My cultural intake this week has exceeded my usual allowance, which has been fabulous. From Graham Greene, to Roald Dahl, and the Menier Chocolate Factory to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. On successive evenings I was lucky enough to take a seat and enjoy a fantastic performance. Two very different but equally enjoyable feasts for the eyes, ears and one's adventurous imagination.
What the shows had in common was brilliant choreography. There was little work to be done by the audience, who were transported wherever it was that we needed to be, to appreciate what was on offer. Travels with my Aunt exceeded expectations and comprised astonishing performances, only enhanced by the proximity with the stage. I was captivated from the opening lines - and successfully transported from Southwood to Istanbul on the Orient Express, and later to Buenos Aires, before quickly moving onto Paraguay.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did not disappoint. I quite enjoy a musical spectacle, and this hit the spot. I found myself easily drawn into the world of make believe, and Willy Wonka's promised land (complete with the almost irresistible chocolate waterfall). It was none too difficult to temporarily leave London and enter into a world of endless possibility which (according to the song) has to be believed to be seen.
I also let go of expectations from the movie I grew up with (and it's subsequent re-make) to fully appreciate the up to the moment production which the audience intimated was relevant to all. In front of me sat at least 3 generations all of whom were spell bound. The Oompa Loompas were marvellous, the set was magnificent - Wonka's factory did not disappoint.
Dahl's observation of nature / nurture, and the influences on young minds is stunning material for psychological appraisal. It is a marvelous observation of the perils of adolescence which seems pertinent some 50 years after it was written.
Mrs Gloop is chronically codependent and in complete denial as to her obese son's disordered eating, and is what might be described as a feeder. Meanwhile the spineless Mr Salt is a classic enabler of his narcissistic daughter, lacking any boundaries, compensating by pandering to her ever whim, no matter how ridiculous. And the loathsome Mr B seems intent on making as much money as possible pimping out his precocious daughter, oblivious to the consequences of her swollen ego which seems to have outgrown her petite gum chewing frame. Mike Teavee whom we see terrorise his valium swallowing mother, bears close resemblance to many a stroppy teenager immersed in a virtual world of violent video games. Verruca's relationship with her pathetic father is an attachment case study waiting to be written and Charlie emerges as something of a humble hero - the perfectly behaved budding inventor who has no shortage of imagination and never ceases to hope for the best.
Charlie and his family are eternal optimists: Dreams can come true. Dreams can be surpassed. His grandfather is a pathological liar, his grandmother an alcoholic gambler. His father is hopelessly unemployed and depressed, whilst his exhausted and anxious mother has no choice but to work shifts. But theirs is an enduring hope. Wonka is a victim of his own success. We see him as lonely, and alone. Surrounded rather than comforted by his loyal sages, the Oompa Loompas who see beyond people's behaviour.
Sadly, the elevators at Covent Garden Station lacked any magic, and shortly after theatre kick-out boasted impressive queues which meant that descending the 193 steps (equivalent to a 15 storey building, as the rolling announcement proclaimed) was the more straightforward option.