Saturday, October 21

YEAR:  2017 | Tags:  | | |


Olivier Theatre, 19:20


This morning, determined to wallow in Englishness all weekend, I went to Greggs and bought a cheese and onion pastie for breakfast.

I had come to London with a bag full of presents for Casey and Oheema, because Casey has his third birthday today. However Jack contacted me to explain that, for a series of reasons that he detailed, visiting this weekend would prove impossible. We therefore agreed that I would take the presents to Mark’s and sometime soon they would find their way to Casey and Oheema.

I looked in CityMapper to find the best route from the Travelodge to Mark’s flat and it turned out that I could do it in one journey. So I did. The journey took almost an hour but at 13:45 I stood outside Mark’s, gift bag in hand.

We sat and chatted and we covered everything from the death of Sean Hughes to a band called Scott 4. Mark played me an album called European Punks and I determined to find a copy for myself. At 17:00 we took a train to the Elephant where we walked to Mamuśka, a Polish restaurant that Mark said I should not miss. Eileen joined us and they explained the complex ordering system to me. I had bigos and liked it a lot.

We catch a bus to the National Theatre where, in the Olivier Theatre, we watch St George and the Dragon, a play that Mark had somehow got tickets for. I take a photograph of the stage set just before the action begins, because Mark said the review he read singled out the set for praise.

The play has two acts, a twenty minute break, and lasts just over three hours. In the interval the three of us agree that we cannot find an authorial point of view, that it is hugely overlong and unedited, and that it resembles a school play.

Later, back in the hotel, I will look online for reviews. The Evening Standard said that “its charm wears thin”, which ranks as an understatement. Another review says that the first third felt like a school play in a village hall, and the second two thirds got worse.

The Stage gave it two stars and finished its review by noting that

There are a few moments of impish humour and in the first section we are treated to dragon-heads on zip-wires but they’re rare lights in a long night. The contemporary section of the play is the most deflating. Modern malaise here consists chiefly of a tipsy hen party and a group of rowdy football fans. There’s a brief, tip-toe discussion about what the cross of Saint George has come to represent but it’s soon abandoned in favour of a predictable pub bust-up.
It doesn’t help that Lyndsey Turner’s production resembles the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony done on a school play budget. Designer Rae Smith has dotted the curving stage with munchkin houses that sprout chimneys as the play progresses and are eventually replaced by skyscrapers.
John Heffernan, an actor of delicacy and grace, does his damnedest to bring some spark to proceedings. His amiable presence enlivens things, but it’s not enough to salvage this disappointing dragon-as-allegory play.

Outside, as I switch the lights off and prepare for sleep, I will hear the Saturday night girls of Balham in full-on party mode. Having already seen them on the short walk from the tube station to the Travelodge, I will know they have very short skirts, too few clothes for the weather, very high heels, and open bottles of sparkling wine in their hands