The Long and Winding Road Part 2

Blog 01

Kings Arms where we stayed over night.

Saturday, 23 July

I am quickly running out of time. Today is my last day in London and I am only up through Saturday.  I may have  to take desperate measures to finish this.

Today, we got up and fairly quickly got on the road.  We had breakfast down the street and returned to the inn, checked out went down to wait for the bus that would take us to Blenheim and onto Oxford to catch the train to London.  Christina wanted to visit Bleinheim Palace.  I didn’t know what that was but, was anxious to discover something new.  My poor little brain was not prepared for the exploration on tap for today.  Last time, she took me to the Royal Pavillion to blow my mind.  This time it is Bleinheim.

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Bleinheim Palace is the home of the Duke of Marlborough. Winston Churchill was born here and is related to the family.

I can’t begin to describe this place so I will try to let the photograph do the job.  We spent most of the morning and early afternoon touring the gardens, the palace and stopped for lunch.

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The courtyard.

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The front door.

 

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The back door.

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Exterior detail. This looks out over one of the formal gardens on the side.

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This is the garden on that side.

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The pathway to the Secret Garden on the other side of the palace. It was very beautiful. Quiet, serene and lush.

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I was not the first person to do this. The branch was quite worn from other behinds sitting on it.

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Formal garden on the other side of the palace. The secret garden is just beyond this garden. The background is one wing of the palace.

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Finally, we got in. This is the Great Hall by which you enter the building.

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This is the 10th Duchess, Mary. I just really like this portrait. The painting style was quite striking.. Obviously, from the 1930’s.

 

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I have always loved this painting and I got to see it in person. This is the 9th Duke and Duchess and their family. The boy in the middle would marry the woman in the previous portrait. The ninth Duchess, Consuelo was a Vanderbilt who was married off to the Duke against her wishes. Her mother wanted to make an aristocratic match for her daughter. Her dowry essentially saved Bleinheim Palace. Many think this story is the inspiration for the PBS series Downton Abby.

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The Dining Room.

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Coronation gown on the left was worn by the 10th Duchess. Middle outfit is Footman’s livery for after 6. Right: Footman’s dress livery, early 19th century.

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After the palace walk through, Christina and I took a break. We’re both pooped.

 

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The view of the palace from the bridge over the lakes on the estate. This is how people coming to visit would enter into the palace grounds.

This was a magnificent place to visit.  It is always incredible to me the work and craftsmanship that goes into this type of building especially when you consider this was done in the early 18th century.  It is easily understandable why these types of institutions have not survived except as essentially skeletal structures.  I am glad to be able to walk the halls and enjoy the history.

After lunch, we walked out the way we  came approaching the palace from the side.  We crossed the road and caught the bus for Oxford.  It was a quick 30 minute ride and we had originally planned to spend some time walking around Oxford soaking up the richness of that history.  However, we were all just worn and still another day to travel so, we opted to catch the train back to London and get a little rest before we begin the last week.  I am thrilled to be able to catch trains and buses and underground conveyances to get around.  I enjoy not having to deal with the car and be able to get everywhere I need to go.  That is a wonderful “get me out of my comfort zone” experience.

The Long and Winding Road Part 1

Blog 01

Friday, 22 July

Sorry about some the formatting but, at this point I am just trying to get posts up and am unable to spend a good deal of time cleaning up the posts and get text next to the correct picture.

 

It is the Friday of our long weekend and I have a lot of traveling in store in three days.  First up, Christina and I caught an early train (Kerri made an appointment to look at old dresses at the London Museum and will catch up with us on the road) to Stratford-0n Avon.  This is, of course the birthplace of William Shakespeare and it seemed appropriate on the 400th anniversary of his death to go there.  It is also the town of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).  How to give some idea of the storied history of this theatre?  Well, it not possible.  Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn have been artistic directors at different times.  Early on, it vied to be the national theatre losing out to the National Theatre founded by Laurence Olivier.  There have been a who’s who of performers at this theatre including Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans, Vanessa Redgrave, Paul Scolfield, Judi Dench, Ian McKellan and the list goes on and on.

Blog 02

On the banks of the Avon River.

We spent some time just wandering and sitting on the quiet banks of the river. Coming into town we wandered through the market. We went looking for the church where Shakespeare is buried and eventually found it.

 

Blog 03

William Shakespeare’s grave in the church on the banks of the river.

The church is smaller than you might think. Most of the churches are but when you go inside, they seem much larger especially in the photographs. We were asked to donate a small amount to enter and that was no problem. Of course, there were quite a number of people and a number of things to see in the church besides the grave. A number of his family are also buried there as well.

 

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The interior of the church

The interior of the church looks like it should called a cathedral but, it is small by comparison. Nonetheless, beautiful. The stonework, the floors and every element of course is old and has a patina not to be believed.

 

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Another view of the church – the ceiling is as beautiful as the walls and windows and . . . . . .

We lingered at the church inside and out. The gravestones are so worn and weathered. Many of the names and dates have worn away with time. They are covered in moss and sit reminding us of the many generations that have lived in this town. We sate outside on the river bank and watched the river gently flow by. The swans anxiously wait for food from the tourists.

 

Blog 06

The house in which Shakespeare was born on a pedestrian street with lots of tourist stuff.

 

We headed down to find Shakespeare’s birthplace – the house. It sits on a busy pedestrian walkway that no longer resembles anything of the origin. The tourist trade controls all but this one house still standing from the 16th century. We opted not to go in since the crowds were thick.

 

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And to include this old Tudor style house which really looks like it is about to collapse.

 

We moved onto the RSC and along the way, there were, of course a number of Tudor style structures remaining from the 16th century. I was suddenly reminded of Bath (where I am headed before the weekend is out) that so very 18th century. We just don’t have towns like these in the US. We aren’t this old. The one above struck me humorously since you can see the undulating lines of the structure make it seem about to collapse.

Blog 08

Street scene. Plenty of Tudor Style architecture.

 

Blog 09

An exterior of the church.

 

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A river view. The tower in the distance is the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre building.

 

Blog 11

Couldn’t resist the swans on the river.

 

Blog 12

The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. We had a wonderful lunch here.

 

It was really a worth while trip to see this theatre. Something of the same thing I felt upon seeing the Old Vic for the first. The history, some of which I detailed above is storied and it gives me pause to just be in it. Perhaps next time I come, I can arrange to attend a performance but, not this time. Too little time. We did have a great lunch and take our time over dessert. On the sixth floor, we had a great view of the river and the town.

 

 

 

We decided it was time to move on and catch the train to our next destination, Chipping Norton where Christina arranged a room at a pub for the three of us. Kerri is meeting us there and we will go one in the morning to our next stop.

 

Blog 13

Arriving in Chipping Norton, this is the charming inn where we spent the night.

We caught the bus in Stratford for a quick (30 minute) ride to Chipping Norton. It turned out to be a small town and the room over the pub was spacious and clean and QUIET and across the street from the bus stop.

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The room. It was very comfortable and we all got some much needed rest.

 

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The street down to the church in Chipping Norton. Charming doesn’t begin to describe this town.

 

Kerri arrived soon after and we strolled through the town exploring and looking for the church. We found it and were able to go in much to my consternation. No one was there but a welcome sign and feel free to look and take pictures. I signed the guest book which was left out for visitor.

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The exterior of the church.

 

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This little path across the back of the church lead through more graveyard and into another small street fronting onto a small farm with sheep (little ones) and back up to the main street.

All in all it has been a great adventure today. We retired to The Fox pub and had dinner and I enjoyed a beer and a glass of wine. Sleep was good and quiet and tomorrow promises to be more of the same.

The Taming of the Shrew, Tate Modern

Thursday, 21 July

Today, we returned to the Globe Theatre for the performance of The Taming of The Shrew.  I am glad to see this production because I have never had the opportunity to see it performed on the stage.  The matinee is at two and we have class before.  I am meeting with class in front of the Tate Modern.  Though a series of mix-ups class was delayed but finally came off by noon.

Kerri and I then went to the Tate Modern to spend some time in this museum of modern art.  I enjoyed wandering the expansive galleries of this incredible museum and this has been the first real opportunity.  The first thing that strikes me is (see the photo below for one example) the age of some of the “modern” art.  The Picasso dates from 1914.  That makes it over 100 years old.  At what point is it not modern.  I certainly understand it is a term to describe a period in art history but, it is ironic that many of the iconic works of the modern art movement are so dated.

I was also struck by a more contemporary piece titled Babel 2001 by Cildo Meireles.  There were a number rather large installation pieces and this was one.  I walked into the room and was taken aback by the size but also the aural effect.  The tower of radios and other devices tuned to many different stations did not overwhelmed as you might expect.  Of course, at first I didn’t know what I was hearing but, the sound was soothing which seemed at odds with what I learned to be true.  The artist statement is included.  The tower was fascinating and I just wanted to stand and let it relax.  Given the statement about information overload and incomprehension I would have expected to be turned off but, instead I was transfixed.  The work was very powerful and I am sorry I couldn’t provide more visually or aurally to communicate the fascination with this somewhat futurist and unworldly work of art.

We returned to the Globe to queue up for the show.  Standing again and the weather seemed to be perfect for today’s performance.  The Taming of the Shrew is probably one of the most difficult for modern audiences given its treatment of women, particularly Kate (the shrew in the title).  Many contemporary productions have tried to soften or in some cases change the play to make it more palatable.  Katherine (Kate) is a headstrong young woman.  She knows her mind and she is not interested in marriage but, her father decrees she must marry before her younger sister – presumably to get his problem child out of his household.

This production was set in Ireland during the Easter uprising of 1916.  The first act was a comic romp and the second act became the tragedy of Kate.  The setting was not change in the dialogue so, that was confusing.  The names of the character didn’t really help (Bianca, Petruchio, Baptista etc).  However, the production did work overall.  I felt the director changed the tone after Katherine’s marriage to Petruchio to suggest the tragic circumstance of the character.  It became not at all funny and her delivery of her final monologue seemed to move the male characters (particularly her father and husband) to understand what they had done to her.  I am very glad I got to see this production because it is not easier to understand the difficulties of the play.

After the show Christina, Kerri and I journeyed up to Hampstead for dinner at the Holly Bush Pub and quietly decompressed from the intense show.

Blog 01

This was for Terry. On the way to the South Bank of the Thames for class.

Blog 03 Tate

Picasso painting over 100 years old.

 

 

 

Blog 02 Tate

 

Blog 04 Tate

Babel 2001. Glad I was able to get someone in the picture so you could see the scale.

Blog 05 Tate

Blog 06 Globe

Waiting to go in with Kerri. So glad she got to come. Is there anything better than re-connecting with old friends?

 

Blog 07 Hampstead

Christina at the pub. It has really been fun to hang out with these two great people for three weeks in one of the most fund places.

Blog 08 Hampstead

The Holly Bush pub in Hampstead.

National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, Unreachable

Wednesday, 20 July

CORRECTION:  Please note the correction I’ve made on the Churchill War Rooms post.  I unintentionally referred to the clock tower as Big Ben.  Big Ben refers to the bell or chimes from the clock tower.  While our culture has extended that term to mean the clock tower, it is actually as of 2012 now known at the Elizabeth Tower  in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s  Diamond Jubilee.  I’ve also added an additional image.

 

After class this morning, we went to visit the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the National Gallery (NG).  Lunch was at the Portrait Gallery and I love these two museums.  The National Portrait Gallery is just that.  Portraits of historical figures, scientists, artists and anyone of importance in British history from all walks of life are displayed in this museum.  Those images displayed are based on the sitter not necessarily the creator.  Portraits include primarily paintings but, also sculptures and photographs.  We spent about an hour and a half in the Gallery before moving on the National Gallery.  The problem is time.  There isn’t enough time to see even a fraction of the collections contained in these museums.  The NPG has changed what’s out considerably since I was last here but, most of it remains the same.  It was interesting to note that the famous portrait of Shakespeare by Chandos was out on loan to a museum in Russia since it is the 400 year anniversary of his death.  The controversial portrait of Catherine I saw the last time was not out but, the really lovely portrait of William and Harry that I love was on display.  Last time, I saw a reproduction in the gift shop.  This time it was nice to actually see it.  There was also a beautiful portrait of Ian McKellan as well as the usual king and queens.

 

Moving on to the National Gallery, we only had about an hour and a half.  Where do you begin?  We basically went in three different directions.  One painting I saw that I don’t remember being in the museum last time was The Ambassadors by Han Holbein the younger.  I love this painting for the detail of the figures and the clothing.  Seeing it in life and up close I could see the painting techniques that are lost in a photograph.  I had an interesting encounter with a young man that wanted someone to talk to about the painting and he was very knowledgeable but,   he didn’t know about the distorted skull at the bottom center of the painting.  If you look the image from the far right, it becomes a skull.  I’ve included the title block from the museum with the picture of the painting.

 

The other mannerist painting I enjoyed seeing is Brozino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupid.  This is a great example of mannerism.  The distortion of the figures and the layers of images make it a fascinating painting.  I love Bronzino’s work because of the sharp, clear detail, particularly in his portraits.  I’ve always been drawn to this non-portrait paining because of the sharp, crisp quality of the figures and it’s whimsical nature.

 

That evening we attended Unreachable at the Royal Court Theatre.  This is my first time at the Royal Court.  This theatre has a reputation for new and cutting edge theatre.  The piece we saw this evening was created essentially, it seems, in rehearsal.  The cast included Matt Smith, who currently plays Dr. Who – for which I have no connection.  However, I did see him in a film called, Christopher and his Kind about Christopher Isherwood.  I enjoyed him in that immensely.  The play concerned a director (Smith) of a film trying to find the perfect light for one moment in the he is shooting.  I knew nothing about this play since it is new but, felt rom the title it would be a drama.  I was wrong.  It was very funny evoking Chekhov although no mention of that was made in the talk back following the performance.  We were on the front row and again it made the experience of the play much more visceral.  I felt at time assailed by the performances.  The ending (when the light is revealed) was something of a deus ex machina.  moment.  The spare set was transformed into what appeared to be a cherry orchard with scrims, light, fog and a live fox.  Brilliant.  It was, for me at odds with the post-apocalyptic film that was being made but it made for great theatre.

Blog 01 NG

The front of the National Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is next door.

Blog 02 NG

The museums look out onto the back of Trafalgar Square.

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Looking back to the National Gallery. These are very large structures.

Blog 04 NPG

This painting of William and Harry was not in the museum last time I visited but, I saw a reproduction. Before that, I didn’t know it existed. Was happy to see it on the wall. I think it is a beautiful portrait.

Blog 05 NPG

Last time I saw a portrait of Dame Judi Dench. I was happy to see this painting of Dame Maggie Smith.

Blog 06 NPG

Even though I didn’t get to speak with him, I did get to have my picture taken with him. Sir Ian McKellan and the portrait is beautiful.

 

Blog 07 NPG

Anne Boylen

Blog 08 NPG

King Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon

Blog 09 NG

One of the interior rooms of the National Gallery

Blog 10 NG

This painting by Thomas Gainsborough has always been a favorite of mine. Mr. & Mrs. William Hallett – The Morning Walk. I love her hat.

Blog 11 NG

The Ambassadors by Han Holbein the younger.

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Blog 13 NG

An Allegory with Venus & Cupid by Bronzino c. 1545.

Blog 14 NG

The Tailor – of course I love this painting. It is by Moroni c. 1570. The clarity, the clothing, the pose – in the quiet of his studio.

Blog 15 Royal Court

The exterior of the Royal Court Theatre. We had a nice dinner here this evening.

Sam West, Public Library, Funny Girl

Tuesday, 19 July

Today’s class is another guest speaker, Samuel West.  Mr. West is a noted English actor.  He comes from an acting dynasty – 4th generation. Equally at home on stage and in film he originated the role of Valentine in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the National Theatre and played the title role in Hamlet for a year at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  His film roles have included Howard’s End and Hyde Park on the Hudson as well as numerous television roles.  He is currently touring the country in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.  He is politically active particularly regarding the arts and funding for the arts.  There was one thing he said that particularly resonated and this isn’t exact but, it is close enough, “Art is to understand what it is like to be someone else.”

In the afternoon, I planned a trip to the British Public Library for a number of reasons.  London has turned very hot.  I wanted someplace where could enjoy a little cool air.  The internet at the dorm is spotty at best – especially in the evening.  I assume that is because everyone is on at the same time.  I was hoping to catch up on my blog since as you can see, I am behind.  There is also an exhibit called Shakespeare in Ten Acts.  Since I’m here on a theatre study tour, that seemed appropriate and, Vivian Leigh in featured on all the PR materials so, I was more intrigued.

It was miserable hot walking over.  The library isn’t too far from the dorm but, it is off a major street.  The heat of the city was bad and the traffic was making it worse.  Reaching the library was a welcome relief.  The plaza outside was a large expanse and I was immediately drawn to the sculpture the size of which was in keeping with the scale of the plaza.  Once inside we scoped out areas to work on computers and there were many – all full.  Kerri found a spot and I was off to the exhibit.  It turned out to be much more extensive than I imagined.  After the introduction to Shakespeare which include a first folio the exhibit was 10 sections (acts).  I was so grateful to see the folio.  It made it a real thing.

Those ten sections are 10 of his plays and landmark moments of production.  These included Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 12th Night, Othello and Macbeth plus five others.  The highlights for me were Vivien Leigh’s costume (Act II) for a 1955 production of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and Peter Brook’s landmark production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the 1960’s.  I spent over and hour and could not begin to absorb everything so, I had to retreat.

Trying to work on my blog proved far less satisfying.  I secured space at table and worked for about an 40 minutes before I realized I had been kicked off line at some point and to make a long story short, lost everything I had done.  I decided to it was time to go home.  I let everyone know I was leaving and headed out off of Euston Street – still too hot.  I meandered through the back way and it proved to be cooler I was able to let it go.  Back at the dorm I put my feet up before going to the theatre.

This evening, I had tickets to see Funny Girl.  This is a show that has not really been revived since Streisand starred in the original Broadway and West End productions as well as the film.  I’ve always wanted to see a stage production and this one at the Savoy has gotten great reviews.  We had gotten the tickets several nights earlier and I was able to get us 75 pd tickets for 25 pds.  I think the boy at the ticket window was flirting but, I was too dense to notice until I walked away.  That’s why I got the good tickets so cheap.  Oh well, I was grateful whatever the reason.  The show was fantastic.  Sheridan Smith really made the role her own (I thought of Melissa McCarthy).  It worked.  The production was original and fresh.  Harvey Fierstein was brought in to try and fix the problems with Act II and Nick’s story line.  I think he helped but, it is still weak.   He had a song and sang “Who Are You Now?” as duet with Fanny.  The design was well done.  I was disappointed with the “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” number.  I felt they forgot this was the Ziegfeld Follies and it looked cheap and not well thought out.  They put Sheridan in a fat suit and she seemed not at all comfortable.

Blog 01a S West

Class waiting to go in and hear Sam West speak.

 

Blog 01 S West

Sam West is a distinguished actor in London. Also very active in politics and an advocate for funding for the arts.

Blog 03 S West

Christina has known him for a number of years. We are fortunate for her connections in London bringing in speakers such as Sam. They recently (last Christmas) did a reading of a play created by her company in the U.S. for the BBC radio.

Blog 02 S West

Sam took the time to speak with the students after his talk and Emma seemed to be having a good conversation with him.

Blog 04 British Library

Statue in the Plaza of the British Library

Blog 05 British Library

The Plaza to the right of the statue.

Blog 06 British Library

I couldn’t photograph in the exhibit so, here is the PR materials of which I spoke.

I found some image on line from the exhibit so, I felt I could share them.

Blog 06a British Library

The First Folio as I saw it in the exhibit.

Blog 06b British Library

Zoë Wilcox, lead curator of Shakespeare in Ten Acts, adjusts a human skull given to Sara Bernhardt by Victor Hugo. On loan from the V&A. Used in a production of Hamlet.

Blog 06c British Library

I found this picture of Vivien Leigh wearing the costume from Macbeth.

Blog 06d British Library

This is a picture from the Peter Brook A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The green costume was on display.

 

 

Blog 07 British Library

I found this quiet neighborhood on my calming walk home after the frustration of the library

Blog 08 Funny Girl

the Savoy Theatre

 

Blog 09 Funy Girl

This is the “Henry Street” number from Funny Girl.

 

Blog 13 Funny Girl

The final moment from the play

Blog 12 Funny Girl

“Cornet Man”

 

 

Blog 11 Funny Girl

Fanny trying to “fit in” to Keeney’s girls.

Blog 10 Funny Girl

“Sadie, Sadie” – on retrospect this number seemed a little out of place. Too designed compared to many of the other numbers.