2016 has been a tough year. I’ve mentioned that often. And the result of the US election about did me in. Having said I was going to go to bed early, as I, like most of the world, thought I already knew the outcome, I ended up staying up all night, watching with shock. I stumbled bleary eyed and sad to the gym the next morning. “My wife has been crying for hours. And we aren’t American!” one of the lovely trainers told me. I felt defeated and drained. And fed up. I decided to turn my back on the world. Not the correct reaction, I know, but nothing seems to be right at the moment. Turn my back on the world, but a quick trip to the theatre first. For I had tickets for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to see a new version of Milton’s masque, Comus. The Globe, and it’s indoor theatre Sam Wanamaker, are places I consider to be sacred (posts #8 & 25 ), a refuge when everything seems wrong. I went alone, not sure that the exhausting combination of no sleep and reality wouldn’t send me straight back home. Instead, I sat mesmerized by the play, loving every word. And re-wrote my pledge. Not turn my back on the world, but move, at least temporarily, into a impenetrable bubble of culture. Went into a self-imposed exile, stayed off social media, and when I did engage with others it was only over art or theatre or anything Harry Potter. Even London herself was kept at a distance. I spent hours at home alone, finishing tasks I had started years earlier. I cleaned up rooms and cleared out closets and caught up on all the family holiday photo books. I was quiet and dull and looked at life only through the very hazy lenses of paint and poetry. And you know what, it has been bloody great. I think I am going to stick with this lifestyle a while longer. But London, knowing me as she does, has given me the occasional wink, the gently blown kiss, the silent connection. Because connection there still is, and connections, all round, there still are. On Wednesday afternoon I learned that my son Joseph’s wonderful trumpet teacher, Sandy Hooks, had not only written a Christmas musical, Anno Domini, but that it was being performed that night at St Paul’s Covent Garden, the Actor’s Church. I decided to go. And London smiled slyly.
St Paul’s, built by Indigo Jones in 1633, is an oasis of calm at the edge of manically busy Covent Garden. Due to its location in the West End, it has long had a connection with the theatre community. Last December, I was lucky enough to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) Christmas Carol service at the church. A glorious evening of Christmas-related readings and gorgeous hymns. Funny, irreverent, traditional and simply beautiful, it showed off the wide range of the students’ talents. In the warmer months, plays, often Shakespeare, are performed at the church. I have yet to make one, but it is on the list!
I didn’t know what to expect of the evening, but I was ready for a little Christmas cheer. What I got was something much, much more. A beautiful, thoughtful, moving re-telling of the Christmas story with Mary, a vulnerable, frightened, scorned Mary as the central character, with a soul swelling West End musical score. That alone would have been enough to lift my spirits. But this is London. Of course there is more. The actors on the evening were an impressive collection of stage and screen talent. With gorgeous, incredible singing voices and fabulous accents from…..everywhere: east London, Manchester, Nigeria, posh, Wales, and more, the stunning voices that make up this City I love. And suddenly I felt London’s gentle poke to my ribs. Reminding me that for all the misery that this world makes for itself, London still holds a glimpse of the world I wish to live in. A world full of theatre and music and diverse accents and hope. Most of all, hope.
Anno Domini will be performed again at the Clapham Omnibus, in December. Tickets available through Eventbrite.