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Hello again! It appears that I’ve quite a bit of catch up to do. So, here goes…
Quite a bit has happened since my last post. I would apologize for not posting as often as I should, but so much happens here, it just gets so easy to get lost in how wonderful it is to be here. Well, first order of business, I guess: what have I seen?
Well, theatre has played quite a huge role recently. I have seen so many shows at this point that I really am starting feel that I can make powerful decisions on what I like, don’t like and what I think I could potentially use for thesis. The incredible amount of art, music and theatre that I am going to here is really helping me to get to know myself, and helping get a sense for what I think I need and want to create. I can honestly say that I am starting to feel that I have the potential to have a unique and valuable creative mind.
Anyway, the shows I’ll discuss for this post have been pretty good. I’ve seen things ranging from major West End musicals to small Fringe productions to brand new productions from up and coming playwrights starting make a splash on the London theatre scene; all of which have been very exciting. The first show I saw was a production of a relatively new show by a popular UK playwright named David Grieg called Midsummer. It was held at a place called the SOHO theatre in a very small and intimate space. The stage was strangely complicated and cluttered filled with a multitude of things that made me curious to see how they were going to be used in the show. My favorite thing about Midsummer was how funny it was. Until then, we hadn’t seen a show in London that was very funny and for quite a few moments in the first half of the play I found myself struggling for breath from laughter. The play is centered around a man and a woman in Edinburgh who appear to have nothing in common except for how unsatisfied they are with their lives, and grow together over the course of the play after a one night stand. I thought that the play had many wonderful moments amid the at times trite story-line and musical accompaniment, and overall I really enjoyed it. I think that I should perhaps look into some more plays written by David Grieg. Another Fringe shows that I saw that week was a strange dance and theatre compilation piece that examined people when their own survival or the survival of a loved one is placed in jeopardy called Breathing Irregular. It hopped from storylines such as a family helping a father having a stroke, a woman having a baby alone at home, a husband helping his wife who is choking, etc. It was a fairly intense show (that, luckily for my sake, ended happily) and I was really fascinated by the director’s impeccable observation and recreation of human body language. I thought that it was a very successful piece. Other Fringe shows I saw that week included a funny Oscar Wilde adaptation play called Arthur Savile’s Crime (full of blinding wit and ironic comparisons) and a more modern piece by playwright Neil LaBute called The Shape of Things (a play that is actually being done for the senior projects this season!) which was about the costs and motives of changing someone’s life.
Talking about this much theatre brings me to an amazing day that I had during this particular day: the day I experience THEATRE OVERLOAD. Yes, it’s possible. The day started with an incredible group tour of the esteemed Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. It was a humbling experience to be in such a huge theatre and artistic venue. Convent Garden is such a huge venue that it is able to revolve around 10 productions all during the same season. We got to see everything from the auditorium to the ACRE of stage space (yes, you read right, AN ACRE), the shop, costume storage and backstage. Aside from any of our backgrounds, the content stunted all of our artistic imagination. We were even able to sit in and watch a snippet of a ballet rehearsal for the theatre’s sell out production of Romeo and Juliet. I can’t wait to actually see a production here. After the tour (as if it weren’t awesome enough) all of us headed back to an equally huge and historically valuable venue in London: the Royal Albert Hall. Dave, our group leader, had scored us matinee tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s touring show, Varekai. I was very familiar with the show and had actually seen it live before when it came to Portland. I was equally impressed by the INCREDIBLE artistry, skill and execution of the acts by all the artists. The set was also just as breathtaking as I remembered it; designed to take you into an otherworldly forest complete with tall metal poles that performers climbed atop of and swung back and forth on and a rickety spiral staircase that took the cast to the very ceiling of the immense hall. Artists emerged from holes in the floor, out of the darkness, flew above your head dressed in peyote inspired costumes. It was a barrage of color and heart-stopping feats of gymnastics. While I do believe that the show has suffered from touring for so long, both on the fronts of retaining an already abstract storyline and keeping high quality vocalists, I still think that it still retains much of its original magic. I have been quite attached to Cirque du Soleil since I was a child, and I think I always will be. In short, I still loved the performance. As if Cirque wasn’t already an assault on the senses, to top the day off, I headed over to the Lyceum Theatre in the West End to see The Lion King. I liked the show, but was a bit unimpressed with the lead singers (except for the actors who played Rafiki and Nala who were fantastic). I think that, like Varekai, the show has suffered from playing for so long and that the casts have been done over so many times that some of the acting and music was a bit stale. I also knew that I was going to a show that was designed to be extremely accessible and would have many elements of, how do I go about saying this…cheesiness. Oh well, I didn’t go particularly for the music or the storyline. The reason I wanted to see it was because it had been transformed by one of my favorite directors, Julie Taymor. I loved all of the infusions of Africa into the story and the set was absolutely gorgeous. My favorite scenes included the dance of the lionesses, the opening procession and all of the unique puppetry involved to bring a strangely new but familiar landscape to life. It was a fascinating night of theatre, but by the end of it I was completely WORN OUT. What a day.
On the music front, this also offered some surprises this week. The group went to a fantastic performance at the Barbican Centre by the infamous New York Philharmonic. They did pieces by Hayden, John Adams, Schubert and finished off with a piece by Berg. I enjoyed the concert, but what I really took away from it was a fascination with the work of John Adams. I think that I am going to look more into him in the future. However, the music highlight of the evening was easily a concert I went to in Shepherds Bush near the end of the week. A friend and I went to go see a band that both of us really like called The Low Anthem. They are a folk/blue-grass/old American music group from Rhode Island. I knew that I was going to enjoy the concert, but I was blown away even more than I thought I was going to be. They played all of my favorite songs by them (including an astoundingly beautiful rendition of my favorite song of theirs called “Oh My God Charlie Darwin). Something remarkable that can be said about every member of The Low Anthem is that all of them play an astounding variety of instruments. All of them hopped from the drums, to guitars, to vocals to bass and a huge assortment of strange instruments and sound makers in between. Ranging from beautiful ballads to barn burners to old American folk tunes and spirituals and even a soundscape constructed from cell phone speakerphone distortion made by the audience (it sounded like thousands of electronic crickets) it was one of my favorite musical experiences in London yet, and was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.
Another exciting thing that happened this week was that a good friend of mine visited me and some of my roommates from her own study abroad program in Strasbourg, France. It was lovely to see her again and catch up on the amazing things that had been happening to all of us since the end of last semester at LC. Me and my roommates did our best to take her to as many fantastic things we could in London and some of the highlights included cooking up a storm in Metrogate (with such amazing dishes as gumbo, burritos and the chocolatiest cookies ever made), taking her to a huge Sunday service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and seeing Wicked in the West End!
Well, that’s all for now. Until the next post. Which should be…soon…I hope…
Musical present of the week:
A beautiful song and a beautiful music video.