Thursday was my tenth wedding anniversary, and a wonderful day it was too. Following the theme of “trying to get more out of living so close to the centre of London”, my wife had booked tickets to see Noises Off! at the Old Vic theatre (shortly moving to the Gielgud I believe). We had to find a restaurant for dinner which wasn’t too far from the theatre and would serve us fairly quickly (always one of the difficulties of mid-week theatre-going, unless you want to grab fast food, which wasn’t really suitable for this occasion).
We opted for the Skylon restaurant, in the Royal Festival Hall, which we’d never been to before, but was running one of the Evening Standard promotions (two course & a glass of wine for £20). The restaurant is enormous, with high ceilings, set in the front of the festival hall, and was very busy when we went. Our table wasn’t immediately ready, so we were ushered to the bar for drinks. It was a bit cramped in the bar, which was basically an “island” in the middle of the room. There wasn’t an awful lot of room to move around, but we didn’t expect to be there for very long, so we didn’t mind too much. It was only about 10 minutes before we were called to our table (how do they do that, they seem to know exactly who to go to, even in a room full of people?). We were given a window table, in a corner right next to the waiters’ station, which was perfect. The view across the Thames, with the Savoy across the river and nightfall wrapping around the city, was wonderful.
Sadly, being gluten sensitive, there was nothing on the set menu which I could eat, so we chose from the á la Carte menu. Having expected the set meal, I was conscious of the price difference in the á la carte, so I chose the cheapest steak from the grill – the Onglet steak. I’ve never had onglet steak before, but I was delighted with what I got. I ordered it rare, and a little while later I was presented with two enormous pieces of steak with the tiniest of watercress salads (more of a garnish than a salad really). Oh my god, it was the best steak I’ve eaten in London. It was full of flavour, not like those insipid but extortionate fillets. It had more flavour than a ribeye and was much more tender – no veins of gristle here. The middle of the steak had that purple, slightly jelly-like texture while the outside was slightly blackened and full of flavour. I would definitely recommend the onglet steak to anyone who’s a fan of full-flavour rare beef.
We had our coffees and made a slow wander towards the theatre, which was maybe ten minutes on foot. I’ve never been to the Old Vic before and found the lobby and bar very busy and cramped. The seats, however, were fairly comfortable and we had a good view from the stalls.
So, the play itself… I’m in a bit of a difficult position here, as I don’t know how to describe it without spoiling the plot. Brilliantly funny is one way, I suppose, but not very descriptive… Broadly speaking, it’s a farce about a play which is itself a farce. The first act sees the cast on the night before opening, running through a technical rehearsal of the play. The second act sees the backstage during a mid-season performance, and the final act returns to front stage as the season draws to a close. The first act gently introduces the plot of the play which is being rehearsed, while the second is all done in almost complete silence backstage. This really tests the cast’s physical / slapstick skills and I thought was the funniest and most intricate part of the play (it won’t spoil anything if I say “watch out for the cactus”…). The final act sees everything falling apart onstage, as the relationships between the actors completely collapse.
I’m conscious that my description of the play is woefully inadequate, and that there are other websites which go into the plot in greater detail, but I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed the play anywhere near as much had I known the full plot. It’s good to have that fresh mind to come to the play, so with that, I don’t want to go into it in too much detail. Suffice to say that it was brilliantly funny and shows off the astounding talent of the cast. If you’ve not seen this yet, it’s well worth getting tickets while it’s still on.