Sunday, May 16, 2010

Busy few days...

So here's what happened since my last post:

WEDNESDAY - Went to class. It happens. Whatever. That afternoon I was still feeling sick so I stayed in again and napped and relaxed. I was bored out of my mind. I mean, I'm paying for every second I'm here right? Not paying to sit inside. I could do that back in Utah, so its frustrating when I have to stay in. I figure, though, better to have 2 days inside getting better than be really sick for a week and not being able to move and being miserable. So that was the afternoon.

Wednesday we ventured over to the Orange Tree Theatre to see "Taking Steps" by Alan Ayckbourn. The Orange Tree is out in Zone 3. For those who don't know, the London public transportation system is divided into Zones. I think there are 8 in total for all of London. We have tube passes for Zones 1 & 2 because hardly anything is outside of those Zones and it was the most cost effective. This means we can only get on and off the tube withing Zones 1 and 2 (which are huge, fyi) but we can ride a bus (or coach) on the street in any Zone to any zone. To get off or on the tube out of zone costs extra money. It's 1.30pp to go to Zone three or it's over an hour long bus ride. So we chose to pay the extra 2.60 (roundtrip) to take the tube. It's not worth my time to take over an hour coach ride when I can get there on the tube in around 25 minutes, give or take. There are a lot of people on the trip who did take the coach. More power to them, but I'd rather not deal with hassle.

So we got to the theatre a little early and we were hungry so we found a cheap little Pakistani restaurant with whats called "doner kebab". Donner is essentially a pita that you can get with either chicken or lamb.
The meat is squished all onto this upright spit and they cut off peices for the pita. And it's DELICIOUS!! We had it on my mission, but we called it "shawarma". At any rate it's huge and delicious and cheap and greasy and wonderful.
So we got some for dinner and then went into the theatre.

Now this production of "Taking Steps" was really cool because it was actually directed by Ayckbourn himself. He retired a few years ago, but the Orange Tree somehow convinced him to do it. So the world famous playwright is directing his own show and we saw it. Needless to say it was awesome. It was so nice to watch a simple, hilarious farce. While comedy is not necessarily my personal artistic medium, I really appreciated being able to just enjoy the piece and laugh super hard for a few hours. It was a well-needed bit of escapism. :)

THURSDAY - We got up this morning and decided to go back to the Imperial War Museum because last time we only got to see one exhibit. We went with the intention of seeing everything, but again, we only saw one. We went to the Holocaust Exhibit. It was sooooo depressing. It was a very interestingly constructed exhibit, but super sad. Not that I expected the Holocaust to he happy, but you know what I mean.

Later that afternoon we went to the Globe for the "Globe Exhibition". Now I think I was confused by the term "exhibition" because I was hoping it was more of an exhibitionist situation where I got to take my clothes off at the Globe theatre. No suck luck. Well I suppose I still could have, but I probably would have been asked to leave and/or been arrested. It was a pretty generic tour around the Globe and the surrounding area. We had seen and heard all the same stuff last week on Lance's Shakespeare Walk. So that happened.

That night we had tickets to go see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Globe. I was super excited because 1) it's one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and 2) it was happy and I needed something funny and happy after a morning in the Holocaust museum. We had actual seats this time, which I thought would be cool. Just kidding. We had the WORST seats possible. The Globe has seats on all three sides of the stage, but since it's a circle the far end seats wrap around the back of the stage slightly. Guess where we sat? We learned during the fully-clothed exhibition that these seats were built for nobles who didn't want to watch the play but rather wanted to be watched by the peasants in the cheaper seats. So the seats are intentionally bad. And that's where we sat.
The huge pillars that hold up the "heavens" above the stage were directly in front of us so we saw everything profile and about half of the action. Exciting huh?

In case this wasn't enough, the production was questionable at best. And by questionable I mean close to terrible. It was set in the 1920s and some of the concept choices were cool. There were about 7 actors who played all the parts and their costumes and set choices worked well. However, the acting was just downright atrocious. Rather, should I say, the over-acting. These actors were so ridiculously over-the-top and not in a good way. They were screaming and making stupid ad-lib jokes and over-acting to the point of becoming annoying. The worst culprits were Puck and Bottom. They were just dreadfully painful to watch/not watch since we couldn't see them half the time. While yes, it was distinctly happier than the Holocaust museum, I think I'd rather have gone to the Holocaust museum again. At least that was free.

FRIDAY - Today was another Primark day. Cheap euro-clothes everywhere! I bought a few more things, but restrained myself. I love Primark! I especially love my 3pp cardigan and my 3pp green shoes. Win and win. After Primark we met up with Miriam and Melissa and went to the National Science Museum. Like the other museums in London, it was free and it was GIGANTIC! And this one was SO fun! We went to the kids hands-on floor first (of course). It was SO COOL! We played around with
lights, and mirrors, and infrared lights, and sound waves, and colors, and bubbles, and hydrogen rockets and all sorts of stuff.
No joke, if it weren't for all the little kids everywhere this would have been the best place ever! Hahaha. I loved this museum! We also saw the history of medicine from pre-historic through 1980 with all these scary dioramas of medieval medicine and the horrendous things people did in the name of medicine, even in the 20th century. We also saw this INCREDIBLE performance art display called "Listening Post". These two artists created this piece where it's a wall of small LCD screens and the computer they are hooked up to randomly samples messages in unrestricted chatrooms on the internet. There were messages of all types, lengths and subjects coming in constantly in different arrangements.
It was AMAZING! Seriously it was mind blowing the way they presented these internet communication performers without their even knowing it. Not to mention it was visually stunning. Here is a link to the website all about it. It's way cool.

That night we tried to go see "The Habit of Art" again at the National but it was sold out, again. I am determined to see this play, come hell or high water! Miriam was planning on going to the Jack the Ripper walking tour with the supposed "world expert" on the subject. So we went. We ended up at the tube stop outside the Tower of London (Yes, THE Tower of London) and joined this massive group. However, as excited as we were for this thing that sounded really cool, it turned out to be way lame. The Jack the Ripper story is interesting, but the nice "expert" man who lead the group was pretty inarticulate and cranky and the walking tour had very little to do with Jack the Ripper. It all together was an uneventful evening. Christian, Melissa and I had fun but it was NOT worth the 6pp. They described it as this spooky, creepy retelling of the story of Jack the Ripper in the actual locations where stuff happened. And yes, we were on the actual spots where they found the bodies and where he was killing and whatnot, but the tour was not logically organized nor was the narrative well told. We jumped around all over the story and it made very little sense, and whenever you asked a question he got snippy and told you he would cover that later, which he didn't. It was a so-so night, but hey, at least we did something, right?

SATURDAY - This morning we went to Portobello Road! That's right, THE Portobello Road (like the song).
Sadly, however, Angela Landsbury was nowhere to be found and we could not find the other half of the "Spells of Astaroth" anywhere. And we looked! (PS If you don't get these "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" references I apologize and then scold you for never having seen it!) Anyways, it was a really cool little market. And by little market, I mean HUGE market. And it was packed with THOUSANDS of people. Mostly it was overpriced antiques and food, but there was also a flea market section where people just sold, literally, whatever random stuff they could find. It was like a lame garage sale. But it was a lot of fun. There was one shop that had a wall full of Venetian carnival masks that looked JUST like my concept for "Pippin", but the people who owned it were these cranky Italians who wouldn't let me take a picture. it was so cool though! I got all nostalgic and remembered how my Mask Club was way legit and how no one's, not even Heather's, could beat it (although we pretty much tied :)) But yeah, Portobello Road was CRAZY! Too many friggin' people.

So in the afternoon we had a matinée of "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl at the Young Vic Theater.
I was SUPER excited to see this show. It is BEAUTIFULLY written and I was eager to see it staged. We got to this small theatre in the round and it was a pretty decent show. I was disappointed with some of the characters but all in all it was great and I was definitely moved at times.

We then got on the tube and went a few stops down to what has been the shadiest part of London I have EVER been to. It's called "The Oval" (sounds ominous, huh?). We went to get tickets for the Ovalhouse Theatre, which is the UK's premiere GLBT theatre, apparently.
We weren't going for any GLBT performances, however. There was a touring show of Edward Albee's "Counting the Ways" that was done simultaneously in spoken English, British Sign Language and audio narration for the blind. It was actually a pretty cool show. Not all the acting was amazing, but a) it was absurdist theatre and b) that's not what the show was about. The company had taken the 2-person play and split it into 5 characters, 1 speaking couple, one deaf couple and 1 audio narrator named George. It was a neat to experience a play that was adapted in that way and was still pretty compelling at times. I enjoyed myself.

Plus, we LOVED the theatre. When we got there the staff was young and super friendly. They had free magazines you could take, a free book swap for anyone to either swap or borrow a book and they gave us a free button that either said "He Loves Me", "He Loves Me Not", "She Loves Me" or "She Loves Me Not". They also gave us free candy hearts at the end! Now, British candy hearts are not like American ones. British ones are disgusting and taste like Tums. But yeah, it was a very cool experience.

In between buying tickets and the show we had some time to kill so we walked not too far over to "Master's Super Fish" again and got fish 'n' chips. We wanted to sit down, so we did and discovered that the sit down menu is not only much more expensive but it's not the same. You can't even GET fish 'n' chips on the sit down menu. So we told her we just wanted take-away and got what we wanted. It was a BEAUTIFUL day out, even at 6 PM so we walked over to the park near the Imperial War Museum and sat on a bench and ate our greasy, delicious food.
It was so greasy, yet so satisfying. I love this place. If you are ever in London and want fish 'n' chips, go to Master's Super Fish on Waterloo Rd. You won't regret it.

So that was pretty much the week! It was INSANELY busy! I'm really excited for next week because it's travel week and we are going to Ireland! HOORAY! If anyone has suggestions about what to do while in the greater Dublin area, PLEASE comment and let me know!

Over and out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Age of Aquarius Has Arrived!!

Sorry I've fallen behind again everybody. I find that my days are so full of activities that I get home and I'm dead tired and I still have homework and readings to do (believe it or not I'm getting credit for all these misadventures) so blogging unfortunately gets put off until the end. But here I am and I'm blogging, so yay! I figure I'll follow the same format as before.

FRIDAY - We went to the Royal Kew Gardens today. It is essentially a GIGANTIC park. Like, no joke, acres and acres of beautiful landscape, immaculate flowers and trees galore. It was actually really fun. Granted it was freezing outside, but it was still really cool.
It was probably one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. Some of the highlights included the tropical greenhouse which looked and felt just like my mission and made me all nostalgic; the Evolution House which was a hackneyed green house meant to teach us how we evolved from primordial ooze, but it was ok because Allan and Christian and I were raptors and it was awesome!
We also took some time to be transcendentalists and speak in lengthy parentheticals, like this one, and become one with the universe as well as get our zen on in the Japanese rock garden, but we left that spot quickly because all I wanted to do was mess up the rocks (it's my inner 4-year old). Sadly my camera battery died about 1/3 of the way through the park so I didn't get pictures of everything, but the vivid transcendental memory lives on.

On Friday night we went to the National Theatre and saw a show entitled "Women Beware Women" by Thomas Middleton. We knew NOTHING about the show except that it was good, and WOW it was was good! It was one of the best shows I've seen ever in my life. It's actually a classical piece written by a contemporary of Shakespeare (and who collaborated with Shakespeare on "Macbeth" and "Measure for Measure") but it was set in 20th century facist Italy. It was INCREDIBLE! I don't really have words to describe it except that it was brilliantly acted, GORGEOUSLY staged and technically incredible. I loved it and am VERY interested in the script. It's being added to the list of "Shows I Want to Direct" for sure.

SATURDAY - Today was laundry day for Christian and I so we went over to the Metrogate house (the owners of the flats where we live) and trekked down to the basement to find 2 washers and 2 dryers in what can only be described as a hobbit hole. The ceiling was about 4 feet high and 3 feet wide and somehow there were 4 machines in there. It was funny for the both of us to try and do laundry in there. Anyways after that we putted around the apartment and then went with Jana and Brianna to the Imperial War Museum.
It was this really cool building filled with guns and tanks and symbols of male phallic oppression. There were some really cool exhibits, but we only had time for one. We'll go back another day since it's free and see the rest of the stuff.
One of my favorite parts that we did get to see, however, was this wall covered with pictures that children have drawn of their impressions about war and the museum. Here is my favorite picture:

Yup. That's the Council of Evil. Members of this council: Hitler, the Devil,a skeleton, a vampire, a pirate, and a werewolf. I love the little kid who drew this. 'nuff said.

After the museum we headed over to a highly rated fish 'n' chips shop just about 3 blocks away. We walked in for take-away food and it was this little room that was papered with tickets to every sort of theatrical or sporting event you can imagine that I'm sure the employees have been to. We all got cod and chips (french fries, for you ruddy Americans) and it was less than 5 pounds and delicious! The place is called "Master's Super Fish" and was excellent. We got our food to go and headed up to the National again, eating as we went. We intended to see "The Habit of Art" but it was sold out so we went to another show we had wanted to see called "Love the Sinner". It was questionable at best. Jana and I liked the first half but not the second, and Christian and Brianna liked the second and not the first. Altogether, however, it was a mediocre script at best with characters that needed further development and a needless nude scene that was just awkward. So yeah, not worth 10pp. Oh well. We had fun at least.

SUNDAY - Most of us have been assigned to go just down the street to the Hyde Park ward. The people are super friendly, but it's kind of a weird ward because its where ALL the tourists go so it fluctuates in number and the people treat you kinda funny. But it's ok. We had a fun ward "munch 'n' mingle" after the meetings and I talked to the missionaries who are way cool. Typical lazy Sunday. It was a nice day to try and recharge batteries and whatnot.

MONDAY - We went to class and then hung around the house in the afternoon for a bit. We then decided it was time to go see a West End show, so we were either gonna go see "Hair" or "Lion King" depending on which could get us better seats. We went to the Gielgud where "Hair" plays
and we were offered INCREDIBLE seats for on 25pp so we took them and didn't bother with "Lion King". We decided we wanted some Chinese food and we were basically in Chinatown so we wandered around London's less-than-impressive Chinatown and finally decided on a little dumpling shop with INCREDIBLE dumplings. The rest of the food wasn't that great, but the dumplings were made-to-order and delicious and were only 4.50 a plate.

After dinner we puttered around Leicester (pronounced 'lester') Square where there was some crappy movie premiere filled with half-rate European celebrities and screaming fan girls. I got some hazelnut gelato. Then it was time for "Hair"

I know I already posted about "Hair", but no joke it was INCREDIBLE! It is the best musical I have EVER seen.
I'm kind of obsessed. I bought the soundtrack, which I've listened to non-stop since Monday, and am continually blown away by it. Anyone who gets a chance to see it here in London MUST do it. I'm going again at some point. There is no way I could get away with not seeing again. I can't even describe to you how dazzling every aspect of the performance was. Even Christian, who doesn't like musicals, liked it. Just. Incredible.

TUESDAY - Today was our temple trip. We hired a coach (bus) and traveled a little over an hour to the temple. It was gorgeous, but I didn't really get a chance to see it because I was whisked inside to help with the baptisms because, despite letting them know weeks in advance that we were coming, they had NO temple workers in the baptistry so Allan, Richie, Lance, Rodger and I had to do it all. It was cool though, because I've never had a chance to do that before. It was an enjoyable experience for sure.

On the bus ride back I started to feel really sick with a headache and body aches and fever so I came home and went to bed. I woke up enough to write my paper and chat with a few friends and then bed again.

I'm still not feeling that great but I'm getting better. Today has been low-key again. It's getting boring actually, but I need to relax if I don't want to get sicker. Tonight we have tickets to "Taking Steps" at the Orange Tree Theatre, which I'm REALLY excited to see, so I'll be sure to blog about it tomorrow or maybe tonight if I'm not feeling gross. Until then!

Over and out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Let the sun shine in!

a So I know I'm totally behind on blogging, again, and that I need to play catch-up but I HAVE to post about this before I forget.

Christian, Allan and I went and saw "Hair" tonight. We paid 25pp for AMAZING seats! We sat dead center of the orchestra (or stalls as they call them here) and a little to the right. Now the production of "Hair" that's here right now is actually the original Broadway cast that they just transplanted from New York, so Will Swenson (Yes, the guy from "Singles Ward" and "Sons of Provo".) starred in it along with all the original people who won all the Tony's.

No joke people, I knew the show would be good. However, I never thought it would be THAT good. It was easily the BEST show I've ever seen performed live. The vocals were AMAZING! I've never heard a cast of over 20 live performers sound that perfect live. Never. The show was high energy, visually stunning, hilarious and touching and ridiculously fun! At the end of the show, after a SPECTACULAR finale they invited the audience up on stage to dance with them, so you better believe I got up there as soon as I could! We danced on a professional stage as the cast sang along and danced with us! I hugged one of the actors!! At one point when the actors were running through the audience (as they did throughout the show) I got a nod and a wave from Will Swenson. And the whole time we were sitting about 20 ft at most from the stage. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! I will never forget this show! EVER!

I promise I'll update ASAP about the rest of my exploits here in foggy London town, but I just HAD to post this right away and let anyone know who may be debating seeing the show, to stop debating and go. I would have paid 3x as much as I did to see that show. I may go again :)

I believe in theatre :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blog Catch-Up

So I've realized that I've totally fallen behind already. Blogging is harder work than I thought ;) So let's recap day-by-day what's gone on.

MONDAY - It was FREEZING cold today. Barely got above 45 F and with the wind chill and the humidity it was horrid. We went to class (which was uneventful, as usual) then I went back to the flats to write my paper for Lance's class that was due on Wednesday. I stressed over it more than was necessary but got it done before anyone else so I didn't have to worry about it. A bunch of people went out Monday night to West End shows, but I decided to relax and stay home. It was a little boring, but kind of nice at the same time to have some alone time, even though our little basement flat was so icy that I had on a long-sleeve shirt, a hoodie, sweatpants and socks and was under my covers and was still cold. We can't figure out how to make the stupid radiator work. Oh well. I survived :)

TUESDAY - Today we played at two touristy stops as a group: Musuem of London and the Banqueting House. The Museum of London was just that: a museum. It was nothing spectacular. There was some interesting information about medieval London life and I got rather upset by the gross disparity between the classes during that time period, but hey, it was just my inner Marxist flaring up. Wasn't too much to be seen or had there. Then we wandered about looking for the London Central Market, thinking it was like the Borough St. Market. When we found it, it turns out its not at ALL like Borough St. It's a wholesale food/meat/produce market and it was closed. So we puttered around until we finally found some places to eat. Christian and I went to a little shop called "FARM" where he got bangers and mash and I has a pumpkin and goat cheese pie and mash. It was delicious! Everything lacked salt, but that's generally how London is. No. Flavor. Anywhere.

After our food adventure we traveled over by St. James park again to what's called the Banqueting House.
Essentially it's the only building that survived the London fire in the 1600s and was part of Henry VIII's Whitehall Palace. Its this random little building just up from the Thames and its BEAUTIFUL. It was built for performing Jacobian Masques (YAY THEATRE HISTORY 201!!) as well as entertaining and impressing foreign dignitaries. James (something) had commissioned some gigantic portraits by Ruebens for the ceieling
and they've lasted all these 600+ years. It was incredibly beautiful.
We listened to these silly little audio-tours, but there was only one room in the whole place so they basically just talked about the cool stuff that goes on there. There was this lovely throne that, of course, being the American tourists that we are, we decided was an excellent photo-op. The following pictures ensued. We don't know if we were actually ALLOWED to sit on the throne, but no one said "No" nor was there a sign so we went ahead. There was actually one point where Rodger was on the throne and about 20 girls from the trip were posing around him with their best ANTM faces/poses.
I decided to use it for better things: beheading the peasants. It was a lovely time!

That night there was a group of us (including Rodger) who went to go see a show called "Psy" at the Peacock Theatre.
It was a circus/acrobatics dance show all about the different psychological disorders of the mind. There were 11 acrobats in all, each representing a different disorder or neurosis. This show was INCREDIBLE! Seriously it was such an incredible piece of theatre. Not only because of the incredible skill of the performers and my love of the circus but the characters and their relationships were heartfelt and believable even though there was no dialogue. I can't stress enough how cool this show was. Watch this trailer to get a basic idea if nothing else. Afterwords we ran into the cast in the street so we got them to sign our programs like the little 14-year old fan-lets that we are. It was so amazing though. By far one of the best, if not THE best shows I've seen so far.

WEDNESDAY - Went to class again. There were some events, but they are negative and I don't know who's reading this so I'll refrain. Suffice it to say that more than one of us was unpleased. Anywho. After class came the matinee of "Enron". Oh, "Enron". Rodger went and previewed it and said it was so horribly written and had so many content issues that the program could no longer endorse the show. The tickets were already bought so we could go if we wanted, but it was not at the suggestion or support of BYU. Which is fine. Of course, I still went.
As was to be expected the content wasn't really all that bad. It was the show itself that was terrible. No joke, it was possibly one of the worst written shows I have EVER seen. It had a few neat visual effects and some staging stuff (including a light sabre dance-fight and a pack of half-businessman/half-velociraptors). It was awful. The book was horribly written, the set was tacky for the most part, the acting was sub-par and there were dinosaurs. Like, wtf mates? It was bizarre and terrible. My suggestion is, do NOT go see it. I just had to break down laughing at certain parts just to keep myself sane. Heidi and I made up a song about "Enron" that encapsulates the message and effect of the show. I don't know that it will translate properly without the music and appropriate dance moves, but here is part of it:

"Theres a lot of F-words and a random sex scene!
Enron! Enron!
And there's a little girl who's a metaphor!
Enron! Enron!
And America sucks!
And so does capitalism!
Enron! Enron!
And theres some dinosaurs
And a part that looked like it may have been a gay bar!
Enron! Enron!"

The song goes on, but you get the idea. Don't see it.

Luckily that same night we went to another show. "Anderson's English" which was AMAZING! But before we get to that, let's talk about Allan and I's adventure. We went straight from the "Enron" experience over to where the other show was playing and we were like and hour and a half early so we decided to randomly explore. We saw a sign about a Freud Museum so we set off to find it. Turns out, we didn't find it, but we wandered into this DELIGHTFUL little Victorian suburb that looked like Jim-Dear's house in "Lady and the Tramp". They were these beautiful brick houses with like 4 stories each and trees everywhere and I loved it. My favorite building we dubbed "Toad Hall"
because it looks JUST like Toad Hall in Disney's "Adventures of Mr. Toad" and looks remarkably like the ride at Disneyland as well. It was hard to get a good picture, but trust me, it was cool.

So we finally found the theatre and saw the show and let me tell you, "Anderson's English" was INCREDIBLE! It's about Charles Dicken's family and when they receive a visit from Hans Christian Anderson. It sounds dull, but it was actually some of the most brilliant and compelling writing and acting I've seen in a long time. TOTALLY made up for the hot-mess that was "Enron". I loved the show so much I'm trying to find the script online. It was that incredible. It was a fabulous way to end a very long day and to get the taste of bad theatre out of my mouth.

THURSDAY - Now we are finally caught up through today. This morning we decided to venture off to a store called "Primark". Now "Primark" is a lot like an H&M or Zara, but is DIRT CHEAP! It was fantastic! Cheap Euro-trash clothing everywhere. I bought some things, but they were so stinkin' cool and cheap that I couldn't resist. And the store was HUGE! Christian and I spent about 2 hours in there finding stuff. We avoided the shpants (or man-pri's as some call them) and we definitely avoided the gay-or-european underwear section, but it was still awesome! I love "Primark"!

From there we went to the Tricycle Theatre up in some other random part of town that I could only call "Little Middle East". Everything was in either Arabic or Pakistani or Israeli, and then there is this random little theatre. It was actually really cool. We saw "Twelfth Night"
and it was an interesting production. It was set up like some small band rehearsing in a garage, but it worked pretty well. There was audience participation (including dancing on stage, throwing velcro balls a a guys head and being offered tequila by the actors) and it was a fun show. Very different and very innovative. The acting was incredible. It was really quite good and overall I enjoyed the show, even though I left it with a sense of wanting. I'm not sure what, but it felt incomplete or dumbed down or something. Not to say it wasn't good, because it was. I guess I'm still just trying to figure it out.

So after that, we hopped a bus and came home. Christian, Allan and I are tired and we figured it might behoove us to have a night in. Especially since we are going to be out and about all day tomorrow and Saturday.

It's been a CRAZY first week! I'm so excited to see what else London has in store!

Over and out!

P.S. That was a totally lame way to end the blogpost, but I don't know what else to put :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hail, hail, hail!

So Saturday started out with a freezing cold trip to "The Monument". Sounds ominous right? It's actually this HUGE pillar in the middle of a random intersection off the beaten path that's like 310-steps high and is dedicated to remembering some huge London fire. After a careful reading of the inscriptions and whatnot, this monument was NOT erected in honor of those that died or or lost their homes or anything. Oh no. It's a monument dedicated to the fire itself.
They are honoring the flames that engulfed the city. Not it's victims, the flames. Wierd right? Well, from there we went on what Lance and Rodger deemed a "Shakespeare walk" which was supposed to have us wandering all over the Borough market district of London seeing important stuff that Shakespeare mentioned in some random history play that no one likes. It's about as cool as it sounds.

We did see a nice replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship "The Golden Hinde" and the original spot where the Globe theater used to be. Well, where they think it used to be. Yeah. It was a less than eventful trip. But thats ok. We put Rodger in charge of navigation for a small group of us and we got lost a lot and it was hilarious. So that was fun. We also had like 30 minutes to wander through the Borough St. Market which is an INSANELY crowded open-air market where they sell lots of random things like mushrooms, and Greek food and lots of things in jars that don't really seem to be edible but apparently are.

So after that meandering adventure came the REALLY cool part: "Macbeth" at the Globe (or the reconstruction and relocation of the Globe). This production was AMAZING. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty bitter about having to be a groundling (meaning we had to stand in the pit the entire 3 hour show). But we get there and this was no ordinary groundling experience. The director had inspired her production with a painting of Dante's inferno depicting the 7th level a hell a place where everyone is undead and frozen in a lake of eternal black torture.
So they covered the Globe stage and pillars in black fabric and spattered it with blood. And the really cool part, there was this big fabric membrane thing with lots of holes cut in it and the groundlings put our heads through the fabric so we were essentially these undead souls in hell with our heads floating in the "ice". It was SWEET!
So there we were, standing in the 7th circle oh hell waiting for the play to begin, when this ominous bell starts tolling and the three actresses playing the witches start running back and forth under the canopy of fabric so we can't see them and they are poking us and pinching and cackling. Creepy! And these were no normal witches, one was an old woman, one was a young-ish woman who was obsessed with drinking blood and the third was a midget (or little-person, whichever term is better)! They were crazy! Then! Incase this wasn't creepy enough, the witches moved onstage and there were these large holes in the fabric that we had to leave clear, and from those holes burst these half-naked men literally DRIPPING in blood! They burst out and starting writhing and screaming in torture as the witches laughed and mocked them. It was SOOOO cool.

Now here's the best part: when we first walked into the Globe, Christian suggested we move as center stage as possible. Good idea right? So we stop at a spot directly next to one of these larger openings. And it had this metal frame around it under the canopy so that people didn't stand there and we assumed it wasn't gonna be used for anything so we thought "Cool, we can rest our arms on this."
The picture shows exactly where that large hole was. So imagine my suprise when a screaming, bloody, 20-something year old pops out and begins to writhe and twitch, literally, on top of me. I got blood on me. IT WAS SOO COOL! They also used that same hole for the midget witch to pop out of at intermission, a bagpiper, and the oldest witch during the cauldron/apparition scene popped out of it and placed crowns on our heads. I got a free souvenir! They also had Macbeth burst out of it at the very end when he was in hell. He crawled under there with the witches and I could see them getting him all bloody and ready to pop out. They got blood on my jeans, but it's ok. It was TOTALLY worth it!

The production itself was incredible, besides the bloody bodies everywhere. They used lots of blood onstage too. :) It was an AWESOME production. I kind of want to go back again. It's only 5 pounds and totally worth it. There was only one downside. As the play went on it went from very sunny skies to greyer and greyer until around the middle of act 5 it started raining. And not just rain. Hail. It was literally hailing on us in hell. Hahaha. We got frozen and drenched, but it was worht it!
At the very end, once Macbeth is dead, Macduff comes onstage and starts a speech with the words "Hail, hail, hail!" He decided to make a joke out of it and made a direct reference to the hail outside. It was sooooo funny. The whole audience was rolling. It was SUCH a cool show!!

Anways, after being soaked to the bone, we all took off in separate directions to see shows that night. I was gonna go see "bash: latter-day plays" with Heidi, Andrea, Richie and Rodger, but they all bailed so I went alone. So I got on the train and wandered up to Camden town for a while. I got there early so I wandered the streets to find an underground music festival going on! I just kinda dallied around and listened to some bands play and got hot chocolate.

Then I went to the show. I talked before about this theater, but inside was even cooler. It was a small converted gymnasium that say maybe 75 people all together. When I got there, I was the ONLY person in the theater who didn't know everybody else there. It was really neat. I met a bunch of random middle-aged people and it was really neat. The show was really good too. Some of their American accents were questionable at best, but that's ok. We struggle with British ones, right?

I really enjoyed it too, because I got a lot of nuance stuff that I never had considered before just reading the play. It was great. Afterwords I met all the actors (and one nice actor tried to take me back to his flat with him, which I politely declined) :) It was a great night.

So it was a REALLY long Saturday but SOOOO awesome. I love that I can see all this theatre and have such a good time here. I hope to see as much as I can while I'm here! I'm so grateful to be able to be on this trip and have this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience :)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Richie finally made it to London!

Hooray! The men's flat is now complete because Richie finally got here!! We want him to move into our room, but we can't leave Hugh by himself so it's cool.

Anyways we are gonna go to see "bash:latter-day plays" tomorrow night so Heidi, Andrea, Richie and I went to go buy tickets up at the theater in Camden borough. We had to do 3 tube transfers to get there and it was like 2 blocks off the beaten path. It's called the "Theatro Technis" and it essentially looks like a converted house.
So we show up and can't find a box office so we ring the doorbell and a nice old man with a French accent calls down through the intercom and asks "What do you want?" It was totally a Monty Python moment and I was afraid he would taunt us :p So anyways we told him that we wanted 6 tickets for tomorrow night. He asked for our name and Heidi told him, but he didn't understand so he was like "Come inside. I'll come down." So we wander into this man's study/office/box office(?) and down comes this 5 foot tall, French senior citizen who looked remarkably like Sigmund Freud. Anyways, we told him how many we needed and had a pleasant yet short conversation and went on our way. It was a fun adventure.

We then embarked on another HUGE tube trip to the Rose Theater in Kingston. This required us to essentially cross all of London yet again and then getting on a bus on the edge of zone 2 that took us another 40 minutes into Kingston. It was SUCH a long trip on public transport.
We were all tired (esp Richie) and started to get a bit loopy by the time we arrived at the theater. The Rose is a GORGEOUS modern theater in the middle of this antiquated borough of southern London. It's a contemporary interpretation of the old Rose Theater of Shakespeare's time. We were all groundlings for this performance, but instead of having to stand we had to sit on the hard ground for 90 minutes.
We saw "11 & 12" by Peter Brook. It was a really cool production that has to do with religious and ethnic tolerance and questioning why human beings are violent towards each other because of these trivial, subjective things. It was a really powerful play, but unfortunately I couldn't enjoy it as much as I could because I was so incredibly uncomfortable on the floor. But it was truly a brilliant piece.

We finally got home after the show and after about 20 minutes in the flat the fire alarm went off!! No joke! We had to all evacuate, so I grabbed my keys and then remembered Richie was in the bath tub, so I made him get out and get dressed and come outside with us.
He was completely and utterly unpleased to say the least. So we puttered around for 20 minutes outside, in the rain, until one of the on duty managers showed up on a bicycle. Clearly the best way to save 35 American's from a house fire is by sending a teenage girl on a Schwinn.

Anyways, we made back inside safe and sound. Apparently there was a broken alarm on the 5th floor that set the whole building off. So all in all it was an eventful day! Tomorrow is a big day, so it's off to bed for me!

Over and out.

The chairs cost money. Seriously, they do...

So we decided we wanted to see "The 39 Steps" last night (which was a GOOD choice, BTW) so we went up to the Criterion Theater at Picadilly Circus, which, in spite of the name is NOT an actual circus :( We got our tickets for 15pp each and sat towards the back of the orchestra, which was AWESOME. More on that later though.

So we decided we would explore around Piccadilly Circus area and see what was going on. We ended up finding St. James Park, which is this beautiful park sitting in between the Thames, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. It was really cool!
We wandered around for hours looking at the beautiful grounds and enjoying the gorgeous weather. We found this one lawn with a bunch of green and white striped lawn chairs and we all thought "How cool! They set out free lawn chairs for you to sit on! Yay for London!" Just kidding though, apparently the chairs are NOT free as would be perceived.
At one point we wanted to take a break and sit down so we all went and sat down and not more the 3 minutes into sitting some nice Indian man came over and told us we had to PAY to use them. I thought he was joking at first, but no joke it cost 1.50pp to use the chairs!! We were so mad! Apparently healthcare can be free in Europe, but sitting costs you 1.50. We basically haggled the guy and ended up only paying 3.00pp for the 9 chairs we used because we agreed to leave right away, but we were still mad.

Anyways, between going to the non-existent circus and getting charged to sit down we wandered across the park to Buckingham Palace. Yes, THE Buckingham Palace. It was crazy! We were AT Buckingham Palace. It was kind of surreal. It was a neat little palace with a huge monument out front dedicated to Queen Victoria. I've come the realization that Brits LOVE Queen Victoria. Like LOVE her. Her statue is EVERYWHERE!
We can't quite figure out exactly WHAT she did other than be alive for a REALLY long time, but then again I think that's all British royalty has done since they signed the Magna Carta. :) So yeah, Buckingham Palace was cool. The queen was home (the flag was flying) I kept trying to go see here but they have all these pesky fences and these guards with HUGE guns! Like no joke, they had assault rifles. It was neat.
I took all together too many pictures, but hey, its a digital camera and it's friggin' Buckingham Palace right?

So after the many hours of excursion an exploration we toured all over the West End, saw a bunch of theaters with shows we can't afford to see and then at 8:00 went to "The 39 Steps". Can I just say, this play was HILARIOUS! It was laugh out loud, roll on the ground funny.
It's a farce of the Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps", but it pokes fun at all the Hitchcock films. There are 4 actors who play over 50 characters and it is a riot! I loved every second. And we had totally killer seats at the back of the orchestra for way cheap. We were exhausted the whole time because of jet lag and from walking everywhere, but it was totally worth it.

Man this is a cool city. Miriam and I were discussing how it's JUST like New York (not meaning to view it only through the context of American narrative, but there you go) except with different architecture and everyone drives on the other side of the road. Hahaha! I'm loving my time so far. On the agenda for the rest of the week, we have "11 & 12" by Peter Brook tonight at the Rose Theater, then tomorrow we are groundlings for "Macbeth" at the Globe and then tomorrow night a small group of us, including Rodger, is going to see "bash: latter-day plays" by Neil Labute. I'm SUPER excited for all of them (except maybe having to stand up for over 3 hours at "Macbeth", but whatever). I'll keep trying to post on time and let everyone know about what's going on! If you have questions or suggestions for stuff to do in London comment on here! Toodles, all!

Over and out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rodger won't let us sleep!

WOW! For those who were concerned that we may have crashed over the Atlantic and died, don't worry. I didn't. I made it to London safely, sound and exhausted. 11 hours is 11 hours too many. I can't really sleep on planes so as Christian and Melissa managed some "Coach Class" spooning and slept, I was awake for all but maybe an hour. But, we made it all the same. Getting through customs was actually a breeze, we got a train then a cab and got to Hyde Park Gate. When we got in the cab driver, who we could barely understand through the accent and the silly little microphone-monitor thing that they use, asked us Which Hyde Park Gate? There are two." As sleepy, bewildered Americans we responded confusedly and not knowing what to say so we said "Try them both and we'll see." Hopefully one of us will divine the correct house. Luckily it was the "first" Hyde Gate park. We found it due to the HUGE "BYU" sign tacked outside on the railing. If it weren't for that, utter madness may have ensued.

So we got checked in and the boys get to live in the basement. (Please observe the photos)
It's cozy, decently sized and, of course, dank. Just like I wanted ;)

As we were milling about the flats Rodger and Lance kept reminding us not to sleep. Which went well until around 8:00 when I sat on my bed on my computer with the intention of blogging and literally fell asleep slumped over my laptop. Christian woke me up two hours later, but I was still able to sleep just fine when 11:00 rolled around.

Earlier that day we went shopping for a few groceries in stores that were organized completely helter-skelter from what we would think to be logical. (Cheese dispersed throughout the store by use and country of origin and the eggs not refrigerated next to the bread...?) We bought a little bit of stuff, then when we got back I finally found Heidi and we began some misadventures wandering about Hyde Park for 40 minutes or so. It was GORGEOUS.
Our favorite discovery in the park so far was the random 3-room shrine/temple with nothing in it but the odor of stale urine and some guy named Mike's phone number. It was ridiculous and epic to say the least.
We were both so crazy and tired, it's almost not funny.

Well, that was pretty much the first day. There was a nice little stroll about town where everyone acted like friggin Asian tourists and went around talking loudly, blocking traffic and taking pictures of EVERYTHING. I'm a little upset by the group tourist dynamic, in case you couldn't tell.

Anywho, that's all about that day. I'm sure more will come up later :)

Over and out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm on a boat! (And by a boat, I mean a plane)

So I'm in the airport right now! OMGZ!! We are just sitting here waiting for them to start boarding the plane. It'll probably be another 30-40 minutes. So we wait. And then we get on the plane. And wait some more. 11 hours and 5 mins more...gah! But hey, I'm going to London!

We just exchanged a bunch of dollars for pounds and I've learned two things so far without even leaving America: 1) pound notes are HUGE, like too big to fit in my wallet huge; and 2) exchange rates are LAME. Watching $500 become 322 pounds is depressing. Lets pray that tithing blessings will allow me to keep eating and not just sit in the flats. ::fingers crossed::

Also, our airport terminal sucks. All the cool shops and stuff are outside of security. But we didn't know that so we decided to go through security first and then go see stuff. SURPRISE, there's nothing to see!! So we sit here. But that's ok. Christian bought an internet pass because he's scrambling to turn in some last-minutes papers to Rodger before the grade deadline tomorrow at noon and I'm taking advantage of it and blogging/goofing off on Facebook. :)

Anywho, I think that's it. Next time I write I'll be FRIGGIN' IN LONDON!!! YAY!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cuz we don't want no dirty beaches...

Today was the last day in California, and so clearly the logical choice was beach day! It was a GORGEOUS 75 degrees in Thousand Oaks today, so we figured high 60s/low 70s for the beach ( even confirmed it). The actual situation: LIES! It was freezing at the beach! We were driving down the canyon with INCREDIBLE weather, and no exaggeration, as soon as we hit the "Malibu City Limits" line there was a wall of fog and the temperature dropped by 20. No joke, I asked "Is it on fire?" because I was so bewildered by the fact that there would be so much cloud cover.

But, we are resilient so we pressed on and had our picnic at Zuma 7. It was freezing. We were bitter. I was mad. Worst beach day EVER! The irony being we are all about to cross the ocean to a land where everything is overcast and cold. Ugh! I wanted one day of sunshine before we left, but clearly the fates have conspired against it.

Anyways. We checked-in and printed our boarding passes! Less than 24 hours until London!!!! We've booked flights to Dublin for the travel weekend and Scotland for Christian's birthday and highland games!!!

My fellow theatre nerds will appreciate this more than the rest: there is a production of "bash: latter-day plays" by Neil Labute opening the day we arrive, and I loves me some Neil Labute!! :)

Also, in 12 hours exactly we will be leaving for LAX to go to London! SQUEE!! I'm sure I'll update from the airport. If not, keep watching for when I get to London!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leaving Provo: The Journey Begins!!

My study abroad adventure has begun! I started with a 10-hour road trip to my house in California on April 22. Being the phenomenal BYU student that I am I, of course, did no packing or cleaning until the last minute and consequently was awake for approximately 44 hours straight. But, thank goodness, we arrived safely to California without harm or accident. We, of course, being myself, Allan, Christian and Melissa. We'll enjoy a few days of relaxation and then off to London on Tuesday! Just let me go already!!

While Christian and Melissa were at a wedding in Newport all day Friday, Allan and I decided to do some play research and pick out some additional shows we are going to see :) After sifting through the riff-raff of British fringe theatre (including, but not limited to a South African soccer-playing drag queen and "Porn: The Musical") we've selected as of right in now about 7 shows to see for sure. There will undoubtedly be more that we find or whatever but we've got a good lineup so far. Most of it is small, random fringe stuff, but I do have planned to see "Billy Elliot" and "Hair" on the West End!! I'm so pumped!

Today we spent time researching Ryan Air flights in Europe for the travel weekend and we booked flights to Dublin for 6 pounds round trip! WIN. We've got a hostel we are looking at and we are also probably flying to Scotland for Christian's birthday in June (insert cliche "Braveheart" quote here)!! We also discovered the ISIC discounts we get for being poor college students and I'm super excited. I even get discounts in America with it! HOORAY!

Anywho, all I want to do it go to London. The end. I'll keep everybody posted with pics and video. T-minus 3 days and counting...