I've been considering this feature for a while, and having been to a film and a book event and seen two musicals in the last week, it seemed as good a time as any to launch it. So, here's My Week In London.
Kicking off with a couple of book-related things, I went to see How I Live Now at the Curzon Soho on Sunday 6th October. I was really looking forward to this one, and the Curzon is probably my favourite ever cinema. (Exeter Picturehouse, Curzon Mayfair, Prince Charles Cinema and Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury would be the others in my top 5.) That said, I was rather disappointed by the adaptation of one of my all time favourite books. There are lots of good things about it - Saoirse Ronan is superb as Daisy, while Harley Bird is outstanding as Piper. In addition, there's a brilliant soundtrack and Kevin McDonald's direction does a great job of building up the tension as war comes ever closer. However, for me the attraction between Daisy and Eddie was too quick, and I think dropping Osbert's character from the book and aging up Eddie rather backfired in my view. Eddie seems boring to me (although in fairness my Twitter stream has a lot of people who really liked him.) Meanwhile, as brilliant as Ronan's performance is, Daisy's unique voice from the book was never likely to be captured on film, and has been reduced to voices in her head. While I seem to be in the minority, I'd suggest waiting for the TV screening rather than rushing out to the cinema to see it.
On Monday 7th October I was lucky enough to be able to see Maureen Johnson and James Dawson in conversation at Waterstones Piccadilly, in an event chaired by Adam Lancaster. After originally thinking I'd be working on that evening, a last-minute timetable change worked in my favour, meaning I could snap up one of the last tickets for a sold-out event - and I was very glad I did! Billed as a 'Battle of the Sexes', the talk had less conflict than that suggests, as James and Maureen are in agreement over many of the things they mentioned. It was still fascinating, though, as they discussed everything from covers on books, and why Maureen's early readers may have thought she was obsessed with abs, to the importance - or lack of it - of gender in YA. I'm terrible at recapping these events, but it was absolutely fascinating. I've met James a couple of times before, and loved both Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer, but was surprised by how entertaining a public speaker he is. Maureen seemed slightly shyer than she does on Twitter, at least for the first few minutes, but was absolutely hilarious, and the evening gave me a huge amount of laughs - mainly at "Beach read!" and "cancer Nazi books". I hadn't been planning on buying anything, but given how fabulous Maureen was, it would have seemed rude not to get one of her books and ask her to sign it, and Rhys from Thirst For Fiction and Bella of Cheezyfeet Books raved about her Shades of London series so much that I just had to buy The Name of The Star. As well as seeing those two again, it was great to meet Debbie from Snuggling on the Sofa for the first time, and I was able to lend her my copy of the wonderful In Bloom by Matthew Crow, as I'd finished it that morning. Also really cool to meet Caroline Fielding and Katherine Woodfine.
I wandered into London with no real plans on Tuesday 8th October (it's the only day I finish early, and it seemed a shame to waste it by not going in.) I managed to pick up a cheap ticket for The Light Princess, the Tori Amos musical currently running in previews at The National Theatre. I've somehow managed to be aware of Amos for years without really knowing much about her music, but I was seriously impressed by this. The first act is perhaps on the long side - I think shaving 20 minutes of it would perhaps help - but it's well-performed, has some nice songs and a strong plot, and it might be the most visually stunning show I've seen in ages. The story is that of a princess who starts to float after her mother dies, refusing to join in the crocodile tears for the queen, and of the prince of a neighbouring country who's known as the solemn prince when he grieves for his own mother. Taking place years after the deaths of the queens, with the two leads as teens, this tells the story of what happens when the pair meet. The floating princess is brilliantly played by Rosalie Craig, while the way in which she floats is fabulous. (Not going into details as I think the theatre are trying to keep it fairly quiet.) Of the rest of the cast, Nick Hendrix is a great male lead with superb chemistry with Craig, and Amy Booth-Steel is excellent as the Princess's servant and friend Piper. As for the sets and costumes - absolutely wonderful, particularly the lake.
I finished off the week with another musical, getting to see a preview of From Here To Eternity at The Shaftesbury with my parents as they came down for the weekend. I knew little about this 1941 Pearl Harbor-set musical, based on the classic film (or more precisely, I think, on the same novel as the film was), but have been looking forward to it for weeks. First impressions were a little disappointing - it has a first half which, like the Light Princess, could perhaps do with losing 20 minutes or so. (It goes for eighty minutes and surely could get the point across in an hour.) The second act, though, is absolutely phenomenal. Darius Campbell and Robert Lonsdale's country-tinged I Ain't Where I Wanna Be Blues is brilliant and Ryan Sampson as Maggio steals every scene he's in, particularly with his outstanding performance of I Love The Army. As war grows closer, the show gets better and better, and The Boys of '41 had me close to tears, with the reprise nearly pushing me over the edge - surely the best new song of the last 5 years, if not longer, in the West End? In addition the choreography throughout the show is uniformly strong, and there's not a weak link in the cast. Well worth seeing!