The South Bank was, as the young so vividly put it, rammed. This is London's promenade, and it is full of variety and pleasure: galleries, theatres, eateries, markets, battleships, malls, sandcastles, pleasure boats, barges, bridges, musicians, mimes, pleasure gardens, aquariums, prisons, railway stations, and a big wheel...
Several of the screens appeared to have malfunctioned. I put this down to the Arctic breeze, which was very nearly the cause of my own malfunctioning as the blood in my uncovered head slowly froze as I made my way eastwards.
Most, though, hadn't, and there were some splendid goes. Simon Russell Beale did Timon very well. Here's part of his speech:
Who seeks for better of thee, sauce his palate
With thy most operant poison! What is here?
Gold? yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods,
I am no idle votarist: roots, you clear heavens!
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair,
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.
Ha, you gods! why this? what this, you gods? Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,
Pluck stout men's pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed,
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench: this is it
That makes the wappen'd widow wed again;
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To the day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that put'st odds
Among the route of nations, I will make thee
Do thy right nature.
Ah, spital houses and ulcerous sores! Not to mention wappen'd widows! Just the job. All very Now, eh? There was a big crowd for Lear, contending with a clamorous Antony and Cleopatra, near London Bridge. The former had a better backdrop though:
The Tower of London is behind the pergola. You can just see the spikes of the White Tower. Macbeth was facing the city of London, from Hays Wharf. I don't think that signified anything. Nothing, in fact. Walkie-Talkie, Cheese-grater and Gherkin all present.
Most unlikely structures however were the sandcastles and scenes being constructed on the beach:
A last word, on the Bankside Gallery, which was showing the annual exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society. It was the last day. I'm very glad I popped in, because here were paintings full of engagement, in every conceivable style, from extreme realism to abstraction. I liked a great many of them. After the dry, humourlessly facetious offerings in the Tate Modern's 'Art and Media' rooms, (even the Sonia Delauney seemed a bit tired and academic) this was refreshing. I grow old, I grow old...