British Museum, Last Performance

This post is for Wednesday, 27 July.

WOW.  We are coming to the end quickly but, we still have a few things left to do.  I must confess, I am getting tired and am beginning to look forward to my own bed and seeing my kittens again.  But, first we have class today which includes another guest speaker, Matt Wolf.  Mr. Wolf is an American living in London.  He is also a theatre critic and a very knowledgeable part of the London theatre community.  He came to London 20 years ago to do an internship and has been there ever since.  Just goes to show, those internships can pay off.   Today he spoke very generally about the theatre scene in London but, he did talk about the longevity of the critic and how he has had the opportunity to observe the careers of actors who come onto the scene.  Sometimes those who show great promise fizzle out and disappear and sometimes there are those who no one notices and suddenly they are everywhere and last.  He spoke specifically of watching actor Ralph Fiennes who is currently appearing as Richard III at the Almeida Theatre.  Mr. Fiennes came onto the scene when Mr. Wolf first began his life in London.  We are fortunate to have speakers like Matt Wolf talk with out students.  For me, it is an education as well.

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Matt Wolf speaks to the class.

After class, we each had things to do.  I wanted to go back to the British Museum and Kerri had to go to a show.  I decided to run back to the dorm and grab some lunch since I was meeting Christina at the museum at 2 pm.  I finished quickly and decided to walk to the museum early and look for some items in the gift shop.  I arrived a little before 1 and the crowds were very large.  Once inside, I realized this may not be the best plan.  It is afternoon and it seems the entire of London has decided to explore the museum today.  I managed to find my way to the gift shop and make my purchases.  It was still early so, I went to the Assyrian galleries.  I don’t know why but, since grad school when I first saw the sculptures and bas reliefs from this ancient culture, I find myself attracted to them.  They are magnificent in their power and majesty.  The exotic quality is also very apparent.

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This was a section from The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. This is two Assyrian officials and three tribute bearers from Israel.

 

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I believe this is a depiction of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). Didn’t take a picture of the description. Sorry.

After exploring some of the items from Assyria, I wandered into the Egyptian sculpture room.  By this time, my feet and ankles were already beginning to ache.  The crowds in the museum seemed to have swelled even larger if that was possible.  I wandered down the long gallery and about halfway down, I suddenly came to the realization that I was no longer looking at the sculptures.  Well, I was looking but, I wasn’t taking in anything.  I noticed the people walking around and coming toward me.  Many of them, probably more than half had glazed expressions on their faces.  There were a number of them that seemed to be here for no other reason than they were required to be there and not the least bit interested.  Then there were a number probably like me that were suffering from museum fatigue and nothing was penetrating their brains any longer.  The people were more interesting than the  exhibit.  The enormous crowds were, for the most part, not participating in the museum experience, they were, like me, wandering.  by now it was almost two and time to meet Christina.  I made my way to the atrium and eventually found her among the hordes.  As soon as we saw each other, it almost come out at the same time.  “It was time to leave.”  We were both exhausted and couldn’t handle the large crowds and for my part, I wasn’t seeing anything anyway.  There is a reason, she always brings us to this museum in the morning.  With that, we escaped and headed back to the dorm to rest because we were seeing a show that evening.

This was our last production, not a part of the class.  Sunset at the Villa Thalia is a new play being performed in the Dorfman Theatre at the National.  This is my first time in this theatre.  It is an intimate thrust theatre primarily for newer, perhaps more experimental works.  The cast includes Elizabeth McGovern from Downton Abby.  The play takes place on an island off the coast of Greece.  Act I in 1967 and Act II in 1976.  The playwright has problems decided what story he’s telling.  Is it about the politics of Greece and other countries (USA) involving themselves in local politics or is it about the relationship of these two couples?  The first act was very engaging and Act II went nowhere.  It seemed the portrayal of a CIA operative (for lack of a better word because, we never really know his function within the CIA) is somewhat naive. I don’t believe for instance his wife would know he works for the CIA let alone know what he is doing for them which she talks about incessantly.  Relationships are muddled and I quickly lost interest in these people during Act II.  The performance and the design were again first rate.  McGovern shed Cora’s image in this role which I am certain is what she wanted to do except for one moment when she looked at her husband and it was Cora looking at Robert incredulously.  Well, I guess you can’t expect her to completely change everything.

 

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The set was quite extraordinary. A scene from Act II. We were sitting on the extreme right in the picture. The thrust stage is surrounded on three side by the audience. I would have been looking at Elizabeth McGovern’s back. This image came from the web.

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The two couple in Act I. This image was taken from the web.

 

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Act II. Elizabeth McGovern and Ben Miles. This image was found on the web.

 

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The young playwright and the CIA operative. Their relationship was most confusing of all.  This image was taken from the web.