When I moved from London to a small American city, one thing I was apprehensive about was the cultural scene. So it was with great fortune that we timed our move here to coincide with the opening of the annual Spoleto Festival.
Spoleto is one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the country. It receives generous government funding through the National Endowment for the Arts to support a programme of a world-class performances across the fields of theatre, music and opera.
We were eager to be on hand for the opening ceremonies, which took place down on Broad Street, on the steps of City Hall. The crowd was packed with a sea of straw-hatted arts enthusiasts as the Mayor of Spoleto, Italy made his remarks to officially open the first day of the festival.
Before the theatre, we had time to grab a quick bite at a Charleston dining recommendation we’d been chomping at the bit to try. My godmother, Lisa, suggested the Two Boroughs Larder and since we were downtown, this seemed the perfect chance to give it a go.
The communal dining area is lined with shelves stocked with dry goods and kitchen provisions. They carried some wonderful products, from French paring knives to custom dog collars that support rescue pups. I loved browsing that wall for things to line my own pantry!
We headed around to the other side of the restaurant to a more intimate seating area, and happily grabbed a seat by the window. The waitress slipped us some menus and we began to order a steady stream of small plates.
Like many restaurants in Charleston, Two Boroughs Larder strives to serve locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. The dishes are simple, but some of the combinations really blew our minds. Even the most basic dishes, like the seasonal lettuce, had us scraping our plates.
Lettuce, benne seed tahini, meyer lemon, breadcrumbs
Asparagus, buttered popcorn, whey
Charred English Peas, horseradish, pea jus, crème fraîche, radish
Squid Ala Plancha, aioli, wild greens
Cuban Sandwich, pork neck, ham, swiss, pickle mustard
Things started getting real by the time we polished off the Cuban sandwich. But our favourite by far was the bowl of house noodles. Could it be Charleston’s best ramen?
Bowl-o-Noodles, pork confit, soft egg, pork broth, house noodles, plus kimchi pickled mushrooms
We happily put away our bowls and headed to the theatre.
I’m profoundly embarrassed to admit that in five years of living in London I never managed to get to The Globe Theatre to see a performance. I walked by it so many times rambling up Southbank, but the right opportunity just never arose. So how apt that we moved to Charleston and let the merry players come to us!
Opening night performance at the Dock Street Theatre was The Globe’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet. And I couldn’t have been more excited!
The Dock Street Theatre first opened in 1736, under the reign of King George II. And despite Charleston’s tricky (to say the least) history with the British, the royal crest still hangs above the Dock Street stage.
We arrived fashionably early, giving us time for a quick apéritif in the beautiful brick courtyard before the show.
When the bells chimed, we sought out our seats and were pleased to find the actors milling about the room, tuning their musical instruments and exchanging casual banter with audience members. I can’t deny it was nice to hear the familiar parlance of the English tongue after so many weeks away from London.
The performance was fresh and energetic, and the actors seemed to transcend the pitfalls of such a famous, well-known story. Romeo was played by dad-bod ginger Samuel Valentine, which took a bit of getting used to as my mind kept picturing Mitchell Pritchett from Modern Family up on stage trying to woo Juliet, who was played by Cassie Layton. She actually nailed the part as a callow, pubescent schoolgirl pining after her first crush – after all, the character was only 14 years old.
But the standout performance was definitely Steffan Donnelly, the lanky and incredibly camp Mercutio – his charisma and vigor onstage was magnetic and won the audience over completely.
A wonderful first show in a two-week long lineup of events that are sure to be equally enthralling. It’s a relief to know that the arts are alive and thriving down here in the American South.