General, Travel

London: Day 3

London is a pretty incredible city that has things to do in all weather. It was a good job really, as the rain from Sunday had morphed into driving rain when we woke up on Monday. Thankfully, we had a great day planned, one that we had been looking forward to a year, so the rain wasn’t quite so much of a hardship. The whole point of this London trip was to see Hamilton, and after a nervous time waiting for the theatre to be finished and the previews to be rearranged, we knew that the time was finally here.

Before we could set off for our 5th show in 3 days, we had plans in the city. Yes, we had already done a lot of touristy stuff, but that all centred around Leicester Square and the West End, so today was a day for going further a field. We had a lie in, which made a nice change of pace for the morning, and enjoyed the leftover dominos pizza that we had saved for the night before. Years ago when I visited London with my family, we had arranged a tour through our MP to see the Palace of Westminster, so Emma and I decided to arrange a tour too.

Before we could get to the tour, we battled the rain and the wind to get to the Tube. We had done our best to avoid the Tube, not because we don’t like it, but because we prefer to walk if we can and it costs less, but the rain dictated that a walk along the Embankment or through Trafalgar square just wasn’t practical. So instead we got the tube to Westminster and had a look at Westminster Abbey and the surrounding buildings before setting off for the Palace.

The Palace of Westminster feature the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as some stunning robing rooms, architecture, and paintings. The tour is a fascinating look at the changing face of the British Parliamentary system. Our host and tour guide was a wealth of knowledge and gave us an informative tour of the Palace. We had a relatively late slot, so only just made it into the House of Lords before it was prepared for the day. The House of Commons was being prepared for a meeting of MPs to discuss Theresa May’s jaunt to Brussels, so we were hurried through the No Chamber and house relatively quickly too.

The tour really highlighted some of the quirks and the brilliance of being a Brit. I like the fact that we still have a system that requires our elected MPs to physically walk through a chamber and be counted when it comes to an official vote. It really highlights the importance of actually putting the money where you mouth is. The slightly absurd system of black rod knocking on the House of Commons door when parliament is opened is a little ridiculous, but, it’s ours, and the door is not repaired from the knocking. The Queen’s robing room is spectacularly guilted, and the throne in the House of Lords is so grand. It’s so British. I also managed to slip off long enough to send a post card to my Gran from the post office in the Palace itself – how cool is that.

After the Palace, we wandered back out into the rain, out and over the bridge (stupidly) and then to the tube to introduce Emma to Harrod’s. We stopped for a moment to grab a Pret, and then I took Emma through the expensive bags and jewellery to the food hall. The best bit about Harrod’s is unquestionably the huge food hall full of over priced but ridiculously nice food. I was there to buy my Gran a Christmas present, but also to take in the sights and the smells. Emma seemed impressed, and if it hadn’t been for the madness and the bumping, I think we would have stayed there longer. Once we got the obligatory photos of the outside lights, we set off for oxford Street. Partly this was the buy Emma a hat, partly to buy her an umbrella, and partly so I could take more pictures of the lights. Of course, sod’s law said that as soon as we bought the umbrella, we saw no more rain over the trip.

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Once we got back to the hotel, we were in full on Hamilton mode. We both did a little blogging, but it was all about getting ready for the theatre. Hamilton was the main reason for the trip, so we were beyond excited. I had packed a dress for the occasion and everything! The paperless tickets situation made it imperative that I had everything I needed for us to get through the door, so I checked 5 or 6 times that I had my ID and my card,  as well as the email confirming our tickets. We walked through Seven Dials all lit up for Christmas, to Leicester square, where we settled down for another Chipotle. Yes, we have an addiction, but it is quick, healthy, and value for money, so it made sense to grab some before boarding the tube and heading to the theatre.

I’ve never really heard of the Victoria Palace theatre, it’s not in the traditional West End as is round the back of Buckingham Palace by Victoria Station. It was restored prior to the opening of Hamilton in London, and it looked magnificent. Once inside, you could still see there were bits that needed doing, but the outside and the auditorium were incredible. We took the obligatory pictures, and joined the queue. The paperless entry turned out to be effortless and we joined the merch queue (to buy a hoodie, sorry not sorry). OK, so the eating was a little cramped, and by the end of the night the leg room left dents in my knees, but who cares, we were in the room where is happened.

I don’t know if I know the words to articulate just how good Hamilton was. From the starting notes,  the crowd was engaged and whooping, goosebumps were starting, and no-one had actually sung. The cast and ensemble were mind-blowingly good, something you realised before the end of the first song (at the end, there was such a deafening round of applause that you wondered where the crowd could go to by the end). Everyone was so talented, and the production was of such high quality that I can’t quite believe we went and saw a preview.

The whole set was a very simple set up. There was a wall backdrop with some wooden framework staging all around the edge. In the centre there was a circle that had a circle border around it. This created two moving components in the centre that could spin at different rates or in opposite directions. I can’t even imagine how long it took to learn the staging, the movements, and then make it look as polished as it did. The ensemble, and occasionally the cast carried important props on and off and built the relevant settings when required, but the beauty of the show was often in it’s simplicity and the words of the songs telling the story itself.

The cast and ensemble, as mentioned were incredible. I literally had heard of one person, in vague passing, that was in the show, so I was especially blown away by the quality given these were all new to me. I think they’re all made for life now. The ensemble, so much more notable as they have their own hairstyles and make up (something I haven’t really seen in any other show). Their dancing, movement, and occasionally singing was amazing. They came together brilliantly to create a stunning show.

The main cast were just, well, insane. Jameal Westman, London’s Alexander Hamilton, has one of the most inspiring CV’s that I’ve ever seen. It only has a few items on it, and definitely doesn’t reflect the talent and stage presence that he has. The other main characters, Aaron Burr and George Washington (played by the talented Giles Terrera and Obioma Ugoala) were brilliant story tellers, and really showcased the story telling element of the show. As good as these characters, and the lovely Schuyler sister were, Jason Pennycooke really stole the show as LaFayette/Jefferson. He had the swagger and the spoken speed to master both roles.

I really don’t know what I can say other do what you can to get a ticket and go along yourself. It’s worth every penny, and then some. I loved the show, and found that it was completely different to other shows I have seen. The standing ovation at the end was instant and deafening, and the applause throughout after, and sometimes during, songs was more emphatic than I have ever heard. I had high expectations, and it exceeded all of them.

We got the tube back to the hotel with our swag bags and smiles, and wondered back through Seven Dials. It just looks so pretty all lit up. We then spent some of the evening going through how amazing it was to see it live, and debating whether it would be possible to try and get more tickets down the line. What a night!

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