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.