Culture, Life

Happy Tuesday, blog buddies, and let me apologize for my disappearing act over the past two weeks. I swear I have a good excuse, though – I just returned from a terribly exciting, relaxing and historical trip to London with my youngest brother, Kevin. (And I promise that I would have tipped my hand and told you all ahead of time, except that apparently in my 29th year I’ve grown somewhat paranoid and decided that it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to tell the interwebz that my house was going to be empty for two weeks…) I booked the trip on a whim after a bit of a life shakeup at the end of last year. Kevin is a writer who took a day job this year and decided to join me to take advantage of finally having a regular income. My favourite people know that I love solo travel, but this time it was so much fun to spend some time with my little brother as an adult and to have someone to laugh about shared nonsense with.

I probably won’t do a formal day-to-day recap of my trip – partially because it was just a lot of wandering around museums and streets, partially because I’m not sure that we’ve built the blog relationship where you care to hear about me sitting in nine different pubs to kill the hours between adventures. (Yes, we averaged almost one pub per day. It was pretty impressive.) I will be dropping tidbits/anecdotes here and there, though, as we return to our regularly scheduled blogging. But for today? How about a few highlights?

Tower of London

1) Did you know that people live in the Tower of London?! This has been the first thing I’ve said to absolutely everyone who has asked me about my trip because it still blows my mind. The Yeoman Warders (“Beefeaters”… yes, the uniformed men who give hourly tours – they are not “just” tour guides at all) are actually Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard formed by Henry VII and the 37 Yeoman Warders and one Chief Warder that compromise this military group actually live at the Tower of London with their families! The Chief Warder lives in the Queen’s House… literally, her house at the Tower because it is still an active Royal Palace. There is also a doctor, chaplain and the Resident Governor living on site. I had been to the Tower of London before, but somehow this fact slipped my notice before and Kevin and I just could not stop marveling over it.

pub

2) The system of ordering in British pubs is quite different from Canadian ones, and really wonderful. Jetlagged and starving at 9 pm on our first day there, it did take us probably far too long to figure out how things were done but once we did, we were hooked. Essentially, the system in the pubs cuts out the middleman and takes a lot of the pressure off of sitting for too long or not ordering food – you can do everything on your own time. For those who don’t know (and to save you the jet-lagged confusion that I experienced), when you enter a pub proceed directly to the bar to order and pay for your drink of choice. Bring this drink to the best possible table and enjoy it (and maybe one or two more!) with your friends and conversation. If you decide to do food with your drink (and please keep in mind that there is never any obligation to do so… you’ll probably notice that most of the tables around you aren’t eating), bounce back up to the bar to order and pay for your food. In a small bar, you’ll just indicate to the bartender what table you’re at; in a bigger one, they may give you some sort of table marker. The best part of all? When you’re done with your evening, you can just leave… no waiting for the cheque because you already paid!

airbnb

3) AirBnB is always worth it. I’ve done AirBnB before but other people have always done the actual renting and I’ve just tagged along. We rented a lovely little flat in Kennington owned by a very charming and friendly gentleman, and it could not have gone smoother! It was so nice to have a private, relaxing home base in which to kick back in the evenings and to enjoy some cereal in the mornings. I think the cereal is what saved us from getting tired of restaurants on this trip!

wicked

4) If you are really thrifty and clever, you can see two professional West End shows in one day for less than forty pounds. In our case, a Wicked matinee for 17.50 and an evening showing of The Woman in Black for 12.50. It was our second last day and was absolutely thrilling.
I think that may be enough for this Tuesday… but I have so many more rambles and pictures so I’m sure you’ll see more pop up soon…

Culture

This is probably the second most common question I get asked, usually right after I say that I don’t do film, just theatre. (Note: I probably would do film, given the opportunity, but theatre has always been my focus. In part because I love to do the entire journey in one go, in part because I love the energy exchange that comes with having the audience right there with you while you do the work.) I suspect that what most people are asking, even if they can’t put words to it, is “Do you do musicals, Shakespeare plays or just plays?” I usually try to break it down a little more than that, without getting too ramble-ly because, really, who wants to get lectured by someone they just met? But lemme break it down for you.

The Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare

I do love Shakespeare. There is something so freeing about telling big stories and feeling big emotions in a way that never seems appropriate to do in “real life”. I mean, how often do you actually get to keen in your day-to-day? How often do you get to make pithy sexual remarks or craft oddly specific insults or choose the perfect Classical reference to describe exactly how screwed over you are? It’s like a puzzle, finding all the nuance and allusions in Shakespeare’s lines and then figuring out exactly how to communicate that to a modern audience who isn’t sitting in the audience with a dictionary and a mythology reference book.

It is important to remember, though, that Shakespeare isn’t the only classical playwright in the world and there are other plays out there that are just as bombastic, descriptive and stirring. Classical Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Aristophanes wrote comedies and tragedies about great women and men in Greek “history” who met their fate in spectacular ways – Oedipus gouging out his eyes after discovering he had murdered his father and slept with his mother, anyone? You could also take in a tragedy written by Christopher Marlowe – one of Shakespeare’s rivals who was largely considered the greatest tragedian of their time and is rumoured to have actually written Shakespeare’s plays. Or you could read a George Bernard Shaw play and luxuriate in his descriptive stage directions. There’s some pretty cool stuff out there.

What Pushes Are We Wenches Driven To?

Contemporary Theatre

On the flip side, I have a real soft spot for theatre that’s been written in the past 20-or-so years. I saw Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things when I was 16 years old and it just blew my mind that theatre could be like this. It was raw, it was immediately accessible… the lines were simple but there was so much underneath them. Like good tv, good contemporary theatre is like your life but elevated. Only the good parts are picked out. There are absolutely still epic, sprawling plays being written (and Classical works are being adapted all the time) but, as my current director put it at rehearsal last night, there is an ever growing trend in theatre of plays being written like movies – all smash cuts from one scene to the next and real life playing out right in front of your eyes. The air in the theatre is electric during the climactic scene.

Good contemporary theatre makes me feel the way every 14 year old theatre kid feels when they discover Rent for the first time.

By the way, The Shape of Things is also a film starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz – people tend to either love the show or think it is terribly overrated, so watch it and decide for yourself.

Shakespeare's Heroines

Collective Creation

Collective creation – a bunch of theatre artists get together with some sort of inspiration (A vague concept? A piece of literature? A striking photograph?) and write, move and brainstorm to create a show together. There could be a cohesive storyline or it could be a serious of snapshotted moments. There could be music, dance, improvisation, projections, it could even tour through different locations. A collective creation can look like anything the creative team imagines it to look like… that’s the beauty of theatre.

My theatre company does a ton of collective creation work. I know so many beautiful, talented women, and we can never find a pre-existing show with enough good roles for ladies that speaks to us the way we want it to. So we make our own plays. Maybe they aren’t always as polished or good as The Shape of Things or A Midsummer Night’s Dream but they are ours. They are honest, they are raw, and they are genuine. And they are always getting better.

So. As always, this is not a comprehensive list, it is wildly personal, but that’s the type of theatre I do. If you ask me in person, I’ll try to give you the short version. If you ask me on the internet, I may just refer you to this blog post…

What types of theatre do you love the most? What do you wish you could see done more?