Sunday, August 09, 2009

warwick, wax, and wonders

Day 2 of Stratford, and how I love waking up to the full English breakfast at the Victoria Spa. It’s ham, it’s eggs, it’s mushrooms, it’s tomatoes, it’s toast, it’s the only thing that gets me out of my comfortable attic bed. I see all the students stumbling down the stairs, hair messy, looking scowly, and by the time they have finished breakfast they are perky and looking much more animated. Such is the magic of the Victoria Spa.

We headed into town to do the Shakespeare run. I am happy to report that the Shakespeare Museum/Birthplace has undergone a high-tech revamp! You go through these magical doors and there are three rooms with HD video presentations about the life of Shakespeare. And you know it’s time to move to the next room because the bell rings and the next doors open. Certain objects in the room light up when they are being referred to in the video. It’s very Disney and I was very impressed. I know where my money is going. Ian McKellan and Juliet Stevenson narrate. Inside of the birthplace I see that tour guide that I always see, he of the distinctive head size, and he always assumes we are from BYU. But outside of the birthplace we saw more performances this year – last year it was a youngish couple doing Much Ado, but this year it was a middle-aged man doing the Seven Ages of Man from As You Like It. It was great!

We visited the town council, and we visited John and Susanna’s house – with my favorite garden in England. I had a scone with clotted cream while the students toured the house. Then they all came out, and several did cartwheels on the lawn. I found a dead bumblebee. Following this, we went to St. Trinity to see Shakespeare’s grave. I haven’t actually gone up to the grave the last few years because it costs 50p and I know what it looks like. But I went this year – it felt like time. No new impressions or anything, but I liked the way the stained glass reflected on the floor.

Hyrum and Jason and I ate some delicious food (OK, McDonalds) on a bridge over the river Avon, and then we hurried back to the coach, only to find that most of the other students were lost. But we found them. Well, everyone but Anna-Marie. But she turned up eventually as well. And then we headed to Warwick Castle.

Warwick Castle is a great time if you like wax figures, hand to hand combat, an old guy who catches rats and beats a drum, owls, and a rose garden that doesn’t really have roses in it. We had fun there. I like going around the Georgian rooms and pretending that the wax figures are plotting a murder. I found the hidden monkey pretty easily this year. It was by the lamp!

In the dungeon we spotted wax characters that looked like Joel Petrie and Richard Newman, but could not find the Mark Oram character we found last year. We also followed a big pack of Russians, and I couldn’t resist a shot of this lady:
This lady judged Ashley as inappropriately dressed for a Georgian party:

Much better, Ashley! And who's your date? Arthur Conan Doyle?

Looks like Sara's date may be a little awkward:
There was a sad moment at the Princess Tower when Melissa, Ashley, and Sara were turned away for being too old to come inside. Melissa was given the cold shoulder when she tried to join the Duck-Duck-Goose ring. And the travails continued further when Ashley and I both bought mint chocolate ice cream, but were given quite different scoop sizes:

But we enjoyed the aviary, even if they messed up all the eagles. And we sat by the river and fed some ducks, who eventually came up and bit our fingers. And we watched the Trebuchet shoot the flaming ball – because if you don’t watch the Trebuchet it’s like going to the Stadium of Fire and leaving before the fireworks. Incidentally, they have added a new part in the trebuchet act where a guy throws up and gets a bucket of water poured on him. Throughout this, a giant white swan prowled through the crowd, scaring people and hissing for food.

We made it back safely to London, and though most of the group was tired from the trip, Jason and I headed to the National Theatre for the BFI Friday Films. You sit on the roof of the National and they project these classic films on the side of the building. The screen is probably 50 feet tall. It’s fun. We wanted to go because tonight they were showing Momma Don’t Allow, a film about dangerous teens in 1956 going to the Wood Green Jazz Club. But before the film we got to see Mathew Robins’ Flyboy and the Haunted Horse. This is a “shadow opera” performed in front of and projected onto the giant screen while Robins and his band plays. Here are some clips:

We find out first that Fly-boy works occasionally at a butcher shop:

We find out that the butcher shop is haunted by the ghost of a horse:

We find out that the horse's wife is not a ghost, she's a seal. Then this beautiful memory:

When it came time for Momma Don’t Allow, the sound didn’t work. So it was a big silent black and white jazz film. But we didn’t care. It was a nice night up on the roof, and most of the audience just stayed and chatted. I think we all agreed it was worth it to see a ghost horse dancing with a seal.