Tuesday, August 12, 2008

England Trip - August 12th, 1983

Gordon drove the group to the West side of town to see Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. I remember Hampton Court with copious Henry VIII references. We walked through the hedge maze. It was a beautiful sunny day. I might be wrong but it seemed like Windsor Castle and Hampton Court were next to each other. We spent the entire day looking at Royal luxury, works of art, and fabulous buildings, rooms, and gardens. I have a fragmented memory of a major Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit on display.

Memory fragment: a waitress from a local restaurant chatted with us while we were waiting for our party to return to the bus. She was from Boston, cute, early 20's and very excited to see Americans. I wonder what the deal was. It wasn't like we were the only Americans to visit England that summer. Maybe she was a natural Patty Simcox; chatty and friendly. I must admit I had boyish American charm that screamed red, white, and blue, as did my teenage complexion.

It was a pleasant exchange, albeit brief, but I can't get over the fact that a native wanted to chat with us by virtue of our nationality. We must have caught her on the cusp of assimilation. A couple weeks later and she may not have cared, a couple weeks earlier and she might have been new in country with fresh memories of the swell Americans back in Boston. I'll never know the answer. One thing I am sure about, the restaurant where she worked looked like it was destined to fail. The place was done up like a 70s glam bar with a boxing theme. She wore brightly colored silk boxing trunks. It was like a Hooters but with models dressed as boxers. Not sure if they donned the headgear, perhaps during World Cup happy hour. Those football hooligans, you know.

That night Judy O. and I visited the London theatre district and the Savoy theatre in particular for Noises Off, starring Phyllida Law as Dotty Otley. I didn't know who she was then, but it was obvious she was the star. She's better known now as Emma Thompson's mother. The play was hilarious, the theatre was packed, and it was a very entertaining evening. We took a London cab home after the show ended. I found out later that the Savoy theatre was the home of Gilbert and Sullivan during their heyday in the 1890s, and it was the venue where they debuted The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, and H.M.S. Pinafore, among other operettas.

I still have the show program somewhere (but I can't locate it). The plot concerned a play and the program contained the bios for the real actors as well as the fictitious information for the play within a play, called Nothing On. The show opened with char-woman Dotty eating sardines and talking on the phone. A man walked down the aisle not far from us and shouted at her from the house floor. It was a nice reveal - he was an actor as well, the director of Nothing On. Comedic chaos ensued. It's too bad the movie version with Carol Burnett bombed. The production was perfect for the theater. The KU theater department staged it in the late 80s. David Rees Snell, a co-worker at Audio Reader, and now better known as Emma Thompson's mother on The Shield, played Frederick Dallas. Fred came across as a vapid man of British manners in the English production, but that's not a comic type in the United States, so Snell played it to emphasize his indecisiveness and insecurity. Here ends my belated review.

It's coincidental that both the Savoy theatre and Windsor Castle suffered devastating fires in the years since I visited the U.K. In contrast, Phyllida Law's American film career never caught fire, though I don't know if she cared.

1 comment:

Steven said...

I'd like to bring that boxing-models themed restaurant to Prairie Village. Perhaps it could go where Tippins used to be.