In addition to going to the theatre, the one thing I said I wanted to go on this trip was to go to the Tate Modern museum, which was still in the process of being built the last time I was in London. So that’s what we planned to do on Friday morning. Funnily enough our hotel was pretty much right next door to the Tate Britain but we never went this trip. I spent lots of time there for the art history course I took while studying in London though, so I didn’t feel like I missed out this time.
The Tate Modern was built in the old Bankside Power Station. The museum is split in two parts with one side being the old Switch House and one being the Boiler House. There is an incredible view of the city from the top of the Switch House. The museum is free aside from special exhibitions. There were three going on while we were there, but we opted not to pay to go in any of them. I had never heard of two of the artists and we had seen a lot of Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico and didn’t feel like paying £20 to see more.
We wound up spending a lot more time in the museum than I anticipated. We pretty much covered the whole thing while were there. We did the galleries in the Switch House and then decided to go out and grab lunch before doing the other half of the museum. We went to a pub that we passed on the way to the museum where I sadly had the single worst fish and chips I’ve ever eaten. I’m still mad about it. I was counting on some delicious fish and chips while were there. After lunch we headed back and did the other half of the museum.
I admit I’m someone who doesn’t always “get” modern art. There were definitely some of the things that have come to symbolize modern art like singular colored shapes or what appears essentially be a blank canvas because it’s painted white. That really was not the majority of the collection though and wasn’t the stuff I don’t get. I have decided what really does nothing for me is the sort of performance art videos that play on a loop. Those are definitely not for me.
There were a number of things I really enjoyed though. They had some great collections about the intersection of art and culture and art and social issues that I loved. They also have several Picassos and I enjoyed seeing the series of Rothko paintings that inspired the play Red.
After we left the Tate Modern we walked across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, which obviously was also not there yet when I was last in London in 1998. Then we headed over to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus because I wanted to hit up some of the cheesy tourist shops. I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs and was sure I’d be able to find one there. I was not wrong. We then wound up walking over to Covent Garden as well to kill some time before heading to dinner and the theatre.
It took me a long time to figure out what show I wanted to see while we were in London. Too much of the stuff in the West End right now is stuff I’ve already seen on Broadway or that I didn’t care about, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and No Man’s Land starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, the two shows I wanted to see were sold out. I thought we might just see what was available at the TKTS booth after we got there, but a few days before we left I managed to pick something based purely on the venue, which wasn’t even in the West End.
I was looking through a list of off the beaten path things to do in London and stumbled across Wilton’s Music Hall, which bills itself as the oldest grand music hall in the world. I decided to see what was playing there during our trip, and conveniently it turned out to be a theatre production of Floyd Collins: The Musical. I looked up the reviews and they were all raves, so I was sold.
The show is based on a true story of a Kentucky man who liked to explore caves and got stuck in a cave. The rescue mission became a huge nationwide story in 1925 before a cave collapse ultimately doomed Collins to death a few weeks after he first got stuck. I enjoyed it and was happy with my choice. The production itself was great, though there were some parts of a couple of the songs that I thought went on too long. I’m sure most people in the audience were British and thus didn’t think about the accents, but as an American I was kind of amused by some of the very British sounding Kentucky accents. I appreciated the experience of going to an off-West End production in a historic space that’s not just some ornate theatre that you would be hard pressed to distinguish from any other ornate theatre.