Jan 25 – A Delicate Balance
One of the nice things about visiting London is seeing friends. There are a number of folks I know on the Island and whenever I can, it’s always nice to see them. So once I knew the dates and schedules, I began making plans.
One of those plans was my buddy Sean. We first met back in Vegas when he wandered into Denny and Lee’s on a day I happened to be there (which, to be fair, was most days). That was some 10-12 years ago and I hadn’t actually seen him since, although we do talk fairly regularly on social media. Ironically, we were going to see him at his place in Portsmouth in the summer of 2018, but that was when Monki got a bit car sick and we weren’t sure what was going to set her off, so we cancelled that side excursion.
This time, though, Sean was nice enough to make the trip up to London so we could hang out for a bit. And since we are both involved in magic to one degree or another, decided to make a slight pilgrimage to Davenports as it was soon to be closing its brick and mortar retail location. As a shop, Davenports has been around, in one place or another, for 122 years (founded in 1898) and we’re all hoping the institution will once again find a physical home. Until then, though, they’ll still be around online.
We headed to the shop right after meeting up, and also met up with another friend of Sean’s who was in town with his family to see a show. Yay for new friends! As for me, it had been a while since I’d been in a magic shop and really hadn’t intended to buy anything, but…
See, a few weeks back, we had dinner with my friend Rokas and his girlfriend Justina. At the end of the meal, he did a few spongeball tricks for Monki and she loved it, so when I saw the spongeball packs, I figured I should get a couple. Then there was a small set of Chinese sticks and a color changing scarf and I was done. Nothing really for me (although there were a few books which were tempting, I already have so many I don’t read and even more in a box in Vegas) but some things I hope will entertain Monki after I practice a bit (I did do a practice run on Rasa and she was impressed and a little fooled).
From Davenports, we wandered over to The British Museum. Since Sean rarely gets to London, he figured it was a good opportunity to take in some culture. Who was I to argue? We didn’t have a lot of time, and almost skipped it due to the long security line, but it looked like it was moving pretty quickly so we risked it. Sure enough, in no time we were inside and being buffeted by hundreds of tourists enjoying culture and staying out of the rain on a lovely Saturday mid-morning.
We glimpsed the top of the Rosetta Stone (first time I saw it, it wasn’t even under glass, now it’s in a huge case) and had a good time making fun of the Egyptian sculptures. When we got to the mummies, Sean related some stories of his time as a mortician and impressed us both with his dental knowledge in relation to some old skulls (he was also a dental technician for a while).
As it was getting later, and I eventually had a play to get to, we left the museum and walked and talked some more, finding the theatre I was supposed to be going to and then popping back up the street to the McDonald’s where we first met up that morning to have a bit of lunch and talk magic and Star Wars. Yeah, in addition to everything else, Sean is a member of the 501st and a great magic performer. So while eating he showed me some really cool mentalism effects (my preferred subgenre) using modern cell phone technology (maybe someday I’ll figure them out!).
We headed off to the theatre, said our goodbyes and then I was off to a matinee of Cyrano, a new version of the Rostand play at the Playhouse Theatre and starring James McAvoy. This version, adapted by Martin Crimp, relies on Rostand’s original rhymes to inform it’s almost hip-hop take on the poetically inspired, big nosed soldier. McAvoy’s performance is outstanding as the main man and the show is getting some wonderful reviews. In fact, almost all of the cast are great, with a special shout out to Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Cyrano’s love interest Roxane.
It also turns out this production will be featured as part of the National Theatre Live series so if you get a chance to see it, you should do so. I’m hoping it’s released on some streaming service so I can see it again.
When the play was over, I met up with Lin outside the theatre. We had originally thought about waiting around for MCavoy to maybe get a photo or sign my program, but it turns out he doesn’t come out after matinee performances so we bailed and went up to Leicester Square and grabbed some great stir fried noodles to go and ate them out on the square.
After dinner, we still had time to kill before my second show of the day, so we headed to Forbidden Planet, the geek mecca of London. While I was sorely tempted by a number of items, I was good and refrained from making any purchases…this time. But boy how I love the place! It’s one of my must see destinations whenever I’m in town. And in fact, I have some strong connections to the former LA branch dating all the way back to 1989.
From the headlands of the future, we were off to Late 19th century Russia and a new production of Anton Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Again, this production has a stellar cast, starting with Toby Jones and including Richard Armitage, Ciarán Hinds and Rosalind Eleazar. It’s a gorgeous production as well, with a phenomenal set (complete with rainstorm!) and we really enjoyed it.
Then, as is our usual want on a Saturday night, Lin directed us to The Phoenix Arts Club, a local theatre hang out for a Saturday night Supershow of singing along with musical hits! It’s a great place, covered with signed posters from all the West End shows. Were aI a tad younger, I’m sure I would spend much more time there. But as it was, after a round and a few songs, I was ready to hit the hay.