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Just came back home after 4 (well, more 3 1/2) days in London. I'm knackered, I want to go to bed... but since I desperately want to tell about it, and my phone's broken down (forgot to put the wireless into the charger before departing - ouch! so no phoning friends or family tonight), LJ post it is.
The flight to London went pretty well; except for the one moment when the women next to me was trembling like hell because we had just had some slight turbulences. Well, I say slight, but for someone like her who already was afraid of flying it was probably a pretty big scare - the plane suddenly fell to the left side, so that at least some of the passengers' breakfast hit the floor. The woman calmed down after a few minutes though.

First stop in London: the hotel, getting rid of the luggage. After last year's disaster I went for a Holiday Inn this time. Not very charming or with local flair, but at least with those chains you usually know what you get (which in this case was a room where you could walk more than 2 steps before hitting a wall or the furniture and a bathroom door that could be opened completely. hooray!). Just getting rid of the luggage, then off again, getting all touristy.
I hooked up with a guided tour to Greenwich. Perfect day for it. It was a bit cold, but sunny, and we had the most wonderful guide, Hilary, who not only knew her facts and dates but also great stories to make it all a little more alive (I love the one about a woman in the 19th century. She had a simple routine: she visited the observatory and had the accuracy of the chronometer certified. She then returned to London and walked around selling on the time. Isn't that a brilliant way to earn some money?). Plus, from Greenwich you have a great view over London. Here's one pic looking over to the Docklands. Torchwood Tower, anyone?
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In the evening, the main event. The reason why I had come back to London again after only a few month: David Tennant in the RSC's "Hamlet".
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Lucky me, after his back surgery in December he had only just returned onto stage since last Saturday. My seat wasn't that good (dress circle, pretty high up), but at least in the front row, so I didn't have anyone's head blocking my view). It was fantastic. Mind you, I did see "Hamlet" for the first time so I don't have anything to compare to, but I loved every minute of it. It took me a few minutes to get into that "Shakespeare English", which, combined with David's sometimes rather quick way of speaking (yes, he not only does that on Doctor Who), was a bit of a challenge. But once I got the hang of it, it really wasn't that hard anymore.
David was in top form, you believed his "Hamlet" every second - be it the grieve over his father's death, the thirst for revenge or the madness he feigned (particularly the latter gave room for some comedy moments - yes, Hamlet can be funny!). He really grabbed me.
But not only David, but all members of the ensemble were great. Patrick Stewart gave a wonderful performance as Claudius and the ghost of Old Hamlet. And Edward Bennett's Laertes, Oliver Ford Davies' Polonius and, and, and... On my part the best acting I've seen on stage so far! I really think I should work a visit to Stratford into my UK summer schedule.
Just a quick question: eating and drinking during the performance - is that a british thing? Because I found it rather strange that everybody around me seemed to have seemed to have a little snack once in a while. They even sold ice-cream during the break. Love it though (as long as you don't bring something in a plastic bag like a woman behind me and keep on rustling with it...) - much better than being in a 3 hour play and having your stomach rumble ;)

Afterwards I went (of course) to the stage door, and I was lucky enough to get Oliver Ford Davies' autograph, but when David came out the crowd went really mad and although he was really kind and took his time signing, I was too far at the back of the crowd and didn't stand a chance. Oh well...

Next day, more tourist stuff. Guided tour through Westminster Abbey (again, a guide with lots of funny/scary/juicy stories to tell), afterwards a bit shopping. Stocked up on DVDs, books and CDs - a lot of Doctor Who stuff (the latest novels, series 4 soundtrack, classic DVDs from the Tom Baker era), but also some other things like "Spooks" series 1, "Bleak House" or "Hot Fuzz" (I can't believe I still hadn't had that one at home).
In the evening - did you guess? - theatre! This time "Oliver!", the new production starring Rowan Atkinson, Jodie Prenger (from the BBC's "I'd do anything") and Burn Gorman, plus a lot of terribly talented kids. Of course totally different from what I'd seen on Thursday, but again a really great show. You can see they put some serious money into that production. The stage design was just awesome. The "London" background had this fantastic three dimensional look, you really thought the actors could walk right into it.
Rowan Atkinson actually got spontaneous applause when he entered the stage for the first time, and he gave a wonderful performance as Fagin. Jodie Prenger as Nancy - beautiful. Her "As long as he needs me" had me close to tears. Burn Gorman - great (though the character of Bill Sikes is a bit one-dimensional, you really wonder how Nancy could love such a brute). His dog was funny, though. I don't know what breed he was, but his purpose was to look really vicious - and he wagged his tail while running over the stage *lol*
And the kids - just wow! Really, those boys (and a few girls) are about 10 to 13 years old, the youngest looked no older than 7 or 8, but God! did they put on a show. Singing, dancing, acting - wonderful!
After the show: of course stage door again. This time I was so much more lucky. Though I didn't see Burn leaving (maybe he slipped out unseen between a few of the musicians, or he took another exit - they obviously leave the kids out another way). Anyway, Jodie came out and she really took her time to give everybody who waited an autograph, let them take pictures, and just chatted away. So lovely. When she asked for my name for the dedication at first she got it wrong, so I corrected her and she was all "oh, sorry. Really, I'm sorry I didn't get it right". I'm sure it was more my fault mumbling away... Waited a little longer, and !yes! Rowan Atkinson came out to sign, too. So now I got these two:
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Afterwards I went back to the Novello stage door again, since Hamlet was about to end and I thought I might give it another try. This time I got a place in first row, a few metres from the door. Seemed an ideal place, since the day before David went there to sign, too. But - bad luck - a minute or so before he came out they shifted the barrier (I guess it was due to the rather huge crowd that had gathered on both sides of the street), and I ended up out of reach again... not even in reach for a good photo of David, it's all more or less blackness and people's heads on them. But - no need to despair: Patrick Stewart came along. I heard people on the net say he's a bit bitchy, but that evening he was really nice. Giving all those on the side barrier autographs, taking compliments. Not your average smiling, laughing fun-guy, but really not bitchy.

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Come day three, comes more tourist stuff (sightseeing by bus this time, which was kind of bad idea, because it was freezing cold on the bus), plus more shopping (Doctor Who "Ninth Doctor" action figure, plus "Weeping Angel" figure). Late afternoon: yes, it's a musical again. "Avenue Q", just for fun. And it really was fun. A "mixed" cast of humans and puppets, it was like Sesame Street on Ecstasy! Your political correctness should better be left in the cloakroom, with songs like "Everyone's a little bit racist", "If you were gay" and "The Internet is for Porn". I did laugh so hard - really hilarious. And if you think one couldn't feel with puppets: think again. Kate Monster (and her love for Princeton, plus her dream of a school only for monsters) was so very sweet, and in more than one scene when one of the characters got disappointed the audience really went "awww". It only runs until March, 31st though - so if anyone is planning a trip to London before then, don't miss it!
Afterwards I did think about spending the evening somewhere in a pub or bar, but then decided I was just to knackered. So: hot bath and a nice quiet evening in my room it was. Good idea by the way, since I fell asleep not too long after 10pm. Being a tourist can be so exhausting ;)

And then there was today - not much more done except more classic tourist stuff - watching the Changing of the Guards at Whitehall, visiting platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross... and then, back to Hamburg.

Fin (at least until June, when I'm going to be back in London. A poster of "La Cage aux Folles" caught my eye. Maybe...)

PS: did you know that London has it's own Cinderella Castle? The Westminster Abbey guide gave me a tip about a great photo spot - I love it. (it's actually three buildings back-to-back - but who can tell from that point of view?
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