Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 starts now

I didn't sleep much on the plane over. This has something to do with the fact that I never sleep that great on planes, despite druggery. It may also have something to do with The Clash of the Titans, a movie so ridiculous and yet so paralyzing at the same time. It's odd, if you think about it, to watch a computer enhanced movie about Greek Gods on a six inch screen 33,000 feet above the Atlantic at 2:00 am. These are strange days.

London is, as ever, London in mid-July. It's a constant morphing of weather, so you never know how to dress. I spent most of the day slightly cool, but never enough to put something else on. At any time I can develop odd bouts of sweating, and the less said of that the better, but I do not want to take my chances in London humidity. So I'm keepin' it cool!

I wanted to sleep for about ten hours when I got to Metrograte and checked in, but Alex Ungerman, who arrived yesterday, was having none of it. So I unpacked my stuff, showered, and then we headed out. Metrograte, incidentally, is where I stayed my first year of study abroad in 2006. It's closer to Hyde Park, and just off of Gloucester Road. So it's a little bit of a homecoming, though I did get used to Manson Place and miss it a little. My room this year is roughly half the size of my room last year, which was roughly half the size of the year before. It's a worrying trend. But when I think I'm feeling cramped I just pretend I'm Gene Kelly in American in Paris, with his shoebox table and Murphy Bed and then I do a little dance. Anyway, when I think of my first summer at Metrogate I remember when a bird flew into my open window and sat on my bed and watched me get out of the shower. Yikes!

Alex and I bought tickets to see The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Theatre. The Donmar is great because it's incredibly intimate. It's where I saw The Chalk Garden and Streetcar Named Desire and something I else I cannot remember no matter how hard I try. Because today was the final matinee performance it was sold out, but we got standing tickets. You still see everything great, you just stand to do it. This was actually a good idea, since I would have otherwise fallen asleep. Not that the play was boring, but jet lag is a beast. So we stood and sometimes I hunched over, and sometimes i pulled my shoes on and off, and sometimes I shot stink eyes at all the greedy old people who bought up all the tickets and then talked through the show. One old lady at intermission asked the ticket counter if they could tell the cast to "speak up." And I knew that this was the most pointless request ever, but I didn't say anything. In the end, I liked The Late Middle Classes. It didn't set me on fire or anything, but I admired the work. It's all about this repressed English family in the 50's and who take turns playing this grand piano and accusing each other of things.

Alex and I had errands, which involved getting my phone topped up and buying awesome new trousers at H&M. We also wandered a bit around Kensington, and found some cool back alleys and a back street where you can see how 18th Century Inn Stables have been turned into Jaguar dealerships. It never fails to amaze me how the streets of Kensington can be so quiet and removed even though they are barely removed from the busy High Street. There is probably some kind of magical insulation. Some kind of Mary Poppins double glazing going on.

This was my dinner at Wagamamas. Have a looksee:

At 9:30 we went to see Carmen Funebre, a play by the same Polish company who did Macbeth on stilts a few years ago. We got there at 9 so we could be first in line, which we basically were. So we got the best seats, which were benches. This company performs outdoors, so we were in an enclosed space outside of the National Theatre. This show was all about Bosnian refugees and dictators, but mostly it was about running around in terror while giant orange men with Zarahelma breastplates on 4 foot stilts snapped whips. Scary! Sometimes the stilted men were poor beggars with clanking money jars, and one time they wore death masks and purple robes and threw a bunch of shirts around. One time a group of the male actors drank wine (seriously I bet it was grape juice) and then spit it all over this lady. And another time they had little lit-up Japanese paperhouses which they tied to balloons and let go, to symbolize the loss of their dreams. The show was visually stunning. There was all of this relentless metronomic chamber music which kept us sort of hypnotized. I loved it. At the end they basically lit the set on fire and let it burn down while we watched. Which seemed a little ironic, because they kept talking about what a poor little Polish theatre troupe they were and yet they burn their set down night after night. I think they could make better financial choices.

Here they are in action:

Immediately following Carmen Funebre we saw The Great Gandini juggling troupe, which was also fantastic. The Gandini's are a group of 9 English hipsters who wear tight suits and juggle apples to old songs from the 30's and 40's about bananas and linden trees. They don't really talk. As the show progresses they do more and more daring feats with their apples until the apples are everywhere, and it starts to resemble a giant fountain of apples. Then they sort of lose it, and they start yelling "rubbish" and "get a proper job" at each other. Then they lay out a bunch of tea cups and trays, juggle them, and then smash them all up. Somewhere in here is a terrific message about the snooty middle class, but I mostly enjoyed watching the mess being made. It was really terrific juggling!

here they are in action:

photos and video courtesy Alex Ungerman