by Roxanne Daniels
I had been working in London for three weeks and was finally able to pay my gracious hosts back and keep a bit of pocket money. After a failed and cancelled Berlin trip (which caused me to nearly implode, but let’s move swiftly on from that) I decided to go into the city and buy a last-minute ticket at a reputable ticket office in Leicester Square. As I joined the queue at 4pm, I hurriedly chose Half a Sixpence. The process was a breeze and I had a decently priced seat at the Noel Coward Theatre for the musical. I had three and a half hours to kill, so I wandered around and stumbled into the shop of my dreams – Stanfords. I was absorbed by stories of adventures and world maps in so many different forms that this took nearly an hour of my time.
After disciplining myself not to buy the world map carpet, flags puzzle, globe light and world map book, I ventured into the freezing cold and heard the beautiful tones of an Irish street singer. I stood, in the middle of a busy intersection, listening to and admiring the singer’s rendition of Viva La Vida and more of my favourite songs. On a whim I bought one of the CDs he was selling, as a memento of my night that was so far going quite splendidly. I pulled myself away and got a nutritious dinner at the fast food place just across from the theatre and finally made my way into the theatre at 7pm. It was bustling and full of people ready to be mesmerised by the performance…but not before ALL the ladies (it seemed) used the ‘cloakroom’. The cloakroom in this old theatre building was extremely narrow with teeny tiny cubicles. I waited my turn and made my way towards the teeny tiny cubicle with my not so teeny tiny backpack. I reversed in, and quickly accelerated out to the auditorium to be directed to my seat.
I admired the chandeliers, balconies, awnings and proscenium arch stage before reaching my seat that was in the middle of an empty row (perhaps the ticket seller thought I smelled strange and would need some space). I sat down and made myself comfortable, giddily waiting like a child before Christmas. The music began and the well-costumed performers arrived on stage. The dialogue was slick, the changes were smooth and the musical numbers were so perfectly timed, sung and choreographed that I found myself lost in the story (even though the rags to riches romance seemed like not such a new idea). The play got even more meaty when I could see that the main character would have to choose between two wonderful women: one from his humble past, and another from his rich present.
Finding out who he chose, and watching more beautiful musical numbers and witty dialogue was not to be however. Alas, there was a technical difficulty with the sound system that could not be fixed that night. The play was abandoned. I had been chatting to a friendly Londoner (to foreigners that seems rare!) while waiting for the announcement; we shrugged and said, “Oh what can you do?”. Others were not so obliging toward the theatre staff, and were nearly ready to, shall we say, explode. I left the theatre with my refund notice tightly in my hand and took a slow walk towards the station that the City Mapper app told me to go to. I passed all the monuments and special buildings that I had seen on a day tour around London. But seeing them at night time was, well, magical. There was a soft yellow light and no big crowds to battle through.
I turned a corner on the road toward the Thames River and there was some commotion… I ambled closer and saw that the road along the Thames was blocked and there were several police cars and policemen diverting traffic. What could this be about? My curiosity was brimming and I asked a man who seemed to be a photographer with two big fancy cameras. He told me that they had found a Second World War bomb in the river. I had nothing to worry about, he reassured me, they found them all the time – and it was unlikely to explode. Excuse me? A bomb? From over 50 years ago has been discovered? Oh my. I had to change my walking route and a friendly policeman directed me to Whitechapel Road where I saw a statue dedicated to World War soldiers at the entrance to another barricaded road. The irony was stark.
What a time to be out in London – a night combining the dark history of the world and the exciting present of easy access to everything a great city has to offer. Even though I didn’t see the end of the play, I enjoyed it while it lasted and was part of a nearly explosive night in one of the greatest cities in the world.