January Theatre

December was such a good month.  Amity & I roadtripped to Scotland, I reunited with Katharina in Germany for Christmas, and then my family came to visit and we spent New Year’s Eve in Cornwall.  Lots of travel, lots of excitement… but after it ended, there was some comfort in settling back in to life in London to really begin 2014.

I’m determined to keep more of a balance this semester.  I have a lot of schoolwork and I have a lot of things I want to do in London, and I want to fit more of both of them in without getting too stressed out.  Tall order, I know.

I’m starting with the theatre.  It’s one of my absolute favorite things about living in London, but sometimes it seems like something I can’t fit in, even though most shows are the same length as a movie or one of my longer lectures.  Here’s a little round up of what I made it to last month – any Londoners or London visitors, feel free to take note and leave your own recommendations!



See anyone familiar?


Most of you probably recognize Ron Weasley.  A lot may recognize Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey.  A few might recognize young BBC Merlin!  And there’s also that guy who was James McAvoy’s war buddy in Atonement (he was the runaway star of the show, in my opinion).


Amity and I got tickets for this a few months ago because it was really popular (Tangent: the box office girl I talked to on the phone said that she was going to name her guitar after me.  A high honor!).  I didn’t know much about the play but was keen to see it based on the great reviews and all-star cast, but ended up really loving it.  It’s about a group of guys in 1950s London who get caught up in some shady business and scandal surrounding the club they all have a hand in.  It was one of those plays where the storyline itself wasn’t necessarily anything special, but the writing and acting was just so funny, intense, heartfelt, and clever that it made for an amazing show overall.

Richard II

One of my favorite myths to dispel about the theatre in London is that it’s some impossibly posh & glamorous affair that’s going to cost you an arm and a leg.  It certainly can be, if that’s what you’re after (I still haven’t been to anything at the Royal Opera House because I just can’t stomach the prices for good seats!), but it can also be easy, comfortable, and even cheap.

Case in point: Amity and I went to see one of the most famous British actors alive in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company… for £5.


We scored these seats way back in September, but it was worth the wait to see David Tennant in the flesh, even if he did have stupid hair (watch that video, it’s good fun).  Shakespeare is done so often and in so many different ways, and I really liked this version.  It was very traditional in costume and setting, but they really brought the humor out in the dialogue, which I loved.


Oh and then we met David Tennant.  Hello, Doctor.  He signed Amity’s programme, I took his photo with a cute little Norwegian girl who was waiting excitedly, and I like to think we had a moment when he said “Where’s the camera?” and I said “Here,” and he said, “Nice to meet you!” and I whispered “I love you,” and he got into the back of a Range Rover and drove away.


Jersey Boys

I grabbed a last-minute discount ticket to this show a few weeks ago when I realized that the huge gap between classes I have on certain days would be a great chance to see matinee shows.


I knew I’d like Jersey Boys because of the music (what can I say – I really love the 70s), but I didn’t realize how emotional the story was.  Like a lot of famous musicians (especially of that era), Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons had some pretty dark times along their journey, and I was almost taken aback at how sad and intense parts of the show were.


The music was phenomenal and I really liked reading that Frankie Valli has seen and approves of the musical.  I actually liked this show more the more I thought about it afterwards.  As a final bonus, the part of Frankie Valli was played by Jon from S Club 7.  Blast from the past!  I can tell you that S Club did not properly showcase his vocal talents.  Dude’s got some serious falsetto.

The Light Princess

Ooh this was so lovely and I’m so sad its run has ended!


Amity put me on to this one (she saw it twice) when she described it as a “dark fairy tale.”  I like those.  I think Tori Amos was living out some childhood fantasies through this project because they cast an actress who looks exactly like her in the lead.


Anyway, I will admit that I was not down with 100% of her lyrics (Why did they keep calling water “H2O” in the middle of songs?  It did not fit!), but the story and sets and whole feel of the thing were just beautiful.  It was whimsical and ethereal and all those other magical floaty words, which is fitting since it was about a magical floaty girl.

Speaking of which, the acrobatics were mesmerizing.  The main character, the light princess, has lost her ability to be serious and (quite literally) down-to-earth, and had to float around without touching the ground for most of the show.  During some parts, they used invisible wires, but my favorite part was when she was floating up and down in front of this giant bookshelf by being STRAPPED TO SOME GUY’S BACK.

Can you see him?  You can just make out his legs, and his elbow below hers.  He was dressed all in black and was climbing fluidly up and down while she was harnessed to his back.  It was amazing.  I was in the second row so I could see him pretty well – the effect from farther away must have been really cool, but I actually liked being able to see the acrobats because they were so impressive!

American Psycho

Another day, another Doctor.


What?  American Psycho the musical?  Is this a weird joke?  No.  But you are in good company if you wondered that.  The director of the 2000 non-musical film version said, “When I heard they were doing a musical theater version, my first thought was, “That’s crazy.  But it could be kind of brilliant.” ”  One of the writers of this musical version said, “My first response was, “Who would go see that?” But then I immediately thought, “Well I would.  I’d definitely go see it.” ”  Pretty much my reaction.

When we finally made it eight thousand miles out to Islington, we were greeted by this giant creepy face-smeared portrait of Matt Smith (the ears give it away).


The Almeida Theatre, aside from having devastatingly uncomfortable bench seats that made Amity and I feel about four times our age the next day, was really cool.  The entire production was so synthetic and 80s.  The throwback songs fit in perfectly and the original numbers were actually great, whether they were funny or sinister.  I just didn’t see how singing would fit in to a story about a serial killer, but somehow it worked.


It’s also a pretty small place, so we felt really close to the stage.  Matt Smith stared into my soul a few times.  Once he winked.  This may top the time that Justin Timberlake pointed at me at the *NSYNC concert in fourth grade (mostly because I can not be conclusively sure that that happened).

American Psycho’s run has ended, too, but I feel like there’s definite potential for both this one and The Light Princess to get picked up again.  They were just so great!

January was a month of hits in the theatre department.  Five awesome and very different shows, and five welcome and well-distracting breaks from the monotony of schoolwork.  Bring it on, February!

Take the Long Way Home

Last week was tough.

I had my first writing assignment due for grad school.  It was a book review, on a book that I found completely uninteresting and miserable to read.  Aside from being generally unpleasant, it was also making me seriously question whether this program was the right fit for me after all.

Granted, I was definitely overthinking things, but still.  This was our first assignment, I didn’t have any experience to tell me what the professors were expecting, and a text that’s supposedly central to my master’s degree sparked absolutely no interest in me.  Oh also my roommate was in Italy.  Empty flat = crazy hermit.

I was really, really stressed out.

One evening, I was leaving school just as the sun was setting.  Walking quickly would only get me back to my flat and my imminent workload faster, so I slowed down.

The Royal Courts of Justice buildings were reflecting the twilight, and the windows were lit up like they were on fire.


The sunset colors were blazing over the buildings of Fleet Street.


I crossed the Strand to head into my usual tube station, but I passed it by before I fully realized what I was doing.  I just didn’t want to go back underground yet.

I skipped the few extra steps down to the river, walked right up to the concrete railing, and took in the view.


The sky was changing by the second, and everything along the Thames was just beginning to light up.  See Big Ben’s glowing face peeking out to the right of the London Eye?

I took my time walking along the embankment, stopping to take a few photos for tourists posing in front of the London skyline.  The air got bluer and more lights twinkled on.


Waterloo Bridge was reflecting on the water and the needle-like Shard was sparkling against the sky (towards the right side of the photo – sorry this one turned out so grainy!).


I climbed the steps up to the pedestrian Hungerford Bridge and looked back over the glowing Thames.  A front row seat to one of the most incredible cities in the world.


Before I knew it, I’d walked as far as the next tube station on my route.  Only because I DID have to do my schoolwork eventually, I hopped on the train there and headed home.

I wasn’t quite as stressed out anymore, though.  That twenty minute walk along the river had made me feel better than I had in days.  It was a good reminder that even when something goes wrong, there is still so much to be grateful for.  And I think I’ll take the long way home more often.

Now go ahead, go dig out your old Supertramp records.  You wanted to as soon as you saw this post title.

On the Rooftops of London

First day of school!  First day of school!


Okay, I wasn’t exactly channeling Nemo on Monday, because it was actually the start of a full week of registration and orientation activities, but it was still exciting to have something concrete to pencil into my planner!

Monday started with an informative presentation about the details of student loans from a very funny fees office dude named Glenn.  He was perfectly witty and British.  That’s about all that can be said about that.

After that, I had some time to kill so I wandered around Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at the top of the LSE campus.


The Fields are actually more like a park with a lot of open meadow spaces, a little café in the center, and some tennis courts on the edge.  There are also some more jungley parts in the middle with paths running through them.  It’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of London!


My favorite parts are the edges of Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  There’s something that excites me about seeing the sprawling, old trees contrasted with the big urban city behind them.  I don’t really identify myself as strictly a “city person” or a “country person” – I honestly love them both, so the seamless blend of greenery and metropolis suits me perfectly!

Plus, most of the buildings in London are so interesting and lovely that I don’t find them to be an eyesore.  I like gazing up at them and imagining what it would be like to live in one of the pretty little flats at the top.


This next photo reminded me so much of the classic animated Disney version of 101 Dalmations… especially because people were walking their dogs.  I think it looks like the park where Roger and Anita first meet while they’re walking Pongo and Perdy at the very beginning of the movie.


After wandering around for a while, I went to meet some other members of my degree program for lunch at a little bakery on the corner of the park.  There were at least twenty of us who showed up and it was nice to establish some familiar faces with all the different events we have coming up this week.  I got to chat the most with a few people sitting right near me and it was so interesting to discover the different origins and backgrounds of everybody in the program.  I spent the most time talking to a girl from Australia and a guy from the Netherlands.

We all went from lunch straight to our general registration, which was basically a quick photocopy of our passports and took about five minutes.

The next day, we picked up again in the morning with a welcome presentation from the dean of graduate studies.  He was very funny, played Supertramp and Led Zeppelin to “fix” certain information in our minds, and assured us that the sun does shine in London… specifically, it will shine while we have our exams and while we’re writing our dissertations.

After that I attended an informal orientation, again just with the other members of my specific master’s program.  Everyone was there for this, about 40 of us all together… and I’m the only American.  I think that will make for a really interesting year and is exactly one of the reasons I was interested in LSE.  It has a reputation for being extremely international and I think that can be a learning experience in itself (nerd).  It also made me very popular during get-to-know-you bingo, because one of the squares to check off was “born in the USA.”  As a sidenote, I’m not trying to be an Eeyore, but do we ever outgrow having to play those games when we meet a new group of people?  I’m just not a fan.

I was in serious need of sustenance after this, so one of the girls in my program and I (yes!  I made a friend!) went to find a good spot for lunch.  We were walking through the center of campus when we noticed that people all around us were eating from paper plates heaped with hot food.  It somehow had the look of being FREE food about it, so we decided to investigate further.  We got in the queue, which moved very quickly, and soon found ourselves in front of a man with a tiny food cart who was doling out Indian food.  A guy next to us in line told us that he’s there every day, giving free lunch.  Is this real life?!  This could be a great asset to me as a poor graduate student in a very expensive city.  We’re still not really sure what was going on (the man didn’t actually speak at all), but I am not one to question a free lunch.

We were going to head back to the tube station after this, but took a quick trip up and through the Old Building just to see a bit more of our campus.  We climbed the stairs and came out on to the fourth floor roof terrace, a popular lunch spot because there’s a restaurant right indoors.  It had a great view of the main street through campus below, where the freshers fair was going on.


The Old Building also has one of LSE’s many walkways between academic buildings, which I think are so cool!


We kept heading upwards and stopped on the sixth floor.  We discovered the library of the anthropology department, which is small and private and looks like it could be a very well-kept secret if you’re looking for a quiet study spot!  I will have to keep that in mind.

We also poked our heads in to Shaw Library, which looks like it could be Mr. Darcy’s study at Pemberley.


That cool old wooden table towards the right is where Mr. Darcy would sit and write letters of business (how odious, I presume).  It also has TWO baby grand pianos (although, being a library, I can’t imagine you’re allowed to play them often), and is replete with squashy armchairs.


Directly through those windows above, we spied a little frog, so we headed outside to investigate.  This little guy was standing on a pedestal with no name or explanation other than a cryptic poem engraved in the stone column below him.

Seven lilied seas | We leap into adventure | Talei Jones and I


It was hard to find any information on this, but I was really curious because something about the poem just struck me.  After some pretty deep Google searching, I pieced together that Talei Jones was an LSE alum originally from Fiji, who was killed in a car accident just a couple of years ago.  I couldn’t find any mention of this statue anywhere, but I would imagine it was put in place by friends of hers from the school.  I thought it was a really lovely and whimsical little tribute.

From the same outdoor space, we could look down on the fourth floor terrace we’d just visited:


I can’t wait to bring my lunch up there on breaks between classes!

We followed a professor with a REALLY bad toupee, skipped down a little fire escape, and found our way back inside a half-floor down from the top.  The LSE campus seems to have all these little twists and turns, secret doors and funny passageways, and I absolutely love it!  For a large school in a big city, the campus is relatively compact, so I think it has expanded upwards and taken advantage of every bit of space it can!

Back inside, we had a dizzying vantage point down through the stairwell.


We spiraled down the stairs, stopping at each landing and floor.  The corridors and offices on each level were completely different, as though they’d been decorated one by one over many years.  Every window gave us a different view, and eventually we looked out to see our free lunch benefactor!


I’m very curious to see if he’ll actually be there every day.  I mean, we’ve all heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch… but here’s hoping!

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