This post is for Thursday, 28 July and Friday, 29 July
It’s the last day in London and there is still much to do. First up, this morning we have our last class and today’s final speaker is Marion Nancarrow. She is a director of radio plays for the BBC having directed over 200 productions and conducts workshops all over the world. Ms. Nancarrow comes to speak as a result of director a production originally produced by Christina’s theatre company. Christina went over last winter and played in the drama called North. Her talk was well received by the students and she was quite inspirational and passionate about her work.
I left to meet Kerri. She wanted to do some errands and see a couple of things in the morning. Our afternoon plans were to do some shopping. We met outside and headed to Waterloo station to take the tube to Picadilly Circus. Alighting onto Regent Street we headed up the several blocks to Liberty of London. On the way up Regent Street we passed Carnaby street and the section known as Carnaby in Soho. This is one of those iconic areas that gained notoriety during the sixties. Carnaby Street was the cool destination in swinging London of the time. Many designer boutiques sprung up including Mary Quant. It is one of those places I keep meaning to get to but, both times have failed. I’ll hope for 2018 when we return. Today it is a high end shopping area. In the 70’s it was turned into a pedestrian mall.
Liberty was just around the corner and we went on to the task at hand. Liberty is a department store since 1875 and is known for luxury goods and Kerri was looking for a piece of fabric for quilt she and her colleague are making. Once in the store we browsed for time and a located the fabric and Kerri found the piece she wanted. We looked a bit more and I tried to find something but, I guess by this time I was shopped out as well as museumed out.
I had one desire this afternoon and that was a walk down Savile Row. That’s really all you can do. Savile Row is the mecca for men’s tailoring in London. The street has a long and varied history but, tailors first began setting up shop in this area in the late 18th century landing on the street itself in the very early 19th century. Walking down the street, you can look in the basement windows to view something of the workshop of each shop. On the main floor you can find models of suits and someone to take your order for a bespoke garment.
After this small adventure, we headed back to the dorm. This afternoon, the last official meeting of the class is tea. We are meeting up the class at the Orangery near Kensington Palace. Christina wanted to walk Kerri and I through a section of Kensington. She walked this when she attended LAMDA. It was indeed beautiful. Below are a couple of buildings that caught my interest – two of many.
We arrived at Kensington Palace. Remember, the Orangery is next door. We passed by the back of the palace and was able to see the statue of Queen Victoria.
Arriving a little early (our reservation was for 3 pm). We found a few students already there waiting and the rest soon joined up.
We had a great time. The tea was perfect and the students enjoyed themselves very much. We had two tables and it made for a wonderful time to debrief and talk about what we had experienced and just relax before we begin the journey back.
After tea, I had one more event. I spent the better part of the last two days packing so, I might join Vikki and her partner , Adam for dinner down at Picadilly Circus. They had made reservations for a 9 pm dinner at a french restaurant called Brassiere Zedel on Sherwood Street. I met them a little early for cocktails and then we enjoyed a delicious meal and a bottle of wine. It made the perfect ending to a perfect journey.
Friday, 29 July
Flying home is never easy. The trip is long and arduous. This time was no exception. Delayed flights made for quick layovers and unfortunately, too short goodbyes – Kerri. Also, lost luggage which eventually showed up but, nevertheless creating unnecessary stress. Thanks for coming along on this journey. I apologize for not keeping up as I went along but, I am certainly grateful I have been able to finish documenting my travel. Once home, it was good to sleep in my own bed and see my kittens who, by now are starting to get along. Suri, however has become a little terror and Sheba and I are having to train her. I think Sheba is better at that than I.
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.
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.
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.
This post is for Tuesday, July 26
One of my favorite places to go is Hampton Court. I don’t know why. It is so tied up in the history of the Tudors I guess. I was always fascinated with this time in British history. Henry, his wives, Elizabeth I. Initially, it was the clothes I think. It isn’t particularly attractive but, I loved them all the same. Once I understood that, then maybe it was the intrigue at court and the drama that played out during this time.
Last time I visited, just walking the paths and the rooms, you can feel the history. I think it is, for me, like walking the beaches of Galveston, TX. The history is right there and I connect with it more than most other places. We took an early train. Hampton Court is about a 40 minute trip by train even though it is only 11 miles or so from London. In Henry’s day they rode the river down. We walked across the river and through the palace gates. There are essentially two sides to this palace. The guide book states, ” . . .where you get two palaces for the price of one. The rose red brick Tudor palace is indelibly associated with Henry VIII. The baroque palace, first occupied in 1700, has some of the world’s greatest gardens around it.”
The palace was a gift to Henry VIII from Cardinal Wolsey in 1525. It was the mainstay palace of English kings and queens until Queen Caroline’s death in 1737. After that, George II made only rare appearances and began the tradition of letting out unused apartments to “genteel older ladies deserving of royal grace and favour.”
Before leaving Hampton Court, we had lunch in the Queen’s (Elizabeth) Privy Kitchen, visited the Tennis Courts and the kitchen’s of Henry VIII. The train ride back to London gave us a moment to decompress and relax. In the evening, Kerri was off to see a show and Christina suggested we head over to Royal Albert Hall to see a PROMS concert.
The BBC PROMS are held almost nightly during an 8 week period in the summer. You can buy gallery tickets for 6 pds and stand in the gallery. We bought our tickets and went in to a magnificent space. We stayed for only part of the concert because we were both tired by the time we got in but, I am grateful for the chance to see the inside of that beautiful space and the concert was glorious. Next visit we committed to getting a seat so we could enjoy the whole concert. Ironically, the piece we heard was based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest by Tchaikovsky.
This post is for Monday, 25 July.
Today, Kerri and I are going to Buckingham Palace to see the palace but, more importantly an exhibit of Queen Elizabeth’s fashions over 90 years in celebrations of her 90th birthday. The exhibition opening only two day before our visit. We are lucky to be in London during the short time it is on at the palace. We booked our tickets last night for 1:30 expecting the crowds to be large.
Of course, as we found our way to the entrance we discovered we were correct. It was packed. I feared we might never get in even with tickets purchased in advance. However, I underestimated the organizational skills and calm of the British. It was amazing. Everyone on the staff that we came into contact with was so helpful and polite and simply made the visit incredibly easy despite the huge numbers of people. I was impressed with how well the crowds were treated and moved about with ease. We began the process of going in at the appointed time. We had to go through intense security and we not allowed to photograph in the palace of course. Everywhere we turned, we were greeted warmly and kindly and with respect. Exactly what you might expect being a guest in the home of the queen.
The walk through included all the rooms of state in the palace and the exhibition which was set up in three very large rooms – the Ball Supper Room, the Ball Room and the State Dining Room I believe. We saw the Grand Entrance and Grand Hall, Grand Staircase, Guard Chamber, Green Drawing Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, the Blue Drawing Room, the Music Room, the White Drawing Room, the Minister’s Staircase, Marble Hall and finally the Bow Room. I list them all so if you want to google them you can see what they look like.
I did find some image online and from the guide book I purchased so I include them here to prime the pump so to speak.
The exhibition of the queen’s clothing was extensive and the crowds were enormous. The audio guides slowed down the movement of the crowds. I didn’t take one so I was able to move a little more quickly but sometimes it difficult to get very close to see what was what. The first section was early and included the christening gown (now a reproduction for the modern royals), the gowns Elizabeth and Margaret wore to their father’s coronation in 1937.
The rest of the exhibition included a group of dresses worn to various weddings, dresses worn for state visits to other countries, dresses worn for state occasions in England, a look at her millinery and the milliners she has used over the years and some of the various designers that have dressed the queen during her life. I found the following images on line to give you an idea of the scope and scale.
After leaving the exhibition which was in the central part of the tour of room, we went into the Picture Gallery for one and I discovered one of my favorite paintings. Franz Xaver Winterhalter is one of my favorite portrait painters (along with John Singer Sargent and Thomas Gainsborough). Her painting of Queen Victoria and her young family was hanging in this gallery. So excited to see this in person. The detail of his work comes through even when reproduced in books.
Exhausted we left the palace for walk out the back which included a gift shop. The most unexpected part was the beautiful and tranquil setting in the back of the palace.
Once we exited the palace grounds, we found the nearest tube stop and headed back to the dorm to rest and get ready for the evening’s performance. Tonight we saw The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. This is the second of the Young Chekhov series showing at the National. The production was first rate. They used the base set from the previous production we saw with some hefty additions. They retained the water element creating a strong symbolism when Nina (the seagull) walks through the water to the house. The actors which included Anna Chancellor as Arkadina (I saw her play Amanda in Private Lives broadcast to the cinema a couple of years ago) was superb and the play while not as funny as Platanov was incredibly entertaining until the suicide of Konstanin which was a little disconcerting but appropriate. My only issue with this production was the time setting. For some reason, beyond understanding, they chose to set it in what appeared to be the 1930’s. For me, this makes absolutely no sense. I don’t see how these people could have existed after the revolution. Chekhov’s plays proceed and tosome extent foreshadow the revolution. I found myself trying to make sense of this choice to the point that I was taken out of the story and the events taking place on the stage.
This is for Sunday, 24 July.
On this day Kerri and I visited Bath. Bath is one of my favorite places. It has an internationally known Fashion Museum as well as being the home of the Royal Crescent. The town itself is an amazing collection of Georgian architecture.
The day began early taking the tube to Paddington Station where we caught our train for the 1 hours, 40 minute trip out to the western part of the country. Bath is located in Somerset County. The station is very busy on a Sunday morning because a lot of people are traveling outside London on the weekend. Travel is easy and relatively inexpensive so day trips seem common. Arriving at the station we must wait until they reveal from which platform the train will depart. The monitors you see in the photo are constantly changing and it’s funny to see lines of people standing and staring at the screens waiting for their cue to head to the platform. Once the platform appears, dozens of people take off to board the train.
Arriving in Bath, we made our way immediately to the Fashion Museum. Looked like rain was coming and this was first on our list of places to see. We bought tickets to this, #1 in the Royal Crescent and the Architecture Museum. The exhibit in the Fashion Museum had been completely changed since my visit two years ago and it was great to see completely different items in the collection (which is extensive). It is much smaller than you might expect. I remember thinking two years ago that it was much smaller than I expected. Some of the pieces I saw included
After touring the museum in the basement we went upstairs to walk through the Assembly Rooms. Below is one of them, the Ball Room. This could be considered a community center in the day for the wealthy.
Leaving the museum, we walked around to the Royal Crescent which is a semi-circular structure that sets near the top of the town. It is a collection of very large town homes in the Georgian style . It was built between 1767 and 1774 and contains about 30 town homes. You can tour #1 which we did.
As we headed back down we walked through the Circus (see note above). Between 1758 and 1774 #17 was the home of Thomas Gainsborough, the painter as his portrait studio.
We walked down to the Architecture Museum which was small and by then we were beginning to tire. Along the way I saw this church.
We made our way back into the main part of town starving by this time. We found a restaurant that looked possible and collapsed. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, at little late. It was leisurely because the service was slow but, that was okay, we were tired. That coupled with the rain that began to fall as we went in. It continued to rain for most of the time we sat waiting and eating. So, again no complaints. Finishing lunch we felt it was time to head home so we quickly headed to the train in order to catch the next one which was fairly quick. On the ride back to London we both napped a bit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I found some image on line from the exhibit so, I felt I could share them.
Monday, July 18
This morning class met on the south bank. We joined with the group of students from Ohio State to hear Sifiso Mazibuko talk about performing in the musical Motown. His talk was interesting but, this is his first major acting job in the West End. It lacked the depth of experience I saw from our previous speaker, Gavin Creel. However, he did give our students good advice and the conversation was interesting to me since it really spoke from the other side. From there we walked along the bank of the Thames to Westminster Bridge.
Crossing over we passed Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey to the Churchill War Rooms in the basement of the Treasury building. The area of London where you find BB and Parliament are incredibly busy. The tourist crowds are intense and during controversial moments can be filled with protesters as they were the last time I was here. I am happy to report it was much quieter this year. The buildings are so striking. The architectural details are lost in most photographs.
This fronts onto St. James Park. This museum is a series of rooms that housed the Prime Minster (and ultimately his family), the cabinet and members of the armed services to protect them during the bombing of London. From there they were able to strategize, plan and conduct the war safely. Churchill felt strongly he could not leave London for morale purposes. It is easy to see how difficult their lives must have been during this trying time in the history of the country. The rooms were closed up almost immediately after the war and forgotten (to most people) like a time capsule. Gradually interest rose from small groups and interest came to restore and make available to the general public. The were officially opened in the mid-1980’s for tours.
The journey through the underground bunker is moving and they have created a great museum to Churchill. MY father always spoke admirably of Winston Churchill and it made me wish he could have toured these rooms. I think he would have spent a long time absorbing every detail.
After the afternoon in the underground we headed back up to the hot streets of London. The mild temperatures we experienced earlier in the trip have been replaced with more steamy heat. By our standards, not too bad but the Brits are really beginning to feel this. Of course, we are as well especially in the steamy unair-conditioned dorms. Entering the hall, you are hit in the face with the heat each time we return and it is only moderately better in the rooms but, I am used to it and it isn’t that bad in the end.
This evening’s production is Motown, the Musical. This is the one big West End musical we are seeing this year and the students are excited about this production.
The production was first-rate in terms of production values. The visual elements were quite stunning but, as a play it doesn’t hold up well. It tried to do too many things and there was never a sense of a story. There are too many stories. Is it telling the story of Motown, the love story between Ross and Gordy, the changes in the African-American community during this time or what? It uses all the beautiful music from Motown and it is enjoyable for that (although, it seemed a slightly pale imitation of the originals). Act I concluded with Marvin Gaye singing his classic, What’s Going On? I thought that summed it up perfectly. Am I glad I went, certainly but, it seemed to be a vehicle to cement Berry Gordy’s legacy and I already know his legacy. I didn’t need a reminder.
This will cover two days Saturday, 16 July and Sunday, 17 July.
I am doing these two days because I am behind and on Saturday it was something of a short day. It is Tuesday and I am at the British Library because the internet at the dorm is spotty at best. This is especially true at night when I want to complete these hence the reason for being behind – or, at least one of the reasons.
Saturday, 16 July
On Saturday, we had class and my former student Vikki Medhurst came to speak with the group. She talked about her career in film and opera. Remember, she took me to the Star Wars, Episode VIII party the first Sunday evening I was in London. The students enjoyed the talk and asked some questions and we went to lunch.
In the afternoon, I think I caught up on some blog posts and waited to meet my friend Jane for dinner. Jane lives in England and agreed to come in for dinner and then she accompanied us to the performance that evening since we had an extra ticket. We went to dinner at the Charlotte Street Hotel down the street from the dormitory. She had been there before and loved the restaurant so, guess I made a good choice.
We traveled out to the Bush Theatre for that evening’s performance, Boys Will Be Boys. The Bush is an equivalent of an off-Broadway theatre in America. The play is new and somewhat experimental. The subject matter deals with a number of women’s issues including corporate (specifically trading stocks), rape and the glass ceiling among others.
The theatre was very hot and the setting, I felt, was unfortunate. The thrust arrangement forced the audience to crane heads to see what was going on on the upper level where most of the action took place. A piano was placed at the front of the thrust and not used that much. I think the designer would have more wisely placed the piano up top and allowed the action of the play to take place on the floor where it might have been more easily seen. The play itself was a tired re-working of many plays like it and brought no new insights into the issues for women. Although, the students saw it a bit differently and as result I re-thought some of my early feelings about the play but, in the end it still didn’t really work for me. It really placed women in the role of victim and never helped them out.
Sunday, 17 July
By contrast, my first day off on this trip proved to be a remarkable journey. I traveled 2 1/2 hours by train to a small town called Sherborne. There, I was greeted by an old colleague, Graham Cottenden. Graham is a master tailor from Great Britain and for a number of years taught at the University of Bournemouth. These days, he is retired and working on a book which I have helped with a little bit – providing patterns from existing suits and photographing them for him. His book covers 1830 – 1960 and is a tailoring how to as well as a historical overview of menswear during those years. I provided patterns for suits from 1907, 1929 and 1939.
He picked me up and it was about a 30 minute drive to his home in a village called The Knapp. This is in Dorset heading southwest from London. If you put this place in a movie, no one would believe it. They would call it cliche. I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with Graham and his family, wife Katherine and daughter Bea. Here are the pictures so you can judge for yourself but, they don’t really do it justice.
We took a stroll over to see a little closer.
At the end of the day, I was able to have look at Graham’s book which he wanted to share and he explained problems he is having with the graphics. As it turned out, this is something I could help with so, it looks like I have a new job. I leave you with the view of the station at Sherborne as I waited for my train to return me to London.
This post is for Friday, July 15.
Today, we spent a good deal of time at the Globe Theatre. The class assembled early and went down for class at the theatre. We take the tube down to St. Paul’s transferring lines along the way. That brings us up by St. Paul’s Cathedral. We paused for a quick look round outside and a photo op.
The church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It always is a beautiful stop on the way across the Thames.
As we turn and head over the bridge, you can see the Tate Modern one of the most impressive collections of modern art in the world. The building is an excellent example of how Britain re purpose buildings without tearing them down.
At the Globe we held class and then were able to explore a bit before getting in line for the play. A number of students want to stand by the stage so, it is important to be in line early for those coveted position in the yard. The position I covet is near the back where I can see more clearly and lean against a post.
Once inside the theatre fills quickly. You never know quite what to expect in a show at the Globe and this one did not disappoint.
The production was created by the new artistic director of the theatre. The setting is London and the fairy world pays respect or homage to the east Indian culture of London. It wasn’t slavish to any one thing although the fairy world pay homage to the Elizabethan time period with hints and sometimes blatant costumes of that time. In some instances the wording of the language was updated (doublets were not referred to). The casting of Helena with a man and changing the sex of the character brings to light the issues of same sex relationships as well the ill-treatment of women in this play specifically Hermia, Titania and Hippolyta as well as Helena/Helenus. In doing so, the director takes the audience on a journey that is a feast for the eyes and ears. In the end, I wept with joy as it was very empowering for me seeing the relationship between Helenus and Demetrius succeed.
The following picture were pulled from the web and not shot during the performance.
In the end, I felt this was one of the best theatrical experiences I have had in many, many years.
We left the Globe for dinner. Tonight was the group dinner and we had reserved a table at one of the restaurants at the Tate Modern. The students enjoyed themselves after the great performance we saw and we walked across the river to catch the tube home.
I am far behind so the day for this entry was July 14 (Thursday).
We began the day with class and then headed out to Hyde Park with the intention of going to Kensington Palace. Last time, we went by but I did not get to go inside. Of course, to get there we went by the very large memorial to Prince Albert. Across is the Royal Albert Hall.
The memorial (if you want to see the whole thing refer to the 2014 blog entry). I photographed more details of the enormous structure. At the four corners are depictions of Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. It seems to be Victoria as the centerpiece of each one. l to r: Asia, Africa, 2nd row l to r: Americas, Europe.
Walking through gardens of course is always wonderful and I sorry but the images don’t begin to convey the sense of peace and calm in this place. It is also one of the most fragrant gardens through which I have walked.
Kensington Palace lies at one end of the park. Off to the left is the private residence of the now younger royals (William, Catherine and their young family). This palace has been the residence of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother as well as Diana, Charles and their sons. It was originally the residence of the kings and queens beginning with William and Mary. The English Georgian court resided here and Queen Victoria grew up here and learned she was to be the next queen of England in 1837.
Before the palace, we walked around to the back and the side (behind the residence) to the restaurant known as the Orangery. It is a beautiful space and an excellent restaurant which I enjoyed immensely the last time I was in England. This time (thanks to the tour) I was able find out what it was originally. Queen Anne, who followed William III had it built, one of her only additions to the palace before she died, so her orange trees could be taken inside during the winter months.
After lunch, we were able to enjoy the formal garden off the back and to the side of the palace. You can’t walk in them but there are handy little niches where you can step and in imagine yourself inside the walls.
Inside we toured first the Kings’ State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments. Images below are from the King’s Apartments.
I enjoyed these paper replicas of the clothing worn during the Georgian period.
One wing of the palace has been turned into a display of gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. It is a rather intriguing group of garments. I loved the fashion illustrations around the wall, particularly those for Elizabeth. The sketches look something like her but, they are fashion illustrations and they don’t capture the seriousness of the queen.
I learned a lot about Princess Margaret I did not know or realize. She held court at Kensington and some of her guests were the top artists, designers and performers of the time. Something like a salon. I developed a new respect for her.
In the evening we attend another play at the National Theatre. Tonight was Platanov by Anton Checkhov. This is part of a trilogy of plays from his early years. The production was beautifully designed. The acting and direction first rate. Chekhov can sometimes be hard because it is very talky. This production was vibrant and alive. It sparkled. The dialogue was crisp and witty. The director and actors found all the humor. It is one of the funniest, laugh out loud production of Chekhov I have ever witnessed. Too often, we take Chekhov far too seriously I think and this production gave us joyful and sad look at life.
Sorry about how behind I am. Still trying to fight off this cold which is as of today (Friday) on the way out I think. That coupled with spotty internet especially at night has prevented me from staying up to date. I will catch up and get it all done.
This day was a trip to have class at the Victoria & Albert museum and the performance tonight was 1984 at the Playhouse Theatre. I thought that I might try to give you a sense of what it is like riding the tube so, I’ve included a series of photographs for that purpose.
At the other end of this trip we arrive at the Victoria and Albert museum which is one of my favorite places in the city. Today, we are having class here and then touring the theatre exhibit with the class.
The theatre exhibit has changed a great deal since the last time I was here. There is a look at the the last 50 years as well as much of the original material. New items included a lot of more recent productions. The one item I was struck with this time and I am sure it was there last time is a letter from Elia Kazan to Vivian Leigh. He is sending her the script for A Streetcar Named Desire and he is arranging for her to meet with Lucinda Ballard, the costume designer for the film.
The underwear exhibition was quite wonderful but, I also went back through the regular clothing exhibition to look at the early 19th century clothing because I am designing Sense and Sensibility this fall. Ironically, I have the director with me (Christina).
We spent several hours in the museum including a great lunch in their cafe and headed out to Harrod’s for a quick tour through.
After a brief rest, we left and went out for that evening’s production which was 1984 at the Playhouse Theatre.
The production that evening was intense. We were sitting on the front rows of the theatre and that added to the intensity. I enjoyed this production a great deal. It was a totally different style than anything we have seen to date. Got away from the realism of the previous productions and told the story in a very non-linear way. The performances were excellent and we walked home to walk off the experience.
Today (Tuesday) was a little more difficult. My cold has taken hold and I can’t break free. So, I decided I needed to sleep if possible. I stayed in my room and tried my best to sleep. I don’t think I did much but, I did get some much needed rest. At 3, Kerri and I went to find a restaurant. By then I was ready to eat something. We enjoyed a good dinner at an Italian restaurant down on Charlotte Street.
We met with the students wanting to head down the National Theatre. This is a longer trek so, we headed over to the Warren Street station. It was 6 pm and the overflow out of the doors of the tube station was a little disconcerting. It was log jammed from people trying to go through the turnstiles. Every time you enter a tube station you must swipe your Oyster card for entrance and swipe it again when you leave to exit. Once we got in the crowd dissipated somewhat. We traveled down to Embankment and walked across the Thames on one of the many bridges spanning the river.
It was very overcast and cloudy since it has been raining most of the day. The weather has been exceptionally cool that last few days and looks to be that way for several more. Reaching the opposite bank we turned left and headed down to the National Theatre. Along the way we were surprised to come face to face with Sir Ian McKellan. Since I was leading the group, I saw him first and had this momentary, “is that who I think it is?” Sure enough it was. As he passes almost brushing my shoulder, I turned to see most of the students also recognized him and their faces were a mixture of astonishment and delight.
We stopped in front of the theatre for quick photo with Sir Olivier’s statue (sorry I cut off his head) and then went into wait and browse in the bookstore before the show. I was still struggling with cold but, I was prepared with mints, water and tissues.
The production was beautiful, understated and incredibly powerful. It reflects many of the mid-century plays of playwrights such as Miller and Williams but, is distinctly British. The performances were powerful especially Helen McCrory as Hester. I saw her two years ago in the very stunning production of Medea. She is reunited with the director from that production. The play is The Deep Blue Sea by Terrence Rattigan. The actors make a strong ensemble and the design is stunning to say the least. The two-story structure evokes memories of the original design for Death of a Salesman.
This is coming a little late. On Monday, I though I felt a cold coming on and while I did my best to fight it – – – no luck. Today is Tuesday and I have been down all day.
On Monday though, we had our first class which was primarily organization but, a short presentation on this evening’s production, Romeo & Juliet. We are seeing one of the final productions of Kenneth Branagh’s new company currently performing at the Garrick Theate. This production has received a lot of hype because it stars Lily James (of Downton Abby) and Richard Hadden (of Game of Thrones) and they both starred in Branagh’s live action feature film Cinderella. In addition, the production boasts Derek Jacobi (I’m not listing any of his credits because he is a legend in the London and film) as Mercutio and given his age, that seems odd casting at best. So, expectations run high.
After class we lead a small group to the British Museum, first for some lunch and then a little exploring. On the way we passed through Bedford Square in the Bloomsbury district of London. It is a Georgian style residential district around a garden square built between 1775 and 1783. It has/is frequently hired for film shoots since it has been preserved. It is a tranquil area and pleasant to stroll through.
Across the street from the museum is the Helen Graham house which I also think is a pretty neat building.
Of course across the street from the Graham House is the British Museum.
The best laid plans. Kerri, Christina and I had lunch at the Great Court Restaurant. This is a really nice place to eat but, it became leisurely. We agreed to meet up with the students at 2 pm if they chose and by the time we finished eating and talking it was 1:15. It was great sitting there in the space enjoying a great conversation and good food.
We spent a little time exploring the museum including the Parthenon Gallery and the Enlightenment Room. The latter along with the Waddesdon Gallery were fascinating for the shear volume of items collected and treasured from the Age of Enlightenment (18th century). It is astonishing to see how mankind developed over time as collected and treasured by people of this period.
Walking back to the dorm I enjoyed photographing various buildings that struck my fancy. I include a number of them here. I’ve always appreciated architecture but, Terry has deepened my appreciation of building and the importance of preserving heritage through building. Britain does an incredible job of re-purposing old structures.
After a brief rest, we went to see the first play of the tour. As I mentioned earlier, Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare was the first production we were slated to see. It was a great night so we walked down to the theatre district. I can’t tell you how invigorating it is to walk into the this area of the city and see the incredible numbers of people coming to see the various plays and musicals performing six nights a week in this city. The sidewalks are jammed packed with people and it’s Monday evening.
We went into the theatre. I purchased a program only to discover that the leading man Richard Hadden would not be performing that evening. His understudy would take the role. Of course, it is always disappointing when that happens but, it’s live theatre and you sometimes are dealt that hand.
The performance did not, unfortunately, live up to the hype. I found the setting and the design very intriguing. Of course, R&J is set in the Verona, Italy. He chose to set the production in the 1950’s instead of it’s traditional Renaissance setting. The background in the program carefully explains the rise of Fascism and how Mussolini tore apart the country along with WWII and left it open for the rise of the Mafia. This setting was a black, gray and white color palette with stark stone work columns and beautiful clothes of the New Look period.
The understudy was very weak and there was no chemistry between the principal actors. There were stand out performances but, no real sense of ensemble. Derek Jacobi was brilliant in the role of Mercutio, Lilly James was fine as Juliet and there were a number of other noteworthy performances but, in the end it really didn’t have the passion of the publicity or the play for that matter.
Sorry, I’m late posting today.
Today (Sunday) was spent welcoming students who are in the program. Christina and I ran some errands in the morning and took a walk. I photographed my way back enjoying some of the buildings including this church.
We passed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). More about that tomorrow.
We returned to the house and by that time students were arriving. We did our due diligence helping them to get settled. Of course, they were feeling a little overwhelmed. I am very excited this year to welcome Kerri Packard in my role from two years ago as a non-credit participant. Kerri is my best friend from graduate school and it is so great to be able to hang out with her for the next three weeks.
We managed to get Kerri fed and I enjoyed catching up. Kerri is also a costume designer and so, I expect she and I will really enjoy looking at and enjoying the design work in the plays we will see over the next weeks. We met with students for orientation and then I was left to get ready for the evening.
FOR ALL YOU STAR WARS FANS:
Before I left Lexington, I got a great surprise from Vikki Medhurst my former students now working at Warner Bros. studios in London as a costume maker. Vikki has begun to have a brilliant career in film (you can find her on IMDB).
She was a maker for Maleficent. She made some of Angelina Jolie’s costumes. She is one of our guest speakers and I am delighted to say now a friend. But, I digress. She e mailed me to ask what I was doing on the evening of the 10th. I was able to arrange to meet her. She invited me to attend the wrap party for the Star Wars: Episode VIII completion of major filming. She has been working on this most recent film in this franchise as a costume maker. The invitation allowed her to bring one guest and she invited me. I was honored and thrilled to be able attend an event like this — and an event it was. The initial invitation said the venue would be announced later and I needed id and she had to give them my name for security purposes. Dress was smart casual.
I had not a clue what to expect but, I was willing and ready when we met at seven. By then, we knew the venue was the Natural History Museum in west London. There were two security checkpoints and I couldn’t believe the number of people. They seemed to go on forever. I now understand whey the credits at the end of films especially of this type are so long. I think the people invited to this event were only the ones who received screen credit. There are probably many more who don’t receive that credit.
Inside we were greeted with champagne and she and I spent the first part of the evening catching up since we haven’t seen each other in two years. Once the they opened the main area, we moved into the large exhibit room with the largest dinosaur exhibit in the museum as the centerpiece of the party. There was a lot to drink and eat and the crowds just never seemed to end. I took as many pictures as I could but, they just don’t seem to do justice to, what was for me, an incredibly surreal event. Enjoy.
All in all, it was pretty great and I appreciate a former student (now the master) thinking of her old professor. I can’t really begin to adequately describe this experience. Once in a lifetime, I guess. Unless you work in that industry.
Oh by the way, I did walk past Mark Hamill.
Today was somewhat less hectic if only because I had some rest. Of course waking up in a new environment is always a little disconcerting but, there was work to do. Christina and I did sleep in a little and found our way down to the dining room for breakfast. I use the word found because the trip from the front door to our rooms is something of a trek with the dining room on the way. We are in the New York Wing of the dorm which I think was maybe built later. Anyway, to get to it is truly maze of down the stairs into a ramp area past the dining hall through the recreation room (which is usually populated with 20-30 pre-pubescent and teen-age revelers. Into a lower hallway onto the lift (which tells you you have arrived on the 2nd floor but, in fact the lighted number say you are on the 1st), up to the second floor and into the hallway where we are staying. I make it sound far simpler than it is.
Anyway, we had breakfast which was not bad. I kept it light this morning. Again the dining hall was filled with all these youngsters. However, it is obvious they come from around the world. Their energy is a little refreshing. I wish they could restrain themselves in the courtyard at night however. I did see a number of small older groups which I thought was reassuring.
We had decided to try and get tickets to Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre. This is a show I have wanted to see for sometime since I use it in my Creativity and the Art of Design & Production as an example for various reasons. The scene designer was interviewed in Architectural Digest about the design. I use that for the class. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 2013. We headed toward the theatre and ran onto the Shaftsbury Theatre where we are seeing Motown, the Musical with the class and it seemed like a good time to pick up the tickets.
We continued on down. One of the great things about London is walking the city. It is enormous of course but, so much of it is simply beautiful and old. The streets are so charming. For instance this street is one that has nothing
particularly special about it but it is quaint and charming.
We passed through Covent Garden again but this time we lingered and enjoyed the Saturday morning shopping, the live opera singer t the center of the stalls and people relaxing and eating in the various eating establishments.
These mirrored ceiling were beautiful in the central hallway of the structure. Adjacent to Covent Garden is the Royal Opera House. If you have ever seen My Fair Lady, you know these locations play a central role in the opening of the play and film.
Leaving the Covent Garden it was a short walk to the Adelphi Theatre where Kinky Boots is playing. We secured the tickets for the matinee and headed back to Ramsey Hall to take care of some things to greet the students on Sunday.
The play was great. It was little slow out of the gate because they creators decided to add in some backstory on the two leading men. This musical was taken from a 2005 indie film and is based on a true story. It is set in Northampton, England, London and Milan. The film is wonderful if you are looking for a nice comedy. There was at least one number that could have been cut I thought even though it was a good song for Lola but, all in all it was a great show with a great message for our times. In fact, I felt perhaps the creators were a little ahead of the curve where some of the issues were concerned.
Just had a comment on my FB page from John wondering how a British film converted to an Americanized musical translates onto the British stage. Well, John I would have to say – not bad. I think the issues are universal and it is interesting here how many American shows dealing with American life are playing in London. For instance, there is now a major revival of Funny Girl (which I plan to see). I saw a number of plays 2 years ago dealing with American life and productions set in America (Cosi Fan Tutte in a Coney Island-like setting). Now seems to be no different. So, it is interesting to see as you said a British film converted to an Americanized musical on the British stage.
We slowly walked back to the Hall to relax for a bit and had a later than expected dinner at my favorite pub – the Fitzrovia Belle. Changes haven’t hurt it any and I leave with a look at a traditional fish and chips dinner with a beer. The bourbon was my idea.
It has been an exhausting 24 hours since we left Lexington. Well, a little more at this point.
Yesterday I spent the day preparing to leave, getting the house ready, packing preparing the kitties who, I must say were not happy. Well, Sheba was not happy. She recognized that I was probably leaving and Suri . . . well Suri, was oblivious. Mostly underfoot, she quizzically engaged me knowing that something was not right but, she couldn’t quite determine what. Well, I guess she knows by now – sorry Melanie (my house sitter). I feel certain she will recover and immediately begin terrorizing Sheba again without delay.
I finished everything, went to pick up my colleague, Christina and Terry graciously took us to the airport but, not before Christina got acquainted with the new kitten.
The trip from Lexington to Charlotte was uneventful even if the plane did leave considerably late making us run for our connection to London.
Happily, we made it and breathing a sigh of relief settled in for the almost 8 hour flight. I am terrible on long flights. I can’t sleep and this one was no different. It was cold and the monitors on our row didn’t work. I made every effort to rest but to no avail.
We arrived on time in London, found our way through the longish passport control line and were admitted to the city. The quick ride on the Heathrow Express brought us into Paddington Station and a quick taxi ride got us to our new accommodations at Ramsey Hall in the University College of London. The facility is a dorm room for an urban college and it has seen better days but, it is serviceable and besides I don’t expect to be in it much anyway.
We, of course arrived well before check in time, left our luggage and made out way out for lunch and to take care of business. Christina set a break neck pace and I kept up. We went for lunch at Pret a Manger. Nice sandwich and we were back on the trail of picking up tickets and getting re-acquainted with the city. On the way to the National Theatre, we came across this new attraction, a new play opening about the boy wizard. A number of our students are hoping for tickets but, we understand it has sold out for months. There is hope and a lottery I believe so, maybe one or two will get lucky.
We stopped at the Garrick Theatre to get the tickets for our first production, Romeo and Juliet which is one of the last productions of Kenneth Branagh’s new company. At the National, we picked up tickets for the three shows we are seeing there and then sat down to enjoy the many changes to the theatre since we were there two years ago. It was relaxing on the terrace. The weather was beautiful, a breeze blowing of the Thames River and we almost immediately felt the wear of the trip to London.
Somewhere on the trip down, we picked up our tube passes so, we made our way to Waterloo Station and caught the train back up to Ramsey Hall so, we could officially check in and get settled.
By then it was dinner time and Christina suggested Franco Manca around the corner. They make a sourdough pizza that is excellent but, as you can see Christina was about ready for bed.
First, we had to make a trip down to Covent Garden to the Apple store. Computer issues you know. On the way we encountered London at 5 pm on a Friday evening.
The pubs were packed and patrons lazily enjoying a brew or two or three.
Covent Garden and the streets were packed with people enjoying the buskers and a beautiful evening in this busy city.
As we headed back to the hall, I saw an advertisement for a new production of Guys and Dolls with a startling addition to the cast beginning June 28.
I didn’t see that coming. Tomorrow, we hope to see a show before the students arrive.
I am returning to London for another three weeks to see theatre and generally spend time in one of the greatest cities I have every visited. I haven’t visited that many cities abroad or, for that matter, in this country. My trip two years ago was amazing (you can read about it in my previously published blog London 2014). When I traveled before I was a guest of the group London Theatre: How Past Becomes Present. Dr. Christina Ritter leads this group and this year, I am going as a co-director. We have ten member of the group including my best friend from graduate school, Kerri Packard.
My last trip was (if you read the previous blog) amazing and I expect this time will be no different. We are scheduled to see 12 plays and 5 guest speakers (one of whom is a former student of mine, Vikki Medhurst). Vikki is currently working for a major film studio in London as a costume maker. She told me about her latest project but, it is hush-hush at the moment. Perhaps when she speaks to the group, I will be able to reveal what she is doing at that time.
I am terribly behind in preparation for leaving. My flight is tomorrow evening and I still have to finish cleaning the house in preparation for my house sitter, mow the lawn, shop (some more) and continue trying to merge my cats. My cat Sheba has recently had her home invaded by a little terror I’ve named Suri.
The interloper Suri is an eight week old kitten I discovered on my doorstep three weeks ago. She was near death. However, with a little TLC, she has recovered and, at present, is tearing up my house and terrorizing Sheba. She simply wants to play but, Sheba is having none of it (well, she is coming around).
More tomorrow as I prepare to fly out in the evening.