Wednesday, June 9, 2010

London Saga: Part 3

I don't have the brainpower right now to pull up an alliterative title, so let's just go with 'A Day In Which I Slept Most of the Time, But Still Managed to Have Some Good Experiences.'

Today for class, we had an excellent lecture on London's architectural heritage by a man whose name I've conveniently forgotten, but he had a crazy hairstyle that reminded me of Einstein. According to one of our program coordinators, the lecturer has a different hairstyle every year, which is awesome.

But by the time the lecture was over and we continued our discussion of The Secret Agent, I began to feel so overwhelmingly tired again, despite the fact that I'd slept like 13 hours the night before. And I was coughing and blowing my nose and probably grossing out everyone within a three foot perimeter of me.

When lunch break rolled around, I decided to try to take a quick power nap before the afternoon session, but when my friend came to wake me up, I couldn't get myself out of bed. I was just so exhausted. So yay me - I ended up sleeping through the ENTIRE afternoon, missing a visit to an art gallery over in Rivington Place.

I woke up at 5 pm really irritated and groggy. I knew that we were supposed to watch a play at the National Theatre at 7:30 pm, but had no clue if everyone else had just stayed out or when we had planned to meet up. Luckily, I ran into a few other people from our program who got me up to date, and after eating dinner in the refectory (I love that they call the dining hall 'refectory'), we took the Bakerloo line to Embarkment and walked across the Thames to the National Theatre.

The outside of the National  Theatre really isn't much to look at; it's basically a big slab of concrete in the '60s Brutalism style that doesn't really do much for contemporary viewers. The inside, however, is gorgeous. A live band played Irish-influenced music; the colorfully decorated interior buzzed with Londoners dressed for a night out, each hoisting a glass of wine from the lively bar.

The play we saw was Terence Rattigan's After the Dance, perhaps his most brilliant - and underappreciated - play. (This is according to my program.) It was also directed by Thea Sharrock, whose former projects include Equus, which starred Daniel Radcliffe.

I'm not very familiar with Rattigan's other works, but After the Dance blew me away. I came into the theatre feeling under the weather, without a single idea what the play was about. And for you, my invisible reader, I shall recap:

In the late 1930s, the play follows a socialite couple, Joan and David Scott-Fowler, who are determined to drink and dance their way into revelry despite the changing social and political conditions of their time. David begins an affair with a younger woman named Helen Banner. She attempts to 'change' David for the better; in her simultaneously oblivious and cruel way, she destroys Joan and David's marriage.

The play is hilarious, darkly comedic, and incredibly poignant. And the production itself -- the set literally took my breath away; the acting was fabulous; the audience raptly involved.

During the intermissions, fellow viewers stopped me and asked what I thought; I had an interesting, thought-provoking discussion about the relevance of Rattigan's work today to generations unfamiliar with the decadence of the Roaring Twenties.

Did I mention that I love London?

Anyway, the play itself made me feel so heavy ... although I can't really pinpoint why. It's something that I keep mulling over in my head, something that I want to keep talking about, which means that it's meaningful in some way or another.

I've been thinking a lot about what artistic merit means, at least to me, and while I don't have the answer right now, I'll keep you updated on my musings. I think I'm beginning to believe that the text or work itself has no value within itself, or meaning - but that meaning is created by the dialogue interposed onto the text, and its effect on people ... a more liberating view of art than most would probably accept.

Ahem. Well, that's enough postulating for now. Amazingly enough, I feel tired. So long until tomorrow!

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