Sunday, October 26, 2008

all you need is love

here i am in bath, for the first of two nights of a history break before i trundle over the bridge to wales and continue my sci-fi geek tour. it already seems like days ago, but it was just this morning that i left stratford in the rain -- and realized just before packing the car that i'd left my umbrella in the very crowded dirty duck pub last night. it wasn't raining when i walked out with a couple of cool chicks i'd met at the bar, so i didn't notice at the time. anyway, i walked over there before driving off today, hoping it might have been turned in, but all they had was a very large black-and-red-striped brolly -- definitely not mine. oh, well. the B&B here (called number 30) loaned me one for today, and i'll get a new one of my own tomorrow.

am tired but feel great, though am about shakespeare'd out. mostly b/c i feel like i could spend weeks processing and pondering the two plays i saw. last night it was DT and most of the rest of the hamlet cast in love's labour's lost -- a MUCH different experience to hamlet, natch. not just b/c it was an hour shorter and, duh, a comedy, but even the way the audience behaved was very different. for hamlet, everyone just sat attentively, never applauding b/w scenes or making any sort of comments or anything. but for LLL, different little vignettes -- like a don armado comedic bit or a really cool, percussive dance that the "commoners" did at one point -- were met with applause and cheers. the play wasn't really interrupted due to audience reaction; there seemed to be pauses built in, and/or the players were good at holding for that extra beat. but i was surprised b/c i didn't expect that. though for all i know it's standard ... i'm no expert on theater or seeing shakespeare performed live.

anyway, the stage was dominated by a giant tree festooned with "leaves" of translucent, mostly green glass, which looked very cool and impressive. this time DT was more of an ensemble member, although he still was made to stand out in his role as berowne -- one of three young noblemen who vow to study with the king of navarre, fasting, sleeping little, and not seeing any women for three years -- since his costume was the only blue in a sea of cream (above are the hapless lads, w/king holding a letter, in a photo nicked from the royal shakespeare company's website).

needless to say, hilarity ensues, since pretty much right after the boys make their vow, the princess of france shows up with some of her galpals, on official business from her father the king. each guy falls for one of the ladies, and the king for the princess.

like i said, DT was more part of the ensemble, but for us fans he also stood out b/c he spoke in his native scottish accent (he used an english one in hamlet). and berowne does stand apart as the pragmatist, the skeptic, who tries to weasel out of the vow right away and seems to have not wanted to make it in the first place. he's also the one who figures out how to extricate them all from the vow without losing their honor ... and his loss of love at the end feels very poignant, b/c he argues with himself about falling in love in the first place, then goes for it, and totally gets crushed. sorry, dude.

berowne's love is rosaline, played by nina sosanya, who was in the doctor who episode "fear her" and also played bellino, a lover for david tennant's casanova in the 2005 british miniseries. her dress was spectacular -- this photo shows a little of it but doesn't do it justice.

and sosanya was more than a match for DT's rapid-fire banter ... in fact, this piece in general is seriously high-octane with the wordplay, which was such a delight and made me VERY happy i'd read the play beforehand. otherwise, i'd have been completely lost at times. as it was, i followed along with a big grin on my face.

the actors also seemed to be having the best time -- and, as with hamlet, all of them were great. ricky champ, who played costard, the clown, was especially fun and really reveled in his part. joe dixon totally hammed it up as armado and got a lotta laughs, and the young woman who played armado's page (moth), zoe thorne, was spectacular. (she also has a who connection, playing a toclafane in the master storyline and the gelth in the 9 ep "the unquiet dead"). i have to admit i actually thought she was a child actor, b/c she is so small, but she's really about 24. oliver ford davies as the pedant holofernes was brilliant, and mark hadfield was smirkingly delicious as the ladies' keeper, boyet.

LLL was last staged by the RSC about 15 years ago, and i can sort of see why. it's a bit of a dog's dinner by the end, with the boys going incognito as caricaturish russians to fool the girls (who are totes NOT fooled and exact a comical revenge), and the pageant of virtues, and the songs of spring and winter, and all. for a comedy, it's got quite the downer ending, when the princess finds out her dad's dead, and nobody actually gets together. although, frankly, everyone acts like such children, they're obvs not ready for marriage anyway, ahaha. but it does feel like there's a big "to be continued" stamped over it ... and i guess there is some case for a love's labour's won, after all, if you can believe wikipedia. (when it was mentioned in the who ep "the shakespeare code," i thought the idea was made up ... but, again, what do i know of such things? not much!)

before my night at the theatre, i did some more wandering around stratford. on saturday morning at breakfast, i met some women who were also there for the plays. one had seen hamlet on friday, like me, and was going to LLL that night. the other two, who sat at my table, were there to see patrick stewart give a talk that morning to his appreciation society (aka fan club) members, and were hoping to get return tickets for LLL that night. our B&B host had said that most of the people who'd stayed with them had had good luck with the returns -- he advised lining up around 4, which is a damn long wait (play started at 7:15), and today was much colder than yesterday.

we had a nice convo about shakespeare and sci-fi, and i bade them good luck and went back upstairs to read for a while. i hadn't gotten much sleep on friday night, and needed to finish reading love's labour's. so i climbed under the covers and started reading, then fell asleep till the early afternoon!

fortunately, i hadn't planned to do a lot, having gotten my touristy thang out of the way on friday. but i did want to explore more of the town, so i got myself together and headed out in the rainy day. i stopped at a shop and got some tea for the divine ms. m, and wandered around a bookstore. i thought about buying RTD's the writer's tale, but it's expensive and heavy, so i decided against it. i figured i'd go across the bridge and walk along the other side of the avon river, and, while crossing, i heard a familiar rumble in the street -- an american muscle car?! by the time i looked, it was headed off to the right through the roundabout ... i think it was a charger, but not sure. wowee.

i ambled past the big theatre that's being built (scheduled to open in 2010) and took a few shots:

this one's on an angle and shows the giant cranes better:

one crane has a big light on it at night, like an artificial moon hanging over all.

continuing along the river, i got a shot of the dirty duck, my stratford hangout:

and a cool one of part of the graveyard around trinity church, where shakespeare's entombed:

it was a very peaceful walk shared with families, couples, and people exercising their dogs (and lots of swans and other waterfowl). i crossed the bridge i'd stood on the day before to take some pix of the river. i'd thought about going to this thai place for dinner, which a couple at the B&B had recommended, but ended up going back to the dirty duck and making another rez for half-five. (then i stayed and had a cup of tea and finished reading the play.) what the heck -- it was close, and i enjoyed my dinner the night before (duck, ahaha). i hiked back to the B&B, got ready, and tripped on back out at about 5:20. ambleside was a great choice for a place to stay -- my room was excellent, the breakfast delish, and it was so close to everything.

at dinner i was greeted by the same servers from the night before, and i ordered the paella special, which they pronounced pie-ella, like nigella, ahaha. it was quite tasty. for dessert i had clotted cream ice cream with chocolate sauce, mmmm. with dinner i had a large glass of wine, and afterward some decaf coffee (not wanting to be awake all night). i got finished a little earlier than i had on friday, but went over to the theatre anyway, bought a program, and found my seat. it was in the same area, the stalls, but a little bit further back and more toward the end of the stage. still a fantastic seat.

at intermission, i went out to the lobby but made no attempt to get a drink. i ran into all the women i'd met at the B&B that morning, including the ladies without tickets, who'd managed to snag returns literally 30 seconds before the play began. they weren't sitting together, of course, but they were just delighted. they were having an ice cream, and they complimented my outfit (black velvet trousers and blue velvet jacket with blue ruffled shirt). i said it was my jon pertwee (third doctor) outfit, and they totally got it. my own private idaho translated to someone, ahaha. anyway, we chatted happily for a little while before going back to our seats for the second half.

after the play was done, i went to the dirty duck again for a drink. it was possibly more crowded than after hamlet -- there was a birthday party going on in the back room, and this night most of the actors stayed in the actor's bar instead of going to the patio for the private party. i stood at the back of the room and just kind of gawked around, a bit overwhelmed by the play and the whole thing of just being there. everyone was really friendly and nice, with lots of "what did you think?"/"oh, it was fantastic!" type exchanges. after about a half hour, these two chicks started talking to me. i quickly realized they were americans. both from new york, although one lives in ireland now (and plays the bagpipes, wowee). we had fun talking about all sorts of sci-fi and music -- they'd gone to a talk given by a couple of the hamlet actors earlier that day, although they hadn't seen the play yet. they were hoping to get return tix for monday.

while in the bar, i was passed by mariah gale, who plays ophelia in hamlet and the princess in LLL, and i did stop her for a sec to say she was really great in both. she said thanks, but i didn't prattle on. i felt sort of shy being around these peope who were just trying to get their pints or whatev (the actors had to wait in line like everybody else). also saw edward bennett, who plays laertes in hamlet and the king in LLL ... wanted to say hey, you were great, but he was deep into a conversation with his (or a?) girl, so it seemed like not a good time.

had such fun talking to the american women that we ended up being among the crowd closing the place down. they walked partway with me back toward our respective hotels, and then i continued to ambleside alone. it was the night the UK turns the clocks back, so i got an extra hour to finish packing (and sleep), which i sorely needed.

the drive to bath was uneventful. i listened to radio 1, where the big topic of discussion was the scandal over russell brand and jonathan ross prank-calling andrew sachs (the now-78-year-old actor of fawlty towers fame, to whom they said brand had fucked his burlesque-dancer granddaughter), in between the DJ playing vintage hip-hop. so, i was tooling through the picturesque countryside, listening to "baby got back" and "white lines" and suchlike. xlnt.

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