Culture – My perfect London (cultural) week…

So March 2019 I was in London for a whole week, and I managed to get tickets to a different art event – play, music, poetry etc. – every night for the whole time. It was fantastic, and got me thinking – if I had 7 days where I could attend any play, gig, concert, poetry reading etc.. what would they be and why.

I then decided to limit it to Theatre, Classical Concerts and Poetry/Spoken Word for the simple reason there are too many bands, and too many gigs over the years. ? Also only live events I’ve attended in person are included, hence why?I haven’t included any cinema screenings of NT Live etc

After some thought, and lots of nice memories, I came up with the below.. ?the evenings are based on the obvious ability to time travel and bring certain events into the present (I said it was ‘perfect’, I didn’t say realistic!). ?However the afternoons are things that can be, ?and have been, done now.

So finally, here is what would constitute a ‘perfect’ week of London arts for me.

monday:

  • Start the week as we mean to go on, so?lets pop along to the National Gallery. ?It is a lovely place to wonder around..just taking in some favourites, and maybe discovering something new. ?The cafe is also a rather lovely place for afternoon tea.
  • Evening – (play) ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ – Dario Fo
    • Let’s start the evenings on something fun and energetic, but full of thoughtful layers – and you can’t get more layered than this political farce. ?I’ve seen a few versions live, but I think my favourite is still the first time back around 1984 at the Dylan Thomas Theatre, Swansea Marina. There was no-one famous in it – it was Swansea after all, but the version was true to the original version. ?Plus the real story behind the events in the play made a huge impression on me, and probably influences who I am still to this day – can’t say that about many things. ?The manic energy, the political intrigue, and the reality that such awful events are not just possible but quite commonplace, makes this a timeless play and a favourite.
      • Production?Version: that first performance back in Swansea
      • Venue : the excellent Donmar Theatre – where I’ve seen another frenetic production of this play with Rhys Ifans

tuesday:

  • Today, lets do the tourist bits, and have a wander round the West End, Leicester Square, then once the crowds start to annoy, head down some of the back streets and find a quiet coffee place where I could quite happily spend ages if it’s quiet and relaxing (and welcoming!)
  • Evening – (play) ‘Julius Caesar’ – Shakespeare
    • So, let’s keep the theme going and have another political play, and another favourite. ?Again I first saw a live version in 1984 and many times since, and it’s hard to pick out a single production, as there have been so many good and great ones (and thankfully no bad ones). Every time I hear ‘honourable man’ I can’t help but give a wry smile. ?The way the masses are manipulated to each sides’ ends, and how neither actually cares about them; the way language is used, it’s all absolutely fascinating to me and is and always has been one of my absolute favourites.
      • Production Version: ?if I have to pick a single performance, I guess it would be the current one at the Bridge with Ben Whishaw, David Morrisey and Michelle?Fairley
      • Venue: the Bridge Theatre (probably my new favourite London theatre)

wednesday:

  • Today I think a easy day is on the cards. ?So, heading away from the centre, to find a quiet space to people watch, or just contemplate the world. Maybe heading to Greenwich on the River Bus, and wander round the amazing buildings and up to the Greenwich Observatory. ?Return back via the Cable Car.
  • Evening – (music) – ‘Candlelight Concerts’ – various
    • I nearly went for another play, but in reality there’s only so many words, so much language you can absorb over a week, so by now some soul soothing music in a beautiful venue is on the cards. ?A candlelight concert, in a beautiful church is hard to beat. ?Recently at St Martins I saw concertos by Vivaldi, Bach and Handel being performed, and would be more than happy with that selection, but if I can cheat a little, I would like to combine with a Samuel Barber piece, plus an extract of Handel’s Messiah with chorus, as that would be amazing in that setting.
      • Performance Version: String based concertos
      • Venue : St Martins in the Field Church

thursday:

  • Now as I’d be at the Bridge later on, this would be a perfect day to pop in to the Tate Modern to see the latest showing. ?Then a nice wander along the river, maybe popping in to the Anchor Tavern for a coffee/late lunch on the way.
  • Evening – (poetry/music) ‘Absolute Music – Shostakovich’ – various
    • This performance was a really wonderful combination of readings and music. ?The 3 performers read from various published papers, reviews and other pieces about Shostakovich and the political climate which influenced his work. ?I love the spoken word, and this was a mesmerising evening from first word to last note. ?As it was a one off and not filmed, it becomes in the history of things a mere speck in time, but oh what a speck.
      • Performance Version : that evening at The Bridge Theatre, with Andrew Scott, Simon Russell Beale and Nikki Amuka-Bird?, and music by the Carducci Quartet
      • Venue : the Bridge Theatre

friday:

  • An afternoon pottering around Islington, Camden Passage and the High Street, then a nice chill out with good food in?Cr?peaffaire – perfect if heading to the Union Chapel later on
  • Evening – (poetry/readings) ‘Letters Live’ – various
    • I’ve seen a few evenings of Letters Live and all were amazing experiences. ?A brilliant mixture of hilarious, moving, poignant, and thoughtful. ?It’s such a simple concept, someone reading a letter that someone, maybe famous, maybe not, has written. ?There are love letters; complaints to companies; letters to newspapers and so forth, but each as unique and different as each performance, and all equally wonderful.
      • Performance Version: any
      • Venue: both the Freemasons Hall and the Union Chapel were quite lovely and architecturally interesting venues, so I’d be happy with either

saturday:

  • All Day – (music) ‘Four Seasons’ – Vivaldi + Fireworks
    • As it’s the weekend, a nice afternoon/evening in the great outdoors is a good pick. ?So, tiime for some more classical music, and one of my favourite pieces is the Four Seasons. ?I have the Nigel Kennedy version on my iPod and it esp gets chosen whenever a nice calming atmosphere is required. ?Back in the early 90’s, friends and I used to attend the Kenwood House Classical Fireworks concerts – an afternoon and evening of dressed up posh picnicking by the lake, listening to some rather lovely music accompanied by a fabulous firework finale. ?(Oh how very Brideshead eh LOL). ? We heard numerous pieces of music over the years, but this piece, plus being outside resonated the most to create a magical experience. ?I can’t remember for definite but I’m really sure Nigel Kennedy performed at one of the concerts back in 1990.. but time and memory may make that a misremembrance
      • Performance Version : Four Seasons, featuring Nigel Kennedy
      • Venue : Kenwood House with friends and a nice picnic

sunday:

  • Maybe a nice long lie would be needed by now, but why waste it… so lets check out the listings and see if there’s a exhibition worth seeing.. or just head out for a wander round one of the many parks.
  • Evening – (play) ‘Hamlet’ – Shakespeare
    • And to finish off the week, I’ll finish on an absolute high. Even though it’s not my favourite play, this production by Robert Icke staring Andrew Scott stays with me. ?I saw it 6 times, and could quite happily have seen it so many more times. ?It was engaging, and every time found something new. Andrew Scott was captivating, and brought a modernity and accessibility unseen before. It was also one of the very few times I actually liked Ophelia, she was fully fleshed out, unlike most productions where she seems either pointless or 2 dimensional. ?As mentioned, there are a few performances and productions that stay with me, and this was definitely one.
      • Production Version : This production
      • Version: the Harold Pinter Theatre

So I may not ever get this perfect week, but I am so thankful that all the above are things I have had the great fortune and honour to experience.

Now if I had 2 weeks………………. ?:-)

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