Saturday, May 17, 2014

Days 247-251: Five Days, Five Shows

Last week was our second revision week before exams. Being the studious student that I am, I decided that the library was overrated and a trip to London would be far more fun. So I packed a bag and set off to enjoy four days of London's theatre.

The Rosetta stone at the British museum

Other than theatre, I also watched the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, which was rather disappointing. I stood there for over an hour and all I saw was  four groups of guards marching into the palace grounds and one group marching out. There were thousands of people there so I couldn't get close to the gates, or I might have been able to see more. Basically, I wouldn't recommend it unless you have tons of time to arrive super early and get a space right by the gates.

I also spent some time in the British museum and I think (after about four visits) I've finally been in every room. I loved the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian, and Assyrian statues-- it's just amazing how old and well-preserved the artifacts are. 

Now, to the five plays I managed to see:

Cats (New Wimbledon Theatre, Tuesday, £20 upper circle)
This production was only in London for two weeks and it was showing down in Wimbledon, which meant I missed the first twenty minutes because the tube journey down took so long. It didn't really matter, though, because Cats doesn't have much plot. Based on T. S Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,' it's basically a showcase of song and dance held together really loosely by the idea of the Jellicle Ball. While I was disappointed by the lack of a story, I was blown away by the quality of the dance and vocals.

Cats stage during the interval
(with Old Deuteronomy signing programs)

King Lear (National Theatre (Olivier), Wednesday Matinee, £15 Circle day tickets)
Starring Simon Russel-Beale, I had heard nothing but good things about this production of Lear. I was unfortunately in the very back row, so I didn't get a good look at the actor's faces, but I loved them all. Performed in modern dress with a rotating stage and a large military chorus, the show felt clean and slick, highlighting Lear's descent into madness and the resulting political chaos. 

King Lear's stage before the performance
(the moon was a projection, and they had it slowly eclipsed as we waited)

Birdland (Royal Court Theatre, Wednesday evening, £10 student circle)
Starring Andrew Scott, this play was the reason I went to London. I booked my ticket months in advance, since that particular performance had a talk-back with the cast and crew afterwards. The play followed rock star Paul (Andrew Scott) on his journey through fame, showing how it destroyed his relationships with everyone around him. Although the play itself was perhaps a tad too black and white (money=bad, real relationships=good) it was an intriguing look at fame, especially since half the audience (myself included) had only come to see Andrew Scott, who is himself dealing with unexpected fame. There was a fantastic scene where the character Paul declines to take a photo with a fan because he says that photos are like taking a piece of your soul... but after the show he took photos with a bunch of fans (myself included!) at the stage door. In that way, the play did a great job in implicating the audience in the devastating impacts of fame.

Moriarty! And Me! In the same photo! Again! :D 

Once (Phoenix Theatre, Thursday, £25 front row day seat)

Starring Arthur Darvill (Rory on Doctor Who), Once was absolutely adorable. The music was all played by the actors onstage, giving the whole production a homey, comfortable feel. The songs were beautiful ('falling slowly' featured several times- I hadn't realized it came from this musical). The story was poignant, and the actors all had incredible chemistry. Arthur Darvill was so cute that somehow his somewhat subpar musicianship made him seem even more endearing (I should note that he was better than I expected; he just didn't stand out in a cast of strong musicians). The female leadZrinka Cvitešić, made me love her from the instant she pushed past me to make her entrance. All in all, a beautiful performance, only enhanced by how I was literally touching the stage. 
So. Much. Adorable.
(the photo isn't mine- my camera ran out of batteries before this show)

Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare's Globe, Friday, £5 standing)
Seeing a show at the Globe was quite literally a dream come true. As a renaissance drama nerd, I've always wanted to visit the Globe, and stepping into the theatre was like entering a fantasy world. I was a tad worried about getting a standing ticket for a three hour show, and I've got to admit that it was hard on the feet, but the proximity to the actors made it so worth it. I was right up against the stage, placing me just inches from the actors. At several points they ran right through the audience or shoved us aside to make way for a triumphal procession. They utilized the space so well that I didn't mind the lack of lighting, a curtain, or the fourth wall. While I'm not a huge fan of the show itself- it's simply so disturbingly violent that I'm not sure it can be properly enjoyable- the actors all did a phenomenal job, and I was able to easily follow the plot despite not having read the play. Finally, during the bows at the end they dragged audience members up to dance across the stage, so I grabbed a hand and got pulled up onto the Globe stage! It was truly an amazing Shakespeare experience. 

Titus's triumphal procession through the audience
(this is also not my photo)

All in all, my London theatre week was everything I had hoped it would be. I packed in a lot, but not too much, so I was able to relax a bit and enjoy some time with friends on the last night. So much more fun than sitting in the library studying!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Rachel! Loved reading this. :)