Week 9: When the Fun Comes Winding Down

Hello! This is my second to last personal blog post of the term. That’s kind of intense. Not that this post will be intense, but just that it’s sort of crazy to be able to categorize an experience like this by counting to 10. But here I am. Number 9 of 10. That feels weird to say.

Anyway, this week overall was pretty unspectacular as far as things I did. Since the term was winding down, the work I had to do was winding up. Most days I spent inside either catching up on work or pretending to catch up on work. That didn’t keep me from doing cool things though, as some of the shows we watched this week were really fantastic.

Monday started off as nothing special. I needed to complete three period styles posts this week so I did one on Monday. To do that, I wanted to get some photos of Georgian architecture, so I wandered myself off and came back. All in all, nothing too special. I did see a Rolls Royce in the square I went to. So that was cool. But mostly it was educational, but I did enjoy having some time to myself to wander around.

That night we saw Woyzeck with John Boyega (from the new Star Wars trilogy). The play originates from a series of scraps written by a German playwright before he died, so it is heavily adapter to each performance. This showing was apparently even more adapted than it generally is. Not that I would know; I haven’t read the original ‘play.’ The show itself was pretty good, but I feel I would’ve really enjoyed it if the production had strayed further into the realm of the surreal. The play is about how someone can go crazy because of the situation around him, and the set was a bunch of insulated panels. At times, the play was surreal, but never really pushed the limits. It was, however, clear why John Boyega is well-known. He was fantastic.

Tuesday was a lot of the same of Monday. I spent that day writing my Victorian blog post, but again I needed to go out and get some photos. This time I went to the Prince Albert Memorial on the edge of Hyde Park and across the street from the Royal Albert Hall. The memorial is huge. It stands at almost 180 feet tall and in the center is a massive gold statue of Prince Albert. The monument was commissioned by Queen Victoria after her husband, Prince Albert, died. Here is what it looks like, along with the Royal Albert Hall:

I guess sometimes building 180 foot tall elaborate monuments is a good way to mourn someone. Or not. I’m not a psychologist. Don’t listen to my advice.

Conveniently, the neighborhood I’m staying in is a great example of Victorian architecture in housing, so I didn’t have to go far to get good pictures of that.

That night we saw Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht is well-known for his unique style and plays such as: The Good Person of Sezchuan and Three-penny OperaLife of Galileo, however, might just be his best play, and I can say with much certainty that it was my favorite play of the term. One big aspect of Brecht’s style is how he manipulates his plays to distance them from the audience. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea goes that by distancing the play from the audience, the audience is then allowed to critically think about the themes of the play while witnessing them. This is done through direct addresses, generally at the beginning of the scenes, to summarize what’s going to happen. Other things include, weird prop usages (no food when drinking or eating), out of period costuming, having actors interact as real people with the audience, and really abrupt song and dance. It seems odd, and a big criticism of Brecht is that his technique makes his shows feel dry or emotionless, and when done badly, this can definitely be the case. However, this production utilized Brecht’s technique just beautifully. It started with the staging. Our group got seats literally in the middle of the stage. There was a large cushioned area surrounded by a wooden walkway that was generally used as the performing area, although the place where we were sitting also was utilized a lot. We has cushions to sit/lay on that could move around, and we were certainly forced to a few times. The actors came out before the show and chatted with us, and I even got to talk with one. He insulted my shirt but I know he was just jealous.

A lot of the other techniques I mentioned were also utilized. This production also used projections a lot, and the projections were projected directly above us. We were encouraged to lay down and watch them. Those moments were completely magical.

On top of all that, the play and the acting was completely phenomenal. The story is about Galileo and his struggles under the powers of the Roman Church. The play deals with how to explore and be scientific under a regime that doesn’t encourage it, flat out denies it, or persecutes people that research (sound familiar?). The play really spoke to me because of my physics background, and I had never really seen that before. All the actors were just so happy to be talking about science and exploring the boundaries of what we know as people, and that’s what I want to be doing. I absolutely loved it, and I want to be a part of the show at some point in my professional career.

Wednesday we had our last acting class and in it we learned improv. However, we seemed to surprise our instructor with how ready we were to do improv games so she had to improvise the lesson plan. It was really fun, but not particularly useful in a gaining knowledge sense since we had done plenty of the activities before.

Before the show, I spent some time outside writing in my acting journal because it was really nice out. While outside, there were a bunch of cute bumblebees pollinating flowers. I managed to catch one, but the pictures only turned out okay. Here they are:

That night we saw Twelfth Night for the second time, but this time it was at the globe. On the way to the globe I realized I didn’t have a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, so I got a really good one:

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It was a solid show, and I had fun watching it, but it wasn’t really all that special, and I was definitely still thinking about the show the previous night.

Thursday I spent working on my last period styles post. It was definitely nice to finally be done with that, and I also learned some cool things about buildings I had ran into previously. While looking up buildings that were damaged in the Blitz during WWII, I found a church that I had seen several weeks earlier. At the time, I thought it was odd that just the tower still remained, and that it was situated in the middle of a traffic island. Now I know the area of town was completely bombed and the only thing that survived was the tower that was originally from the 14th century. Pretty cool.

That night we saw a new play called Common at the National. It was really cool and was fun to watch. But I realized during the show that I just have a hard time connecting to shows done in massive theatres like the Olivier. So again, it was pretty good, but nothing super inspiring.

Friday I went out with some friends to go to Abbey Road to do the super touristy thing of pretending to be The Beatles. The road is really busy, and there are a lot of other people trying to get photos. We got lucky at one point and I was able to walk out into the road to get the right angle to get the photo. Here are the best photos of the day, one with me and the masterpiece I took:

That day we also wandered through Trafalgar square and a Primarch, which is basically the cheapest department store ever. It was good to finally get outside and do something since I basically hadn’t been doing that all week.

That night we watched a play called Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It’s a really funny play about a group of girls, who happen to be fantastic singers, and their journey through a choir competition. They all happen to be Scottish, which made it very difficult understand them because I wasn’t used to the accent. Also, one of my friends had to use the bathroom really bad during the show, which made me think I had to pee really bad, so there just ended up being a massive struggle bus in the back of the audience. In the end, I could tell the play was really good and well put-together, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.

Saturday was spent inside mostly. It was really wonderful out, so I ended up doing a bunch of homework outside, but I didn’t do anything special that day. I am, however, basically done with all work I have to do for the term, so that’s cool.

I did all of my work Saturday so I could go out and do something on Sunday, which I did. My girlfriend and I went on a date to Hyde Park, where we just walked around admiring the wildlife. There were a lot of geese and swans, and a couple little baby geese and swans mixed in. I got some nice pictures of the lake and some other things:

All in all, this week was spent doing a lot of writing and a lot of thinking, but not a lot of exploring so it really wasn’t all that exciting. In case anyone is worried, yes there was an attack in Central London Saturday night, but no one in the program was anywhere near it, so we’re all safe.

Since the program is winding down, we don’t have that much to do left. We have high tea scheduled for next week and I’m coming home on Thursday. There will be one more post, so stay tuned!

Until next week!

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