Sunday 17 March 2019

A Very British Evening

Yesterday evening was damp, cold and drizzly.

"Wear your tweed coat," said Benedict Ambrose. 

B.A. put on a green quilted jacked, a heavy tweed coat and a matching tweed cap. I pulled my own tweed coat over a black dress and my MacLean tartan sash. We were having a rare outing to the theatre, and I reject the habitual dowdiness of Edinburgh audiences. Mindful of the rain, I shoved my green silk shoes into a cotton bag and put on my rain boots. Naturally the wind blew out my umbrella on our way to the Tesco bank machine for cash. 

We took a double-decker bus to Bruntsfield, looking at the damp, darkening 17th, 18th and 19th century streets, and the crowds of people, many of them young tourists, huddled under nylon hoods. I was very glad to be on a bus and that its terminal stop was so close to the theatre. 

Our first port of call was Tuk-Tuk, an Indian restaurant, for an early pre-theatre dinner. It is BYOB, so after we ordered, B.A. popped back into the rain to get a bottle of beer from the nearest supermarket. The British have eaten curry at home since the mid-18th century, and the first Indian restaurant opened in Britain in 1809. Going out for, or bringing home, a curry is one of the most British activities I can think of.  Fish and chip shops didn't start up until the 1860s. 

The menu said the plates would be small, so we should order three per person: an excellent marketing idea to trap the unwary. We ordered vegetable samosas, "Bengali fish cakes", mixed vegetable pakoras, butter prawns, eggplant and potato curry and chana masala (chickpea curry). I had a coconut lassi, too. We shared a naan, with which we scooped up the butter prawn sauce. It was too much food, and later we were sorry.

The interior of the restaurant gives the exotic impression of being a large shed, perhaps somewhere on a country road somewhere in India. It was rather too cold, and the patrons rather too Scots, to contribute to the illusion, but I at least had the radiator at my back.

"I thought you were wearing a sari," said a friendly Indian waiter, having a better look at my tartan sash. 

B.A. paid up. I put my rubber boots back on, and we crossed the street to the King's Theatre. There I handed over my boots and coat to the check-out volunteer and went with B.A. to the bar. We sat at a corner table and drank carbonated water very, very slowly, hoping the bubbles would ease our overcrowded tummies. It was amusing to watch the bar fill up with people having a snort before the show. 

This was, by the way, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," which has been a hit since it opened in 1885. I was a G&S fan as a child, and B.A. has been one his entire life, acting in several G&S comic operas from the age of 18 to about 28, when he played Koko. B.A. swore off acting before I met him, which is really too bad, but he says he doesn't have the energy any more. 

As always "The Mikado" was great fun, although this version of "I've Got Them on The List" mocked Theresa May, Donald Trump, and Brexit, which I thought a bit safe. Mocking the Duke of Edinburgh's driving accident was edgier, I thought, for a mostly elderly Edinburgh audience. And I suppose they couldn't really present the sexual assault charges against the former First Minister as a joke.    

In Scottish theatre productions it is interesting to see what actors do about accents. Poohbah and Go To went full plummy English, whereas Nanki Poo was mildly English, and Koko was decidedly local.    Meanwhile, every last actress wore a black bob wig, which was startling (to say the least), and I am surprised "The Mikado" doesn't get picketed by the Woke. However, "The Mikado" wasn't poking fun at the Japanese but at the English Japanoiserie craze of the early 1880s. The English love to make fun of themselves, and Edinburgh is one of the least anti-English parts of Scotland, so all was well. 

When the show was over (no standing O), the vast majority of the audience picked up the coats they had been sitting on for two and a half hours and toddled off into the night. I went back to the minute cloakroom and got my tweed, boots and broken umbrella. Then B.A. and I got onto another double decker bus and listened to an Edinburgher of about 60 mansplain "The Mikado" to the silent lady next to him. 

We alighted at Princes Street where we got another bus. We avoided the Rough Bus as it was 11 PM, and we were hoping for a peaceful journey without drunks. Our dream came true. I was so sleepy that, after reading my email, I eschewed my usual before-bed reading of The Spectator and turned out the lamp.  

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