Concert, play, play

Earlier this month Uncle James and Su-su took me along to see Messiah performed at St. Paul’s. Now, I don’t know anything at all about Handel or oratorios, and I probably have even less appreciation for it. But I agreed to go because it seemed like a good ‘new thing’ to try. Luckily, for me it was a slightly shortened version of Handel, so instead of three hours, it was only two and a halfish. I might have fallen asleep during the first part, but that’s not because it wasn’t amazing in its own way. Hearing the music and singing and looking around St. Paul’s at the same time was really cool. It put the church into more context than just coming during visiting hours. Unfortunately, there’s something like a seven second echo, so a lot of the words got jumbled up, and since I’ve never heard Messiah I was a little lost. There were two songs, however, that I did know. The Hallelujah chorus (you know, hallelujah… hallelujah… hallelujah, hallelujah, halleeeeeelujah). The other song I knew because Amy Grant sings it in Joy to the World/ Unto us a Child is Born.

Joe and I went to see the Veil at the National Theatre. And here’s a tip for anyone under 25 coming to London, you can apply for an entry pass for free and get £5 tickets to shows at the National Theatre. Anyways, The Veil is a new play written by Conor McPherson that takes place on an estate in Ireland in 1822. Madeleine, a widow, is marrying her daughter, Hannah to a marquis in order to resolve the debts on the estate. But, Hannah hears voices in the house and the Reverend Berkeley, fascinated, performs a séance. The whole play takes place in one room, and the set is beautiful. The room is sort of falling apart towards the ceiling, and it extends backwards into the stage. You can even look out the windows and see ivy growing on the side of the brick building. The whole play is rather eerie, but the part that stuck with me is at the end, when Madeleine calls out to Mr. Fingal as he is saying goodbye, off to be married to someone else, but Mrs. Goulding interrupts them and Mr. Fingal just leaves without another word. Call me a romantic, but it was so tragic. Also, side note, I’m 99.9% sure we were sitting in the row behind Brendan Coyle aka Mr. Bates from Downtown Abbey. Joe doesn’t believe me. But, it looked like him, sounded like him, and he starred in another of Conor McPherson’s plays, The Weir. Evidence.

The other play we saw, was The Woman in Black, a Christmas gift from the uncles. I really wanted to see this play because it’s about to be made into a movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe. (And the play is based on a novel by Susan Hill.) The novel is pretty much a straight up ghost story, but the play is framed completely differently to allow for just two actors. In the play, Arthur Kipps wants to tell the horrific story to his family, and he enlists the help of an actor because he wants to be able to do the story justice. The actor is really enthusiastic and instead of just reciting the story, the two of them end of acting it out, with the actor playing Arthur and Arthur playing the parts of the secondary characters. The first half of the play was a little tiresome because Arthur is very resistant, and there are many breaks to their “acting.” But, by the time the second half begins Arthur has fully embraced his parts and the two of them are just purely acting out the story. David Acton, the man who plays Arthur Kipps was amazing. He had to play the parts of several different characters and turn them on and off at the flick of a switch, and all his characters were still 100% believable, I barely even noticed it was the same man over and over again. The only disappointing part of the night was that there was a group of middle school aged kids there, and the girls screamed at every opportunity they got. Sometimes it would be a delayed reaction to the ghost, and one time is wasn’t even anything scary, they just mistook the actor for something else. Which isn’t to say the show wasn’t scary, I kept jumping in my seat, and the one thing that really freaked me out was when the source of the strange noise is discovered to be a rocking chair, rocking itself. OOooOoOooOO… spoooooky! Now I can’t wait to see the movie, although, the descriptions I’ve read make it sound a lot different.

Book vs play vs movie...

Les Misérables and Pho

There has been a distinct lack of photos in my last few posts, which I must admit, makes them look really, really boring.  Now that I’ve been away from home for over a month, dare I say it… the novelty of being abroad has begun to wear off.  Plus, classes have started, which is a downer in its own way.  I swear, I bring my camera with me sometimes, but it never seems to occur to me to take pictures.  Being a photo taking fiend is tiring, and my purse is small, and I don’t want to be a perpetual tourist.

I did manage to take one photo since my outing with Jinri.  It’s of Joseph at the Queen’s Theatre, and if you know anything about London, then you know we were there to see Les Misérables.  Les Misérables has been showing at the Queen’s Theatre since 2004, and it’s been playing in London for the past 25 years (that’s older than me!).  I’ve actually seen it before when I was in London with my family a couple of years ago.

This time around Joe and I managed to get £10 tickets in the upper circle.  Three reasons to justify getting the cheap seats (with a terrible view).  1) We’re poor college students. 2) I’ve seen the show before (in much better seats).  3) Joe claims he doesn’t like musicals, so I wasn’t going to invest too much in case he hated it.  As it turned out Joe liked it fine enough.  The fact that it’s not over the top singing and dancing and happy happy yay!, is probably why Joe didn’t totally hate it.  Meanwhile, I was sitting there grinning like a little kid because Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals (thanks to my mother’s love for it).  I especially enjoyed Alexia Khadime as Eponine.  She’s black for one thing which was kind of refreshing, but she also had that sort of rich voice I associate with the role, not as breathy and airy as Cosette’s.

Saturday afternoon my uncle took me out to a Vietnamese restaurant in the East of London.  The reason?  To try me a big bowl of phở. It was delicious, and not at all what I expected it to be.  I think, if I hadn’t known what it was I wouldn’t have pinned it down as an Asian dish (well, except for the fact that there are beansprouts and rice noodles in it).  The soup is deceptively watery looking, but it’s full of spices like cinnamon and cloves.  (By the way, this was totally a missed photo-op.)

We also stopped by the White Cube galley (contemporary art) and the Geffrye Museum (furniture/living spaces from the 15th century to the present).  Lastly, a shop selling “pretentious men’s clothing” (Urban Outfitters meets Shoreditch).  But we weren’t there to buy £350 sweaters, we were there for the espresso (because, yeah, all pretentious men’s clothing stores have working espresso machines).