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Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies

August 14, 2014

Where have I been? Off having all kinds of fun!

First I went to the beach in SC for a week with Ron and both kids and we spent time with college friends and their kids and everyone had a great time. Our sandcastle for this trip was the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the reflecting pool, and the Lincoln Memorial. Our tradition is to make them and then watch the waves wash over until they’re gone, so this year we called that part “global warming.” IMG_2058(The green plastic alligator and orange crab in the reflecting pool are also traditional–they usually go in the moat of the castle, but this year I believe we gave them politician’s names.)

After we drove home from SC, we washed our clothes and set off again for London, where we met my mother and brother and his family. Eleanor and I arrived in time to join them at Speedy’s, after they had visited the museum at 221B Baker Street. Then we toured Westminster Abbey, where we were taken around by a verger, and his tour showed us new things. Of course, since we’d read more history since the last time we’d been, some of it meant more to us this time, too. We were fascinated with Henry VII, in particular–after seeing his grave at Westminster, we stood in front of his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery and tried to decide what we thought about his face.

For me and Eleanor, at least, the high point of the trip was the next day when Ron joined us and we went to the Aldwych Theatre to see a matinee of Wolf Hall and then an evening performance of Bring Up the Bodies. I had checked the handicapped accessibility of each theatre before buying tickets, because we were pushing my mother around in a wheelchair, so I had a seat for her that didn’t require any stair-climbing. After seeing her get up and down to allow others in the row, however, the accessibility hostess, a lovely woman named Emer, offered us a box right over the stage. Some of the view was limited, but my mother was more comfortable, we could both hear better, and what I lost in full-stage-view I gained in being able to see the actors very close up.

The adaptation of the books to the stage was well done, especially for the scenes in which Thomas Cromwell exhorts the prisoners to confess (to “making love” in the literal sense–when he knew they had done this in the court-proscribed sense–to Anne Boleyn). Although there funny moments, usually gracefully delivered by the incomparable Ben Miles, who played Thomas Cromwell, the plays got increasingly intense. It’s a good trick, making an audience hold its breath for a character whose fate is well-known and already decided, as some of the graves in Westminster Abbey had already demonstrated for us. One of the reasons we had to go to the National Portrait Gallery during this visit was to see the way they’ve hung Thomas Cromwell facing Thomas More. photo-343We crowded in as much fun as possible by not sleeping much, including an unplanned midnight show of Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe that got out at 3 am. It’s a good time for that play, the middle of the night. Cleopatra was less regal and aloof than I’ve seen her in other performances. She was playful and passionate, feeding a slice of apple to a groundling and then kissing him and taking big gulps of wine from another groundling’s plastic cup.

We also saw a kind of historical production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in which the cast members had played the same parts once each decade since the 1970’s. They delivered the lines well, for the most part, but added some framing comedy, and the white-haired actor playing Jack went for the broad humor in his line about being “twenty-nine.”

photo-352In a change of pace from the historical, we went to Leavesdon for the Harry Potter studio tour. My favorite part was the experience of walking through Diagon Alley–there were so many details in the shop windows and on the signs that I hadn’t taken in while watching the movies!

We went on the London Eye, too, as our hotel was right beside it, in the County Hall.

Now we are back, surfeited with tea and plays for the meantime, and preparing for the start of classes at Kenyon, Grinnell, and Oberlin.

I have books to tell you about when I can get around to writing them up properly!


21 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2014 10:34 am

    Oh my goodness, I want to say all of the things!!! You got to go on the HP Leavensdon tour?!?! I had no idea the Matel novels had been turned into plays, but now I desperately want to see them. I got to see Ben Miles in Richard II with Kevin Spacey when I was in London and he was so good. Also, a midnight showing at the Globe, your trip just sounds wonderful!!!

    • August 18, 2014 8:49 am

      It was wonderful!
      You definitely want to see the plays–Mantel consulted on how they were staged, and the RSC performances have been selling out in Stratford and now in London. I booked tickets near the beginning of May for our August trip.

  2. August 14, 2014 10:44 am

    And now I feel exhausted. Y’all have clearly taken ALL THE ENERGY.

    • August 18, 2014 8:50 am

      We did. It’s taken me a week to recover from the exhaustion and the cold I picked up by not sleeping enough and using every handrail on the stairs in the underground.

  3. August 14, 2014 2:15 pm

    Back-to-back trips, how fun and how tiring, I’m exhausted just reading about it! How cool you got to see Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Welcome back!

    • August 18, 2014 8:53 am

      That the trips were back to back was unplanned, but that’s the way it worked out with two families trying to schedule trips with young adult children before colleges start up again. My niece is beginning her first year at Rensselaer with first-year orientation this week.

  4. August 15, 2014 12:01 pm

    Glad you enjoyed London! The actors being close up sounds a good trade off, you never do know how much you’re missing out on when your far from the stage. I love the NPG but it didn’t register that they’d put Cromwell and More facing each other, that’s both funny and provocative.

    • August 18, 2014 8:55 am

      We figure someone at the NPG seized the historical moment (of the plays) and is feeling quite pleased with herself now.

  5. August 15, 2014 5:01 pm

    Oh! Did you like the National Portrait Gallery? I love that museum, and it has my favorite gift shop of any of the London museums.

    Actors interacting with groundlings is one of my utter favorite things about the Globe. That’s why I’m always always a groundling. (Also because it is very cheap. :p)

    • August 18, 2014 8:59 am

      We do like the National Portrait Gallery. I went through it with my father in 1999 and we decided that the people in the most striking portraits wore red. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the gift shop, which is unusual actually, as I like such shops and look for postcards there.

      We were glad not to be groundlings at midnight. I didn’t mention this, but it was raining. Most of the stage is under a roof, and the seats are under a roof, but the groundlings were standing in the rain, mostly wearing ponchos that had a quotation on the back “Let the sky RAIN potatoes…”

  6. August 17, 2014 9:47 am

    I’m so glad that you saw the Cromwell plays. Ben Miles is superb, isn’t he. There will be a third when the last volume comes out. I hope you get to see that as well.

    • August 18, 2014 9:00 am

      We do want to see the third, when it’s turned into a play. Another trip to London, perhaps!

  7. August 17, 2014 10:13 am

    Wow – I am super impressed by your high-octane itinerary – how did you fit it all in? It sounds like a splendid couple of holidays. And I did love your sand sculptures succumbing to global warming!

    • August 18, 2014 9:03 am

      The beach trip was relaxing, so we were well-rested to start for London, where we fit it all in by not sleeping much and booking ahead for most of the things we knew we wanted to do. Also by not contacting people we know who live in and around London! This one was a family-only trip.

  8. aartichapati permalink
    August 17, 2014 12:35 pm

    Wow, so many things! Now I want to go back to London 🙂 I’m so jealous of the Wolf Hall play – I wonder if that will make it stateside some time. And Harry Potter! And The Globe. Clearly, a very literary focused trip 🙂

    • August 18, 2014 9:05 am

      We have usually tried to see a play each night and sometimes a matinee too, while in London. For this trip, we didn’t reserve anything for the night we went to Leavesdon, although as it turned out, we could have. We booked a bus from Victoria that left at 9 am and returned to Victoria at 4 pm.

  9. August 18, 2014 6:12 am

    Aw you did a bunch of stuff I did this year too 🙂 I saw Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies (although a couple of weeks apart). And I went to the Harry Potter studio tour – loved it. One of the most impressive things for me was all the concept art at the end. But the Dark Arts classroom was probably my favourite, although the cat plates were close.

    What did you think of the ride on the Eye though? I’ve done a lot of London view experiences and felt you didn’t get such a good look at everything as I might have hoped. Next time you’re over I recommend the Shard, although it’s a bit pricey.

    • August 18, 2014 9:11 am

      To tell the truth, we were clowning around and talking to each other a bit on the Eye–my mother was excited to be back in London, and she was pointing out all the familiar landmarks. We used some of the ipad things to identify what we were looking at while we were high above the city. Eleanor mentioned that the Shard had an observation deck, but we didn’t go up that way this time.

  10. magpiemusing permalink
    August 21, 2014 6:54 pm

    Cool. I loved those books and I can imagine that a stage play would be great.

    • August 21, 2014 8:52 pm

      Parts were left out, obviously, but the plays were true to the feel of the novels, and dramatized the selected scenes well.


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