A night of revelry
ON our way to the National Theatre’s engaging current production of Twelfth Night last week, we were amazed by the vast crowds that had descended on the Thames to enjoy the warmth of the evening. The whole pedestrian embankment seemed to have been transformed into a vast cafe or bar. As we picked our way through the crowd, the roar of conversation drowned out all other sounds. For a rare and exhilarating moment, London felt human and relaxed.
I fancy that, when I first came to live here about 25 years ago, such a scene was unthinkable (particularly on the once-unfashionable South Bank). Then again, humanity itself manifestly doesn’t change. When we left the theatre a couple of hours later, fresh from witnessing the excesses of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the crowd’s comparatively lightweight revellers had evaporated. In their place was a staggering expanse of rubbish. Across the full extent of the Embankment were plastic glasses, bottles and packaging clustered in circles, the footprints of vanished parties. It was a dismal scene enlivened only by the nocturnal seagulls enjoying the spoils. As we fled, I reflected that Malvolio, for all his faults, at least had the strength of mind to complain. JG