Ah Bath… Bath Spa. Aquae Sulis. England’s City of the Seven Hills. The Spiked Star of Bethlehem. The Poor Man’s Rome. The Spring of Minerva.
We went to Bath on Saturday. Is there anything better than the city of Bath when she’s bathed in sunshine? We purred with delight in her warm embrace as we walked her Georgian sandstone boulevards.
Of course we journeyed there by train, which involved the usual Faustian intrigue of travelling with Great Western, those renowned purveyors of railway transport-related incompetence. They nearly thwarted us. On top of a line closure between Swindon and Gloucester the timetable had been further mangled when one of their earlier trains had arrived at Swindon Station on fire. No, you didn’t misread that, the train was apparently aflame. No-one had been injured, but that kind of thing tends to have a bit of a knock-on effect on the smooth running of a railway station.
As a result we might have faced over an hour’s wait – minimum – for the next train to Bath. Luckily the service to Weston super Mare had been delayed and was still on platform 4, so we hared up to join it. I think we were literally the last two passengers they managed to squeeze on. It was cramped, stifling and stand room-only but it got us into Bath with hours to spare before the show.
I haven’t mentioned the show we were going to see, have I? Naughty Ben, slap on wrist. We had tickets for Addams Family the Musical at the Theatre Royal, bought for Caroline for Christmas. I didn’t realise, when I purchased them, that she’d never seen the Addams Family before in any medium, not comic strip, film or TV, so a short education was required with the help of Wikipedia. To wit:
“The Addamses are a satirical inversion of the ideal twentieth century American family: an eccentric wealthy aristocratic clan who delight in the macabre and are seemingly unaware, or do not care, that other people find them bizarre or frightening.”
I don’t think I could’ve concisely summed them up better. The play is touring the UK for the first time, having previous run on Broadway starring Nathan Lane. The substance of the stage show is that the Addams’ daughter, Wednesday Addams, has fallen for an ‘ordinary’ young man and so his parents are invited to meet her’s. Wednesday, aware that her suitor’s family are far more conventional than her own, begs her Gothic brood to try to be normal for just one night. Inevitably it doesn’t end well.
All good fun. But before that we went to the Garrick’s Head, a hostelry next door to the theatre and formerly the home of Georgian dandy Beau Nash, for a light lunch. Very nice food. Even better rosé that went down very nicely to slate our sun-inflated thirsts. I think the pub may have changed hands again and standards have risen after experiencing a blip under the previous management. Either that or they’ve pulled their socks up. Either way we had a delightful time before the show.
And the show was good too. Les Dennis is a winning comic presence as Uncle Fester (although he didn’t give us his Mavis Riley; pity). Cameron Blakley was a triumph as Gomez Addams, the Addams’ patriarch, playing the part adorned with an array of hysterical Hispanic histrionics. Carrie Hope Fletcher, as Wednesday Addams, is strong of voice and stage presence and Samatha Womack (née Janus) as Morticia Addams is…
Look, you can only use what talents the dear Lord gave you, can’t you? No need to mock the afflicted. She sings perfectly well, I’ll give her that.
The staging was towering, the songs were lusty and the cast gave their all. The first half is probably about 15 minutes too long, but overall it’s a great show and hopefully it should triumph in the West End should it end up there. The only real annoyance was the old man sat in a Winnebago-sized electric wheelchair in the aisle next to us. Firstly he forgot to turn off his mobile phone, which inevitably went off during the earlier moments of the first half. He then did his level best to reverse over me as I tried to leave my seat at the interval. I don’t know what was ailing him but should he wish to avail himself of the services of the good people at Dignitas then I’ll happily lead the fundraising for the flight to Switzerland.
After the show we sprung back out into the balmy heat. Our train back wasn’t due to leave for another 45 minutes so we stopped at The Royal Hotel Bath opposite the station for a cooling libation and fell into conversation with a nice Canadian couple who seemed to have as little time for their Prime Minister as we do ours. Justin Trudea is all talk and no action, apparently. There you go.
Wishing our Canadian bar mates adieu we hopped on our train – thankfully less crowded and stifling than the earlier one – and made our way back to the People’s Republic of Swindon.
An old friend of mine from university, Blaine, visited me in Swindon many years ago and I took him for a day out to Bath. Throughout the trip, captivated by Bath’s regal beauty, he repeatedly asked me: “So, explain to me – why doesn’t Swindon look like this?”
Eventually all I could do was snap back: “Look, it just doesn’t! Alright?”
And so it goes.