Saturday, July 12, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 19

Two plays back-to-back (with a picnic in the park thrown in for good measure.) 

The two plays both dealt with a loss of hope and humanity, but in opposite ways.

We saw a matinee of 1984. I loved the refreshment counter as you enter the theater. Our seats were on the main floor, and were a promotional price of 19.84 pounds. Bargain! The adaptation includes a classroom discussion of the book 1984 as a framing story. There were layers of two things happening onstage in different time periods simultaneously. Depending on your level of engagement, this could be cool...or confusing.

The most exciting part was the way the set was transformed near the end. Best special effects ever, including lots of digital effects.

I found the production to be absolutely terrifying. What could be more chilling than the idea of losing your freedom to think, to speak, to choose? to have your very existence manipulated? and then to realize it has already happened, and easily could again.

We bought sandwiches and picnicked at the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Clearly a number of other people had the same idea. You could paint endless versions of Sunday in the Park or Luncheon on the Grass here.
In the evening we saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe. I'd been looking forward to seeing a Shakespeare play here, where his own theater once stood. The Globe is designed to recreate an authentic Elizabethan theater-goer's experience--it's an outdoor arena that looks much like the one at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Only this has a standing-room-only section (for the peasants)...and it's right up against the stage like a mosh pit! The crowd has to move to make way for actors to enter the stage, bodies to be carried off, etc. At first I was very caught up in the whole theater experience...actors on 8-foot-tall carts, shouting as they're wheeled through the crowd, performers interacting with the audience, etc. It was all very exciting.

Then the blood and gore started happening. And it was taken to such a degree that people in the audience fainted...easily half a dozen of them. Others simply walked out. Brutal rapes, beheadings, hands cut off, throats slit. It was a literal bloodbath. This was one time I was grateful I left my glasses home so I didn't have to see it all in detail.

Just as alarming was the way the actors hammed it up to the audience, milking the humor. And the way the audience responded...laughing, cheering...while this horrific violence is taking place. To top it all off, the curtain call at the end was like a Bollywood dance number: celebratory revelry. It was very disturbing.

I kept thinking of the Spencer W Kimball quote: "First you hold the image, then it is action, then it is you." I wondered, how much of that kind of behavior can we as a society watch before we start acting it out, becoming that ourselves?

We had deep, meaningful conversations with the students afterward about art and impropriety, how far is too far, how different people experience the same production differently, how important it is not to become desensitized, and underscoring our desire to have and feel the Spirit.

As we left the theater and crossed the Millennium Bridge to return home, the dome of St. Paul's glowing in the night sky was a sweet reminder of the source of peace.

1 comment:

Kazzy said...

Yeah, not a fan of that show. All male cast? When we were there we saw Twelfth Night/ all male. It was weird that after awhile I got used to the idea.

I am glad you are blogging about your time there.