Ah, London: how I love it, especially at this time of year. Strolling along the Thames in the brisk evening air and finding a merry-go-round jangling away next to the London Eye; listening to carollers at Marylebone station; avoiding the unholy crush that is a Regent Street stuffed full of frantic shoppers with desperation in their eyes… oh, and going to the theatre to see Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol.
I’ve never felt so Christmassy in my life!
Stewart was amazing. I’ve heard about his one-man show for years and was thrilled to be able to see it at long last… and it was really worth the wait. No costumes, no props other than a few chairs, a writing desk and a table; it was all about his voice. And, of course, we all know that Patrick Stewart has A Voice. Whether growling, “Bah, humbug!” or squeakily impersonating Tiny Tim, Stewart sold Dickens’ classic to the entire theatre and received a standing ovation second-to-none. I’ve seen many plays this year but this was definitely my favourite – simple, effective and moving. Solid proof that sometimes plays can be a little too full of themselves and that stripping things back to basics is a good thing. But then again, how can you go wrong with an actor as dignified as Patrick Stewart and the words of Charles Dickens? Class. Pure class.
On the way back to the station after the performance, my friend Gillen and I were rather surprised to encounter none other than His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and his new wife, the Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla to their mates). They were leaving a charity performance of Madame Butterfly at the Coliseum Theatre and the police had cordoned off St Martin’s Lane to ensure they could climb into their ridiculously enormous car unmolested. We watched from across the street as the camera flashes blasted them; Camilla kept her head down and smiled, while Charles – though I only saw the side of his face – looked rather like the comedian Eric Morecambe. Minus the glasses. How bizarre!
I’ve got nothing against opera and I hear this production of Madame Butterfly is wonderful. However, I have a sneaky suspicion they may have enjoyed themselves more if they’d watched Ebenezer Scrooge contemplate his own mortality, as we did. Now I want to read more Dickens… And wish you all a Merry Christmas, every one!