Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 Holly'

Going behind the Scenes

March 30th, 2011 · No Comments

Last week at the Castle I experienced my first day without a major educational program. Although the regular “Life in a Castle” session was running, that is handled by freelancers who come in for the day to run the program, so it is fairly independent of the Learning Department. We didn’t have any Ancient Romans, Egyptians, or any other theme, so I spent the day doing clerical and preparatory work. This ranged from creating an invitation to a party for one of the interpretors who is leaving, to cutting wires for future torc-making sessions on Ancient Roman days, to checking data and doing publicity work.

In order to receive funding, the Learning Department has to keep track of how many students participate in all of their programs, and then they submit monthly totals to the administrative powers that be. One of my supervisors has to show that the programs are maintaining consistent numbers or drawing in more students in order to keep receiving funding, which, with all of the recent budget cuts to artistic and educational programs, is of the utmost importance. One of my jobs was to double check the numbers for the month of February to make sure that we were submitting accurate counts.

In that same vein, the Learning Department asks teachers to fill out evaluation forms following their educational sessions. The directors make note of any room for improvement and then all of the evaluations are filed away and kept in the office. I had the task of filing forms from this school year, and I got to see exactly how many programs the Learning Department runs – there were at least 15 different sessions, some pertaining to history, some to art, and some to special sessions that outside instructors will come in to run. I also noticed that several groups from UEA come to the Castle for various art programs. There was a group in that morning, actually, all still very hungover from Derby Day. After my filing, I went through the evaluations and pulled student and teacher comments that could be used in publicity material to encourage other schools to bring students to programs at the Castle.

Although it wasn’t the most exciting day that I’ve spent at the Castle so far, I got to see a lot more of how the administration of the Learning Department works. It’s all well and good to dress up in togas and make crafts all morning, but there is a whole different team of people working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly and to keep funding for these great programs coming in.

Date: 24/3/2011

Time: 9.30-4.00, 6.5 hours

Total Hours: 23.5

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Tags: 2010 Holly

A Day with the Tudors at Strangers’ Hall

March 19th, 2011 · No Comments

I’ve been really lucky in my volunteering, as I’ve had the chance to explore both Norwich Castle and Strangers’ Hall, and it has been a lot of fun. This week I helped with Tudor Day at Strangers’ Hall, which is really a beautiful building.  It doesn’t look like much from outside, but inside there’s a feasting hall, stone passages – very cool. It’s the kind of place that I would have loved to let my imagination run wild in when I was younger. Our ‘time-travelers,’ as one of the interpretors refers to the visiting students, this week were nine year-olds from West Earlham School, and they were supposed to imagine that they were Strangers from the Low Countries who had come to Norwich in the year 1565. They were welcomed by Sir Thomas Southerton, the mayor, and he told them that some locals might not take kindly to them because they were viewed as a threat to Norwich’s weaving trade.

Like the other days when I’ve volunteered, there were four rotations – in one the students learned about feasting and cooking in Tudor times, in another they learned dancing, in the third they got to try on Tudor costumes and talk about how we know what the Tudors dressed like, and finally their craft was making a loom and doing a bit of weaving. They seemed to really take to all of the activities. I helped out with the costumes in the morning – I was in charge of getting the girls dressed. So I would introduce myself as their lady in waiting and help them with buttons, laces, the works. We had a few dress as servants, and then a few fine ladies who needed to be tied into bodices, helped with petticoats, the works. Once all of the students were dressed, the interpretor would take them through all of the parts of their outfits. They looked absolutely fantastic, and it was really fun.

In the afternoon I helped with the weaving activity, so handing out materials, helping tape yarn in the right places, and teaching the ‘over-under’ method of weaving. It was a ‘fiddly’ activity, but it went pretty well. I think that it was a really successful day for the kids, and I really enjoyed helping. I’ve also had a great time getting to know the interpretors. Our lunches always involve several cups of tea and a chat about something historical. The other week people were actually debating whether or not the Romans or the Iceni had a better claim to Norwich. The people who work these programs are really passionate about what they do, and it’s great to see. Unfortunately the budget is being cut for next year, so there will be less interpretors to run all of the different activities. This means that Museum Services is going to have to consolidate some of their programs, which is a shame because the students seem to take to these days really well. It’s the difference between reading a textbook and getting to use your imagination to bring history to life, which I think is so important.

Date: 17/3/2011

Time: 9:30-2:00

Total Hours: 17

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Tags: 2010 Holly

The Tax Man Cometh

March 11th, 2011 · No Comments

Yesterday was my second day volunteering at Norwich Castle, and the theme of the day was the Ancient Romans and Iceni. This meant that the interpretors were dressed in togas or in plaid blankets with blue facepaint. I’m beginning to think that I won’t recognize them if I ever see them in street clothes. We had a group of about 120 five and six year-olds in yesterday, and like the previous week, they were divided into four rotations. When they came in for the day, two Romans and two Iceni tribewomen met them and explained the overarching issue that the kids should be focused on throughout their activities: is it fair that the Romans tax the Iceni?

I was able to observe some of the rotations in the morning, which was really great. The first activity that I sat in on was an exploration of life in an Iceni roundhouse using some props and drama. I was really impressed with how Pam, the interpretor, was able to keep all of the students interested and engaged. She explained to me later that the kids never really get to learn about the Iceni perspective in class because, well, history was written by the Romans and the Iceni didn’t leave any written accounts of themselves to counter the Roman accounts. So she had them talk about how life for an Iceni was different than life today and had them act out different jobs that would have been important in the tribe. She also explained to them that the Romans took half of everything the Iceni had as tax, and had them plan ways to thwart the Roman tax collector. By the end of the session, she had managed to develop some very strong Iceni loyalties amongst the students!

I followed this group to their rotation with “Brutus,” a Roman soldier, who talked the kids through what it was like to serve in the Roman army and showed them several weapons. He actually taught them the best places to stab someone, after making them promise that they wouldn’t use this knowledge on the playground. He kept it very lighthearted, but I was still kind of taken aback. What he didn’t bargain on, however, was the strong pro-Celtic sentiment that Pam had fostered in the previous rotation. As he was explaining how the Romans had conquered Britain, one little girl piped up and said, “Why couldn’t you have stayed in Rome? Why did you have to come take over our lands and charge us mean taxes?” Andy, the interpretor, was surprised, but started listing off all of the improvements that the Romans had made for the barbaric Celts, but this little girl was very persistent, telling him that he wasn’t listening to her and that no, the Celts were very civilized, thank you very much. Her argument later devolved into, “Well, you’re not a real Roman, because then you’d be dead!” After taking her through a quick lesson in British history and reminding her that she wasn’t a real Celt because she would also be dead, Andy said, “Listen, kids. Life’s not fair. But to make it more fair, get yourselves a sword.” To deter further Celtic uprisings, he then had the kids line up in formation and march around the museum screaming, “Left! Right!” in Latin (sinister and dexter, if you were wondering).

During the afternoon I helped out with the craft again, which was Iceni torc-making using wires and aluminum foil.

Image from the museum's digital collection, http://www.culturalmodes.norfolk.gov.uk/projects/img/imglib.asp?page=item&itemId=RB00679.JPG

This was a much less sticky craft than the Egyptian collars had been. After making their own torcs, the kids got to go explore the Iceni gallery in the museum. They all seemed to have a really good time. After the students left for the day, I spent the remainder of my time doing craft prep for future Roman and Egyptian days. Next week I’ll be at Strangers Hall to help out with a Tudor day. I’ve had a really good time so far and I think that the Learning Department does some great work.

Date: 10/3/2011

Time: 9:30-3:30, total of 12.5 hours

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Tags: 2010 Holly

Volunteering: Conquering the Castle

March 9th, 2011 · No Comments

Last week I started volunteering with the Norwich Museums Learning Department, part of the Norwich Museums and Archeology Service. This organization runs several museums in the Norwich area, including Norwich Castle and Strangers Hall, and their volunteers are responsible for tasks ranging from helping give tours to caring for the museum collections. The Learning Department runs educational programmes in the museums, most of which are for school groups. The employees and volunteers in the Learning Department put on several events every week, most of which are themed history days for groups of students. These include Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Roman/Iceni, Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian days – every week is a different theme – and special programmes that schools can request for their students, such as exploring the fundamentals of archeology. Most of these programmes take place at the Castle, which is where I volunteer.

I was there during an Ancient Egyptian day, so many of the staff were dressed in sheets, wigs, and costume jewelry when I met them. We had a group of about 150 eight and nine year-olds in for the day, and they were divided into classes to rotate through different activities. They learned about mummification, explored the museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts, and made Egyptian collars out of bits of coloured paper. I was helping with this craft – the woman leading the session would give the kids a short talk about the function of jewelry in Ancient Egyptian society and the meaning of the different colours, and then chaos broke loose as they were freed to make their own collars. At the end of the day bits of paper and glue were absolutely everywhere, but it was really fun. It was interesting to see how kids approached the craft: some stuck paper anywhere there was space while others tried to follow a picture and placed their paper very, very meticulously. I walked around making sure that all of the groups had enough paper, encouraging the kids, and helping out as needed.  Since I was younger than the other instructors I retained some measure of “coolness” with the kids, and once they realized that I was American they were very excited to tell me all about their cousins in Ohio or whatever connection, real or imagined, they could make with the States.

At the end of the day all of the students gathered together to talk about a central question that they were supposed to be thinking about during all of their activities. In this case, it was whether or not it was right for archeologists to excavate tombs. I thought that it was a really good idea to give them one overarching issue to connect all of their activities, and the kids all seemed to have opinions about it. The group was split half and half over the archeology question, and it was interesting to hear their reasoning.

After the activities wrapped up, the staff cleaned up and then spend the rest of the afternoon prepping for the next day and doing administrative tasks. I was put on craft preparation, photocopying, and random errand-running duty. Although it was a long day, I really enjoyed working with the kids and seeing them so animated about history. I think that this week I’ll be working the Roman/Iceni day, so I’m looking forward to that.

Date: 3/3/2011

Time: 9.30 – 16.00

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Tags: 2010 Holly

Beer- Not My Cup of Tea

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

I really don’t have anything academic or insightful to say about pubs, so I’ve been holding off on this post. I haven’t visited too many pubs in London because there were other things that I wanted to do instead, like going to see various theatre shows. I also don’t like beer, so the discovery of cider has been a lifesaver. I’ve been to quite a few pubs for lunch, actually, which is a completely different experience than going for drinks at night. In the afternoon the pubs aren’t nearly as crowded, but I felt like more suspicion fell on me as an Outsider then. The room is quiet enough that my American accent is very apparent, and everyone can hear my akward attempts to order food and, in the beginning of our trip, to count out the proper change. I don’t know all of the social cues yet (not that the British are very helpful in this aspect), and I feel like people definitely watch me and judge that. This might be a bit paranoid, granted, but I clearly don’t belong, and it can be an uncomfortable experience.

This contrast really comes to mind when I think of The Court–I went once for lunch and once for drinks with a large group. At lunch everyone could hear us as we debated the menu, and the bartender looked at me as if I was an idiot when I said, “Can I please try…” I’m sorry, I worked in retail for three years, and it’s hard to break that false cheerfulness during cash register interactions. But when I went back at night, the atmosphere was completely different. Both floors were crowded, there was loud music playing, and there was much more energy about the place. I really liked The Court for that type of outing–I wanted to have fun with my friends and drink a little more than I needed to, and I feel like The Court offered a really comfortable atmosphere for that. There were so many young people there that I could be sure that a) no matter how loud we got, the group next to us was drinking way more and being much louder than we were, b) someone would try to make conversation when I was waiting at the bar to order a round, c) the bartender wouldn’t have time to notice my awkwardness in ordering said round, and d) I could sing Journey at the end of the night without anyone caring, because they couldn’t really hear me. Would I like this atmosphere every night? Absolutely not. But for going out with friends, I thought that it had a really fun place.

This preference would probably make George Orwell turn over in his grave. His description of the ideal pub in “The Moon Under Water” sounds absolutely nothing like The Court. The exact opposite, in fact. I can see where Orwell was coming from, however. His pub is quiet, with good conversation and good beer served in the proper mugs. Based on what we’ve read in Kate Fox, pubs are a huge center of British culture, and it seems to be where people can go to forget what else has happened in the day and just socialize with other regulars. The familiarity becomes comforting in and of itself. For that purpose, I wouldn’t want to go to The Court either.  Maybe this is one of the reasons the English have a pub (or sometimes more) on every corner, because each pub serves a slightly different purpose and attracts a slightly different crowd.

Tags: 2010 Holly · Pubs

A Green Space of One’s Own

September 20th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I used to think that William Wordsworth was kind of a sap, always going on about daisies in a field and all that in his poetry, but since arriving in London, I’ve come to respect his stance a lot more. I still think that Wordsworth is a bit melodramatic, but I understand his need to remember images from nature. I grew up in rural Connecticut, so I’m used to seeing cows, fields, and woods all on my two-minute drive to the center of town. Before this program, I had not spent more than three consecutive days in a city, and I can honestly say that the parks have kept me sane. London is a wonderfully dynamic city, but it’s also exhausting, and I think that the parks here are an absolute necessity for the people who live here.

London, like any major city, is loud, chaotic, fast-paced, and extremely crowded. Walking down Tottenham Court Road is an exercise in agility. Weaving through people all of the time, especially tourists who stop short to take photographs or consult maps, can become extremely frustrating. But inside of the parks, the bustle of the city seems much farther away. In Queen Mary’s Garden at Regent’s Park today, I was almost able to forget that Marylebone Road ran just outside of the gates. It’s quiet, and you can actually hear the sounds of nature. Although some parks undeniably attract more tourists than others, I saw people just laying on the grass sleeping, reading, doing absolutely nothing at all, in all of the parks that I visited. I think that people are just so relieved to be out of the insanity that is London’s streets that they can’t resist the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a quiet moment.

This is reflected in the development of the parks, as well.  Regent’s Park and St. James Park were both made into hunting grounds by King Henry VIII, but they’ve become beautiful, public green spaces. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens really were formed due to necessity; Queen Victoria decided that the public could really use a park to combat the crowded, polluted conditions of a newly industrialized London in the nineteenth century. Wordsworth fell at the beginning of this time–in his day, London was just beginning to become an industrial power, and we can be fairly certain that his description of the city in his poem “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” were not completely accurate. Wordsworth sought out beauty in nature because he was suffocated by conditions in the city.

Yes, some of the gardens seem a bit contrived (the bridge at St. James Park just happens to offer beautiful, leafy views of both Buckingham Palace and Whitehall), but the English do love gardening. And today in Regent’s Park I saw people ambling slowly through the very well-manicured rose gardens, literally stopping to smell the flowers. Couples were cozied up on benches, people were reading under weeping willow trees, and one gentleman was just conked out in the sun. As I walked down the avenue, I noticed people sunbathing and playing a football match, also a common sight in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. No one, regardless of whether or not they were tourists, was in a hurry, and that’s exactly why the parks here in London are so important. People just need an escape from the city for a bit.

Tags: 2010 Holly

Children of the Enlightenment

September 19th, 2010 · No Comments

So, like many other people, I have noticed the difference in educational programming at the Anglican churches that we’ve visited versus the other religious centers that we’ve seen. At Westminster Abbey I enjoyed the history and all of the famous people buried there (I looked down to discover that I was standing on David Lloyd George’s grave–sorry!), and at St. Paul’s Cathedral I admired Sir Christopher Wren’s gorgeous design and thought of the five hundred stairs that awaited me. So many people have commented on this lately, but I think that Mary Kate is right when she says that we have a valuable opportunity to look at and discuss Christianity in Britain in terms of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

In the course of my research for our walking tour, I stumbled across an interesting opinion on the de-Christianization of the British, and it had nothing to do with immigration or the emergence of other religions. In the introduction to his book A Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald comments that the baby boomers were the last generation to attend church regularly, but that Christianity had been on the decline for much longer than that. MacDonald argued that science was to blame–as more and more scientific developments were made, especially in terms of medical discoveries and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, it became more and more difficult for people to balance this new information with Christian beliefs, and scientific ideas began to take precedence.

The more I thought about this, the more it made sense to me. As the imperial capital of the world for so many years, England was the place where so many new ideas and discoveries originated. This country, and especially London, has hosted radicals and revolutionaries in terms of politics, art, and science. If scientific ideas were going to take hold anywhere, it makes sense for it to be here. Based on what I’ve learned of the 1960s, I can also understand why the baby boomers really started moving away from religion. The Anglican Church was traditional and belonged to their parents’ generation, and the sixties were about youth making their own mark and breaking away from tradition. Religion may very well have been a partial victim of the sixties.

I’m not saying that Christianity is still a tired religion–in my experience, there has been a definite move to adapt the religion to changing times and to attract more followers. But it seems that this isn’t going so well in Europe, and one of the reasons may be the perceived gap between religious leaders and the public. To me, the fact that Cardinal Kasper called England a “Third World country” immediately  before the Pope’s arrival shows amazing insensitivity to the cosmopolitan make-up of Britain’s population and ignorance as to how to reach out to people. He certainly did not do the Pope any favors in this already contested visit.

This seems to speak to what our guide at the East London Mosque was saying about the need for different religious groups to understand each other. In this case, Christian leaders perhaps need to learn how to better relate to a widely secular public, especially by not distancing them with offensive remarks. In terms of wider, inter-religious understanding, I admired our guide’s willingness to admit that education is necessary on the part of both Muslims and non-Muslims. But I was puzzled that he seemed to resist the opportunity to engage us on that level. I felt that he stereotyped us as ignorant Americans, and that we missed the opportunity for a good dialogue on some very important issues.

The religions that we’ve engaged with during the past month are all tolerant religions, but it seems to be that people need to follow their own teachings a bit better, both in terms of learning about other religions and in terms of relating to people who supposedly belong to the Church of England.

Tags: 2010 Holly · Churches and Cathedrals

The Royal Zoo

September 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I was walking around Westminster Abbey at lunchtime today, and happened to stumble through the celebration for the  seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. This was a) unexpected and b) very exciting, as we were all craning for a view of the Queen (and Princes William and Harry. When in London…) We got to see a military band, as well as a division of the Royal Air Force. The most exciting part was definitely the flyover of a Spitfire and a Hurricane from the period, two planes that were very important to Britain’s victory. For more on the flyover, see this article from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11120357 

It was really interesting to see this celebration, especially since we don’t give World War II the same kind of attention in the States. It really made me realize the lasting impact that the war has had on Britain, however, especially as the procession marched past the statue of Winston Churchill outside of the Houses of Parliament.

At the same time, this was my first real brush with classism. We caught the tail end of the ceremony, so people were starting to filter out from the Abbey. The streets were completely blocked off, both for traffic and to keep tourists at bay. These physical barriers only enforced the class divisions that were already on display. Everyone leaving the Abbey was dressed to the nines, feathery hats and all, just as I had always imagined the upper eschelons of British society to dress (think tabloid pictures that have appeared of Camilla Parker Bowles and her entourage). As they left the ceremony, these lovely ladies and dapper gentleman were escorted by policemen and military guards, all very proper.

The weird thing for me was that the tourists and “commoners” were queued up just gawking at these people, like they were another parade. We all moved to one side to let them pass, and everyone just stared. And they stared back! It was like a zoo. Granted, there were a lot of tourists there, and I feel that some allowances must be made for foreigners who are prone to gawking at everything. But the fact that the upper class stared back at us was really unsettling because I feel like we shouldn’t have been that interesting. I mean, we were just a crowd of regular people. But everyone automatically gave deference to the upper class filing out from the Abbey, which was also interesting to see.

I’m interested to see how classism manifests itself at UEA, because my friends who have studied in England have assured me that it’s definitely there. They said that students will judge each other by where they come from and that there won’t necessarily be outward hostilities, but that everyone will know where their friends or flatmates stand in terms of class. I haven’t decided yet if I should practice smashing my peas onto the back of my fork.

Tags: 2010 Holly

Walk This Way

September 16th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I am not a city person at all–my hometown has maybe four stoplights, and I’m used to having to drive twenty minutes to get anywhere worth going. So the whole business of having to fight through a crush of humanity in order to get a sandwich is completely new to me (beyond standing in line for the wok up at Dickinson).  I enjoy walking, but having to stop every thirty seconds because someone has cut me off, or bumped into me, or stoppd short in front of me does not qualify as actually walking. It’s more of an exercise in agility. Not a fan. What really bothers me, however, is the fact that there seem to be no established traffic patterns for pedestrians here.

In my experience, pedestrians normally stick to the unspoken rules in the States–you walk on the right side of the sidewalk, you try not to walk through if someone is taking a photograph, and when hiking the people going up step off the path to let the people coming down through. So you would think, “Okay, people drive on the lefthand side of the road here, so they probably walk on the left, as well.” Well, you would be right about one-third of the time. The second third walks on the right hand side (where I tend to walk, out of habit), and the last third just books it down the middle of the walkway. According to Kate Fox, the English seem to love little rules and social regulations, so why haven’t they figured this out for walking in London? Maybe if everyone adhered to the same traffic patterns, people wouldn’t run into each other so much. But then we’d all lose the chance to say, “Sorry!” so often.

Since this has been bothering me for a while, I’ve been thinking about possible explanations and doing some experimenting. Whenever I’ve been out walking by myself, I’ve tried to walk like a Londoner. Sunglasses, iPod, staring straight ahead, long stride. . .and go. I’ve realized that if I just focus on a spot ahead of me and walk like I’m going somewhere, I have no problems. People actually move out of my way. I was walking to the British Library the other day, and someone actually stepped off the sidewalk to let me go through. So maybe Londoners themselves have this whole walking thing figured out, and it’s the tourists that causes all of these traffic fiascos. I still haven’t figured out whether or not there is a determined side that people walk on, but it seems that walking with purpose is enough to get from A to B without too many “sorries!” Maybe that’s the only way to get through the sea of tourists.

Tags: 2010 Holly

“All the world’s a stage…”

September 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment

When President Durden asked us whether we had seen any aspects of London that changed our views of what we want from life, I, like many others, thought of the fantastic access to the arts here. This has been manifested for me in all of the free museums and especially in the reasonable prices of theatre tickets on the West End. I came to London knowing that I wanted to go the theatre as much as possible, and I set aside a significant portion of my meager summer earnings (unpaid internship–ouch) for that purpose. I’ve been lucky enough to see five shows in London so far: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Billy Elliot, Bedlam, Les Miserables, and The 39 Steps.  Although I sat in the very back row of the theatre for Les Mis and had a railing in my line of sight during Billy Elliot, I was able to purchase tickets for twenty pounds and twenty-seven pounds, respectively. If I tried to see so many shows, especially big name musicals, in the States, I would probably have no money left, so that’s been really fantastic.

I’m fairly predisposed to like theatre productions (I kind of enjoyed Bedlam, actually), but since hearing Rick Fisher speak I’ve started to evaluate the nature of the shows that I’ve seen differently, especially the two musicals. Les Miserables and Billy Elliot both draw in a lot of tourists, but I had very different reactions to these two shows. Les Mis is an epic show; there’s no other way to say it. It’s full of famous numbers that showcase the performers’ abilities to belt out big choruses and really high notes, one song after another. There are incredible set pieces and dramatic lighting cues up the wazoo. It’s an extremely showy piece. I don’t want to call it glitzy because so much of the drama comes from the violent deaths of various characters, but I think that it’s very aware of what audiences want. This is not a bad thing at all, and it certainly seems to have worked for the production. Personally, though, I found it hard to connect with the emotion of the show because I was just waiting for the next show-stopping number and Rick Fisher’s voice was in the back of my head. I thought that it was indulgent and Hollywood-esque, and once or twice I thought, “So these are a bunch of British actors performing in a show that aks me to glorify France…what?” I had trouble connecting with the show, although I did enjoy it.

Part of my reaction may have stemmed from the fact that I had just seen Billy Elliot, which I absolutely fell in love with. Unlike Les Mis, Billy Elliot doesn’t focus on showstoppers so much. I didn’t feel like it was trying to be anything that it wasn’t–it was a more honest story. Although it doesn’t have the violence of Les Mis, it’s a grittier play because there aren’t gorgeous sets or big songs for performers to belt out. The show focuses more on telling the story at hand, the story of a young boy struggling to be himself amidst the coal strikes in northern Engalnd during the Thatcher era. Because it wasn’t as pretty as Les Mis, I thought that the emotions communicated in Billy Elliot were more raw and easier to conncet with, to the point that I shed some tears during a few points in the performance. 

The honesty that I loved in Billy Elliot was definitely embodied in this afternoon’s performance of The 39 Steps, which I loved.  To work as a spoof, the show had to be completely aware of where it was coming from, and it also couldn’t pretend to be anything bigger than it was. I thought that the show successfully took on not only the Hitchcock movie, but also theatre and Englishness in general. It was almost as though Kate Fox was consulted on the rules of Englishness while the play was being adapted. Think of the two men in the train who were constantly saying, “‘Scuse me, sorry! Sorry, ‘scuse me!”  The entire show was about being able to laugh at oneself and at the national character. Based on Kate Fox’s descriptions, I thought that it was just so English. And we saw it in a beautiful, intimate theatre, which definitely contributed to the atmosphere. I thought that it was hilarious and very well-performed.

So, Les Mis disciples, please don’t hate me because I really enjoyed that show, but I found the emotional and/or comedic honesty of the other two shows more easily accessible.

Tags: 2010 Holly · Theatre