Sunday, June 12, 2016

British Library, Blue/Orange and wandering London

The plan for today was to go to the British Library, since I hadn't made it there last time I was in London, and even more so because they currently had on a special Shakespeare display, Shakespeare in Ten Acts.

So, I bought my ticket online for the 9.30 session the night before and, next morning, dashed down from the hotel to the library (about a 15-minute journey) only to find that the library itself didn't open until 9.30. And there was a rather long queue already formed outside. I spoke to a security guard; he said that the doors didn't open until 9.30.

I didn't understand. Why would they sell tickets to something beginning at 9.30 if you couldn't actually be there at 9.30? If there was some aspect of it that did being precisely at 9.30 and I missed it because of this I'd be very annoyed.

Turns out there wasn't anything that required being there at the start time; it was a self-guided tour. It was another one where I wasn't 100% sure whether I could take pictures or not, so I only took a couple at the start.

They have some amazing stuff: a first folio, old books that reference him and the plays, a document with his signature, a great old map of London and so forth. The rest is analysis of Shakespeare performances and adaptations across various forms of media, how the world slowly became obsessed with his works, the political aspects of performance (including when women were first allowed to perform, and the various issues surrounding people of colour) and how his works are performed today.

If you can't read this, the most important part is at the end where it reads "The first Chinese translation of Shakespeare in 1903...The Two Gentleman of Verona became Proteus Sells Out His Best Friend for Lust.

Having just seen that play performed in Adelaide before I left, I can attest to that being a far more descriptive title than the one Shakespeare gave it.

After that I went to a temporary exhibition, Punk 1976-78, which was small but interesting. And then to their 'treasures' collection, which is aptly named since it has the following (highlights):

  • Handwritten sheet music by Purcell, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven and others.
  • Manuscripts of books by Walter Ralegh, Jane Austen, Percy Shelley, Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Ian Fleming
  • Handwritten lyrics to Beatles songs
  • Notes and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo
  • Original prints by Albrecht Dürer
  • Very old works like a bible from around 830CE, the New Minster Liber Vitae (from 1031CE) and the Diamond Sutra (from 868CE)
  • A Magna Carta
  • An astonishing collection of letters from people such as Karl Marx, John Locke, Admiral Nelson, Charles I, Elizabeth I and Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn.
  • A whole stack of other very old religious texts

After that I went wandering. This is the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.

I stumbled across the Camley Street Natural Park and went for a wander through.

Jazz hands!

There's a bee in there somewhere, dammit.

Next, the St. Pancras Gardens.

I wandered along the Camden High Street for a while. They have some amusing shop names.

This seems an oddly niche establishment.

I like the 'Ay caramba'; not so wild about the double exclamation marks,


I saw this when State Theatre SA did it a few years back with Renato Musolino. Brilliant production; staging was great, in the round. I was in the 2nd row. Super performances, particularly from David Haig, who was excellent in season 2 of Penny Dreadful; he also wrote the play My Boy Jack that Adelaide's Independent Theatre did an excellent production of a few years back.) - to see how differently he portrayed them was something.

Also good to have seen a show at the Young Vic. Doesn't quite make up for the fact that last time I was in London I missed their production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson by one damn day.

Time Out
The Independent
The Guardian

The walk home from the Young Vic along Waterloo Bridge.

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