After months of virtually no social life at all and living in a cultural desert, it’s all happening at once. Yesterday was the second cultural treat of the week with a trip to see Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange Theatre in St. Ann’s Square.

First we went to the Principal Hotel on Oxford Street. It’s had a multimillion £ restoration and I was interested to see what they had done. We had coffee and cake in The Refuge Bar, the name a nod to the original name of the building. It used to be the headquarters of the Refuge Assurance Society, a banking and insurance business that is still running today. The restoration has been well done. The Principal has the look and the feel of a grand Victorian hotel when, in fact, it’s only 21 years old. Just a thought….top picture below….I want a job where I can sit about tapping on my laptop or iPad in the Refuge Bar at The Principal. I’m sure they are all doing something terribly important and profitable.

Coffee and cake done we headed across town to the Royal Exchange. St. Ann’s Square was being dressed with red lanterns in readiness for the Chinese New Year celebrations. This year the actual date is February 16th with the following weekend full of celebrations. And it’s going to be the Year of the Dog. I love the bright red lanterns appearing in the trees on a cold, grey January day, adds a bit of colour to the city and the season.

Guys and Dolls was the Royal Exchange’s Christmas treat. They always do something fun, and usually musical, and if it is well received they extend it before the Spring season starts. This has happened with Guys and Dolls. I thought, because of the ankle problems, I’d missed it but a couple of weeks ago I was passing through and saw that it was extended so I made a phone call home to see who was free and bought tickets there and then. We went to the matinée performance. It’s so good it was sold out and the theatre was packed. With a good story and some wonderful songs, it’s had many revivals across the world, the latest being this one in Manchester.

If you don’t know it, Guys and Dolls is Damon Runyon’s take on the comically, criminal low life of 1940’s New York. It’s about love and unexpected relationships and the story of how to find a place to continue ‘The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap in New York.’ It first saw the light of day on Broadway in 1950 and transferred to the West End soon after. There was a hugely successful film with Marlon Brando playing Sky Masterson and Frank Sinatra playing Nathan Detroit. Pictures of the deceptively simple set…

This production is notable in that it’s the first production with an all black cast. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be, the ethnic background of the actors does not alter the story or the wonderful music. It’s a flexible piece that lends itself to different settings and interpretations. It was put together by the Royal Exchange and the Talawa Theatre Company, a company that works to promote black actors, producers, directors in the theatre world. It’s amazing to think that in 2018, black people in the UK are still underrepresented in the theatre world.

This production is, it has the be said, wonderful. Well acted, staged, directed and well sung by a talented cast, it’s been playing to sold out houses since it began in December. You have till 3rd February to get a ticket. Good luck with that! Pictures courtesy of the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Talawa Theatre Company. Loved the suits by the way.

Afterwards it was on to dinner at The Indian Tiffin Room on First Street near HOME. It’s one of our favourites. We hit the cocktails. I had a Blueberry Blast and a delicious one with puréed mango, called a Bombay Delight, which was served in something that looked like an old fashioned light bulb.

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