27 January 2014

Online Hamlet: An Elizabethian theatre-goer in Shakespeare's Globe

To my delight the great playwright of our day, Mr. William Shakespeare, has written another play! This one is called Hamlet; a tragedy we are all told.  The great actor, Richard Burbage, has once again taken the starring role in this piece. I find him to be quite a talented player and am fascinated to see what he is able to do with Mr. Shakespeare's new work.  My companion does not, sadly, see this piece in a favourable light.  According to her, it appears to be very similar to M. Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, which has recently made rounds in the various theatres.  'How?!' I argue.  'A story of revenge, a murder, and even a character named Horatio' begins an answer.  I was determined to judge for myself and I am quite content with that decision.

The night of the play we crowded into the dirty and muddy grounds in front of the stage.  It has just recently rained and though it is not the most comfortable means, it is certainly an excellent way to view the players: tete a tete, almost.  I look around at the other merchants and nobles in the seats above looking down upon us as if we are nothing but lice on a dog, but I take no heed.  I am here to see Mr. Burbage and Shakespeare's thrilling new play.  The play begins.  Watchmen upon the watch see a ghost...the ghost of the murdered King!  The drums sound and the ghost appears unwilling to speak unless it is his son, the Prince Hamlet.  From there another tale of revenge, madness (real or played, I know not), duality, and even despair and confusion all play their part in this tale.

We, the audience, applauded Burbage, the rest of the players, and Shakespeare himself for this amazing tale of a young prince and his troubled state. ver, depending on the popularity of this play (and I do think it is one of Mr. Shakespeare's best) I wonder how or indeed if an aged Burbage would take this role.  The young Burbage of two and thirty years managed to convince me of his university ties. My companion still is not completely convinced of it's differences from Kyd's work, I will endeavour to change their mind.  Even the young lad cast as Ophelia put in a great deal of care in conveying the love that was forming for Hamlet and the madness that had overcome her.  At a moment, it appeared as Burbage was speaking directly to me as he contemplated life and death...'To be or not be..." that will indeed be the question.

01 January 2014

A year in review: 2013. Discovery of new delights

It was December in London 2012 and on the side of the red, double-decker bus passed me by was the face of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in an advertisement of The Hobbit.  Fast-forward to December 2013, the same, now familiar red, double-deckers pass by with Sir Ian McKellan and a gaggle of dwarves behind him advertising the second installment of this fantasy film.  I stopped, agog, looking at it go by...I had been here a year. Never before have I been able to, or have, mark the passage of time by one distinct thing.  Yes, a thing. That red bus and the faces of Freeman and McKellan urging me to see a movie. And, thus, began the reflection.

Ok, so this is the time of year we may become reflective.  Look upon the past year, make resolutions for the next year.  Never have I been inclined to do such things.  Now, at the end 2013, I find myself having that sense of reflection. Why? Well, I have had an eventful year, but I have had eventful years in the past.  Whatever factors have made me reflective, 2013 has been a year worthy of note, of reflection.  Yes, there have been some stressful, bad times, but overall quite memorable and delightful.

As I have mentioned, for an Anglophile, living in the UK (London in particular) can be like hitting the jackpot, and in my case it certainly was. The first few months in a small flat with a not-so-chatty or likable flatmate, forced me out every weekend to walk about and discover my new home.
The Southbank of the Thames on my walk to work
Walks along rivers have always been a favourite thing of mine--the Willamette, le Rhone et la Soane, the Charles--and having the Thames right at my doorstep (just about literally at that time) was a small blessing during those early months. Walks along the Southbank of the Thames allowed me to discover little gems like Battersea Park, and the Albert Embankment up to Shakespeare's Globe.  Public transportation also became my friend as I learned bus routes and Tube lines.
Regent's Park on a sunny day
 Beginning from Victoria station, I discovered places such as Regent's Park/Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath, two of best places in all of London, and rest of city bits I now navigate with utter confidence.
Hampstead Heath in the Fall
 I continue to discover new areas (Couch End and Kensington, for example), but the favs are still favs and often revisited.

London has also allowed my fancy as a theatre-goer to flourish and grow.  I had seen great London performances of Frankenstein and The Curious Incident in the Night Time via the National Theatre Live (NT Live) in the US and was able to review both plays, however, it is a different experience all together seeing the actual piece.  From my first attendance of Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand, I was hooked.  Seeing the likes of actors like Ken Stott and Laura Carmichal to Mark Gatiss and Tom Hiddleston on stage rather than on film or TV cannot be matched.  One realizes the talent and work that goes into the craft in a stage performance, and it is a priviledge to be in a city where not only new and growing actors, but established, well-known ones grace the stage.  It was indeed my intention to write reviews of each excellent play I have seen over the past year, but alas, life has gotten in the way.  There aren't enough hours in the day. Therefore, reviews for the likes of plays such as The Tempest, MacBeth, As You Like It, Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense, Coriolanus, and Richard II, have been delayed.

Union Music Store in Lewes
I've also expanded my musical taste and found new sounds to delight in.  The emerging and expanding, I might call it, genres of folk, country and americana, has also taken hold in England.  I discovered a fantastic little club in Camden called the Green Note, where they feature live jazz, world, blues and folk music.  I have enjoyed many a gig there and have discovered the wonderful sounds of Hatful of Rain, Jamie Freeman Agreement, The Self Help Group, Maz O'Conner, and Emily Baker. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the wonderful new people I have met in 2013 stemming from joining the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.  This society has a range of Holmes fans spanning from those who have been Holmesians for years to recent Sherlockians, and hitting many generations and age ranges: the power of the great detective to span several generations and hundreds of years.  How many figures, fictional or not, can do that?!  Society gatherings have allowed me to meet some
Travels along the Thames with the Sherlock Holmes Society of London
wonderful people who's interest and passion for all things Holmesian is as large (sometimes larger) than my own.

2013 has definitely been a memorable year.  Here's to 2014 being just as, and with any luck more, eventful and memorable as the previous one!

Next year, will be the third (and last) Hobbit advertisements to appear on the side of the London buses.  I wonder what kind of delightful things I will have done and discovered by then.  Bring it on!