Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The National Portrait Gallery and the Old Vic

Today I met my friend Laura for a lecture at the National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk) and then spent a while in the gallery looking at portraits of people relevant to Jane Lane's story as well as Nell Gwynn's. They have a nice service on which you can search for portraits and then either print free black and white copies or pay for really good quality color prints, so I got color prints of Jane's post-Restoration portrait and the Isaac Fuller portrait of her and Charles on horseback.

I tried to arrange to see the pictures in person while I'm here and the lady who helped me did her best to make it happen, but unfortunately it wasn't possible in the time that I have left here - a casualty of this trip being so hastily arranged! Next time...

This evening I went to the Old Vic (oldvictheatre.com) and saw the really fantastic production of "Inherit the Wind" directed by Trevor Nunn, with Kevin Spacey as Henry Drummond and David Traughton as Matthew Harrison Brady.

The Old Vic is one of London's oldest and most distinguished and history-laden theatres. It was built in the early 19th century, and has been the scene of performances by many, many theatrical luminaries including Edmund Kean, Edith Evans, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Flora Robson, Charles Laughton, Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Albert Finney, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson, and Judi Dench. When Olivier was appointed first director of the National Theatre, the Old Vic served as its first home from 1962-1967. Olivier gave his last stage performance at the Old Vic in 1973, and if his ghost walks anywhere, it must surely be there.

The theatre has been saved when on the brink of destruction many times. In 1998 it was for sale and in danger of becoming a pub or lap dancing club. Kevin Spacey is the theatre's most recent savior. He became Artistic Director in 2003 and the Old Vic once more became a producing house. I've seen three of the six shows in which he has starred here since then("National Anthems" and "Richard II" as well as the current production) and also the outrageous Christmas pantomime with Sir Ian McKellan as Mother Goose and last year's wonderful "Pygmalion," and Mr. Spacey has really done a phenomenal job of producing really good theatre and packing the house. Not easy!

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