Monday, June 2, 2008

Willies, shrews, Beatles and Bibles?

It's time for another weekly re-cap!!!

A week and a day really, my apologies for not being able to write up last night...our flat was having some serious wireless issues and it took me like two hours just to upload the pictures I needed to. So hence, the weekly recap is being written today. My plans today following are to go to some of the museums and galleries that I didn't finish. I'm going to finish the National Gallery and then make my way over to the National Portrait Gallery, and then if I have time to the John Sloan house. Tonight, my friend Katy and I have tickets to go to The Pitmen Painters which is a play currently playing at the
National Theatre, about a group of men in the 1930/40's who worked their whole lives away in the mines, and then during the night and whenever they had spare time they would get together to talk about art, and began to paint themselves, and today some of their work is greatly revered. So enough about that...what about last week?

MONDAY: Monday saw us off early in the morning to our trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the world of Shakespeare! We headed off from the Marylebone station, stopping first to get another of our growing addictions a 'Cornish Pastys' for breakfast and we got on the train. This was my first train ride (like actual 'purposeful' train ride) anywhere! I had been on old fashioned train rides with my mother and on the tube and subways and stuff, but this was the first 'destination bound' train ride. It was so wonderful to wip through the country side on our hour and a half ride to Warwick. We were off to Warwick first to stop and visit Warwick Castle. Now, I don't really know what I was expecting. I think I was kind of just expecting ruins or something like that...this place was huge!
It was such a gorgeous overcast day, that the tops of the towers seemed to be just inches from the clouds. Warwick Castle sat upon a little grassy hill, and the long grass just swayed and twisted with the wind, it made the castle look like it was floating. "Castle on the clouds!" I loved this place. Apparently it was miserable that day, raining and cold, but I didn't feel a thing. The wind was so crisp and made it feel almost as if this was the same exact atmosphere and weather they would have had back in the day. Warwick castle had gone through many different periods of renovations so it was interesting to see the different stages of it's history. For instance the traditional castle life it would have received, and also the Edwardian period, in which it was inhabited by another family just after the Victorian period. The grounds around this castle were beautiful, huge tree's taking me back to my years in the pacific northwest. That's what the weather should be like! I'm done with dry heat. So I had a blast. We boarded the train again for just another 45 mins and we were in Statford. By this time though, my wet clothes, wet socks and wet shoes were finding me cold and unhappy. We all trekked across the town to our bed and breakfast. Our group was split in two and katy and I shared a room at the 'Virginia Bed and Breakfast'. First off, I loved how Stratford-upon-Avon was like Shakespeare land! All the little stores, restaurants and inns had little Shakespeare names; Iago Jewelry, Cordelia Clothing, Twelfth Night Bed & Breakfast, Music is the Food of Love etc. So we unpacked, tried to dry off, and I had a hot shower that didn't scalled me. Katy noted something that night that was starting to bother us about the U.K. if anything could....most of the sinks here have the two faucet system, that never use to bother me you have to run your hand under both of them for a mix of what. No that doesn't work here, cause the hot one is always scalding!! We hurried out with our umbrella's to walk to the town's Trinity Church and saw the place where Shakespeare and members of his family are buried. The Trinity church at that time were doing a 24/7 reading STRAIGHT of the bible. They had been reading for like 3 days and two nights already STRAIGHT and were in Ruth, the next day after when we visited again they were in Proverbs. They were doing this to raise funds for their church which needed repair and were hoping to raise 2.5 thousand pounds, I thought was such a great idea and a huge undertaking. That night we went to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company's) Courtyard Theatre and saw Merchant of Venice, I really enjoyed this performance...surprisingly it didn't top my list of performances I had seen of Merchant, but it was still great. At one part, where Portia's suitors come to pick the correct casket to win Portia's hand in marriage, part of the stage balcony would lift up to show like 40 water glasses, each being played by create that ringing "song of the sphere's" it was such a neat affect. Each of the caskets (one of gold, one of silver, one of lead) were set in ice, making Portia like the 'ice queen'. When Bassanio picks the correct casket and goes to kiss Portia, all the glass on the stage shattered, it was so neat. I went straight home after that, had a hot shower that didn't scalled me (yes my wounds are slowly starting to disappear) and we went to bed after a great day.

TUESDAY: I LOVE BED AND BREAKFAST'S. We awoke the next morning and went down stairs to cereal and a hot english breakfast, hot was wonderful. We got dressed and walked a good fifteen minutes to the little outlet town where Ann Hathaway's cottage (Shakespeare's wife). This was such a great walk, everything was so green and it reminded me of the little sidewalks that wound through white rock B.C. and I loved seeing the fields of boys playing football, and sheep and the forest beyond, where Shakespeare got his inspiration for his Midsummer's Night Dream forest. The Ann Hathaway house was a beautiful hatched roof house, with a springing English garden all around it. Every now and then beyond there would be a statue from one of Shakespeare's plays and it was just a wonderful environment to be a part of. We walked back to Stratford and went to the Shakespeare museum, the birth house of Shakespeare, the Nash House & New Place (Where Shakespeare's Granddaughter Elizabeth lived) and also to the Halls Croft house, where Shakespeare's daughter Susannah lived. I got to see one of the Shakespeare Folio's, and atmosphere in which Shakespeare created his multiple works. I took some time to walk along the outskirts of the river Avon, and around the town. It was a really nice change from the beat of London to this quieter place in england. I just couldn't get over the beauty of it. That night we went to our second play while in Stratford which was The Taming of the Shrew. Now...this has been one of the most impacting performances I have seen since I was here. It was in no way the happy-go-lucky version of Taming that I was expecting or had experienced. For those of you who know the story; Taming of the Shrew starts off with a prologue about a slothful lustful character called Christopher Sly. He passes out after a night at the tavern, and a wealthy lord and his men play a trick on him and when he awakes they convince him that he's a wealthy lord too, and he has all these servants and such to wait on him. Well in this production it starts off Soho London with a lot of strip clubs and prostitutes and such...and Christopher Sly's character attacks a prostitute...they pull him off her and beat him up/toss him out when he can't pay his bill. A wealthy 'lady' and her men come upon him and plan to do the same to him. He's convinced and immediately wants to lay with his lady (who in his opinion then he hasn't slept with in 15 years) to delay him..they present him a play, which is where the received Taming of the Shrew story comes in. Well they did...and this truck of 'players' pulls onto the scene and they all spill out! It's a huge scene! They're dancing, being pushed in on gondola's, bringing on set pieces of Italy, singing Italian, playing mandolins...and all while Christopher Sly's character is watching, they're putting on a play for him. It's very
Commedia dell'arte in the costuming and it's appearance is just as you would have expected from Taming, even the characters. Bianca is of course sickingly sweet, Lucentio is in tights and is playing the "typical prince" card, and Katherine is such a shrew she's jumping on men's backs, beating them and stereotypical type characters. A twist comes in the plot, where the players grab Christopher Sly, teach him how to speak the text and HE becomes Petruchio. The play unfolds, with Petruchio beginning to tame Katherine...but he's harsh. Too harsh...the play slowly becomes more about Christopher Sly's world about what women should be and less and less the jolly world the players first created. Katherine began as a firebrand horse, wild and bold...and by the end she is completely broken, trembling and subservient. Her last monologue:
"Thy husband is thy Lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign...." speech was like...really hard to swallow. She was so different from the woman she once was. But the plays overall message wasn't that women should be subservient servants...You see has Petruchio/Christopher Sly started controlling the play and spinning it to fit 'his fantasy' it became less and less how the play originally began. Even the costuming started to become more and more modern. Till at the very end, everyone was back into modern dress, and the men were looking at the widow and Bianca like they were also disobedient and will have to be tamed as well. The end of the play was one of the most powerful for after Katherine's speech and the typical 'end' of the show...Petruchio takes Katherine away to 'consummate' their marriage, she of course is completely beaten by then and will not fight back...the players stop pretending, they haul Petruchio/Christopher Sly off her and rid of him of his "costume" and get back into the truck, the player who played Kate giving him the biggest 'death look' I've ever seen, and they leave him almost naked on the stage with this look of confusion and fear on his face. The play was almost saying "this was the destructive world he created, but we're not standing for it anymore". It was a completely original production and am still blown away by it.

WEDNESDAY: Wednesday we got back on the train, said goodbye to Stratford-Upon-Avon. This was a busy work day for me. I unpacked, did laundry, wrote in my journal, worked on a paper for class etc. A bunch of us had a movie night, and watched TV. There are some great commercials in the U.K. You'll be watching a commercial, completely captivated...and then the product it was actually advertising comes up on the screen and your like "Viagra? Really?!?!" It's fantastic.

THURSDAY: Thursday we had class and discussed we had a lot of things to discuss. We talked about Merchant of Venice and only scratched the surface of our discussion we would have for Taming of the Shrew. Afterwards our Contemporary Genre class we had a special important guest speaker. He had been a student of Tim Slover's @ BYU and was in London for the production of his play 'Fat Pig' into London which he got us free tickets to, and we're seeing Thursday. Who else but playwright Mr. Neil LaBute, author of many controversial and stirring plays; Shape of Things, In the Company of Men, Bash, Distance from Here and director of such films as Possession and Wicker Man. I really enjoyed his lecture, just talking about the hard work and how you need to 'be brave'. I also liked his views on contemporary theatre, he said in an article 'How American Theatre Lost It':

Theatre is not dying. We hear this every so often and have self-important conferences to defend this or that. Theatre is a resilient little s*** of an art form that will go on long after any of us are around to worry about it. But it can get stuck, and I believe American theatre is currently in danger of this. (I include myself: in fact, I'm there near the front, perpetrating the same crimes as my brothers and sisters.)
Today, we worry about what our subscription audiences will think of us doing Chekhov instead of Shakespeare. We think we'd better have a family show for Christmas and a comedy in the spring. All well and good, but if this is how you like your entertainment, you're probably already dead - you just don't know it yet. So go back to the theatre, audience members everywhere, and get your hands dirty. Sit closer than you usually do. Smell the actors and make eye contact and let a little blood splash on your hem. Give the musicals a break for a while: those punks are rich enough. Let us know that if we are brave enough to write about the stuff that matters, then you'll come and watch. I may never fight a battle, or run for office, or help an old lady across the street - but when I sit down and put pen to paper, I can promise to write about a subject of some importance, and to do so with honesty and courage. The time for fear and complacency is past. Bravery needs to make a comeback on both sides of the footlights, and fast."

I liked that.
After class we headed off to the British Library, and I cant believe I saw so many priceless international treasures. I saw another Shakespeare folio, I saw ancient bibles of different faiths and countries/cultures. I saw original Jane Austen's, Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carrol's Alice and the Looking Glass, I saw the original manuscripts of Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel. I saw the envelopes and scrapped bits of paper that the Beatles scribbled down their first impressions of their songs, including Michelle, Help, Yellow Submarine, and others. I saw the Magna Carta, the illuminated Bible...the list went on and on. That night...I fulfilled a geek notch in my belt. I went with another girl in the program to THE LORD OF THE RINGS the MUSICAL!! wooooooooooooooo!!!
ha ha ha, this was everything I expected it to be...not groundbreaking on any front, but I was entertained...the spectacle aspect of this show was stupendous, the puppets and the set was like nothing I had ever seen and it was interesting for me to make the comparison of the great theatre I had seen, and then witness just what Neil Labute was talking about with the big 'musical hustlers' making all the money they can with nothing but some story line and lots of light and sound. There's so much better theatre out there, and no one is seeing it.

FRIDAY: We had class this last Friday too to make up for not having it while we were in Statford-upon-Avon. We prepped ourselves for the plays we would be seeing over the weekend; the National's Harper Regan and the Globe's King Lear. After class I signed up for a masterclass with a few other girls from my program, and we attended this master class which was being taught by a woman who is the Director of Voice at the Guildhall Academy of Music and Drama in London Patsy Rodenburg...I was getting a class from her! I was getting a lesson in breathing, voice, and articulation from the same woman who taught and worked with Dame Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Nicole Kidman and many others....including Orlando Bloom (barf). This was a fabulous workshop. I learned a lot of great tricks that I can't wait to show some of my school chums back home and stuff like that. That night we ate at Waggamama's which was a DELICIOUS noodle place, aurhg! I loved it. Afterwards we went to Harper Regan. This was a very modern contemporary play about people and the choices they make in the 'absence of God'. I wrote a little about this theme, which is being showcased in more and more plays, and my thoughts about it. Mainly the play Harper Regan centered around a mother who leaves home and work (though she's warned she will loose her job if she does) to visit her dying father. He's dead before she arrives, and it becomes a spiral of different characters as she tries to decipher what is truthfully 'right' because she experiences it for herself, and sees it as 'right'. The ending scene shows her making breakfast for her family, and the act of attempting to give to others, and make things better for her family overall. It was a rather sad play, but I liked it's finishing message.

SATURDAY: What a great day! We started off taking the tube to Richmond, which was a very posh area...kind of like the Beverly Hills of London. At Richmond we boarded a BOAT! and floated along the river Thames to our next destination Hampton Court. There were so many beautiful houses along the river as we floated along...people on their decks eating breakfast and lunch, working in their gardens...I was jealous. As we continued along the river we finally approached Hampton Court Palace, you could see it was like perfect picture from a romance movie. I walked along the palace gardens first, walked through the maze, and saw the many fountains. I honestly thought I was in a Jane Austen book. I never wanted to leave. The interesting thing about Hampton Court is that since it began so beautiful so early in years, many descendants of the royal line have lived in it, and added on to it and so on, so that Hampton court actually has many different sections from different years and royalty living there. I walked through the Georgian rooms, and also the rooms from the 1700, whose residences were William & Mary, George II and Caroline and also Henry VIII and three of his wives. Georgian rooms reminded me of the movie Marie Antoinette and room after room, after room of formality and procession.
Here's where you meet the King, here's where you see the Kind and Queen arise from bed, here's where you see them eat breakfast, here's where you see the king on his was great. The entire palace had these great audio walking tours that you could hear more history in each of the rooms. I enjoyed seeing William's 'velvet toilet' that's a thrown if I ever heard one. My favorite part as in the Tudor/Henry VIII section of the court. I wandered through the historic hallways alone. I like doing these things by myself, because I don't feel like I have to keep up with anymore, have them keep up with me, entertain or anything...I like it that way. I saw a intro video by a young Ian McKellen, when he still had brown hair just starting to grey. I walked down the 'haunted gallery' where the fifth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, after being condemned to death for adultery, broke away from her guards and ran down to beg for mercy and forgiveness to her husbands chambers...only to be caught, almost there, and dragged back screaming to her cell. Pretty freaky stuff! I wandered around Hampton Court until it closed and then headed back on the train to Waterloo Station and went home.

SUNDAY: We made our way down near the river Thames and to the newly re-constructed Globe Theatre that was accomplished by Sam Wanamaker, ft. from the original place of the Globe. I saw my first play, under the globe skies! We saw King Lear which was a wonderful performance. The actor who played King Lear was incredible, though he looked a bit like Santa...and it made me sad to see Santa so mad, sad, and confused. After Lear, a group of us made our way to Trafalgar Square to see the free Live broadcast of the National Ballet's Romeo & Juliet, right there broadcasting in the middle of the square! People brought their blankets, and were sitting on the steps, eating hot dogs, and watching ballet...I loved this community of London...this art chasing community.

That was a big week! Lots of writing!
Hope you all enjoyed it, as much as I enjoy writing it and re-living it in my head. Getting it down in words, helps me preserve all the memories.
I miss all of you but now, I'm going to get out of this room and get into London!
Love you all, miss you.
Talk to you soon


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