Tuesday, June 26, 2012

West End Live, 23rd June

As 3 guys on a London Bus and Diamond Geezer pointed out, this weekend there was a glut of things to do, several of which were on my List. I knew, however, that it would be too much of a challenge, even for me, to fit in most of it, so I decided to concentrate on West End Live as it was central and I had some other things to do in town. After carefully planning my route in so that I would end up at Leicester Square, I arrived there to find it strangely empty. Where was West End Live? Wasn’t this the most obvious location to represent the West End? And, more to the point, wasn’t this where it always was? A quick check of twitter and I discovered that this year they were in Trafalgar Square. I quickly trotted over there to be met with a queue of people waiting to get into the West End Live area. This was a much bigger affair than I was expecting. I’m sure a few years ago I came across West End Live in its infancy, and it just took up a small corner of Leicester Square. I was not expecting all this, especially not the queuing.  The weather was changeable and I didn’t have an umbrella. I was beginning to think my W.E.L. journey was coming to an end. There were a lot of people around but it was still possible to just about see and hear what was going on on the stage, from the outskirts of Trafalgar Square. The big screens either side of the stage helped. I watched a couple of songs from Dreamboats and Petticoats and as the queue was still there, decided to walk around the Square.

Which is when I came across some of the cars from the movies. There was a bit of a queue to get into see them up close, but if you didn’t mind not touching them, then there was plenty of space at the barriers to take pictures.  I hadn’t even noticed these from the entrance barrier so I was thankful for the queue forcing me to walk around. I then went to the other side to see if there was anything similar over there. There wasn’t, but two of the decorated phone boxes were on the island so I went over to the them to have a look. 

And discovered a plaque saying that this was the spot from which all London distances are measured - I can’t believe I’d never seen that before.

I walked up to the top of the Square and discovered that on this side, there was no real queue, just a line of people steadily walking in. So I joined and went into the area. It wasn’t very crowded in there after all. Yes, there were people but there was also a lot of space and you could easily make your way quite close to the stage. Around the edges (inside) there were booths from places such as Madame Tussauds and the Film Museum, giving you a chance to have a picture taken with a couple of wax models or see some movie artefacts. And obviously to encourage you to go to the real thing and see the rest.

I got in and saw the Spamalot time slot. I really had not timed my visit very well. I wanted to see some snippets of shows I hadn’t seen but wanted to, and instead I got there to see Spamalot which I’d already seen, and then the children-oriented shows like Angeline Ballerina and Horrible Histories. (Actually, the latter was quite amusing.) I did also get to see a sneak preview of The In-Between, a sort of fantasy musical, but I wasn’t too impressed by the songs I heard.

Also, in between the sets, the hosts would chit chat amongst each other, trying to gee up the audience and there was often a few moments where the camera would cut to a 'reporter on the beat' who brought us news of what was happening in the surrounding tents. It all felt a little unnecessary, and I wished they would just get on with the songs. However, it did lead surprisingly to a highlight - they had one of the cast from War Horse in the crowd - with puppet horse. I managed to get quite a good picture.

I stayed about an hour, leaving just as The Big Dance was finishing. This was a dance troupe who came on and danced Zumba for a few songs. I think the audience was supposed to be encouraged into participating but this wasn’t very clear and there were very few people dancing along. If you were a few rows back you suspected that maybe the front was dancing, but the cameras stuck to the stage, not the audience so you couldn’t be sure. I think they missed an opportunity here to get a bit of a flash dance mob going. And the dancers on stage weren’t even very good. So, off I went in search of sustenance.

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