September 21st, 2010 · Comments Off on My Bit on Theater
One thing that I appreciate about London is the accessibility to see theater without creating a dent in your pocket. Seeing shows on Broadway are the complete opposite, hence the reason why I’ve only been to a couple of Broadway shows although, my money has always been well spent. In London I haven’t spend more than thirty pounds to see a production, not to say that they’ve all blown me away. Les Miserables was my favorite and was similar to the style of production that I am used to seeing. Performance wise, everything was spot on- the acting, costumes, set, music, the list goes on. It took real skill for the actors to maneuver the rotating stage, which I’ve never seen before. The most unique experience for me would have to be at The Globe Theater seeing The Merry Wives of Windsor. Never in my life would I opt to standing for three hours to watch a play, except for in London of course. I’m not a fan of Shakespeare but I had some good laughs. The cast was very talented, and the transitions between scenes were very creative. I would say most of us liked the production, even though we all despised Professor Qualls for making us stand.
The funniest play would be The 39 Steps, in which there was never a dull moment. What I really loved about this play was their creativity and enthusiasm. This four- member cast created magic on stage, and engaged the entire audience. With limited crew and crops, they really encouraged viewers to use their imagination. While glancing at the audience during intermissions, I couldn’t help but notice how homogenous the crowds each play attracted. Being located in the West End could have been a reason for the very white audiences, however it’s not like ticket prices prevent anyone else from being able to see a show every now and then. Is theater going only prominent in white culture? I also wonder if there is such a thing as the same show being better in the West End than it is on Broadway. Somehow, I just can’t see it happening that way, probably vice versa (statement could also be very biased). If its one thing, I wish I did set aside more of my time in London to see more theater. I know this is something that I won’t to do when I get back to New York. I find it ridiculous that now movie tickets are over twelve dollars each, which is the equivalent to a fifteen pound ticket to a play. It is so unfair that Londoners have this choice! I do hope to come back to London a couple times before my stay is over to further immerse myself in theater culture.
Tags: 2010 Melissa · Uncategorized
September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment
We have talked a lot about the accessibility of beauty and the arts in London. Free museums, buskers in the tube stations, art on the walls of the tube stations, well-kept public parks and green spaces, free concerts, and, finally, affordable, professional theatre. In the U.S., quality theatrical performances are reserved for the middle-ish and upper classes because of the high cost of tickets. In the UK, much of the arts are subsidized by the government, so even big productions in the West End attract an audience of diverse financial means. Here in London, it is not uncommon for students and other last-minute types to pick up tickets for 15 or 20 quid. In my four weeks in London I have seen four plays, what would have amounted to at least a hundred dollars in ticket prices in the states. It feels so much more elevated that our default entertainment is the theatre instead of the movies. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would take Les Mis over The Expendables any day.
I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of performances over the years in the U.S. including theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, etc., but always as a special treat, a luxury. In London, the arts can be a regular part of your life regardless of income, and I think that is possibly the best thing about this city. As fun as dressing up for a special night out and having a fancy dinner can be, I’m even more satisfied in jeans and a sandwich from Pret if it means I can go to the theatre on a regular basis.
Each of the plays we saw as a class were very different from one another so it’s hard to pick a favorite. We saw Shakespeare (The Merry Wives of Windsor), a comedy (The 39 Steps), and a somewhat experimental drama (The Habit of Art), outside of class I saw a musical (Les Mis).
I wonder, with increased accessibility, (and therefore increased exposure?) to the arts, do more people choose to pursue the arts as a career in the UK than in the U.S. or other parts of the world? Does England have a higher percentage of the population working as actors, artists, or musicians? Thoughts?
Tags: 2010 Rachel
September 7th, 2010 · 1 Comment
… So far.
During the two weeks in London, I have so far had the opportunity to see a variety of shows, which have offered different perspectives of theatre culture in England.
First, there was The Merry Wives of Windsor at The Globe. As a groundling after a long day exploring the city, my feet were exhausted by my excitement levels were through the sky (well, higher than usual, as they tend to be at somewhat extreme heights in general). Seeing Shakespeare performed at The Globe was an incredible experience for many reasons. Not only was the performance one of the best live productions that I have seen, the theatre’s atmosphere was almost indescribable. It was almost if everyone had traveled to the turn of the 17th century. Usually, everyone is quiet during the performance and politely respectful of the performers. While this was the case, the audience seemed more willing to shout, cheer, and laugh uncontrollably at the events on stage. Being so close to the stage, the magic of the actors radiated from the stage and created an atmosphere unmatched by any performance thus far. The added music also added to the atmosphere- an Early Modern theatrical experience would have had the pre-show performers and would have been completely different from what we are used to. The performance was as close to replicating that experience as possible in our modern world. Afterwards, we were able to thank some of the actors and they seemed sincerely grateful that we said something- an idea that would be challenged later.
Next came the Proms at Royal Albert Hall. While The Globe was magical, Proms was one of the most equalizing of the performances because of how accessible they were. In the States, every classical concert I have been to has been a stuffy affair. There, the celebration of the music was open and everyone seemed to be unified in their desire for good music (which the audience should not have been disappointed with). The biggest issue I had with the Proms was the incessant coughing. Usually people try to hold their coughs, but when one or two people cough at during movements, it doesn’t provide an excuse for everyone to cough uncontrollably to prove they can and that they are not going to do disrespect the musicians by coughing during the performance. I would like to go back to Proms to see if it is a bizarre tradition or if that night was a fluke.
Royal Albert Hall
My following experience was Billy Elliot, which I have already blogged about, so I’ll try not to be redundant here. Other than being my first big West End experience, it was also important because it showed a lot of the themes of our course in a new light. Instead of applying the themes to the immigrant communities, it showed the themes in terms of a distinctively native English story. Furthermore, it also highlighted two differences between English and American theatre in particular. Firstly, we aren’t used to paying for our programs in the States. As an avid theatre goer, I’m used to being handed a Playbill (or regional equivalent) and continuing into the theatre. I don’t have to wonder who the cute guy playing a certain character is or why so and so looks so familiar. I don’t mind paying an extra three quid when I’m paying half of what I’m used to paying, but it definitely caught me off guard. Secondly, the tradition of stage door here is (as far as I’ve gathered) practically non-existent. In NYC, it is fairly common to wait after the show at the stage door to thank the actors for their performance, get an autograph, and if you are lucky, a photograph. (Yes, this can be a weird experience, but it can also be a great one.) When we went after Billy, it was completely different. While there were people there, the actors went by ignoring everyone. After Holly mentioned it, I realized that this was indeed a representation of the English concern for privacy and social dis-ease. On stage, the actors are free from interacting with the strangers feet away from them. At the door, they are in a different type of spotlight. Yet, the boundaries between personal and private life would not intersect. They are still technically at work. The guys from The Globe seemed to enjoy that we acknowledged them. I can’t wait to try another stage door experience to see the difference. (I planned to try again after Les Mis, but it was raining…)
The Victoria Palace, Home of Billy Elliot
Next came Bedlam, back at The Globe. For the first play by a woman performed there, the show was interesting. I’d like to say it succeeded it my expectations (which weren’t that high), but it didn’t. It did meet them, but something about the show was lacking the magic of the first show we saw there. At the end of the first act, I wasn’t at all satisfied, but by the end of the second, it had redeemed itself. I’d like to blame this all on not being a groundling and therefore surrounded by the audience members and the actors. I did enjoy it but it was not my favorite by any stretch.
The Globe, A View From Above
Lastly (thus far) is Les Miserables. One of my favorite musicals, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the fact Marius has a slight bald patch, the actors were outstanding. (Even Norm Lewis, who I have seen in another musical and was THOROUGHLY disappointed in then, was outstanding. His awkward- but commanding- stage presence was perfect for Javert.) A truly equalizing musical, I was not surprised to see people in blue jeans and others in formal dresses. The difference is interesting when considered in the context of the musical and its equalizing themes. Theatre in London is truly for everyone- no matter one’s status. Seeing the opposites in dress at this show hit me as strangely appropriate. (I don’t want to elaborate knowing that some of you guys have yet to see it. So, I’ll just leave it at that.)
So far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at the theatre and can’t wait for more. I’m hoping to see Wicked (my favorite, in case you have missed that slight detail) and Blood Brothers at the very least. While technically not theatrical, I also expect my experiences at the various football matches I’m planning on going to to be worthy of a theatre stage!
Tags: 2010 Stephenie · Theatre
September 15th, 2009 · No Comments
The Silver Exhibit in the V&A
Having a Good Time at the Fitzroy
Like many of my classmates I decided it would be worthwhile to summarize all of my discoveries this month in London. During this post I will focus on six main themes found within London: Parks, Churches, Pubs, Other Religious Institutions, Theatre and Museums.
Each park that I visited had its own distinct characteristics that separated it from any other. Green Park was the first I visited and after perusing a few others, I realized there was nothing that exciting about it. Located right across from Buckingham Palace, Green Park certainly provides a good place to go and take a break from the busy atmosphere of the area. Besides this however there is not much going on and I would recommend that potential park goers walk the extra distance over to St. James Park.
In addition to the large number of waterfowl heckling people for food which offers consistent entertainment St. James offers some picturesque flower beds throughout and various monuments along the way. It has the relaxing atmosphere of Green Park with a bit more excitement sprinkled in.
Regents Park offers a completely different feel from Green or St. James. Located in a separate area of London, Regents Park has a history of being used by a higher end crowd. I could tell this immediately from the feel of the park. The decorative shrubbery and elegant architecture throughout gave me a feeling that Regents is not as well used as other parks.
Since I was one of the members of the Parks group that gave a walking tour of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens I could go into a lot more detail about these two green spaces but I will choose not to in an effort to be concise. In summary Hyde Park is the largest green space in London and is often used for larger events such as concerts, festivals etc. It also contains a large number of monuments throughout including the 7/7 memorial and the Diana Memorial Fountain. Kensington Gardens is home to a variety of key monuments but is not as well trodden as Hyde. Overall it makes for a quieter atmosphere, more conducive fo reading or “snogging”.
Regents Park were my two favorite green spaces in London. Regents, is both beautiful, and extremely large and I continually felt the need to go back and explore. Kensington Gardens appealed to me in that it was quainter than Hyde Park but contained a like amount of history and monuments throughout. Although I would be content spending a length of time in any London green space Regents and Kensington would be my top choices.
Overall I enjoyed going to the theatre on so many occasions. What better place to do so than in London after all? Here I will discuss my favorite performances and theatre venues.
All in all I enjoyed all but two of the performances we saw. The two Shakespeare productions at The Globe Theatre were fantastic. Although I did not particularly enjoy reading Troilus and Cressida it made a huge difference to be there so close to the actors. The fantastic drum chorus at the end really sealed the deal. As You Like It was probably my favorite show I saw here in London. Although it is one of Shakespeare’s simpler plays the actors really made it jump off the page. Being down it the pit was fantastic because of all the ad-libbing and constant interaction with the crowd. I even felt traces of Touchstone’s saliva on my arm at one point.
The other Shakespeare performance I saw, All’s Well That Ends Well, was lackluster. Although the Olivier was my favorite performing venue (this is what an auditorium style theatre should be like…why can’t Dickinson have something like this?) the play itself was odd and ended on an abrupt and odd note.
The other play we saw at the National Theatre, The Pitmen Painters, was fantastic. Although I was dozing a bit because of the Benadryl I took right before the show, the actors kept my attention and I appreciated that the play was based off of a true story.
Easily the oddest play we saw was Arcadia. An extremely intelligent performance the play juxtaposed two different periods in time and created a singular storyline in which the plot was based. Overall it was an entertaining performance that made me think early and often.
Finally there was Blood Brothers. The lone musical I saw produced feelings of disbelief, anguish and held back laughter. The ridiculous 80’s sound track and creepy narrator just didn’t do it for me. I think it’s safe to say that I was not the only one from Humanities 309 who was a bit surprised to see just about everyone in the audience give it a standing ovation.
I had a very positive experience with the theatre here. I would go back to the globe again and again. I loved being that close to the action. I would also enjoy seeing another show in the Olivier. There really is so much to choose from here. It’s simply a matter of figuring out your tastes and saving your money so you can see a lot of performances.
From Westminster Abbey to St. Paul’s Cathedral we saw most of the major churches/cathedrals during our month in London. St. Paul’s was easily my favorite. From the fantastic crypt to the hundreds of stairs up to the tower it had so much to offer in the way of history and mystique. Westminster Abbey fascinated me primarily because of all the literary figures that had been buried inside as well as the room that was dedicated to “The Order of the Bath”. Other churches that I really enjoyed taking a look at were: “St. Martin in the Fields” which sits just outside Trafalgar Square and Nicholas Hawkesmoore’s “Christ’s Church” which is located in very close proximity to Brick Lane.
Other Religious Institutions
Overall the Sikh Gurdwara was my favorite place that we visited. I appreciated the simplicity of the religious doctrine as well as the conviction and honesty with which our tour guide, Mr. Singh spoke. The morning was capped off with a fantastic sit down meal together in which everyone was served the same food and drink.
I had different feelings about the Hindu Mandir. It was clear to me from the very beginning that the Hindu religion is not nearly as modest as Sikhism nor are they trying to be. From the extremely decorative prayer room, to the museum located right in the center of the Mandir I never felt particularly comfortable inside.
The only religious institution I wish we had gotten a chance to visit is a Mosque. I had been to one many years ago but I did not remember a whole lot from my experience. I wonder how much more lively the East End, and all parts of London would be if Ramadan were not taking place during our time here.
I could go on and on about museums so I will attempt to stay as concise as possible.
The British Museum was massive, convenient since it was so close to the Arran House but a little one dimensional at times. One of my favorite exhibits at the British Museum was a special exhibit on Living and Dying that drew information from all different time periods and cultures.
The National Gallery was fantastic. Although I have a hard time appreciating some visual art the gallery kept my attention for a number of hours. Seeing so many famous works of art was phenomenal.
The Tate Modern was my least favorite museum here. Although I am trying I have a hard time understanding modern art. After about 45 minutes in this museum it ended up being too much for me.
The Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill Museum were two of my favorites. The realization that I was standing in one of the most important places in World War II history was unbelievable. The War Rooms felt so authentic. I really felt as though I had been taken back in time to the 1940’s while inside.
The Victoria and Albert was easily my favorite museum in London. There was so much variety inside and so much to see. I could have easily spent a few days inside. Two of my favorite exhibits were the silver and jewelry exhibits. I’m not sure what this says about me as a person but I found it unbelievable that individuals could even own such treasures. I also enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the V&A staff. At most of the other museums I visited I felt like I was doing them a disservice simply by being there. Although I understand that taking pictures of an object in a museum doesn’t do it justice I like to be able to have the option of doing so.
The Sir John Soane museum interested me but it wasn’t really my cup of tea in the end. It also had a stuffy atmosphere to it that I didn’t really appreciate.
One thing I can draw from my experience at museums here is that each and every one has something that distinguishes it. With so many museums I thought that it would be impossible to avoid some overlap but I never really felt that. Cheers to London and its museums.
Finally we have pubs. What would London be without it’s public houses? In some cases pubs are the true museums of London, designating what an area was like in the past and what type of clientele it attracted. During my month here I had a chance to visit a few pubs and get a general sense of what some possible differences could be. It is clear to me that each pub brings something different and unique to the table. The Marlborough Arms was convenient being so close to the Arran House and was a great place to enjoy a pint over a meal with friends. The Court was conducive to socializing in a different way. The music was louder, the people louder and the drinks cheaper. Other places I visited offered other things that made them stand out as well. One thing that i’ve learned about pubs is that it’s hard for one to please everyone. Since everyone has different tastes and desires when it comes to pubs you are better off going to one with a small cohesive group.
To conclude this novel I would just like to say that I think we saw a lot of different faces of London this month. I realize there is much more to see here but between walking tours throughout the city, trips to major monuments and museums and individual exploration I have learned a ton about London, it’s history and where it is going. I look forward to more London explorations in the future but for now, ON TO NORWICH!
Tags: Churches and Cathedrals · Henry · Pubs · Theatre
September 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments
I had the chance to attend the Feminist Literature tour in which I not only learned about women writers who resided in the Bloomsbury area, but also on how spaces affect who we are and everything that we do. I am intrigued with this notion. Recently I posted a blog on space, specifically focused on sacred/holy spaces, in this blog I will look back and focus on a few others others.
Green Green GREEN
Spaces of recreation, golden flowers and perfectly trimmed grass is what I think of. It is impressive to me how well kept they are. When we visited Regent’s Park during class for the first time, I was at a loss of words, for I had never in my life seen a space so beautiful. William Blake captures this beauty in his poem titled “The Lily:”
The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.
Regent’s Park could not be touched, human hands could never be gently enough to handle a flower’s delicate body. So untouchable, the flowers arranged almost to perfection. Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said that “Earth laughs in flowers,” and I believe him.
Hyde Park, almost as magical, but words cannot capture the immensity of this park. The amount of green that surrounds you at any given moment is difficult to describe. This park in particular serves as more than just a space for recreation, it is also a place where history is preserved, where various neighborhoods unite and where kids grow up to later bring their own kids to play at Kensington Gardens or near the lake. Green Park, a sort of gateway to Buckingham Palace (if you get off at the Green Park Tube station), can never be compared to Hyde Park for it lacks in immensity. Even though the deck chairs are a nice touch to the park, the area I visited lacked some color (as in floral color); I was not impressed. (Buckingham Palace itself was not very impressive. I was surprise to discover that it actually isn’t an enormous, glorious and royal-looking mansion… I guess it’s a good thing that it isn’t after all!)
Let’s start the show!!!
Sometimes walking in for the first time takes my breath away, and sometimes the shows blows my mind, other times the idea of sitting there makes me wonder… wow. The three different halls of at the National Theatre, The Globe, Duke of York’s, the Phoenix and last but not least Royal Albert Hall! So here’s the list: “Troilus and Cressida,” “Arcadia,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “As You Like It,” “Pitmen Painters” and the not-so awesome musical “Blood Brothers,” oh and the amazing violin concerto at the Royal Albert. In London, I am never too far from New York City’s Broadway experience! The difference, the London experience always feels fulfilling no matter how horrible the play was. This is probably because Broadway shows are not exactly affordable, and while the National Theatre insists on having a wide range of prices (so that everyone can enjoy the theatre), Broadway just seeks revenue and to maintain it’s current status and popularity. I mean, to have Rick Fisher (who by the way is a Dickinson alum), winner of of a Tonny award, come to speak to us about his thoughts and experiences with London’s theatre scene, that within itself was enough to top all of the Broadway shows I have seen in my life! I <3 the London theatre experience!
Intricate architecture, imagination, creativity and grace is what comes to mind when I think of churches. I’ve written a blog about them but I wanted to look back at a few of them. Westminster, ridiculously sacred, marvelous, immense and glorious. The same can be said about St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Hindu Temple we visited. At Brixton (where I directed a tour along with my teammates), I learned that religious spaces play a huge role in the community, one that extends beyond any religious affiliations. One specific church we visited during our research, Corpus Christi Roman Catholic church was involved in the reconstruction of the Brixton area after the Brixton riots, when parts of the neighborhood where damaged/destroyed due to violent protests. It always brings joy to my heart when people come together to help each other, regardless of any religious/cultural boundaries.
Clubs NOT Pubs
Ooooh pubs…. I’ve heard that you can see London’s history evolve in these spaces, and although they are known as spaces of leisure and social interaction their walls can tell unknown stories of both know and unknown visitors. I am always intrigued by pubs, so intrigued I am intimidated by them. I now that sounds a little ridiculous but in pubs I feel pressured to consume alcohol (after all that is the main purpose of a pub: to provide alcoholic beverages) and to maintain conversation when really all I want to do is dance to the awesome music playing in the background. Rebbeca (who along with 4 others constructed a tour of London’s historic pubs) has attempted to both enlighten me as well as persuade me to engage in pub culture, but I have yet to fully explore the wonderful world of London’s historic pubs.
Clubs, on the other hand, I’ve also had a difficult time with. I’ve realized that there isn’t much dancing that goes on, but rather an attempt to dance, which actually means jumping around to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” (pop/techno song). Over all, I have enjoyed late hip hop nights at Metra (dance club a few street corners off the Leichester Square tube stop) only because I have shared that space with amazing people who can turn any floor into a dance floor. (Thanks Anthony, Jeyla and Patsy!)
Spaces, our everyday living takes place within them, whether they are churches, clubs, parks or theaters. We lack to realize their importance, we never stop to think of how a room may affect how we feel about ourselves and about the rest of society. A room can change our lives, like the reading room at the British Museum that the feminist writers group spoke of on their tour. This room clearly changed Virginia’s Wolf literature, among other authors, I’m sure.
Note to self: Whether this room is physical or mental, it is important. We must take more time to appreciate a rooms ability to change the way we exist in our own individual worlds.
Tags: Flow · Uncategorized
A couple weekends ago, a fellow classmate informed me that William Shakespeare is the best author of all time. Though I disagreed wholeheartedly with him, it seems that I am in the minority on this point in London. Shakespeare hasn’t been alive for many years now but (as many people have noted before me) his presence is still incredibly pervasive in English life. The revised version of the Globe Theater is filled nightly with people clamoring to get a taste of the authentic Shakespeare experience. Right across the river, the National Theater makes sure to have a Shakespeare play in its rotation regularly- something that is always well attended. After watching an entertaining but incredibly over-the-top version of Troilus and Cressida, I was prepared to write a blog about how Shakespeare in England has turned into just another tourist attraction. I paid more attention to the audience at the National Theater’s presentation of All’s Well That Ends Well though and realized that I saw more people than those who toted fanny packs around the city all day (items that I’m happy to report I have seen only a small number of). The over one thousand seats that the theater has were filled with more than a few tourists but also many who actually knew what the correct response to ‘cheers’ is (something that I’m still trying to figure out). So what? Two major theaters are showing Shakespeare plays- is that so exciting? Maybe not. But walking along the streets, you are guaranteed to see big posters advertising for Jude Law in Hamlet, Judy Dench in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other celebrities in lead roles in Shakespeare’s plays. Clearly, the man is still alive and well in London. Again, this might not seem that interesting considering he is known as such an infamous figure not only in the arts but in history in general. But the man has been gone for over 300 years now! Many other playwrights have produced excellent works (some that are arguably even better than anything Shakespeare has ever written) yet none of them have their shows playing in multiple theaters across the city or in annual festivals. I can’t accept that his popularity still hinges on the fact that he’s Shakespeare. Even the brightest star eventually fades away. I wonder the attraction and/or loyalty to the bard isn’t more a devotion to something else- a devotion to a desired ‘English’ identity that is found in the infamous Shakespeare. This may be a stretch but it could be an interesting point to consider.
While I was surprised to see so many London locals interested in seeing a Shakespeare play, the audience was not an incredibly diverse one at either show. The locals that were at the show were seemingly (by this untrained eye’s standards) predominantly middle-upper class, white, elderly people. There are exceptions to every rule, but this was the crowd that I most observed while there. This isn’t to say that the theaters were too pricey for the majority of Londoners. You can buy a ticket to stand in the Globe for five pounds and a ticket to sit in the National Theater for ten. While some might not have money to throw away to the theater, five pounds for entertainment is truly reasonable. Still, despite the reasonable prices, the crowd that was attracted to the show seemed to be of a certain stature. I think it’s also worth noting that neither of these shows is considered one of Shakespeare’s big hitters and yet each theater was filled as one might expect for a Hamlet or Macbeth production. Clearly it’s not the show that is so attractive but rather the playwright. And why? I would argue that Shakespeare represents an identity of old London. He represents a more homogeneous London. London today is anything but homogenous. It’s incredibly diverse and is only becoming more so with each day that passes. With the word of the trip being ‘juxtaposition’, this diversity and change is clear to even the eye of an outsider. Is holding onto Shakespeare as an image for the ‘good ol’ England a means of coping with these changes? England has had many famous icons throughout its history but few (that I’m aware of) have been so closely connected to their national pride/make-up. So while the Beatles might have brought fame to the country, Shakespeare painted a picture of what English society was like. It was a society that may have been full of class division but one that knew the Classics, was incredibly mannerly, and conversed in witty and intelligent ways. Is Shakespeare’s continued prevalence a means of keeping that identity in place? I’m not entirely certain. An argument could be made on either side. Maybe people truly never tire of his shows. I would suggest that after three hundred years, picking up some Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill might be a good idea.
Tags: Audrey · Theatre
London is home to one of the most vibrant and varied theater districts in the world. So far, I have been able to experience three different performances. First of all, Shakespeare’s Globe may be a Disney version of its former glory, but I still enjoyed the experience. Upon entering the groundling area and positioning myself as close to the stage as possible, I had a great spot for Trolius and Cressida. Although I did not enjoy the play while I was reading it, I found the performance extremely entertaining, and much more comic than I expected. While my feet were aching by the end of the play, I intend to return for another show. Friday night we traveled to the Duke of York’s Theater to see Tom Stoppard’s, Arcadia. I was familiar with one other Stoppard play (Rosencrantz and Gulidenstern Are Dead) and I was excited to see how this would compare. The play was the perfect blend of wit, science and emotion. Although some of the concepts were hard for me to understand (chaos theory?). I really enjoyed the fast-paced dialogue and the relationship between past and present. One of the main characters, Septimus Hodge, says, “We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.” This quote really made me think about the future. What if someone finds an article of mine… say my travel journal. What will they think? Will they try to uncover my story? Granted, I’m no Lord Byron but does that make me less important? Will I even be remembered? Will I make any sort of significant impact on the world? I probably sound selfish, wondering about how people will think of me (if they do) but I’m curious.
My most recent theater experience was yet another different feeling. While the Globe and the Duke of York were both smaller scale and more intimate, the Olivier Theater at the National Theater was grand and hi-tech. Earlier that morning I was able to take part in a backstage tour of the Theater and therefore had a greater understanding of all the behind the scenes work that goes into a large scale production. Shakespeare number two of the trip, All’s Well that Ends Well has often been considered one of his “problem plays” because it is hard to classify as a comedy or tragedy and the viewer is conflicted as to what to think. Personally, I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether Helena was silly and submissive girl or a clever woman who refused to give up. Although I found myself believing Helena was more of a ‘doormat’ more than a heroine. Ultimately, I believe that all did NOT end well. Both Helena and Bertram are still unhappy… but now they have a child on the way. Despite the ending, I thought this play had some brilliant acting (I especially enjoyed Conleth Hill’s portal of Parolles), incredible sets and wonderful lighting. It was a great way to spend an evening in London. Also, as I was not able to procure a regular ticket and had to rely on the “student standby” system. I simply arrived 45 minutes early and asked if there were any available seats. If you are willing to take the risk, you might end up with a great seat for only 10 quid. I was lucky. The room was packed and I was wonderful to see all the different people who came to se Shakespeare. Even in my own row I had a sampling of almost every class in London. I am very excited to return to the National Theater for The Pitmen Painters.
How wonderful is it that the theater is actually affordable here? If I had this opportunity in the States, I don’t think I’d do anything else. I love that spell the Theater puts on its audience…. We become so absorbed in this little world on stage that we are able to forget who we are, whatever problems we have and just live in the moment. If you’re anything like me, the imaginary world is the place to be. I can just exist in my own little seat and leave everything else behind. It’s a great escape.
Tags: Grace · Theatre
The Notting Hill Carnival was amazing; done. The smells were what did me. The blend of jerk chicken, sweat, and cannabis were overwhelmingly wonderful; a symphony for the nostrils. Each note sliding through your mind yet blending harmoniously. Needless to say, coming at 930 was not necessary at all, but it quickly picked up in volume and entertainment. The scantilyclad women didn’t grab my time or attention as much as it seems others did, and I didn’t really even check out of the parade that much. What I did love was the competing food stands and street dancing. Each stand seemed to be family owned and operated, which is something I’m seeing more and more of in England. It is also something that I didn’t see a lot of in America. Back to the Carnival. I am still on the fence about one thing though: the overbearing shroud of alcohol. Many of the parade groups had very overt sponsorship from alcohol companies, and it seemed like they were trying desperately to get people drunk.
Then there was the play. Everyone looked so wonderful, and it was so great to get dressed up. Then we got to the Theatre. The seats were tiny and there were tons of people wearing jeans. I will be the first to admit that plays often mean nap time for Andrew. But I’ve really liked the two shows we’ve seen and stayed awake for both of them (the globe was a tricky one to fall asleep in). Arcadia was really cool. The story was ok, but I really liked the execution. The lighting changes and the minimalist scenery also tied things together well. I really liked the scene where the two time periods overlap at the end, neat effect to do on stage. The concept of historians getting something completely wrong because they are looking to become famous is a message that is often times downplayed. We are lost in the pursuit of knowledge, allowing ambition and hope to guide us where discretion should. But then again, that’s the trick about history: unless there are direct records, it’s all just speculation. And no matter how much research you attain, you can never get rid of you bias. Anthropology and Archeology are more slaves to this than other humanities. We look at a few sherds of pottery, and we “know” quite a bit about the culture but too often we forget the interpersonal stories.
The stark contrast between the theatre we saw Arcadia in and the Globe theatre is aparent the moment you step into each. The Globe is as some many have already said was quite “Disney” but you know what? I liked it. The open air and the huddling together– it worked really well, and it helped to blend the worlds of reality and play together. On the other hand, Arcadia’s theatre kept you firmly planted in your world. The boxed theatre and cramped seating as well as the drastic lightings were firm reminders of the wall between the actors and viewers.
Tags: Andrew R
I have to admit that I have not been to many plays in my life. As a matter of fact, the last play I remember attending was in middle school. If I recall correctly it was “Romeo and Juliet,” but I do not remember the performance at all. Fortunately, tonight we were able to see “Troilus and Cressida” in the Globe Theatre. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about standing for three hours and I am sure I wasn’t alone in that regard. Though that is what a “groundling” had to do and trying to recreate it makes The Globe historically accurate, I would have greatly appreciated a chair. Nevertheless, despite the lack of chairs and occasional rain, I thought the play was fantastic.
Every actor did a phenomenal job, the music was incredible and the props were well created. There were too many humorous scenes to mention, but overall the way in which the play was done was amazing. In particular, I thought the fight scenes were very well done. I also enjoyed the drums at the end, which was very unexpected. Perhaps because of all this, I did not realize at the end that three hours had passed. The entire performance was so mesmerizing that it just took me in.
Since I am so used to seeing entertainment through a screen, live acting was a treat. It seemed so much more authentic; the actors were right in front of you and they commanded your attention. I am excited to see more plays while in London and take this new passion back to the States.
Tags: Andrew F
Shakespeare once said: “I’ll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly washed with dew,” and when speaking of the city of Bath, of the experience of standing for three hours at the Globe theatre and of the sight of St.Paul’s Cathedral, I must repeat it. All the places above, in their own ways, masterpieces feeding the soul with a sense of warming delight. Almost like the whipped cream on my caramel frappuccino, never necessary but always crucial for the perfect execution of an unbelievable taste! The city of Bath, acting as the foundation of this reflection represents the coffee itself, the greater mass, as it was a playground for exploration. Troilus and Cressida at the Globe, definitely the unnecessary yet crucial whipped cream… and the cathedral, of course, the delicious caramel, without it the exquisite taste of my Starbucks caramel frap would never be the same. I think I have fallen in love.
White, red, pink, blue, green, yellow, only some of the colors of the flowers that adorned the historical and alluring city of Bath; the perfect place for a New York City girl like me who wishes to scape from the modernity and daily rush of a fast life. Upon arrival, the first sightings of a landscape unknown, beautifully impenetrable by human innovation as it was preserved, almost like frozen in time. To visit such a place right after visiting Stonehenge (a place I have always known of as one of the world’s greatest mysteries) is to think you have had good coffee to later learn that there is better coffee out there. Stonehenge was an amazing structure to observe, the feeling of standing in front of something so simple yet intricate, so brilliant, filled the space with a different spirit. This spirit of some sort followed our bus on our trajectory, reappearing within the walls of the remarkably well-preserved Roman Bath houses, following us through the brick lanes of the city of Bath. Yesterday I lived a feeling like no other, strange and surreal… definitely “morning roses washed with dew.”
Today, accompanied by coffee of my favorite kind, once again, a feeling like no other made its way through my pores, into the deepest parts of my soul. I do not exaggerate when I say that watching Troilus and Cressida was one of the greatest experiences of my life! Broadway does not compare to the feeling of standing in an open roof theatre for three hours, as it rained, watching a masterpiece of literature coming to live right in front of your eyes. Precious. I now see Shakespeare under a whole new light, a light almost as bright as the one’s lighting up the path that led us to stand in front of St.Paul’s as we crossed the Millennium Bridge after the play.
This morning, before heading out on our walk of Southwark we met up in front of St.Paul’s and standing there was eventful, but standing in front of the lit-up cathedral at around 10:40 p.m. was breathtaking. I’m not sure Christopher Wren, when envisioning this space during the 1600’s, would have imagined it to be the immaculate site that it now is. The sighting of the cathedral completed the night, and the words of Prof. Qualls who expressed his gratitude for taking part in these experiences along with his students came at a perfect time.
After evenings of overanalyzing the lack of “my type of art,” as well as “my type of history,” it was refreshing to be reminded of the good caramel frappuccinos I am capable of enjoying during my time in England. And with a Starbucks in every corner I will continue to enjoy the sometimes bitter coffee foundations, the delicious whipped cream and the sweet caramel, meanwhile reminding myself to sip slowly, to fancy every drink and to cherish every burst of flavor. I have fallen in love again with a caramel frappuccino not so different from the one I am used to, and as long as “she looks as clear as morning roses newly washed with dew” I will continue to fall in love again and again.
Some of us have never asked to experience these things, some of us still yearn to. Either way, believe Shakespeare when he notes that “Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.” I am thankful for having given the chance to love.