It is the last day of this trip. There is still much to do but, I am getting anxious to be home. First up today is our final class. We have three shows to discuss and Christina likes to have each student tell their favorite show, performance(s) and favorite design (scenic and costume) and this year we decided to do an honorable mention for shows they say outside the program.
After class I wanted to go to the National Portrait Gallery since I haven’t been there this year. I hurried down to Charing Cross, cut behind St. Martin-in-the-Fields and into the museum. I wondered what might be different from my last trip. Starting with the Tudors and working my way forward, I found some painting I didn’t remember and some that I did. I didn’t even try to get through all the museum. I made quick visits to both shops and thankfully was able to leave without any packages.
Returning the way, I came, I went back to the dorm to get ready for tea. We always have tea on the last afternoon and we are going to the St. Pancras Hotel. Before I left, I did a little more packing and went down to see what students would walk with me to the hotel. Picking up about half the class, we headed down. It’s about a 20 minute walk.
The tea was perfect. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The waitress that took care of us was delightful. All in all, it proved to be a great setting. It went on longer than I expected and so, I had to excuse myself a little early, so I could go meet Vikki for dinner. When she texted me the details, she only gave an address and I couldn’t find anything on the map telling me where I might be going. I’ve also never been in this area of London.
After a long ride on the tube and a little confusion on my part, I finally met her, and she took me to a restaurant and bar on the 35th floor of the building. It was a great place. The food was delicious, and we were able to visit for a bit. I already miss her. She is one of those special people you meet in your life and I am grateful. After dinner, I find my way back home, not the way I came but, nevertheless got there. This trip has been, of course, very different from the other trips. For one thing, with Christina having her family with her, I’ve had to rely on myself more. Getting around has become easier and I’m not as panicked about getting lost or losing my way. That has been very gratifying. Tomorrow I fly home and it will be good to see Mr. Lennie, Sheba, Suri and sleep in my own bed.
Today’s class is our final guest speaker and I always enjoy listening to this man. He is Matt Wolf and he writes for a variety of publications: online and print. Perhaps most notably the New York Times and on-line Art’s Desk. He always brings a mature point of view to the conversation about the British theater. Today was certainly no different. The students asked several good questions before we left for the Globe Theater and our last production of this tour.
We walked along the South Bank to the Globe which is a fairly quick walk. Today is going to be hot. The last few days have been very warm by British standards and it looks like it will be that way until we leave. My room last night took a while to cool down. Anyway, the shady path along the Thames was enjoyable as we walked to the theater.
We went to pick up the tickets and then for water. We are queuing early since this production included Mary Rylance. Christina has convinced me to stand against the edge of the stage. I have agreed with some reservations. We took our place in the line before noon for a 2 pm show. This time passed quickly although sitting on the concrete began to wear on my backside. Since I was going to be standing for at least 2 hr 30, I figured I should sit as much as possible.
About 1:30 they moved us into the courtyard and then in short order into the theater. Against the stage we were in the sun. I was glad I watched the play from this vantage point. It is truly in you face. In fact, Iago (played by Mark Rylance) murdered Rodrigo within 6 inches of my face. It was thrilling. The production was overall wonderful. This is the first live production of Othello I’ve seen. Rylance is almost a legend at this theater. He was the first artistic director and has since moved onto a successful film and television career. Andree Holland playing Othello is an American actor whose films include Moonlight, 42 and Selma. I loved the costumes because they, while based in a reality, did not adhere to a period. Yet, they suggested another time and place. There were elements of the Italian Renaissance and other nods to historic accuracy but, the designer created a world of its own. I want to be able to do that myself more easily. I was trained and to some extent, feel it is part of my own aesthetic to make everything as authentic as possible. It doesn’t have to do that. Being that close, I could see construction details very well and they were not these exquisitely constructed garments. They were well made but no hesitation to take short cuts.
The other thing I love about this theater is the endings of all the plays are a joyous dance and sometimes song. Even with the tragedies, the actors come on for their bows and dance. It is a great reminder that you are watching a play and we are all here for a good time.
This morning there was no class officially. We went to Hampton Court, one of my favorite places to visit. This will be my third trek out so, I am hoping to find some new things so as not to bore anyone reading this with the same old same old.
We met up early and took the Northern Line down to Waterloo in order to catch the train to Hampton Court. Christina and I bought the tickets yesterday, so we just had to get down and catch the 9:06 train. Of course, it was delayed. It’s a busy time of day at this station. Not too much however. We were headed down by 9:20 or thereabouts. It’s about a 30-40-minute train ride to the castle. We arrived, and Christina and I bought the admission tickets and turned everyone (including ourselves) loose. Christina was accompanied by her family and they had invited Adam and his girls down so Marlena might have a companion. They quickly bonded and headed out to look for the maze. I went in search of coffee and breakfast since we did not have time before leaving. I enjoyed a quick breakfast in the Queen’s Privy Kitchen before beginning my explorations.
Since I have been in the apartments several times, I planned to spend some time in the gardens but, first there was the Cumberland Art Gallery. I spent some time there as well as going through the chapel, always a great look. You can’t photograph in it so I found a picture on the web (see below). After that, I headed outside to explore the gardens. The palace is really two parts: the Tudor half (of which not a lot of the original is left) and the Baroque half (the half created by Christopher Wren and the Stuarts). The style is more Baroque. I first went to the gardens on the Tudor half most of which you can’t really walk through the Pond Gardens. These are sunken gardens recreated as they think might have existed during the Tudor period. From there I moved onto The Privy Garden which was re-created by William III during the Baroque period. It gave me the feeling of Versailles although not as large.
Below is a link to maps of the palace and the gardens, so you can get an idea:
We stayed until early afternoon and then traveled back to London. I wanted to take a break before the evening show.
This evening we saw Fun Home at the Young Vic. Terry saw this show in Washington and said he loved it so I’m hopeful. Christina and I went down early to get the tickets and I had dinner at a burger place across the street named Byron. It was very good. They had a “light” burger with mushrooms mixed into the meat to cut down on the amount of meat. I enjoyed it very much. We browsed through the theater bookstore two doors down. I am trying to find some plays for Rhoda but, I haven’t’ had a lot of luck on this trip. This bookstore did not yield anything either. Crossing the street, we met the students, passed out the tickets and headed into to a sold out house for this production.
Fun Home is a musical and it premiered on Broadway in 2013 and was adapted from a graphic memoir first released in 2006. It is unique in that the protagonist is a lesbian and her story involved her growing up with gay father and the struggles they encounter prior to his suicide when she was in college. It is a moving piece and I loved the production. I could relate on a very ‘extraordinary. It was very moving for the entire audience I thought. There was a lesbian couple sitting next to us and they cried (as did we all). It was obvious how much they were moved to see their story on stage. I feel this production reinforces how important it is that we tell everyone’s stories because we learn what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes and that makes us all better humans. Of course, I’m being selfish here because this play is partly my story.
Today’s entry may be a little brief. I didn’t really get out because we had a couple of guest speakers and I spend the mid-day having lunch with Vikki and touring some fabric stores with her in Soho.
This morning our guest speaker was Vikki Medhurst, my former student now working in the film industry in London. She spoke to the group about her work on a number films as a maker, a cutter and recently she received an associate or assistant design credit. She is working primarily in film but also television. Currently, she is cutting costume for a new Netflix series about Henry V. She has also worked recently on a new film with Chris Pine, Outlaw King. She was also an assistant cutter on the recent academy award winner for costume, Phantom Thread. I enjoyed listening about her work and she seems to be enjoying it still but, is ready for a holiday. She says in September and October.
After class, she, Christina and I went for lunch at Koox around the corner. We had a very pleasant lunch and conversation. After, Vikki and I went to the gallery next door. They were holding a piece for me and I wanted her opinion. From there, we headed down to Berwick Street to look at some fabrics stores before she had to return to work.
I returned to the dorm for brief break and went down in time to meet our afternoon guest speaker, Stephen Wrentmore. Stephen is joining our faculty in the fall and we were able to convince him speak to the class since he has been working in theater in and out of London for a number of years. He spoke about some of the differences of working in the UK and America. He recently spent a couple of years working in the western US for LORT theaters. I felt he was very engaging and the student seemed to appreciate what he had to offer.
After that, we said goodbye to him and headed off to the South Bank. Tonight we are seeing A Monster Calls at the Old Vic Theatre. This is one of the most storied theatres in the city and has existed for over 200 years. Christina and I picked up the tickets and went around the corner to the Bar & Kitchen for a light dinner. Mine consisted of ice cream. I wasn’t hungry but, it’s hot and I wanted something cool.
We met up with Yoon Bae (Stephen’s wife-also coming to UK on our faculty in the fall) and the students for the show. This is a new play based on a book of the same name and a film. The piece was an ensemble work with emphasis on movement and visual imagery. It is based on a popular book of the same name for children. The production is about young Conor (abt age 13) dealing with his mother’s cancer and ultimate death as well a distant father and bullying at school. It is also a fantasy. I must confess, I was not a big fan of this production. While it has gotten very positive reviews, I thought everything about it was sub-par from the acting to the design. It looked cheap and the ensemble was not particularly convincing. Movement was weak. I could go on and on but, I felt very quickly after it began, “I saw this play four years ago: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night while in London and they did a much better job.”
This is our long weekend and as I’ve stated in a previous post, “I’m tired”. So, I decided not to kill myself and take a break. I spent most of Friday working in my room. I began to get caught up on these posts, took a break and sat in the park and then went in the evening to the Charlotte Street Hotel for a nice dinner.
On Saturday, I was off to meet Graham in Chertsey. Since my visit two years ago, I have been working with Graham on his forthcoming book on tailoring trying to help him get illustrations ready for publication. It has been a lot of work but, I’ve greatly enjoyed the collaboration with him and am looking forward to seeing him again. He has just returned from holiday and is in this area visiting with family before they return home. I’m meeting him in Chertsey to see the little museum where he found the last coat for his book. I provided three of the suits for his book between the UK collection and my own. He picked me up at the train station and we went to the museum first to have a look/see. It is a small community museum as you might expect with some rather exceptional surprises inside. There is an unusually large collection of clothing and textiles (The Olive Matthews Collection – http://www.chertseymuseum.org/Fashion and it houses a collection of Greek pottery which totally took me by surprise (see my previous post from the British Museum). The museum in housed in a mid-19th century house and there is a well-done history of the house as well as images prior to it becoming a museum. They have also recently acquired a Worth gown as the ladies at the counter proudly beamed and bragged. Of course, it is currently at the restorers and won’t be put out until sometime in fall. In the meantime, they told us we could read about it on the Facebook page. You have to scroll through to find all the entries on the conservation but, it is well worth the time. They have obviously invested a great deal of money to preserve this garment which if I’m reading correctly we worn to the coronation of Edward VII.
After the museum, Graham treated me to lunch at The Rose & Crown (est. 1650). We caught up on the book and family and he then provided a tour of the area as he took me to the station to catch the train to Waterloo. This county includes Runnymede, Windsor Castle and Ascot. I got a closeup look at the race course made famous in My Fair Lady as well as hosting the royal family each year for the famous Royal Ascot.
Coming back to London, I met up with Christina and family for dinner at an Indian restaurant. We went to Palms of Goa on Charlotte Street and the owners were delightful, welcoming hosts. The food was delicious and much better than our go to restaurant in Lexington.
On Sunday, I continued getting caught up on work in my room. A skype session with Alecia, Marc and Colson. He’s sitting up so well and ready to crawl looks like. After noon, Christina and I journeyed over to St. Pancras to check on our tea reservation. We hadn’t heard anything and were getting nervous. Not to worry. We are set. After a snack and some other mundane chores we met up with Jack and Marlena to head up to Vikki and Adam’s house for dinner. This trip would take some work. We had to buy a ticket to the end of the tube line which went out of our zone. Once there, we had to catch a train for which we had no ticket but the man at the station just sent us through. It was a quick two stop trip to Highams Park where Adam picked us up.
Vikki is a former student of mine now working in the film industry in costume. She works hard and very long hours but, she seems to be enjoying the work. She has been fortunate enough to work on some very high-profile films, most recently Phantom Thread last year’s academy award winner for costume design. We spent the evening visiting and getting caught up on the latest she is doing. She and Adam have purchased their house and it is charming. We had a lovely dinner out back in the garden and they were the best hosts. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. This is one aspect of this trip I so enjoy. Getting to spend time in people’s homes and getting a sense of lives that are different and yet not so different. I look forward to Vikki coming to speak with our students this week and spending a little more time with she and Adam before I head home.