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Shopping in London, St Paul's Cathedral, and Romeo and Juliet

London, United Kingdom

Hey guys. Unfortunately, I didn't take my memory card out of my computer, so all the pictures I took today are on the internal memory of my camera, and I didn't bring the cord... the long and short of it is I took pictures, but I can't get them on my computer unfortunately.

Today was a bit slower. I think the fervor of OMGWEREINLONDONANDWEONLYHAVEALITTLETIMESOLETSDOITALLRIGHTNOW is kind of wearing off, thankfully. Carly and I spent from 10:30 - 2:00 shopping in Covent Gardens while Mom and Dad took a canal tour. I bought some fashion basics that I know will help be blend in at Dublin: A elastic, thick belt with a decorative buckle, a knit slouch cap, a stretchy black half-vest, and a plaid button down. All of these have shown up so many times, I felt out of place not owning one. The leggings here are not so much tights, but more like tight pants. They're of a more sturdy material which hovers between the definition of hosiery and skinny jeans, and they extend right to the ankle. I hadn't seen any like them back in the States. We window shopped a bit more, and I'm loving the fashion here so much that I think I'll start making sketches of my favorite clothing just to remember it. Drapery is very in (something I could stand to work on in my doodles anyway... might as well have fun doing it!).

We met up with Mom and Dad and took the underground over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I couldn't help but think of the Mary Poppins song, "Feed the Birds." Early each day to the steps of St. Paul's/the little old bird woman comes/in her own special way to the people she calls/come by my bags full of crumbs. I even had tuppence in my pocket at the time :) Cathedrals are a beautiful place to think. You mind seems to soar up into the domes and fills the great, echoing space between the marble and stained glass. It's a very heightened feeling, which is exactly what the architect, Christoper Wren wanted to evoke. He thought St. Paul's was a place were Heaven and Earth communed. Well, Carly and I climbed pretty close to Heaven if that's a fact. We went almost all the way up the 2nd largest unsupported dome (1st is St. Peter's Basilica) to get a great view of downtown London. For some reason there is a lot of construction going on and the skyline is peppered with cranes.

Afterwards, we took a rather roundabout way to the spot where the Globe Theatre used to stand. Now there is a replica of Shakespeare's most famous playhouse. We had a five course meal at the Swan Restaurant before heading to a performance of Romeo and Juliet. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this performance. (Once again, dramatic critic hat coming on, ignore if you may).

This performance weaved in the comedic and the tragic elements of the piece seamlessly together. Many characters were double-cast in order to support a round 15 or so players upon the boards. The theatre was slight thrust, but with mostly arena type seating, giving some people really bad seats... well they couldn't have been worse than the groundlings who stood throughout the 3 hour performance. So glad I had a seat. There was a spiral staircase upstage, a trap door downstage, and three entrances on both the first and second levels.

Faithful to real Shakespearean plays, their set was very sparse while the costumes and props were elaborate. The casting was color blind which made for a very interesting combination of characters onstage. The lighting was real candles as well as natural light which dimmed as the play went on. Music in the play guided the audience's mood through the somewhat murky passages that the regular audience member's attention might have strayed since however well the actor did speaking the speech, the language was a bit too dense for easy comprehension in some places, and that's where you'd hear bells, chimes, lutes, trumpets, drums, or other renaissance instruments of which I don't know the names. There was also a quartet of men who sang beautiful harmonies during transitions, festive scenes, and even while the audience was taking their seats at the beginning. It was a great way to end the play too. The tragic ending, though with an uplifting note of reconciliation still left the audience with sadness until the quartet and the rest of the company serenaded us with a bittersweet but hopeful song while taking their bows. The sword fights were honestly the BEST I'd ever seen. You barely knew it was choreography. Swords clashed instead of alighted only to make a scraping noise. Stage blood was used. Anticipation of blows never happened. And it was quick! I could barely follow the action. It always bothered me that Mercutio (my favorite character) had been wounded under Romeo's arm, but in this play, it was totally believable... since it happened in a split second!

The acting... oh the acting. It was fabulous. I've rarely seen better. I have felt a bit ashamed of my sometimes harsh criticism of Peter Pan a few posts back, but this play reminded me of what real acting can do, and how it should feel. Even the bit parts were memorable. I fell in love with Peter (the nurse's man) of all people! He was splendidly dull-witted and loud. The nurse herself really made the talkative old busy-body come to life. Lady Capulet was so multifaceted!!! I'd never seen so much depth in her character! Is it a often done thing to make it so that she's having an affair with Tybalt? Because she certainly was all over him at the feast, as well as weeping bitterly after his death. It really added a charge to the scene where Capulet loses his temper at Juliet. It's obvious that he's just found out about the affair but can only loose his spleen on his daughter rather than his wife. Lady Capulet was a cougar... but one with a heart. I really, really liked her. Benvolio was sexy. I always just thought of him as the reluctant party-er and peacekeeper, usually making sure Mercutio stayed out of trouble. He was absolutely hilarious in this one! Maybe because Romeo didn't play up the lovey-dovey side of his character, Benvolio had more latitude to be rough and entertaining. The scene where Mercutio and Benvolio are looking for Romeo after the feast was the funniest part of the play. They were both plastered, making each other laugh, Benvolio kept falling asleep, and they acted out everything they were saying on one another. So. Freaking. Funny. Mercutio is my fav, and I am hard on my favs. He wasn't as high class as I thought a cousin to the Prince should act which kind of gives him the flair of a nobleman who can roll in the mud with the pigs but pick himself up the next second to outclass you right there on the spot. He was more the prodigal son, with money but likes to act like a frat boy. Oh well, he played the interpretation splendidly (he entered with his pants down, when Tybalt threatened him with a sword, he made a jerking off gesture on it, and he even kissed the nurse full on the lips), it just didn't fit with mine.

Tybalt looked exactly as I pictured him, and was an excellent fighter. The bit parts, like I said were fabulous, like the Apothecary, the Musicians, and Paris (played as a gangly fop who hugged everyone, overstayed his welcome, and smiled foolishly when not being told what to do). Friar Lawrence was younger than I had imagined, but was more Romeo's friend than a father figure. And as for the star-crossed-lovers, I honestly don't think they could have found a better Juliet. She could speak iambic pentameter so gracefully, she had the stature of a young girl, the wide doe eyes, pale skin, and long black hair of Italian nobility. She was so moving in her speeches. She had such life and passion, as well as guileless, innocent love that drove her to such extents. Her decision making was well played out (quite a feat since Juliet goes through so many massive transformations) and the scene in which she thinks Romeo had died was so very moving, as well as right before she takes Friar Lawrence's drought. Romeo, I wasn't sure about at first. He must be a dancer because he literally skipped around the stage sometimes. He was light on his feet anyway, but it was well-played. I always thought that Romeo was being so emo when he collapsed on the floor in Friar Lawrence's cell after he hears that he's banished, but seeing his performance, it was so obvious that he should that it didn't look out of place to me at all. The certainty of Romeo and Juliet's love and the force with which they pursued it carried the play. Honestly, sincerely, this was a fantastic work of theatre. I can't haven't even told about the procession through the audience with Juliet's body, or the ease and flow of the transitions jaw-dropping costumes, and yet it's 2 o'clock in the morning here and I have a bus tour to get to tomorrow.

I'll try to come back with an accent, Kristen. I've already mastered a semblance of an English one if Lizzy's judgment is sound. I have seen street performers, from musicians to gymnasts. They're all superb!

Thanks for reading, guys! Sorry again for no photos.

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 18, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
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OMG the play sounds absolutely fantastic, and by your critique, I know it must be!! I really hope I have a chance to see it next summer. Say hi to the family for me!

permalink written by  Christina Bauer on August 18, 2009

Lady paaaaants! London still sounds like a blast, yay! And about your ques. in regards to Lady Capulet and Tybalt having an affair; I'm not sure if they've ever done that in the Romeo and Juliet performances that I've seen (and I've seen A LOT of them) but in the movie with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, that was definitely something they played up. So I think it is implied in the play, but not often utilized in performances.

The blog is lovely, the pictures are great. Keep it up!

permalink written by  eroemer on August 19, 2009

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Kelsey Ingle Kelsey Ingle
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I'm a junior at Knox College studying abroad for a semester in Dublin, Ireland at the Gaiety School for Acting.

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