The Importance of Being Earnest, Cambridge, and The V&A (London days 8, 9, & 10)

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So once again I’m thrown off by slow internet. My pictures are taking a million lightyears to upload onto WordPress… and you can’t have a blog without pictures because apparently people have the attention span of a two year old now and mere words aren’t going to cut it…. By the way, did you know London supposedly has the worst wireless connection of any capital in Europe? Not hyperbole; it’s a fact.

But anyway. Tuesday wasn’t too action packed so I can talk about that along with yesterday and today’s happenings. We started the day off with another class period, but this time we went out to Kensington/Hyde Park to read some scenes from The Importance of Being Earnest (since we’d see a production of it later that night). As soon as we gathered, however, it immediately went from pleasantly sunny to chillingly cold and windy. I like cold weather, but I also like to be prepared for it. Simple decisions like what clothes to wear are made stressful by this bipolarness, and no matter what you do you’ll always make the wrong choice. You’ll either heff around a jacket that’s too warm to wear, or wish you’d opted for long pants instead of shorts.

So we only read a few scenes before dispersing. Faith and I ended up finding this little butterfly pavilion next to the Natural History Museum and spent some time playing with butteflies in a warm, humid tent.

We rested some more at our flat before heading out to the West End to see The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d read this play back in high school and watched a live production at Fresno City college. It’s one of my favorites, so I was quite excited to see this one. It’s playing at the Vaudeville theatre, which is one of the many old, expensive venues along the Strand that’s supposed to have the best shows.

hhh

And the best curtain…

Though my seat was a little off center, it provided a great view. The play itself was fantastic. The big talking point was David Suchet cast as Lady Bracknell, the first man to play that part here. But what I loved most was the chemistry between the two main male characters, Algy and Jack. The scene where they argue over muffins almost had me in tears. For class we had to write a response to the play, focusing on an aspect of it that particularly captured our attentions. Here’s what I wrote:

On Tuesday we saw a live performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I remember reading this play in high school and seeing a Fresno City College production, and absolutely loving it. The dialogues are so witty and the characters so ridiculously lovable. I was quite excited to watch a performance here. The Vaudeville’s production was stellar, in my opinion, and there were many things that stood out to me.

Coming from a background in theater, I was immediately drawn to the actors’ use of space. Good performances find a balance between delivering lines sedentary and moving all about while talking. I feel like this production found that balance. Their movements complemented their lines rather than distracting from them. They interacted with props and each other with realistic fluidity. And though each act only had one stationary set, the actors were able to make their space feel dynamic. For example, the actor playing Algernon made his character stand apart by his movements, from laying on the back of the sofa to throwing his cigarettes around. Compare this to Lady Bracknell, who kept her (his?) movements to a minimum, maintained proper posture, and relied more on facial expressions than body language. You could get a sense of what these characters were like simply by the way they interacted with their surroundings, which I felt rounded out the story and made for a quality performance.

Combined with the excellent delivery of lines, the well-designed sets and costumes, and the chemistry between the actors, this production of The Importance of Being Earnest did not disappoint!

Faith and I decided it’d be best to go straight back to our beds right afterward, since we’d be waking up early for the ride to Cambridge the next day (Wednesday). I was a little disappointed the itenerary had been changed from a day trip to Oxford, since I’ve already been to Cambridge. But it was a still a nice day out.

Plus it finally rained!

Plus it finally rained!

As a class we toured a cathedral of one of the colleges. It wasn’t quite on the grand scale as Westminster, but it had its charms.

This ceiling, for instance.

This ceiling, for instance.

For lunch I managed to find Tattie’s again, since I happened to be craving a baked potato. We also explored some other shops for a while, including Hardy’s candy. We hung out under a tree for a bit, then it was time to head back for the evening.

Literally hung

Literally hung

Today, Thursday, Day 10 if you can believe it (I can’t), our plans were reworked due to a tube strike. Apparently those things happen around here, despite the massive inconvenience it causes both locals and tourists. So since the underground was partly non-operational, and the buses were packed as a result, our class went to a museum that was fairly reasonable to walk to. The Victoria & Albert, otherwise known as the V&A.

View from the inner courtyard since the street view involved construction.

View from the inner courtyard since the street view involved construction.

We took the scenic route, which led us through a different part of Hyde Park. We saw the outside of Kensington Palace…

Plain, but still grander than any house I could ever afford.

Plain, but still grander than any house I could ever afford.

Walked through the Kensington Gardens…

Are those hedges in the shape of ducks, or deformed Mickey Mouse heads...?

Are those hedges in the shape of ducks, or deformed Mickey Mouse heads…?

Rested beneath the Albert Memorial…

A bit too gaudy for my tastes.

A bit too gaudy for my tastes.

And walked past Royal Albert Hall.

Royal.

Not to be confused with Peasant Albert Hall.

The V&A museum is another one of those I-could-spend-a-week-living-here-and-still-not-see-everything places. So we went through a few of the more well-known rooms and toured the limited-time exhibits, and then chose something to “focus in on” for our class assignment.

One of the questions we have to explore is “What is British?” In other words, many of the items on display here, as well as in other museums, have come from other parts of the world (whether through trade, gifts, or theft). So how do they symbolize British culture? Why display them in a British museum? Etc. I ran with this into an area I’ve been studying: Asia. There were several Asian rooms; I skimmed through some but really spent some time in Korea (surprise, surprise).

It was a pretty small room, as you can imagine.

Mostly looking at pottery.

There were several floors, so we viewed the “cast” exhibits from a balcony above.

Statue of David

Statue of David

These aren’t the actual statues and columns from Rome, France, etc, but just copies. If my research on England’s trade with Asia doesn’t turn out, I might write about this idea instead. Should the countries of origin have the originals, and other museums have copies or replicas? What is the purpose of displaying items from other parts of the world? If you see a cast of Trajan’s Column in a museum in England, is there incentive to see the original in Rome, too?

Maybe

Answer: probably

I’m glad that this is a study abroad trip, and not just for pleasure. I might have thought of these questions on my own, but being in an educational mindset I think helps me really consider and analyze this City that much more. I’m not just sightseeing, I’m learning. And this is the best time in my life to do that because I’m still young enough to accept most information I receive without first running it through 40+ years of other knowledge and ideas I’ve built up.

Faith and I also briefly went through the Natural History Museum before walking the looooong trek back to our flat. On the way we passed by the hotel I stayed in three years ago.

Does this mean I've come full circle?

Does this mean I’ve come full circle?

We took a nap, cooked dinner, did some homework, and that’s pretty much it. *phew* All caught up now. Tomorrow begins our three-day weekend where we can “make like Burger King and have it our way” (actual quote from our professor, guys). Faith and I (Felicity, too) have some pretty exciting plans, even though we’re the only ones staying in London. The rest of the class is either off to Paris or Amsterdam. Whatever. London still has so much more to offer. I’m excited to experience more of it!

Cat Counter Update: 4. This place just keeps getting better and better.

Cat Counter: 4. This place just keeps getting better and better.

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