Friday, 30 September 2011

Review: Macbeth - Barons Court Theatre, Hiraeth Artistic Productions

Upon entering the dark, low-ceilinged theatre at Barons Court, I was immeidately struck by how appropriate a venue this was for the bewitched Scottish play. The opening of the play did not disappoint; a spooky tableau was created to the sounds of the witches' chants and howling winds, in near dark, setting the tone for what was to come.

Unfortunately from there, I found the pace of the production up and down. At moments, notably those involving the witches, the mysterious nature of the play was fully realized, however at many others it felt lacking. Despite strong design and decent use of the small space, the cohesiveness of the lust within the play was missing. Rather than boiling slowly to the lust for power in the murder of Duncan, then spilling over the sides into disarray, this production seemed to have the fire too hot, then not hot enough over and over again. This was true for the whole of the production, as well as for individual performers.

Some individual choices struck me specifically; MacDuff seemed to be suspicious of Macbeth from the very first time we see them; Macbeth didn't require too much convincing, rather it felt he convinced Lady Macbeth to the deed.

Overall some good things came out of the production, but as a whole it lacked the drive and unyielding desire for power that ultimately leads to Macbeth's demise.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Swans, spiders, and Pelicans?

England are famous for their swans, and in a brief wander of St James' Park last week, we saw some swans, as should be expected. I am by no means an admirer of birds, but must admit that these are magnificent animal. Slightly further up the path, we turn around a bend and what should we see but some Pelicans. Not happily behind the comforting barrier (really just a chain...but it makes me feel better) but right in the path! These birds are enormous. So John and Sarah go right up to them, and I, being a brave soul, make a bee-line to the furthest possible point from the birds. Even from 25 feet away, i was fully amazed at these birds! They easily weigh more than Sarah, and just stood there with a subtle calm as people and other birds flurried around them in excitement.

The other thing England should be noted for is the number of spiders! While out jogging I have seen a notable number of excellent spider webs (i have always been fascinated with the patterns in a spider web). In addition, the spiders guarding these webs were no tiny beings...they were quite large! As well, there are seemingly millions of tiny spiders; while sitting in the field during Sarah's footie training, and again later during John's match, numerous tiny black ant-sized spiders would find their way up my leg or arm. Hard not to feel crawly after that.

In non-animal related news, tomorrow I go to orientation at Birkbeck (The college in University of London that takes care of us MA students). I also have a formal registration this week, and a meet-up with my classmates, where we'll take in a production of Macbeth that was at the Camden Fringe (including a performance from one of my classmates). Looking forward to getting down to the theatre business here in Londontown.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Why are you way out here?!?

We are settled now! Arrived in London on Wednesday morning after an unexpected extra week in Ottawa. The UK High Commission had some IT issues which meant that our visas were approved, but couldn't be processed. So we had some extra time with friends, and also got to really explore Ottawa, including Rideau Hall and Parliament.

Getting set up in a new country takes a lot of work, regardless of how prepared you have been. We arrived, had our flat (wooo!) but our stuff hadn't been shipped yet due to the delays and uncertainty. So we had a couple nights with no real bedding....thank goodness we had taken some small blankets on the train and plane rides. We spent Thursday and Friday orienting ourselves with the neighbourhood; acquiring groceries, some cheap dishes (4.56 for a 16 piece set...I Think So!!). Got John set up with a cell phone so we can communicate with the outside world, and a week's worth of wifi until our actual Sky contract can get setup.

The true highlight to date was Friday; after much searching, and visiting 3 different Council of Greenwich buildings, we located the council office at which we could sign up for Sarah to attend school. We waited about 45 minutes in the noisiest waiting room I have ever experienced; kids running, crying, people talking extremely loud. Finally we got to go up to an agent who was quite lovely and helpful as we explained what we needed. Shortly into our discussion she grew quite concerned; what was this nice young Canadian Family doing in Woolwich? She was quick to let us know that the Royal Arsenal (where we live) is really really nice, but the rest of Woolwich "didn't really even speak English". She went on to be concerned that our "bright" daughter would be set back from a year in UK Public school, especially if it was in Greenwich. She pointed out there weren't any schools here she would send her kids to; they go to a public Catholic school in Eltham (a bit south of here).

We politely left her with the forms, tried to make small talk about how we thought the neighbourhood wasn't bad, etc, then went on our way. At first I felt worried that we had made a poor decision on where to live. That lasted about 2 minutes, until I realized that what this lady really was saying was that aside from our enclave, Woolwich is full of poor immigrants and chavs. J and I had a good laugh thinking that this woman was likely the same kind of person who would, in Winnipeg, look at where we live and be appalled that Sarah goes to public school in the North End.

Honestly, I was really rubbed by this for some time. In North America, when someone says something about a part of the city, etc, there still feels to be a little innocence about it...that it really isn't all that bad. They have their opinions about "rough" neighbourhoods, where you "should" live, etc, but there is still a feeling of jest about any comments made. Not here....this woman was dealdy serious in her concern; this woman was genuinely concerned for our safety! People don't do such things!!

In other news...we've now been to see Big Ben and the London Eye (no ride yet) with Sarah, and the outside of the Tower and Tower bridge. Will do the tour at a later date (lots of time!). Heading to the British museum tomorrow, and then later in the week we'll see the Tate, National Gallery, and likely the Imperial War Museum. Our neighbourhoold in Royal Arsenal is awesome; it is an old munitions factory that has existed in some form since 1510 when Henry VIII commissioned the expansion of the Royal Fleet. It was active until 1974 or so...after which is was just a bunch of old empty buildings. In the late 90s a developer came in and began updating to make this amazing community. It consists of several buildings, all within a brick fence and gate, backed on the Thames. Lovely cobblestone roads and limited car access. There is a pub and two cafes, and some great public art along with great trees and greenspace. As well, the Royal Artillery Museum is just up the street. Lots of photos to come of our area as we explore more.