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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Night on the Town

" We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur." ~Dan Quayle

   When we were under the assumption that Les was required to check into admission for prostate surgery on March 4th, 7am at Watford General Hospital, we booked a hotel for the night before. To get the best rate one has to commit, so we did, the surgery was rescheduled, and we found ourselves with a hotel room and no means of refund or rescheduling. 
   We decided to make a date night of it. Les made arrangements for a coupon dinner special through Pizza Express and purchased tickets to a performance of War Horse. I was surprised this play was appearing in Watford. Les realized after paying £15.00 per ticket, that the event was actually listed as a film, however he couldn't locate any information on the Palace Theatre web site explaining what, exactly we had purchased but we decided to give it a go. 
   Anonymous A was kind enough to give us a lift into town. Thank dear friend! We appreciate your kindness. 
  We checked in to the Jurys Inn, got our bearings, and walked to Pizza Express for dinner. Away from the boat, Les and I focus in on each other and our conversations tend to be deeper and more philosophical. Dinner was delicious and we were relaxed and set to enjoy an evening Film? Theatrical Film?  
   Our seats were front row center. We peeled out of our winter coats and settled down. It quickly became apparent, with the pre-show material being screened, that we had paid for tickets to a live broadcast from London's West End National Theatre of War Horse!

© Tracy Wheeler, 2014, One Hand Clapping Blog
   Essentially we were only one layer removed from the actual live performance. Teh camera filming the live event actually offered us better views than the best seats in the West End theatre. I wondered if Les, with his slim experience of theatrical productions, would be able to engage in the suspension of disbelief while watching a giant movie screen; I wondered if I could as well since the puppeteers are always in sight throughout the performance.
   The lights went down, the National Theatre cameras panned across the live audience as the lights went down in London and the show began. I can only say it was wonderful. The Handspring Puppet Company puppeteers were amazing--unobtrusive, and yet the living essence of their characters, providing not only the movements of each animal but also the vocal sounds. It was brilliant! I've never seen anything like it in my long experience of participating in theatre as a performer as well as an audience member.
   At one very poignant moment in the production I glanced sideways as Les wiped a tear from his eyes. Success! He was lost in the story unfolding in front of our eyes. Just after intermission, as a special part of the broadcast, five minutes was taken for the show's director and Michael Morpurgo, the author of the book, to chat about the craft of making the show and the puppets which helped place the overall production in context.
   Moved and surprised by our experience, we made our way back to the hotel in the strange yellow city-lit night, our breath spilling out of us in clouds as we walked arm in arm. Back in our room we took advantage of the deep, long bathtub and endless lashings of scalding hot water to soak in Gilchrist & Soames bubble bath--a sybaritic treat for narrow boat live-aboards who can only shower--and that for about three minutes before the hot water is gone.
   The next morning we enjoyed the hotel's fine breakfast buffet, picked up a few items in the shops and caught the 500 bus back to Cow Roast and NB Val. Our excursion did us a world of good and our National Theatre Live Experience piqued Les' curiosity about other production broadcasts. Here is what we discovered:
"National Theatre Live is the National theatre's groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world." (NTL website, accessed 03/12/14)
   We felt we had the best seats in the house no matter where we sat. We experienced closeup shots of the puppets and actors in action from the best viewpoint possible thanks to the cameras which actually enhanced our personal experience of the play.   
© National Theatre Live, 2014
   "National Theatre Live launched in June 2009 with a broadcast of the National Theatre production of Phèdre with Helen Mirren. We've since broadcast more than twenty other productions live from the National Theatre, and on occasion other theatres in the UK. Our broadcasts have now been experienced by over 1.5 million people in 500 venues around the world, including 250 in the UK. Past broadcasts include Danny Boyle's Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden and The Last of the Haussmans with Julie Walters." (NTL website "What We Do"; accessed 03/12/14)
   Our tickets for front row, center cost £15.00. Seats in London at the live production in the very same section cost £62.50. We highly recommend folks take advantage of this fine means of experiencing great theatre. There are live broadcasts throughout the UK and overseas--even Seattle, Washington! British Opera and Shakespeare productions from Stratford-on-Avon are also providing live broadcasts, which means I have a great chance of getting Les to see Shakespeare's Richard III some day.


Kath said...

It is a brilliant concept. We went to see Richard II with David Tennant, impossible to get a seat at the theatre. It was brilliant! And you get the extra in the interval. Well worth every penny. I wanted to see War Horse but wasn't free when it was on. We will certainly go to other productions.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Unknown said...

I took Sian to the Olympic park when half of it officially opened last year, the war horse was there and we thought it was fantastic, the movement is so lifelike that at first Sian actually thought it was a horse and asked me what was wrong with it!! She was really happy when she realised it was a puppet and gave it a pat.

Unknown said...

I saw a similar performance live in Toronto in 2013. Amazing!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kath,
Oh lucky you and Neil to see RIII! Les isn't a fan of Shakespeare (he has only seen one production--and he didn't like it. I cannot remember what is was, but I knew he would have liked RIII because there is so much great action, suspense, and the final battle takes place in Bosworth Field near today's Ashby canal.
Hugs to you both,

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,
What an amazing experience for Sian. We hope to see you when we get back down to the Big Smoke soon.
Hugs, JaqXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,
Great theatre is mind bending isn't it?

Mike Muir said...

Well done for a good night out. This was run in Brighton as well, but we did not go, not realising what it was, as we have the (unwatched) DVD on GARNET.
thanks for the enlightenment!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs