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30 March 2011

Keira, Peggy and a Pair of Sliders

I'd been wanting to check out Spuntino, Polpo's newest baby sister (and with seats only at the bar and barely any standing room, it's pretty tiny) since Daily Candy wrote about it and as I was heading to the theatre in Panton Street tonight, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. There are no bookings, no phone and no menu (not online, anyway) and even though it was only 6.15 on a Wednesday when I showed up, there was already a queue. It was lucky I arrived early because by the time Balham Babe showed up at 6.30, the line was practically out of the door and when we left at 7.23, it was well out of the door. We had to wait about 25 minutes for our chance to perch at the bar but it was worth the wait and the food came quickly.

Unlike Polpo and Polpetto, Spuntino has a strong New York flavour to its Italian small plate dishes. I went for the lardo crostini with caperberries (I had no idea what the latter were but they were tasty) and a ground beef and bone marrow "slider." The sliders are probably the best value food on the menu and they're very tasty too. You get a mini-burger/meatball in a brioche bun with assorted condiments. With a few other plates (or maybe some frites) this dish could satisfy my burger cravings. BB went for a duck and (something cheesy) salad, which was pretty tiny so she ordered her own slider. Sadly, I had to give the Prosecco a miss but I'll definitely be back to sample the puddings (Nutella pizzetta? Sì, per favore) -- and when I have more time. Kudos to the staff, though, who managed to get us seated, watered and fed in time to (just about) make it to the Comedy Theatre.

I saw the 1962 movie version of The Children's Hour earlier this year and this evening, I saw the play, starring Keira Knightley in the Audrey Hepburn role (Karen) and Elisabeth Moss as the Shirley MacLaine character (Martha). Watching the film, you might think of it as a very stagey movie but actually, I think the pacing of the film worked a lot better than in the movie. With lengthy scene changes, the play tended to have very long scenes and Knightley and Moss didn't have a lot to do in the first half, where they were largely outstaged by Bryony Hannah playing the odious Mary. Ellen Burstyn, playing Mary's grandmother, was good fun, although Carol Kane, who played Martha's aunt, was a little over the top even for a luvvie.

The drama really ramped up in the second half and Moss was excellent -- everything about her from her voice to her expressions to her body language were completely different to when she is playing Peggy in Mad Men. Keira, meanwhile, was also pretty good, although her accent faltered from time to time (all of the cast seemed to be aiming for non-rhotic accents so I assume the play is set near Boston or New York) and she seemed to be going for the wrong Hepburn -- at times, she seemed as though she was parodying Katharine Hepburn. While Audrey played the role of Karen in a very cool, understated way, Keira was loud, angry and aggressive and with that distinctive Katharine Hepburn New England twang. This was a little distracting.

I am, of course, tainted by having seen the movie first because although I really enjoyed the play and felt the acting was good, the structure of the movie felt better suited for telling this rich, interesting story. It was easy for me to fill in the gaps in the play, based on what I knew from the film, but I suspect I would have felt less satisfied with the play if I hadn't seen the film.

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