In world-famous West End, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, and Madonna are all in highly acclaimed plays. I don’t have the pounds to see them, but there’s no way any of their productions could come close to the theatrics I saw as I drifted around tonight.
First was wonderful water ballet. In Trafalgar Square, England fans celebrated in spite of England’s loss out of the World Cup at the hands of Brazil today. Even though the game started at 7:30 this morning, some extreme fans were still in one of Trafalgar’s fountains at 6:00 tonight. The St. George’s flag, a red cross on a white background, became a cape for many of these superfans. As screams of “EnnngaaaLAND!” rang down from those who were sober enough to climb to the top tier of this 20-foot-high fountain, a Brit drunk enough to be in serious danger of drowning swam with beer cans as he used part of a garbage can to play solo Frisbee. I laughed, snapped a few pictures, and then moved on, thinking I’d had my entertainment for the night.
Trafalgar was little more than a commercial before the Leicester blockbuster. A preacher with a southern accent lectures the crowd, his urgings to religion amplified by a sound system undoubtedly bought with donations. He is literally on a pedestal, using a stool to rise above the crowd and putting his jeans embossed in gold with “Jesus Is Good” on eye level. Dancing past, one poor lady doesn’t agree: “It’s all about the monnnney! He just wants your money!” The preacher answers her preaches, assuring her that’s not the case: “I’m not even asking for donations, and if I had any money I’d give it to you.” A soccer fan caped with a flag was causing a whole different interference at the same time, literally screaming into the preacher’s microphone about how great England is. The preacher actually grabbed the fan’s hand several times as he pointed in his face; for a few minutes, I thought I might actually see a guy yelling about religion punch a drunken soccer fan! Most interesting was the man seated on the concrete a few feet in front of the preacher. Middle-aged and balding, he wore professorially round glasses and the St. George flag as a cape. For as rowdy as the other caped fan was, this man was contemplative: he sat and listened to the preacher the entire time. This really was a strange trio of preachers when all 3 were going: the audience could listen to a preacher yell about repentance while a woman railed against anybody “telling you what to do. Do whatever you want!” and a young guy made sure you understood that “ENGALAAND is the best!” Meanwhile, I laughed so hard I could barely take pictures.
The loud fan left, so I figured the best of my entertainment was over. I wanted to follow him for an encore but, unable to see where he’d went, I walked to the next performers. A band was playing South American music, but the real highlight was their accompaniment: some English guy of at least 60 interpreted every chord through a strange dance. He’s got wide-ranging musical tastes: I saw him letting it all hang loose to a reggae band a few weeks ago. I laughed and photographed this display for a few minutes, deciding it had been an O.K. finale to some unique entertainment. Just as I was ready to leave, the football fan who’d preached to the preacher joined the dance! The audience loved him, but the band had made the mistake of using a hat bearing the English flag to hold the money they’d collected: money scattered across the pavement as the drunk dancer added this piece of regalia to his outfit. How can “Les Miserables” and Shakespeare even hope to compete?