Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

London: Tate Modern, Julius Caesar at the Globe

Today, after some frustration trying to buy rail tickets to go to Bath and Bristol tomorrow (which as I start this post may not be over, as we discover further convolutions of the British rail system), we made a quick pass through the Tate Modern, mostly because it's very close to the Globe Theater.

Modern art is mostly not our thing, but it was free and I found some things I liked. I put pictures on G+, along with links to the museum's information in the comments, which in some cases include better pictures. G+ won't let me create new albums at the moment, so I'll link the posts individually.

"Seated Nude" by Pablo Picasso (cubist mother of future robot armies)

"Before the Storm," by Zao Wou-ki (photo doesn't do it justice but maybe hints at the quality of the small amount of light that's in it)

"The Invisibles" by Yves Tanguy (visually-appealing surrealism)

"Ships in the Dark," Paul Klee (the tiny bright dots are, unfortunately, the ceiling lights)

"Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1," by Ibrahim El-Salahi (large striking modernist figures)

Chad has more pictures in his album for the day, including one toward the end of "Eluhim" by Leonora Carrington which I also quite liked (oh, and me on a very large couch that was a public art installation on the way to the Tate, I think).

Then we went over to the Globe, picked up our tickets, and met up with [personal profile] thette ([personal profile] filkerdave, I didn't get any email from you and we figured that Chad would be spottable even among the crowd; if we miscalculated, sorry). Chad and I hadn't had lunch, so we tried the pork pies. I didn't like them, I thought they needed more spice or flavor, and gave my uneaten portion to Chad and had one of the anachronistic energy bars I'd brought for emergencies.

The play was great. There had been some tomfoolery with actors in costume in the ticket area and outside the seats, such as someone telling us not to go in because it was all lies and *shudder* actors in there [*] , and people in costume had been finishing setting up the stage when we got in, so when the play actually started, it was very subtle and natural: Act I, Scene 1 opens with Flavius asking commoners why they weren't at work and why they were out in the streets, so the commoners were down in the yard with us, and it took me, at least, a little while before I realized that no, this is the Chorus-equivalent, the play's started, this isn't more crowd warmup.

[*] And, to my great delight, an actor making a puppet deliver Aragorn's "a day may come" speech from the movie Return of the King, while another actor commented sarcastically. It was amazing.

It was tons of fun to be in the Yard and to have the actors move through you and be among you. (And though standing for 2:45 is not ideal, the seats did not look comfortable, though I don't know if the reconstruction kept the dimensions of the benches or maybe quietly added a few inches to allow for modern heights somewhat more. Happily it only rained a smidge at the very end, and I'd brought a raincoat.)

The acting was excellent, though I wonder how well the highest and furthest seats heard Caesar's lines, as they were notably more quiet than the other actors; it worked for me, because I could hear them and they gained power from that contrast, but I did wonder. I don't know if casting two of the main Citizens in Act III as women is ahistoric, but I appreciated it, because it gave the excellent women playing Portia and Calpurnia more to do. (Sometimes the doubling of actors was confusing to me; I didn't always catch names, so late in the play I would find myself thinking, "Is this one of the conspirators / Brutus' servant taken up arms / etc. or a different person?") And I never fail to be impressed by actors who can deliver incredibly famous lines as natural speech.

Spoilers, insofar as one can spoil Shakespeare.

I've never read this play or experienced it performed. Caesar dies a lot sooner than I was expecting! I kept wondering if there was going to be some reason the plan was put off, but no, out came the knives an hour in. (We had intermission between Scenes 2 and 3 of Act III, leaving on Antony's rousing the citizens and returning on the citizens' murdering Cinna the Poet in the street. But the second period was much shorter, even though the scene count is similar.)

Chad says that it's common to say in high-school English classes that the play is misnamed, that it's really Brutus' story, and yes, when at the end your enemies gather over your corpse and say that you were "the noblest Roman of them all," it was really your tragedy.

I disapproved of Portia committing suicide off-screen, especially after her fierce railing against her lack of ability to do things. And I couldn't help develop a slash reading in which Brutus and Cassius' passionate regard for each other was the cause, or additional factor, in Brutus' fatal disregard of Portia (don't think I didn't notice that he didn't keep his promise to confide his secrets in her).

The doubling: the actor playing Caesar also, in an uncredited role, played the servant who held Brutus' sword so Brutus could kill himself. His face had been hidden until everyone else left—it looks like they added a line from Brutus asking if he'd been asleep all this time (eta: nope! Found it)—and when he turned around and pulled back his hood, the audience was audibly impressed. It wasn't supposed to be another appearance of Caesar's ghost, all the characters still called him by his textual name, but that frisson of resonance or uncertainty worked well.

I had a hard time with the language after intermission, maybe because I'd gotten out of the mindset; Brutus and Cassius' argument was particularly difficult, as they were speaking very fast, but by and large I followed things reasonably well. I'm looking forward to reading the text for comparison, however. end spoilers

The close of the performance was also not what I expected: after the last lines, everyone came out and lined up . . . and then did a big stompy group dance around the stage. I think I saw some Charlie's Angels poses in there. It was very lively! But a bit jarring. I don't know if that tradition is historically-based either.

Then we met up with kjn and child and went to Tas Pide, where we had excellent Turkish food. It's not great if you don't like bell peppers or eggplant/aubergine, as I do not, but I had one of the variants on the dough-based dish that gives the restaurant its name with potatoes, goat cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and it was delicious. Chad had a similar one, and Thette and KJ had an assortment of small dishes, and then we had wonderfully sticky desserts and I had a very small glass of dessert wine that was smooth and sweetly honeyed and potent, whoosh, if I held it in my mouth too long my tongue started going numb. Anyway, good stuff, recommended if that's the kind of thing you like.

Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge so we could say we'd done it, and I got a shot of St. Paul's that emphasized just how many stairs we'd climbed yesterday. And that was Tuesday.

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Tags: museums, theater, trips: london 2014

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