respectful thoughts for losses and thankful for reaffirmation of its beating heart with some theatre
I literally spent only some 54h in total from touch down to departure in NY and this includes travel to and from airport so unfortunately this trip did not include a lot of sight-seeing. You’re calculating right now and wondering what did I do that left so little time for such an amazing city?
Well, from Friday evening to Sunday mid afternoon I attended 2 matinees and 2 evening performances of the #LLLPlay. However, I did manage to do more touristy things than I imagined I would get the chance. And jholland has described our out-of-theatre activities so well I won’t repeat it 😉
Suffice to say I loved the city much more than I thought I would! I am a very loyal Londoner 😉 And I am not cheating on my home city when I say NY is wonderful, vibrant and relaxed. I look forward to going back hopefully sometime soon and getting to see more of it, exploring some of its quieter parts and not just the 24h tourist sites 🙂 There is an air of energy about the city which is amazing. I didn’t think living in London I could be overwhelmed by the rhythm of it but I was. Maybe because I was feeling under the weather and winter is also a factor. But I enjoyed walking through the city Sunday morning when there were less people around and just looking at the buildings and shops and what felt like normal life. I’d love more of that. I hope I’ll get to do that, immerse myself more in normal life in NY in various areas, do a bit more of what NY-ers do around town.
And I really really hope I get to return the favour to our lovely guides around town when they come to London next. I hope we’ll get an occasion for it! 😉
So the following will be mostly impressions about the play. Not descriptions and I think by now we have much better accounts of the details than I could ever give! There are detailed insights into the play act by act from Serv here (act 3 ) , here (act 2 ) and here (act 1 ) (which I can now finally read!) And you’ll also find in these further links to her impressions, which I am also looking forward to reading more of.
A few more things before I dive in, sorry for the many digressions. Unfortunately I didn’t take any notebook with me nor did I even have time to find scraps of paper to write down any notes on. So these are just the most prominent impressions in my mind. I don’t think having a cold made a difference in the end although I feared it would. I was wide awake and gave it all the energy and concentration I had and luckily between the small space and the excellent diction my clogged up hearing didn’t affect my enjoyment of the experience.
There has been a lot of debate around it being useful or not to read the play in advance. I don’t think I could have resisted the temptation 😉 I was never sure I was able to go so I wanted to take part in some small way. I also wanted to understand what people were commenting on better and sometimes when the subject can be more difficult I like to have some prior prep, especially when I know I am not going to be able to see something many times. Knowing something about it in avance allows me to absorb more details in one go rather than getting totally distracted or absorbed by the plot itself and finding out what happens next. But I only read it once for information purposes and didn’t go back over the detail beyond that before seeing it.
I also watched Wild (the broadcast from Hampstead theatre of another of Mike Bartlett’s plays) and absorbed Dr Foster (which is absolutely loved). I was less enamoured with Wild as some others because clever stagecraft does not mean great play in my mind. I do think he found a clever solution for the ending of Wild and since the Snowden issue is indeed still open in most ways I think it was a good was to deal with the lack of resolution of the happenings in the plot. Sometimes I felt with Wild that I was being preached at, but only minimally. It could also be that I’ve had way too many experienced of productions in opera where people assume the audience is uninformed, ignorant or just not alive to current happenings that they felt they needed to hammer subjects home a bit too much. I’m sorry for my temporary bias 🙂 I did enjoy the play itself and the back and forth of themes and he debate. And in hindsight, experiencing another work of his live has brought out some characteristics of his writing which I appreciate very much. While some of the subject I may already be familiar with I’ve come to appreciate his craft very very much. And I’ll explain why #LLLPLay was a key to that.
But to start with I was a bit ambivalent about Wild and very much won over by Dr Foster. I found Love Love Love to be a heavy meal on the page. Easy to read but the subject itself was very disturbing. The dialogue and the words flow with amazing easy and natural feel and it is one of Bartlett’s greatest skills! Theatre feels many times as interchanges of opinions where somebody speaks and everyone else listens and then somebody else takes a turn. And there is nothing wrong with that as it often allows us to hear not only what people say but also what they really think and feel. But it is not necessarily how people speak in real life 🙂 Replicating that in a play is much harder! Writing dialogue that is as natural as normal talk is an art and I’ve come to appreciate just how good Bartlett is at it. I think it is this great skill of his which made Dr Foster so good! Well, that and a very clever plot and great characters (superbly acted!). But you can’t be a great script writer without that skill 🙂
But when something reads so naturally it’s easy to get drawn into the characters and to dig your heals into the plot noticing less of the skill behind it. It’s fair to say I was appalled and disgusted by both Sandra and Kennet when I read the play. I felt pity for Jamie and Rose , but the latter also annoyed me. My feelings felt offended by the egoistic vein of these people, by their shocking lack of compassion. I didn’t even crack a smile while reading and the dark irony of it made me rather angry. Not because it felt unrealistic, quite the contrary. Rose’s realities are very close to my own, I understand the world she lives in. But the total oblivion of the parents to the needs of their children, their complete lack of evolution, maturity almost is not a pretty sight.
I seriously doubted I could sit through repeat viewings of the play without becoming depressed. I did by no means hate the playwright or think it was a bad play. But the characters themselves I didn’t enjoy and I felt the play did take me to a very dark place. I guess it is also context. It’s not been a great year for realities around us and struggles with housing and daily life are all too real in London. So the sudden excitement of seeing RA back on stage took a nosedive upon realising that the experience might be anything but uplifting and only one more reminder about the stuff going on all around me. It was clear this was going to be nothing like the emotional deep dive and cathartic experience the Crucible was. At least from reading the play. It felt as if this too was just forcing me to deal with the things that I already saw every day around me, every day at work on the news screens around me, every month when I pay the ridiculous rent and so on.
So I was anxious about the experience while I was at the same time looking forward to seeing him act live on stage again. The balance tipped in favour of the experience at an odd moment. Every play I’ve seen since the summer has been depressing in its own way: The Entertainer, Hamlet, Richard III 2x, No man’s land, young Chekov (Platanov), Les Blancs and the Red barn. None of them a barrel of laughs. Or certainly not meant to be that. But there were laughs, in most of them! And I wouldn’t miss seeing any of them, even though they are not cheerer-uppers. The plays and the acting was so great! And watching Mark Strong in the Red Barn it suddenly hit me. He’s excellent, just as good as I remember him from a View from the bridge which won him the Olivier. The Olivier for which Richard was also nominated. Richard who I very clearly remembered being as good on stage as the man I was watching. As many of the actors I’ve been watching. Of course the play itself matters but what matters even more is how it is brought to life and what you remember is the performance that made it real and memorable. I will remember not just the plays but I will remember the actors who made the plays stand out. And the vividness and intensity of the experience would always be worth it!
And the experience does not have to necessarily be emotionally overwhelming, or even cathartic (although I’ll always have a soft spot for an expertly closed emotional and story arc – thanks to Shakespeare) , all it has to be is intense. It has to make a difference, it has to grab you and in the best of cases it will make a lasting impact and make you think about it for a long long time. And sometimes it is much harder to put an open ended and un-resolved play to rest than it is a neatly tied up story (if done right).
I was still wondering though why people laughed so much during Love Love Love!
Turns out the play lifts off the page very well indeed. It’s a perfect mix of sparkling, witty writing, clever and clean production and excellent acting. Had I not read a bit about Michael Mayer before I would be convinced of his directing skills after seeing the play the first time. I love directions which support and enhance the play without being in your face. Of course that won’t work with all plays, but one as ‘verbose’ as this does not need distractions form excess of physical activity or props or sets. This is simple, yet elegant and leaves space for the family and generational drama to unfold.
You probably can’t really call the 1st act sets elegant 😉 But they give you in small details the exact feel of a student flat well lived in. The half eaten half burnt toast (I guess beans on toast as is the eternal student staple diet and because they have run out of beans), the dirty pint glasses, the lack of food but abundance of drink bottles. Clothes dropped carelessly around the old sofa, the portable telly sat on anything available (in this case an old suitcase). The only thing that drew my attention as potential miss match is the mixer tap in the kitchen. I tried to find out if this was available or typical in London flats in the 70s and earlier, but I doubt it since separate taps were the bane of my life in rented flats even a few years ago. But, it’s kitchen not bathroom so it is possible, I am sure they did their research more thoroughly than I did. Love the 2 seater sofa which effectively isolates Henry away from Sandra and Kenneth and is just big enough for Kenneth to splay on it in all his length. It also forces Henry to sit where he would look even sterner, in the armchair, rather than more relaxed on the sofa. And it emphasises the contrast between brothers when Kenneth bounces round on it or wriggles suggestively in it as soon as he has sussed out his brother is bringing a date tonight to the apartment. The simple use of that armchair and sofa is not in the words but is a subtle and yet very telling addition by the director.
Generally the movement in and around the furniture, especially the sitting down and getting up provided a continuous source of entertainment and discovery. And was one of the most creatively used acting props I have seen. Such detail! So telling! ( what would Kenneth do with himself if he didn’t bounce round the furniture in act1? I’d love to know how the movement was choreographed and how much input was given by director, actor, script, etc)
Act 2’s house is a gem of discovery, loved looking for the books, the paintings fit the style and money around, the furniture is spot on. Even the layout speaks to us! The table is set out just so that you can see dad and 14! Year old son mirror each other while smoking and drinking red wine. And again use of furniture tells us so much about the people and also defines their age so well! Both Jamie and Rose rarely sit on anything normally 🙂
And act 3 is as posh as it gets! The big doors to the gardens, the restrained furniture in pastel colours elegantly spaced out. Small details which tell you everything you need to know about their wealth/status/lifestyle. And again there is much acting of age, degree of comfort with oneself, physical state in just the sitting on the sofa.
The production puts just enough props around to boost key moments and I have to say the director has honed in on those perfectly. There is hardly a breather in this 2h fast paced play but where there is a pause it’s filled very effectively. It’s utterly entertaining and riveting. I could have seen it not 4 times consecutively, but many more without getting bored.
I even enjoyed the almost constant smoking if it didn’t make me cough! Those herbals are the worst!
The costumes where equally brilliant in shaping personalities and times and ages. Not too much as it could have easily gone overboard with Sandra but managed not to outshine her personality 😉 And not just Sandra, but the kids too. The parents are so elegant and wealthy in their old age, Sandra certainly likes her bling, while the kids are blatantly dressed very basically and practically. I am sure I’ll find the time for another post to talk about how some of the clothing detail contributed to the entertainment factor 😉 The hair was great too! I am glad we didn’t see a wig on Kenneth in act 1, they managed for both him and Sandra to go through very fast and very natural hairstyle changes. Impressive given the short time available for those changes. They even thought about details like the watches Kenneth wears which travel appropriately through time.
It’s testament to the great cast and direction that it stays fresh night after night after night. I would say it almost takes more than one viewing to start to appreciate what an intricate and fragile construction it is and the level of attention to detail and precise executive it requires to work the way that it does.
I can’t begin to imagine how dialogue that is so messy and natural gets puts together! Not only do they talk over each other like people do, but sometimes people talk and don’t listen to each other at all. At least with dialogue, even if broken you have clues to latch onto but if you just speak and other people talk over you it must be even more difficult to land the punchlines! Hats off to absolutely all of them! The word ping pong alone was worth the price of the ticket, after the first time I literally looked forward to the vocal sparing and to the next line!
And while I didn’t laugh as much as maybe others in the public the first time round I certainly did the other 3 times and probably more. They are shockingly horrible yes, but also funny because so outrageous. And even Sandra who is almost a caricature of a person has her moments. It’s not brutal all the time, there are flashes of all sorts of different feelings, even if only in mood changes on faces between words. Also the way the booze loosens tongues and makes all inhibitions crumble is done gradually and with subtlety.
What also keeps it interesting on repeat viewings are the variety of themes hidden in the play as well as all the things that are left unsaid. On first reading 2 things prevail – they are horrible egoistic parents who have screwed up their kids overlain on the social and generational problems of their times – with compounded effect. But on stage there is so much more. Kenneth and Henry do have some things in common, at least in their relationship to their parents and there is some level of affection or understanding there even through the resentment and rivalry. And you are left wondering what happened through the years between this moment and Henrys death with some loss of connection being obvious (though hard to put down just to stealing a girlfriend).
Then there is Kenneth and Sandra’s relationship – their poor quality as parents can distract from the relationship they have with each other. There is obvious chemistry there and there is openness even though with horrible aspects in their discussion of their mutual cheating. They fully understand each other and love each other with flaws and all. It’s sad that they are into each other at the exclusion of their children but nevertheless the strength of their bond is really interesting and I have to say on stage, quite charming. There is something to be admired about the brutality with which they tell each other truths and their general commitment to be open with each other. And much to be laughed at when they recognise each other’s faults and irresponsibility so accurately but don’t see their own. I also find myself wondering who drives their relationship. The obvious answer would be Sandra, but it’s not always the case, as we are reminded of in the last act. She’s the more vocal one but I don’t get a sense of her making all decisions.
There is also the question of why both of them change so little in their lifetime? Yes they have jobs and houses and so on but emotionally, as adults they are equally or even more irresponsible as when they were 19. And whatever limitations society has put on them in their 40 they seem to be all too happy to ditch in their 60 to behave almost like 19 year olds again. I find that as sad as what they do to their own children.
I also found it interesting how prominent the mental health issues the children have are when you watch the staged play in comparison to when you read it. And this is down to mostly direction and acting, not text. But it is one more issue the older generation does not know how to handle and chooses to mostly ignore. And yet, while Kenneth ignores the depth of Jamie’s problems there is the other argument he mentions about Jamie being his own man, accepting him the way he is. Surely the solution would be in the middle ground between adequate help and acceptance. But I don’t feel like completely rejecting Kenneth’s view about the individuality of each person, in this case even if misguided as extreme parenting with his children.
And there is the big unexplained gap between their teenage years ruined by parents and their adulthood. I guess it’s why I don’t find it that easy to sympathise with Rose especially until the end, 20 years of decisions cannot be down solely to parental influence! Not when parents have obviously been happy to be hands off as soon as they could.
There are also of course the politics of the times, the issues around freedom and career development, of realising your dreams, especially for women, the cost of education and the choices available, the political views and so on. The passion for music and the idea of realising your early dreams and settling for less or trying to recapture the dreams… It certainly leaves you with the feeling that there is so much more to talk about! Not least about whether or not the parents should have bought Rose the house which they could afford and she never can on her income. Yes, she’s made poor career choices not just because of her parents, but can her parents simply ignore the lack of any security in her life when they can do something about it? After all he is doing something for Jamie, even if only because it is no bother and effort for him. With Rose it feels like out of sight, out of mind. While I don’t agree with her arguments I know that she has no other choice than to ask them for help.
What is interesting and also comes across I think stronger at first viewing is the change in writing between acts 1 and 2 and act 3. Act 3 has those key speeches from Rose , Kenneth and partially also Sandra and they cause some confusion in the audience reactions. People are unsure if to go on laughing because this time the various statements about each other’s lives but also society in general are more on the truthful than on the funny side. This time there is no funny come back, or very little of it. I understand why the choice but it makes it more difficult to hit the right mood with the audience I think. Especially as it starts in similar fashion as before with Rose fighting to get her parents to listen to her. It’s also the act which I think shifts most in feel from one performance to the next based on both audience reaction but also on stage atmosphere. Sometimes both parents are more outraged at the demands and accusations and sometimes less. I am a bit split about it as I am not sure it works completely. Especially as the end goes back to a similar mood as the previous acts.
There is also only a partial response to Rose’s assertions about society and I think it is a pity we don’t get a bit more of it. We’re left to wonder if these parents, as horrible as they are really are guilty of all the behaviours Rose heaps upon them. I think we are inclined to believe so based on what we’ve seen so far but I am not entirely convinced.
Lots to think about and I still crave seeing it more time to peel of more layers or turn some questions in my head some more and try and guess some answers from the detail of the acting. Which I will need to come back to in another post as I do want to pick them apart a bit more, especially in light of RA’s recent comments that it is all in the text 🙂 I want to have a word about that!
#LLLplay is certainly a very interesting and good play to sink one’s teeth in. One which doesn’t provide answers to all the questions it raises but I don’t think it needs to. It certainly throws the questions out there in a most entertaining way. I guess we’re allowed to laugh at their expense because we’ll try to avoid at least some of their mistakes 🙂
This is hopefully not a soppy story (though there were some real tears at the end ;-))! But because it really feels like a dream, almost as if it happened to somebody else, I feel the need to capture it for my own memory in years to come.
So, before I get to what people may actually be interested in reading, impressions of the play, acting, etc, I’ve decided to share with you the journey that took me there last weekend.
The Crucible experience was such an unusual and emotional ‘entry’ point into a new fandom I always doubted if anything could live up to it. While any material is interesting I think we probably all have our natural preferences towards one medium or another, TV, stage work, audiobooks, etc. (But we all need the lot to actually complete the picture!) For me it is probably live theatre and audiobooks before other things. The why’s are probably better left to another times, but it’s probably due to emotional immediacy, impact.
So I was really glad the wait for more stage work ended sooner than I expected. What I didn’t think about of course is that, unlike TV or film projects where we have a lot of advance warning, theatre projects are almost on the hoof. Well, for me, not him! It’s not like I haven’t contemplated trips across the pond ever before… I have done it again and again, for Jonas Kaufmann’s Siegmund, for his Werther, not for his Tosca but certainly for his Parsifal (which in hindsight I should have thought about harder and definitely done!). Contemplated, calculated and always discarded and that is for things I had considerable more notice about than just 6 months. There always have been the priorities of visiting home twice a year at least, commitments here, tickets to travel and see things elsewhere. Nothing until now was so tempting I literally couldn’t resist planning for real or at least trying for it.
But while I was balancing at the edge looking down I didn’t consider friendly shoves which really got the ball rolling (jholland ;-)). Friends enveloped me in their generous ticketing plans even though I couldn’t even commit to being able to come! I had initially thought that I’ll figure out if I can even afford a flight at all before I would start buying tickets J But of course that’s not how ticket sales work. Regardless of anything else I knew my only chance was to push the potential date as far out as I could to give myself a chance to gather the budget for it.
Thus began a journey of more than anything else wishful thinking and dreaming and taking small steps towards a goal that to me seemed as impossible as going to the moon…
Some priorities cannot be ignored and I had to sort out this year’s Christmas trip first before I began any planning for a trip across the Atlantic.
And then in the midst of trying to plot my milestones on the path to possibilities… Brexit happened!
And it would turn out to be more than just a complication. One of the many requirements for my trip was obtaining a visa. This meant not just extensive paperwork, but also in person interviews at authorities. Which would require me to have a passport to go along to these things and get a visa on…
But, I’d suddenly become a EU citizen in a country wanting to leave the EU. Where nothing was guaranteed anymore, where my status, work contracts, my very daily life would depend on likely changes in law and the whims of governments who suddenly didn’t care how long you had been a tax paying and working person here.
So once again any plans for fun had to take a significant back seat to real life. And instead of thinking visas and trips I had to think legal status, residency, permanency or looking at potentially packing my bags. Since after initial panic and doubts packing bags was not the option for me I had to knuckle down to the serious business of exploring law, legal avenues of residency, steps it requires, paperwork, fees etc. My life is here now and it sort of becomes clearest when most in question I guess. You end up looking at your life and making decisions you didn’t think you’d have to make. I’ve always before thought in terms of opportunities, things I would like to do, thinks I can do, thinks certain work would allow me to do, steps forward if you will. Suddenly it all became literally about survival, securing the roof over my head and most importantly my job, which had only 2 months before been totally unsure. It has been the most unsettling of years to have to deal with likely redundancy and when that was barely resolved to how your whole life thrown in the air.
I therefore can’t put down not taking any holidays to a master-plan around a trip. Truth is there is just not enough time or budget around trips home for holidays worth they name. The trip to Scotland 2 years ago being my small 10 day rebellion against this trend J But with all this anxiety going on, holiday dreams were parked away. ‘THE’ trip wouldn’t count as one as even when I first looked at it I knew the maximum I would be able to do if at all would be a very short weekend.
So summer passed wading through the murky waters of bureaucracy while being constantly freaked out by the news which only promised more uncertainty. The increased workload at work since the job reshuffle also meant I complained much less about the ‘save for THE trip’ measures 😉 I usually work all summer with no breaks – fits in well with the holidays of my colleagues with kids – and spend evenings going to the Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall or the occasional weekend day get away trip to opera at Glyndebourne outside Lewes.
This summer there was only 1 concert with Rossini’s Semiramide at the very end of the Proms because I really desperately craved good music. And nothing else, no eating out escapades either which are also easier to cut if you don’t go out to performances in the first place.
Work trips away from London also helped keep me from temptations J
But, at the end of August there was finally the most important step in making ‘THE trip’ possible. I booked a flight! Except, excited as I was, I booked two flights since the agency website had a major hick up and didn’t give me the confirmation the first time round. It took them 2 weeks to refund me for the error and they charged a shameless fee for doing it! GR!! That could have been ticket money. Or funds for any of the other pots screaming to be filled J
Not only that, but while doing research on all the options and prices I watched preferred routes/times disappear beyond the limits of affordability and was forced to hurry booking and choose options which would only bring me in time for performance if there was absolutely no flight delay, no snow, no fog, no excessive traffic even. And that not only on the way there, but also on the way back where I would have to leg it from theatre to airport, quite literally. All that at a time when the duration of the play was not yet confirmed and I was praying to all theatre God the performance would come in at under 3h. Yes, I agree with all of you that smells of crazy! I have actually done stuff like that before: from airport to theatre and then sometimes even back to airport/train station and even at a running pace… BUT not across the ocean. I was treating L-NY like L-Wien or worse L-Paris, conscious that it would very likely be nothing like that. Worst case scenario – I would miss out on performances either on the way in or on the way out, or OMG both L (And guess what the single point and purpose of a crazy weekend trip across miles of water was after all?! The dream about a week in Ny to explore its attractions had long since been canned).
By September I had finally gotten my residency paperwork together, filled out, nicely organised and sent it off. At which point it dawned me that I had a major problem. My passport, needed for the Visa, needed for ‘THE trip’ was also needed at the Home Office for residency procedures… Ooops.
Then a few weeks later HO advised they had received the stuff and it would take… 6 months. OOOOPS!! Ok, understandable – mountains to process from all those like me, feeling the same anxiety and not wanting to move away 😉 Fair enough. But in terms of ‘THE trip’ maaaaajor OOOOPPPSSS!!!
I knew I had to get down to scheduling the in person interview because slots go fast and you need to get yours in their diary at least 1 month in advance before the date it will happen. So in October I filled in that lot of paperwork, which turned out to be 80% as extensive as the one I had just done and sent it online and with the confirmation uploaded required photos and finally scheduled an interview early in November.
The calendar became my ticking clock!
But hang on… all there was for ‘THE trip’ was a flight!!!! So, erring on the side of optimism in a climate of generalised anxiety I extended grubby hands to hold on to the tickets so generously offered to me!! And finally put the money where my mouth was wagging 😉 Preciouusssssss…miiiiiinnneeeee. And also eagerly accepted the even more generous offer of hotel room sharing! I call you lovely person – my enabler J :-*** You made me both crazier and provided the life line and the silver lining to the year that was all but nice.
September – for those who don’t live their year like some of my tickets&shows –obsessed friends and me by the ‘booking’ rounds rather than the 4 seasons – is the time when all venues (operas, concert venues especially but also theatres) go into booking for the next 4-6 months and sometimes beyond. It was Winter bookings at ROH, Spring bookings at the Wigmore and so on. My yearly ROH membership also expired. And nothing got renewed, nothing new got booked. For the first time in literally years my always at 20+ upcoming performances in my ROH (includes ballet) scheduled started dwindling. And make no mistake they do remind you and call you (like on the telephone) when you don’t book. Same happened in the December booking round and I am now down to 2 remaining tickets until May 2017. Well, the tickets end in Jan 2017… the bookings covered all the way to May 2017. And in the case of the Wigmore, all the rest of the season to summer 2017.
This may sounds like a lot but I had to be. I book very early because I book the cheapest tickets. Years of practice 😉 and trying out have optimised where I sit in the houses so I can go more often and pay as little as possible. We’re talking 6-18 for ballet and opera J Or 10-25 or such for theatre.
Thanks to local theatres still running day-ticket schemes we were still able to go along and see Kenneth Branagh in the Entertainer for £15 in front row, Platanov at the National for £15 in day tickets and the Red Barn with Mark Strong at the National for £10 J A very satisfying result of much more careful and more seldom eating out. Work overload also encouraged some returning of existing opera tickets (from bookings in spring).
So I decided to go crazy and buy those additional theatre tickets for ‘THE trip’. The ones I would likely not make or have to leave early. So I thought: let’s hope there are still some left and let’s get cheap one given the risk. Right. Cheap ones? 1 price for all. Ok…. Oh, what the hell since it is all in or nothing, let’s be crazy…-er. So, now I had filled every waking moment with a ticket: arrival later afternoon +play, get up jet lagged likely and play ..x2, sleep v little, get up pack+play – run to airport. Makes perfect sense.
Except excitement hit again (and no, I have never ever in my entire life booked a flight twice before and also not ever in years of bookings and hundreds of tickets purchased made this mistake before): instead of Friday and Sunday since Saturday was sorted I booked Friday+Saturday… and took 2 weeks to realise my mistake! Non-refundable tickets- great! Email, explain, look like a numpty – ask politely for change? Told to call, figure out international call, pay yet more booking fees but finally able to exchange wrong Saturday for correct Sunday ticket. Phew, all done.
WAIT. Not quite… minor detail. Upcoming interview for visa at embassy. And no passport. Yes, NO PASSPORT! Home Office had not been heard of again and neither had they responded to my begging letter attached to the paperwork to please return my passport as soon as possible.
(There was also the slowly approaching Christmas trip to my parents whose only child I am and who would not be please to not see me if I wasn’t able to fly due to lack of passport).
My lovely enabler also surprisingly helped with my impeding panic attack by asking the question which had not even occurred to me: can you ask documents back formally? I just assumed I couldn’t as the proceedings were of significance and should take precedence over other fun plans. Turns out we found a way (un-helpfully not described or linked where you make your application, hmpf!).
But the visa interview was nevertheless approaching so, before I processed the request of document return, I decided to push it out a bit while I still could to give the passport an extra chance to make it back to me. So I figured – flight on the 2nd, interview on the 29th (which was the only later date available) should be ok, 2 days in between. Good thinking you say. Well…. You’ll see.
Document return request sent off and lo and behold Home Office kindly delivers like clockwork! 2 Days before my initial interview date passport arrives! We are talking 20 November now, ‘THE trip’ is in 10 days. Imagine me looking at the calendar each day before passport came… growing white by the second!
Since it is here I finally announce to all my friends at a delayed birthday dinner I am going! And also try to pull back said interview to it’s original date. But while one can delay pulling forward seems to not be an option.
I also managed to catch the ‘office cold’ in the last few days and was trying to manage that as best as I could and it seemed to be mostly in control, thankfully.
It’s now the morning of the 29th of November. And I am still keeping the suspense going for my lovely enabler because in theory without a visa everything can go to pots. I assume – wrongly – this is a 1 on 1 interview and I’ll be out of there waltzing away with a visa in 30 min. Not so much.
4 Hours later world end happens. After all proceedings and 2 interviews at the end of the interview when I am told my visa is granted I innocently ask if I can pick up my passport the morning after? An the very polite officer says that would be impossible! They have to proceed to further standard security checks which take and average of 7 days. 7 days. 7 DAYS!!!!! But.. my flight is this Friday morning… in 2 days!!! She looks at the details but shakes her head and said : it’s impossible. I’ll try to put a note on the file but it needs to go through the process. She asked me if I still wanted the visa and I said yes although at this stage I was in a trance.
I am really lucky I didn’t get run over by a bus or a car on my way back to the office that day. It felt as if it was happening to somebody else. Thankfully by a lucky coincidence our own Guylty was in town with work that night so I got to unload some of the frustration on poor Guylty! And we had some relaxing fun J And found a way to solve my main worry: that the tickets would be unused and those seats would be empty in the theatre! I really didn’t want that and I wished for people to be able to use them and enjoy them. And thus 3 more enablers joined the party (lovely Daphne, nycpat and armitagebesotted)! Over the next day the 6 of us figured out together the best way to distribute the tickets among those who would definitely be there so that at least some fun would come out of the whole mess.
To make things even funnier the next day I had a long meeting in the office with one Mr.. Armitage! (I could not make this up!) And my email was full of reminders from the Roundabout about upcoming performances and the RA also send me emails that day! (Royal Academy but it’s RA on the emails).
Thursday luchtime (2 days later), in a quick breather from the monthly reporting I wished everyone fun over the weekend and confirmed that it was a no go as I had had no new at all and as suspected checks had taken as long as they said they would.
Thursday 3pm – I get an email notification from the embassy saying the passport had been released to the delivery firm!!!! The pick up office is on the other side of London from my work and they close at 5pm! And I had not finished the monthly reporting! In fact, we had an unusual number of errors and problems with the files so we were much delayed! I did my utmost to not think about the f***g passport and work, work, work and 4.10pm I managed to email the file and 4.15pm I was running out of the office to the tube leaving word that I might be back in work tomorrow morning but a very grumpy me or I might not be in at all as per my holiday request long approved.
Thursday 4.55pm I run out of breath into the delivery office and the nice man looks at my pick up number and says: oh, it is not on our system yet, we don’t have it. Sometimes they send the notifications early. I have to be honest and say I hadn’t actually raised my hopes at this point because I just didn’t believe it could happen anymore. I explained to him I had gotten the email and the flight was tomorrow but I guess I just had bad luck. An then he says: oh, when is your flight tomorrow??? Me: 11am. He: oh well, it is still possible! Me: what? No, just forget it I understand it is not going to happen now. He: well, people are in the office from 7,30am so you could come in early and see if it is in the morning delivery and figure out if you can make it to airport. You could try , he says, I recon you have a good chance.
I just got back on tube and came across London and got home and just sat here on the sofa for about 1h not knowing what the hell to do. All advice says for US flights be there 3h in advance.. Just so that I don’t say I haven’t looked I check TFL to find out what public transport takes.. 50 min with like 3 tubes and 1 train. Hm.. I end up calling a taxi company I use and ask them how long it would take from the City all the way to Heathrow. They say usually less than 1h but 1 h if traffic bad (you think? 8am in London through town center…).
I’m unpacked, un-prepared, exhausted and just numb. It’s around 8pm. What to do? I lean on the people whom I’ve dragged into this misery, my enables. I email the gang and relate the happenings and my dilemma. Everyone jumps up and tells me to throw my knickers in a suitcase and get my backside to the delivery office first thing in the morning! And they say what I couldn’t even think of anymore: that I would always wonder if it could have been but I wasn’t there to pick the darn passport up! So I finally get into gear and start running round the place like a mad women, finding the print outs of tickets, checking in for the flight, throwing clothes in a suitcase, finding my travel sickness tablets, looking for the passport to put in handbag.. oh wait, right, I don’t have THAT Continue packing, get showered and finally 1am decide to figure out how I would get myself from JFK to hotel should I happen to fly! Oh and book a taxi from that delivery office before 8am to take me to airport. And then go to bed.
7,30 next morning after some sleep and standing on one leg in packed tube to City. Walk into the delivery office only to be told they haven’t scanned the passports in yet, need to wait for them to be done, likely 8am. 15 min later my taxi arrives and I have to explain to the driver he has to wait because I don’t actually know where I am going that morning.
7.55am 2nd December 2016 – Man says: here it is! It was the first one! I grab it and start running to the further way parked taxi saying: Heathrow T3, we’re going! Now!!!
Needless to say I spent the 1h trip to airport constantly putting passport in handbag and taking ot back out and gaping at the visa and repeating that in between texting everyone and emailing everyone like mad (though none could read it in the middle of the night in US!!!). Telling my London friends that after all and last minute I was running towards a flight and my US lovely room mate that she would be sharing after all!
Made it leisurely through airport and security, on flight and arrived some 8 h later at JFK… sick as a dog!!!!!
But that’s the next chapter of ‘THE trip’ J
Much love to all you 6 people who kept me sane and had a high contribution in actually dragging me across the pond when I had effectively given up! And also thanks to both Home Office and US embassy who were both nearly the death of me but also saved the day when it mattered!
I don’t regret a thing and although maybe I would change things I stand by every decision I made and which brought me here, well, there J It was all possible out of love J Love of theatre which moved me to a point where I wanted to go, love from friends who helped make it possible and lent so much support, love that’s been going strong for 2 years and which made me think the impossible could be possible and which made me wish for something wonderful in an absolutely shitty year until recently. Love which inspires dreams and wishes and which reminds me that we need these in our lives where we deal with reality. We need the little bit of crazy and love to reminds us of the things that make us very happy.
Thinking a lot about rehearsals these days and how people slip into other character’s lives and emotions i remembered i saw this amazing documentary:
This gives a little insight into what it takes to create a role for the Royal Opera House stage. Soprano Elizabeth Watts was absolutely gorgeous as Zerlina by the way 🙂
I remember watching this for the first time and crying for most of it because it found it so touching to see how hard and emotionally demanding the process actually is (even for somebody who is an absolutely fabulous singer!)
The coming weekend is the big anniversary of Shakespeare’s death 400 years ago.
For those abroad, there will be special online content here (available internationally):
There is a full schedule with timings, all GMT London time that is:
Richard II – David Tennant – free online on demand (international as well)
Update! the Richard II will be streamed at the BBC site linked above, the site only goes live on the 23rd (they have tested it already but check back on the 23rd). As per the site, the Richard II will be available on the site from 10.30pm (BST) on 23rd April 2016.
Among other videos and documentaries from the British Council, the BFI, The RSC, the Globe and the Hay festival the full Richard II play from the RSC with David Tennant will be available for free.
There are also unique insights into playing Shakespeare from Ian McKellen and specifically on Hamlet from Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester.
The Royal Opera House makes a contribution on ballet and opera inspired by Shakespeare.
TV & cinemas
The RSC and the BBC have put on a special party in Stratford, which will be broadcast on TV but also live in cinemas around the country and soon also internationally; worth keeping an eye out for this ( Sat, 23rd April 2016, 8,30pm GMT)
‘From the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, hosts David Tennant and Catherine Tate are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Meera Syal, David Suchet, Rufus Wainwright, Tim Minchin, Gregory Porter, Joseph Fiennes, English National Opera, The Royal Ballet and Akala for a very special evening.
Together they mark the life and work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. This unique event takes place in the presence of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and celebrates Shakespeare’s extraordinary legacy and his enduring influence on all performance art forms – from opera to jazz, dance to musicals.’
Also on TV …
All manner of special shows, like a Countryfile with Judi Dench dedicated to Shakespeare landscapes.
Re-runs of the Hollow Crown part I (adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V) starting with Monday, the 25th of April 11pm on BBC4:
and lastly, Thursday Henry V with Tom Hiddleston:
London & online later
This is a series of 37 videos made for the celebration, each dedicated to a play which will be screen outside on buildings along the Thames during the weekend and will likely be available online after.
Check the Globe Player and the related iPhone app for further details on the videos (i assume shortly they will share the information online as well)
All Shakespeare400 events this year
For a round up of most events around the celebration check this website
So what am i doing?
- watching the Winter’s Tale ballet at the Royal Opera House twice this week
- recording the ShakespeareLive! show from Stratford;
- recording the Countryfile with Judi Dench on Shakespeare
- recording the re-run of the Hollow Crown part I
- weather permitting spending the afternoon on the 23rd of April finding some of my favourite Shakespeare bits around The Complete Walk;
- evening on the 23rd http://www.lpo.org.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/4372-shakespeare400-anniversary-gala-concert.html
- 24th one of my favourite plays – Macbeth with one of my favourite actors – James McAvoy (finally! after thinking i missed out on this 🙂 )
Too much? Not really, not for me at least. The more is see and hear Shakespeare, the more i love him 🙂