Monday, 30 November 2009

Eine kleine nacht spiel, part one: the where of it

A father and (younger) son outing to a mother-and-daughter evening: Mrs Klein, a play, at the Almeida Theatre in Islington. Oddly, although I go to the theatre quite a bit, I’d never been to the Almeida. Which, given its reputation, is even odder.

A regular — an enthusiastic regular — had described it to me as ‘a jewel’. He was right, of course. It’s a Lottery theatre, one of that turn-of-the-century generation of rebuilds funded by channelling the hapless dreams of the poor into bricks-and-brushed-steel arenas for dreams of the rich. From Lottery tickets to theatre tickets.

A century or so ago, Frank Matcham was responsible for creating something like two hundred theatres of a distinct type in Britain. (Hackney Empire, London Palladium, Buxton Opera House etc etc.) I reckon that, a hundred years from now, the Lottery generation of theatres — though not as numerous — will be seen similarly, through a prism of stylistic similarity.

With its amused joining of original building and modernist additions, the Almeida is happily typical of the type. Concrete access ramp meets classical columns — with bar and education facility. It also had the best-dressed and most attractive looking audience I’ve ever seen at the theatre. You really felt as if you were out for a night with Islington society.

First, I wrote ‘the great and the good’, then I typed it out. Not just, embarrassedly, because it was a lazy cliché. But because any notion of there being such an entity as ‘the great and the good’ could surely not survive the merest brush with Freudian thought, let alone an evening round the Kleins.

PS1 This is the first of five blogs about Mrs Klein and her two daughters, one a day for the rest of the week — kind of like a week of analysis.

Next up
I get to the play — and the two daughters

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