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?