1 December 2015

The Drunken City at the Tabard was a good introduction to a new theatre

Going to see The Drunken City at the Tabard Theatre was a late decision, and a good one. I had not got back into the swing of theatre booking after my two weeks' holiday and a lot of theatres had seasonal shows on that were of no interest to me so I had an unusually free diary and the burning desire to fill it.

I was feeling a little lazy (I seem to have had a strength-sapping cold for weeks) so I wanted a theatre close to a tube station and, preferably, fairly close to home too. I tried some of the obvious ones and was either not quite tempted or already had booked to go there, so I had to try something a little different.

I thought of The Tabard because the landlord of my local mentioned it, his daughter had done comedy classes there and, knowing I like small theatres, had been surprised that I had not been there. The theatre is above the pub of the same name and right next door to Turnham Green station so it was a good candidate. The Drunken City sounded like fun so play so the deal was done. A couple of minutes on their website just a few hours before the play started and the deal was done.

I got to the pub around 6:30 and helped myself to a rather tasty pint of Routemaster Red. Their website had promised all sorts of edible goodies but, for technical reasons, they were only doing burgers so it is just as well that their veggie-burger was tasty.

The pub itself was cute and interesting having been built originally on the border of the arts and crafts inspired Bedford Park and there was some pretty tiling that I hope was original.

The Tabard Theatre was directly above the pub but, for reasons that I never worked out, the staircase up there was outside, much as you would expect a fire escape to be.

The theatre surprised me by having proper raked seating. I counted around ninety seats which was another surprise as I was expecting it to be more on the scale of, say, the Old Red Lion or the White Bear.

Those seats were sturdy and thick with red velvet so they could well have been original. I sat near the middle of the front-row, the steps up were in the middle, which proved to be a good plan as there did not seem to be that much leg room behind judging by the way that the young woman behind me's legs stuck into the aisle close to my head.

Immediately in front of my seat was a cobbled street running at an angle across the shallow stage with black board on the left side on to which images of a city were projected. Gaps between the boards were roads that the cast used to enter and exit the stage.

We joined three young women on a night out in the city to celebrate their three engagements. They told us about their fiancees and luckily one of them had the foresight to bring photos of them to show us. They were all very happy and very girlie in showing us their rings. The mood changed when one of the girls spoke to us about the city and its character. The girls were away from home and they should take care when in the city.

They left and we met two men out for a quieter night mostly because one of them was still pinning over the girlfriend who dumped him ages ago and so had no heart for finding another girl, despite his friend's urging.

Then we met the three girls again, this time on a bachelorette party. This was sometime after we first met them and while one was about to get married another was no longer engaged. The girls then met the boys and the pinning boy and the bride-to-be took an unexpected shine to each other which everybody else tried to quash. The scene was then set for looking at the various relationships, old and forming, between the players set against a city with its foreign ways, strange temptations and lack of respect for the people within it.

That looking was done with a lot of humour, they were mostly drunk after all, a touch of anger, some tenderness and a few thought-provoking ideas. It was a lot of intelligent fun without ever being trivial or too heavy. And it had a happy ending (of sorts).

It was an ensemble performance with six actors in total. None particularly stood out for me in either a good or a bad way but that was largely because it was a play without starring roles. The production was pretty simple and again that suited the play. The projections of the city were all that were needed to take us there and the snatches of music helped to describe the mood.

The heady mixture of the good play, the decent pub, the fine beer and the reasonable food put the Tabard Theatre firmly on my map and I shall be looking to get back there soon,

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