Hamilton at Work in London

October 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

This was the scene Last Sunday, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London:

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As you can see, the refurbishment – HAMILTON is to open in October of 2017 – is underway, yet also under-wraps. This (below) was the street scene in the past:

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This past summer, stories ran about the refurbishment, including this article in The Guardian, which claims a £30 million price tag.

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I must admit, having been in New Jersey (near the site of the Hamilton/Burr duel), and taking in the lyrics so in praise of New York City (“in the greatest city in the world”), it feels as if a little will be lost in translation. NOT that I think fans won’t be queuing for MILES to get tickets.

For once, the BRITISH look forward to something AMERICAN coming to them after being a ‘hit’ in the States (the shoe is usually on the other foot).

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Emma Stoops to Conquer

December 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm (entertainment, people) (, , , )

I’ve been thigh-deep in letters lately, but am also trying to go back, read a series (for instance, a given year) — for it is only then that things POP OUT and I pay attention to them.

After writing a little bit about Spencer Smith’s school years, I was reading through letters from 1818. This was a fun year for the family in ending with a play – at The Vyne (Hampshire): She Stoops to Conquer. Emma was Miss Hardcastle and Augusta was Tony Lumpkin. Miss Ramsay, the governess whose life would be cut short the following year, was Mrs Hardcastle. Fanny I used to think Emma crossed out; now I think Emma meant to give some minor roles to Augusta and therefore ended up not writing out Fanny’s contribution as fully as she should have done. I am now convinced that Fanny took the romantic lead, Mr Charles Marlow.

It was while contemplating the play, the roles, the people once inhabiting these roles, that I found this delightful online production, from Utah Valley University (2011):

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The caveat is brought forward by director Christopher Clark in a few well-chosen words of introduction: Social Networking. And the use of “VisageBook“, Instant Messaging &c provides some extra-textural chuckles (it works less well in the scenes with Kate Hardcastle stooping to untie the formerly-tied tongue of Charles Marlow; I missed their interaction). Reading the introductory News Feeds, I was rolling with laughter – like (above) Miss Neville’s penchant for “Foppish Men”, or Tony Lumpkin listing his religion as “beer”, or Mr Marlow’s self-assessment in listing his hobbies as “Being Handsome and Confident”.

UVU has a stylish cast, who handle the material (and the concept) well. A useful set (above) is well used for the play’s many entrances and scenes. The filming of the play is nicely done.

REALLY loved Mrs Hardcastle; what a delight Miss Ramsay, with her Geordie accent, must have been in the role.

Having worked with undergrad theater, it was particularly neat to see that Jake Ben Suazo (Mr Hardcastle) came out a winner at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) regionals.

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

Mr and Miss Hardcastle

 extras:

UVU blog post about the play
the play @ Gutenberg

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Lovers’ Vows in performance (a review)

November 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm (books, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , )

It is RARE that one hears about performances of the “play within the novel” — used by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park — of Mrs Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows – and I’ve a treat for Two Teens Readers: a member of its recent audience who was enthusiastic about writing a short review!

Contact information for the performing group – Artifice – is included in the links. Now: On with the Show…

* * *

Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, 1798
Performed by Artifice at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea [Hampshire, England]
13 November 2014

This was a bustling, engaging production, the action spilling from stage to auditorium, and every door fair game for an exit or entrance.

Frederick, an impoverished junior officer, returns to his village after five years’ absence to obtain his birth certificate, without which he cannot obtain promotion. His mother, Agatha, who brought him up alone, tells him in great distress that he has no certificate because he is illegitimate. Her lover vowed to marry her, and at his request she promised not to name him as the father of their unborn child. He broke his vow to her, but she kept hers to him and was disowned by all who knew her. Frederick insists on knowing who his father is, and Agatha reveals that he is the present Baron Wildenhaim.

Frederick is bitter about Wildenhaim’s treatment of Agatha, who is now destitute through ill health, and by mischance the two men clash without knowing each other’s identity. Tragedy seems inevitable, but Frederick and Wildenhaim eventually avoid it by exercising forgiveness and good will, and they embrace as father and son.

There’s no escaping Jane Austen’s Northamptonshire Novel, which Artifice acknowledges through the hair and dress of Wildenhaim’s daughter, the only character who doesn’t wear uniform or occupational costume. But forget the Mansfield Park prism.

Lovers’ Vows is not a frothy romance. With a versifying butler to delay the plot and ratchet up the tension, Inchbald trumps Shakespeare’s tedious porter in Macbeth. And the denouement’s requirement that social distinctions give way to fairness was a dangerous proposition for 1798.

Artifice’s motto is ‘Classical plays in beautiful places’, and this production was perfect for Groundlings’ distinctive eighteenth-century venue – the Beneficial School, or the Old Benny as it is known locally. Where else would the barman come out from behind the bar to treat his patrons to a lively, pre-performance history of the theatre, ghosts and all? Artifice, come back soon.

Charlotte Frost
author, Sir William Knighton

Lovers' Vows [Artifice]

Amelia [Mairi-Clare Murphy] visiting Frederick in prison.

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Behind the Scenes with Mrs Siddons

November 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm (books, diaries, entertainment) (, , )

I highly recommend the Journal of Emily Shore for anyone wishing to get inside the mid of a young and extremely inquisitive girl, covering 1830s England. Emily has a tangential relationship to the Smiths — in that her Great Aunt Susannah Smith (Mrs Thomas Smith, of Bersted Lodge) was also Emma’s Great Aunt (Thomas Smith being a brother of grandpapa Joshua Smith).

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EXTRAS

At the point in time that Emily Shore is writing, it is 1836; she is staying with her aunt in Exeter. And one day, her diary remarks, the conversation turned to MRS SIDDONS – this immediately caught my eye because the Smith letters occasionally have mentioned seeing her act – including, if I’m not mistaken, in her famous role as Lady Macbeth; and I also am reading a biography of her niece, Fanny Kemble: A Reluctant Celebrity by Rebecca Jenkins – which (of course!) tells tales from behind the curtain.

But the little story which I relate here — (I invite you to read Emily Shore’s journal for the full Siddons-story), is so humorous that one sees a far different (off-stage) Mrs Siddons.

Emily’s Aunt Bell was staying with her aunts Mrs Smith and Lady Mayo — and the party was being entertained at the neighboring home of Lord Arran.

How I wish Emily had mentioned a date! for there are several mentions of Mrs Siddons in Smith family diaries. Without that I have only Emily’s recollection of someone else’s story – and it is perhaps in the retelling that the tale takes on a bit of mirth:

Mrs Siddons “was, of course, to be considered the queen of the party; but as there was not a woman in the house who did not by right rank above her, much manoeuvring was employed to raise her above them. When Aunt Bell dined there, she was curious to see how this object would be effected. A little before the company was summoned to dinner, Mrs. Siddons vanished; and while they entered the dining-room at one door, behold, she was seen entering like a queen by herself at the other.”

Emily had a few choice words to say about Lord Arran, but I only include here her anecdote that continues a visit of Mrs Siddons:

She sometimes read Shakespeare to the party, on which occasions Lord A. always took care to have a scenes ready, and was himself invariably prepared with tears and pocket-handkerchief.

Even with all the jockeying and histrionics, what I wouldn’t give for an evening’s front row seat to a Mrs Siddons recitation!

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