I’m behind on reporting on shows because rather than blogging about them, I’ve been writing papers for class. I’ll spare you the six page critical analysis, but here are some of the highlights. (School papers are available upon request ;))
Kristin Scott Thomas headlines as The Queen in a speculated retelling of her weekly meetings with prime ministers throughout her reign. This play was doubly interesting because I got to see a good piece of theatre and also learn a lot about British history and government. I went to the Trooping of the Colour earlier in my trip, which is a parade celebrating The Queen’s “official” birthday. As she rode by in her horse-drawn carriage, she was applauded, and a woman behind me even exclaimed, “we love you, Queen Elizabeth!” After witnessing that, it was special to learn about the person behind the fanfare. How difficult it must be to have been born into a life in the spotlight.
The Elephant Man
As you may know, Bradley Cooper stars as John Merrick, aka the elephant man — a man who was born with several deformities. Rather than covering Cooper in prosthetics, he transforms his own appearance by distoritng his body in various ways. What’s really exciting is the audience gets to see this transofmration. At the beginning, Bradley Cooper, the actor, stand still on stage. As we view a slideshow of photographs of the real John Merrick, a doctor explains the various deformities, and as each part is described, Cooper adjusts his frame. He stays that way for the full show, and by the curtain call, I forgot I was watching a famous movie star. It was a truly stunning performance.
Beaux Stratagem at the National Theatre
On Monday my Intro to Theatre class took a field trip to the National Theatre for a backstage tour. The NT is, in fact, three theatres (4, if you count their temporary theatre) that all serve different purposes. One is inspired by a colosseum in Rome, but rather than being 180 degrees, it is 118 degrees because that’s the exact measurement of peripheral vision. Apparently, Lawrence Olivier, who was integral in designing the theatre, suffered from stage fright and felt actors would feel better if they could see each audience member. The other two main theatres were the more typical proscenium and blackbox, with the blackbox having a second floor seating as well.
The NT is the powerhouse that fights for experimental theatre. Its goal is to preserve the classics, but also develop new work. Unlike smaller theatres that produce new theatre, their resources are vast. For example, the costumes are historically accurate, right down to the undergarments. Any paintings of a character in a play is painted to look exactly like the actor, and a backup is painted to look like the understudy. We got to see where all of these design elements are produced, and it is incredible to think of the number of hands that touch each show.
That night we saw Beaux Stratagem, a restoration play revival, in the Olivier Theatre. It took me awhile to catch on to the language, but once I did, it was a delightfully entertaining show, featuring a five-piece folk band. I particularly enjoyed seeing some exciting stage combat.
I later learned that the original production of Beaux Stratagem opened in 1707 at the same theatre we saw The Elephant Man. Full circle experience!
I’ve been seeing so many plays and have obviously been enjoying them, but last night I was at home. There are some productions where I’m reminded of why I’m pursuing this crazy life of musical theatre, and this was one of them. Rose was played by Imelda Staunton, and for my Harry Potter fans, you may know her as Professor Umbridge. Wow, talk about a big voice coming out of one tiny lady! Her take on “Rose’s Turn” is confirmation that musical theatre is certainly not fluff and the performers are still actors.
The magic was only lessened by a group of four or five middle aged women (probably drunk) who felt the need to yell out the lyrics with Staunton. During “Rose’s Turn.” It’s her turn. Seriously, if you know a show well enough to know the lyrics, then you should know better. The theatre is not the same as a rock concert.
Anyway, I had the honor of meeting her at the stage door after, and she signed my ticket. (I gave up buying programs at each show when The Elephant Man program was 10 pounds — ugh!). No picture, though, because she says she doesn’t like selfies, which is understandable.
Tomorrow we’re seeing Death of a Salesman, which is the last show I’m seeing as part of my class. Don’t worry, I’ll still be seeing more theatre because my mom is joining me in less than a week! Stay tuned 🙂