One Week in London

Well, I’ve been kinda shit with the blogging lately, but in my defence, I’ve been really busy and the internet at my house got cut off (and you can just imagine the joy that fills me with). Also, there has been a HEATWAVE in London the past week or so, which means that everyone is obliged to wear summer dresses and do all their activities outside (seriously, its a LAW), so that when it’s miserable for the rest of the year, we can think back to this happy time and think, ‘well, at least I’m not missing out. I did get to go to the beach that one time.’ Not that I have been to the beach. But, I hear that is what people do when it is summer and warm.

I’ve had a lovely week, however, mainly because I had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday off from work. I did many new things that were very delightful. However, because I had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday off from work, I also had very little money. So my activities were also very cheap. This did not detract from their delightfulness.

MONDAY
After a morning of chores, I headed to Aldgate for a rehearsal of my show, ‘Operation: Love Story’, which had its London preview last night at the Bell pub.

The run went so well that we were done by 6pm at which point I decided I had not been to see a theatre show in aaaagggeessss and it was time I rectified the situation. It was basically a hop, skip and a jump from Aldgate to the Royal Court Theatre, one of my favourite of the large, subsidised theatres in London, so onto the tube I went. The Royal Court’s current program was ‘Surprise Theatre’ and it was ending that week, so I was glad to be getting in. ‘Surprise Theatre’ is a serious of less-than-an-hour, low-production shows, all with 10 pound tickets. Most importantly, however, is that all the shows were kept completely secret and you wouldn’t know when you bought your ticket, which show you would be seeing. Ooh, how exciting! The ones that did well would be given the opportunity for further development. The 7:30pm show was sold out, so I bought a ticket for the 9pm show and then availed myself of the free internet in the Royal Court’s cafe to do a variety of chores, including putting my room up on Airbnb for the month of August (anyone need a London room for the month of August???)

The show I saw was a verbatim theatre piece, where the actors have headphones in and perform exactly what they hear in the headphones, same accent, same inflections etc. As soon as I saw the headphones, I realised I was seeing a show by the people who created London Road , which was quite exciting as I had missed London Road and it was quite the ‘deal’ last summer. It soon became clear that the show was about sex, and specifically, the interviews had taken place inside, or just outside, a sex shop. That was enjoyable enough, but they put another twist on it all, by taking two of the real people who had been interviewed and creating an imagined story with their characters and relationship. I appreciated the fact that there was this added element. The thing is, I like verbatim theatre and I think it has been used in very powerful ways (London Road, The Laramie Project), but just using verbatim for the sake of verbatim is maybe a little passe – at least, it is if you’re a regular theatre-goer. So, I liked the added twist of combining the fiction and non-fiction and making it clear about what was what (headphones for verbatim, scripts for fiction.

That said, ‘Surprise Theatre’ wasn’t all that exciting in the end. And I realised that was because I often go to the theatre having no idea what I’m about to see. I think if you’re ‘in the industry’, or trying to be in the industry anyway, you will go to things just because your friends are in them, you will go to things just because the theatre is good, or the director is good, or the ticket price is right or just because you had a spare hour and happened to be near a theatre. Last year at Edinburgh, I picked things based a little bit on their image/title in the program, but mainly because of their location and show time. If I had been there longer, I would have been the ideal person to flyer because all you’d have to say to me would be, ‘Theatre, now, here,’ and I’d be like, ‘Oh, cool. There’s my money.’ Once I’m in the theatre, of course, I’m highly critical. But it still doesn’t change the fact that I would rather be at the theatre seeing a show (even a bad show) than doing most other things.

(The new thing I did that day, then, was not ACTUALLY the Surprise Theatre, but seeing a show by Alecky Blythe. It was also discovering that somewhere out there is a gentleman who has gone down on his girlfriend whilst she has her period, pulled out her tampon with his teeth, put it in a glass of white wine and then taken it out later, put it back in his mouth and the two of them then sucked the wine out of the tampon together. Like some kind of screwed up version of that scene from ‘Lady and the Tramp’. Seriously. That was not a made-up part of the show)

TUESDAY

Tuesday was ANOTHER glorious day. What to do with all this glorious weather? Well, I’m glad you asked. On the tube the day before I happened to see this in the paper. I am not normally into ‘big’ things. Australia has a plethora of ‘big’ tourist attractions – the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Merino, the Big Prawn. Giant fibreglass structures that are meant to be some kind of bizarre tourist attraction (and, look, all power to them – the tourists come. For some reason). I, however, find them bemusing on a good day and fugly and infuriating on a bad day. I consider these blights on the landscape to be very ‘American’ in their appeal, which is probably racist and offensive, but, hey, sometimes the things that I say are. Blame America!

Anyways, despite my natural aversion to big, showy things (aside from musicals, of course), I decided that a 12ft Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth that rose from the Serpentine was definitely something I could get on board with. So, I trekked out to Hyde Park, with the little article I had torn from the paper clutched in my hand and attempted to locate him.

He wasn’t there.

I can’t tell you how silly I felt. I mean, not only had I trekked all the way to Hyde Park to see a ‘big’ thing (something I swore I would never go out of my way to see, no matter how many tourist signs and tourist maps encouraged me to turn off the main highway and get my photo taken with the ‘Big Golden Gumboot‘. Seriously. I mean, SERIOUSLY), but the big thing wasn’t even bloody there. I stared at the empty space in the Serpentine. I pulled out my news article and compared locations. This was definitely the spot. And Darcy wasn’t even there. I had been stood up.

Disappointed, I headed to a writing day with my friend Liz at the Tate Modern (probably my favourite ‘big’ structures in London – and completely functional to boot), where she looked it up on line and told me Darcy was still in Hyde Park. But that he went up and down. So maybe I had been there at the wrong time? I headed back to the park later that afternoon, encouraged. I felt that if anything was worth a second look, a 12ft Mr. Darcy rising from the Serpentine was definitely it.

But the bastard still wasn’t there.

Refusing to be disheartened, I walked around the Serpentine for a little while. I stared at the water. I convinced myself the bubbles I could see in the middle of the Serpentine were signs that Darcy would be coming up soon. They weren’t. I convinced myself that all the paddle boats moving to the side of the water was evidence that Darcy would be coming up soon (because they people in the boats had been told when Darcy would be rising and so they knew). It wasn’t. I convinced myself that at 6pm he would appear. He didn’t. In the end, I sat by the Serpentine for an hour. I saw swans and goslings. I saw toddlers gamboling towards the water, their terrified parents hot on their heels. I saw people cycling in the ‘No Cycling’ areas. But I saw no Darcy.

WEDNESDAY 

To be honest with you, I was kind of running out of ideas of things to do by Wednesday. Don’t get me wrong – I still didn’t want to go back to work. But, I woke up on Wednesday and thought, ‘Oh, god. All the hours to fill. Whatever will I do?’

The sun was still shining, making outdoor activities still mandatory, so I decided today might be the day to take a ferry on the Thames to Kew Gardens, which I had been wanting to do for a while. But then I looked at the costs and decided this week was not the week to do it, because I had no money. None. So, instead, I used my Oyster card to get to Greenwich and then I took a single ferry ride back to Westminster for a total cost of 4 pounds. It was wonderful. I adore water. I adore boats. I adore bridges. We went under Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Millenium Bridge, other bridges I don’t know the name of… I don’t know why I like bridges so much. They’re beautiful; they’re a symbolic and a literal bridging of a divide; they’re always unique (think of how many bridges there are out there, all made of different materials, all looking very different but everyone still knows its a ‘bridge’). You can go over them, across them, under them and get all sorts of different perspectives. Bridges! They’re the best! I had a whole heap of photos to put up here for you, but I forgot to bring my camera to the cafe, so that’s not going to happen, I’m afraid. Trust me, though. The bridges. They’re good.

PS, I don’t love bridges as much as this Australian.

THURSDAY

Back to work Thursday and, despite my sleep deprivation (I cannot go to sleep before midnight. Even if I have to get up at 6am), it was kind of nice to do something different. I finished work with a yoga class on the common in the sun, lead by one of my friends from work. This is possibly the nicest, most relaxing thing I have ever done. In fact, whilst in one pose (the amusingly named half-pigeon), I began to compose a blog post in my head entitled, ‘Yoga = better than Sex!’ I’ve calmed down since then, but I’m still adamant that in some ways it’s true. I don’t think I’ll write a whole detailed blog post about it, because that would involve a whole lot of specific information about my sex life, which I think is probably crossing some kind of line, but yeah. My basic points are: You can do it on your own and not worry about stigma. You can do it with another person and not have to deal with questions of, ‘what does this mean?’ You can do it with many people and not have to feel guilty. You can pay to do it with someone and it will only cost you a tenner. You can do it much longer. You don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. You don’t have to worry about getting diseases. You can do it outside and in public without worrying about being arrested.

I’m sure you’re all thinking, yes,that’s all well and good Jenny, but you could also say that about many things, but the main point is yoga doesn’t feel as good. Well, I beg to differ. Yoga, as far as I am concerned, feels just as good, if not better, than sex.

So, yeah. Who needs sex? I’ve got yoga.

FRIDAY

I performed in a London pub! It was great fun. I love the pub theatre scene in London. It seems like every ’emerging’ theatre company in London has taken over the second floor of a pub and is putting on shows and scratch nights and all sorts of other things. I love it. All power to them. The pub I performed at is lovely – the Bell in Aldgate. The show went well (though it was a little sweaty), we raised all the money we needed for the free fringe in Edinburgh and the audience seemed to laugh a lot (I’m fairly certain it was genuine laughter). What more could you ask for? Someone asked me if I did stand-up, which I think is the most hilarious question ever, as I have spent most of my acting career convinced I am not funny. There are many distressing childhood memories that built up this impression – doing ‘comedy’ monologues to dead silence usually – right up until just this year, when an audience member at a scratch night’s only feedback to me was, ‘too earnest, needs to be funnier’ (Can we just stop and acknowledge how hilariously terrible that feedback is in general, though? I mean, really, is that just the advice you give to everything that doesn’t make you laugh? Hamlet – Too earnest! Funerals – Needs to be funnier! Genocide – Not enough poo jokes!)

So there you have it! 5 days in London!

The fact of the matter is, that if you have time and (a little bit of) money, the saying is true – ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ There is always something new and fun to do around this city.

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