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.