Someone said to me, when I posted my books list, ‘oh, is this a series?’ And I said, ‘Mmm, I suppose, there’s probably going to be three…’ And this is number three - the list of Things What I Saw Live. (Part way through I realised that it hadn’t actually occurred to me to do a music list, which is interesting. But basically while I listen to music a lot, and I love it, I’m not and have never been particularly invested in new music. I’m pretty happy trundling along after the crowd and after the recommendations of several friends of mine who are very invested and engaged in music, and that’s just fine - and while a few things ease into my core playlist every year, the fundamentals remain year on year. So there won’t be a music list, although I did love the new David Bowie and the new Laura Marling. Just FYI.)
And after that diversion… here’s the Live Things list.
Things that were Fab
Onegin at the Royal Opera House (the ballet, not the opera). I spent a lot of time at the Royal Ballet this year, and that’s how I like it. I had booked tickets to see Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg dance as Tatiana and Onegin, for they are my favourite partnership - but he was injured, and she was partnered by Jason Reilly. And it was wonderful. I still wish I could have seen Kobborg, if only because both Cojocaru and Kobborg left the Royal Ballet this year, and this would have been the last time I saw them (if I could have been in two places at once, I would have sold a limb to get a ticket see their farewell performance, but I couldn’t), but Reilly really got at the dark heart of Onegin, and she was just perfectly heartbreaking in making her choice in the the finale.
Hansel and Gretel at the Royal Opera House. Liam Scarlett’s first full length ballet. @rubbishgroupie and I got very lucky in picking up some late tickets for this, and then being moved seats in the Linbury for a great view. This was deeply deeply creepy and effective, and I’m so glad I wasn’t walking home at night alone after watching it. It’s on again in January - if you can get to it, I recommend it.
Ashton Triple Bill at the Royal Opera House. Specifically, Tamara Rojo’s final performance at Covent Garden in Marguerite and Armand. I ended up with ridiculous seats, and the chance to see Rojo and Polunin dance (yeah, it’s all that), and a tears in the eyes farewell to the prima ballerina.
Merrily We Roll Along at the Pinter. So good I saw it twice, and then bought the digital download. I do love me some Sondheim, and this was just a heartbreaking joy from first to last (or from last to first). When you’re sitting there in the theatre, and you’re the age that Frank, Mary and Charlie are half-way through, where it all goes wrong, it kind of hits around the mid-riff, and you end up leaving vowing, ‘I will not be like Frank, I will not be like Frank’ (and singing Our Time in your head all week). The filmed version doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of the theatre (even though you can see all the faces), but it’s well worth watching anyway.
Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. So. Much. Fun. Yes, the theatre acoustics were pretty terrible, but that doesn’t matter, because the songs are so good. And the set. And the cast. And the way of telling Matilda as an escape story. I have a dream of assembling a large chorus of people to sing Naughty Children at Michael Gove. It would be so right. It’s still on, and if you’re one of the five people who haven’t seen it, you should go.
Blue Stockings at the Globe. Recommended to me by @knives_chau, and I’m so glad I acted on it. It was my first trip to the Globe, and I enjoyed it a lot, and this packed a punch for me. I think I would have stood and not noticed the pain at points.
Laura Marling at York Hall Somehow in the last five years, Laura Marling became one of my favourite artists. I have never been disappointed by her, which is impressive, as I think she’s released about an album a year in that time. This tour was just her and a couple of guitars on a stage, and she’s utterly charming while singing her beautiful songs. It absolutely has to be a small and intimate venue, so that you can feel like she’s chatting to you in the tuning-up moments, and York Hall was lovely for it.
Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall. Oh yeah. You can be sitting right at the very back of the very top of the Royal Albert Hall, and barely tell that that’s Bob Dylan (except for the hair and the spats) and this would still be a show to remember. Jonathan Freedland tweeted that Dylan was the least needy performer he thought he’d seen - which is very true. Dylan doesn’t need the love of the crowd, which makes it a bit odd for a crowd who are generally used to being needed by musicians, because, wait, this is just about the music and not the musician - with this musician? When did that happen? But that makes the distance between you and the stage matter even less, in a way. Anyway, Dylan was ace, and played Tangled Up in Blue, All Along the Watchtower and Things Have Changed, which made me very happy, and played them in a way that made them fresh all over again.
Things that were Not So Fab
Secret Cinema does Brazil. Sad but true. Secret Cinema’s The Third Man has long been a highlight of my time in London, so it was disappointing that Brazil didn’t quite match it. The setting and surrounding drama were really, really good, but then there was nowhere really to watch the film properly, or any announcement of when it was starting. And while the setting is why you pay so much for Secret Cinema, you do also want to watch the film as well. It'll take some very good reviews of whatever they do next to get me to shell out that much again.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal It didn’t even come with a golden ticket. It wasn’t so much that Charlie was bad, or even that it wasn’t as good as Matilda, it just never quite took off until the very final moment, when the Elevator takes to the air, and Wonka starts singing Imagination, which is the only song retained from the film - which is just too late. The new songs just aren’t as good, and you spend your time wishing you were watching the movie on a big screen instead.