West Side Stories

When Tom returns during the interval of West Side Story and hands me a small frozen tub, I know before he says anything that we’re of the same mind; it’s ‘interesting ice cream’ time. The phrase was coined when Rose was (reluctantly) taking French horn lessons and her music teacher was in the band supporting an am dram production of Ruddigore. As Tom’s a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan we gamely decided to go, but were advised by Rose’s teacher to ‘buy an interesting ice cream.’ Boy, did we need it! Ruddigore? It was certainly ruddy awful.

It’s not that this performance of Bernstein’s classic musical at the Millennium Centre is awful, in fact it’s had great reviews, but it feels rather lacklustre, especially after our last trip here which was to see the truly extraordinary Matthew Bourne production of Sleeping Beauty. Tonight, though, there are some dodgy accents in both gangs; the Jets have lots of trouble in ‘the pork’ and some of the Sharks sound more valleys than Puerto Rican. There are pregnant pauses which make me squirm, the choreography is flat –all the focus is on the leads with everyone else standing around watching – and most of all there’s a distinct lack of menace from the two gangs.

The last time I saw West Side Story was in Wandsworth Prison with my dear friend, Jill. Not at Her Majesty’s pleasure, of course, but because Jill’s sister, was involved at that time with the Pimlico Opera, the touring company working with the prisoners to stage the production. I can tell you that the smell of prison and all the security measures certainly creates a sense of anticipation, apprehension even, but the performance itself – imagine, if you will, how the Officer Krupke number played out in that setting – was unforgettable. Whilst I’m on the subject, I can also claim to have been in prison with Penelope Keith when she was High Sheriff of Surrey and I was trying to Make A Difference. Isn’t it strange where life sometimes takes you?

Meanwhile, back at the Millennium Centre, the band, at least, is in great form and there are plenty of good tunes. We have a thoroughly enjoyable evening, all thanks to a very generous gift from Lily, Rose and our sons-in-law.  To round it off, we finish with a short stay with Lily and Russ. All in all, it feels like a proper break.

And finally…
After writing about exam results last week, my niece did brilliantly in her GCSEs - huge congratulations to her. As for me, I’m really enjoying my ‘Understanding Numbers’ MOOC – what’s more, those numbers are even beginning to make sense!


Laura E. James said…
I've played volleyball in a prison. That particular week, I was Captain, and as encouragement to my team, I said, 'Come on guys, we don't want to go home yet.'
A reply from the other side of the net came: 'We do.'
I wasn't asked to captain again ...
Pondside said…
We have code phrases like your 'interesting ice cream' - they get a couple through some questionable experiences!
So, Chris, you spent time in prison - that made me smile. One of the prisons in which I work stages plays every year and they are always well-done and well-received.
How is the Little Family on the Prairie doing?
Frances said…
Hello Chris, from what once upon a time was the setting for West Side Story. Of course, you already know that our glam and fabulous Lincoln Center was built on land that earlier was the land of the Jets.

Hurray for interesting ice cream!

Another hurray for family members' generosity.

If Tom could sit through that production of WSS, I am guessing that he's recovering from that off the ladder experience. Good news.

My aging memory makes me wonder now if I told you about enjoying Follow a Star? Well, I did enjoy it, and so wish that some day your Little Spitmarsh novels might translate to a screenplay. I can see it all in the pages of your books...wouldn't it be grand to see these characters on a screen?

Flowerpot said…
What a shame Chris - I saw it in Plymouth and it was terrific - they must have had a change of cast.
Chris Stovell said…
Good one, Laura. Do you think any other Chocliteers have been to prison?

I have, Pondside, and on one occasion it was when my dad was very close to the end of his life, I found myself hoping that I wouldn't have to say that he died while I was in prison! I will email you re the Little Family but it's good news!

I did think of you, Francis - we even exchanged comments about you living in what was once the setting! Thank you - Tom's leg is looking very much better now, which is quite a relief. I think he had a very lucky escape.

And thank you for being so kind about Follow A Star (and for your review - much appreciated). I would love to see Little Spitmarsh on screen because it's special to me, as much as anything, and it's very pleasing when it becomes special to readers too.

My friend, Jill, loved the version she saw too, Sue. I guess that it must be hard for a touring production to maintain the same energy levels for every performance - and, of course, audiences vary too.

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