After my last Uni exam, I flew to London for one week to relax.
I was staying at Safestay Hostel which is located near Elephant & Castle. It’s not the most central hostel but it’s clean, staff are friendly and the beds have curtains to allow you some privacy. As a plus, you get free breakfast in the morning. I really enjoy staying there.
When you arrive, though, and have to carry your heavy luggage through the labyrinth that is the London Underground (stairs and more stairs and even more stairs)… Well, let’s just say I was happy when I could leave my stuff in the hostel and move on with much less weight. Next time, I’ll take the bus.
On Friday, my friend D., who had arrived a day prior, and I went to see War Horse at the New London Theatre. The musical is beautiful and our seats in the front row were just perfect. The horses looked and moved so realistically. It was truly amazing. As I had an aisle seat, right where the actors would leave and enter the stage, the experience became very close indeed.
I really like going to the stage door after plays/musicals to get autographs or maybe pictures with the actors. It also allows you to tell the actors how you liked the performance, give them gifts, etc. At the War Horse stage door where I got autographs of some of the actors, Elan James, who played Albert that night, recognised me (“You sat in the front row didn’t you? I saw you!”), asked how I liked the play and if it had been my first time seeing it (“Yes, it was.”). He was very sweet.
A rather crazy thing to happen at that stage door, was a couple of guys who were dressed as jockeys and who waited at the stage door for a friend who had been in the play. A friend whose birthday it was, apparently. When he cane out, they galloped towards him singing “happy birthday” in loud and cheerful voices. Crazy, wonderful people 😀
After a much needed sleep-in on Saturday, I went to Trafalgar Studios at round 12, where I would see Martin Freeman starring in Richard III. I saw Martin Freeman entering the stage door but he didn’t stop to give signatures or take photos. Since I had about two hours to spare before the play started, I decided to pay Waterstones a visit. You can never have enough books, right? I bought Terry Pratchett’s collection of non-fiction writing called A Slip of the Keyboard (the foreword written by Neil Gaiman can be found here), The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, as well as a Moleskine sketch book.
Richard III was set in 1970s England, in a bureau of sorts, with audience on both sides of the room. We sat in the fourth row, a little to the side. The seats were great as we saw everything on both sides and on the stage perfectly. Martin Freeman’s performance was wonderful to watch. I think even if he hadn’t said one word, I would’ve still known what he wanted to say. His mimics had me in awe. Such amazing skills.
I waited at the stage door after the play, knowing that Martin wouldn’t come out but hoping that some of the other actors might. Some did come out but none of them stopped to give autographs. I did see Mark Gatiss and Amanda Abbington arrive, though. They smiled and went in through the stage door. Later, I heard that apparently Richard Armitage had been to see the play as well. I didn’t spot him though. After a quick lunch, I went back to the stage door to await the end of the evening performance. I talked to two nice girls who’re studying in Oxford (not at Oxford Uni but at a language school in that city). We passed the time talking about all kinds of stuff like writing, TV shows, Harry Potter and Uni.
Martin Freeman came out pretty late (22:4-ish) and only said thank you and quickly left, leaving no time for photos (although I did take a quick face-to-back selfie xD) or signatures. I was quite disappointed because that had been his last performance and many people were waiting to meet him and tell him how wonderful his performance was. But. oh well, I understand if he was tired and just wanted to go home after the long day he’d had.
Sunday was the busiest day in that short week in London. First, we got tickets for The Play That Goes Wrong, took a stroll through the city and went to Tate Britain to see the Late Turner exhibition there. The exhibition was really nice. They had six rooms, each with a different theme, showing oil paintings, drawings, sketches and watercolour paintings by William Turner. Turner’s art is stunning. I bought a print of the Storm and some postcards for my wall back home.
The Duchess Theatre, where we saw The Play That Goes Wrong, is located near Temple and is a really nice venue. We had bought 20£ tickets but were seated in the front rather than the back of the balcony which was very nice. The play itself is hilarious! The actors interacted with the audience as soon as they entered the venue (“Have you seen a small dog?”). Shortly before the play began, they started “setting the stage” with help of a nice elderly gentleman from the audience. He really took it well. When the actors asked him to do this and that, he played along and even ended up having a fake sword fight with one of the actors. Naturally, the audience applauded when he went back to his seat. It was quite a beginning. It only got better as the play started and the audience were in tears from laughing so hard they nearly fell off their seats. If you need a good laugh, this play is what you want to see in London.
The next few days, I spent on my own. My friend left early Monday morning for Scotland while I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Tudors exhibit and spend some time drawing. It was a nice and relaxing day. After returning to the hostel, I listened to some podcasts (Welcome to Nightvale, Talking Comics) and did some reading.
On Tuesday, I went shopping at Forbidden Planet and left a good fortune there. I bought two new Pop! Vinyl figures (Black Widow and Captain America), The Death of Wolverine #1 and #2, and Loki: Agent of Asgard which included a limited numbered and signed print. At 14:30, I went to see Julius Caesar at the Globe theater. After that, I returned to the hostel where I read some Batgirl and ended up going to bed early.
I returned to Forbidden Planet the next day, to get Death of Wolverine #3 for me and #2 and #3 for a friend of mine. After all the tragedy in Julius Caesar the day prior, I felt like going to a musical. As I hadn’t seen Wicked yet, that was what I ended up buying tickets for. Since I had some time to spare, I went to Starbucks to get some coffee and sat there for a while, reading some more Batgirl and Batman. Wicked didn’t disappoint. The actors were amazing, the setting and costumes stunning… I really loved it.
Thursday was spent packing and getting to the airport and back home. It was a great week in London, as always. I will be back!