Hey, seasoned world travelers! Did you know that the U.K. and France have totally different plugs? Because we didn’t! So here I sit in a London hotel at midnight with a laptop with a rapidly depleting battery, and the adapter that worked so beautifully in France last year will not fit in the U.K. wall socket. One of our first orders of business tomorrow will have to be finding a new adapter, so I’m going to have to write fast.
I wasn’t ready to leave New York — I’m never ready to leave New York! — but our Sunday there was a pleasant one; we had brunch with our Brooklyn-based friends, and then caught a matinee of Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors,” a raucous British farce that has been a huge hit on the West End (it’s still playing here). If you’ve seen “Noises Off,” another wildly popular British farce, you know what to expect — slamming doors, mistaken identities, and mildly naughty sex jokes. James Corden, who originated the lead role of Francis on the West End and recently scored a Tony nomination for his Broadway turn in the same part, reminded me a bit of a cross between Andy Richter, Chris Farley and Ricky Gervais. There are a few audience participation bits, one of which seemed to throw Corden for a loop. A running gag in the first act is his perpetual hunger, as he can’t afford any food; he breaks the fourth wall by asking the audience if anyone has a sandwich, and somebody actually offered him one. (A hummus sandwich, no less — “you do know that this play is set in 1963?” asked Corden incredulously.) It was all very funny, but it also illustrated the dangers of flirting with the fourth wall — you never know what might happen!
The long (90 minutes) first act ends with a set piece that had most people in the audience laughing so hard they were gasping for breath; the trouble with the second act is that they have to wrap up all of the various storylines and pair up the characters romantically, and it’s a bit anticlimactic after all of the inspired lunacy that came beforehand. Still, anyone who loves a good British farce will have a great time at the theater. Plus, there’s a skiffle band playing during the set changes that’ll really get you in that early 60s mood.
We took an early (8 AM) flight to London, which I thought sounded brilliant because usually you arrive in Europe early in the morning and have to stumble around like a zombie until your hotel room is ready, then attempt to stay awake ’til you collapse out of sheer exhaustion at 8 or 9 PM. At least that’s been my usual routine. Now we arrived at Heathrow around 8 PM, breezed through customs, and took the tube to our hotel. For those of us who can’t sleep on planes, I think daytime flights are a very good idea.