I didn’t realize how spoiled I was by the musicals at the Stratford, Festival in Ontario until last night. I went to a West End production of Guys and Dolls (1950; music and lyrics by Frank Loesser; book by Abe Burrows), at the Savoy Theatre, transferred from Chichester where it was a smash hit. Compared to Stratford’s achievements with its two musicals every summer, it was an amiable high school production.
I mention its provenance in Chichester because the set had been designed for that thrust stage (inspired by Stratford’s stage created by the British stage designer Tanya Moisiewitsch), a thrust, not a proscenium, stage, as you no doubt know. So the G&D set was squeezed in and pushed downstage a little uncomfortably. However, the sewer setting of the crucial crap game worked its magic for the Crapshooters’ Dance.
It’s not that the show wasn’t good, or professional or entertaining. And it’s not that I don’t like it. Guys and Dollsranks as one of my all-time favourite musicals of the 20th century; I know all the lyrics by heart. (I restrained myself from singing along.) It’s just that the Stratford Festival, always considered a designers’ theatre (as well as an actors’), is so rich and lavish and generous that other shows shrink beside it. It was a good thing it was Rabbie Burns Day and most of our Group congregated after the show in the name of the Bard, at least, I did, for the Bard, I mean. I had my wee dram of Glenfiddich so the evening was not flat.
Today is – flat - but I don’t mind. Today is a Free Day set in the midst of this feast of theatre and art. I have friends and observers who marvel at my ability to continue to travel and do things. (“At her age! Isn’t it remarkable!”) Let me tell you, my free days are not adventures, they are respites. In a way, they are forced but I don’t mind. After all, I admit, I am old and I do get tired. Also I don’t have a lot of money so I can’t spend it on extra excursions, or dinners: I am alone and I don’t want to eat alone in a beautiful (expensive) restaurant. I have a terrible sense of direction and I am capable of getting totally lost in Toronto so why push my luck in London? As for London’s Eye, Europe’s largest Ferris Wheel, you couldn’t pay me to ride it, not with my terror of heights.
So you see, my Free Day is very free. Today I have worked hard at another staggering British cryptic crossword; I had a nap; I have read my programs and newspapers and my email (one of the great perks of computers, that you take your baggage along with you) with an offer of some reading gigs down the road; I had a cuppa soup made from a package activated with water boiled in my hotel room’s kettle, along with some bread and cheese I brought up from my breakfast-included; I washed a little lingerie (hardly lingerie, just a couple of cotton pants, NOT thong, but a cut above bloomers – I told you I’m old).
Now I am going to go for a walk, not too far, or I’ll get lost. You’ll be the first to know if you don’t hear from me.