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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
50 - From collagenics to Angels via Andrew, Alan and a deported thief
Tower Court leads me between the stage doors, which face each other, out of Westminster and into the London Borough of Camden, and to Tower Street. Here I find out more about uplifting than I care to know. A Saks Collagenics Clinic window poster informs me that Saks is the 'UK's leading specialists in cosmetic injectile procedures' and that it employs 'medically-trained practitioners'. The services available include: 'line smoothing (btx); hyper hydrosis (btx); lip enhancement (defines the border and adds volume); facial contouring (nose reshaping, brow lift, jawline enhancement, and cheek implants); skin resurfacing peels (face, hands, neck and decolletage).' I can't help wondering whether the presence of this Saks clinic, here, in the heart of theatreland, in shouting distance of the Ivy and Stringfellows, says anything about the state of entertainment, fame and celebrity today.
Opposite Saks is a Victorian school building (built in the 1870s) which was converted to offices over a decade ago. Now it is inhabited by the naff-named Really Useful Group. Founded in 1977 by the phenomenally successful Andrew Lloyd Webber, the group calls itself an 'international entertainment company' involved in theatre, film, television, video and concert productions, merchandising, magazine publishing, records and music publishing. In partnership with Bridgepoint Capital, for example, it owns and manages 13 London theatres, including the Garrick.
At the west end of Tower Street, and thanks to the long-standing patronage of Alan Bates, is the Actors Centre and Tristan Bates Theatre. The Actors Centre provides professional actors with further training through workshops in areas such as camera techniques, dialect, stage combat and radio musical theatre. Membership costs £45 per year. The Tristan Bates Theatre serves as a venue for 'innovative new work, productions without decor and work-in-progress'. It was founded by Alan Bates and his son Benedick in memory of Benedick's twin brother, Tristan, a model and actor, who died in Japan during 1990 of an asthma attack when only 19. Sir Alan Bates himself died in December 2003, having being knighted earlier in the same year.
I can't leave Tower Street without a passing thought for Lazarus Isaacs. He was only 20 when, in April 1793, he was convicted of stealing 6 shillings and 6 pence (six and six) worth of stockings in Tower Street and transported to Australia for seven years. The proceedings of the Old Bailey detail the evidence of four witnesses again poor Lazarus. One of them, Peter Kerle, gave this testimony: 'I am a lighterman by trade. On Friday evening, about seven or eight o'clock, I was coming up Tower Street, I heard the cry of stop thief, the prisoner came running down the street, and I stopped him, and just before I stopped him, I saw him drop something from under his pocket . . . he attempted to get away from me, he dragged me seven or eight yards, but I held him pretty fast.'
For a yard to two, I touch on Earlham Street (once called Little Earl
Street), before swerving right into Shaftesbury Avenue. Across the road
I come face to face with 'Angels'. At first glance, it might appear that
this fancy dress shop exists in response to the modern obsession with dressing
up in public - at the drop of a hat, so to speak - whether for charity or
sports events. But Angels has been hiring costumes and fancy dress for over
160 years, and is run by the sixth generation of the same family. The store
says it has a warehouse with five miles of costume rails, 'the biggest dressing
up box in the world'. Angels can help turn you into Guinevere, Henry V,
a gorilla, Humpty Dumpty or Nelson. The cost of a full costume starts at
a very reasonable £60.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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