London in the winter is a place that’s perpetually darkening — the clouds always seem to be moving in and evening comes surprisingly early, especially if you, like me, are sleeping in a different time zone and find it difficult to wake up before lunchtime.
Yesterday though was a breathtakingly clear, silvery winter day. After lunch (with the very, very nice U-Dad, with whom I ate something far better than hummus and apples), I walked home through Green Park and then through Regent’s Park, and as I walked I could see it becoming evening all around me. It was extraordinarily beautiful, and I was not at all sad to see the day end so early. Well, a bit sad — which is how I feel about having to go home tomorrow.
Tonight (after a really fun trip to Cambridge to see litlove — about which I have much more to say in my next post!) I saw the most amazing production of Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre. Much Ado is a comedy that’s perpetually darkening — the witty banter of Beatrice and Benedick, for example, is shadowed by Claudio’s brutal accusation of Hero’s infidelity just as he and Hero reach the altar. Beatrice and Benedick are the only middle-aged lovers in all the comedies (there is a strong suggestion that they have loved each other before, and that Benedick dumped Beatrice, so having a history together is what makes most directors cast them as middle aged.) And so love for them is a little more rueful than it is for younger lovers, although still giddy enough for this to be a satisfying comedy, and to keep the darkness at bay.
What struck me most tonight (aside from the wonderful performances, the great staging and the really terrific music and dance) is that very little separates Much Ado from Romeo and Juliet — they share, for example, a friar who has the bright idea of suggesting to a young woman in love that her troubles will all be cleared up if she’ll just pretend to be dead for a while. Now why didn’t I think of that when I was in my twenties? In one play she comes to life to reunite with her lover and in the other… well, not so good. There is also a challenge to a duel, one avoided in Much Ado and one unavoidable in Romeo and Juliet. Much Ado ends with marriage; Romeo and Juliet ends with death. But very little more than chance and luck seems to separate the lovers in the comedy from the lovers in the tragedy. Maybe that is the point, in fact.
And so to bed, after one last cup of tea and a little bit of packing.