I’m behind and the days are not as full so, I am combining a couple of days in this post.
Victoria and Albert Museum
This morning we took the class to the Victoria and Albert Museum for class. This tends to be trek especially when you have the entire class in tow but, it’s certainly worth the trip. We picked up some snacks and coffee in the museum and set up in the courtyard. It was a beautiful morning and we had a great discussion.
After, everyone was dismissed to explore the museum. I went up to the theater exhibition but, didn’t remain long. I’ve seen this in the last two trips so, I visited a couple of galleries before getting lunch in the museum café.
I had intended to see the exhibition on Frieda Kahlo but it was sold out. Will have to try and return another day. I explored a number of other galleries trying to find things I had not seen before or new pieces. Of course, I went the fashion timeline. It hasn’t changed radically since my last visit.
We did not have show this evening so, I headed back to the dorm in late afternoon for tea at the Waterstone’s book store on the corner and spent the evening catching up this.
Sifiso Matzubuko and Pity
In this morning’s class we had our first guest speaker, Sifiso Matzubuko. Sifiso is from South Africa. He attended Ohio State. We meet with the group from that university and share some of the guest speakers. Two years ago, he spoke to the groups and at that time he was appearing as Marvin Gaye in Motown, the Musical. At present he is the stand-by for the roles of Hamilton, Burr and Jefferson/Lafayette in Hamilton. We had a lively conversation with him and our students presented him with some excellent questions.
After class, the leaders of the OSU group and Christina and I went for lunch with Sifiso at The Green Room restaurant behind the National Theater. It was leisurely so, we didn’t finish until almost 2 pm.
I had work to do so, I returned to the dorm and spent most of the afternoon getting caught up. After tea at Waterstone’s again, we headed down to the Royal Court for our next production. Pity is a new play by Rory Mullarkey. We did not have any information going into this production, since it is a new play. We saw the second preview performance. Press night is 18 July. The production was fascinating. It obviously needs some work and I think it might be interesting to see it after press night. Sure they will continue to tinker with it during these previews. I, personally liked the production. It is a little hard to take at times. The playwright is obviously making a statement about the current world conditions regarding politics, violence and where he sees things going. Must say, it’s pretty bleak picture. The absurdist style helps to convey much of his thinking and while it begins humorously it becomes very dark and the ending leaves you with a little hope. Unfortunately, for me, not enough. The transitional period in the play when it became more serious goes on too long I think but, I’m not clear as to how much you would cut. This part of the production is very tricky: cut too much and it wouldn’t have the time to transition to the seriousness of the situation. Overall, I appreciated the importance of the subject and the deftness the director and playwright uses with the protagonist and his dilemma. I felt great empathy for the character (should say characters because his wife in all this goes through it as well but, she is a secondary element) and the situation in which he finds himself. Through it all he perseveres and I empathized with him throughout the journey.
There were some elements that seemed obvious but, not certain that was a problem in this absurd style. I will be curious to read reviews when they are published.
The Tate Britain
An Ideal Husband by Noel Coward
Today’s class met at the dormitory. After that I struck out on my own for the Tate Britain. It is part of the Tate system of Museums. You can read more about it at their website
The Tate Britain is one of four museums with the Tate name. I frequently reference the Tate Modern as is located next to the Globe Theater on the South Bank of the Thames. The Tate Britain houses work primarily British artists 1500 through the present day. It has an extensive collection of works by JMW Turner (world’s largest collection) and Henry Moore, on e the greatest sculptors from Britain.
My trip down to Millbank on the north side of the Thames starts at the Warren Street station and the Victoria Line to Pimlico. It was a walk around the corner to the museum which sits facing the Thames River. I spent a wonderful afternoon and found many surprises in the collection. It was not very busy compared to the National Gallery or the British Museum. I was able to take my time and just enjoy everything the museum had to offer. In the early afternoon I stopped to enjoy lunch in the restaurant (Rex Whistler Restaurant). The food was superb and the atmosphere provided a great opportunity for reflection and meditation. I spent the rest of the afternoon quietly walking the galleries and enjoying all this great museum had to offer. Vivienne Westwood did a small promotional video for the museum and I think it really sums up a lot about the importance of museums in general.
I returned to the dormitory and rested for a bit, changed and then met Christina to head down to the theatre for this evening’s production: Oscar Wilde’s, An Ideal Husband. It was quick walk (c. 15 min) down to the theatre district. The production was ok. It felt like a production from another time. The actor’s seemed to be doing two different plays. One group was playing a comedy of manners and the other (mostly younger actors) were performing a melodrama or farce. There was some strange casting choices. For instance, Mrs. Cheveley was way too old and she played the role as though she was the villain of a melodrama. Lord Goring looked way too young and then next to her he seemed even younger since they were supposedly engaged at some point in the past. Most of this problem seemed to stem from the directing. The design was fine but I felt the execution of the costumes were in many cases a bit shabby for a West End production. The theater was charming and the audience seemed to enjoy the production. While I wasn’t a big fan of this production, it did hold my interest. The one thing I did enjoy was watching Edward Fox (played the Earl of Caversham). I believe the first time I ever saw him was in a TV mini-series Edward and Mrs. Simpson. He played Edward. Since then, he would pop up on occasion: Ghandi, The Dresser. It was fun watching him. Can’t say the same for his son that played Lord Goring.
As You Like It at The Globe Theater
I am beginning to realize, these are becoming repetitive. Since the class doesn’t change radically, we continually retrace our steps. The trip down to the Globe Theater was via St. Paul’s and across the bridge over the Thames. We met class in the coffee shop and wandered over to the Tate Modern for a brief look-see. I found an item of interest in the gift shop and we headed over to queue for the 2 pm show of As You Like It. As in previous trips we try to get there early to get a good spot in the yard. Many of the students go to the front and I head to the back.
This year I found myself sitting next to a gentleman who struck up a conversation and we talked almost non-stop until the production and he decided to hang with me in the yard. He is an American that moved to London 30 years ago for a job and never left. He is now retired from the tech industry and enjoys a variety of activities including the theater. He has three children, on of whom is a theater director.
The production of As You Like It was quite extraordinary. As usual, it is performed with no cuts. This production went beyond color-blind casting. One could say it was blind cast without regard to color, gender or anything else. The new artistic director of the theater played a number of small roles throughout. The role of Rosalind was played quite deftly and beautifully by a man. The character, if you don’t know the play is a woman who disguises herself as a man when she is banished from the court to the Forest of Arden with her cousin Celia. Taking with them the court clown Touchstone, they venture into the unknown forest. To make a long story short, there is confusion and love and dalliances. In the end all is resolved and the various lovers are united in marriage by Hymen.
The production was delightful. We were standing in the yard of course and we saw the whole play uncut. Seeing the whole play, you realize it is a play about the messiness of love. Orlando and Rosalind’s initial infatuation becomes passionate and unyielding. While they met as man and woman, they are now man and man (provided you accept the actress playing Orlando as a man) and Rosalind (as Ganymede) is trying to show Orlando how to court his love: Rosalind. It’s just a little confusing (but not really). Beyond that example, you have Celia and Orsino (Orlando’s brother) and they “fall in love” mere moments before the end of the play. The shepardess, Phoebe loves Ganymede (Rosalind) and she is loved by Silvius. Oh, and I forgot to mention Touchstone the clown who falls in love with Audrey, the other shepardess. She’s obviously a man in drag. Messy. It all becomes so, well in this production, hysterical, and yet Shakespeare manages to unite all in the closing moments. Messy, now not messy. This production is the ultimate test of “willing suspension of disbelief”. For me, that is not a problem. I have always had the good fortune of believing whatever you put in front of me. This is one reason, I could never be a critic.
Getting used to London time. Slept well and woke up at the right time today. I was able to work out and get down to breakfast by the time the cafeteria opened and it was busy. The line was to the door so, I thought I would give it some time see if, perchance my suitcase had arrived. It hadn’t. So, I went back down at 8:20 and the line was down the hall so, I figured I better stay. I did eventually get a breakfast and it was very good.
I went up to meet Christina and bring her down for class. We met in a large room lounge in the basement. First class was simple. Christina talked about the overall landscape of the London theater scene and we talked a bit. Today also included taking everyone down to the Museum of London.
We walked to the Eustin Square Station and caught the Hammersmith and City line to the Barbican and then it was a short walk down to the museum. The Museum is a great place to learn about the city of London’s history. It begins at the beginning with Roman occupation and runs up to the modern day. It is a lot of information to try and synthesize. I stayed for about an hour or so mostly looking for clothing and accessory elements. They are a number of the them in the museum but, I also enjoy the history. It’s just too much to absorb in one visit or even 10 visits.
We went back toward the dorm. I’m still wanting my suitcase. I actually did speak with a live person who told me it would be delivered today. We stopped for lunch at Franco Manco on Tottenheim Court Rd. It is light pizza and it hit the spot. Christina and I said goodbye to her family and went to get her London phone energized. Once that was down I tempted to go to the dorm and check but, I needed a shirt for the theater this evening so, I headed to the Warren Street tube stop and went down to Oxford Circus to store I thought would have some things: John Lewis. They did so, I picked a few more things to tide me over till hopefully my luggage comes and headed back to the dorm. I’m also meeting some new colleagues for dinner. The Department of Theatre and Dance successfully hired a new scenic designer and director for our upcoming year and they live in London currently, moving to Lexington in August. I arranged to join them for dinner.
Anyway, back to the dorm, no suitcase. I went up to my room and decided I had time to lay down for a few minutes which I did. Getting up an hour later I got ready for the evening and prepared to head toward the theater. I was meeting Yoon and Stephen just across the street for dinner. I headed down and out and the gentleman at the desk caught me to say my suitcase was there. Hurray. I quickly ran it up to my room and headed out again.
It was a relatively quick two stop trip from the Goodge Street station to Leicester Square and I found Yoon and Stephen already at the restaurant. We enjoyed a great dinner and delightful conversation. They gave some great advice for my time in the city. I look forward to seeing them again this weekend.
Across the street, everyone was there and Christina and I headed up for the performance. The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a black comedy by Martin McDonagh. It originally premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2001. The story is strangely absurd, terribly violent and extremely funny. It stars Aidan Turner (all you Poldark fans on Masterpiece) and he is quite good as is the entire ensemble. The carnage at the end made me glad I was in the upper most balcony. The design is wonderful except for one element I questioned and did quite understand but, that’s a minor point. Tomorrow’s a long day. Our first performance at the Globe.
This will be a relatively brief post as I am tired and did not do much today. Yesterday evening I went clothes shopping. Still no luggage. However, I won’t dwell on that at this point. The great part of the trip was winding our way through the remnants of the Pride celebration. The streets were still packed though the parade was over for a time. I found some new clothes, enough for 2-3 days and we headed home.
Today the students arrive. This morning I went for the breakfast served in the dormitory. I was pleasantly surprised that it was mostly people my age. I sat with another theater group speaking at length with a woman in London doing research on 18-19th century French literature (as best I could tell). She said she was going on to Vienna from London. She was not part of the theater group but seemed to know them.
After breakfast, Christina and I met to plan the orientation and the go over the first week with the class. I sent out an e mail letting them know what they should do on arrival and then we headed out to check on possible restaurants for the group dinner this week. She had found a possibility down near the Globe. We are doing the group dinner after the matinee at the Globe on Tuesday.
We took the Northern line down to Waterloo and transferred to the Piccadilly Line to Southwark. It was a nice walk down to the restaurant and we discovered several restaurant possibilities. After looking at menus and prices, we decided to have lunch at the Swan Restaurant in the Globe. It was a great place to relax and the food was superb and I got some decorating ideas for the dining room.
After lunch, we made our way back up to the restaurant and secured the reservation for the group and headed back the way we came. By the time we returned to the dormitory I had had texts from a number of the students and at the dorm they were looking no worse for the wear. We had told them we would meet at 3 pm and as Christina and I still had some planning to do and hour till the meeting, we told them to get checked in and relax for a bit.
At 3 pm we assembled in the basement and Christina went over some overall items for the course. I had to deliver the safety lecture and what to do in case of an emergency. We try not to give too much because they are tired and don’t can’t be expected to retain a lot. We encouraged them not to go to bed before 6 or 7 and set them loose.
Christina and I went for gelato and I returned to my room early to relax and read. I’m reading a history of the Old Vic Theatre which is required for class and I must say I am thoroughly enjoying the recounting of this storied theater’s history. It is one of those magical places for me (see blog entries from 2014).
As of this post, still no luggage. However, Christina and her family did get theirs so, I guess there is some hope.
5 July through 7 July
Well, it’s time to leave whether I think I’m ready or not. I have prepped the house for my house and cat sitter, the wonderful and thoughtful Melanie Turner. Melanie has done this for me numerous times and I appreciate having someone in the house that considerately looks after my animals and the house. It is definitely peace of mind for me.
On the other hand Sheba and Suri (my cats) are not very sure about what is going on (again). It’s hard to believe the last time I went (two years ago) I had just gotten Suri. She has grown into a beautiful cat and calmed down considerably. They now get along pretty well. I will miss them terribly but, it’s only three weeks.
I’ve packed much lighter this time. I had this fantasy I would take my smallest suitcase. Almost made it but, no such luck. By trying to pack in the smaller suitcase, it did cut down on what I am taking. I managed to cut a few more items as I switched to the larger luggage. I finished once Terry arrived with my new razor. The old one died as I tried to change the blade. We had few moments together before he took me to the airport. Thanks Mr. Lennie.
At the airport, Christina and her family were already checking in at the counter. Thanks to Mr. Lennie, I’ve joined the digital age of travel and had checked in from home. Dropping off my luggage I was happy to see it only weighed 43 pounds. I told the guy at the counter, “great that means I can buy 7 pounds of junk to bring back. Without Mr. Lennie, I didn’t get TSA pre-check so, I had to take off everything (shoes, belt etc) at the security screening and in doing so, forgot I decided to bring my tablet. They had to send it back through which meant longer scrutiny for me at the security gate.
At the gate we relaxed and very quickly they announced our flight was delayed for a time. At this point the story begins to downhill for the rest of the day and continuing into arrival day. The flight was finally boarded. The delay was due to air traffic congestion in Philadelphia but, we were cleared to take off. Once on the tarmac however, we were stopped and they announced it would be an hour before we could take off from Lexington. Sitting on the hot plane we determined we would never make our connection and it seemed we would get an opportunity to opt of this situation when they next announced we could go back to the terminal and deplane if we desired. We all decided we could re-book for tomorrow. Then another turn of events, no, we were leaving for Philadelphia.
The flight continued and we arrived with no time to spare. We hurried from Terminal F to Terminal A and just made out connection. Long, overnight fights are never easy for me and I slept not at all (of course). I did watch a movie, Love Simon. I missed this when it was at the Kentucky. I highly recommend this film.
We arrived the next morning on time and the line at the passport check-in was very long. It took about 30 minutes to get through I think. Once through we proceeded to pick up our luggage which, of course, was not there. I told you it was a tight connection. Checking with the agents, we told it was indeed in Philadelphia and since I had checked departing flights the day before when it looked as though we might have to re book, I knew the luggage wasn’t going to get to London before 10 pm that evening so, that means no luggage until the next day. That process of reporting and arranging all that took forever which I don’t understand.
We caught the Heathrow Express and headed to London. This year is very different. We are staying in a new dormitory and Christina is here with her family. They are staying at an Airbnb away from the dorm. The dormitory, this year, is a vast improvement over last year I am happy to say and I secured an en suite room with a shower and toilet in my room. Still no a/c but, that is negligible and I always adjust to that.
We were all extremely exhausted with no sleep and I was feeling very dirty since I had not showered since the morning before and it is now after noon the next day and with no luggage and few toiletries (I had packed some essentials in carry-on. We spent most of the afternoon just getting everyone settled. During this, I was making a list of essentials to get me through till the next day. We spent some time in Regent’s Park. It was a calming and cool place. The temperature is supposed to be extremely hot this weekend but, on this day not too bad. Of course, I’m wearing jeans which isn’t helping but, I got nothing else.
We went for dinner and then to Boots (drug store) to get some additional toiletry items and I came back to the dorm. As I prepared to shower and try to feel normal, I now realize I have no way to charge anything. My suitcase contains all my electrical converters and my clothes are now basically disgusting because I’m sweaty and smelly. I tried to accomplish a few things but, I’m so tired and so . . . . . .
I woke up at 2:30 am London time and panicked thinking it was later in KY and I wasn’t going to be able to sleep. When I realized that wasn’t the case, I was able to go back to sleep eventually (not before working on this blog for an hour or so). However, my phone is still dead so, I woke late the next morning with no way to contact Christina. I tried to clean up. I showered but, I had to put on those dirty clothes. I went out trying to find Christina’s hotel but managed to get lost, wound on the other side of the British Museum, never
did find her hotel. I did find my ways to Tottenham Court Rd and some breakfast. I returned to the dormitory, still no luggage but, I did find Christina and her family waiting for me in the lobby. We ventured out to accomplish the tasks that needed to be done which hopefully would include getting the first week’s tube passes and some of the theater tickets. As we traveled to King’s Cross station (it is Saturday) the crowd’s seemed to swell larger than usual and there seemed to be a lot of my people (gay) about. I didn’t have my phone (because it was dead) to confirm but, I was pretty sure the Pride Parade was about to happen somewhere. That would be odd since it has never coincided with previous visits. More on that later. We made to King’s Cross and no travel center to purchase tube passes so, we went to Euston Station and found the center where we went two years earlier. They couldn’t process the order because the computer was down and unable to handle the credit transaction. He suggested we go to King’s Cross where, he assured us there was travel center. By this time, we were very hot (heatwave in London), sore and I was convinced very smelly. It was only 10:30 am. After a little pick me up, we went back to King’s Cross and they told us there machines were down as well but, we could go and get cash. We weren’t certain the university procard would handle that but, surprise, it did and we managed to finally get the tube passes. Meanwhile I managed to get all my steps in well before noon.
We got on the tube and headed to get theater tickets. We took the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square. Expecting a crush of crowds in that busy part of the city we were pleasantly surprised to find the crowds somewhat smaller for a Saturday (Pride Parade). Making our way to the Noel Coward, theater we were able to pick up tickets for our first show The Lieutenant of Inishmore. We see this on Monday evening. It stars Aidan Turner. For all you Poldark fans on Masterpiece, you know of who I speak.
We weren’t so lucky on the second set of tickets because they would release them without the reference number and with no phones that work we couldn’t pull it up.
So, here I am mid-afternoon on Saturday, I had to miss the Pride Parade (I did live stream it while I worked on budgets and getting organized. My suitcase still has not arrived. I did manage to pick up a converter while traveling back to the dorm so, my phone is charged and I feel a little more connected. I’ve tried to look at this inauspicious beginning as the universe telling me I need to make some adjustments. What those are I will keep for myself at the present but, recognizing those things helped regain my center and I feel lucky to be here and happy despite all the things that seem to go wrong. If my suitcase doesn’t arrive by 5 pm, I am going clothes shopping.
As of this post, I am on my way to buy new clothes.
Getting ready for this trip is always a challenge. I am still almost a week out and feeling overwhelmed but, excited. We have a great group of students this year and I look forward to spending three week in London once again, despite the threat of a tube strike. I am looking forward the theater season which this year includes Julie and Exit the King at the National, As You Like It and Othello (with Mary Rylance) at the Globe, Machinal at the Almeida, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, An Ideal Husband, The King and I to name a few. We are also seeing production at the Old Vic and the Young Vic. In addition, I’ve managed to secure two tickets for Hamilton.
I’m planning trips out of London to Bath and to visit with my friend Graham at present. Of course, we will be going to Hampton Court as a class.
I am returning with my colleague Dr. Christina Ritter. I always enjoy traveling with her. She is a great traveling companion mostly because she puts up with my total awe of being in England. I look forward to visiting the museums as always and hope to expand my experiences to some lesser known parts of the city.