On my second day in London which was still hot and a bit more…er..humid I did two things I had wanted to do for ages.
First of all I headed to Spitalfields for Dennis Severs House. It was a Sunday and I was surprised at the crowds coming out of Liverpool Station until I realized that they were all headed to the Petticoat Lane Market, somewhere I’d been too many years ago. (At the time I picked up what I thought was a lovely heavy sweater which my British relatives thought horrid. My sister, I believe, still has it.)
I went on to Folgate Street where Dennis Severs’ house was instantly recognizable by its gas lamp lit door.
As instructed I pulled on the door bell and a man came out who gave me instructions, among them to be completely silent. The house is an experiential work of art by Dennis Severs, set up for you to imagine that a family of silk weavers named Jervis are living there. Each room feels as if someone was just in it — the food half-eaten, a candle snuffed out perhaps, a cat drifting through the bric-a-brac. You see letters, objects, all sorts of things that together begin to paint an image of the imaginary inhabitants of the house. I’d long heard about it and it did not disappoint.
When I went in the day suddenly went dark and there was a thunderstorm so the candles were all lit and the place dark, humid, and incredibly atmospheric. Perhaps the most striking moment for me was seeing the brass monkey bedpull in the main bedroom. For Laura Amy Schlitz had told me that she had gained inspiration at the house for her new and wonderful Splendors and Glooms (review to come) and so I knew to look out for that brass monkey — and there he was! I’d say shivers went down my spine as I not only was experiencing the Jervis’ imaginary story, but Laura Amy Schlitz’s too. A highly, highly recommended thing to do in London if you have the chance.
After that I went to the Cambridge Theater at Seven Dials to see the musical Matilda. It was absolutely delightful and I fully intend to see it again when it comes to New York in the spring. At the end there were many tears and flowers as it was the last performance for the little girl playing Matilda (who was excellent). One of my favorite moments in the show was when the Trunchbull threw the little girl with the braids because they didn’t avoid it (and also other nasty acts from the original story — yay!) and because they did it with old-fashioned theatrical methods, no projections or anything like that. Won’t say how they did it exactly, but it is great fun indeed. The heart of Dahl’s book is maintained beautifully with some lovely adjustments that simply strengthen it overall for the stage. Say a lovely running theme of Matilda’s storytelling prowess along with a new character who is a librarian. Here are a few clips:
The next day I headed off to the Lake District and my next post will be on that experience.