Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Long Way from Broadway: London’s Theatre

September 20, 2010 · 1 Comment

I am not a big theatre guy, but every Christmas (before they decided to take us to operas instead) my grandparents took my brothers and me to see a Broadway musical. I always enjoyed dressing fancy and taking the train into New York City. I loved walking into the theatre and finding my seat. The load commotion of the audience thrilled me and when the lights started to dim, that’s when I realized what where I was and what I was doing.

The theatre we went to here, however, was so different than what I would experience every winter with my family. I know that the shows we went to were not supposed to be exactly like Broadway, but that’s what I have been accustomed to. I’m used to dancers, lots of extras, enormous props and flashy lights. It’s like what Rick Fisher explained to the group during our first class discussion. Plays are different here in London, they aren’t as glamorous or glitzy. Of course, I didn’t go independently to any plays or musicals, so I can only agree with this based off what I have seen here.

The Marry Wives of Windsor, the first production we saw, was unbelievable. Being inside the Globe Theatre was an experience within itself. We stood just as the groundlings did in Shakespearian times (however we were required to be a little more well mannered). My legs did get tired, but for the most part the performance distracted me. From only reading Shakespeare, I don’t get the nuances and I miss most of the meaning because the language and humor is not what I am used to. But the actors and actresses were able to present so that I actually understood what was going on! It was truly a hilarious play. Although we saw the play at night with lights brightening the stage, and we were able to buy Cokes from a vendor in the audience, I really think I at least got a glance at what it would have been like to see the production when it originally was performed.

Another hilarious show was The 39 Steps, the play adapted from the Alfred Hitchcock film that we saw at The Criterion Theatre. This four-man show was brilliant. It was the most Broadway-like production we saw in London, but really only because of the atmosphere. I didn’t notice until Chris pointed it out, but the play was extremely British. It was most apart in the apologies that the characters would give through out the play. “Sorry” for everything. I enjoyed watching the characters use props in three or for different ways. Chairs became cars and dressers became fireplaces.

I am still unsure about the final visit we had to the theatre, where we saw The Habit of Art. Not only was I a little distracted by Sir Ian McKellen, but my attention began to wane during the transitions between the play we were watching and the play inside the play we were watching (huh?). I heard many classmates say that they would have rather just seen a play about the poet. I got annoyed by the interruptions by the actors, because sometimes I forgot that the play I was watching was not just a play about the poet.

Our tour through the National Theatre was interesting and I really learned a lot about how unique the productions there are. Unlike West End theatres, the National Theatre is not just about making money. The facilities there were awesome, and the fact that almost everything is done on sight (from the making of the props to the making of the costumes) is astonishing. This was my favorite part about being at the National Theatre.

All of the experiences at the theatre were worth it. Though I still believe I am not a big theatre guy, I really enjoyed everything I saw.

Categories: 2010 David · Uncategorized

1 response so far ↓

  •   tylerweick // Sep 21st 2010 at 12:27

    Interesting that you viewed Broadway musical theater as such a special event in your childhood. With the exception of the Habit of Art, I thought that the viewers were typically more casual than those at the musicals and theater (not to mention opera!) that I had seen in the states. Even though the Criterion was quite a tourist trap, being on Piccadilly circus, the tickets were reasonably priced. A touristy Broadway show would probably run you at least $50 for bad seats, and good luck trying to get reasonably priced tickets on the same day!

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