Sitting in the balcony of Islington’s Almeida Theatre last night, it seemed bizarre that I had flown from New York to London only to watch a great American actress at work. My friend Maria had procured me a ticket to the London season of Clifford Odet’s play Awake and Sing! which was revived in New York last year. Even the casting of Mark Ruffalo had not persuaded me to venture to see the show in the city I lived in. But here I was in London among old friends and new, watching one of my favourite actresses in the flesh. Stockard Channing’s central character, the domineering mother of a three-generation Bronx household in the 1930s, was a compelling mix of artistry and pure hard work. I couldn’t take my eyes off her; she responded acutely to everything happening on stage around her, completely inhabiting her character. Our small theatre party agreed the second act was more interesting than the first – well, more actually happens, which always helps – and the ensemble seemed to shift into gear as the drama unfolded on stage.
The play capped a long afternoon in Islington that included the purchase of jewellery before the theatre, and a pizza afterwards. It’s great being on holiday.