There are a good many performance spaces in London which have history of distinction going back decades. And I have been to two of them in the last 24 hours.
Last night it was the Almeida. It was founded by our friend and colleague Pierre Audi who has been director of the Netherlands Opera since 1988. The direction of the Almeida was then taken over by Ian McDiamid, the great Scottish actor whom we saw as Timon of Athens in Chicago in the spring of 2012, and Jonathan Kent, a distinguished South African actor and director who has done wonderful work in opera.
Since 2002 the Almeida has been directed by Michael Attenborough.
This was an evening of theatrical pleasure as well as, for me, an introduction to a poet, Edward Thomas, unknown to me. And there was a lovely portrayal of his friend and inspiration, the great American poet Robert Frost, by Shaun Dooley. Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre, and known to our American opera friends for his work at the Metropolitan Opera, directed. This was good stuff.........
And this afternoon there was something completely different and somewhat bizarre though extremely enjoyable - a revival of a real period piece, Julian Slade's Salad Days, at the Riverside Studios. We were thrown back to the 1950s - eight years after the end of the Second World War. Here was a charming form of escapism from what I remember as a child as being a period of some post-war deprivation, rationing of food and clothes, and decidedly unglamorous life. The whole affair was accomplished in a sweetly innocent fashion by a cast that somehow also managed to reproduce the amazing RP accents of the English upper middle classes of the period.......that must have been hard work given the ubiquitous descent into the flat vowels of late 20th century English. Rather wonderful really - however don't expect a profound life changing experience. But you may enjoy it - I did!
In 1954 when it opened in London the reviewer in The Guardian wrote: "There is no pointed satire, only a passable line of wit, but the effect is one of genuine high spirits and those who liked it on Thursday were ready to call it the gayest piece of entertainment since The Mikado. Others were heard to compare it to a children's party, meaning that they found the fun jejune, 'undergraduate,' and limited."