London Trip 2017 | Day Three aka Parliament and HAMILTON!!

Welcome to the third post in my wrap up of my (not so) recent trip to London  – you can check out what I got up to in day two here or take a look a day one here. What has inspired me to finally write up this, you may ask? Well, it just so happens that this very day I (yes I, not someone else) managed to bag some tickets to see Hamilton in the West End again in October! So it seemed about time to talk about the first time I was lucky enough to see the musical during my trip to London back in December 2017. Let’s see how Day Three of my London trip went, shall we? Let’s indulge nostalgia…

Day Three dawned bright and not so early and (not ashamed) we ended up eating leftover Dominos pizza as breakfast. We’re adults, we can make those kind of decisions, ok? We lazed about a bit, not going to lie, but knew we had to make it across to the first destination of the day by 11am – the Houses of Parliament tour – so we finally got up and got dressed and got ready to leave.

As soon as we stepped outside the hotel, I realise one very key thing – it was a shit weather day, there’s no two ways about it. I came very close to a hissy fit on the morning before we’d even got to Westminster because it was very cold and the weather had decided to do what I would call “horizontal rain”. Lovely. So instead of walking along Embankment, we plumped for hopping on the Tube at Tottenham Court Road (via Pret, naturally) and hopped off at Westminster. When you get closer to the River Thames, the wind gets stronger and that makes for a very miserable and very squidgy walk over to the Palace of Westminster.

We arrived at Westminster in plenty of time so we decided to take refuge in Westminster Abbey’s gift shop for a little while, and Liz managed to buy her Gran a nice postcard whilst we were in there. Then, scarves and hats donned, we headed back out into the driving rain for the mercifully short walk over to the Palace. As we approached the security gates at the visitor entrance I quickly realised that I’d been pissy about the rain but at least I didn’t have to stand out in it all day like the security guard did. We’d barely even said hi and started to make chit chat with him when he said “ah, it’s fucking freezing, I hate it” in an extremely broad Scottish accent. Nothing like a bit of weather-based banter to bring together nations, eh?

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London Trip 2017 | Day Two aka the snow taketh with one hand and giveth with the other

Welcome to the second post in my wrap up on my recent trip to London – take a look a day one here if you haven’t already.

After a double musical day of emotional musicals, I think both Liz and I were happy at the prospect of getting out of theatres and heading out of London for our planned activities on Sunday but, as you will see, things didn’t go quite as planned. I know how to do suspense, don’t I?

We woke bright and (reasonably) early, excited for our day at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Watford, and donned our Harry Potter related clothing, also bundling up with scarves and gloves after a quick peek at the snow (!) falling outside. Sunday mornings in London are weird, to say the least, because there are so few people on ordinarily busy streets and the snow was also good encouragement to stay indoors if you could. Even so, the snow wasn’t settling as the ground was already wet, so we decided to walk the twenty-minute walk to Euston. I wouldn’t presume to speak for both of us but I believe that we quickly regretted this decision to walk when Liz discovered her Vans weren’t quite as waterproof as we first hoped and my Chelsea boots, whilst pretty, had no grip to speak of on the soles. This makes for a very interesting walk on slippy streets.

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London Trip 2017 | Day One aka “Do you hear the people sing?”

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting London for a long weekend of musical theatre and sightseeing! I feel extremely fortune to be able to see some many wonderful sights and I’m sure anyone who follows me on Instagram is bored of hearing about this trip but, for posterity’s sake, I thought I would do a quick travel diary on this blog to preserve the memories.

The entire trip was planned way back in January of this year for one very important reason – Liz and I managed to grab Monday night tickets to see Hamilton when it opened in the West End. We were both very excited, but it was January, and the tickets for the show weren’t until December. Even so, we started planning with gusto and decided to make a weekend out of it in the capital city. I’m so glad we did as it turned out to be a wonderful weekend full of sightseeing and musicals.

Luckily, Liverpool to London Euston is a short 2-hour train journey and we managed to nab early tickets which meant we got the train tickets very cheaply too – result! So Saturday morning rolled around, our suitcase was all packed, and thanks to a very kind lift to the station from Liz’s dad we were off on the 10 o’clock train zipping towards London. When we got to Euston plumped for a walk to the Travelodge hotel in Covent Garden since it was about 20-minutes away and it seemed a more appealing prospect than battling the Tube with a suitcase in tow. So, we headed off for Covent Garden. One of the reassuring things about trying to locate a hotel in Covent Garden is that, since it’s a major tourist spot, it’s handily signposted everywhere, and I vaguely remembered that, to get to it, you had to walk through universityland (aka UCL and SOAS) until you started to hit some of the more borderland theatres. Luckily, Motown the musical has opened up in a very gold and shimmery theatre just around the corner from the Travelodge so we definitely knew when we’d arrived in the right place!

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Some Thoughts on Theatre

Greetings from London! As I sit and type this (hopefully brief) blog post, I am sitting in a Covent Garden hotel surrounded by West End theatres. The purpose of my visit? To go to the theatre of course! It has struck me over this weekend just how incredibly lucky I am to be able to go to so much live theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in London, it’s not as simple as just strolling on over to a theatre and grabbing a ticket.

But, relatively speaking, I find theatre extremely accessible, if I plan in advance. And it was yesterday, after snow had stranded us at Watford Junction, meaning our original plan to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour was scuppered, that we regrouped in the hotel and wondered how we could spend our wasted Sunday if we couldn’t get to the Studio Tour. A text came from my friend Liz’s dad, as he suggested trying to get return tickets for the Cursed Child play. As the snow had cut off so many people, return tickets were coming in thick and fast as people just couldn’t get into London to see the show. Half an hour later, after a rather reckless purchase, and we’d landed seats in the front row of the Grand Circle for both parts of Cursed Child. I realised very suddenly how incredibly lucky I was to be able to impulsively take that chance of offered tickets and get to see such a sought after play.

(By the way, the price of the tickets? Worth it. So incredibly worth it. The amount of effects and stage craft involved in the performance, let alone the actors themselves, is well worth the price of admittance. But I won’t say anymore because #KeepTheSecrets!)

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Theatre Review | The Two Gentlemen of Verona

These past few days marked my trip to Oxford to visit a friend from school who now lives and works there (on the off-chance you’re reading this, hi Ceyda!), along with her sister (whose blog you can find here and should read, obviously). Amidst museum wanderings, semi-successful punting expeditions, and a jaunt to London to attend YALC on Friday, we took in a spot of Shakespeare at the Bodleian, as you do on a summery Thursday evening.

Shakespeare’s Globe, in conjunction with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, are touring a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Nick Bagnall, which sees Shakespeare’s early comedy launched brashly and boldly into the 20th century, a musical and theatrical mashup that should please even someone having a bad day. In fact, I defy you to sit and not clap or tap feet along to the music. Believed to be Shakespeare’s first play, Two Gentlemen tells the story of Valentine and Proteus, two young men who discover the trials and tribulations of falling in love in quite a spectacular (and farcical) fashion. Considered by some critics to be his weakest play, nevertheless Two Gentlemen is a comedy which teases the themes later plays will return to with such roaring success, including cross dressing heroines, a band of outlaws, the inconstancy of men, clownish servants, and men (and women) frankly being fools in love.

“Valentine loves Silvia and Proteus loves Julia – but Proteus is fickle and falls for Silvia too. When Valentine plots an elopement, Proteus betrays him and Valentine is banished and joins some outlaws in the forest. What are the chances that he’ll be pursued by Silvia, and Silvia by Proteus, and Proteus by Julia, and that all will be waited upon – after a fashion – by their servants Speed and Launce and even Launce’s dog, Crab?”
(Synopsis taken from The Globe’s programme)

 

Photo taken at Chilham Castle, Kent | Images © Gary Calton

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A Retrospective: Shakespeare and Les Misérables

Oh, why hello there 2012! Wow, you really were a lifetime ago. And guess who forgot about this blog entirely in that intervening passage of time? Yes, me! It’s particularly wonderful to take a look back at 19 year-old me from the position of 21 year-old me, a person who has finished university and is now waiting for results and at the same time anxiously trying to lay down the train tracks in front of a moving train which I don’t yet know the cargo, or the speed, of. Does that metaphor hold up? We’ll see if the train derails come results day, I guess.

Whilst we waiting for that impending crash (or maybe/hopefully not) let’s take stock of what changes have occurred since my last post on 15th October 2012. Well, I’ve had 2 birthdays since then, not bad places to start. Especially since the 21st was celebrated in particularly geeky fashion – going down to Stratford with my ever lovely university friend and housemate, Sarah, to see the RSC’s Richard II. So I spent my birthday in the same room as David Tennant, watching him king it up, not a bad way to spend my birthday and it’s so very me that I couldn’t have asked for a nicer celebration. (Well I could have done without the audience member being taken ill half-way through the show, but, I’m sure everyone could have done without that to be honest). It’s been a year or two of Shakespeare, in which time I developed a shiny new obsession. Namely a certain Mr Thomas Hiddleston – of Loki/Avengers, War Horse, and maybe Suburban Shootout fame (do not Google it, for the love of all that is holy) – and that man’s particular penchant for Shakespeare only served to deepen that pathetic fangirling tendency. So, it made sense that when he was starring in Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus, had to see it. It wasn’t a passing fancy and as the reviews came rolling in, it became a mission. I wouldn’t have succeeded if they hadn’t extended the run a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it had only been me trying to nab those sought-after Front Row tickets. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it wasn’t for the tenacity of aforementioned Sarah whose emotional outburst in the library on that fateful ticket-successful morning (the last ditch attempt too) encapsulated feelings that I just couldn’t express. I didn’t fare very well at the performance itself either. Having seen the production via National Theatre Live (which, quick shout-out, is such an invaluable way of getting theatre to the mainstream) I thought I was prepared. I’d cried throughout the second-half of that broadcast because I knew how the tragedy of Coriolanus would inevitably end. I was not emotionally prepared. It was not pretty. I couldn’t stick around the theatre to give a quick thank you of appreciation to the actors who came out to stage door because if I had I just would have burst into tears in front of Hadley Fraser and Deborah Findlay. And we all know that would have been just a touch embarrassing for all involved.

Seeing the RSC’s Richard II and Donmar’s Coriolanus has been two highlights of my 2013/14 and experiences I will definitely remember and cherish. The sad fact of theatre, unfortunately, is its ephemeral nature. But it’s also its greatest virtue, the connection between audience and actor (if you will allow me to be particularly thee-ah-tar, dah-ling for a moment) is something that changes so much from show to show. Aaron Tveit says it well – it’s an exchange of energy between performer and observer, and there’s nothing else quite like it. 2013/14 has awakened, and firmly cemented, a love for theatre (and for Shakespeare) that I didn’t fully realise back in October 2012. Also a shameless love for a Mr Hiddleston, but we’ll leave that one well alone/to my Tumblr.

Which brings me to another obsession which was well fostered and, oddity of oddities, also at the hands of Sarah who introduced me, in the January of 2013, to a little thing called Les Misérables. Who would have guessed the downward spiral that quickly occurred. I’d never particularly been a huge musical theatre fan. Sure, I’d seen a few things – We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang – but they were more to do with my grandma’s love for musicals than my own. How very wrong I was, and how very naive I was to think that Les Misérables wouldn’t grip me the way it did. In the end, for some godforsaken reason, I ended up doing my undergraduate dissertation on it, the book in any case – though I did spend a sizeable portion of that 10,000 word limit talking about the musical and film adaptations. I couldn’t have guessed that in October 2012. I had no clue that I would have obsessed over a blonde-haired student revolutionary called Enjolras; that I would have synced up Spotify playlists whilst we were in separate rooms and belted out an embarrassingly out-of-tune rendition of the entire film soundtrack with, oh you guessed it, Sarah. That I would have spend countless hours of frustration trying to pin down in 10,000 words why Les Misérables needed to be paid attention to – this is the best I could come up with. That I would, thanks to a well-timed Christmas Present IOU from my parents, be able to perfectly coordinate seeing Les Misérables in the West End with that Coriolanus trip to spend two days in London being incredibly geeky but loving it? I couldn’t have predicted that.

That’s the funny thing about retrospection, isn’t it? It’s hard to mentally rewind to that place of inexperience. It doesn’t have to be huge life-changing moments you want to try to un-remember to see what life was like back then, it can be the little things. It can be trying to re-imagine what you were like in October 2012 having not heard Red And Black yet or having not shivered in terror seeing this still frankly scary-as-fuck single expression from Coriolanus. Maybe my next blog post will be about more serious things, more grandiose things, like graduation, examinations, what on earth to do in the rest of that unknowable thing that is my future. Sounds ominous.