Rip Caesar 

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At the RSC we watched Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. They took a more traditional approach and gave a more historical performance of the play. Julius Caesar is the story of a group of conspirators that assassinate Julius Caesar before he becomes ruler of Rome. This leads to a battle between the conspirators Brutus and Cassius and the Roman leaders Octavius and Antony.

In the play I really enjoyed the acting. My favorites were Antony (James Corrigan) and Cassius (Martin Hutson). Hutson was very expressive and intense with his performance. His voice, gestures, and facial expressions completely fit the character and created a different kind of Cassius from what I have seen from movies of Julius Caesar. Corrigan showed his love for Caesar (Andrew Woodall) and his ability to speak to the Roman people. He was able to give humour to parts of his speech with dramatic irony. I liked Alex Waldmann’s (Brutus) acting, he fit the character of Brutus but I didn’t like how he decided to go with him. I always thought of Brutus as a wise man but I couldn’t really find a lot of difference between him and the other Romans.

The scene wasn’t extravagant but it served multiple purposes. Most of the story takes place in Rome so for the first three acts there are Roman steps that could be taken away or put back depending on if the scene shifted inside or outside. After act three the play started to move into the battle scenes. For some of the tent scenes the ensemble would come on in character and set up a mat and some spare pieces to give the feel of an army tent. When it shifted to battle parts the set was turned from the steps into large rock structures for the battle to take place.

I enjoyed how the actors made it clear the intentions inside the lines. I could understand what everyone meant when they spoke. I really like how large Hutson was and how he brought life to every line. He was so intense that it made it easy to understand how his character felt and what he wanted in each scene. He definitely stole the show in each of his scenes he commanded the audiences attention.

Overall I enjoyed the RSC’s performance of Julius Caesar. The actors brought life to the script and the scenery gave the feel of the locations. They made good use of having a thrust stage where people were able to see what was happening and have a more intimate experience.

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A standing ovation

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Twelfth night at the globe is not what you would expect. Even though you find yourself standing in the original location and theater of Shakespeare himself you are not given a traditional version of the show. Traditional is very far off from what I experienced but authentic is a little bit more accurate. While you find yourself hit in the face with the glittery dress of Le Gateau Chocolat who was playing fest. Fest was portrayed as a large African man who dressed as a woman in very flamboyant clothing. This was not a traditional view of fest at all but it completely fit the big picture of the show. The overarching theme of this production of twelfth night was that it was nothing like what you have seen before and no one saw it coming. The characters especially.

One of the most interesting casting choices in twelfth night was not the cross dressed fool or the gay stereotype Sir Andrew Aguecheek played by Marc Antolin. What I found most interesting and impactful on the show was the very small woman who played malvolio. We have all seen malvolio portrayed by a middle aged man that is very proper and has a simple love for Olivia. This malvolio you do not feel that bad for until later in the play but generally he is not very cared for. Katy Owen completely destroyed any preconceived notion i had about malvolio as a character his relationships with others in the show. Katy found a way for me to dislike the character of malvolio because I liked Tony Jayawardena as Sir Toby Belch, Carly Bawden as Maria, and marc antolin as andrew to an extent of disliking people who stopped their scenes. But when it came to malvolio’s struggles and cold denial of love from Olivia you could not help but feel bad for the little guy.

When you started to really feel bad for a character or just feel emotions at all they would break the tension completely. The characters did a very good job of breaking all tension but that was also a negative of the show. It did not leave any room for emotional development within the characters in some portions of the play. I think that the relationship between Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Viola and Joshua Lacey as Orsino was completely lost in the overly sexual and mullet filled character of orsino. You got an understanding that they were very good friends and that a relationship was building but I don’t think that they used that fully to their advantage. The relationship of Pieter Lawman as Antonio and John Pfumojena as Sebastian seemed to be completely missing. The side of Antonio was given and you understood that he had feelings for sebastian but it seemed as if Sebastian did not care for Antonio close to as much and he did and was only interested in his sister.

One of the best parts of the entire show was the whole end reveal of the siblings being back together and finding love. The encounter of john as Sebastian and Annette McLaughlin as Olivia was very welled played by john and his character did not seem desperate at all but seemed to come from a place of love. I did not see it as him taking advantage of a very vulnerable and desperate Olivia but accepting and giving the love that she felt. This all lead to a beautiful reveal between John as Sebastian and Anita-Joy as Viola. Anita seemed to be playing with john and prolonging the reveal of the fact that she was his sister making it much better that it would have been if it was rushed. You felt sincerely happy for all of the characters while still finding a place in your heart to feel bad for malvolio at the same time.

Overall it was a very entertaining and different play. It didn’t feel anything like what we saw at the RSC but was more that enough for me to have felt fine about standing the whole time. They used the whole stage very well and kept me laughing the whole time. I felt like I was a part of the production and something bigger than just a person watching. Seeing theater in the globe when you are in the pit is more like experiencing theater because you are not watching people act on stage but people on stage are interacting while you participate as an audience member. Twelfth night did an amazing job of keeping the audience with them and using the whole stage in that sense. I could not imagine seeing it from anywhere other than the pit because that gave me the most authentic viewing experience I could ask for.

Day nine

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Today was our final day in the United kingdom. We had no actual plans for this day except for chilling in the hotel and catching up on sleep. Mr B and Ellie did end up going to the Victoria Albert museum and I heard that it was really cool.

We did not do anything today other than stay in the hotel so I think it is appropriate to talk about the hotel. This hotel was called the Ibis and gave me a very different experience than  any American hotel I have stayed in. Every breakfast there was a different theme or language that the people were speaking. Surprisingly it seemed like there were as many Spanish guests as English ones. Opposite of the Crowne Plaza in Stratford where it was mostly English people staying. We spent a good portion of our last day chilling in the pub because they had pop and nice seats. There were also fun games like jenga and it was a whole other atmosphere to an American bar. Even if you were young you were encouraged to stay there and hang out with your friends. People would go there alone to do work or even go with there significant other. It was a very friendly environment in general.

Day eight

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The only thing on the schedule for today was the globe tour and workshop. Going into it I did not think that there were going to be so many different tours going on. It is really interesting to realize that the education system is so different in Europe due to the fact that it is so connected. There were school groups from Germany and France on tours and to think that that is a normal thing. In Europe going to a different country is almost like going to a different state in the United States. This causes you to have a very interesting mess of cultures and a view of what schools and students are like in different places. At the same time they share a lot of similarities to Americans students like the way the interact and what they look like.

Life In Stratford

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Looking back, we spent a very short time in Stratford, but I loved every second of it. Missing the first few hours of the day due to napping on the bus ride, we arrived in early afternoon to a town more beautiful than London ever could be. The home-ish feeling, the view of the river, and the big RSC building directly in view from our hotel very nicely created a feeling of a much-welcomed pause, following a busy first few days.

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On Travel

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Without ever having been to the U.K. I feel I am already familiar with it. This is because U.K. is made up of many assets, most of which I have been made previously acquainted on their own.

A busy city is not foreign to me. Neither is the accompanying business of the persons within it. An airport in Heathrow is not too unlike one in Detroit or elsewhere in The States. Moreover, hotels, shops, restaurants, and theaters, are all comparable to those I’ve assimilated myself to. Then again, this is all in a frame of mind.

However, it is specifically the frame of mind in traveling which has made the U.K. altogether amiable for me.

Very few minds operate under the same perspective during travel as they do in regular day life; the exception being those whose day-to-day life is dependent on international travel. Although many commercial cities around the globe are strange to outsiders, London is designed especially for the American tourist.

There are of course the little ‘quirks’ that come up in foreign countries, the sort of anecdotal trivialities that stand out only for curiosity’s sake. The ‘wrong side of the road’ is a classic, among other things, but these are a couple that attached to my interest.

  1. Cereal Boxes. In Stratford, there were three boxes of cereal to choose from: Special K, Corn Flakes, and Coco Pops. The names of the first two were instantly recognizable. The design layout was slightly different (the nutrition label being the most striking) and the boxes themselves were more compact, but the one cereal I couldn’t remember ever seeing was Kellog’s Coco Pops. I knew of Kellog’s, but how could I have never come into contact with Coco Pops? Upon scrutiny, I discerned that what I was looking at was none other than Cocoa Krispies given a different title and a hat-wearing monkey on a bright yellow cover. The question I thought was, Why would Kellog’s give two different names to the same product between regions? I’m sure why this hasn’t been changed is due to either side thinking their respective cereal to be better than the other, but why would this have happened in the first place? Without doing research, my theory is this. Coco Pops was originally established across the pond. The product was successful and the company wanted to extend it into the United States (or elsewhere). To make this transition easier and given its resemblance to Rice Krispies, Coco Pops were made to be Cocoa Krispies, tailing on the already established name in the American market. (Update – this theory is entirely false. Cocoa Krispies were introduced into the United States 3 years before Coca Pops came to the U.K.)
  2. Pubs. Perhaps this is more telling of my ignorance towards bar culture than anything else, but I feel it’s worth mentioning regardless. Again in Stratford, right beside the Crowne Plaza hotel is a place called Pen & Parchment. Obviously, upon entering, there is a bar, and it’s clear that the primary appeal of the establishment is to drink. However, pubs were originally designed as public ordinaries, a place where anyone could come and eat regardless of their interest (or lack thereof) in attending the bar. By the layout of tables, complete with menus, it seems as though the establishment, adjacent a hotel where tourists from outside the U.K. commonly reside, would have been intended to serve as a restaurant does. This was not the case. Pen & Parchment was not meant to be a conventional restaurant, as evident by how off-guard the staff was for so many orders. Some dishes weren’t even available, including the stereotypically British fish and chips. It seems strange that a building within a tourist district would be resistant to becoming commercial, but the Pen and Parchment is still in business and so must be doing something right. Maybe its intent is authenticity.