An icy morning saw a group of Ertegun scholars congregate in Oxford station, tickets in hand, ready to catch a train. A couple of hours later, we alighted in Bristol, where we were met by Bryan. After nearly losing two members of the group, we managed to leave the station and headed off to grab a quick lunch, stopping on the way to have a rapid look at St Mary Redcliffe parish church, some parts of which date to the twelfth century. Bryan drew our attention to the remarkable carvings of the 14th c North Porch. We had, however, barely entered and grasped the scale of the building, with its vast windows, when we were forced to rush onwards. No time to feed the birds!
After a brisk, but excellent, lunch, we joined the queues to enter the Bristol Hippodrome, trusting that the extent of the crowd was evidence of the quality of the production, and noticing that the majority of us did not really seem to fit into the two main age brackets (children and parents). We eventually entered the theatre, took out seats, and waited with bated breath for the curtain to rise on the smoking chimneys of London.
Overall it was a spectacular, and hugely fun, experience. The sets, including a slightly psychedelic park with living statues, formed an impressive shifting backdrop for an exuberant cast, who danced and sang with the kind of energy that should ensure that Ertegun House this week will be filled with people humming supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Mary Poppins glided about on the stage, permanently poised, and practically perfect in every way, now and again floating off and on with her customary umbrella. Perhaps one of the most impressive feats saw Bert the chimney sweep striding up the walls to tap dance upside-down on the roof – there was some debate after the show about how this was achieved.
A simple story, about an unhappy family whose lives are transformed by the enigmatic eponymous heroine, it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday towards the end of term, as work-loads are getting increasingly heavy, and brains are feeling drained. A chance for a jolly holiday with Mary – after all, don’t we all know that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down?