Tuesday, January 22, 2019

London: That's Entertainment

Any big city has more than monuments and parks and London, of course, is no exception. So I thought I'd venture off into a few of our cultural endeavours!


You saw that we went to the Philharmonic and Rick had recitals at St. James. We also saw a guitar concert with Jenny and T earlier in our London time. But I had theatre on my mind. And actually, our first theatre venture bombed. Bad planning!


After our Sunday at the St. Paul's and the Tate and after a break, we thought we'd go down to the West End and catch a dinner and a play. I wanted to see Eileen Atkins ("The Crown" and "Doc Martin") and Jonathan Pryce (from the original "Miss Saigon" and "Evita" film) in "The Height of the Storm," a contemporary drama by a French playwright. When we got to the West End the theatre was dark and street guys were laying in the doorways. We decided we were early and went to find a restaurant.


We happened upon Giovanni's, an Italian restaurant on Bow Street. Since it was only a couple of hours before show time, we were curious as to why it was practically empty but it looked lovely so in we went.


And it was. A fine dinner, a rather engaging duo of (probably) owner and waiter. The owner had been there forever and photos of famous diners (well, at least photos of famous people) covered the walls.


The food was good (but beware of upcharging!).


Then back to the theatre, still closed. And then we realized, we should have checked to see if there was even anything going on!


So, we walked around a bit and while we didn't gamble there, checked out the Hippodrome, now a casino. It had great bathrooms.


This very famous spot was, in the day, the variety palace where people like Charlie Chaplin and Archie Leach (Cary Grant) performed, along with a ten-year-old Julie Andrews and Houdini (not all at the same time!). It was worth a wander.


(The next night we returned and did indeed see the show -- and it was well worth the trip back.)


I am a great fan of theatre architecture and the Wyndham, where "Height of the Storm" played, is quite a beautiful theatre. There really isn't a bad seat because it's not overly large. (A little cramped, perhaps, but not a bad view.)


And I appreciated the detail in the set design as well. It was quite a remarkable and thought provoking play, one which Rick and I have discussed more than once since our return and several months later.


One of the things I wanted to see in London was Stephen Sondheim's "Company." I love Sondheim and this time Bobby, the male lead was Bobbie, a female and the show, originally set in the 1970s, was updated with Sondheim's support.


My Canadian friend Suzanne and her husband Jim were in London then too and we saw the show together. It was a bit hairy getting to the theatre. Rick and I had gone separate ways late in the afternoon and I told him the wrong tube line to take; then I took a couple of wrong turns out of the tube myself and got there just in the nick of time!


But again, worth every penny. I hope they bring it to Broadway.


(Or at least do a CD. Rosalie Craig was a terrific singer and Patti LuPone just killed "The Ladies Who Lunch.")


And no, I didn't see this. But isn't it a great theatre facade?


I could have hit the theatre every night but I was with Rick who also wanted to hear some classical music. He did catch a second recital at St. James later in the week, this time piano/oboe. He enjoyed chatting with the musicians after.


And we also enjoyed quite a wonderful evening at St. Martin's in the Fields, where they offer classical chamber concerts.


It was a nice way to see this beautiful church, one that seems to extend into its community with great outreach.


We caught a concert featuring some of the more well known composers -- the A List -- and Rick was worried that the music might be all the old chestnuts you associate with these guys, but we were pleasantly surprised.


And, the atmosphere was quite lovely and the sound very good indeed.


Theatre tickets can be pretty pricey, but the concert tickets were surprisingly reasonable. And of course, some of the best entertainment is free!


(Although a coin or two in the collection box is always welcome!)


Travel Tips

  • If you really want to see something, get tickets in advance. We did have our "Company" tickets in advance (and didn't realize it was opening night! It was fun reading reviews, knowing critics saw the same performance we did!) You can order online from home.
  • Or, pick up tickets at the box office if you think you can get your show. You'll save in ticketing fees.
  • Or, go to the Leicester Square half off booth to get a good deal. (There are imitations; beware!)
  • Don't make our mistake and end up at the theatre on a "dark" night!
  • Again, don't forget to check churches for recitals and concerts or even a service or Evensong for more classical music.
  • Dining Out in the West End -- Plan ahead or allow plenty of time if you are seeing a show. And don't overlook the obscure. You might have fun at a fish and chips vendor.  And beware of upcharging. At Giovanni's, they asked us if we would like bread, which is quite common in the states as complimentary. When we got the bill, we found out it was not at all complimentary!
  • One of our favorite places was "The Crypt" located in the basement of St. Martin's in the Fields. You have limited choices -- whatever is being served in the cafeteria line -- but it's good food, wine is available and the price is reasonable.

And besides, the atmosphere is pretty neat and you can't beat the location, right across from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Speaking of which, it's time to get back into some art in the Trafalgar Square area!

38 comments:

Gina said...

Jeanie, your stay in London sounds amazing! I'm glad you were able to see the play that you wanted to. You know you are in an exceptional place when the bathroom is fancy! :-)

My name is Erika. said...

You had a lot of fun in the city, I can tell. I wonder if the Harry Potter show is as expensive in London as it is here. I am loving all the rich cultural things you did. Hugs-Erika

DUTA said...

London's museums, theaters and concert halls are among the best in the world. You did the right thing focusing on culture during your London trip.
I like the poster with the two protagonists in the "Height of the Storm" play, and Charlie Chaplin, in another poster, put a smile on my lips.

Lynne said...

Jeanie . . .
This collection of reviews . .. this of London, theater and more
is wonderful . . . wealth of knowledge you have my dear . . .
Oh my . . . and your final points are helpful for any of us planning future travels.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

I enjoyed seeing your thoughts of the theaters of London. How exciting! How wonderful to enjoy the culture that is renown all over the world. ♥

Jean R. said...

What a lot of time and effort it must be taking to get all your photos and captions written up and posted. Well worth it, though! Such a great documentation of your trip and I for one appreciate you sharing them.

Sami said...

Enjoyed seeing inside the theatre and church. I hadn't heard of that play but I like Eileen Atkins too. Nice Italian restaurant with all the memorabilia.

Valerie-Jael said...

You evidently had fun wining, dining and being at the theatre, great photos, too. But my fave has to be St Martin in the Fields, that is one place I never miss out on in London. Thanks for sharing, hugs, Valerie

David Gascoigne said...

Seems like a frantic schedule, Jeanie, with a few mishaps, but proving once again that "All's well that ends well." I think what you need now is a quiet and peaceful nature walk, always satisfying, little planning required, attractions laid on with surprises around every corner, and for Rick motets sweeter than Pallustrina at every turn. Now that's relaxation!

Joanne Huffman said...

I'm intrigued by the Company (one of my favorites) production.

Mae Travels said...

What fun! You must have a lot more energy than we do ... after a day of sightseeing followed by dinner, we're usually too tired for another round of tourist action.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Jeanie

Your trip to London was fantastic, the theatre, concert and the dining sound wonderful. I love all the buildings, inside and out. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

La Table De Nana said...

You had a ball!:) Good you are writing it all down..I find sometimes I like to look back..you will too:)

Victoria Zigler said...

It's very rare for things like bread to be a free addition to the meal here.

I ate at The Crypt last time I was in London for the day, when we went up there to meet a writer friend who was over from Italy. Limited choice, but we enjoyed what we had.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Your London trip was a dream come true for me - all that live theatre and music in beautiful places. Thanks for taking me.

The French Hutch said...

This post is just full of great places and great tips for traveling to London. Your evening out with friends looks like it was a hit and well as "opening night" for the performance. The restaurant looks really nice and oh yes, I remember those uncharges! I loved seeing the pic of Rick at the Crypt. We enjoyed performances at St. Martin in the Fields on several different occasions. And, we visited the Crypt several times for lunch. Yes limited but always good. It was cold when we were there and I could always count on a delicious bowl of soup. Great pic of the church. Love, love, love this post! And, I'm happy you didn't get to lost!

Liz@Home and Gardening With Liz said...

Another fine adventure! I've seen more places in London following you than I've ever seen before! Love the floating Yoda...scratches her head?

Jeanne Washburn said...

Wonderful tips...I had no idea about up-charging...will have to remember that. I love London theater...you saw some great shows...my mom and I saw Miss Saigon and with my family we saw an "off-Broadway" Michael Jackson review...the price was good and the show was great...but I guess it never came to Broadway. Did you figure out how Yoda performed his feat?...my girls would have loved seeing that(!)

Rita C. said...

Missed commenting on the toy museum write up, but thoroughly enjoyed that one, along with this one. I was shocked to hear a family member is paying a small fortune for 5 nights in England this summer after reading all about your wonderful adventures. You would make a wonderful tour guide, Jeanie! I know I've said that before, but your itinerary has been wonderful.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

You guys took in a lot of entertainment in London! But what a perfect play for a couple that likes theater and live music! I'm glad you made it to Company despite the public transportation snafu!!! I bet that was a little stressful!!

Barb said...

You two were on the go - I'm happy to be "following" you on the computer. However, I guess I am missing the actual performances. When we lived on the east coast, we often went to NYC and saw many plays in a weekend. When we had the house in Denver, we had season tickets to the symphony and performing arts. Now, as mountain people, we don't go to as many city functions. I do love a good play though. Love all the pics, too, Jeanie.

Iris Flavia said...

Sounds like you had another exciting, wonderful day/night out! Great pics!
(A tad limited with only a laptop now)

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

What fun seeing a London play and Jonathan Pryce as well. The Hippodrome sounds like a fun place to see, but I too am not a gambler and looking costs nothing.

Sandra Cox said...

Oh my gosh. Your trip sounds absolutely purrfect. I'd want to attend the theatre every night too. I didn't see nearly as much as you did, but I loved London.

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

What a trip, and such great reviews and tips you've shared, Jeanie! I really love English actors, as they seem more normal and down to earth.

Lowcarb team member said...

I've been catching up with your travels.
You are so wonderfully detailed and I so enjoy seeing your photographs too.
What a wonderful trip, and many helpful tips for fellow travellers.

All the best Jan

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Thanks for sharing, Jeanie. Another great part of your journey..Happy Wednesday..xxoJudy

shoreacres said...

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of my favorites, and the church itself was my favorite when I visited London. I was lucky enough to have time for two lunchtime concerts, and a concert by the Academy. Unforgettable.

I've never been as much a theater lover as you, but I did see the original production of Ipi Tombe at the Cambridge in the West End. It was quite remarkable, and a good choice for someone who was working in Africa at the time.

Pamela said...

What great entertainment! I'm jealous! I always like to go to the crypt for a bowl of hot soup and bread after the concert upstairs. You packed a lot into your trip.

William Kendall said...

It's St. Martin's that really catches my eye! Beautiful architecture.

David Gascoigne said...

The last time we were in London we stopped in at The Academy of St. Martin in the Field mid morning, had four coffees and four tea biscuits - $40.00! And they didn't even play for us!

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Jeanie,
OMG!! What amazing pics! The architecture is outstanding!! Thanks so much for taking us along on your trip!!
Hugs,
Debbie

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, once again I loved this travel post. The last time I was in London we enjoyed theater so much along with a lovely meal. I will be waiting on the next adventure with you as my travel guide!

Marilyn Miller said...

Concerts is not something we often think of when we are traveling, but your concerts and plays sound so very special.

Jenny Woolf said...

Glad you got to visit the crypt! Tough about the theatre being dark, but I am glad you caught some good performances.

Nancy's Notes said...

What a wonderful trip to London! I truly loved seeing all of the fabulous photographs and reading about your trip. Brings back so many memories. Thank you for sharing your great trip! Such a special post!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I love your tips and I will be aware of upcharging if I ever get to London. Great idea to know in advance what to see , where, and when.

alex amarxon said...

It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks. Escape rooms in Canada

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