I have been in London for a little bit over three weeks now and everyone that I’m with keeps talking about these “moments” that they’re having when they think about how we are living here. I’ve been patiently waiting for my moment to happen and I think that I can honestly say that I’ve had two in this past week. My first one was actually part of a dream when I realized that if someone said that I had to go back to U.S tomorrow, I wouldn’t be ready to go. Although we’ve already done so much, I know that there is still so much left to do and I would not be satisfied if I left before doing those things. My second moment was when I went into Camden on Friday night to see live music and as I stood in the venue and looked around, I noticed that I was surrounded by British people enjoying the same music that I was and I finally felt immersed in the culture.
Last Wednesday, my Shakespeare and Elizabethan Literature class went to see the Twelfth Night at the Hampstead Theater. The most interesting aspect about this experience was that the performance was done by an all male cast, much like during the days of Shakespeare. I was very excited to see the play because I am a very big fan of She’s the Man which is inspired by Twelfth Night and I couldn’t wait to see how it wold compare. Unfortunately, the man who played Viola was not quite as entertaining as Amanda Bynes (both circa 2006 and today) and Duke Orsino did not have the same appearance as Channing Tatum but in being completely serious, I really enjoyed the production. The cast all pulled their weight and I was quite impressed with the men acting as women. The actors are all part of the Propeller acting troupe and they all are truly talented. Instead of having a band who plays music, they make all the music themselves with instruments as basic as glasses of water and they run their fingers around the rim to produce sound. I mostly enjoyed their energy in performing the play as well as their modernization of the play. At one point, the actor playing Malvolio, was walking around the “garden” and singing The Beatle’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” referring to his love of Olivia; that really gave the crowd a good laugh!
Before we went to the play though we had a picnic with our professor atop Primrose Hill. Our professor is so knowledgable and the five of us in the class are nothing less than captivated by all that he shares with us. Primrose Hill is yet another breathtakingly beautiful spot in London. As I mentioned in my last post, there is a serious heat wave going on here in London and so all the locals are spending as much time as possible doing outdoor activities while they still can. Primrose Hill overlooks the city and is only a few minutes walking distance from the Hampstead theater. It is here that we enjoyed some bread and cheese while discussing what we were about to see at the theater. Our teacher asked us which character from Twelfth Night we would bring with us to a deserted island which really got us thinking in a different way. It’s so nice to get out of the class and be able to have these sort of outings while still learning!
On Friday, I went to Portobello Road Market with three other girls to do research for a project for my other class, British Culture and Visual Media. The project is called “area studies” so there are several groups going to different locations in London and then giving presentations on them. Portobello Road is a lot like Canal Street in New York City where tables line the street selling different items such as jewelry and other little knick knacks. There are also a few really great vintage stores as well as retail stores. All Saints is a major designer brand here and we actually stumbled upon another store called Bolongaro Trevor which was located right across from All Saints and we found out that it is owned by the same people. I think that it is fair to say that it is my new favorite store. I bought a jumper (sweater) there that is distressed and what I like to call very London chic. Friday night, as I mentioned earlier, we went to Camden to a place called Barfly. It was a cool venue with more of a club scene downstairs with a DJ spinning and then upstairs was where the live music was. Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded so we were able to stand right by the stage. Camden is very historic in that it was the birthplace for Punk and so there are still remnants of that time when punk was emerging.
Saturday was a relaxing day, we went to the Victoria & Albert museum again which is in walking distance of our flat. A new exhibit just opened called “Club to Catwalk” and it features garments from the 1980s. This was especially fun for us because the previous night we were exposed to the authentic British music scene and then we were able to see the clothing that went along with it in the 80s. Vivienne Westwood is a huge influence here and so there were a few pieces by her but then I was also introduced to many new British designers who have made major waves in the fashion industry in the past. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the exhibit but I took notes and even bought a book afterwards. The book is about how London became a major fashion capital and I am going to be using it to write my final paper for my British Culture class. My paper is going to focus on NY vs. London as fashion capitals of the world.
Yesterday with that class we did a few different things. First, we went to the Tate Modern, a museum showcasing many surrealist paintings as well as an amazing exhibit called “Energy and Process” that focused on the arte povera, the radical Italian art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and its international context. Embracing art of the everyday, the artists used simple, raw materials to create work that captured natural energies in a completely new way. My favorite piece in the museum was in this wing and it was a whole room that featured photographs of the American South taken by William Eggleston in the 1970s. Although they were just photographs of everyday things such as hair curlers in the bathroom or a lone gas pump, it was his experimentation with color that really attracted me. Eggleston is largely credited with establishing the acceptance of color in fine art photography. After the museum, we went over to Greenwich to see the Thames river. We stood on both sides of the river, the one side was and still is very residential and the other side used to be a naval base. In Greenwich, we went to the part where there is a spot that one is able to stand in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres at once (of course I had to do so- very A Walk to Remember!) Post climbing the hill, we were all very tired and hot at which point our professor brought us to the local pub, Trafalgar Tavern. As I am learning, it is not out of the ordinary for professors to take their students out for a drink. The Trafalgar Tavern was situated right on the Thames, when we were on the inside it felt like we were on a boat because it was right on the water. We were lucky enough to be there to witness a beautiful sunset.