FemmeFierce, International Women’s Day, Leake Street and more gorgeous graffiti. 17/100

Cherie Strong

 Sunday was International Women’s Day. And so the dreaded F word was bandied about more than usual. I know how unpopular the word is these days, not least among young women. My own teenager daughter rolls her eyes and sneers at anything describing itself as “feminist”, including (if not especially) her own mother. But I am a feminist. Of the old school variety. My “issue,” to use another unpleasant term, is nothing more than the desire for a fair shake. Let me have a go. I may succeed. I may fail. But give me the chance. And you know what, I get that chance. All the time. The only person who tells me “no” is myself, usually from lack of will or outright laziness. But feminism today (my version anyway) isn’t about trying to get more for myself. I am an embarrassment of riches. It is about getting a fair deal for all the others. The girls affected by FGM and child marriage and rape as a weapon and honor killings and lack of education and beatings and….oh where does it stop? I don’t know. What I do know is that organizations like PlanUK work to end child marriage. And celebrations like International Women’s Day and grass roots activism like FemmeFierce remind us of our responsibilities. In the most amazingly fun, very coDSCN6540DSCN6538ol, thoughtful, inclusive, gorgeous and just plain fantastic way possible.

Sunday, FemmeFierce, a movement started by the inspirational Ayaan Binksy (or so she is known), a woman who definitely has a go at life, took over Leake Street, the official name of the graffiti filled road under Waterloo Station. 150 street writers from around the world came. Mostly women, but several men too. And I was delighted to see them there. Hey, you can’t change the world with only half the population. Interestingly, their work tended to DSCN6555be the more political, with themes of anti-violence and bravery of Malala. The women produced everything…from the hauntingly beautiful, but terrifying anti-FGM message to flamboyant tag names and sexy portraits. And humour. Lots and lots of humor. My youngest child particularly loved the one of school girls with spray cans. The headline read “School is over Girls….Reload!” and a handwritten sign was taped to the wall “Please don’t tell my Mum I’m not at school.” IMG_20150308_135526 DSCN6552Perhaps it was the overload of spray paint fumes, but the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Street writing, by its very nature, tends to be a solitary activity. But this was a festival of creativity, a celebration of humanity. Complete with a hip hop and can rattling soundtrack.

The morning began at 8. All the walls were painted over in the light blue of IMG_20150308_093053 IMG_20150308_142654 (1)PlanUK, for which FemmeFierce was raising awareness and encouraging donations. Children were more than welcome. My Katherine grabbed a roller and started her public art career. As the artists chose their spaces and waited for the blue to dry, they were more than willing to chat. A police officer wandered down to admire the work. He told me he often comes along to check out the new pieces. Later kids, or “the new generation”, were encouraged to try their hand at some spraying. Mine eagerly joined in, to varying results. Artists worked throughout the day, chatted with each other and patiently answered questions about their work and where they came form and all the general nosiness of an interested public.IMG_20150308_093808 Stereotypes were checked at the staircase. Not a pair of dungarees in sight. Instead I saw heels and skirts and lacy underwear. DSCN6539Multiple earrings and nose piercings and fabulous wild hair. Some girls seemed barely out of their teens, others much older. One man spent much of the day holding his tow headed toddler in one arm while using a paintbrush with the other. All were very agreeable to having their photographs taken, and at times there seemed to be more photographers than artists. Many of younger women had no links to social media at all, shrugging off all suggestions that this was the norm. Refreshingly reassuring that not everything is thinly disguised self-promotion. Comforting to learn that sometimes self-expression is just that.


And through it all Ayaan, the organizer, glided, being affectionately called to or hugged every few minutes. IMG_20150308_141652Beautiful and charming, she gives that impression of effortlessness that the truly driven and determined often do. I am quite sure that hours and hours and hours of tedious, frustrating, hard work went into making this event come together so smoothly. Yet she almost had me believing she did nothing more than make a wish and snap her fingers twice. That she simply stated her intention out loud and the universe responded “as you wish.” I love people like this.

And of course I love London. A city that has a tunnel where street artists can come from all over the world and create things to honour women, to remind of us those in trouble, in pain, in fear, to invite us to look at the world in a new way, to make us laugh or just say “wow, that is terrific.” Well done FemmeFierce.

Sarah Gillings
Hannah Adamaszek

I returned to the Vaults on Monday, hoping to enjoy the space in quiet. It was quiet, but I wasn’t alone. Several photographers were still there, capturing these images that won’t last. I don’t know how long it will take until it is all painted over again. That is the nature of graffiti afterall. And maybe that sets me up for the perfect analogy. Days like International Women’s Day and projects like FemmeFierce are important. Because they are fleeting. Reminding us that life is precious and needs to be protected. Throughout the world.

John Feeney

For more information about PlanUK and its life-changing work, please visit: http://www.plan-uk.org

For more photos from the day visit: https://www.facebook.com/FemmeFierceEvents


Yoga on Tower Bridge….oh, yes I can. 16/100

IMG_20150218_082117 I am a great believer in doing things just because I can. No more justification necessary. If the offer is made, I am usually there, even if it isn’t something I am good at or particularly enjoy. “So I can say I’ve done it” is one of my many mantras. I also believe that just showing up is 90% of the living life to the fullest philosophy I espouse. And so, yesterday early morning, I was holding (what I hope were elegant) yoga poses on the glass walkway of Tower Bridge.

I am nothing close to a yoga devotee, in fact I usually find it too challenging both mentally and physically to enjoy. And I don’t like heights. But the experience….how could I possible NOT do it. And have IMG_20150218_082039the privilege of boring everyone for years to come by blurting out “I did yoga up there” each and every time we were in eyeshot of the bridge.

I admit I was questioning my decision-making skills as I headed into the City, even more as the lift seemed to rise and rise and rise, but then it was too late to back out. I took my place on the walkway and…..

and I loved it. IMG_20150218_082125Every minute of it. It wasn’t scary or painful or cold or boring. I watched the river, from many downward dog positions, tumbling and sloshing and glistening in the bright morning sun. Boats sailed beneath. Cars and buses rushed along the bridge. But the people, not very many at that early hour, were strolling. Some stopping to watch the river themselves. Or just to think, gazing out at London. The Shard sparkled. The cranes blinked and swayed. And the bridge itself; Horace Jones at his most magnificent. All that gorgeous steel framework.

Ha ha, not me. Billie, our instructor.

The yoga was lead by the very pretty and impressively flexible Billie. She was enthusiastic without any of that new-age earnestness that makes me want to collapse in a lump, roll my eyes aggressively and consider taking up smoking just out of spite. To the contrary, she found that balance (ha ha, a little yoga pun there) between encouraging and relaxed. Billie teaches all over London, and told me there is talk of offering this class in/on other London landmarks. Oh, yes please!

My other classmates were much younger but of mixed ability. Admittedly most of us were there for the photo-ops, and there was some lovely, friendly chat at the end as we all whipped out our IMG_20150218_082056phones and captured the views. I was even interviewed for French radio about the morning.

And then we left. Some to work, some to other London adventures, some, like me, back home. Feeling refreshed and calm and with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I can. So I do.


Twitter: @mylondonpassion

If you can make ’em, you can race ’em…..Pancake Races in Guildhall Yard 15/100


IMG_20150217_115358Mardi Gras. A day of excitement and anticipation. For those who observe Lent as a religious experience, the beginning of a time of reflection and denial. In cities where debauchery is the order of the day, Fat Tuesday promises the mother of all binges. In London, (and throughout the UK), where Lent begins in a tamer fashion, the day is still known by its religious title, Shrove Tuesday, or more affectionately, Pancake Day. Why….because pancakes are the most fun way to use up all that flour and butter and sugar that become forbidden during Lent….and if you can make ‘em, you can race ‘em.

IMG_20150217_123646For me, today means the annual Livery Company Pancake Races. “Livery Companies?,” I hear you ask.

IMG_20150217_121101Well to continue the history lesson, briefly, Livery Companies are guilds, some dating back to medieval times, that managed to endure, as most of those on the continent did not, by converting themselves from trade organizations to philanthropic and social ones. And, since the early 20th century, new ones have been IMG_20150217_120601created: Environmental Cleaners and Management Consultants, to name two that were represented today. Along with Clockmakers, Farriers, Poulters, the Butchers and many others. I could easily write a 100 page blog on all the zany things these livery companies get up to…but it’s Pancake Day.

Each year, on Pancake Day, a selection of the members of these companies gather in Guildhall Yard and race. IMG_20150217_124234Wearing their ceremonial robes, chef hats, aprons, and in one round, fancy dress, they run carrying a pan in which there is a pancake. The rules are strict. Each pancake must be flipped twice by the racers. Once on the way out, once on the way back after the traffic cone has been circled. The racers race. The crowd shouts. Cameras click. The competition is good-natured, but fierce. The fancy dress is the usual mix of “could do better,” and “how clever.”
IMG_20150217_125415 By-standers include livery company members, proud family supporters, bemused tourists and bored office workers who wander by for a gawk. And everyone is throughly entertained. As well they should be. IMG_20150217_125121Because tomorrow is sack-cloth and ashes. Or not.

My Valentine….the Air Line 14/100

DSCN0003Pointless, going nowhere, frustratingly inconvenient, yet, at its height beautiful and thrilling…..no, not Valentine’s Day, but the Emirates Air Line. For the record, I rather like Valentine’s Day, and I love the Emirates Air Line. A bit strange, perhaps, but then so is a fake holiday that forces men to buy overpriced roses just when gorgeous spring bulbs are coming into bloom…but I digress. The Air Line.

One side of it is at an awkward distance from the O2 and the other end is, well absolutely no where. Unless a DLR station counts; the Excel Centre is a serious hike aDSCN0007way. And yet, I think it a marvelous treat to go completely out of my way and sail across the Thames in a cable car. And back again. Over the 02, with it’s spiky shell. The boats and tugs and cranes on the hardworking section of the river. The new Olympic construction. I love it all. And when the sun shines in just the right way it all looks bathed in gold. My beautiful, beautiful London. And the best part is I often have it to myself.

Several months ago I was eavesdropping, as usual, on the Tube. A lovely group of young Irish tourists were planning their day, which was going to include a ride on the Air Line. “But what if the queue is very long? We might be late,” one of the girls worried. The group discussed alternative plans for a bit, until I couldn’t contain myself any longer (like 3 DSCN0004seconds). “Oh don’t worry,” I told them with a laugh, “There won’t be any queue. At all.” They were delighted. I hope they had a wonderful time.

The Air Line always features in those “Things you will never heard Londoners say” lists, usually with the line “The Air Line is down, how will I get to work??” Because it does seem to always be empty. So maybe it really exists only for me. A year long Valentine’s Day gift from my passionate City. Thank you, London. You do spoil me. I shall go flying again soon.

On Tunnels, Vaults, Art, Theatre…what isn’t there to be passionate about? 13/100

10552536_1427137550909118_7034979627679131449_nMany, many years ago when Secret Cinema was secret and affordable I had the local mini cab company drop me at the location, indicated by a series of oblique emails, of the evening’s festivities. My lovely driver was horrified. “No, no Lady,” he implored, “you can not get out. It is too dangerous.” He was quite insistent. Of course I was even more insistent. And I had my brawny husband with me for protection. So out of the cab I raced….and into the other wordly Old VicTunnels.

Years later and many, many more events attended, these dark, wet tunnels under Waterloo Station have been renamed “The Vaults,” and are anything but a no-go zone. The hip spot for art and alternative theatre , pop up restaurants and parties, and yes, circus. The long entry way is still very popular with young men who are handy with the spray paint, often to exquisite results, but the atmosphere is more intentionally seedy than actually nefarious.

The film on the night above was The Battle of Algiers, a French film in black and white chronicling the start of the Algerian uprising. Made in 1966….however….I don’t think I need to state the obvious. The tunnels on the night were transformed into a kasbah. A dark, spooky, scary kasbah. with shouting French soliders and veiled women carrying bombs. And despite the fact that it all seemed a bit too real at time, I loved it. And loved the tunnels. And vowed to go to back. As often as I could.

But it is not a place for happy, in the traditional sense at least. Bedlam, an art exhibit on the treatment of the mentally ill through the ages, was made all the more tragic by the coldness of the walls and the darkness in the corners. Fiona Shaw’s movScreen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.47 PMing, physical rendition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner left us no doubt as to the narrator’s despair. Another night I followed a modern dance troupe through the cavernous spaces as they used their bodies to re-enact Brian Keenan’s book An Evil Cradling on his time as hostage in Iran. The fact that the walls were actually dripping with water from the pouring rain outside made what we were watching, entitled Without Warning, even more catch in your throat frightening.

Lately, I like to pop down the stairs from the station just to see the recent streeDSCN4656t art, which is always on a grand scale.

This past summer I saw a short circus performance. Which wasn’t at all scary. Until the circus ended and a band started up. Suddenly everyone of a certain age disappeared. “Lucy,” I shouted to my friend, “we have to go. Someone is going to think I am the singer’s mother.”

DSCN4659But hey, I was there before it was cool and rebranded. I suppose I can let the kids have the tunnels for a while. But I will be back. For something fabulous, I am sure.

On Take me to the River, and a bit on Churchill too 12/100

 “So – this – is – a – River!’ said the Mole, pulling himself together with an effort.
“THE River,’ corrected the Rat.”
“And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!”
“By it and with it and on it and in it,’”said the Rat. “It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!” Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

10974578_10153553550684027_5495177451321724466_oI am training for a running race, again. ’tis that time of year. But months of slack behaviour and advancing age has taken its toll. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So I took to the river. To run. Because there is no more beautiful place to run than along the Thames. I managed 9 miles. I was slow. It was painful. But the Thames spurred me on. As it always does. The body didn’t feel so good; the soul was soaring. “Take me to the river…,” oh David Byrne, you know of what you sing.

The Thames may be filthy, and I would never want to be tossed in, but to be on it or along it is always a treat. Sometimes is it precariously high; IIMG-20140117-00474 watch those lions carefully during extra rainy days, believing completely in the expression “if the lions drink, London sinks.” But it is beautiful when it is roaring and swirling with passion.

When it is at very low tide enterprising builders create amazing sand structures. My favourite was a couch and television, complete with can of beer. All made of the gritty stuff.

Recently I helped cajole more than 30 wom885539_1033431306683590_4520206598768496532_oen to don attractive hi-vis jackets and stroll 13 miles along the Thames Path from Kew to Clapham, for charity.IMG-20130507-00055 I have also spent an evening drinking  wine with a friend on the patio of Riverside Studios, as the sun set majestically over Hammersmith Bridge.

Several years ago, while training for the MoonWalk, (an aDSCN0807ll night 26 mile walk through London), my friend and I came upon the Gloriana, the lead vessel in the Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. I watched the Jubilee flotilla, a few weeks later, with great emotion, in the pouring rain, from the Tower of London.

And two weeks ago I may have topped it all. I rode in a boat just behind The Havengore in the flotilla to mark the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.

Let me write that again.

I, American Anne, along with equally enthusiastic friends Sarah and Alex, was in a boat traveling on the Thames, behind The Havengore, the original barge that carried Churchill’s coffin to Westminster in 1965. In this glorious re-enactment, the Havengore sailed from the HMS President, near the Tower of London to Westminster. Where a wreath was placed in the water in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Tower Bridge opened. And WE sailed under. I was covered in goosebumps, except for the places I was pinching to make sure I wasn’t dreamin10955667_10153553551269027_2713025048497404751_og. We waved wildly at everyone on the riverbanks and the bridges. We felt like royalty. I had truly, truly shared in a moment of history. The Thames gave me to something exceptionally special. Again.

On Cereal and Hipsters….11/100

Arcerealkillere you finding yourself flush with cash and in need of something sweet? Then the Cereal Killer Cafe it must be. My children thought they were getting a peek into heaven…

On the corner of Brick Lane and Bacon Street (why does that make me laugh every time) has recently opened the uber trendy Cereal Killer Cafe. A tiny shop that sells hundreds of different cereals from round the world, with toppings, and flavored, and normal, milk. At expense. But wow it is fun. Every hipster in London is there. Lots of purple hair. Queue out the door. But moves quickly. The staff is terribly efficient. Orders placed at the bar, cheque tallied on roving ipad, no faffing about; I do admire that.

Hits from the late 80s and TV show theme songcerealkiller2s act as soundtrack. Skateboards hang on the walls. A cheerio within a cheerio has been framed and mounted on the stairwell. My eavesdropping concluded that this is an ideal first date location. Popular, cheap (expensive cereal is still relatively cheap), easy conversation props, non-alcoholic and best of all, fast.

cerealkiller3And all that cereal. My children had two rounds. Teen daughter chose Honey Smacks. That was a treat so utterly forbidden in my own childhood I would have crawled across open flame to lick them off a dirty floor..to see my own child chose them (unprompted) above all other choices made my little girl heart proud. Youngest child chose Cheerios from Israel, delighted in the fact she had distance in her bowl. The boys had “cocktails,” shocking mixtucerealkiller4res of sugar and more sugar. Delicious.

Many, many (monetary) pounds lighter, and slightly dizzy from the additives, we staggered back down Brick Lane to the Tube. Not for everyday, but definitely a fabulous London treat. Enjoy!!


On The Natural History Museum, a wonder of wonders 10/100

IMG_3913Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of sources sometimes. Spent the last few days typing away on a variety of worthy topics but all with dull result. So took the kids to see the Paddington movie. What a delightful, charming film, full of gorgeous locations (I want to live in that house…the mural in the stairwell alone….) in London. And the best part was that the last many moments of the story take place in the Natural History Museum, not as an unrecognizable film set with a few outside shots of the building, but the real thing, in all its fabulousness. And as one who has spent hours and hours and hours and hours there, I am well equipped to recognize the beauty that is Alfred Waterhouse’s masterpiece. What a dream it would be to run through that building late at night…wearing those incredible shoes Nicole Kidman gets to wear (of course I noticed them, I adore improbable shoes). That wide staircase, those elaborately carved CNV00017columns, and the reliefs that surprise at every turn. The monkeys, the fish, the birds, the plants, the mythical beasts; and this is all before you get to any of the fossils and dinosaurs and taxidermied creatures and minerals and jewels and bits of planets and oversized creepy crawlies you normally can’t (thankfully) see…and oooh, it is an embarrassment of riches.

The reason I know it so well is that for the first two years of living in London I took my boys every Tuesday. Every single Tuesday.

Tuesdays with Joseph and Stephen

We would visit the dinosaurs, no long line for us, and the creepy crawly exhibit; who doesn’t like moving a fly from the poop to the picnic over and over and over again. We would take long looks at the enormous fossils, especially the one found by teenager Mary Anning.

fabulous fossils
fabulous fossils

Sometimes we would look at the mammals; whales on the telephone is a draw. We always looked at the big tree; the cases in the minerals were a bit high, and the escalator in the earth science was too long and steep for comfort. But a satisfying day for everyone. Every time.

little explorers

When grandparents came to visit we would hire the “Explorer Backpack,” a scavenger hunt of sorts with the added bonus of a borrowed helmet and binoculars. The fact that the questions remained the same meant that the children looked like geniuses, always a nice treat for the relatives.

the half-term queue

But then school started and we couldn’t visit every week. But we kept visiting. Once we went on a Saturday and we were horrified, horrified, to see that the queue snaked all down the front and round the building….who were all these people at our museum? Even if the queue outside wasn’t long, the one inside for the dinosaurs was endless! I tried to take my older son, Joseph, on a rainy day during the recent Autumn half-term. Yikes! The queue to get in double backed on itself. All those exhausted looking parents! We felt smug remembering all those line-free Tuesdays!

We’ve skated on their gorgeous rink set up during the Christmas season many times. Even saw a proposal of marriage one particularly beautiful evening there, and yes, she said yes.

ice skating

DSCN0071We try never to miss the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit, even if we never, ever agree with the winners. And the gift shop is a must for Christmas presents.

Professor Richard Owen, the controversial character who campaigned tirelessly to have the museum built, wanted to create a place where scientists, the uninformed and the middle class hobbyist could all benefit. A place to cater to the professional, the enthusiast and the curious simultaneously. Architect Alfred Waterhouse, using designs from a variety of sources and influenced by the demands of politicians and financiers, was able to fashion a cathedral to science uniquely his own, a pleasing compromise of Italian Renaissance, Gothic Revival and German Romanesque. In other words, a blend of styles that work both physically and aesthetically.

And yet, and yet…none of that is what I love most about the Natural History Museum. It is the feeling I get when I step into all that history. Not of centuries but of millenniums and more. I think what it must have been like for those earlier fossil finders and paleontologists when they discovered things that literally changed the way people thought about the world. The excitement of researching and studying things that must have seemed magical or otherworldly or just plain amazing. Because they still are. It is a gorgeous building filled with wonderScreen Shot 2015-01-07 at 2.16.43 PMs. Just as it should be…and now imagine me with those shoes on those stairs….perfection!

On Typing about art and the magnificent Royal Academy 9/100

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.42.33 AMI spent far too long yesterday typing and typing away on my love for the Royal Academy (RA), that grand building on Piccadilly. But in the end all I had to show was typing. Bland, mediocre, uninteresting and certainly NOT passionate typing. The RA is magnificent and deserves better. So I conceded defeat and closed the computer. Some days are like that. But clearly the universe wasn’t finished with my feeble attempt. Not long after, I logged onto Facebook to see that a friend had spent the day at the RA enjoying both the Allen Jones and the Moroni exhibits. Lots of her friends commented, sharing their love of other exhibits there or simply time spent in the stunning seventeenth century mansion. As the thread grew longer, and I was reminded of just how much I get out of my membership there, I decided to start again.

My original “take” was that we, as a species, have always needed to create and enjoy art. (I have fun archeological facts to back this up), and obviously London is the best place to feed this primordial drive. I hoped to prove this by highlighting those shows at the RA that have shook me to my human core the most. Then I faltered. I wasn’t able to properly capture the sensuous joy I felt at the Anish Kapoor (all that red wax). And how I was overcome with misplaced nostalgia and longing at David Hockney’s trees and forests of his hometown in Yorkshire. And then the Anselm Keifer and his monumental works on monumental subjects; primarily questions as to the role of history and our duty to, relationship with, rejection or reinvention of…..oh I thought my little brain would burst with all the thinking…..

DSCN4519Which made me think of all the other pieces from all the other shows I can’t forget: the bronzes from Africa, the maltesers in the dime bags, the Van Goghs!!!, the Byzantine crosses, the tunnel built by children out of long, colourful plastic straws….the list goes on and on, each reawakened memory tapping the shoulder of the next.

And not just the art. The lunches with dear friends I have had in the restaurant. The gift shop that offers perfect gifts for those who have everything. The transformation of the previously charmless IMG-20140505-00553member’s room into a suite of beautiful spaces to eat and drink and talk. The courtyard with its changing sculptures and, if the weather is right, dancing fountains.

Then I remembered my original thesis; that art is something we need as part of our human experience. To experience. Not write about, but see, touch (if allowed), engage with, sneer at, dislike, love, learn from and most of all react to.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.21.02 AMSo this remains a typing exercise. But one with a bossy admonition at the end. Go to the RA immediately, (don’t worry, I will in time get to them all, my wallet is heavy with the membership cards) and do what we have been doing since prehistoric time. Art.

Oh Sam Wanamaker, your passion is my passion 8/100

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.44.24 AMI have come to love the theatre so much that it often moves beyond a social outing to one of spiritual pilgrimage. It was with such a sense of reverence that I went, by myself, to the recently opened Sam Wanamaker theatre, part of the Globe complex. I see as much as I possibly can at the Globe and have never been disappointed. So expectations were high, not least because I had chosen John Ford’s deliciously naughty and bloody ’tis Pity She’s a Whore, for my inaugural visit. Upon reflection, I am not quite sure what I expected. No matter. What I experienced was far beyond mere performance, but that magical realm between watching and being, when the distance between the actors and your own soul disappears and you believe this performance is being done for you and you alone. The fact that I was but inches from the stage helped. The theater, lit by candlelight, is shadowy and mysterious, and it takes no effort whatsoever to become utterly, totally, completely engrossed in the play.

Then throw in incestuous sex, nudity, jealousy, hatred, revenge, rivers of blood and generous moments of light comedy, and what you have is a practically perfect evening in a practically perfect setting.

What the Globe, and by extension the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, does so well is in taking a play that has stood the test of time and presenting it to us in all its wordy glory. We aren’t distracted by flashing sets and outlandish costumes or reinterpretations that require extensive outside study. What we get are old words, telling old stories in ways that make them relevant. They shock, amuse, sadden and enlighten in much the same way they did 400, 500 hundred years ago.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the sparkling musical or the challenging modern tale and I do love a comedy. But there are times to be entertained and times to be transported. And transported I was.

The Globe, or New Globe Theatre as the purists insist, is the brainchild of American actor Sam Wanamaker, who came to England after being placed on the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklist. His dream was to rebuild the Globe and bring Shakespeare back to life, not as dry text to read in classrooms but words to experience on stage. Everyone told him he was crazy. But Americans are famously determined, and there it sits on the Southbank, a tourist destination in its own right. Built in the round with an open roof. Glorious in the summer months. Closed from October to April. Which meant a long, cold winter for us enthusiasts. But no more. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, built to resemble a Jacobean indoor theatre was built and opened January 2014. A venue for plays, concerts, and knowing the Globe’s ingenuity, things I haven’t even considered, throughout the year. I look forward to seasons of the grim and the glorious in this incredible space.