Thursday, July 28, 2011

man is a giddy thing

My students last year responded so well to Hampton Court that I decided to bring the group this year as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m “auditioning” certain places to see if they’ll go into the study abroad roation. So congrats, Hampton Court, you just got called back!

The train ride to Hampton was really fun. The students were in good spirits, which is not unusual for this particular group. I love that. Robbie and Greg kept us entertained on the train, and I appreciate the fact that I can always count on them to do so. I tried to teach Greg how to be a good husband, now that his wife Bonnie is here with us. He didn’t respond very well to my advice. He has a lot to learn. Bonnie is great. She is in remarkably good spirits for someone who just made a huge cross-Atlantic flight and arrived to find her luggage gone. She’s wearing outfits culled together by other girls in the program and is handling that with a lot of positive spirit and patience. I’m impressed. If I got stuck wearing, say, Daniel’s shorts for days and days I would not be so amiable.

Hampton Court has a special theme every day. It’s a piece of history from the day in the life of Henry VIII. Last year, for example, Henry was getting married to his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr. Today things were not so rosy. Henry was suspecting the very same Catherine Parr of being a supporter of Catholicism. And since he has a history of killing wives, she, and we, were understandably nervous. So you follow these actors from room to room in the palace as they act out a little piece of history. These shows might actually be for kids, I’m not totally sure, but I love it. At one point the king took all the men into another room as his privy council, and he asked us for advice. Nobody really spoke up, so I suggested we “burn her at the stake” and Greg suggested she be drawn and quartered. The dangerous Earl of Wriothesley agreed with us. He liked our statements. In general, we participated so vocally and with such commitment that they started basically acting to us. Which just fanned the flame. Later, the queen was found innocent and we were acquitted for condemning her prematurely, even though we would have probably had our heads chopped off in 1546. The queen gave a lovely speech in which she assured us that she has “no opinions.”

Later I was walking through the royal bedchambers and the man next to me, looking at Henry's giant four-poster, said "I bet that could tell a story or two." And then he moved on.

The train coming home was mysteriously slow, and kept slowing and stopping randomly. The conductor tried to explain what was happening to us, but the intercom made him sound basically like Charlie Brown’s teacher. So we never figured out why it took so long. But we made the best of it. It made for a close shave getting to the show, but we all made it. I even had time to change into a spiffy shirt and re-apply some deoderant. I like being all fancy.

Tonight we saw Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate. David Tennant is famous for being Doctor Who, and Catherine Tate has her own sketch comedy show in the UK, though Americans don’t really know her. She was on an episode of The Office, though. She was interviewing for Michael’s position and kept changing her strategy and opinions to get the job. This production of Much Ado, was, for no good reason, set in the 80’s, and everyone was coming back from the Faulklands War. So there was a lot of George Michael outfits and Footloose-type music. And I didn’t really like it. I wanted to like it, it was high on my hope list, but it just felt really slow and indulgent to me. There were funny bits, but most of it was really scattered and poorly directed. Easily the worst show this year. For me. A lot of the students really loved it. So I’m glad for that. Can’t love them all. But next time don’t change time periods just so people can wear hot pants, and don’t have Claudio run around the stage crying and putting a gun in his mouth. That was so nerdy.