Wednesday, November 16, 2011

London - Pret a Manger, Hampstead Theatre (Skåne), and London Underground

Yesterday evening I arrived in London. My favourite town/city IN THE WORLD :) I will be attending a conference on Thursday and Friday, but I arrived earlier because I need some time in London where I am at one with the world. I rented a small studio in the Bloomsbury area and slept long. Funny, since I should spent every minute outside. But the studio is really nice, the area quiet, and I didn't want to rush anything. So the first thing to do was having lunch at Pret-a-Manger, a nice eatery with stores all over London. I went there mainly because they always have a vegetarian soup of the day. Today I enjoyed a sweet potato and lentil curry soup. Just lovely; I wish we had these coffee shops and lunchtime eateries in Germany.

Coincidentally, I found some drawings from the time they constructed the London Underground at Baker Street Station.

Coincidentally, because I'm just reading a book with poems and stories about the London Underground. So looking at all the old drawings was very illuminating :)
A short stop at the London Stone, a fragment of a limestone stone or menhir of unknown age and purpose. Even though we don't know exactly how old it is, we can see its importance by the many references given in literature, e.g. Shakespeare mentioned it in his 'Henry VI', as does William Blake in his poem 'To the Jews':

And the Druid’s golden knife       
Rioted in human gore,
In offerings of Human Life?
They groan’d aloud on London Stone...

At least, as long as the London Stone is safe, London will flourish. They are rebuilding the house in which London Stone is inserted, so I really hope they will not harm it, for the sake of London ;)

In the evening I went to the theatre, and it is astonishing that there are still theatres I have never been to. But here we go, it was my first time being at the Hampstead theatre. The play was called 'Skåne' by Pamela Carter and directed by Tim Carter. If you want to watch the play (it is still running till november, 26th) you should stop reading now (spoiler alert!), otherwise read on :)

There is already an excellent review on Ian's blog 'There Ought to be Clowns', so I will try to keep it short and to my personal impressions.

The play was about how two families, both with teenage children, cope with the adultery one of the parents each commited. It starts with a communal family conference in which Malin and Kurt agree to not see each other anymore because they don't want to give up on their families. From then on the story winds backwards. We are presented with different episodes, marked by the moving around of the furniture between two sliding doors at each end of the 'stage'. You can't really call it a 'stage', because it was such a small room that you were actually feeling as an intruder, someone hiding in their living room and unwillingly becoming the witness of their argument. On the photo you can see how close the audience were to the stage.

I'm not quite sure whether the episodes were really in a linear chronological order or not. Especially the last scene in which Christian and Malin could be seen in a hotel (the one they met for the first time?) where they confessed their eternal love to each other. Now, I consider this a bit odd for a couple in their late 30s on a sort of one-night-stand. So there is an actual chance that this scene is the most recent one and the lovers broke their promise to never see each other. The scene was graphic, which I didn't like at all, since it was simply not necessary. I already believed them they had sex with each other. Scenes of graphic nudity, just because it is on vogue is not really something I appreciate, sometimes it might be appropriate and important, but not here.

Much more interesting were the scenes that showed how differently each family member reacted. The oldest son, although behaving really angry on the outside probably understood his mother best. Not being loved enough and bored in rural Scania, he thought she went away in search for the love she couldn't find at home or else she would have commited suicide (he actually stages this for a school project). His younger brother Olle, only eight years old, desperately tried to keep up normality, forgiving his mother everything, as long as she loves him. He can't see any betrayal, as long as you are honest to yourself, promises can be 'un-promised' if you don't feel like it anymore.
The wife of Christian, Siri, probably took it worst. At first desperately spying on her husband, she unloads any feelings of guilt on her teenage daughter: 'If he left me, he left you, too .... he doesn't love us anymore'. She eventually turns to revenge and sleeps with Malin's husband Kurt. In a 5-star hotel, mind you, to outplay the adulterers which only stayed at a 3-star hotel.
Malin's husband Kurt was the one thinking hardly anything about the cause for Malin's behaviour or how he could save his marriage. He just wanted everything back to normal. After the family conference he said to Malin: 'You don't have to do the dishes, you know, ...not immediately' and 'dinner would be fine'. Actually this strenghtens my idea that the last scene with Malin and Christian in the hotel room must be the most recent one, because I would have taken Olle and immediately go back to Christian.

Did I like it? The play: yes, the actors were superb, including the kids; however, the setting: no. As I already mentioned I felt like an intruder and especially during the nudity scenes I felt like a stalker, you could have stretched out your hand and touched the actors. Maybe it was done in this small room on purpose, but I rather have some distance. I have my own problems, I don't have to be involved this intimitely in other peoples'.


  1. Pret is wonderful. Is MCDonald's its owner now or not?

  2. I asked :) as far as the manager of the branch knew, McDonalds had only a share for the US branch of Pret and has sold all it's shares in 2008. So Pret is McDonalds free. Good to know, wouldn't be too good for their healthy image after all :)