(i am having terrible troubles trying to get this to lay out correctly, so please forgive the little bits of text to the right of the pictures and such. When I look at it as I compose it it looks lovely)
A Theatre Geek cannot go to the land of William Shakespeare and not pay homage. It is impossible. A Theatre Geek cannot go to a big city and not see lots of theatre. It is not done. And so... the adventures of this Theatre Geek in England:
We arrived on a Wed, and as I had slept about, oh, 4 minutes on our red eye flight I chose to hit the sack at 7:30pm that night. No theatre for me. Nothing worse than a snoring audience member. But every other night that I was in London...
On Thursday we decided to hit the half price theatre booths in Leicester Square to try our luck. Our first couple of choices were unavailable, but my cousin and I settled on The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novella Theatre, starring Elaine Page. I know, I know - an American Import!! What were we thinking? Perhaps that local show Lord of the Rings had gotten terrible reviews. ;) It was a fun and fluffy sort of show, very well done, and we enjoyed it immensely. That same evening my brother and SIL went to see Avenue Q (another American import!) I have seen Ave Q in Vegas, and highly recommend it to anyone. In fact, we mommies are really its best audience, as it is a very adult send up of Sesame Street. Go buy the soundtrack and perhaps, like me, you will have to pull over your car to stop laughing. But don't listen to it in front of your children, unless you want them to start in with a rendition of "The Internet is for Porn" in front of your in-laws.
But I digress. Back to this Theatre Geek in England...
Friday night was the thing I had been waiting for. The only thing I said I HAD to do in England. The thing my cousin (a writer and fellow theatre geek) and I had been scheming for over a year. The thing I had called from the states to book tickets for... Love's Labour's Lost at The Globe . (cue theme music now!) The Globe was built 10 years ago to replicate as closely as possible the theatre where Shakespeare's plays were first produced. A lot of the theatre is guesswork - culled from a few sketches and descriptions, and taking cues from the way things were written in the plays. They did excavate the foundation of the Globe a while back, so they have a pretty good idea of the size and shape of it.
My heart was pounding I was so excited! So of course I had to have my picture taken in front of it! As a theatre student I read all about the Globe, what it might look like, how it effected staging, how the audience ate nuts and oranges throughout the performance. ;) Getting to go to the Globe was like walking into a textbook. Only 500 times better. I imagined myself on that stage... speaking Shakespeare's words. Heaven.
The show was, of course, fantastic. Fabulous acting all around, and lots of bawdy humor. I'm glad that we reserved seats (at the back of the first level, just off center. Fantastic!) We could have gone that day and bought "Groundling" tickets for 5 pounds and stood in the front. However, after walking all day I was glad we had seats, even if they were only on wooden benches. When it began to rain I was even more relieved. The seats are covered, and most of the stage, but the area in front of it was not. At intermission the stage hands came out and squeegeed the catwalk-like areas in front of the stage that had gotten wet.
This is the ceiling above the stage. I didn't get to take it until the show was over, and so it was already dark out, and the lighting bad. It is believed that the ceiling of the original Globe was painted to show the heavens. Here, the heavens are portrayed by the fleshed out constellations. I have seen it in models and books to show the moon and stars.
You can take a tour of the theatre, and I wish that I could have done that, but alas, they only offered it in the mornings, and I didn't have the time.
On Saturday night I went to see Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the National Theatre (the theatre originally helmed by Olivier). I really wanted to see a modern British playwright done by the Brits themselves. Oddly enough, no one else wanted to join me. ;) Pinter can be a bit difficult, and this is not one of his better known plays (like Betrayal or The Birthday Party). I remember before heading off to college trying to bone up on more modern playwrights and getting a book of 4 Pinter plays from my local library. I don't think that at the time I would have imagined myself excited to see one of his plays. But excited I was, and very much enjoyed this excellent, funny, and very creepy production. I don't get to see much theatre done in big spaces with top notch actors these days, and it was really refreshing. My husband laughed at me when I worried I wouldn't be able to get tickets that day, but this large theatre had quite an audience. I love live theatre, and it was exciting just to be in that space with those people, in a building where several plays were happening at once. The play made me think, as all Pinter plays tend to do, abut power and relationships and the fight for control. Thinky theatre is good theatre (just as the fluff of The Drowsy Chaperone can be just what one needs, as well).
Nearly a week later found me with my family in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. They have fancied it up a bit since I was there 21 years ago, adding on a little museum (jacking the entrance price, of course), even adding decoration and furnishing to the home. The museum was mildly interesting, and I learned a few things about good ol' Willy's childhood that I hadn't known before. This is a picture of his birthplace (it has been added onto over the years, the original house is probably the middle part as you look at it. That tiny figure in the purple is my daughter. She was very unimpressed to be at Shakespeare's house). I did spend some money at the gift shop (of course!) and discovered that this must be where my aunt bought The May Queen the hysterical finger puppets for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Royal Shakespeare Company was in town performing, but alas, I could not stay for a show. 21 years ago I saw Midsummer here. It may well have been the first Shakespeare play I ever saw. And thus it began... ;)
For you Shakespeare Geeks - here is a sign over a restaurant on the same street as Shakespeare's Birthplace. There was also an As You Like It Cafe.
I also enjoyed The Creaky Cauldron, which of course made me think of The Leaky Cauldron .
Our very last night in town we went to see Windsor Castle, and walked by The Royal Theatre. I happened to notice that G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion (I love this play! I'm dying to play Eliza someday) was opening THAT NIGHT. Directed by SIR PETER HALL. I was salivating. I figured there couldn't possibly be any seats left, and that I could stop in and ask, they would tell me no, and I would say "alas" and be on my way. See, I knew there was no way I could see it. We still had to check into our hotel and return our rental car. So I stopped in. Not only were there still seats, but they were cheap. I tried and tried to find a way to do it (I could take a cab!) but there was just no way. Alas, indeed.
I had hoped this post to be a little more inspired, but it reads more like the excited ramblings of a geek. Which I suppose is just about right, in the end.