Sunday, 4 August 2013

Heat and Fences

Last Thursday was the hottest day of the year. It was also the day that Daughter and I decided to meet in London for lunch and a theatre matinee to see Fences at The Duchess Theatre. We are truly mistresses of timing.


We rendezvoused in a sauna-like Covent Garden determined not to let the heat spoil our day. Lunch was a sweltering affair with much wafting of fans and sipping of ice cold drinks. We feared that such a small theatre as The Duchess couldn’t possibly be air-conditioned. Thankfully we were wrong. The theatre was indeed tiny but it was also beautifully cool. The production was amazing but more of that below. This part is about being hot.

We emerged from The Duchess into a blast of heat and went in search of freshly squeezed fruit smoothies, idling our time through the steam of London’s rush hour. We had plenty of time before my train left for Leicester, but as we approached Covent Garden Tube Station the shutters came down to shouts of “Fire!” and “Evacuate the station!”

Traffic was at a standstill as two fire engines, their sirens blasting, edged their way past us to what we later discovered was a fire on one of the trains. We had no choice but to head for the Leicester Square Tube where a mass of sweaty bodies were also searching for alternative routes to the closed Piccadilly Line. After a tortuously long and airless journey I caught my train, with minutes to spare, in a disgusting state of overheating. [enough said!]

The next day the weather had cooled with cloud cover and a pleasant breeze. Yes, we were indeed mistresses of timing.


This was the best play I’ve seen in a long time. The main character, played by Lenny Henry, was angry and disappointed with what life had thrown at him in America’s South during the 1950s/60s. Overt racism was still evident in jobs, sport and all areas of life, even after integration, and many talented blacks never realised their potential. Henry’s character was superbly horrible taking out his frustrations and disappointments on all around him. More than once his wife, Tanya Moodie, had real tears coursing down her cheeks. [How does she do that once a day and twice on Thursdays?]

By the end of the production I had a lump of sobs lodged in the back of my throat. Was it because the play had been so good or had it touched me personally? I suspect it was both. I’ve never experienced the overt racism that formed the play’s central theme. My regrets are more personal. In my teens I thought I could do anything, change everything, make a mark on the world. Now I realise that I couldn’t, didn’t and won’t.

Do you have pangs of regret? Or is it just me?


  1. As a two part post, this works very well, Ros! It sounds as if the heat was being a real minx. Poor you! So sorry about the fire! I hope it was nothing serious. As for the play, it must have been quite an experience. I think I would have found it profoundly moving as well. It is a subject that is still very relevant today. As for regrets? Yes, I have, so no, it is not just you.

    1. Thanks, Val. The whole day was quite an experience but we thoroughly enjoyed our meet-up.

  2. Thank goodness that theatre was air conditioned! An attempt to escape the heat is what motivated my friends and me to spend so many Saturday afternoons in a movie theatre when we were kids.

    That play sounds fabulous. I had black friends as a kid, so I thought nothing about racial differences until my mother had a car wreck in 1958. The staff at the hospital was very apologetic, because the "white section" of the hospital was full, so my mother had to be temporarily placed in the "black section" for a few days. The enormous differences between conditions in those two parts of the hospital were absolutely astounding, and quite an eye-opener for me. It turned my stomach then, and still riles me to think of it.

    Pangs of regret? Maybe a few, but it doesn't do any good to dwell on them... so I don't. (Being an optimist is hard work!)

    1. How awful and what a relief that we now live in a different world, not perfect but much improved.

  3. It's so important we have plays like this - to remind us that racism is alive and well, and pernicious. No, we can't change the world on our own, but we can live our ideals every day - change can only come from individuals setting an example. If one other person has stopped to think because of a stand you're taken, Ros, then your efforts are worth it.

    1. Agreed, Jo, but I hope that racism is nowhere as bad as it was back then. Of course I can only talk about the UK. As for the rest of the world... *shrugs*

  4. Thank the gods you had a cool theatre, and some other gods that you weren't actually on the burning train.
    As for racism - we might not be able to change the world but we can do our own little bit. I had black foster children in the 70s in an all-white English village, and my children grew up without colour prejudice. Emptying the ocean one drop at a time.

  5. I've heard really good things about Lenny Henry's performance.

    I think by just having a blog and making your opinions public, you're making a mark.

  6. excellent post and it sounds like quite a day, but very worthwhile.
    Regrets sure - I look back at mean behaviors in school - shallow comments, etc. I feel guilty about not doing "enough" to help others, but at this stage in my life I definitely try to do no harm. Annalisa is right and your goodness shines through your words.

  7. Hi Ros .. so pleased you were able to see Lenny Henry - it has had good reviews and theatre like that - small, intimate with all the theatrical house opportunities - must have been a glorious experience.

    Oh tubes and trains and getting home - not funny at times ... glad all went well in the end even if you lost a few drops of water in the process!

    Lovely to read about .. and so pleased you were able to spend time with your daughter .. cheers Hilary


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