Friday, 1 March 2013

What I saw in London yesterday

Well, the main thing was, of course, ‘Billy Elliot – The Musical’, of which more later.  The visit was a Christmas present from my dear relatives L and A.  Last year, seasoned readers may recall, they took me to ‘War Horse’, so my expectations weren’t high, because that show takes some beating.  I’d seen the Billy film, years ago, and cordially disliked it for its simplicity and near-mawkishness; and the music is by Sir Elton, of whom I can’t admit to being the world’s greatest admirer (or even in the top million).

Bessie, the heiress of last year’s satnav Florence, did a better job than her mother.  We were told less often not to turn prematurely off the M4, and she guided us flawlessly through the labyrinths of Knightsbridge (the only Tube station, incidentally, to contain nine consonants in a single word) and Chelsea to Victoria Coach Station.  Entering the car park, I was delighted by the message on the screen of one of the ticket dispensers: “Sorry, This Machine Is Sleeping.”  Also by the platoon of life-sized cut-out construction workers in visibility jackets and hardhats, who guided us across the roads, bearing arrowed placards saying things like “Please wait until you see the green man”, to the Victoria Palace Theatre.

I hadn’t been there before, which isn’t surprising as I’ve only been to about eight West End theatres in my life.  It’s well worth a look, a flamboyant Edwardian excess complete with red velvet and gilded frontages to the dress circle and royal box.  My only criticism is that Edwardian audiences were obviously expected to have narrower bums than us.  (Not a problem for me, but I did observe a few arriving patrons and wondering how exactly they were going to take their seats.)

Anyway, the curtain rose (or rather, didn’t quite: go see), and I was gripped.  I’m not a theatre critic, so let me just say that nearly three hours have never seemed so short.  Here’s my four word review (one of which is a direct quote from the script):  IT IS F*CKING BRILLIANT! 


  1. I could have done with those cardboard chaps the day I had to meet friends at Vic Bus Station.

  2. We went to see The Book of Mormon last night. It was awesome!

  3. We've avoided it so far because of themixed reviews, but after reading this... However, unlike you, I loved the film!

  4. We are planning to see War Horse soon so I'm delighted to hear that you liked it.

    I thought Billy Elliot was like a sort of modern, mildly gritty Noel Streatfield for boys. I quite enjoyed it.

  5. I think a visit to the theatre is a brilliant present, though I'd rather choose the play. But it's brilliant when you enjoy something more than you expect to, so maybe I should lighten up.

  6. Dinah - trust me, you were better off without them.
    Rog, I read about that. Apparently the Mormons think it's great too.
    Frances, like it or not, forget the film! This is in a different universe. Its best feature is the way it switches effortlessly between gritty reality and surreal fantasy. Could bang on, but this is a comment not a review.
    Mig - film or musical? They're two very different animals. But I defy you not to fall for War Horse. Let us know.
    Z - I kind of disagree. Letting others choose for you is always revealing, and can be rewarding.