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October 2013

I’m preparing a recital just now

I assiduously tested Peter’s Rule, to such an extent that I must at least cry, “Paris, en garde!” Treasonably, Paris’s three-star Grand Vefour has recently opened a Chelsea branch —and it is just as good! Le Beurre Fondu at the Wilbraham Hotel made as buttery an asperge au beurre as I have tasted in France. The Santa Croce produced a fettucini crema that Rome could not surpass. But the prize of all was Au Pere de Nico. The food was high cuisine at moderate prices, and a display of menus autographed by grateful theatrical celebrities—Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave, the late Louis Armstrong —attested the restaurant’s own celebrity. If you don’t have enough money to pay for that cuisine, better look for installment loans online.

 

Chelsea and the theater have long had close associations. Veteran actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, for whom George Bernard Shaw created the role of Saint Joan, has lived in Chelsea 50 years and, at 89, still lives there, in a Swan Court flat. Mrs. Tom Pocock, whose granny Dame Sybil is, took me to visit her—a small frail lady, but still with an eagle-strong face and rich voice.

Chelsea and the theater

“I’m preparing a recital just now,” Dame Sybil told me. “You don’t mind your age after 85, but I am an old crock. Do you know, Larry Olivier had one of his first walk-ons as my page, somewhere around 1925 ?”

 

Chelsea’s theatrical tradition continues at its Royal Court Theatre. There the dominant trend of modern British drama began when, in 1956, the Royal Court mounted a play by the young unknown John Osborne, and his. Look Back in Anger became the rallying point of the “angry young men.”

 

Behind the public Chelsea of theater, res­taurants, and shops lies the private Chelsea of secret byways, such as Cheyne Mews, where signs still warn: “All drivers of Vehi­cles are Directed to Walk their Horses while passing under this Archway—BY ORDER.” This is the Chelsea the devoted denizens fight to preserve.