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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Book Review
London Theatre Walks
Thirteen Dramatic Tours Through Four Centuries of History and Legend
by Elyse Sommer
London is very much a walking and a theater city. London Theatre Walks, a hands-across-the-sea collaboration between Jim DeYoung, an American theater educator, and John Miller a British broadcaster and theater historian. Following any of the thirteen walks outlined in their trim chatty volume is the next best thing to having the knowledgeable authors as your companions.
All the walks are timed and include information about public transportation to get you to the starting points. Most importantly, all are stuffed with anecdotes. Black and white photos are generously sprinkled throughout.
This being the land of Shakespeare, don't be surprised at the abundance of Bardian tidbits. In fact, the whole first walkfocuses on Shakespeare sites and features. One of the most noteworthy of these is the Southwark Cathedral with its Shakespeare Memorial Window. A quiz to help you identify all the characters is included, with fully detailed answers provided at the end of the walk.
On the assumption that theater lovers are people with broad interests, the authors have wisely incorporated many general points of interest, which include pubs and other places for rest and refreshment. Walk Four, for example, starts at Trafalgar Square and discusses some of the area's major attractions. As you get to the theaters on this and other walks, you'll want to pause long enough to read about some of the stories behind these facades; to illustrate, there's William Terris, a leading actor who was stabbed in the back in 1897 by a crazed bit player, giving the Adelphi the melancholy distinction of being the only theater in the country where an actor was assassinated at the stage door.
One of the book's off-the-beaten-tourist-path walks ( number eight) includes a visit to London's first professional theater and is designed to give readers a sense of the kind of journey old-time Londoners would have taken to get to a performance during the sixteenth century. History rich Covent Garden not surprisingly turns out to be a three-part walk. It encompasses a number of major West End venues, the National Portrait Gallery, the Covent Garden Market and St. Paul's Covent Garden also known as the Actors' Church. Your longest stop is likely to be the Theatre Museum which besides exhibiting all sorts of memorabilia, regularly features lectures, staged readings and if you time your ramble right, an occasional full production..
Judging from my email, CurtainUp readers will be especially interested in the postscript recommendations the authors dub as "theatrical pearls." One of these pearls, Pollock's Toy Museum , sounds like a best bet for those easily transportable gifts to bring home to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Last but by no means least, the book is a solid small reference. Its three-page bibliography is helpful and the 16-page index should quickly point you to any specific name or point of interest.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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