So Peeps, today we learn that a well presented, local accented, honest looking character with a ludicrous story could well be a fraudulent thieving bastard. He’s quickly followed by two people also well presented with an occasional northern vowel but difficult to pin down sort of accent. They may turn out to be kind and generous benefactors to the best show in town.
Or are they?
It’s fairly quiet at Tooting Bec but ramps up a bit as we exit the tube at Charing Cross. It’s a short walk to Covent Garden and I spend a half hour in the Apple shop and combine it with a walk around the wonderful market. There’s a lady singing a well known opera song and it’s quite atmospheric, I always feel a bit emotional when someone can deliver a powerful song. Even ones that are popular or trivial when sung with passion and power seem to mean rather more and reach my heart.
We take a walk around the market area and it seems a little smaller than other visits so we move on and head towards Leicester Square taking in a couple of shops on the way.
Leicester Square is hosting a Christmas Market complete with a theatre in the round similar to one we’ve experienced in Parliament Street in York.
The daylight is beginning to fade as we make our way out of the square towards Regents Street where the advertising hoardings are impressively bright following several months of refurbishment.
There’s a restaurant over the road that looks old but very pleasant. The Savini at Criterion is an ornate and extraordinarily posh establishment with very attentive waiters. The coffee is eye watering in price but they do give you, free gratis, a rack of biscuits all different in terms of colour and filling but, sadly, all the same in terms of taste.
We stay for half an hour enjoying the ambience and people watching followed by the use of their facilities and then we’re off again. It’s very nearly dark as we leave and our attention is drawn to the huge effigies depicted by the lights on Regents Street. They stand out like Christmas angels flying around the curve of buildings that guides the constant flow of traffic onto Piccadilly. As we walk around the outside of the sweeping crescent, Regent Street enhances the view by helpfully becoming straight and we can see the decorations nearly as far as Oxford Circus.
Our target is Tenison Court which is a small alleyway through to Kingly Street cutting through Ganton Street to our target, Carnaby Street. Even though they’re slightly off the main thoroughfare, each of these linking streets have made an effort with lights themed around either winter or the Christmas story then we round the corner into Carnaby Street and it’s astonishing.
The lights on Carnaby Street are Caribean themed with palm trees, parrots and other exotic plants and animals. It’s so different that it shouldn’t work but it certainly does. There’s the usual Hare Krishna people with smiles that add even more light to the already flood lit street. They’re beating drums, chanting and dancing in a slow and easy lope adding atmosphere to the atmosphere, this is great. We walk the full length of this iconic street and whilst it’s nothing like its early incarnation in the 1960’s, it’s still a great place to be on a comfortable winter evening pre-Christmas.
We skirt Liberty’s along Little Marlborough Street and look through the windows from time to time. There are the usual huge plate glass ones complemented by tiny leaded ones all adding to the beauty of the building. We’re on Great Marlborough Street heading east-ish when it magically changes its name to the more appropriate, for this time of year, Noel Street then we turn left to find a link to Oxford Street and once again we’re bombarded with lights.
After a foray into Tiger, a cheap n cheerful shop selling everything Christmas we make our way back along the North side of the street towards Oxford Circus and even more lights.
We’ve decided on returning to Charing Cross to find a very pleasant pub that we’ve used before selling reasonably priced food and excellent ale. It’s about a mile or so and takes us back through Piccadilly where we have a brief discussion on whether to go to a show. I’ve a couple on my list and the cheap ticket shop has some good seats at the School of Rock but the theatre just around the corner has caught our eye.
I’ve never been to the Prince of Wales theatre so it’s a tick in the box and the fact that The Book of Mormon is purported to be politically incorrect and irreverent gives it a shed-load of extra ticks so we go for a beer at The Imperial just off Leicester Square, to discuss it. We get a double bonus as we browse the menu, they have steak and ale pies with chips and the pie is half the size of a dinner plate, if we couple this with two pints of Guinness, what’s not to like?
We leave the pub and make our way to the Prince of Wales and after a brief discussion with a bouncer who informs us that they’re full we join the queue for returned tickets. There are two other couples in front, one sounding like they’re Northern Irish and the other I don’t hear speak but they look east European. We engage with the Irish ladies and the time passes quickly when a young well dressed man drifts up to us all and announces that he’s won the lottery and no longer needs the tickets that he’s got for the show and is willing to sell them to us. Four of us tell him to sell them back to the box office so that we can buy them legitimately but he tells us he’s seen the show three or four times before and just wants rid of the tickets. The Irish ladies and ourselves wish him well but decline (our actual thoughts are that the thieving, low-living, duplicitous bastard should piss off but we try to retain an element of decorum). The foreign gentleman at the front has shown an interest however, and despite our advice he goes with the ‘bearer of dodgy tickets’ to make the transaction and reduce our queue to four. We didn’t see them again so assume he got turned away on entry, but who knows?
Another five minutes goes by and another couple consisting of a white lady and her impeccably dressed black partner turn up. They have a string of four tickets and they’re tearing two of them off and proffering them towards us with the assurance that, “We have two spare tickets and you can have them”. I take them to make an assessment as to their authenticity although I’m clueless as to the criteria I’ll use. I have no idea if tickets have holograms or should ‘feel’ special but they’re now in my hands when she follows up with, “We don’t want anything for them, they’re free of charge, our clients haven’t turned up so they’re surplus to requirements”.
To my shame, I’m thinking, “OK so where’s the catch”. I’m standing with two tickets that have the words, ‘Front stalls, row “F” seat 15 and 16’, written on them. They are stamped with a list price of £97.50 and with transaction fees they would have cost £100 each I.e. two hundred quids worth of seats!
“Errr, thanks”, we say, then as realisation dawns that she’s not looking for anything we repeat with a little more enthusiasm, “Hey thanks, really, thanks, we’re very, very grateful”, she smiles, links hands with her partner and disappears into the theatre.
So, reeling with delight and a little bit of disbelief we look for the appropriate queue to enter the theatre. Shamefully, I’m still expecting to be stopped at the first inspection but no. The security man waves us through with a cursory glance into a plastic bag that I’m carrying. The ticket lady checks the tickets, I’m really holding my breath now, then tears the counterfoil off and waves us in.
So we’re in the bar now and they’re calling for people to take their seats. The two pints of Guinness are taking their toll and I need a pee so I give one ticket to the Pilgrim and disappear for a minute. On return there’s a breath holding moment as my ticket is re-examined but I’m directed through to the front stalls where I can see Cecilia standing next to the people that have given us the tickets. It’s only at this point that I really believe that we’ve got two of the best seats in the house for nothing! Excellent.
The show is exceptional and the adjectives used at the start of this really don’t do it justice, its ‘irreverence’ is spectacular and ‘political incorrectness’ insultingly brilliant. It’s funny, serious, harmonious, action packed and a little bit educational. I’d come here again in a heartbeat and pay the full price, excellent.
We’re out again at ten following a well deserved standing ovation and make our way along comfortably crowded streets along Regent Street St James and Trafalgar Square making a minor error on the way to Charing Cross so we come back via Embankment. Excellent night.
Enjoy the snaps…G..x