Week 1: Sunday (London, brunch, cinema, picnic, Munchkins game)

I woke up sneezing, courtesy of the hayfever I seemed to have picked up last year in Belfast (I never had any problem with Sydney’s pollen!), but was otherwise in high spirits because I’ve noticed a correlation between hayfever-induced sneezing and sunshine. And lo, when I left my friend’s at around 11:30am, it was indeed beautifully warm outside, and I only had to wear three layers on top instead of four.

And I got to wear my sunglasses–happy days!

Costy and I met up at noon for brunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Covent Garden, which, while super lovely, had the extreme disadvantage (to me) of boasting an extensive menu of deliciousness. Naturally, the paradox of choice kicked in, and I was actually paralysed and couldn’t order for myself… Thankfully (or not?), I love and eat everything, so I asked the server to choose for me, and was super happy when he picked the mushrooms on toast. I also went for a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, bringing brunch to a today of £12.65.

Lots of mushrooms!

Lots of mushrooms!

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The Humble Tour — Week 1: Saturday (London)

One of the reasons I was determined to be in London this weekend is so I could hang out with the one and only Costy, a super epic friend and fellow fangirl. Since we were meeting in the afternoon, I lounged around again this morning, helped myself to more of my friend’s food, helped with a bit of cleaning (gotta earn my keep!), did some admin, called my parents in Ausland, and ate some of the food I got last night for today’s lunch (£3).

Since Costy and I both enjoy shiny things, we had arranged to go to the Jamie Lloyd Company’s rendition of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (£28), with Kit Harrington (of Game of Throne‘s Jon Snow fame) in the title role. I found the production very, very bizarre, especially since it was somewhat billed as Marlowe–while it does contain chunks from “Marlowe’s” play (keeping in mind the Renaissance Doctor Faustus exists in two separate versions), it also uses new scenes written by Colin Teevan. While I’m all for adaptations and “updated” productions, this one was so far from the “original Marlowe” that I would’ve much preferred it being a Faustus spin-off entirely rather than attempting to squeeze in Marlowe’s (blank) verse. Nonetheless, Kit Harrington does spend a lot of time shirtless, which is not an unpleasant sight.

Yes, I was wearing a rather geeky shirt. :D

Yes, I was wearing a rather geeky shirt. :D

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The Humble Tour — Week 1: Friday (London)

After yesterday’s super insanity, I wanted to take it easy today. Spent the morning and most of the afternoon lounging around, raiding my friend’s fridge and cupboards, catching up on a bit of television (BBC’s “Shakespearean” Upstart Crow had me in stitches), planning more of my itinerary, booking more train tickets, and so on. In fact, I didn’t leave my friend’s cosy flat until around 4:30pm, and that was only because I wanted to catch the 5pm Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Yeah, I’m a confused agnostic…

Whenever I’m sitting in on a service (as opposed to singing in one), I’m always struck by how the acoustics tend to go all over the place, and anyone beyond the quire can only hear consonants and very little of the actual words. St. Paul’s, with its massive dome, is notorious for eating up any kind of enunciation. There were also some particularly dodgy notes sung (especially in the Ayleward Responses, which I’ve known well from both Durham and Belfast), but overall, it was a lovely experience in its familiarity.

I might even go so far to say I felt “cleansed” afterward. Confused agnostic, at your service.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Samantha’s Humble Tour and the English Dream Trip — Week One: Thursday

I’ve always found it difficult to achieve a good balance between experiencing and documenting all the crazy and wonderful things in my life, and I’m well-aware of the massive backlog I’ve acquired over the last few months of work and life explosions. But right now, the PhD thesis has been submitted, the university semester is over, the final essays have been marked and returned, the Shakespeare conferences and talks and film introductions have been given, the contents of my Belfast life have been donated or stored safely at a good friend’s, the house has been successfully vacated, the 30 or so insect bites along my legs and ankles (my souvenir from Paris two weeks ago) have healed reasonably well, and I am here in London with my trusty carry-on, ready to embark on five (!!) weeks of work-free, deadline-free, and laptop-free adventures. (Okay, maybe not entirely work-free, since I’ll probably do a bit of novelling and other writing, but these are super funfunfun things!)

So I thought I might take this opportunity to document the next five weeks of Samantha’s Humble Tour (as opposed to the traditional Grand Tour). A good chunk of it will be what I’ve called my “English Dream Trip”, and, since I’ve decided not to rent a car, I’ll be spending a lot of time on trains. The “English Dream Trip” attempts to cover as many of the places I’ve always wanted to go but never managed. When I first accepted the PhD scholarship at Queen’s University Belfast, I had every intention of going on trips to other parts of the UK and beyond every fortnight or month–and it never happened, because I developed an unprecedented case of workaholism for both the PhD and Tea For Three Studios, and I was also committed to sing in a cathedral choir every Sunday.

But no more! The English Dream Trip is indeed happening (even if I’m planning it as I go), and I will indeed document it and share the uber shinies with my iPhone-only photos! I also thought I’d share the cost of everything, since it might be helpful for anyone else preparing their own English (or perhaps Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish) Dream Trips, and because I want to show that a lot of these trips are rather affordable (accommodation notwithstanding–I had some horrible hostel experiences a few years back, and am thus disinclined to share my sleeping quarters with strangers). Also, to put some prices into context, I have several perks as a “student” and have acquired a Railcard, which gives me 1/3 off a range of trains–I’ll try to put the normal prices were applicable.

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Shakespearean Classical Music

I had the great pleasure and privilege of giving a public lecture on Shakespeare and Music earlier today, during which I referred to several pieces of Shakespearean classical music. Since the timeslot was limited–and the world of Shakespeare is immense–I didn’t get to discuss or play most of the music I’d mentioned. Fortunately, there’s plenty of space on my wee blog for both the Bard and Bardastic music, so here are a few Shakespearean pieces (complete with embedded YouTube videos) for your listening pleasure:

Thomas Arne’s Shakespearean Songs

Mr Arne’s settings of Shakespeare’s songs from the 1740s onwards played quite an important role in reviving interest in Shakespearean music. While these songs are from Shakespeare’s plays, they weren’t actually written by the Bard–in most cases, Shakespeare simply took the lyrics of pre-existing popular songs and plopped them into the plays. As I continue to advocate: Shakespeare was the greatest playwright-poet-plagiarist of all time!

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2016 Bardathon: March Giveaway

A super enthusiastic hello from New Orleans! Over the past few days, I’ve been partaking in a pretty epic amount of Shakespearing at the Shakespeare Association of America’s annual meeting (appropriately nicknamed #ShakeAss). Two days before I left for New Orleans, I submitted my PhD thesis, entitled “Shakespeare and the Soundtrack”–two weeks before that, I was in London for my long weekend of catching Shakespeare’s late romances. March has certainly been a massive Bardathon on my end!

But it’s time now to share your Bardathon activities from March, and perhaps even receive a Shakespeare-themed handkerchief in the monthly giveaway. To enter, fill out the form below with a link to a blog post/Goodreads review/Tweet/etc about how you’ve participated in the Bardathon Challenge during the month, and your thoughts about the experience. Entries are accepted until 4 April 2016, and the winner drawn at random shortly thereafter. If you have any questions, please do drop me a line. Good luck!

Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: The Tempest

It seems rather fitting that the last of the four late romances I’ve attended this long weekend is The Tempest, which is not only presumably Shakespeare’s final solo work (he ended his career with a few collaborations, including Pericles), but also the final Globe play under the direction of the outgoing artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, who’s held the position since 2005. While I’ve always appreciated the artistry of The Tempest, I’ve never felt particularly connected to the play, and have had a number of reservations: Prospero’s treatment of Caliban and Ariel, Prospero’s general machinations, the super duper problematic “romantic” relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand, and so on. I suppose the main reason I’ve never taken to the play is my lack of a favourite–or even just a preferred–character, which then means I tend to lose interest in the plot. The high incidence of music and physical comedy also makes it difficult to sit and read off the page, which meant that although The Tempest is not at all my “go-to” play, I always look forward to discovering how stage productions make use of the play-text.

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: Pericles

Pericles is one of the few “Shakespeare” plays I hadn’t seen, so I jumped at the opportunity to catch it at the Globe with the other late romances. Having attended Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale in a standing spot, I’d opted to have a seat (albeit restricted by a pillar), which was definitely the right choice, given how much my legs (and poor, PhD back) were protesting.

There’s been much speculation on Pericles‘s authorship, with general agreement that George Wilkins was Shakespeare’s collaborator. While I’ve read the play before (during a three-week pre-PhD frenzy of tackling the Norton Shakespeare from cover to cover), only a few key moments remained with me (namely, the climactic father-daughter reunion). In this sense, I went into the performance as a novice, a feeling in which I luxuriated because there are only so many times one can experience a Shakespeare/Shakespearean play for the first time (38, to be exact).

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: The Winter’s Tale

In recent years, I’ve grown especially partial to ideas and works that, by whatever means and through whichever combinations, exhibit and embody a perfect balance. While perceptions of “balance” (and indeed, “perfection”) may be rather subjective, I’d like to think some fundamentals apply, such as the prevalence of opposition in relatively equal proportions. And I’ve always thought The Winter’s Tale a prime example of this balance, with its two halves containing contrasting themes, language, characters, and locations, which, when seen as a whole, are revealed as gloriously complementary.

All this preamble is to foreground my fangirly gushing for the Globe’s performance of The Winter’s Tale under the direction of Michael Longhurst, which, overall, is the best production of the play I’ve seen so far. Leontes (John Light) always bugged me, but here, his explosive reactions to the “perceived” affair between his wife and BFF had me fearful for their lives. Hermione (Rachael Stirling) was exquisite, and, in contrast to Leontes’ rage, her dignified sotte voce deliveries had my heart bursting with simultaneous agony and admiration. I was also very much taken by Camillo (Fergal McElherron), whose devotion was not only beautifully steadfast, but also reminded me of the faithful Pisanio in Cymbeline. In fact, The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline share similar themes of jealousy, wronged women, and (undeserved?) loyalty, which were all made more apparent by watching one after the other.

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: Cymbeline

After heading to the Globe straight from the airport and spending two delightful hours with a friend over lunch (which was actually afternoon tea, with copious sandwiches, scones, and cakes), I entered the Sam Wanamaker indoor theatre for the first of my Shakespeare marathon: Cymbeline.

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