Last week before my Literature and Place class, our instructor asked us what we were going to miss about London, and it really started sinking in that I’m leaving in less than two weeks. There are a million and one things about London that I’m going to miss once I’ve returned home, but what tops this list is, undoubtedly, theatre.
I've wanted to write a post about my theatre experiences here in London since I saw my very first show back in January, yet I’ve held it off until now because I’ve been dreading the thought of attempting to articulate just how amazing the theatre scene in London truly is. I know this is hardly a surprise—along with Broadway in New York, the West End is widely known as the theatre mecca of the modern world. But it has somehow managed to completely exceed each and every one of my preconceived notions.
I’ve been lucky enough to have seen a very wide variety of shows here in London in great part due to my theatre classes at IES Abroad London. As I explained in my “Ode to Experiential Learning” post several weeks ago, here at IES Abroad London, all participants in any of the three different theatre classes offered here (Theater in London, Playwriting, and Performance) attend performances on Thursday nights throughout the semester. We saw productions in a number of different venues, such as big commercial West End theatres like the Theatre Royal Haymarket, subsidized theatres like the National Theatre, and smaller, off-West End venues like the Donmar Warehouse. We saw a total of nine different shows, and each one blew me away in its own particular fashion. One of my absolute favorites was the Bridge Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar, done without a traditional stage so that the audience was completely immersed in the action. Another highlight was a musical called Caroline, or Change done at the Hampstead Theatre, which was so well-received by the public that it has recently announced a transfer to the Playhouse Theatre, a major theatre in the West End. For our final production, we were each given the opportunity to choose one of our own out of a massive list of possibilities. I decided on a West End production of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey Into Night. A fervent theatre-lover, I really cannot express what an incredible opportunity this was. The fact that I saw ten world-class productions…for class? It still seems unreal. But that was certainly not the end of my theatre experiences here.
Theatre is expensive. The ticket prices for Broadway shows are insanely high…and it seems like they’re just getting more and more pricey. This was something I was worried about coming to London. I was so excited about the shows playing this semester, but I had no idea what to expect in terms of accessibility. Now I know I shouldn’t have been worried. Perhaps the main reason I have loved theatre here so much is how accessible I have found it to be. Students here are given many different ways to purchase tickets at a discounted rate. Towards the beginning of the semester, I found out about a deal for tickets for anybody aged 16-25 to see the musical Matilda for only five pounds! By waiting in line for just half an hour one Saturday morning, I got a five-pound ticket to see an Olivier award-winning production. There are many different theatres with similar deals for all of their productions, such as the National Theatre and the Young Vic. The other best discount scheme that I have taken much advantage of is the lottery system. Pretty much every single West End show has some sort of lottery, whether it be online or in-person at the theatre at a specific time every day before the show. Many lottery deals offer 20-pound front-row seats to the winners. I won lottery tickets to see Kinky Boots, Dreamgirls, Motown, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. There are also options to purchase discounted rush tickets online the day of a performance, which are available for several productions every day starting at 10 a.m. This was how I was able to see The Ferryman—a fantastic new production that just won several Olivier awards, including Best New Play.
My theatre experiences here in London have truly changed my life—and no, I’m not exaggerating. I’ve loved theatre since I was little, and for the past year or so I’ve wondered if maybe I want to pursue a career in the theatre industry. Now, at the end of my time here in London, this musing of mine has been solidified. I don’t know exactly what I want to do within the expansive world of theatre yet. Maybe I’ll work in theatre administration. Maybe I’ll be a producer. Maybe I’ll be an artistic director or a company manager or a theatre critic. I’m not quite sure yet. But what I know for sure, right now, is that my love for this incredible art form has been re-affirmed this semester, and I will be forever grateful to London for that.
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<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:25.0pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">Hi, I'm Tori! I'm a junior English major at Johns Hopkins University. I'm from Boston, but I spent most of my childhood in New York City. Now I'm at school in Baltimore, and I'm getting ready to spend my spring semester in London (clearly, I'm a city girl.) As an English major, you won't be surprised to learn that I love to write and read. When I'm not typing up a paper or engrossed in a novel, you can find me in our theater on campus where I'm a stage manager, checking out restaurants in Baltimore (my current favorite spot is a tiny doughnut shop called Diablo Doughnuts), and taking pictures of anything and everything.</span></p>