13 September, 2016

Water and Billie and Puck, Oh My! - by Jackie Asbury

Hello Hello Hello!! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jackie Asbury, and I am one of the lucky students studying in London this semester!

Today I am here to talk to you all about something that is very near and dear to me: theatre. Or more specifically, today I am here to talk to you all about the theatre I have seen so far in the UK.

Before coming to London, I was able to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where I was able to see a multitude of shows, some very good, some not so good. And since coming to London and discovering how much more affordable theatre is here than in New York (@ New York: what are you doing) and having the opportunity to see shows for some of my classes, I have seen even more shows! And many more are yet to come. But I digress. Let’s talk about my top three (in reverse favorite order).

The Glass Menagerie. I saw this production in Edinburgh, and it was by far the best show I saw in Scotland. This show was acted so stunningly, but the direction and the design were really what got me. Director John Tiffany incorporated such beautiful movement into this piece and it made me even more excited than I already am (although is that even possible?) to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in a few weeks, which Tiffany also directed. The way that he brought Menagerie to life felt so real and so dreamlike simultaneously. It was beautiful to watch and I cried. The design of the show was also truly magical. The set of the house in which the show takes place was surrounded by water on the stage, so it looked like these two rooms were just floating. Every so often, stars would be reflected onto the water to become an upside-down night sky. I wasn’t aware of the water until intermission (I thought it was a mirror or glass or something) and the realization of what it actually was blew my mind. I absolutely loved this show.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The night before classes began, we were all given the opportunity to see this classic Shakespeare comedy at… Shakespeare’s Globe! Ta-da! How cool?? We got to be little groundlings and stand in the yard and watch Shakespeare just like they did in ye olden times. Except not really. But it was still ridiculously cool. And the production was just so awesome. The show had a bit of a Bollywood theme throughout and they modernized it and strayed from the text (which I rarely mind when it comes to Shakespeare. My personal opinion is that the best way to keep something timeless is to make it accessible and relatable to as many people as possible. If that means adding some Beyonce to a scene, go for it. And yes that really did happen in this production (it was dope!) and Helena became Helenus and was played by a man. I pretty much always love gender-bending, and seeing LGBT representation in a Shakespeare play that worked was just really great. The actress who played Puck in this production was also absolutely hilarious and fearless and tried to steal my bracelet at one point while walking through the audience. This was the kind of show that reminds you why you love theatre so much and why you want to dedicate your life to it (if you’re anything like me).

Yerma. Most recently, I was able to see this show for one of my classes and I think you should all buckle up folks, because I could literally talk about this show forever. Billie Piper stars as the titular heroine in this reimagining of Frederico Lorca’s famous play, adapted and directed by Simon Stone. Yerma tells the story of a woman unable to have children and how the affects her and those around her. This adaptation was brought into 21st century London and frankly, absolutely everything about this show blew me away. With the audience set up in stadium seating, the stage was encompassed in a glass box in the middle of the room. This was the second time one of this director’s shows featured the actors performing in a glass box, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And this production was certainly not broke. Throughout the entire show, I felt like I was watching something incredibly private that I was not supposed to be seeing. The set changes were flawless and succinct and the music they played during the intervals in between scenes perfectly reflected the haunting and intense emotions of the show. Okay. It’s time for me to talk about Billie Piper now. Holy guacamole, you guys. Billie freaking Piper. I am not exaggerating when I say that Billie Piper is one of, if not the greatest actress of our time. I have never seen an actress give a performance like that in my life. She was earth-shatteringly powerful. Her descent into complete madness that led up to a decision no woman should ever have to make (no spoilers, I promise! This ending is different from Lorca’s) was heartbreaking and terrifying to watch but impossible to look away from. Billie Piper bared her soul on that stage and it was incredible to witness. I was in tears by the end of the show, simply because I was overwhelmed by the amount of emotion I was watching. I will remember this production for the rest of my life and if I could see it again and again and again, I would. But alas. It’s sold out. Also I’m poor. But anyway. Yerma has been my favorite show I have seen here so far and absolutely one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen in my life (right up there with Hamilton and Peter and the Starcatcher).

Well that’s all for now, my friends! Thanks for listening to my passionate theatre ramblings. More to come, I’m sure. Enjoy your day. Pet a dog. Drink some tea. Hug a friend. Kiss a loved one. See a show. All that jazz. Toodles!

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