Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Imperial War Museum and Romeo + Juliet

Having forgotten to buy any instant porridge for breakfast I instead went to Starbucks for tea and fruit toast. Once I finished that I caught a bus that took me to the Imperial War Museum.

I am not a fan of war, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that it's mostly caused by awful people making terrible decisions for bad reasons and sending other people off to die while they remain safe thousands of miles away; that these people are usually put into power by those who profit significantly by starting and continuing wars is also a contributing factor. I've said before that I firmly believe that the best way to stop war is to prevent people from making any money out of it.

My tweet from when I was there sums it up fairly well:

They don't sugarcoat it, which is encouraging. Heck they even talk about the awful conditions and inequality that was rampant in the UK prior to WWI breaking out – which kind of just makes it worse, given that a country whose ruling class didn't give enough of a shit about its people to make things better for them would soon expect them to go and die in Europe; the real reasons for which (dick-measuring, empire-expansionism and outright greed) they wouldn't be told but rather suckered into under the lie of patriotism.

It's also pretty sad that the people didn't instead tell them to go and fight their own fucking wars if they wanted a war fought. If the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians and the Serbs and everyone else just refused to take up arms in the first place the whole mess would've been avoided.

Anyway, enough of politics. Here's a few of the things I saw there.

While this was obviously a frustrating thing to read – since it almost certainly meant a lot more unnecessary deaths because a job was given to someone because of their name and not their actual level of competence – at least this was a time when the upper- and middle-classes were sending their own to war alongside the working classes. I don't expect it's quite as common any more – though it'd have to be more so in the UK than the USA.

Tirpitz the Pig was actually a mascot of some German naval officers and was captured by British troops who then made him their mascot.

This threw me a bit. My grandfather was in the Queensland 5th Light Horse, and was active in 1917. Maybe he was there when it was captured, or even held it in his hand.

I think this was once a midget submarine.

I finally get to see an Enigma machine.

A wee bulldozer.

I didn't expect this: a part of the World Trade Centre, damaged in 9/11.

Anti-American propaganda from the Korean War. But...they're not wrong. And nothing's changed.

One last tilt at the British Museum.

This was not the play I was going to, sadly. But I (obviously) did go past the theatre it was in.

Romeo and Juliet

I mostly went to see this because it had the legendary Derek Jacobi in it, and it was directed by Kenneth Branagh. I probably would have preferred to see them both on stage, but I didn't have the option, so here I was.

It also had Richard Maddern (who was Robb Stark in Game of Thrones as well as Kit in Branagh's live action Cinderella) and Lily James (who was Cinderella in Branagh's live action Cinderella; he obviously liked them together) and – although I didn't know this in advance – the brilliant British comedy actress Meera Syal in it as well.

Set was fabulous and the concept – setting in 1950s Italy – worked really well. Lots of marble pillars and fiery tempers and cigarettes and men in suits and women in frocks. They had a great dance number at the beginning of the Capulet 'old-accustomed feast' scene that looked amazing.

I bought Lily James as Juliet more than I bought Maddern as Romeo – he was far too old – though in order to make her seem younger she came across as somewhat irritating at first, but was strong at the conclusion. The two playing Benvolio and Old Capulet were good. Derek Jacobi was (of course) brilliant, and they made his casting in that role work even though Mercutio isn't normally played by a 77-year old man. Meera Syal was, hilarious; though that is the nurse as written.

So, while it wasn't brilliant overall, I was still glad I saw it. Oh, and it provided this year's 'celeb in the audience' moment (in 2014 it was Gerard Butler at Skylight): Little Britain co-creator/performer David Walliams was behind and slightly to the left of me. I could hear his fairly distinct laugh now and then.

Actual reviews:

And that was my last night in London. I took a leisurely walk through the West End back to the hotel and set about packing for Edinburgh.

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