Sam West, Public Library, Funny Girl

Tuesday, 19 July

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 01a S West

Class waiting to go in and hear Sam West speak.


Blog 01 S West

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

Blog 03 S West

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

Blog 02 S West

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

Blog 04 British Library

Statue in the Plaza of the British Library

Blog 05 British Library

The Plaza to the right of the statue.

Blog 06 British Library

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

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

Blog 06a British Library

The First Folio as I saw it in the exhibit.

Blog 06b British Library

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

Blog 06c British Library

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

Blog 06d British Library

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



Blog 07 British Library

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

Blog 08 Funny Girl

the Savoy Theatre


Blog 09 Funy Girl

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


Blog 13 Funny Girl

The final moment from the play

Blog 12 Funny Girl

“Cornet Man”



Blog 11 Funny Girl

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

Blog 10 Funny Girl

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