Sometimes life gets in the way…

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

of blogging, that is.

I’ve had a busy week or so since last I blogged.  I think it’s probably hopeless for me to try to recap all of it in any amount of detail, but I’ll try to at least get the highlights.

On Sunday, I saw Shakespeare’s Richard III performed at the Old Vic.  Kevin Spacey was Richard III, and many of the other cast members were well known names in theater and some from film and television, too, although no one that I had much familiarity with (I blame my relative utter lack of knowledge of theater).  One such person is Gemma Jones, known best to me as Madam Pomfrey in the Harry Potter movies. :P  Do you suppose she hates being known for that small role when she’s a talented actress who has performed much more meaningful roles?

The show was fantastic!  Kevin Spacey is a top notch actor, which we all already knew, of course.  He delivered as expected, pulling off yet another role where he plays someone with physical deformity (okay, so, maybe his role in The Usual Suspects doesn’t actually technically count… but you know what I mean).  He really did a great job, although I thought his hump was rather fake looking.  Why don’t they use something Spanx like?  As in, a spandex t-shirt with a hump on the shoulder/back?  It would be smoother, I’m sure.  I suspect that, since no effect was spared, the hump’s fakeness may possibly have been intentional.  Or at least that it was supposed to be exaggerated… that would, after all, make a bit of sense.

Of good effects there were plenty: a man got convincingly drowned in a tub of water, there was some sort of screen onto which they projected various messages (typically the subject or location of the new scene), live accompaniment by musicians off stage, and live drumming by nearly the entire cast which was really stunning, and the list goes on.  Every major role was superbly executed (not intended as a pun, but alas, it is one anyway), and perhaps the most goosebump-inducing moment was when they hauled dead Richard III’s body (live Kevin Spacey’s body) into the air by the ankles.  He hung there for a whole scene, and his face didn’t even turn purple.  This may be a miracle of modern science, but you’ll have to ask Kevin Spacey.

Or ask Sam Mendes, the director, who is a genius.  He’s the director of American Beauty, Jarhead, Road to Perdition, and Revolutionary Road, all of which are amazing films.  He also directed Away We Go, which I have not yet seen but will soon.  It’s incredible that he pulls off such incredible work over and over again.  While all the performances in this production were great, the real impact of the show was the full effect, the execution of the scenes, which can only be attributed as a whole to him.  It really was an incredible experience.

I bought my ticket at the last minute and got a pretty crappy seat in the second gallery over fairly far to the right and in the back row; I could only see the left-hand half of the stage.  As soon as the lights went down, however, the couple next to me moved down a few seats to a spot that no one had claimed, and, thinking they were absolutely brilliant, I took the seat they’d vacated farthest to my left.  From there, I could see the whole stage nearly perfectly (there was a metal bar/railing that cut through my line of sight, but that’s the kind of thing that you stop noticing after about 30 seconds), with the exception of one tiny corner (which was only used once for anything vital), and by leaning a bit I could see that too.  It was such a stroke of good luck!  I had a wonderful view of the whole, fantastic production.

The intermission took place 2 hours into the show, and when the lights came up it felt as though about half an hour had passed.  I was so completely engrossed that I couldn’t believe I’d been sitting staring raptly for two full hours.  The production of Macbeth that I saw in Stratford-upon-Avon was also incredible, but I was much more aware of my surroundings there.  With this production, I repeatedly forgot that I was in a theater watching a show live; it wasn’t just that it was so flawless that I thought I might be watching a film or something like that; it was that it sincerely felt like it was all happening right in front of me.  When the lights went up at intermission and suddenly I was sitting in a theater, I was mildly surprised.

The only thing that marred my otherwise total delight with the show was the audience.  Of all the productions (big or little, professional or community, etc.) that I’ve ever seen, this audience was the rudest by far.  For those who are unfamiliar with theater, here is a helpful list of things that do not belong:

bags of groceries/souvenirs that you refuse to move when people try to walk by
food of any kind, particularly in noisy wrappers
Tic Tacs
bottles of soda
persistent and constant coughs (seriously, stay home if you’re that sick!)
conversation
cell phone use

Really, it was the most foul audience in the world.

I am also astounded (and this was true in Stratford, too) by the number of people who think they need to laugh loudly at every witticism in Shakespeare.  Yes, letting out an inappropriate guffaw does prove to the rest of the audience that you “get” Shakespeare… but honestly, not one of us cares if you get it or not.  The fact that you need to publicize it at every opportunity makes you way more of a tool than you’d be if you quietly wiled away the hours in confusion.  I’m not saying that audience members shouldn’t laugh when the play is funny, but when a witty insult is thrown in a serious, meaningful scene, please do not disrupt and distract by chortling loudly; it’s really not appropriate.  Thank you.  Additionally, shouting “go, Kevin!” while clapping does not convince anyone that you know him (if you did, you wouldn’t be in the second gallery, let’s face it) and only makes you sound like an overly familiar idiot.

Whew.  Glad I got that off my chest.  Now I can happily revel in the magic that is Sam Mendes’ work.  Seriously, that man is a creative genius.  I’m not throwing the term around lightly; he has earned it a thousand times over.  New life goal: see every live production directed by Sam Mendes, and every film, too.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to discover that I adore theater, but now that I’ve seen some really top notch performances I think I’ve caught the bug.  I’m increasingly happy that I live in a city (even if it is a tiny, provincial city like Boston, har har) and might stand a chance of seeing more on a regular (although perhaps not frequent) basis.  I’ve seen a number of shows of various sorts in Boston (the Lion King, Wicked, and the Nutcracker), but nothing has quite caught me like the performances I’ve seen here have.  Maybe it’s the difference between musical theater (or ballet or orchestral performances) and, um, non-musical theater (man, I’m really astounding you with my expertise, right?).  And maybe it’s the difference between local and small productions and big, professional productions.  Regardless, I’m obsessed.  Other new life goal: see every Shakespeare play performed at least once by a seriously excellent theater group.  I’d love to see non-Shakespeare, too, but it is just such an absolute pleasure to have his work come to life right before your eyes; it gives it so much more depth than reading it to yourself off a page ever could.  Reading a play is like listening to a film without visuals, or like listening to only one instrument in an orchestra.  It’s virtually meaningless.

In other news, I still love London.  I explored a bit of Soho today, and although I still have seen very little of London, each new bit that I discover, I love.  I am endlessly surprised with myself, as I never imagined I’d really like a giant city like this, but I absolutely do.

I can’t help but grin when I think of myself a year ago, a scared little country bumpkin, terrified of moving to Big Bad Cambridge and going to school in Bigger Badder Boston.  I was petrified of the city, not for any particular safety reasons or really for any particular reason at all; I was just convinced I would hate it and be uncomfortable.  I certainly was uncomfortable at first, but that’s to be expected (of me, anyway) of anywhere new that you move; you need some time to learn your way around, develop habits, find a way to be comfortable in new surroundings.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I fell into the rhythm of the city pretty quickly and easily.

I also can’t help smiling when I imagine what my reaction would have been a year or two ago if anyone had predicted that I’d pick up and go on a solo adventure around Europe and fall in love with London.  I’d say it’s like something out of my wildest dreams, but I honestly never dreamed it.  I’ve always dreamed of seeing the world, but the idea of traveling alone was more like a nightmare.  Now I never want to stop.  Sure, I miss my bed, I miss the rest of my clothing (8 shirts and 3 pants for 6 weeks gets old fast), I miss the familiarity of my own apartment, and I miss my people, but hell, it’s a small price to pay for the life I’m living at this moment.  A part of me wishes I’d discovered this self of mine sooner, but the rest of me knows this version of me didn’t exist before now.  I wondered completely sincerely earlier today, who am I becoming?  And “wonder” is really the only word for it; a tiny piece of my mind is sitting at the back watching the rest of me parade around boisterously and fearlessly and wondering how it happened (and then laughing with delight).

I’ll return to Boston on Saturday, half happy to get back into some semblance of a normal (read: boring) routine and half disappointed that this ever has to end.  At least I have the promise of celebrating the USA’s independence from Britain (wait, do I want to celebrate that? har har) with a good friend and fireworks followed closely by a visit with my family to look forward to.  But really, next year I hope I’m working on July 4th, completely firework free, and anticipating a visit from my family from across the pond. :)

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