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Seeing London afresh

Although I grew up in London, Tuesday was the first day I really saw the city afresh. With the high emotion of Monday's Memorial Service laid to rest, we went (I with husband Keir, son Sandy, sister Lindsay and brother-in-law Nick) to Dulwich Picture Gallery for their Canaletto in England (1746-55) exhibition. There's an extraodinarily timeless quality to many of these paintings, with gentle folk seemingly always at leisure, skies always blue and London's waterfront echoing shades of the Venetian lagoon. His paintings of Westminster Bridge, completed 1750 despite the bitter opposition of the Thames watermen, were particularly striking.

Later, on a whim I boarded the London Eye, finally fulfilling an intention dormant for the last seven years. It was a warm spring day, and by chance this was the perfect time to go, with a huge red sun kissing the horizon just as our capsule glided smoothly to the top of its 450-foot trajectory. At that moment, with the sunset glow over classical buildings, the floodlighting on the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall, with Westminster Bridge looking as great as Canaletto painted it, London really was beautiful. Although London often seems infuriatingly dirty, crowded and expensive, I intend on future visits to see it as if from the Eye and try to forget that I was a Londoner originally.

And so, finally, to the Gielgud for Equus, which made the deepest impression on me when I saw the NT production (with Peter Firth and Alec McCowen) on tour in 1974. Not many evenings stand out all that clearly 33 years later (!), and I was keen to see whether and how Peter Shaffer's play would withstand my high expectations. I needn't have worried: Richard Griffiths's self-doubting psychologist was conversational, credible and caring. Daniel Radcliffe's 17-year old Alan was convincing enough to create "that willing suspension of disbelief" - as well as moving well while naked, to the obvious delight of an audience with an unusual proportion of young women. Led by dancer Will Kemp, the horses were magical: balletic, athletic and palpably equine. This powerful play starts from a shocking (true) incident, cleverly delves into Alan's past, and ends by romanticising his pain and passion - but it certainly has stood the test of time.

Comments (1)

Tom Walshaw:

It was wonderful to read the thoughts on the memorial service, it was a very impressive service, and with convivial drinks afterwards. It was lovely to meet up with Jetta and her family again, and share a drink with them, and memories of the sea side, which is where I got to know them, and Ted.

What I didn't know was the Jetta was going to see Equus, but so pleased to see that she enjoyed it as much as I did. Marvellous play, and excellent acting.



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