14 July Machinal

It is Saturday so there is no class this morning. We did meet up with some students and headed to King’s Cross/St. Pancras to renew tube passes for the final two weeks. Hard to believe we have been here for a week. A number of the students attended the midnight show of A Winter’s Tale at the Globe Theater the previous evening so, they slipped their passes under my door for us to renew.

Since tomorrow is our first day off, I’m learning of their plans and many of them are leaving the city: some to Bath and some to Stonehenge. This group has been very adventurous. We have seen a sharp rise in the number of extra productions they are seeing and they are taking full advantage of everything this city has to offer theatrically as well as culturally.

Above King’s Cross station is a very ornate Victorian hotel the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel (originally the Midland Grand Hotel). We are hoping to book our class tea there on the final day. Below is one of the major rail and underground stations in London. We went here to renew the tube passes which takes a bit. Fortunately, Christina and I enjoyed the conversation with the agent that helped us. He was quite entertaining.

After, we came back for breakfast at the Bloomsbury Coffee House (up the street from the dorm) and did some planning for the next week. I went back to the dorm for a little work and then we headed to Islington for the afternoon show. With Marlena (Christina’s daughter) in tow we enjoyed the area around the Almeida Theater where the matinee of Machinal was being presented. We went to the park to allow Marlena some play time. I enjoyed watching the Saturday morning families in London. It seemed an inordinate number of dads were out with their kids. It was heartwarming.

Leaving the park we headed toward the theater and stopped for some lunch. The theater was around the corner and we needed to pick up the tickets. After picking up the tickets I joined my new colleagues Yoon and Stephen in the bar. They got tickets to the production since they had not seen it yet. We visited for a bit and then Stephen and I walked around Islington until time to meet our students.

The production was Machinal. This is a play I have wanted to see for many years. It is by Sophie Treadwell and premiered in NYC in 1928. The play is the story of a young woman that is oppressed by the society and it’s expectation she should marry, have children and give up her life. Treadwell based it on a notorious murder committed by a woman about the same time. The style of the piece is expressionistic and some have compared it to Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine. This production was powerful. The acting was superb and the production design was excellent. Expressionism as a style in theater frequently manifests itself as seeing the play through the eyes of one of the characters, usually the protagonist. Machinal is the idea of the machine and the play begins with the sounds of the subway and the various pieces of office equipment which I thought seem to emanate from the head of the young woman. The noise in her head is, in my mind what gives this play its expressionistic style but that soon was left off and it just played. I was disappointed in this and found it deviated from the playwright’s intent. However, the production worked very well despite that so, perhaps it is not necessary.

After the production, Yoon, Stephen and I went to Spitafield’s Market. We wandered through the various vendors and Yoon showed me around. It is not unlike Covent Garden, just a little more high-end product. We stopped at a bar and had a drink and then dinner. After dinner, we took a lengthy walk down to the South Bank via St. Paul’s Cathedral. They took me to a very nice bar near the National Theater where we could sit and look out over the Thames River. We enjoyed a lovely evening overall and I caught the Northern Line from Waterloo Station and returned home.

Part 1 of 2. St. Pancras Renaissance Lodnon Hotel. I couldn’t get the whole thing in one shot.

Part 2 of 2. The St. Pancas London Renaissance Hotel.

The entrance to the park in Islington. Memorial to the men from Islington that died in the South African War of 1899-1903.

I liked this group of row houses next to the park. It is a rather affluent area. I thought the first unit with the front in red was very nice.

The kids were having a great time in the park. They had simple zip line. Lots of dad there with their kids.

The Almeida Theater.

A scene from Machinal. I DID NOT TAKE THIS DURING THE PERFORMANCE. It was found on the web.

A scene from Machinal. I DID NOT TAKE THIS DURING THE PERFORMANCE. It was found on the web.

A scene from Machinal. I DID NOT TAKE THIS DURING THE PERFORMANCE. It was found on the web.

This is known in London as the “Gherkin” building. First time I’ve ever seen it.

On our way down to the South Bank. These are my new friends, Yoon and Stephen.

Stephen took me by this monument to Wm Shakespeare. It was created by the two men that created the First Folio of his work. It sets in front of a church that was destroyed in the great fire and bombed out in WW II.

The remains of the church. What wasn’t destroyed was re-located to a small town in Missouri. Didn’t quite understand that.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The bar on the South Bank and our view.

As I headed out to Waterloo Station there was a show happening in front of the National Theater and a party.