The Final Curtain
No, what we are feeling today is that bittersweet longing for things to just stay put simply because endings are rarely happy (despite what they advertise in Chinatown). And so it is, we feel instinctive empathy for the luvvie-ish lamentations this week over the decision to finally close the Victoria & Albert's Theatre Museum in Covent Garden by January 2007. The Museum's future became uncertain when the Heritage Lottery Fund refused to back refurbishment plans. The Museum's collection is expected to be re-absorbed into a permanent exhibition at the V&A in South Kensington. And since the announcement, stage doors lining Shaftesbury Avenue have been filled with huddled masses bewailing the loss of a national museum dedicated to theatre based in the very heart of London's Theatreland.
Does it matter you ask? Isn't theatre all about the live moment not artificial preservation?
On the face of it, the decision to close is no doubt a blow to London's cultural menu. Especially considering London is the theatrical capital of the world (the Mousetrap notwithstanding). And for many theatre exists in the present but grows from the past. Hence the appeal of Museum exhibits such as Sir Lawrence Olivier's costume from Richard III and Noel Coward's make-up box.
Yet to be overtaken by a swell of commiseration considering you didn't even know London had a Theatre Museum, nor can you recall the name of a show pre Mamma Mia? Don't feel ashamed you are joined by large-scale indifference from most of the art world (and a certain wannabe thespian blogger).
It wasn't until a month ago when I attended a Liza Minnelli impersonator concert (as you do) at the Museum that I knew it existed. And as a devotee of Covent Garden's other anorak hangout, London's Transport Museum, I would certainly be in their target audience (if ever there was a case for someone to stay home more). So it was that I was greatly disappointed by what I found on my first and last visit: the trappings of historical theatrical arts displayed underground in artificial light on winding narrow corridors. Like Liza Minnelli's boudoir if she lived with the Addams Family. The act of visiting there sadly not relevant to those who want to go to a good museum, or to those who want to learn more about London's Theatreland.
So we will bid 'So long, Farewell' Theatre Museum. Just be sure to leave behind the West End shows when you leave the West End. We can only hope they find you better digs on Exhibition Road. Because in theatre, as in life, there is always hope reserved for the second act.
For a real inside view to the performing arts across the capital:
Check out the Open Rehearsal Festival this weekend when major venues including the Globe Theatre, Royal Albert Hall, English National Opera, the Barbican and the South Bank Centre open their doors to the public for three days of free, behind the scenes events.