Rope and Pulley

Even Proms fans need a weekend off from time to time. And this weekend was one of them for Simon and I.

We ventured north of the Thames yesterday afternoon destined for Coronet Street in Hackney. It was a strange journey, one which jolted both of us into remembering the place we first met each other (at Limehouse on the Commerical Road) and the home of the then mutual acquaintance who got us together in the first place.

It also saw us driving through a strange area of London which skirts the edge of the City. Shoreditch, Old Street, Spitalfields and Hoxton are all areas which ooze a mixture of youthful excitement set against a dowdy London backdrop alongside some of the grimiest examples of so-called living the capital has to offer. The question “How does this kind degradation actually happen?” often came up in the car as we sped towards our destination.

The destination was Circus Space in Hackney, the home of what appears to be a circus and acrobatics school in a converted power station. The exterior is unassuming, the interior breathtaking. So too the skills of those amateur acrobats who were displaying their obvious talents to the assembled audience of friends, family and acquaintances.

There was without doubt, a laid back atmosphere in the converted combustion chamber. Ropes and pulleys hung down from wrought iron girders. Experienced amateurs and petrified audience alike sat cross-legged on the mats and floor staring up at a myriad of ropes and pullies hanging from chunky wrought iron girders.

One by one, each performer stepped forward and clambered to their starting position on the paraphenalia above them. Keen looking assistants crouched down in the background hanging on to ropes, ready to leap into action should events demand so. Music started, muscles flexed and within minutes of watching our first acrobat of the afternoon both Simon and I suddenly began to focus in awe at the amazing strength of the acrobats who performed in front of us.

The last acrobatics we saw was Cirque de Soleil’s La Nouba at Disney Boardwalk, Florida. The Amateur Acrobatics day at Circus Space 2007 was something infinitely more intimate and, given I had the unusual opportunity to witness a colleague from work demonstrate her own acrobatic skills, perhaps even more satisfying to watch.

There is something really quite humbling watching people manipulate their bodies into all sorts of different positions ten feet above the ground and, what I’m finding difficult to understand as to why, also quite relaxing to watch too.

Stating the bloody obvious

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Simon and I hadn’t banked on there being quite as many queues at the recently opened O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula. We’d visited the former Millenium Dome a few weeks when we both had time to kill during the day. It was open but deserted then.

Contrary to what we were wondering the crowds hadn’t turned out for either of us nor the Simpsons movie we’d booked tickets for. It turned out the people were queuing outside the many restaurants there to get fed and watered before they took their seat alongside 30,000 others at the Scissor Sisters gig on tonight.

“Prince is playing 15 gigs here next week,” said the effecient lady ushering people to their tables at Inc Brasserie where we ate, “he’s doing one in the arena and then an extra gig outside afterwards.”

“Do you like Prince?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied, “but it doesn’t matter, that arena is sound-proofed.”

It seems an incredible turn-around for the much maligned Dome *. There were people everywhere, wandering around taking in the sight of what is little more than a row of restaurants, a groovy looking indoor beach, some cinema screens and a massive venue. I’d liked the place before, but now with the buzzy atmosphere this place certainly seems like a real pull. There was a good atmosphere outside although to be honest the only way to get there is by public transport. They do still need to sort out the car parking signage.

If you’re wondering what we made of the Simpson’s movie then I hope you won’t mind me pointing out that I’d some kind of idiot if I thought I could review. Unlike one or two miserable so and sos who have referred to it as nothing more than three Simpson’s episodes back to back, this was the one film I’ve genuinely looked forward to going to see in a long time. It didn’t disappoint.

The most touching moment, without doubt, was seeing hoards of people come to a halt as they descended the steps looking for the exit, stopped in their tracks by a number of extra scenes thrown into the credits. That is a measure of just how much of a global phenomenom Groening’s creation really is.

(There are two great things about the Vue Cinema at the 02. The first is these – they’re powerful and effective and not in anyway unpleasant to use. The second is the fact that you can buy your ticket at any retail outlet within the cinema itself. None of this “we’d better queue up at the box office to get the ticket before we get the popcorn. You can now get your tickets from the same place you get your popcorn.)

* It was always be the Dome to me. It might have been saved because of mobile comms company O2 and named thus, but still it’s the Dome.