October 17, 2014
So far, I have seen six plays through my acting and playwriting classes. At the beginning we seemed to focus on new plays, often in smaller venues. I thoroughly enjoyed these fringe plays, even if there were some problematic moments. These, mostly funded by the arts council, were supposed to be daring and able to fail. And they most definitely were. What a freeing way to develop art! In this way, the UK supports the arts far better than the US does.
Those plays, including the fringe ones, were very much about the UK, though focusing on very different parts of society. However, with our past two plays we seem to have transitioned to a different form of theatre. They may be new plays or new adaptations, but no one would call them fringe.
Last week, we saw Electra with Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra. I enjoyed the small details within her performance. When she flung herself on her brother, she held on with her toes gripping his calf. It was a startling choice that seemed to weirdly fit with her character. However, I know many people who were not nearly as impressed as I was. Then again, many members of the audience gave her a standing ovation. And here’s where the difference between American and British theatre comes in. In the US, it has now basically become an expectation that people will give standing ovations at the end of performances. In other words, standing does not mean anything in the US. In London, people do not stand unless the performance was brilliant. Before Electra, I had only seen the occasional audience member stand. It could be said, based on that information, that I was incredibly lucky to see Electra. But, talking after the show with students and professors, we seemed to come to the conclusion that some people stood because she was a star. She was good, but maybe not that good. Leaning toward this interpretation, I felt a little cheated out of my British theatre experience.
But that’s not being fair. I’ve been trying to look at things in a less pressured light. Really anything that happens to me here is part of my London study abroad adventure, even if it does remind me of home.
Last night, we saw The Scottsboro Boys musical, which is based on an American story. I was uneasy about this play given that the topic is so harsh. It’s definitely not a comfortable one to watch, but it shouldn’t be. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about seeing this piece of American history turned into a musical while in London. I cannot wait to hear my British acting and playwriting professor’s opinion. I wonder if the play hit as close to home with her as it did with me.
However, despite being midterm time, theatre is not the only thing I’ve done recently. I did get out and explore more markets. I went to the Portobello Road Market. There were people everywhere – it was crazy.
I definitely prefer Old Spitalfields Market because it felt less touristy. And I enjoy feeling more like a local here.