The Lion King

Saturday, 11th February 2006

SheffieldWe're going through Sheffield station again but, for once, I'm not on my way to the Peak District. We skirt around its eastern edge; this is a pastoral part of the Peak, with woods and neatly trimmed hawthorn hedges instead of the moors and drystone walls that I've been drawing in gritstone country to the north.

textingWhen drawing from a train, trees and hills are my main subjects; the hills stay visible for a while and although the trees go past pretty quickly there's always a similar-looking one to take it's place.

When we stop, the figures on platforms are always restless - it's almost as if they've got a train to catch - but as this man was absorbed in sending a text message, I had a minute or two to draw him, indicating the bench as we pulled away, out of the station. This is double the size that I drew him.

scarecrowYellow Alert

I'd just brought my two Parker pens with me today, one loaded with a black cartridge, one blue. The scarecrow got coloured in later.

We're travelling Midland Mainline, via Derby and Bedford, which makes a change from our usual GNER route via Doncaster and Peterborough (we came back that way).

Papardelle at San Fransecso's

After climbing the 193 steps (!) up from Covent Garden underground (Barbara doesn't like crowded lifts), the four of us (we've brought our neices, Sarah and Hannah) bill for 4 of us including drinkswalk past the Opera House and the street theatre performers and find a small Italian restaurant, the San Francesco, in Catherine Street. I can recommend the vegetarian papardelle and the San Francesco homemade crepe.

Backstage Tour

After the crowded spaces and busy streets of Covent Garden, it was such a contrast to step into the cavernous space of the Lyceum; there's a feeling of history in this theatre and a degree of grandeur but the whole effect is somehow friendly and intimate.

I've never seen the animated version of The Lion King; although I can see there's a Disney element in some of the characters, the experience of being in the audience for a spectacular live show like this is so different from watching a film. In an on-screen version there's always a specific viewpoint chosen for you by the director; with the live show there isn't really a 'best seat' (although I wouldn't have swapped my Royal Circle vantage point for the back of the stalls!). Theatre is much more of a shared experience.

I can't help thinking that seeing this production will have an effect not only on my scenery painting for the local pantomime but also on my work in general; in the use of light and colour, in the mixing of different levels of reality for different elements of the story, from African creation myth to knockabout humour; from dance and ritual, to family saga.

We're lucky enough to be taken on a brief backstage tour by someone we know in the makeup department. As a one-man band in my own artwork, I can feel the attraction of working with a team on a creative venture; there's that buzz of camaradarie that comes from everyone putting so much care, effort and inspiration into the production.

In 1969 I almost applied to do Theatre Design at Wimbledon and, looking at the props, costume, make-up department and so on back stage here, I realise that I would have felt at home here.

Hannah (our neice) catnapping on the return train.

Trains, Pens and Sketchbooks

We've spent over 5 hours on trains today. Even after sunset, on the way back, I can find something to draw in the carriage and, except for the last spread, I get to the end of the little sketchbook that I've brought with me. Next Page

Richard Bell,