As a retirement present for Marea, we were both given tickets to Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue with a back stage tour from the sister of Marea's ex-colleague who works there in stage management.
We decided to stay at the Bloomsbury Park Hotel (just round the corner from the British Museum) without realising that Sir John Barbirolli was born there.
We took a cab down to Shaftesbury Avenue to meet Vanessa and, arriving early, we had a drink and a wander round. For once, this Summer, the weather was good, warm and sunny.
About 5pm, we went in the stage door and into the bowels of the theatre.
Photos onstage are difficult with much of the lighting turned off, but we got a chance to see, and travel on, the revolve wich is so much a feature of the show.
The auditorium is small and intimate and the stage is very tight with no real wings and little depth. I've been useed to the Haymarket, Leicester where I was a Director for about 20 years. Being a new, modern theatre, it had very large spaces to rear and side of the main stage.
Costumes for quick changes, props and even 'dead' soldiers from the barricade scene are fitted in as best they can.
A tiny part of wardrobe
Marea on stage
One thing I do remember very well is the 'Silence' sign - a feature of every theatre I've ever been in.
After the tour, we went for a stroll around thw Wardour Stree area (Chinatown). Something I always enjoy.
Of course, there are no photos during the show but you can take it from me, it's spectacular. If you get a chance anywhere in the world, go to see it.
The next morning, we stowed our baggage at the hotel and went off to Regent Street to look at the shops. Regents Street is hung with flags ready for the Olympics and it looked great in the warm sunshine.
Of course, we visited Liberty, spiritual home of the Arts & Crafts movement (at least the commercial arm). We didn't buy anything but just enjoyed wandering around and looking.
After this, we went on to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition...
One's not allowed to take pictures in the RA but I didn't think a single general shot would infringe anyone's intellectual property rights.
We bought a picture by Frederick Cuming RA and are now suffering from buyers' remorse (not really - we could have put the money into an ISA or other investment and watched it diminish. We think a picture by a Royal Academician will only appreciate and we have the joy of living with it.) The picture is called 'Studio Moonlight' and I'll put a photo up when it arrives following the closure of the exhibition.
A quick drink in the courtyard and then off to the station via the hotel to pick up our case and off home.