My Mad, Day-Long Trip to London

I finished my final term of lectures at university last Friday!! images

So surreal. Can’t believe how the time has flown!! Spent the final week at a Biology Undergraduate Conference, with each of us presenting our research that we’ve done during third year with an 8 minute talk. I was terrified, but fortunately mine was on the Monday morning, so I could relax quite early on. Anyway, having arranged with my parents that they would drive down on the Sunday, stay over Sunday night, and then drive me and my stuff home on the Monday (due to the fact that I needed to bring a crapload of work home and the trains were still broken in and out of Cornwall), I decided on the Monday night/Tuesday that I wanted to go to London on Saturday. Yes. Crazy, I know, considering I live 6 hours from London by train when at uni, and I needed to be home by Sunday afternoon to meet my parents.

Anyway, this trip had been arranged for a while, with The Gatiss Guild, Mark Gatiss’ fan club. Mark’s lovely husband Ian Hallard was in a play, King Lear, at a little theatre in Marylebone called The Cockpit, and it was closing on Saturday 29th March – so it was my last chance to go. Due to the size of the production, meeting the actors after the play was pretty much a given, particularly as they were planning to go to the matinee performance, after which the actors would have to hang around for the evening performance, and I had been a fan of Ian for a while. Anyway, the Guild had a spare room at the hostel, and the theatre wasn’t that dear…so having previously written to Ian the week before, lamenting not being able to go, I sort of shoehorned the trip in. I didn’t really have the time nor the money, but I didn’t care! (totally can save the money next term…who needs to eat…right?)

So I got the 6.45am train out of Cornwall on the Saturday (I know. Yikes.). 3 trains and a bus later, I got to Paddington at 12.37pm, and met the rest of the Guild at the Pizza Express on Baker Street, at which point I promptly spilt lemonade all over Nicola, and made a general tit of myself. Great start, Soph.

We went off to the play, which started at 2.15pm, being the matinee, and can I just say – wow! It seemed like an odd time to be  putting on a production of King Lear, what with it being on at the National, and it was a small cast. David Ryall was playing the title role, and having undergone chemotherapy during rehearsals, which had severely affected his memory, he was on book (performing with a script), but nonetheless I thought he was good in the role. Of course, I was biased as, being a fan of Ian’s, I was looking forward to his scenes the most, and enjoyed them as much as I expected – Ian is an excellent actor (see here for details) and didn’t disappoint in his role as Duke of Cornwall (apt, considering I had travelled all the way from Cornwall to see it).

The scene just before the interval was particularly shocking (given that King Lear was first performed in 1606 then I don’t think “spoilers” really counts, but if you don’t want to know details of the story, skip to the next paragraph) – it saw Ian’s character firstly gouging out the eyes of the Duke of Gloucester (and if you have seen the theatre, which consists of a floor-level stage, surrounded by banked seating on all four sides, you will understand that for anyone sitting on the first or second rows, as we were, you were immensely close to the action, and the fake blood was thrown around with abandon, making the scene all the more shocking). Cornwall then died a dramatic death, dropping to the floor dead just as the lights went down. Which meant he took no part in the second half, sadly…

…however I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the cast, and in particular, this production’s Edgar (who definitely made up for the general lack of Ian’s Cornwall in the second half).

Dominic Kelly played Edgar/Poor Tom. I had been told by a friend who had seen it a couple of weeks beforehand that he was very good in the role, but I was impressed (she says, like an expert. I’m a scientist, not a theatre critic…), even going in with reasonable expectations after that review. He was quite brilliant to watch. He switched with apparent ease between Irish and English accents, between Poor Tom and Edgar. He seemed unafraid of physicality, spending the majority of the play in little more than a loin cloth, and covered in dirt and mud and grime, and threw himself about the stage, before appearing back in the guise of Edgar at the end of the play, his poise and elegance restored.

I do feel a little mean for picking out these two actors, for, as wonderful as they were, everyone in the play was really great in their roles. At the end of this I’ll attach the cast list from the programme and you can check everyone out at your leisure, should you so wish.

After the excitement of the play, we were all a bit hyped up, and decided to calm down in the theatre’s bar with a nice cup of tea. It was a bit surreal as at some points it was difficult to tell actor from civilian – most, if not all, of the actors were remaining at the theatre because of the evening performance at 7.15pm, and so some were hanging out in the bar, bustling through, some leaving the theatre to make phone calls and then coming back in…it was quite odd. First of all Dominic came past. One of the people we were with, Aimee, had been the previous week and had met Dominic, so he stopped to say hello to her, before continuing on his way. And then Ian came to see us.

Two of our group had missed the start of the play due to hurriedly getting some Cornish biscuits for Ian from a local shop. I don’t know why I didn’t think to get some from actual Cornwall, in hindsight, it could have been lovely. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. So they had some rather apt presents for him.

I would have liked to have said hello a little better, but I couldn’t speak at that point and was shaking quite hard, more than a little starstruck. Nevertheless, Holly, one of the Guild mods, got him to sign her ticket, and he said hello to us all and thanked us for coming to see him, and was generally lovely. They say never meet your idols, but he was friendly and kind, despite the fact that he must have been tired and then had to go backstage and hype himself to perform it all over again (fortunately he had only one performance left, so that must have helped his mood), and gracious towards us afterwards on twitter.

After he returned backstage, we stayed a little longer, as Holly was on crutches and we were all a bit tired and wrung out (some of us, at least – early start!!). Dominic came back out, and Aimee got him to come over and say hello to everyone. I hope he was pleased to see us, we were all pleased to say hello to him, and he too was delightfully friendly and lovely (and perfectly clean after being covered in such a mess of dirt for so much of the play).

After leaving the theatre, we sadly had to say goodbye to some of the group members (Aimee and Laura) and the rest of us temporarily split up, with some going to seek out somewhere to eat that night, and the rest of us taking bags and going to check into the hostel (which was rather out of the way but very cheap). We thought we’d get the tube – big mistake. Firstly we managed to split up in the tube station, Waterloo, I think, we managed to break off into two pairs, and couldn’t find each other for about five minutes. Then, when we finally found each other and got on the correct tube train, it was about a twenty minute walk from the nearest tube station (we had not realised this), and that was without Holly on crutches. Fortunately there was a bus stop just outside the hostel, from which left a bus which went into town – we got on that after we’d dumped our bags, and got off at Waterloo Station, getting the tube from there into town. At which point we promptly got lost and couldn’t find the others. We ended up on Shaftesbury Avenue, which was rammed with people, it being Saturday night, but eventually we found them, and spent a fun evening talking about our shared loves, Mark and Ian, and everything else, over a few drinks. And also generally dying over the pictures Dominic posted on instagram that evening, including ones of Ian (x x) (all the pictures he posted of the cast were great, of course, but hey, it was a meet up of the Gatiss Guild, so what can you expect……).

Getting back to the hostel was…interesting. We got off the tube at  London Bridge station, which, as it turns out, is right underneath the Shard (which is huge!!!)

1723782_1472387319645021_303031322_nAnyway, as I said, we got off at London Bridge,  which won out over Waterloo due to the lack of steps for Holly, but the road outside the station with the bus stop we needed to get a bus from was shut, so we wandered up and down the road, and in and out of the bus station several times (which sounds like nothing, but considering we were all knackered, had no idea how to get back, and had one person on crutches and one with several stonking blisters (don’t wear heels for 18 hours in London)…). Eventually, a clever app on Holly’s phone told us to get the tube to Bermondsey, one stop away, and from there we could get a bus to just outside the hostel. By the time all this was sorted out and we finally reached the hostel, it was getting on for 1am, and taking into account the fact that we managed to pick the weekend on which the clocks change, it was gone 2am before we were all in bed. A very late night. But fun.

All this was followed by a rather early morning, a bizarre trek across London on the bus, which was made doubly complicated by the tube line we needed being shut for maintenance, and then a 20 minute tube journey up to Paddington, saying goodbye to everyone (which was very sad), and finding the right train back to Cornwall.

Despite the fact that I had travelled for 6 hours to meet up with people I had previously only known via twitter, it turned out that one of the girls was in fact from Cornwall, from a place two stops before mine on the mainline, and we were actually both getting the same train back. I found her very shortly after getting on the train. It was lovely to have a travel companion. I am at uni 6 hours away from home, and so regularly make 6 hour and more train journeys alone – it made a nice change to have a friend.

And so followed 2 and a half hours on a train, then just over an hour on a hot bus with air con that was supremely ineffective, followed by a further train. Blanket (the nickname of the girl I was travelling with – no, I don’t know why) got off at her stop, and I continued on with my book (which was this, rather appropriately), happily managing to finish it before I arrived at Truro (I had had it on the go for a couple of weeks, as uni kept getting in the way of reading time. I know. How dare it.).

Now, frustratingly, I was due to have a 45-minute wait at Truro before I could get the 15 minute train back to the branchline station in my village. However, my parents were driving down at the same time as I was on the train. We were in some kind of bizarre race all the way. They caught us massively during the bus replacement journey, and over took us while we were waiting at Plymouth (there was a problem with a train door so we were delayed leaving), and in fact they arrived at Truro 20 minutes before I did, which was nice as I could meet them there and go with them straight to the Premier Inn they were staying at rather than hang around on the cold platform for 40 minutes.

And thus ended my epic weekend of travelling. Unless you count the 6 hour drive back home the next day. My mileometer was pushing 850 miles by the time we got home at about 5pm on Monday evening!!!

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