Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Don't Leave Your Stick in the Water

HERE WE GO. So sorry for the delay!!

FRIDAY: Spent all morning and a pie slice of the afternoon finishing my Betrayal review, and turned it in at 2:30. Then a long shower, and then... a long bus ride back to Hackney. It was our second trip in as many days to the area (Arcola and our destination almost shared a bus stop), as we were going to see a Russian clown show titled "The (Semianki) Family" at the star-ceilinged, gilded, and totally ornate Hackney Empire theatre. Hmmm. What to expect? I mean, were they going to speak in Russian? Were they going to clown in Russian? ANSWER: IT DOESN'T MATTER IT BLEW MY MIND I'M GOING TO JOIN A RUSSIAN CLOWN TROUPE SOME DAY. It was simply amazing. The sketches were mostly wordless and, because they were totally impeccable and precise, infinitely expressive. The lead woman (the troupe was composed of 4 women and 2 men - who says the womens can't do physical funny?!) was simply incredible as the pregnant, powerful, flirting, scolding, tempting matriarch. Oh my goodness, ask me about the business with the chalk and the business with the rocking chair and the business with the phone and the pillows and the chandelier sometime, I will do my best to explain how it made me feel. INCREDIBLE. A long busride home from Hackney, then another bus over to the National Theatre to catch "H of D," a Polish company's riff on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Let me just say this: after the surgical precision of the Russian clowns, these Polish experimentalists looked a little ridiculous. Or at least under-rehearsed: a naked man who was supposed to be dead nearly fell out of the dumpster he was being pushed into and had to correct mid-fall (awkward for everyone), some men in futuristic paintballing suits pranced about aimlessly on spring-loaded stilts while firing white smoke at fellow actors, and in the end, a big piece of fabric was set alight and bits of flaming cloth drifted casually into the audience. OUCH. It was quite the experience seeing one after the other. Thankfully, H of D was short, so we went up to the National Theatre's "Late Lounge," a neato bar area on the top floor with great view of the night-scene Thames. We closed the place down, then walked home to go to sleep.

SATURDAY: Woke up, then began scouring the internet for an afternoon activity - stopped by the Senate House library to pick up some neccessary books before trekking to the National for Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo." Zoe Wanamaker starred, and she was truly terrific. The set was incredible - an entire southern house on stage, which rotated, such that one had different views of the front and side porches, the main room, the work room, etc. Miraculously, the sight lines were always good - never did this suggestion of an utterly complete house prevent the audience from seeing the actors. In the background, a high wooden fence with vertical slats was used to particularly great effect: cars and trucks would pull up, and one could hear the approach as car lights swiveled through the slats and shone into the audience - way cool. The only problem was the occasional accent slip: I can't imagine being a British actor having to do a Southern-Italian-American accent: one line sounded like this: "Mahmah, ah'm ashaymed (Southern!), ah trrrried (SCOTTISH?!) tuh tell you (Southern again)." It was a rather unsettling to listen to at times, but I don't think the Brits in the audience noticed at all. After the play, I met Cassie at Russell Square, and we went to The Hare and Tortoise for dinner - H&T is cheap but good Chinese food, and it felt really civilized to eat a warm meal at a table. We then went to Waitrose, yet another fantastic grocery store, and went home to find a hoppin' nigth spot. We found a bar called FILTHY MCNASTY'S. Yes, FILTHY MCNASTY'S. Which was featuring an indie band fronted by a woman: FILTHY MCNASTY'S and some alternative music - what could be better?!? We walked the short distance to the pub only to find that it was neither Filthy nor McNasty, and not even that funky. Pretty run of the mill, actually. And the band turned out to be one mediocre girl singer and her guitar-playing buddy. We got out while we could, and met some others at a bar less well-named but which stayed open later. By this time it was raining rivers, but as it was time to walk home, Cassie and I, sans umbrellas, made the long, wet, puddle-plagued journey back to Hughes Parry with a self-sung soundtrack of rain-themed tunes. It was epic. Some drying off, then bed.

SUNDAY: Woke up latish and finally got outside to Regent's Park. Regent's Park is huge and totally lovely, and features large rose gardens with variety after variety planted and cared for and paintstakingly labeled. My favorite was the Wandering Minstrel rose, with the Sexy Rexy a close second. There was a great jazz combo playing in one of the outdoor theatres, and I sat on the lawn with some plays and suntanned and read and listened. The walk home was long, and Cassie and I made pasta for dinner. Then some architecture writing and researching, and bed.

MONDAY: Woke up for architecture class, followed by a quick and delicious omelette and chips lunch with Cassie at the local lunch establishment "The Snack Bar." We then made our way down to the newly-reopened Royal Festival Hall for a terrific private tour (during which we spent some quality time in the royal box). I wandered down to the Millennium Bridge to take photos and look around, then realized I'd forgotten my ticket for the evening's play, Pinter's "The Hothouse." A trek all the way back to Hughes Parry and then back to the South Bank frustrated my sense of efficiency, but thankfully "The Hothouse" was terrific: very funny and well-designed and generally well-acted. After the play, a small group of us went out to a nearby pub, where I had cider - CIDER IS GOOD. I have found something I like. Perhaps I like it because it tastes like Martinelli's sparking apple juice. Clearly my tastes are becoming more sophisticated. Another walk home and then... sleeping.

TUESDAY: A great discussion in theatre of "Torn" and "The Hothouse." In the afternoon interval I slept before making my way to the British Library for BL Round Two, which featured: the Magna Carta, the orignal Hallelujah Chorus musical score, letters from Jane Austen, Wilfred Owen hand-written poems, and SHAKESPEARE. Folios and first editions and little books o' sonnets published while he was alive. WHOA. Exhausting: I did not make it to the Historical Documents, America, Science, or Printing sections. Sheesh. Cassie and I walked down to the South Bank to see the British Film Institute's big-screen showing of "Apocalypse Now." The BFI center is yet another pearl in this strand: the South Bank is simply incredible. The National Theatre, the British Film Institute, the Royal Festival Hall, and the Tate Modern all within five minutes walking. It's sort of unfair, really. "Apocalypse Now" was great, and we exited the theatre just in time to see another performance of "H of D" taking place outside the National. Pretty interesting how one book can spark such different creative renditions. The walk home, which is becoming increasingly routine and in some ways very pleasing, then bed.

WEDNESDAY: Woke up for breakfast, then caught a train with Cassie and Jenny N. to Cambridge. The hour ride left us about a twenty-minute walk from central campus, where we met Marshall, who is spending the summer studying there through a really fantastic Yale program. He walked us through lawns which NO ONE WALKS ON and through lawns FOR CROQUET ONLY and lawns in which it was acceptable TO SIT ON THE EDGE. Ridiculous, but also utterly pristine. He sent us toward the river, where we lounged about while he finished a few things for class. We then reconvened and went to lunch, but only after Marshall had flashed his impressive "King's College pass" in order to get us in. Cambridge is odd: because it's such a tourist attraction, the colleges have very limited visiting schedules and charge admission. WHAT? Can you imagine Yale charging admission? To tourists? No way. I had my first (and perhaps last) run-in with fish and chips at the charming Copper Kettle cafe, and then... WE WENT PUNTING! King's College rented us a boat, which Marshall knew how to pilot, and off we went down the River Cam. Totally incredible. Cassie punted, and I punted, and by the end, I think I got the hang of it. The river was packed - young men sans shirts punting large groups of tourists, large groups of incompetent tourists trying to punt themselves, fathers who fell in trying to punt their families ("Don't leave your stick in the water"), etc, etc. Thank goodness Marshall knew what he was doing - I don't think we looked half bad most of the time. The river trip was actually sublime, and afterwards we had ice cream. Marshall had to go to a class, so we said goodbye and found ourselves a spot on a bridge to observe the river traffic. The sun and water and untouchable grass all came together to create a welcome change of scene. We strolled back to the train station through free-ranging cattle and free-ranging fields, and took the railroad home. Back to Hughes Parry once again, all Cambridged out.

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