Monday, February 4, 2013

London -- Part I: Arrival and two theatre geeks

Because D#2 was studying in London last fall, we made plans for D#1 and me to join her after her semester ended so all of us could spend Christmas in London!  As a bonus, my "baby" brother decided to join us for part of the week, including the holiday. I had a few days vacation I could use, so I flew over a couple of days before the others could join me.  Because my flight was overnight, arriving in London at 6:00 am local time (1:00 in exhausted-body-time), I wanted required a nap once I managed to find my darling daughter who had been much missed for months!  After a nap and a look around Queen Mary College, her abode for that time, we hopped the Tube,

and headed off to a late afternoon concert at St. Martin's in the Field near Trafalgar Square.

(not my photo)
Or so we thought.  Seems that I'd read the schedule wrong and there was no concert at that time, but we did get to peek into the sanctuary and hear some musicians and singers practicing for a later date.  In the basement is the "Cafe in the Crypt", where we had a bite to eat before deciding on "Plan B."

(also not my photo)

As my energy was flagging, we decided to wrap up early, following a quick trip to the nearby National Gallery to view the impressionist collection there as D#2 and I are both "fans" of these painters.  The collection includes Degas, Manet, many Monets, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Pissaro, and Seurat, including several studies for the famous "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."

(not this one either)
We returned to our hotel, actually a "serviced apartment" with two beds, two baths, a full kitchen, and a living area with a pair of couches, where I crashed -- almost literally.  Since there would be four of us, this was a great option!  We had plenty of room so we weren't on top of each other, and the kitchen made it easy to have our breakfast in the room, as well as store assorted snackage, including some tasty ciders!

Saturday started with a walk from our hotel to the Globe, that is, the re-creation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.  While D#2 had had the opportunity to see both "Richard III" and "Twelfth Night", the season had ended some weeks before, as it is an outdoor theatre, as it was in the early 1600's.  However, there is a permanent exhibition about the history of theatre in general and other entertainments that had been confined to the South Bank, as they were outlawed in the city of London. The exhibit then relates what is known about the original Globe and details the lengths to which the productions go in order to be as much like those presented in Shakepeare's time.  Not only are all the parts played by men, but even the costumes are all hand-sewn, and made entirely of natural fibers!

When we had finished viewing the exhibit, we got a tour of the theatre! 

The stage:

Painting in one of the theatre boxes

This signboard shows the mileage to the many places that sent productions to be performed during the time of the Olympics in 2012.  All of Shakespeare's plays were performed by at least one company, 37 productions in all.  An American company from Chicago sent a hip-hop Othello, that was one of the hits of the "season." 

.The wrought-iron gates depict every plant and animal named in Shakespeare's plays.

 With St. Paul's straight ahead on the other side of the Thames, we strolled across Millennium Bridge (aka "The Wobbly Bridge").

Yes, that's a photo of me.   I made a deal with D#2 that she could take my picture outside every church we visited.  And we saw a LOT of churches on this trip!   Fish and chips for lunch at the Centre Page pub right on the walkway.

Our next stop was St. Paul's Covent Garden, aka "The Actors' Church", which was designed by Inigo Jones, architect and theatrical scene designer.  Built in 1633, it houses the ashes of Dames Ellen Terry and Edith Evans, as well as memorials to (among others) Vivien Leigh, Boris Karloff, Laurence Harvey, Robert Shaw, Stanley Holloway (the original Alfred P. Doolittle of "My Fair Lady"), and playwrights Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan.  Once again, we were privileged to be able to hear a few minutes of rehearsal of Christmas music.

The most famous view of the church is the rear, which is quite plain. 

The entrance faces a lovely garden, with benches for rest and meditation, weather permitting. 

London celebrates Christmas as part of the "Festive Season", which seems to have no religious boundaries.  We saw decorations and lights everywhere we looked.  These are Christmas lights in and around Covent Garden:

We took a short hike -- in the rain, it seemed like a hike -- to Charing Cross Road in search of the plaque commemorating Marks & Co., the bookstore that had been made famous in Helene Hanff's book, "84 Charing Cross Rd."

Then on to the Royal Haymarket Theatre to see "One Man, Two Guv'nrs", which had both of us in tears from laughing! 

From the recreated 17th century Globe, to the touching intimacy of the Actors' Church, to the farcical play, my first full day in London had been a theatre-lover's dream!

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