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On Friday, I made my way down to the capital city for the first time in 6 years. It was a mixture of both business and pleasure, but ultimately I had gone there to work with the actor Paul Copley and teach him the song I had been comissioned to write for the show ‘The Last Cuckoo’.

Sitting on public trains is such a weird experience. I had a pre-booked seat which was a relief considering how busy the train was. But for the next 2 and a half hours I shared my space with a whole bunch of other commuters – none of which spoke – or appeared to have any social skills whatsoever. I sat and read but couldn’t help but people watch too. I jotted down 5 pages of notes about those around me; observations, remarks and questions! For example, if I HAD brought my laptop like I was going too – how on earth would I have been able to use it, when the table I was sitting at was almost taken up by the three other laptops in use by my fellow passengers! Laptop rage and envy was very much on display!

Another question: why do people talk so loudly on their mobile phones for such long periods of time when they are surrounded by people trying to sleep and read!? And why oh why don’t people put their phone on vibrate and carry it on their person so that they know when it’s ringing? I’m sure a contemporary piece of music was being created as each individual phone and text ringtone continuously assaulted the airwaves!

I sat opposite a man who ate fruit like he was a neanderthal man, ripping the flesh from his latest feast; a woman who kept looking at herself in the mirror and talking on the phone about her latest photo shoot – and another man who had 1 laptop and 2 mobiles phones on the go, all at the same time! I didn’t always feel the most comfortable, but I was highly entertained throughout to say the least! I couldn’t help but wonder who all of these people were and what were their stories?!

This all paled into significance as I reached London, hailed down a taxi and raced my way to Sadler’s Wells dance house. I was meeting two friends there as we had tickets to see Akram Khan’s ‘Vertical Road’ show – which was absolutely amazing!

I took the following from their website:  

Choreographed by Khan and performed by a world-class cast of dancers from across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, this new work features a specially commissioned score by long-term collaborator Nitin Sawhney. Khan draws inspiration from universal myths of angels that symbolise ‘ascension’ – the road between the earthly and the spiritual, the Vertical Road. Visually inspiring and spiritually profound, Vertical Road draws on the performers’ different cultural interpretation of the human odyssey. In Akram Khan’s words: “in a world moving so fast, with the growth of technology and information, I am somehow inclined to move against this current, in search of what it might mean to be connected not just spiritually, but also vertically“. Vertical Road draws inspiration from the Sufi tradition and the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi. Exploring man’s earthly nature, his rituals and the consequences of human actions, Vertical Road becomes a meditation on the journey from gravity to grace.

At 75 minutes long and no interval, I was completely transfixed for the whole period. Sadly I don’t have the technical vocabulary to describe the spiritual journey which occured, both within the show and for myself in many ways; but I was constantly moved and amazed by the dancers’ abilities and physical strength. 

From here we went to a nearby beautiful restaurant called ‘The Ambassador’ which had a European café feel complete with an informal and lively atmosphere. The food was great and the staff were really helpful and friendly. We stayed for the rest of the night here before returning to my friends house in Greenwich where I was staying. He kindly offered me the bedroom as a guest – as opposed to the sofa – which was great!!

In the morning, we walked through Greenwich Park, past the observatory and (foggy) views aross London, past the naval museum (where they are currently filming Pirates of the Carribean 4) and towards the tube station. Sadly I found a gorgeous little second hand/flea market en route, but I only had time to look at one stall as I had to get to my rehearsal. I arrived at Bethnal Green at 10am precisely and met the other members of the ‘Cuckoo’ production team and actors.

I worked all morning on the song with Paul, who has a great voice, excellent sense of rhythm and an amazing stage presence. He did the song justice and I was really pleased with how the rehearsal went. I am looking forward to seeing it in the context of the show. I stayed the rest of the afternoon, enjoying lunch with everybody and watching further rehearsals, before starting the journey back across London to Euston, train to Manchester – then last-leg across country to home. I returned with the show’s producer so at least we were able to chat for most of the journey, (which made the travelling pass much quicker and made it alot more enjoyable) – although I was still absolutely shattered by the time I got into my flat!

Sadly there had been no time to sightsee as such – although I saw several famous landmarks en route to other places – including the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral, all lit up at night! Overall, an action packed and fun couple of days. I plan to return – and soon.