Well, I’m here.
I live in London.
What a notion. To say that, I mean. I’ve finally been here long enough that I don’t feel like a tourist, but I don’t even know what to say. Wow.
I should apologize in advance for my writing style. It’s always been a bit, off. What you’re going to see here won’t typically read like a news article. More like… a script. Or a sketchbook. Or something. I don’t know just yet.
But, the point is, I’m here. In London. And it seems that it’s my job to tell you about it. So, let’s get right down to brass tacks, shall we?
A brief introduction, to this place. Perhaps.
The basics are as follows. I’ve been here about a week, seen three different plays in three very different settings, live in the Chelsea district, take class on the other end of the city, and learn all over this city. I’m studying theatre – but I imagine you already knew that. After all, that’s what there is to do here. It’s the most popular thing to do. I’m going to try and describe the basics of my existence in this city, but please pardon my tangential nature.
Let’s start from the inside out. The room I share with another American student (Brandy) is of a size which would make my freshman triple seem positively luxurious. This, quite frankly, is probably the biggest adjustment so far. I live in what is politely referred to as the “London Residence Hall”, where approximately 250 people involved in my program coexist. Again, the general feel is of my entire freshman year, stuffed into about half the space of the last time around.
I don’t spend a lot of time here.
No, I spend my time in a few places. It feels like I spend the majority of my time, in fact, on the Tube. The London Underground is an absolute feat of public transportation – it’s fast, it’s efficient, and the people watching is absolutely superb. By my account, I’ve caught at least nine languages, three intense arguments, dozens of people reading books (thank God a country still exists where people read), surprisingly few iPods, an approximately 80-year age range, and one game of Charades which overtook the entire cabin of the subway train. This latter, I think, was actually an unusual occurrence – but I’m sure stranger things have, and will, happen.
When I’m not on the tube, however, I spend some significant time being lost. But that’s okay – in this city, it seems, everyone is lost. The most seasoned Londoners still carry around what is known as the London A-Z (pronounced ‘zed’), and I have been asked for directions almost as often as I’ve had to ask. The city, it seems, wasn’t built to be user-friendly, and has no desire to apologize for this fact.
I spend another large part of my time in pubs. This is a beautiful aspect of the culture, because a) they’ll let me in, and b) everybody actually wants to be there. You don’t go to a bar to pick people up…. well, you go to the nightclubs to do that, but I’ll get to that later. No, pubs are, in essence, like the Cheers bar, or McLaren’s in How I Met Your Mother. In short, it’s that place everyone wants to go – but it’s on every street corner. Delightful, fantastic, and I’ve learned some great things there.
For instance, did you know England is a Socialist country? No kidding. This is actually the reason the arts do so well here – they’re subsidized by the government. Medicine, same thing, and education (including university) is highly subsidized… and their taxes aren’t much higher than ours.
And, contrary to my expectations, religion doesn’t matter here. As in, nobody cares. They’re actually opposed to public displays of religion – if you have one, fine, but it has absolutely no place in politics, work, or much of anywhere. On this note, it’s a surprisingly liberal place. I was asked, by someone who has since become a friend, about my opinions on oral sex about twenty minutes into our meeting. It’s nice not to feel
Everything else I’ve learned isn’t really all that credible. I suppose I’ve learned they actually like Americans here… mostly. They seem to think it’s kind of cute, the accent especially. Not like, sexy cute, more ‘puppies and kittens’ cute, but one takes what one can get.
And then, there are the nightclubs. These kind of feel like a freshman-year house party, with better lighting. But I think there’s something to them. I’m still on the lookout for a salsa or swing club, or an indie-rock place… More on this later. I’m reserving judgment at this point.
Oh, I take class. Every class I’m involved in relates to theatre in some way. They are, as follows:
Performance: Solo performance class. What makes this fascinating is that I’m learning the British style of teaching acting, which is about 36872 times more disciplined, and revolves more around perfecting your type of role than diversifying your skills. It’s interesting, but it’s hard. Wish me luck.
Theatre Industry: This is a very thinly veiled excuse for us to network like hell. Every class we meet some new friend of our (very influential) professor, and they explain to us how things work and we do our damnedest not to look stupid in front of them.
Shakespeare: You’ve heard of that guy, right? Yeah, they don’t know much about him here.
Drawing: Is the first formal drawing class I’ve ever taken. But, get this. It consists of mostly going into the National Gallery and copying from the Leonardos and Raphaels and Caravaggios and Van Eycks and so forth. I had a small art-history-gasm on our gallery tour.
Theatre Literature: Is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Can’t say I love it, but I’m getting out of the way. And, it does mean I get to see a play every week, for free.
About that. The plays.
Dear God, they’re good.
I’ll sit down and geek out about the theatre in a whole separate post later, but wow. These people know what they’re doing. I’ve now seen a Globe production (The Merry Wives of Windsor), A West End comedy (http://www.criterion-theatre.com/current_show.html) and a fringe production called Pieces of Vincent (http://www.arcolatheatre.com/?action=showtemplate&sid=428) and… just wow. Like I said, I’ll get to that later.
And, I’ll have an internship soon… I have a couple of interviews set up, with the King’s Head (http://www.kingsheadtheatre.org/home/about-the-king-s-head.php) and the Arcola Theatre (http://www.arcolatheatre.com/index.php4), and I’ll let you know how those go.
I suppose, what I have to say, is that I’m thoroughly impressed. I feel I’ve made a good choice. It’s hard to explain how I feel – I’m still a little overwhelmed. But there’s a place for me here.
Excuse me, while I go and find it.