Christmas 2016 was celebrated in London.
I drove down from Yorkshire on the twenty third and went to the ballet – the stunning Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells. The bars on all floors of the theatre were packed and happy, smiling people were sipping Chateau de Blingy. The two hour show started at half past seven. Here’s eloquent Judith Abrahams in the Islington Gazette two days earlier:
“The Red Shoes, the classic and hugely affecting 1948 film by Powell and Pressburger starring Moira Shearer is often cited as a major inspiration for young dancers. When it was last attempted in 1993 on Broadway, the musical version closed after just five shows, amidst dreadful reviews and a loss of $8 million. So our illustrious choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s “long held ambition” to adapt it for the stage was brave indeed. It has proved to be an inspired and brilliant decision, for the production which opened at Sadler’s Wells last week was beyond wonderful. The choreography, a score based on the golden age of Hollywood musicals, the sets and the costumes are pure, unadulterated magic. Preserving the film’s 1940s setting and most of its plot, Bourne follows the rise and tragic fall of dancer Victoria Page (red haired, mesmerising Ashley Shaw) and her struggle with love for composer Julian Craster (a feverishly driven Dominic North) and artistic fulfilment via the controlling Svengali, Boris Lermontov (Sam Archer).The story moves between London and the South of France with stunning sets and costumes by Bourne’s long-standing designer Lez Brotherston. Covent Garden melts into the Monte Carlo beach complete with bathing belles, the stage into the wings. And amidst the heartbreak, there’s acute observation and humour too. The relationship between the ageing Prima ballerina (Michela Meazza), her leading man (Liam Mower) and ballet master (Glenn Graham) was very entertaining while the East End Music Hall scene with a pair of knobbly-kneed Egyptian sand dancers was unashamedly hilarious. Stunning effects by lighting designer Paule Constable and compliments to the sound designer Paul Groothuis, Musical Director Brett Morris and orchestrator Terry Davies. They and the splendid cast have ensured that Sir Matthew’s gamble has paid off Rating: 5/5 stars”.
After the Show, we walked across to Bar Shawarma Berber & Q on Exmouth Market promenade for a late supper. It specialises in rotisserie cooking over charcoal and wood. Their blurb says: “Taking influence and inspiration from the streets and cafe culture of Tel Aviv, we’ve brought you all of the city’s great food in a relaxed and intimate environment.”
It was indeed relaxed and intimate. We tucked in to Blackened aubergine with chilli & anchovy, Za’atar roasted tomatoes with crème fraîche, Hummus Harif with green Turkish chilli and harissa, Pitta Joojeh chicken with blackened green chilli sauce & garlic yoghurt, Cauliflower shawarma with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, Lamb shawarma served on tahina with tomatoes, herb salad, baby gem leaves, sumac onions and pita and Yemenite dynamite and drank Tovarich vodka & fresh lime, Bar Shawarma’s own beer brewed in collaboration with Crate Brewery – a golden ale with za’atar, sumac & orange (3.8%), Force Majeure Mother Rock 2015 – a blend of Carignan, Mouvedre and Pinotage from Swartland and an orange wine – Rkatsiteli from John Wurdaman’s Pheasant’s Tears winery in Kakheti, Georgia. The young waitress started to explain Orange wine. I told her that I have visited Pheasant’s Tears three times. Her eyes widened. “I would love to go to Georgia” she said.
That chilly and windy morning we went to the Southbank Centre – UK’s largest art centre, for Adventures in Moominland, an immersive, interactive exhibition which explores the stories of the Moomin Family through the life of its author Tove Jansson. Using archive materials on loan from Moomin Characters Ltd and Tampere Art Museum, the exhibition displayed objects, original illustrations, artworks, 3D models, letters and personal items from Tove’s studio in Helsinki and her family island of Klovharu, where she lived for almost thirty years.
We walked along the crowded south bank of the Thames, drank Theakston ale in one of the bars of the Centre, joined young and old revellers in period costume jiving away to beat music from a live band and later in Moominland, clambered through forests, took cover in tents and stepped inside the magical world of Moomins.
That evening we sipped Pierre-Gimonnet’s Cuis 1er Cru and opened presents under the Tree as they do in Germany, played music and ate Borsch, smoked salmon and French soft cheeses with home-baked rye bread and fresh fruit, washed down with JosMeyer Grand Cru Hengst 2007, Errazuritz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2013, and Tobban sparkling shiraz from Spain.
It was a warm, sunny day in London. The wines were chilled, port decanted, salads tossed, turkey roasted and puddings baked. The evening started with La Grande Dame 1996 and Pierre-Gimonnet Special Club 2004. Clos des Mouches 2007 and Marimar Estate Christina 2008 were poured with the turkey. Tedeschi Amarone was paired with a selection of French cheeses that we were too full to eat. Blissfully, Niepoort 1992 came at the end.