(sort of continued from my last post)
On Sundays in London, theatres are dark and most people have the day off. On Sundays, people who live in Birmingham, pretty villages and even Ipswich can more or less easily swing down to London for the afternoon. So Sundays in London are the perfect time to meet up with old friends at trendy Australian cafés in Clerkenwell, exchange birthday presents from the past 4 years, and bum around Farringdon vintage shops. Sundays in London are perfect for visiting the insanely crowded and colourful Columbia Flower Market and sitting in an old pub’s back garden, sipping half pints of cider and lime and soda. And then maybe go home and watch X-Factor and Downton Abbey.
Bright and early on Monday morning, I boarded the red double-decker bus (I am getting better and better at buses in London and I’m not afraid to boast about that) to the National Theatre, yet again. The lobby was full of excitable teenagers and, for a second, I thought that maybe I didn’t stand a chance of getting a ticket for that night’s performance of Conor McPherson’s The Veil. But turned out they were there for a theatre tour and I sauntered up to the box office and got a £12 front row ticket for the play I’d flown across the Atlantic for. Phew. Sometimes it’s better not to book ahead.
With that out of the way, I skipped all the way to the city for coffee with a friend I met literally 10 years ago when I was backpacking around Scotland on my very first solo trip. Life has zigzagged both of us across the globe and back again since our rainy road trip in search of fairy glades on the Isle of Skye. But here we were, at the not-so-glamorous Cafe Nero with its nothing to write home about coffee (but good enough to write on this blog about, I guess). Time, eh? It goes by.
But The Veil. I’d read a lukewarm review and I had prepared myself. I tried not to expect another Weir, This Lime Tree Bower or I Went Down (one of the top Irish road-trip-buddy-gangster movies of all time). I was hoping it wouldn’t be like The Eclipse, which caused sleepless nights even though I only made it through 25 minutes of this terrifying movie (not because it isn’t an excellent film-it is- but I like sleep and I like not to be terrified and I didn’t want to be terrified after this play since I’d have to walk to the tube in the rain in the dark by myself). But I didn’t need to lower my expectations. I loved The Veil. It was creepy and beautiful and spooky and hilarious and surprising and heart-wrenching. I am not exaggerating when I say I laughed, cried, and jumped out of my skin.
Sitting in the front row, with no chance for a tall person sitting in front of me (I’m short, by the way), but next to a man from Los Angeles who was doing exactly the same thing as me (in London for a short time to see plays), I felt totally immersed in the atmosphere. Cheesy as it sounds, I felt transported.
Ghosts and séances, pretty dresses and nightmares, unrequited love and disquiet souls… And, alright, I’m not going to lie: it was great to see Peter McDonald on stage as a tormented, love-sick, violence-prone, alcohol-soaked man servant.
Even in less than stellar plays (Resurrection Blues, ahem), McDonald is able to serve up all the depth, humour, and humanity you need to sit still and listen. I won’t gush too much, but let’s just say that after I saw I Went Down (one of the top Irish road-trip-buddy-gangster movies of all time starring Peter McDonald), I may or may not have learned some html to make a silly fansite for him when silly fansites for actors were the norm (oh, back in 1998). Or are those still around and I’m just old?
If you are in London and are up for a little travel back to misty, magical 19th century Ireland for a good ghost story/love story/family drama/spiritual investigation, don’t miss The Veil. You’ve got until December 11th.
Coming up: a play in a pub, one with real turf, one about selectively mute twins, and one starring Michael Sheen. Also: cute cafés and getting very lost indeed.