Tuesday, August 30, 2011

London's Comedy Theatre

London’s Comedy Theatre, which opened in 1881—five days after the opening of the famed Savoy Theatre.

The exterior architecture is entirely unremarkable if not undistinguished.

The auditorium is below street level—one proceeds down two steep flights of stairs to reach the stalls. The balcony is at street level. Theatergoers learn that the auditorium is underground only upon entering the theater—no mention of this fact is to be found on the theater’s website.

Although the building has been remodeled at least three times, the auditorium remains as it was in 1881. The auditorium is of no historic or artistic interest. In fact, it may be the least distinguished auditorium among all London theaters.

Like most London theaters, ventilation at the Comedy Theatre is very poor. My brother and I had attended performances at the Comedy Theatre three times prior to this month’s “Betrayal”—we had seen “Journey’s End”, “The Old Masters” and “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?” at the Comedy Theatre—and we had always noticed how poor (and noisy) was the ventilation.

In fact, during the first act of “The Old Masters” performance we had attended, the ventilation had stopped working entirely. Members of the audience began audibly to complain. The buzz from the crowd became so loud that my brother and I feared that Edward Fox and Peter Bowles would stop the performance.

At the intermission, my brother and I asked an usher to inform the house manager of the ventilation woes—but we did so only after observing that no other theater patrons had bothered to stop and have a word with any of the ushers as the patrons made their ways to the crush bars at intermission.

The usher we addressed summoned a well-dressed woman sporting a rhinestone in her pierced nose, and we told the well-dressed woman with a rhinestone in her nose that the ventilation had stopped working, as surely she must already know. She told us that no one had informed her of any ventilation problem—but she checked, and was able to confirm that indeed the ventilation had ceased working. Whatever measures were required to address the situation were taken, because the ventilation was operating by the time the second act was ready to begin. We—and the rest of the patrons—were able to breathe during the second half of “The Old Masters”.

Directly across the street from the Comedy Theatre is a profoundly inexpensive restaurant my brother and I discovered in 2002. It may be London’s least expensive restaurant in which the food is entirely edible. My brother and I used to eat at the restaurant almost every time we attended West End or Covent Garden performances.

Four years ago, my brother and I introduced my parents and Josh to the restaurant one evening—and they found it completely unobjectionable. In fact, they rather liked the place: homey atmosphere; simple, basic food, well-cooked; tables tightly packed together, almost forcing patrons to talk to persons at adjoining tables throughout the meal.

We returned to the restaurant this year, eating dinner there immediately before seeing “Betrayal” across the street.

Everyone was happy to go back. The food was as good and as inexpensive as ever.

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