Friday, July 24, 2009
Stratford and Beyond
We had an overnight trip to Stratford on Avon, a.k.a. the Home of the Bard. Bill Shakespeare's haunts. It was quaint and lovely. A bit toursity, but what can you expect...it's probably their only means of income.
We saw two productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Julius Caesar and A Winter's Tale. Of the two, I preferred the latter, although I felt the script is better in Julius Caesar. Caesar involved a lot of projections for the set, which some were done well, and others were not. They made use of several rotating screens on the floor and projected on them to make is look like an entire army was on the stage, and frankly, I thought that worked well. There was also a large screen over the stage floor which projected many different images, none of which worked in my opinion. But Winter's Tale was much better. The bear...priceless. The scenes before had taken place in the castle of Scilia, of course, where Leontes has charged Autolycus to take the new born babe Perditia to a far away land and abandon it. Autolycus takes the babe to Bohemia, and the next scene is him disembarking from a ship onto the shores just as a storm hits. He lays the baby down, gives it a blessing, and then as he's about to walk back to the ship, he's eaten by a bear. Well, the way they did it was as follows: the set in the castle had two large bookshelves. When the scene shifts to the seashore, the bookselves tip over, dropping about 1000 book onto the stage. The scenes from there on out are constructed of books (trees have pages for leaves, stumps and rocks are piles of books, etc.) The bear was an enormous puppet constructed of pages (it came on from backstage) and hit two glowing eyes. Very well done. Cheers to the RSC.
The gentleman who played Caesar and also Leontes (the shows have the same cast as they are done in repetory) must have a kick-ass agent. He wasn't really that good. He had all the stage prescence of a chorusboy and projected his voice like he was choking on something. Very disappointing...almost laughable. But the gentlman playing Marc Antony was stellar. The famous "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" speech made sense to me as it never had before. Kudos to him.
Anyway, the rest of Stratford was taken up with nice shops and various places related to Shakespeare. I saw the room where he was most likely born, his house, and the place where he died. I also saw his grave, where you were allowed to take pictures. So I did. Holy Trinity Church is under renovations (as is everything in London as they get ready for the Olympics in 2012) but it was still very quaint and a tasteful giftshop in the back. It cost 50p to see the grave. I'd pay that and more just for the pictures of the hammerbeam ceiling.
We also got to see the newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare. It is the original from which all the others were copied, and believed to be the only one painted of Shakespeare when he was alive, and that he actually sat for it. More information on it can be found here. It's painted on wood, and yes, the wood is spliting.
Today was filled with more museum hopping and viewing of a design exhibition. I went to the Cabinet War Rooms today. While walking through them and taking pictures (you're encouraged to take them here...a real change from other London Museums), I kept thinking about what it was like to have your city bombed over head. I also though about how London is like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles all rolled up into one. I also wished that my dad was alive and going through it with me. I'm sure he was, though. He would have really enjoyed seeing that. I'll just have to make sure that I take Max to many places like this when he gets old enough.
I've really been missing my boy over the last several days. It's hard to be gone from him for so long. I have no idea how the service men and women do it on deployment. My heart goes out to them and their families.
I did buy one fun thing for myself....a Harris Tweed gent's hat! I've been wanting something to wear to church or the theatre for when its raining or snowing badly, and I've always had my eye on them. There was a woolen store going out of business in Stratford, so I got one for a deal. It should last the rest of my life if it's properly taken care of.
Well, that's about it for now. One more picture to leave you with.Please, Hammer, don't hurt 'em!