Gazing at The National

I adore the National Theatre.  There’s always something exciting going on: plays, photography exhibitions, jazz in the foyer.  For me it represents the range of possibilities of creative endeavour.  Every time I walk in or even just see it from across the river I feel more awake, like something is about to begin.  I often find myself wishing I could dwell somewhere inside its walls, hidden away in secret passages like the Phantom, flitting here and there through unmarked doorways.

It’s a funny space, the National.  From the outside its great concrete bulk reminds me of the wicked witch of the West’s castle.  Appropriate on Monday night when I thought I was melting.  I was there to review The Hush at The Shed, their pop-up summer space.

The Shed sits in the courtyard between the National and Waterloo bridge.  It’s a very impressive little black box setup, but I was disappointed in one way: last year the pop-up space was open to the outdoors.  You could come and go as you pleased, there was always something on and it was free, open to all, and usually something fun and physical.  This year they’ve shut it up again, made it an exclusive little club.  And I think that’s sad.  (Though the reality is that SOMEONE has to pay for all that free theatre, and I wonder if last year’s openness was sponsored with ‘London 2012’ money.)

Before the show Monday I found myself returning to a question that’s been worrying at me for a long time: what the hell is Olivier’s statue DOING?  Playing Hamlet, he stands facing the lobby doors, one foot before the other, cape billowing behind, making a portentous face and holding his sword up before him.  Holding the BLADE of his sword.

My friend and I walked by one way under the sweltering sun.  “Can’t be comfortable, that.”

“That’s like Swords 101, surely.”

We ate at Wahaca.  We came back again.  “Nope, I thought maybe he was actually wearing a gauntlet and we just didn’t notice.  But no.”

“Might explain the look on his face.  Olivier, you’re a tit!”

“Are you going to say that in your review?”

“No.  But I’ll probably post something funny about it on Twitter.”