Tag Archives: London Theater

London’s Open Air Theatres


See the source image

When I think of London, I think Pubs, the Royal family, and theatre. And I think of rain and summers that fly by without a summer day in sight. But, ironically I think of open-air theatre. London houses two of the most famous open-air theatres in the world.

Let’s start with my favorite. The Regents Park open-air theatre. Founded in 1932, its located on the inner circle by Queen Mary’s Garden. By the rose garden. Its season is the summer.

See the source imageI have seen Midsummer Night’s Dream there so many times and it never tires. The clouds come in, the rain starts, the planes boom overhead, and the birds fly from tree to tree. It’s part of the set. Puck delivers his closing line and then the mad dash across the park, in total darkness and often pouring rain as the audience run for the last tube, a late restaurant in Soho or a taxi home. When I lived in London, I was always at the park. Sometimes at the Zoo, sometimes at the open-air pool but never got to the theater.

Shakespeare is a tale of two cities. Stratford and London. In London, if you ever have the chance, go book a seat (better a seat) at the Globe Theatre. A rebuild of an original theatre built in 1599, burned and rebuilt in the 1600’s only to be shut down by Puritans in the mid 1600’s. Damn Puritans! Spoiling all the fun! Eventually torn down to make way for housing and then rebuilt again in 1997! It is a beautiful reconstruction of Tudor architecture. Situated close to its original site in Southwark by London Bridge and famous Borough Market along the ancient Thames. This is where Shakespeare wrote and performed his works. Julius Caesar was probably the first play performed at the original Globe. The new theatre serves winter as well with the Sam Wanamaker Theatre. Using only candles as lighting it recreates a theatre experience like no other. Art isn’t easy but you get to travel to a time when it was more difficult than you could ever imagine!! Go travel and visit the Globe Theatre on a high school trip. You won’t be disappointed!

Image result for globe theatre pictureImage result for globe theatre picture

NYC or London: Which City Do You Prefer??

I like New York City a lot, and although it’s not my favorite city, I do appreciate its amazing museums and grand theaters.  I love the neighborhoods that stretch all the way from the Battery to the Bronx and the new Brooklyn, unrecognizable to my wife now who went to Bayridge High School and grew up a stone’s throw from the Verrazano Straights.  New York has a busyness to it with its big, broad avenues, and trying to catch the pedestrian
lights as you walk so you don’t need to stop and can just zig zag your way from 30th to the park. I love Soho and the Village and always wondered where I would live (probably Soho although the park is stunning).  So my question on New York is why is it so ratty in places?  London can be patchy and the outskirts of Paris are dreadful, but we are talking downtown New York City.  It’s very uneven to me.  Fun, but dirty, and even the late-night scene is sketchy.

My favorite restaurant in the city is Esca.  I love this place – great seafood, nice wine list, but honestly, it’s stuck in the seediest part of town on 43rd Street and 9th Ave, next to porn shops and dodgy quick bites.  It’s weird, New York.  The transportation hubs just seem to be seedier than they need to be.  Grand Central is a beautiful station but it’s confusing.  The shops and kiosks around it are grim.  Penn Station is even worse and is surrounded by dodgy hotels.  Yet here in the thick of it is Madison Square Garden.  Let’s not forget to mention LaGuardia Airport, antiquated and inefficient, with no great transportation link into town.  Welcome to New York

So, yeah, I do like New York for two days, grab an overpriced play and go out to a nice dinner, but in the end, no prejudice, London is just a cooler place.

Ice Cream in the London Theater

Ice Cream in the London Theater

It’s not just a matter of –re or –er, though for some it’s enough to start a polite brawl,  if you love theatre you’re sure to have an opinion about Broadway vs. West End.  An argument for why London theatre is superior, an argument which has no rebuttal, is a simple one:  Broadway doesn’t have ice cream in the auditorium. The West End theatres do.

Theatre in London, despite prevailing stereotypes, is not a posh affair.  It feels much like a sporting event at half-time – vendors with ice cream on trays and everyone clamoring for the elusive strawberry cup. My choice, always vanilla. Losely Ice Cream is the crowd favorite. The utensil? The best wooden tiny spoon available, of course!  And let’s not forget the wine with your name on it, that you’ve pre-paid at the beginning of the show. It is why I simply cannot abide no intermission theatre!

To my mind, the key element of a play is an intermission glass of wine (probably put you to sleep) and then an intermission ice cream cup (definitely keep you up) to see the rest of the play. The downside of taking your ice cream with you to your seat, is that when the lights go down, there’s a fairly good chance that you might miss your mouth. And ice cream does drip after all! Still it keeps you on your toes, and more importantly keeps you awake during dreary performances. In addition, Ice Cream keeps you deliciously satiated during uplifting performances.  I’ve drifted off. It’s happened to me, it will happen to you. It’s happened in London and New York – and usually it is measured by the quality of the performance. Feeling sleepy? Bad play. Definitely need ice cream.

The plays come and go – some spectacular, others forgettable. But what never disappoints, is the ice cream. The history of ice cream in the theatre is up for debate, it was certainly introduced sometime toward the end of the 19th century and almost certainly by an Italian, or some say a Swiss Italian. Talking of posh affairs, it was actually introduced to the Royal Opera House as late as 1967.

Quite recently I saw an Arthur Miller play in London and had seats on the stage. The seats were fabulous, the play “View from the Bridge,” was amazing. But there was no intermission AND ice cream was barred from the stage seating. As much as I loved the performances, I couldn’t recommend it!