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A pretty big highlight this week was our trip to Stratford upon Avon. This town is the birthplace of Shakespeare, and most things there are devoted to him and his work. We visited his birthplace, his grave and also toured some of the houses that his children lived in. It was pretty little town and I really enjoyed just wandering around and seeing all of the old buildings. After going to a pub for dinner all of us went to a very modern take on “King Leer.” I was impressed by the performances of the actors and the set brought many strange ideas of the play out. Set in a strange, warehouse-like environment that deteriorated as the play progressed and complete with really impressive feats of stage technology (such as a thunderstorm with rain over Lear during one of his monologues), the play really showed off the possibilities of how far the envelope could be pushed in regards to interpretation and stagecraft. I would really like to see it again to see if I could take it all in.
This was definitely a great week for theatre. First, this week I made my way over to the National Theatre to see a lecture by Allison Chitty, a really famous stage designer, along with an exhibition about her work. It was fascinating to hear her approaches to design and I loved seeing all of the models for her sets. Many of them looked frightfully intricate and extremely strange. I would LOVE to see a show designed by her. After the lecture I ended up seeing a show at the National called “The Habit of Art,” a new play that delves into the lives of Thomas Auden and Benjamin Britten. It was a very interesting play complete with a set within a set and actors playing actors. It was very funny and was acted very well. The second theatre event I went to this week was a bit more of an experience than a show. I went to this project called “SHUNT,” which is a collaboration of London artists, theatrical performers and musicians that collaborate to create an incredibly strange and unique experience in an abandoned tube stop. To find it, you need to venture through the London Bridge tube stop to find a little brown door in a brick wall (a little sketchy, right?). When I went inside it was very dark and there was a lot of low lighting. It felt a bit like a haunted house. The first show I saw was a production by a group called the Sugarbeast Circus. It was really intriguing and creepy at the same time and centered around an animal trainer for an Indian circus that leaves mysteriously. The other show that I saw was REALLY strange. It was more of a performance art piece than a show. People dressed in clothing that could give Lady GaGa a run for her money were gathered at a table speaking a nonsense language, would get up, move about randomly, meet up in a circle somewhere in the room, and then, well…phonate. They weren’t really screaming, or singing either. There wasn’t a tonal structure but they were still creating strange noises making extremely dissonant sound textures. It was…strange. My favorite thing about SHUNT that night was probably the environment with all of the interactive art pieces. There was an amazing “instrument” featured there that was a collection of beams of light that had heat sensors in them. When you put your hand through them or walked through them, a spotlight somewhere in the room would shine randomly and it would play a note. People were lighting up the hallway and creating pentatonic chords all night. It was pretty great.
This was also a pretty great week for music. I got to see a concert done by the London Symphony Orchestra featuring pieces from West Side Story, a (unfortunately, not so great) performance of Rhapsody in Blue and a Rachmaninov Symphony. It was an ok concert, but it just couldn’t compare to the one I had seen earlier in the week. I had the, possibly once in a lifetime pleasure, to hear the Vienna Philharmonic perform. For the concert that the group went to see, we heard them perform Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It was UNBELIEVABLE. They also did a great performance of some of the Hungarian Dances for the encore.
Another thing that I did this week was go to the ballet for the first time. It isn’t something that I normally do, but I figured that I needed to try new things, so off I went to Covent Garden. The ballet I saw was a collection of three pieces by separate choreographers. The first was a very modern ballet that seemed to reflect a lot of frustration with modern society and the separation that is brought upon by technology. The second was definitely the most traditional of the three and danced out the details of an unhappy love story to music by Prokofiev. The third piece, however, was definitely my favorite. It was a piece done to original music by Max Richter (one of my favorite composers) and followed a storyline of (what I believed to be) fleeting interactions among strangers. The choreography was absolutely beautiful and I loved hearing new material from a composer that I really love. It was a lovely evening. Lucky for all of you, the ballet is actually free for you to watch on YouTube! Here are the links to it! Hope you enjoy it.
Till next time,
Musical present of the week: