As the trip winds down to a close, we recognize that theater has been a very large and significant part of the trip’s itinerary. Upon seeing “The Cherry Orchard,” we found that Russian society was portrayed in a highly interesting fashion through the struggle of a 19th century family that owned the cherry orchard. Moreover, we had the opportunity to be groundlings at The Globe Theatre, as we saw “Much Ado About Nothing,” a Shakespearian comedy. We were extremely entertained by the audience participation that the actors required in order to put on a successful show. As groundlings, we not only experienced the influence of watching a performance in the rain while standing, but we also felt more connected to the plot, the actors and thus the play as the whole. Further, we saw a production of “Macbeth,” a Shakespearian tragedy, in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. We found that the director and actors of the tragedy took numerous liberties with the script as they altered the order of events in the play and the characters’ traits. Still, they successfully presented a thrilling recount of the famous tragedy. On a slightly happier note, we saw an English comedy entitled “Noises Off” most recently. This play, which we found to be the most riveting and humorous, was set in a 1980s theater, showing the lives of actors both onstage and backstage while preparing and performing a show. As the opportunity to see this show offered an extremely comical recount of show production, the group agreed that the show was the most entertaining because of the classic British humor.
In general, we found that English audiences differed from audiences in the United States. We saw that English audiences did not award any of the actors standing ovations, which almost seems to be common practice in American theaters, even though the shows were just as well received here in England. Also, we found that the audiences maintained, in general, more respect for the actors performing onstage and refrained from cheering and hollering during the performance, more so than in America. While people act differently in the theater here in the UK as people do in America, all of the productions that we have seen have been astounding and we enjoyed ever minute of the performances.
– Katie and Peter
At this point in our trip around the UK, we have seen a total of four plays, all of which were in England. As you may have already read on our blog, we began our trip with a performance of Anton Chekov’s play The Cherry Orchard. Despite our fatigue that day (having come straight off the plane) we were all riveted by the story that unwound before us as the actors showed us a snapshot in the lives of a poor, but aristocratic Russian family. Themes of change, social class, and family presented themselves throughout the play, which we were all able to pick up on, even in our state of exhaustion, due to the talent of the actors. I was told that this play is comedy, but it seemed rather dark in my opinion.
Just a few days later, we found ourselves at the legendary Globe Theater as we watched a performance of Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing as groundlings. Watching a play at the Globe was a much more interactive experience than sitting in comfortable seats of the National. At the Globe we felt that the actors were talking much more to us than to each other, and we loved the feeling of being almost a part of the play as actors walked amongst the audience and acknowledged our presence. The actors completely embodied their characters as they made us laugh throughout.
Our third play was a production of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford upon Avon. Some of us had read the play before, others had seen it performed previously, and others of us had no previous knowledge of the play, but we all had a strong reaction to the performance. While we all agreed that the set was incredible and the music complimented the performance, there were mixed reactions on the acting and liberties taken with the text. Certain characters were changed in some way, such as the witches who become small and very creepy children, and certain sections of dialogue were moved around or cut out, such as the opening scene with the witches. Despite all this, the play certainly left a lasting impression on all of us.
Finally, just the other night we saw a play called Noises Off, which most of us had never seen before. It was a comedy that followed a theater company as they struggled to get through a performance of a (fictional) play call Nothing On. It was the third comedy we saw, and we all found it absolutely hysterical.
Based on our theater going here in the UK, we have all observed that audiences here tend to dress more formally than most people would back in the U.S. and they also seem more composed both during and at the end of a performance. At the performance of The Cherry Orchard we all felt underdressed and ashamed of our sleepiness, so we quickly observed how to properly dress and react at the theater. Although we probably still stood out at each performance, we have all thoroughly enjoyed the performances and loved our time here.
(P.S. Hi Mom and Dad!)