London Town: Part 1

Those of you reading this who know me, probably also know that I like to be in control. I like to know what’s going on, have things planned, and be aware of every last detail whenever possible. So it may come as a slight shock that I recently went on a surprise trip to London that my lovely husband had put together. The only thing I knew was that 1) we were going to London, and 2) well, there is no 2. The events were a complete mystery to me, revealed bit by bit as we went through the trip.

We started off, as most of our recent trips to London have done, with a visit to the Mad Bishop and Bear, a pub in Paddington Station. The bear is fairly self-explanatory, but it was only now, after the fourth or fifth time we’ve been there, that I got around to reading their description on the menu about the first part of the title. When the Great Western Railway purchased land for Paddington and the surrounding area, the local bishop let it be sold for a nominal fee, despite it being worth so much more. Which, you must admit, is just a little bit mad!

After a filling brunch, we headed over to our hotel, which was conveniently placed for Waterloo Station and literally in the shadow of the London Eye.  However, this is one of only a few photos I took on the trip as the weather was cold and grey. A running joke throughout the weekend was “Are you sure it’s June?” since, after the gorgeous weather we had experienced at Bournemouth and West Lavington, it felt like we had taken a step back to March.


After dropping off our bags, it was time to head out for the first event. I knew it was a show of some type. I also knew it wasn’t Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard as we had managed to miss the brief window of opportunity to catch it. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was the West End revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves.

This is a show we have seen several times, and while I think my favourite production is still the first we saw in Bath nearly a decade ago, it is always great to see how it’s staged and marvel at the impeccable comic timing. This is a play that experiments with time and space: the living rooms of two very different couples are intertwined and both sets of actors use the space simultaneously. The most memorable scene, dinner parties on two different nights that are played at the same time, is a masterclass in writing and staging. It is, however, a bit dated with landline telephones and gender relations that can make one wince. I don’t know if I’ll see it for a fourth time, but it’s worth catching if you have missed it before or are new to the works of Ayckbourn.

And in what I think is a first for us, we went from afternoon matinee to evening show, with just a stop for dinner in between.  This second performance was also a comedy. The Comedy About a Bank Robbery to be precise. This was created by Mischief Theatre, with many of the same writers and actors we saw the first time we watched The Play That Goes Wrong.  I admit to preferring TPTGW slightly more than this newer production, but that’s not saying much because TCAABR is still side-splittingly funny, with the same high energy. The plot is in the title, and I really have to hand it to the writers for not only being completely and utterly unpredictable but for also staging some incredible stunts and incorporating singing into the plot.  Based on the programme, the actors were more fearful of the latter than the former!

And thus ended Day 1. I was thoroughly enjoying not knowing what to expect and looking forward to Day 2. Come back on Tuesday to read about the next part of the surprise, or sign up below to have MissElaineous blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

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