4 August 2014

Miss Saigon (and how London's got a lot for us)

I'll have lived in London seven years next month. Well six if you count that I spent a year in Paris in the middle. So, six/seven years since the Saturday when my parents helped me move some hastily packed boxes into a shabby terrace house (the definition of student digs) to start a four year adventure in the big city.

Most of those four years were spent dashing around the city and frequenting a heady mix of questionable student venues and clubs at the opposite end of the spectrum. I didn't have the time or money to spend on covetable shows and tickets so the wonders of the West End mostly passed me by. Until now. 

My mum and I try to spend a day each month together in London and we aim to mix things up a little and see new things. We've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Globe (and loved it so much we're seeing something else next month), visited the Saatchi Gallery in its new home, saw Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, watched Les Miserables, went to Marina Abramovic's 512 hours exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery and then, for my birthday, went to see Miss Saigon
I knew the basics about the musical - an interpretation of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, it's set during the Vietnam War and tells the tragic story of Kim, a young Vietnamese girl, and Chris, an American GI - but not much else. Having been to Vietnam in 2010 and seeing the memories and aftermath of the conflicts, I was intrigued to see how this could be brought to life on the stage.

It's a rip-roaring musical adventure that takes you through every single emotion possible and right back again. Whilst we didn't recognise any of the songs, they were sung with such conviction and skill that you felt you'd known them all your life. And the set - oh, the set. The ingenious designers created a world of iniquity (Dreamland, the brothel above), of poverty, of decadence and most spectacularly of desperation (I won't spoil the incredible surprise how) to try and give the audience a glimpse of the hardships suffered. And you can't forget the cast - from the 18 year lead actress making her West End debut as Kim to the theatre pro who stole the show as pimp, The Engineer (resplendent in pink snakeskin flares), there's no denying that the people behind this show are a talented bunch indeed.

If you could only say one thing about London, it's that there's always something to do. London's West End is constantly evolving with brand new shows and plays that mean you're never without something to do. Admittedly, good and affordable tickets are hard to find unless you book months and months in advance but it's worth the effort and the wait. 

We've already snapped up tickets for the last matinee of Shakespeare In Love in October and we're seeing The Comedy of Errors at The Globe next September.  I'm taking my dad to see Jersey Boys for his birthday and I'm trying to get hold of tickets for Cats (the dream). So you could say we're making up for lost time. And boy, isn't it fun.
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