not just the words and gestures but also the silences that lie between that Amit draws out from the performers is extraordinary. I can't wait to see it again at the National in March.

So a multilayering of female family relationships and a seat on both sides of the footlights has made for an unforgettable couple of days and the rest of January is less bleak as a result. 

Rehearsals in progress with a cameraman filming a documentary for television, apparently! 

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