My smugness disappeared rapidly as the box office chap tapped away fruitlessly at his computer. “You sure you’ve booked for this afternoon’s performance?” he questioned. My youngest daughter looked up at me, no doubt wondering if Dad had cocked it up again. He had.
The performance of The Way Back Home, an opera for children produced by the English National Opera, was not in fact to be performed at The Old Vic this afternoon. I was informed, with infinite politeness, that it was actually being performed at the Young Vic – an entirely different establishment.
“Come on Tess,” I said, grabbing her hand and trying to wrest back the initiative. “We’ve got plenty of time to get there. That’s why I don’t leave things ‘til the last minute like your mother.” It was a cheap shot and she knew it. “Daaaad,” she said, and rolled her eyes. I think she kind of suspected there’d be a hiccup along the way.
A short cab ride later and we were indeed still in plenty of time for the opera, a space story in music based on the best selling book by Oliver Jeffers. Tess has expressed an interest in opera entirely of her own volition, so it seemed to be an excellent entry-level opportunity to an art form I didn’t discover until later in life. We’ve shared many a jolly car ride singing along to a crackly old performance of Carmen and so it was, post-cock up cake and coffee dutifully devoured in the Young Vic’s hip café, we finally made our way into the small theatre to see what it was all about.
From an adult perspective, it was a bit odd. Not as related to opera as I thought it might have been, full as it was of human voicebox sound effects and some nerve-jangling musical creations combined with actors and actresses in various degrees of costumes. The blurb says it’s aimed at 5-8 year-olds, but perhaps it is more suitable to the younger end of the scale. Tess is seven, but despite my reservations, she maintained that she enjoyed it.
The tale of an alien and a small boy both trying to find their respective ways home is told with warmth and humour and while, as I say, it bears little resemblance to opera as we know it, it was excellent for the gathered youngsters to see the semblance of a live group of musicians playing ‘real’ music in conjunction with the stage story.
There were a couple of cellos, a couple of violins, percussionist and a conductor himself bewigged with silly hair and the short, sharp, comical story was a welcome denouement to a day’s sightseeing in London.
Buckingham Palace and noodles in Chinatown already ticked off, we headed for the train as lights sprang up around London’s skyline. I imagined how magical, mysterious and not to mention massive it must all have seemed to a tired seven-year-old. I’ll remember our first daytrip to London for ever, I imagine. I hope Tess does too.
For more information about productions at the Young Vic, visit the website.