Posh, Laura Wade's play at the Royal Court Theatre, is a look at the dangers of power and in-groups, of the behavior which is normalized by club rules and boys-will-be-boys attitudes. It's the story of ten Oxford students, the members of the Riot Club, an echo (as I learned afterward) of the infamous Bollingdon Club, from whose undergraduate ranks came a number of well-known current politicians. The length of the scenes, of the club members having dinner and challenging each other over it, is part of what gives it its closed-room feel. The darkness underlying the interactions is mediated by the a capella scene-change interludes, lovely renditions of crude-attitude modern pop or rap pieces. I'm glad I've seen it, but I don't think I was quite as enthusiastic as other people in our group; likely because I was the least well in tune with current British politics.
The most interesting part, for me, was the discussion of food, from critiques of what entire menus imply about their diners to the complicated nature of designing symbolic meals to the challenge of determining if a ten-bird roast really includes all ten birds.
If it sounds intriguing, I'm afraid you're out of luck. The play's entire run is sold out. Smart people, putting on a politically-relevant play around the long-foretold election date this Thursday.
Arthur C. Clarke Award Ceremony
Amazon.co.uk sent me an email this morning which made me proud of them. It was to tell me that China Miéville's novel, The City and the City, had won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
So it has! For the first time, I had reason to be invited to the ceremony and so joined the gaggle of science fiction fandom members choking the lobby of the Apollo Cinema on Lower Regent Street. The two hundred-or-so people who are invited are so select because the venue is so small, particularly the lobby. Two floors below street level, the hospitality of Sci-Fi London took my coat and jacket and provided me with wine and tasty canapés. Slender shot glasses provided refreshing gazpacho samples, garnished with a strip of cucumber. Sliced of pepper were filled with a soft cheese. Mostly tender pieces of chicken on toothpick-sized skewers were curried up with spice. Miniature toasts were topped with a smidgen of cheese and jelly. Quite classy, really, until we got to the sweets. Ice cream was pleasant in little tubs, but the cupcake's two major virtues were as advertising vehicle, and as blue food. Cupcakes so often disappointment me.
The lobby's hard walls heightened the sound of dozens of crowded conversations. I saw many people briefly, and of others, only heard rumors that they were there. I was introduced to interesting people, and didn't have enough time with others.
And the ceremony? A relatively-efficient 20 minutes did it. We watched in comfy, civilized cinema seats with wide aisles while the colored lights framing the screen gradually changed colors around the images of the six nominated titles. The talks were thank yous to all the people, organizations, and groups which made the event possible (including, because relevant to my presence there, the SFF and the BSFA). And then China won and he was earnest and excited, but his BSFA award speech - because it was given by someone else acting as his minion - was better scripted and funnier.
Afterward, in confusion, many of us made it to the afterplan by dint of following other people. It was, in its way, even louder because of piped in music. And so home.
Kate and Tony's Wedding
A well put-together wedding is a successful performance for a private audience, however small or large. Saturday's was a lovely balance between formality and casual comfort, with grand group entrances, idyllic woodlands, and a handsome hall in which to stage many of its pieces.
We gathered mid-morning to board the groom's train, chosen for added length of time on the scenic railway line more than anything else. From the waiting and throughout the day, this was a gathering of friends, a reunion of both the far-flung and the geographically-convenient. I know the bride and groom for somewhat unrelated reasons, and so their wedding brought together people I have never seen in the same place and at the same time before, a delightful variety of people. (This led one friend to say, with a certain degree of humor, later in the day when I admitted to SF fandom, that she thought better of me.)
But back to the train. The carriage was old-fashioned, although I can't date railway styles, with tables for everyone, garlanded windows, and table service. It drifted through newly-verdant woodlands, past a wide field with a pheasant poised near its edge, past a police box on a station platform, and paused to change sidings by the industrial detritus of train and track repairs past, photogenic through the gentle rain.
We arrived back at High Rocks, a venue, restaurant, hotel, and woodland site, with time to loiter before the bride's steam train came in by the same tracks. Eventually, we were let in to the grand timber-framed hall in which the ceremony (and dinner and later dancing) was to happen. Its medievalesque detailing included iron chandeliers and sconces lit with electric candles, and replicas of the unicorn tapestries. Real candles burned in torchières around the raised platform, decorated with potted lavender, where the bride and groom exchanged their vows, and the groom took a moment to figure out which finger his ring belonged on. Kate's dark purple Victorianesque gown really was quite splendid.
After the ceremony and a first round of photographs, we were ushed up into the woodlands behind the hotel, up to where the high rocks of the venue's name loomed in an grand natural backdrop. There, we celebrated with Buck's fizz and bubbles and sunshine, in a series of photographs staged by thematic groups. Mine were SF Fandom and Classicists & Historians, but by the end of the day, I'd met all of "Kate's Old Friends" who I hadn't already known. There were at least another four groups beyond, from various place-based ones to "Goths and Not Goths, really", reflecting the wonderful variety of people present in all their overlapping circles. Some of the more enterprising guests climbed to the top of the rocks for the view, from high above us.
Lunch, back in the great hall, was in three courses. A lovely smoked, flaked salmon was bedded on perfectly functional generic salad. The main was a trendy whole roast poussin, with equally in-fashion baby chantenay carrots. C., on the basis of my brainstorming other things currently in fashion, predicted Black Forest Cake for dessert. He was pretty much right, if we call it a deconstructed one: chocolate cake slice with whipped cream and strawberry on the side. Oh, make that four courses if we count coffee and chocolates as a course.
The speeches were just what such speeches out to be: short, heartfelt, and funny. major_clanger prepared an excellent best man's speech, inditing the groom on charges of nerdiness and sentencing him to a lifetime's sentence with his bride. He was particularly good as a speaker because he knows how to make his voice carry. Nothing about the ceremony or the speeches was inaudible, for many of the other speakers I had to listen particularly attentively to catch what they said.
While there were hours left in the day, of talking, catching up, meeting new, convivial people, and reconnecting with rarely-seen friends, the rest of it was not a performance. The bride and groom could, I hope, finally relax, talk to as many of their friends and family as possible, and enjoy the company too. I spent much of the time coveting nisaba's gorgeous turquoise hat. Luckily for her and unluckily for me, her hat was too small for my head. Clearly, I need more hats in my life.
It rained off-and-on througout the day, in sprinkles, but almost never when we needed to be outside, which was obliging of it. At the end of the day, the venue's courtesy shuttle delivered us to our various hotels. (One astonishing feature of the day: our hotel let us check in around 9:50 am. Reminds me: Tunbridge Wells is clearly doing well for itself on the basis of the sheer number of high-end kitchen design stores and local food shops it possesses. Also, we stumbled over the Pantiles, en route to the wedding train, the seventeenth-century shopping arcade recommended by the guy in the car park, whom I told we wouldn't have time for tourism.)
A lovely, memorable day, and one I am glad to have been able to be a part of.