Friday, July 22, 2011

towers, devils, and nooses





We left early for the Tower of London today. Just a few hundred years ago we would have left early for the Tower because we wanted to see some beheadings. Today we leave early to beat giant Austrian school groups. It was a nice day for the Tower - good weather, and the promise of some kind of stuffed lion exhibit inside. But I rarely go to the Tower with the group anymore; I've been there several times and I don't want to be the guy who hustles everyone through it too quickly, or complains about how the royal jewels are fake, or whispers the punchlines to jokes the Beefeaters are about to make on the tour. So I went out to take care of some errands, and Cherie and Daniel, also Tower vets, went with me.

We started in Piccadilly and took care of some play ticket switchings. Then we headed to "the City" to look for a museum I had read about. I put quotes around "the City" because "the City" of London is really tiny. The Roman wall tells us so. Everything not downtown is not, actually, London. It's Westminster, or Kensington, or any other number of places. And to be honest, "the City" is mostly a business district - so we don't go there much. But the architecture is amazing. It's these incredibly inventive modern structures interspersed with dour Victorian tenements. It's really fascinating. This area was heavily bombed in the war - but London re-emerged with some pretty amazing design.

On our way to the tube stop we ran into Josh and Greg, who had left the Tower and started walking to the Globe for our matinee. Unfortunately they were walking in the wrong direction. They told me that they would have eventually found it, and I agreed - once they had crossed Eastern Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, and the US. They would, eventually find it. But the miracle of it is that we ran into them at all. On a street downtown we never go to, in a neighborhood I don't really know, in a city of 8 million people, we all managed to find each other. And then have a Whopper.

We met up as a group today at the Globe for the matinee of Doctor Faustus. Even though it's by Christopher Marlowe, it's a perfect play for Shakespeare's Globe. While waiting in line for the show to start, we listened to this man (behind Daniel) talk a lot about Richard III.

And Casey and Heather tickled Zoe. video

And I did a special trick with my camera inside the Globe. video

This production was unlike anything I had seen there. It was full of movement and puppetry and magic. The costumes and design was spectacular. And the show was funny, wicked, and surprising. One of the best things I've ever seen there. I wish I could tell you what they put into this show, but it would be a giant spoiler, and it would also make my mother blush. The end scene shows Doctor Faustus being dragged to Hell, and Hell, as it turns out, is full of babies made from intestines who sing like a perky Tim Burton chorus. It was horrible and funny at the same time, and Arthur Darvill's performance as Mephistopheles was mesmerizing. I can't say enough about this show. A complete inspiration for me as a director. Here's a trailer for it, if that helps. Click here.
It's tough to follow that, which was clearly proved by the lecture we next attended at the National Theatre. I took the students there in preparation for Emperor and Galilean, which we are seeing tomorrow night. Its a doozy of a play, and I thought the lecture might be enlightening. Instead, it was super boring! It was just this frizzy haired Scandinavian woman who basically read from her notes. Luckily, just a half hour long.

And then we ate at EAT, the best name ever for a deli. And then it was time, again, for Regent's Park. We made it there in fine time, having travelled the same path last night. The weather threatened rain, but it held up for a while. The Beggar's Opera is a light opera written by John Gay. It was written in 1728, and it's one of those plays where characters stop and sing little ditties that have nothing to do with the plot. This production was fairly wacky. There were a lot of prostitutes and people swinging from nooses. At one point, Captain Macheath got his foot accidentally caught in a bedskirt. It took the actors a while to get him loose, and it was very funny. It was just a boisterous and bizarre production, and I'm still deciding whether I liked it. It didn't bore me, that's for sure. And Greg giggled through it, which made me laugh a lot. But our group seemed to be the only ones laughing at anything. A midget with a mask and a feather whip ran around stage and nobody even cracked a smile. What does it take, people? When the rain hit we just put up our umbrellas, which is technically against the rules of the theatre, but everyone did it. Mob rule! And it was fun to finish the show under umbrage. And with some hot chocolate. And a lot of bustiers on stage. Yikes!