Friday, December 07, 2007

"He kept a shop in London town,

Of fancy clients and good renown..."

A recent splash ad on MySpace tells me there's a new Johnny Depp movie in the offing. A Tim Burton/Johnny Depp venture, which should be about as good as it gets. And perfect for the holidays too: a musical in a nineteenth century London setting. That's Dickens Town, by golly! City of chimney sweeps and cherubic pickpockets and parlor games at the nephew’s and Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, casting a universal benediction on us all. Or, even later along in the century, a child’s deceptive haven of waistcoated rabbits visiting from Oxford and mischievous pixie fairies who live in the Park. Where nannies float down from the coal-soot skies and little lost boys in search of their shadows tap on the nursery windowpane.

But, of course, Mr. Depp is not giving us a new Ebenezer or Mr. Banks or Captain Hook (though the last IS a thought...just sayin'). Instead, his own gallery of risky performances will now include the doomed story of Benjamin Barker, Fleet Street barber convicted of a false crime and sent to Australia. But escaped, and returning home and searching for wife long lost and child long grown.

London London London. Damn me. London.

My first trip over in July 2002, I spent two days on my own in London. World Cup Weekend it was. Using Travelocity, I originally booked some delightful sounding place, but co-workers reading the postal code on my reservation form told me I was well away from City center. So a hasty reshuffling landed me the only reasonable vacancy, something near the Gloucester Station on Cromwell Road (yeah, not forgetting that soon). Later I realized from reading Mrs. Palfrey, a novel by Elizabeth Taylor (No. Not THAT Elizabeth Taylor. The other one.), that I might have been staying in what was more akin to pensioners housing offering a semblance of self-sufficiency in the City and a tenuous toe-hold on middle class respectability. Which would explain the enormous pile of empty gin bottles collecting on the back stoop. But it was cheap and within (what I, urban hill-climber that I am, considered) walking distance to Harrods.

After checking in early in the mid-morning, I headed off in a quest of food and City fun. Slight confusion as the streets twisted and turned about and I was seeing less commercial and more residential and a directional sign saying "Shepherd's Bush" and, drawing on my history of the Who, I knew I was headed in the wrong direction. Back again and finding the Gloucester Station shopping area, I went inside to the first lunch counter I saw and ordered a meat pie. When it arrived, all steamy and flaking, I crooned down to it: "Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop. Does a business, but I've noticed something weird. Lately all her neighbors' cats have disappeared. Wouldn't do in my shop! Just the thought of it is enough to make you sick. And I'm tellin' you...them pussy cats is quick!" And the waitperson behind the counter hustled me out into the street.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd...

Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece. Listen ye, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and grovel before it.

What doesn't this musical have? Escaped convict, vengeance, lust, barber chairs and medicine shows, cannibalism, madhouses and lunatics, sailors and holiday seaside songs, beggar women whores, corrupt government officials, true love and tragedy. And meat pies. God, that’s good.

Still, I'll confess that I'm more than a little worried about Helena Bonham Carter here. We're not seeing much of her in the preview and we're hearing less. Mind you, I saw the great Lansbury her very own self bring the doting, daffy and quite dangerous Mrs. Lovett to life on the stage in '79. And this after weeks of listening to the original Broadway cast recording of the whole thing so that I would know each bawdy pun and wheedling caress of her voice by heart and can type all this from memory even now.* A canny businesswoman, first and always: "What's my secret? Frankly dear, forgive me candor. Family secret. All to do with herbs. (And mind, now: pronounce that 'H') Things like bein' careful with your coriander. That’s what makes the gravy grander!" A tender mother's heart of tatted doilies and seaside mementos denied its rightful place in the safe haven of home and family: "Nothing's going to harm you, Toby, not while I'm around." A spurned and desperate lover: "Your Lucy! A crazy hag picking bones and rotten spuds out of alley ashcans? Would you wanted to know she ended like that? Yes, I lied because I love you. I've been TWICE the wife she was! Could that THING have cared for you like me...?"

Oh it's a GREAT role. Ms. Carter better be up to it!

But I'm not in London this December. That's breaking a personal record, though we have hopes for January. Still, if I'm not there, the Duke de Mondo is and I’m trying my level best to not be consumed with a deep, resentful envy as a result. Which makes it all the harder to say that his new blog London in Broken C is every bit as good as anything he's written in the past. As with his Dublin of Sinead and the Savage Purple and hometown Belfast, another world-famous metropolis has found in the Duke an able chronicler for the new millennium of all of its wild attractions, its inexplicable eccentricities and its ageless sorrows.


*I'm onboard the Mendocino at this very moment, so there's no Google on hand to double-check. Of course, I could only post this later when next online, but I swear: straight from memory.

1 comment:

Ann O'Dyne said...

Yes of course - Roger Daltrey "a bovver boy from Shepherd's Bush".

re Ms Bonham-Carter: she does have a resemblance to Elsa Lanchester so I think she could pull it off.
Elsa was no slouch in the evil-eye department.