A curious day yesterday; a day of three halves, as someone once said. We went up to London for an evening in the new Wanamaker Theatre, a faithful reproduction of an indoors Jacobean theatre like the Blackfriars, where many of Shakespeare's later plays were first performed.
En route, we visited our son in his new flat. From eight floors up, the transformation of the capital into a city state for the super-rich citizens of the world is very clear. It's very pretty in the right light, but the underlying politics and financing are anything but. The resemblance of the Shard to the Eye of Sauron may not be coincidental.
From the flat window, there will be a spectacular view of the imminent demolition of the once notorious, now eerily empty Heygate Estate, immediately opposite. This shameful episode -- which appears to amount to little more than the eviction of the local residents to open up opportunities for overseas speculators, in a bureaucratic version of the Highland Clearances -- seems typical of what has been happening to London.
Ironically, perhaps, the performance we saw at the Wanamaker was The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont, a Jacobean romp which revels in crashing through the aristocratic theatrical "fourth wall" on behalf of the grocers and guildsmen of London. I'm not going to review the performance, other than to say it's mainly very funny -- the antics of Merrythought are worth the price of the ticket alone -- but far too long, with too many interludes. The benches are hard, despite the extra padding that was added following the complaints after the theatre's opening performances, and the tight vertical angles of view into the theatrical pit require a constant twist of the upper body. The large number of candles make things a bit hot upstairs, too. All of which makes three hours a bit of an endurance test in the name of authenticity. Luckily most people had left their swords and idiotic Jacobean hats at home.
In the end, we had to leave early -- during yet another "interlude" -- to catch a train home. At which point the third half began. Arriving at Waterloo in good time for a fast train home, we found that all trains were "delayed" because of a fatality on the line at Wimbledon. There seems to have been a rash of these in recent weeks. Whether suicides, accidents or careless trackside workers, I don't know, but the impact on railway pinchpoints in and out of central London is dramatic. We eventually got home at 01:40.
One amusing thing was the way this kind of interruption in the smooth flow of everyday life exposes generational attitudes. It seemed everyone under 35 spent their interminable wait on the station concourse looking down at their smartphone, while everyone over 50 spent it looking up at the departure board, willing it to change. Different kinds of magic. The new posture, I suppose, was a useful counter to the aches and pains induced by the Wanamaker's seating.