Yesterday afternoon, my friend Alex and I nipped down the M1 shedding crumbs as we went, eating our car picnic and panicking about missing the start of our play. We were off to see A Pacifist’s Guide To The War on Cancer at the National Theatre. I had no idea what to expect, but Alex is a big fan of Bryony Kimmings who wrote the show and I trust his taste, and we always have great adventures, so he got the tickets and I got the picnic and the wheels and off we went.
We needn’t have worried about making it on time. The traffic wasn’t too awful and we found a parking space exactly where I wanted one, and we were on the tube by ten past five. It was obviously meant to be.
It was wonderful to be back in London again. God, I love that city so much. I’ve said it before, but I never, ever feel anywhere like as much at home as I do when I’m pounding the dirty streets of that there London. Last night it was particularly beautiful. It was so cold there was no cloud cover and everything was super defined against the blackness of the sky and the skirl of the river. We got off at Embankment and walked across the bridge to soak up the full glories of the skyline.
We had time to get coffee and hang out at the BFI, which is a great venue with good food and endless potential for people spotting. We wandered down to the food market at the back of the Royal Festival Hall and went into an excellent gallery/gift shop where we decided we wanted everything and bought nothing and got the giggles when someone else got the giggles because the door to the stock room sounded like it was farting whenever it closed. We also did quite a lot of singing to Madonna thanks to a fantastic shop playlist. It was almost a shame when we had to actually go to the theatre we were having so much fun in the shop.
The play was, well, extremely strange. I am not a huge fan of musicals it is fair to say, in fact we had discussed this earlier in the evening and then I think Alex was slightly mortified when it turned out to be a pacifist’s guide to the war on cancer largely through the medium of song. Despite my aversion, it kind of mostly worked. I think it was because it was so very weird that the songs were the least of it. There were giant inflatables that made the set look a bit like a very macabre version of In The Night Garden at times. There were people dressed as cancer cells. There was pretty much everything including the kitchen sink.
I have to say that the last twenty minutes of the play absolutely redeemed it for me. Before that I would have said it was entertaining and interesting and a little bit thought provoking, but it didn’t really do it for me, and then, in those last twenty minutes, everything changed. It suddenly made sense. It was pretty devastating and very powerful, and if you’re feeling a bit raw or fragile, I really would caution you to think twice about going, and if you decide to go, you will certainly need tissues. I won’t spoil it, but it was brave and clever and right. You should go.
And just as we were heading to the bar afterwards to stiffen our resolve and recover from the trauma, Alex realised he had lost his wallet. It was our second moment of high drama in ten minutes. Luckily it was followed by a moment of sheer exuberance when we retraced our steps to the BFI and found someone had handed it in to the security office, complete with everything that was originally in it.
Thank God for a happy ending.