Please Hello...
After being in London for less than a month, one of the striking things is how uncultured the mass of the city is. Starbucks is on every corner serving bland coffee and styrofoam food. Deep pan pizza buffets are on every other corner serving stuff that wouldn't rate at a Sizzler restaurant back home. Fosters is a popular drink here and they have a special tap to generate an "artificial head" on the beer so it lasts while you finish it off. Ben Elton has a hit show with his stringing together of Queen songs into what is purported to be a musical, and he is about to do the same to Rod Stewart songs with the show Tonight's the night. Fortunately amongst all the trash in London, there are quite a few bright spots. One being the Donmar Warehouse.

On Friday I saw their latest production, Pacific Overtures (a co-production with the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre) and it was a knockout. A small all-male cast, a theatre in the round, and Sondheim was all that was needed for a spectacular and entertaining evening. As a show I was totally unfamiliar with, I was expecting that Sondheims treatment of the factual account of US warships arriving at Japan in the 1850s demanding that they have a "friendly relationships" and trade to be quite hard going. It fuses kabuki and noh theatre styles with western musical influences. It was a flop when it first premiered in 1976. But all that was put at ease after the first few minutes. The soaring melodies and scathing commentary on Western approach to diplomacy and influence seemed more relevant today than ever. The basic argument of the show (and the book it was based on) is that the Western approach to diplomacy in the 1850s planted the seeds for the Japanese expansion in the 1940s. The final number (updated to the present) suggests that American (and the rest of the Western societies) understanding of different cultures hasn't improved that much. Hmm it probably isn't too hard to guess why American audiences hated it.

It was a night of very civilised entertainment. It was nice to see it as I knew too that such an intelligent and entertaining show would never make it to Australia either (at least staged professionally). It isn't Ben Elton... That's what the mass of punters prefer nowadays.

Get outta town
Saturday I decided to take a day trip to Oxford. It was great to get out of the city and as the start of the academic year was about to happen it was a happening place as well with lots of people moving in.

Getting off the bus after a 90 min ride from London, I decided to buy a tourist map and see the sights. Not being a very good tourist I decided to sit down and have a coffee and cheese and ham toastie and plot my route. I liked the idea of eating the toastie not only because it was delicious and the cheese here is nothing like the crap that our dairy industry in Queensland tries to pass off as cheese, but because they actually called it a toastie and I just love it as a word. Anyway I digress. Over coffee and a toastie I mapped out a route and then walked it. It included a few stops in book stores and the usual Oxford landmarks. I spent the last few hours in Oxford reading The Times by the banks of one of their canals. Very sensible and civilised I thought!

Today...
After I finish blogging I will go and move my things to North East London. My first place by myself. Woo-hoo!

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