As usual for the Almeida, we booked this as soon as it was announced because it sounded very interesting and we normally enjoy the Almeida stuff.
We normally go to a Saturday preview or an early Saturday in the run; this time we couldn’t do those dates, so chose a Friday two or three weeks into the run.
The play/production has had universally good reviews, which sounded like good news, but in truth this play did not really do the business for us. A shame, because the cast were superb, seemed very much a team, the design was stunning and there were some excellent coups de theatre and some very good lines. But the play just didn’t work for us.
To us, the garden was a rather clunky metaphor for that section of the English elite that hankers back to bygone glorious times. A dramatist’s reaction to David Goodhart’s The Road To Somewhere. The plot, limited though it was, contained one or two rather predictable twists that were well-signalled in advance and very clumsily explained in arrears.
As King Charles III is Mike Bartlett’s Shakespeare pastiche play, Albion is his Chekhov pastiche. Janie liked neither; I had more time for the Shakespearean style of the King Charles III one (to be Ogblogged in the fullness of time).
We’re not averse to Mike Bartlett – we loved Game and we loved Wild. Bartlett can have such an original voice, I’m not sure why he falls back on pastiche. Janie points out that his pastiche ones seem to be way more successful with critics and the transfer market than the more original ones.
“Most of the theatre audience is naff,” says Janie, with her trademark subtlety and tact.
In truth, the Almeida audience the night we saw Albion was dreadful and irritated us. Older on average than the Saturday night crowd, they seemed especially and unnecessarily elbows-out pushy at the bar and in the queues for tickets/entry. Janie was especially irritated by the woman sitting next to her who took off her shoes and then held us up for five minutes at the start of the interval trying to put her shoes back on her ever so smelly feet.
I had spent an hour before the show saying goodbye (workwise) to Ian Theodoreson at his leaving drinks in The Barley Mow. A shorter play would have probably suited me better on the night. But we have both turned up to theatre after longer, harder days than this; in truth this play/production just wasn’t to my/our taste.
One guest today, Escamillo Escapillo, our Lancastrian nephew-in-law. A veteran of The Lord’s Throdkin, he appreciated the slight variation to the recipe from last time and agreed with me that the flavour and texture were somewhat improved. Some conjecture on this point might well follow on Ogblog, King Cricket or both.
There was also some ingratitude in the matter of special cream cheese and its pairing with smoked salmon, about which I intend to publish at length elsewhere.
But other than those controversial culinary matters, the day progressed as only a relaxing day of test cricket at Lord’s could and should.
West Indies chose to bat and struggled through a difficult morning and early afternoon, only to collapse in a heap as the afternoon went on.
Ben Stokes bowled beautifully and deserved the bulk of the wickets:
England found it no easier once they were asked to bat that day.
By that time, Escamillo Escapillo had left early to go to a function with his wife, our niece, Lavender. Daisy had spent the day with Lavender and took pains to bring the young couple together in Marylebone, while also swiping Escamillo Escapillo’s ticket and spending the last 90 minutes or so of play with me.
It got very dark and very cold towards the end of play – so much so that we escaped early, but only an over or two before bad light (even with floodlights) intervened.
The weather forecast was distinctly iffy for Day 2. Brian sent me a “what’s happening if…?” e-mail and I sent my response to him and both of the others. There was general consensus that we go to the ground, hope for some cricket before the rain and see what happens.
Brian came round to my place just as I was finishing the picnic and getting ready to go; we travelled to the ground together. As we were nice and early, I showed Brian the real tennis which immediately grabbed his fascination.
I went off to meet Ian and Graham, leaving Brian with the tennis (at his request), who then joined the rest of us when play started, around 11:15.
But soon after play started, the rain returned, so we all decided to wander round to the dedans to watch real tennis; Brian wanted to see more, Graham had never seen it before and wanted to, the other Ian had seen it before but was happy to see it again.
Brian observed that we had four very similar, uber-English names; Ian, Ian, Brian and Graham. As everyone traditionally has a pseudonym in my cricket pieces, I think we can improve and simplify.
As it happens the other Ian is already “Iain Spellright”; King Cricket has not yet published the outstanding piece about him from 2014, but it does exist. Brian should be known as “Ian Borne” and Graham should be “Iain Insteadman”.
That should make the rest of this piece really easy to follow.
It was clear from the TV screen in the dedans that the rain was getting harder and harder; I went to rescue our picnic around 12:30 in the sodden gloom and felt very little optimism for the prospects of play.
At least we had the picnic, so we tucked into The Lord’s Throdkin with Iain Spellright’s utterly delicious bottle of Barollo. Janie was envious when I told her.
By around 13:30, Ian Borne, being the most sensible of us, concluded that the prospects of play were very poor. Also, having told me excitedly about the interesting projects he’s working on at the moment, I suspect that the lure of those projects was greater than the lure of watching it rain at Lord’s.
However, soon after Ian Borne left, the announcer reported an expected start time of 14:15 and the weather forecast changed from “no hope after 15:00-16:00” to “no more rain expected until after stumps”.
So, we the remaining threesome resumed our seats and hunkered down with a super-sized picnic and several hours of cricket to watch.
Good cricket it was too, with England working hard in still difficult batting conditions to press ahead with a reasonable lead.
We had some interesting number-crunching business, trying to decide what a decent and realistic first innings target might be. Iain Spellright was looking to double the West Indies score, but soon backtracked a little. Iain Insteadman and I thought 50 to 60 would be a decent, admittedly not insurmountable lead. 71 lead was the outcome.
Then England started bowling and very, very soon, Jimmy Anderson took that historic 500th test wicket:
West Indies then batted in the fading light, but not gloom, so the floodlights could keep the show on the road and I don’t think I have ever seen Lord’s looking quite so special at dusk before – aided by the double-rainbow to the south-east as some heavy clouds threatened but passed us by.
Against all the odds, we got a more than decent day’s play; very relaxed, relaxing and enjoyable. I think this was the latest test match finish I have experienced live; 19:30. After saying goodbye to Iain and Iain, I (Ian) walked home.
Day Three – 9 September 2017
I stayed at the flat overnight and got my few bits and pieces together quickly and easily enough – Daisy was doing the main picnic.
That’s three days at Lord’s for Janie this year – all three being days when England won the match at took the ceremonial plaudits. Daisy must be a lucky mascot for England when she’s in that new stand. She should visit more often.
A rare visit to the theatre on my own and on a Wednesday. No point trying to get Janie to a Georgian comedy; she doesn’t do classics and she doesn’t do farcical comedy of any kind.
But for reasons of my own – I still have some distantly related ideas for a comedy play on a jotter – I very much wanted to see this show, which had but a short run at the Barbican before going on to the Holland Festival.
As it happens, I had been invited that day to Lambeth Palace for lunch by the Church Commissioners (as Ian Theodoreson’s guest), so it seemed a suitable day for me to take the rest of the day off and therefore be free to spend the early part of a midweek evening at the theatre.
While suitable in practical terms, it was perhaps not quite such a suitable cultural switch from a dignified Lambeth Palace lunch under the auspices of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to a bawdy Georgian comedy under the auspices of Deborah Warner, the radical stage director. Neither the irony nor the culture shock of the switch seemed to affect me unduly on the day.
The Lambeth Palace lunch was delightful, btw. I met several interesting new people (this was the only occasion I met Rowan Williams) as well as getting a chance to chat with Ian T and the people I know in that Church of England circle. I was particularly impressed with the dignified informality and grandeur with a tasteful lack of ostentation to the whole Lambeth Palace event.
Afterwards I had plenty of time to do some reading at the Barbican Centre over a coffee or two in the afternoon before seeing the play.
Here is an explanatory vid with Deborah Warner talking about her production of the School For Scandal:
It had some super people in the cast and I thought some of the modernising ideas were quite interesting. But on the whole I thought it was a pretty standard production of a Georgian play with a few nods to modern touches.
Of course it isn’t easy to refresh ideas that have been around for centuries and get their relevance across to modern audiences…
…perhaps the two halves of my unusual day had more in common than I thought about at the time.
Unusually the first day of a Lord’s test match on a Friday.
That day I went with Charles “Charley The Gent Malloy” Bartlett, Ian “Iain Spellright” Theodoreson and Mark “Uncail Marcas” Yeandle.
The following extract from my e-mail to Mark and Chas the day before reveals the expectation of a very hot day:
Weather looks set fair for tomorrow.
Please could you both bring plenty of water with you. I’ll have my hands full and Ian T was muttering about “fancy juices” as his contribution to the soft drink side of things, but I think we might all need good old fashioned (still) H2O. Especially given the weather and the picnic I have planned.
Don’t forget your booze rations also – as if I had to remind you about that!…
Mark threatened (and saw through his threat) to bring some Frittenden strawberries with him. His strawberry offering the previous year had gone down an absolute treat. If you look closely at the picture of Charles below from that report, you can make out the colour and shape of a Frittenden strawberry. The 2011 batch was delicious, but I believe the 2010 batch was “peak strawberry”.
A few years later there was a potentially ugly fruit incident, as Ian and Mark were reunited with me at the test on the same day. Mark brought famous Frittenden strawberries while Ian brought a giant bag of plump cherries that he had been unable to resist en route. This competitive soft fruit showdown could have been very bloody indeed, but it mercifully led only to MAD (mutually assured delectation):
Back to planning for a very hot June day in 2011. Chas wrote back threatening to soak me in factor 30 sunscreen.
I don’t recall the exact nature of Ian T’s fancy juices, but I think they might have been the flavoured water variety, which does work rather well on a ludicrously hot day.
Ian T seems to specialise in weather extremes when he comes to Lord’s with me. Our 2014 visit (which will eventually be published on King Cricket, I believe) was one of the hottest days I ever remember at Lord’s and Ian nearly melted.
I suspect that I was quite careful with the booze, because I was going to see a late night concert of Paco Peña at the Wigmore Hall after stumps. I suspect that all of us were a bit careful with the booze, partly because it was a very hot day.
I do recall this one, despite the heat, being an especially enjoyable, dreamy day at Lord’s. England were hot off the back of an away Ashes win and had even won the first test of the summer the previous week. What could ever, possibly go wrong again for the England test team?
This visit, on the Friday, was with Ian Theodoreson. I first met Ian when he was at Save The Children and I was on my first assignment for Binder Hamlyn. We’ve kept in touch, on and off, ever since. In June 2009, he was about to join or had just joined the National Church Institutions from Barnardos.
This was a very enjoyable day at Lord’s. Our tickets were on the Warner Stand, near the Grandstand (as were the seats a few days before with Mark). I remember Ian and I spotting Sachin Tendulkar being entertained in one of the Grandstand boxes, very close to our seat.
The cricket was good without being exceptional, as is often the way with T20 cricket. Little did we know that we were watching a pre-match between the two tournament finalists first up: