Less than a week after going to see Cats, Lydia and I were off to Sadler's Wells on Saturday – a belated birthday present for Lydia and I, of course, was forced to accompany her, poor me. 'Tis a terrible life I lead.
The Nacional Ballet de Espana. Sadler's Wells. London.
True to form, we were running late, so, instead of taking time to see a bit of London, we had to rush straight to the theatre from Euston station – made it with ten minutes to spare, nine minutes and thirty-three seconds of which was spent queuing for the toilets, of course. When they eventually build a theatre, somewhere in the world, which has enough toilets for women, the world will be a much calmer, less stressful place, though I suspect that this will not happen in my lifetime.
Anyway, Sadler's Wells. I don't think I'd ever been there before, in spite of the fact that it has been a life-long dream, ever since I was three and determined to be the next Margot Fonteyn. I was expecting the usual flourish of stony cherubs and flowers, the occasional gilt edged mirror, perhaps, but, after walking from Angel Tube station, past the temples to palm oil and Murdoch newspapers that seem to line the streets, we turned the corner and were hit in the eye by a jutting of red plastic signage and grey steps. This then, was the Great Sadler's Wells.
However, a theatre is a theatre, so, as we waited in line for our lavatorial experience, the excitement crept into our blood. Not only was this theatre, but it was London theatre – a world where men still wear dark suits with white scarves around their necks, where old ladies with heavy make-up, glittering with diamonds and pearls, stand tall and dignified, next to boys and girls in clothes that you thought had died out with Christopher Robin; where languages of every hue and colour bubble around you; where it is okay to wear either jeans, or an evening gown to a matinee, but always lots of perfume, if you please.
And then we were into the theatre proper, sitting in the red velvetine flip up seats, just four rows away from the vast, rippling crimson curtains, the light was dimming and the music began; the mysterious thrum of a guitar, the chukka-chukka of drums and the yattering of castanets, the howl of the singer.
But. Yes, you knew there was a but coming up, didn't you. And I know I am a grumpy old sod. But – as with Cats, before, as with many, many stage shows I have seen – in spite of the fact that the theatre is not the biggest I have ever seen and was PRESUMABLY built to be acoustically sound, the music was amplified to a point where – in spite of our being so close to the stage, in spite of being able to SEE the musicians, our ears were assaulted from vast speakers at the sides of the stage. The musicians may as well have been miming to a sound track – maybe they were? -as there was no way you could hear anything coming from under their fingers. I just don't understand why there is this need for such amplification, but maybe that is just my old soddishness.
And luckily, the dancing made up for it. The first half was flamenco – albeit choreographed and mostly danced in chorus. Lydia had never seen flamenco before, but was enthralled. The two little girls sitting in front of us were shocked into giggles by the unearthly wailing of the male singer – the sound of pure Moorish beauty – but even they were quietened by the thunderous heels and ferocity of the dancing. If you are ever on the lookout for a body guard, I'd recommend a flamenco dancer – nobody would want to mess with one of these guys, male or female. The second half was ballet/flamenco, with some profound story telling involving chaste priests and women throwing themselves at them, a bull fighter falling in love with a very female looking bull and all sorts of things which probably went over our un-profound heads, but was appreciated nonetheless. The costumes were stunning, drawing one into a world of fire and light, darkness and shadows, riotuous colour. It was quite a shock to emerge onto the streets of a wintry London with nary an orange tree in sight.
In my next life I am going to be a flamenco dancer. In this life, I am going to a Zumba class today.