All the world’s a stage

Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre – M 15 Sept

On Monday morning, I met up with MD and AB (two friends from orientation) to try our hand at acquiring discounted theatre tickets.  To set the scene, I was quite thrilled to be included in this pow-wow because:

1) for every additional person that is in the group, it becomes increasingly difficult to get tickets together, and

2) as a student of Bioethics (background in engineering) I was… a bit out of my league. MD, a recent graduate in English was now focusing on Shakespeare at King’s. And AB, who had previous studied abroad in London during her undergraduate days, was taking a “sabbatical” from teaching high school literature to focus her master’s studies on Modern English Lit.  Did I mention I’ve met some really cool people?

AB came well prepared with a list of shows, theatres, performance times, and potential discounts. We decided to try for War Horse first, and made our way to the queue outside of New London Theatre. No dice. We were number 10, 11, & 12 and gentlemen 8 & 9 were requesting 5 tickets between the two of them.  Taking full advantage of the fact that we live here and thus aren’t under and significant pressure to book today, we made the game-time decision to head back to Matilda at the nearby Cambridge Theatre. No Monday show! Rats.

As the clock ticked toward 10:30am (30 minutes after most box offices open) we picked up our walking pace and *luckily* there were still 3 available £15 front row tickets to Shakespeare in Love that evening.

“Restricted viewing?” we inquired.

“No, you should be able to see everything. The stage is tall though, so you’ll have to look up.”

“Well, I have a young neck,” MD offered with a smile.

* * *

We met at the theatre about 45 minutes early which gave us ample time to marvel in the design of the 4 level theatre (ground, mezz, balcony, amphitheatre). The stage was indeed tall, but we folded up our jackets to sit on and did some good neck stretches before the opening number.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with this musical (play with music really, not the traditional 20 song and dance routine musical) here is a short synopsis of the film version.

At this point I’d like to offer a few big shout outs. First to my middle & high school literature teachers, especially Mr Havlicek– were it not for the exceedingly large amount of Shakespearean verses that I was required to memorize, I may not have been able to digest the allusions and witticisms that made this musical so entertaining.  Secondly, I’d like to thank those that have had a key role in my music education, most recently, Professor Mengozzi.  Though I initially resisted learning about the Renaissance period in Musicology 345, I amazed myself with the technical attention I was able to give the madrigal musicians.

The performance. Was. Fantastic.

Granted, I may have had a bit more adrenaline going than the average audience member– Pinch! I’m in London!!– but honestly, it was a solid start to my days in London’s theatre district. 🙂

* * *

Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – W 17 Sept

We were initially just planning on booking tickets today for a show next week, but the schedule was a bit dodgy and with only a few weeks before the outdoor theatre closes for the winter we didn’t want to press our luck with navigating class schedules and rainchecks (where they distribute ponchos or move the show indoors.)  So the 2pm matinee it was!

We arrived an hour before the start of the show to join the Groundling (£5 tickets to stand throughout the 2.5 hour show) Queue.  They did a bag check upon entry which was so quick, I couldn’t imagine they could actual detect any traditional weapon.  Maybe they were searching for tomatoes and cabbages? Though there are no bad seats when you stand and the stage is a good 5 feet off the ground, if you are in the front row, you can lean against the stage.  Just be careful when an actor comes running toward you!

For blog purposes, it was rather unfortunate that photos were not allowed in the Noel Coward Theatre, but perhaps it will make the pictures that I acquired at The Globe even better. 🙂

Full 360. Panoramic view is kind of dodgy in the globe, but it’s kind of fun to flatten out a circular theater.

Though I’ve never formally studied the Comedy of Errors, it is not the most difficult Shakespearean play to digest.   Since the actors were so dramatic in the telling of the story, I may not have even needed the quick pre-show skim of the plot synopsis.  I again was impressed with how intentional the directors (and actors) were about making this form of art accessible to the common man.  As an actual Groundling, I was quite appreciative.  😉 During one interlude twin members of the chorus came out to sweep up the mess caused by Dr Pinch (the faux wizard) and within a few seconds a quidditch match was underway!

Another interesting modernization was inserted in Act 3, scene 2.

Original Text:

  • A: Where Scotland?
  • D: I found it by the barrenness; hard in the palm of the hand.

Today’s Performance:

  • A: Where Scotland?
  • D: (very exaggerated pause) I… don’t…. know…


It is certainly an exciting time to be in the UK! I learned that my walk back from Shakespeare in Love just missed a rally on Trafalgar Square in which Londoners were making their case for Scotland to stay in the UK. Such a pity that I’m not able to report live from the scene, but I’m certain that whatever tomorrow’s vote may bring, interesting commentary is sure to follow.

Until then, cheers,