Time in London so far? Whirlwind. A ton of walking — my pedometer was up to about seven miles on our first full day on Friday. Walking a lot is inevitable in large cities for sure but it has definitely been tiring too. It’s still early enough that I haven’t seen many shows yet and have mostly just been attempting to plan out when I’ll see what. Even doing that is hard because the best prices and discounts are given for day-of tickets, meaning the majority of what I have on my schedule is tentative. I’m majorly lacking actual time to blog at the moment since we’re off to dinner soon before a show — I don’t know much about this one except that it involves improv similar to Whose Line, so what more do I need to know? The first show I saw with a few people on Saturday night (One Man, Two Gov’ners) was hilarious and also involved some improv and incorporated some really good live music as well during set changes.
One of the most difficult things for all of us is figuring out where to draw the line between frugal and stingy. This applies to pretty much everything because we’re all college students or recent grads, but in terms of shows this means constantly needing to decide when to go for cheaper tickets and when to pay a little more to increase the quality of the experience. For this first show we were hesitant about buying the cheapest tickets because the guys at the ticket booth made it sound like they would be really far back, but we went for it anyway. The theater turned out to be super small so our tickets were actually excellent and not too far back at all. We realized how helpful it is to research the size and layout of the venues beforehand when possible for this reason.
The improv parts of the show involved random audience members being chosen to help out on stage for a little bit. The second time this happened turned out to be the best part of the show because we legitimately couldn’t figure out if it was intentional or not until the end. That time the lead actor chose a woman to come up on stage and she was really timid and clearly didn’t want to be up there at all; she all but refused to actually face the audience and spoke quietly when he asked her questions. But he wouldn’t let her leave — just when he would say she could return to her seat, something would happen with another character and he would make her hide onstage. About the fourth time that this happened, he made her crawl under a table and it was so clear that she was super embarrassed by all of this and just not enjoying it at all and we were sitting there feeling awful for her. In this part of the show — in a nutshell — the characters were preparing a dinner on the table and trying to light the stove. The woman from the audience started edging out from under the table because she was so clearly done with all of this, and this was the time to make a break for it once and for all. So as she stands up, the stove is finally lit in a huge burst of (fake) flames, and the main actor grabs a hose and fire extinguisher and, in his effort to put out the fire, covers her from head to toe since she was…directly in the line of fire…(pun completely intended. come on, it was right there). He starts apologizing and a stage manager comes running out from backstage to help the woman off to get her cleaned up. This is how the first act ended, so during intermission then we were just sitting there saying things along the lines of “that did not just happen. They wouldn’t do that. Can they do that?” We chose to believe she was really an actress and not an audience member, just because that made us feel better, but none of us were honestly sure at all until the very end of the show when she did come out to bow with everyone else. Super well done and very convincing.
(Remember that part where I said I didn’t have much time to blog? I didn’t. I’m finishing this up a day later)
Since then we haven’t had a whole lot of luck with shows we’ve been trying to see, but with this being the front end of the trip it’s been good to take the time to determine what we absolutely don’t want to miss, and when we’re going to try to see things. Concessions (student discounts) are only available the day of the particular performance, so the majority of our schedule is inevitably tentative. But it’s worth it to try for concessions or tickets that have been sold back because they really are the best deals. It really comes down to both determination and luck, and thankfully I have a lot of determination because obviously that’s the only one of those things I have any control over. I already feel quite proficient on both the tube and the buses, both of which were goals of mine from the beginning, but there’s a definite chance that I’m overconfident since St. Athans (our hotel/hostel) is basically perfectly located. It’s away from the noise and busy-ness of the main streets, but just a couple blocks from the tube, and only a stop or two from the main theatre locations, so getting to those is very straightforward and I already feel familiar with each of those areas in terms of landmarks and street names. I love feeling able to get around easily, but I can also already see how easy it is to feel like it’s okay to be less cautious with increased familiarity. I think I’ve been doing a good job so far of always being conscious of how I’m holding my things and who is around me when I’m out, but I can also feel myself leaning towards thinking it’s safer than it is just because nothing has happened yet. I haven’t gone anywhere alone since arriving here, but I might for shows that others aren’t as interested in seeing. I feel like that will be fine (not thinking so much about being out alone at night, but during the day) but I also need to keep my overconfidence in check and plan to keep doing so.
Yesterday (Sunday) all of us attended Sung Eucharist at Westminster Abbey and took communion during the service, which I still can’t quite believe actually happened. It was a short service — only about an hour and a half — and certainly different than anything I’m used to (though as we were waiting in line outside before it started, I was going to make some sarcastic comment about it being exactly like my home church when I realized that the building we meet in back home is actually called Westminster House. Still, not really the same…in case that needed any clarification).
More to come later!