Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kristin Scott Thomas as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience, the best new play in London's West End.



My favourite thing to do when visiting London, apart from catching up with friends, is going to the theater in the West End.

I've seen all the sights over countless visits here, but I do like to see some places again every so often.

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For instance, I love going to Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery because European history -- Russian, British, French and Austrian history, in particular -- is one of my biggest passions, and so many figures from the past come alive (pardon the pun) when I visit these places.

I also always find the Victoria & Albert Museum interesting. They often have very well-curated temporary exhibitions.

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LONDON'S FOOD SCENE
BEFORE IT BECAME A GASTRONOMIC CAPITAL

These days, London is Europe's gastronomic capital, although this wasn't always the case.

There was a time when I used to visit London very often, and good food was quite limited. This always meant eating in J. Sheekey's, which is a fish restaurant in the West End, The Ivy or Petrus.

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There was also a nice brasserie called L'Orangerie near an apartment we used to take for visits to London, in St. James. 

There were also a couple of local places in Kensington High Street and Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge.

I also liked going to the Food Hall of Harrod's to sit at their oyster bar and their jamon counter.

We stopped at this pub in the West End
for some fish and chips, downed with ale,
before going on to the theater...

WHAT I'D RATHER DO IN LONDON

Nevertheless, London is one city where I'll happily pass up a good meal for a good play.

In most other places, I'll take the dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant anytime. But in London, I'll skip the meal for tickets to a very good show.

When in London, you must have pub food...

The other night we watched The Audience, which is a very new and limited performance in the West End.

It stars the actress Kristin Scott Thomas in an excellent play about Queen Elizabeth II and her weekly audiences with her prime ministers, from Sir Winston Churchill to David Cameron.

The segments with David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher were most amusing, if not hilarious. Meanwhile, her encounters with Winston Churchill were most significant as he was her first prime minister; while her relationship with the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was the most touching.



It's a serious play with a very good script and lots of cutting British humour, and both the acting and the staging are faultless.

Kristin Scott Thomas and all the other actors were outstanding.

MOVIE AND TV ACTORS
ON STAGE



Again, many movie stars and television stars from Britain and Hollywood like to occasionally appear in serious plays, perhaps to gain more credibility in their profession.

In London, over the years, I've seen many such plays with famous stars headlining. I have to say that very few of the Hollywood actors and actresses have impressed me.

In fact, many downright disappointed me, including Minnie Driver who may act well onscreen but who was as wooden as cardboard on stage.



THE BEST OF BRITISH ACTING

In contrast, the British actors and actresses are usually excellent, perhaps because they are more used to the stage.

I greatly recommend The Audience to visitors to London, although you should be knowledgeable about British history to appreciate it fully as it is full of references to English events and personalities, and based on imagined conversations between the Queen and her prime ministers over the decades amidst real world events.

But if you do know your history, you will thoroughly enjoy this play. It's probably the best one I have seen in a very long time, in London, living a never-ending #Travelife.




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