Successful Saturday!

Successful Saturday!

Today was quite a busy day! The big highlights? I went to the Design Museum and also saw a play today.

I began my day by traveling to the Design Museum. It is a really cool building based in a converted warehouse. The main exhibitions of the day were an awesome jewelry design exhibit, and another level that contained a plethora of installations involving crystal and lights. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the descriptions and just examining the beautiful and well-designed objects.

After the museum, I ventured via tube to the Tricycle Theatre to see an adaptation of The Arabian Nights. It was a very interesting and creative adaptation of the classic tale of Scheherazade and the 1001 nights of stories. It was beautiful to watch, and ran the gamut of emotions, from funny to sad to nostalgic. All in all, a wonderful play.

The rest of my day involved an extremely long workout at the gym and then enjoying an evening of hanging out with my fellow Grinnellians. In the end, it was a superb way to spend my last Saturday in London! Pictures below!

 

Jewelry!

Awesome Projector Lamp/Kaleidoscope

Thousands of Crystals

 

Detail

Creative Crystals

 

Awesome Embroidered Poster

 

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Wicked!

Wicked!

Tonight, I went to a performance of Wicked.

It was absolutely phenomenal! I was really excited yesterday after I managed to snag a ticket for a really good price from the Leicester Square. I had seen Wicked before in Des Moines, so I was excited to see how it differed in London.

There wasn't much of a difference in the show set-up, which I think is pretty standardized, but the venue was incredible. From the moment I stepped into the theatre, I felt like I was in a different place. Everywhere shimmered with emerald light, and all of the facilities had been Oz-ified. The Art Deco style of the building just added to the effect. I felt like I was immersed in Oz.

The show was amazing, with a very talented cast. It was fun to hear a few tweaks (school was referred to as “Uni”) that made it uniquely British. As always, the story and its unique twist on the world of the Wizard was… Wonderful.

Outside the Venue

 

Just Before the Entrance

 

Poster Inside

 

The Set

The Emerald Bar

 

Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Today was pretty routine and quiet, except for a phenomenal play in the evening.

 

Tonight we saw Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre. It featured the story of Ira Aldridge, a talented young black actor in London in 1833. He took over the role of Othello after another actor, Edmund Kean, collapsed on stage and was unable to complete the season. It was a beautifully moving performance, and the actor playing Aldridge was absolutely phenomenal. We saw his transformations throughout the play, and he was entirely believable, especially in the emotional scenes. I was thrilled to have seen the play, and to have yet another London theatre experience!

 

Advertising for the Theatre

Poster Outside the Theatre

 

Live Poetry at The Arts Theatre

Live Poetry at The Arts Theatre

This evening, I attended an amazing live performance of poetry featuring the work of the English poet, Phillip Larkin, thanks to Professor Vinter being so generous as to procure a few extra tickets for those of us who wanted to attend. Larkin was a brilliant poet who wrote of England, of English life, and of emotions. The show was part of a series of poetry readings in honor of Josephine Hart, an advocate for poetry in Britain. It was a stirring, intimate performance by the four readers on stage. I loved just listening to the poems come to life in the voices of these talented actors. My favorite poem of the evening was the final one for the evening, The Arundel Tomb. I have pasted the poem below and bolded my favorite lines at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and it was so wonderful to lose myself in the poetry.

 

The Arundel Tomb

Side by side, their faces blurred,

The earl and countess lie in stone,

Their proper habits vaguely shown

As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,

And that faint hint of the absurd—

The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque

Hardly involves the eye, until

It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still

Clasped empty in the other; and

One sees, with a sharp tender shock,

His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.

Such faithfulness in effigy

Was just a detail friends would see:

A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace

Thrown off in helping to prolong

The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in

Their supine stationary voyage

The air would change to soundless damage,

Turn the old tenantry away;

How soon succeeding eyes begin

To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths

Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light

Each summer thronged the glass. A bright

Litter of birdcalls strewed the same

Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths

The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.

Now, helpless in the hollow of

An unarmorial age, a trough

Of smoke in slow suspended skeins

Above their scrap of history,

Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into

Untruth. The stone fidelity

They hardly meant has come to be

Their final blazon, and to prove

Our almost-instinct almost true:

What will survive of us is love.

 

 

Tower Bridge, Markets, Indian Food, & Bollywood-Style Shakespeare

Tower Bridge, Markets, Indian Food, & Bollywood-Style Shakespeare

If the title didn't give it away already, I've had a fairly intensive and interesting day!

It began this morning with an informative tour of the Tower Bridge area. We explored the areas we had talked about in class, and it was easier to see how crime would have flourished in this area early on in London's history… The boats, morning fog, shipyards, narrow and winding streets, the flurrying populace, and the ever-present River Thames would have made this a criminal's paradise. On a related note, We also walked through Jack the Ripper's stomping grounds and sat in the courtyard where his last victim was found. Slightly creepy, but it was also historically thrilling to be sitting in the exact spot where history happened, walking the same stones as people in the 1800s did.

Post-tour, I hit the gym again and then went home to make a lunch of yogurt with a super wrap: pan-fried salmon filet with a few chorizo slivers, a touch of Brie, and half a bag of spinach (heat-wilted in the pan). It didn't last long.

In the afternoon, we toured a set of market areas (Petticoat Lane, Spittlefields, Bricklane) I've come to know and love for my Cultures of Empire class. It was really interesting to hear and see the layers of history that lay under the structures of today. This was especially interesting in the Petticoat Lane and Bricklane areas, where the early structures and markets were created by the Jewish population in London and today is dominated by African & Asian vendors and Indian, Bengali, and Muslim populations respectively. It is always interesting to consider what all of the areas will look like in fifty-plus years as the city continues to layer histories and cultures over time.

After the tour, I went to an Indian restaurant called Sweet and Spicy, which came highly recommended as a place for locals who want authentic food without fuss. It was amazing, definitely some of the best Indian food I've ever had, and was quite reasonable price-wise as well. I got a samosa, Sikh kebab, cauliflower curry, and two puris for under five pounds. I also snagged a medium chicken curry and a naan for an additional few pounds. I left the restaurant full and happy, with the soul-filling feeling only Indian food can deliver.

As if that wasn't enough for one day, I also made my way down to see a production of Much Ado About Nothing by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was Bollywood-style, which was a phenomenal treat and matched my dinner quite well. It had the actors in full Indian costume and featured a few dance numbers. All in all, a wonderful show that was the perfect way to top off the evening.

 

Pictures below, per usual. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking Out Chekhov’s Classics

Checking Out Chekhov’s Classics

After a rainy day in London filled with classes and grocery shopping for the week, we went to the Young Vic Theatre to see an incredible and modern production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. I had fourth row seats and bought a program that included the play’s script, which made it easier to keep track of the characters and their dialogues.

The production itself was impressive, with creative use of the unique stage that was made up of many small platforms that the set crew moved between scenes. Small modern twists on Chekhov’s writing, such as the addition of small bits of songs from modern ages and a reworking of certain scenes to better fit the contemporary Russia it was set in.

I really enjoyed that play and all of the existential questions it raised within my mind. The performers were all so talented at portraying their character’s emotions that we left the performance slightly drained from the intense emotionalism of the play. I am still so impressed that we get to see an amazing play like this every week for free! It’s something I would probably done way less, so I am so thankful to the Grinnell-in-London program for providing us with these intensely cultural experiences.

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Exploration and Learning at The Museum of London

Exploration and Learning at The Museum of London

After my classes today, I ventured over to the area by St. Paul's to explore the Museum of London a little more. One of my class projects is to examine two different artifacts and connect their significance to what we have learned and read about in class. It's an exciting assignment that uses the city as our classroom yet again. I love visiting all the various museums, and I keep finding that the more I learn in classes, the more I pick up on as I roam the city.

 

Also today, we received our train tickets for this weekend's trip to Bruges, Belgium and saw a fantastic play, Love and Information. It involved about fifty short scenes meant to capture a moment in time, and I really enjoyed the range that the actors had and the innovative set design that seemed dually evocative of a camera shutter and a television set.

 

Enjoy the pictures from the Museum of London, and look forward to pictures tomorrow when I visit Greenwich for class!

One of the First Fire Insurance Policies

 

Old Clock in the Museum's Collection

 

Visually-Impressive Printing Press Display

Beautiful Buddha Donated to Museum

 

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 2)

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 2)

On this day, I started out with an exhilarating and long run out into the countryside with my roommate-for-the-weekend, Arthur. We enjoyed the crisp, clear air and the fog rolling over the river and fields as the sun rose. We made it back to the bed and breakfast in time for an amazing English breakfast. We enjoyed ham, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, tea, yogurt, cereal, more tea, jam, and more. It was probably a very good thing we went on a run.

Post-breakfast, a group of ten of us decided to rent some boats from a nearby dock we had seen the previous night. We lucked out, as they had a boat that could seat all ten of us. We hopped in and began a merry rowing adventure. It was absolutely gorgeous as we rode (and rowed) along the riverbank. It was such great company, and we even sprang into singing a few rounds of “Row, row, row your boat…” (Which induced a passing English boat to wonder aloud, “What on earth are those Americans singing?!?”) It was an amazingly fun experience, one I will not be forgetting. After rowing, we had lunch and bought cheese from a nearby market.

Later that day, we saw an outstanding production of Richard III. It was action-packed and had an extremely-talented actor playing Richard III himself. After a short break for a walk around and a deliciously spicy Thai dinner, we came back to the theatre to see A Comedy of Errors. It was my favorite Shakespeare play of the three we saw this weekend, but they were all so impressive. It was absolutely amazing to be treated to three shows in Shakespeare’s hometown. I will never forget it. Enjoy the pictures (and video of our merry round-singing) below.

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 1)

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Day 1)

Today, we made the voyage via train to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a weekend of theatre, history, and fun. It was a wonderful day. We saw Shakespeare’s grave and birthplace while exploring Stratford-Upon-Avon and then went to see a production of the Tempest. It was quite magnificent and so impressive to see the play come to life right here in Shakespeare’s hometown. The town is gorgeous, with an idyllic countryside setting a gorgeous backdrop.  It seems almost a city lost in time.  Tomorrow we see two plays and get more time to explore the city!

Stratford-Upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s Burial Church

Shakespeare’s Grave

Michael and Grace

Shakespeare’s Bust in his Birth Home

Fish and Chips

The Tempest Set

The Curious Incident of the Dog of Nighttime

The Curious Incident of the Dog of Nighttime

Last night, we saw a phenomenal staging of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It was a deeply moving adaptation of the famous novel by Mark Haddon. The story follows Christopher, a fifteen-year-old with a strong case of Asperger's Syndrome, and his quest to figure out who killed Wellington, the dog who lived next door.

This was hands down the best play we have seen so far. The actor portraying Christopher truly became the character; every last detail was perfect, from his reactions to his dictation patterns, to the true confusion in his eyes. The staging was also amazing. We were sitting around the stage, looking down, which added a sense of intimacy to the production, letting us enter Christopher's mind. The stage was also made of highly adaptable platforms, which raise and lowered to form different locations. Between the moving stage pieces and an incredible set of speakers and projectors, the stage became houses, a tube station, a classroom, outer space, and even Christopher's mind.

 

We were all riveted by the performance, becoming emotionally involved and totally immersed in Christopher's struggles to comprehend a world that makes little sense to him, a world full of confusing metaphors, emotions, crowded stations, and the color yellow, which he despises. Little details made the theatre and performance perfect, like the prime numbered seats being labeled, and an occasional break of the fourth wall. Incredible, emotional, and totally unforgettable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime was superb beyond expectations.