On Wednesday we decided to make the trip more London than Victorian on a tour covering Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace (with my personal favorite, the gorgeous Victoria Memorial), the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and St. James’s Park. I’ve been everywhere before except for Westminster Abbey, so I’ll start there.
I mentioned in my previous blog post about Charles Dickens that whenever I go somewhere a person used to work or sleep, I tend to feel their presence there. The same goes for where people are buried – and I felt that the entire time we were in Westminster Abbey. The architecture was just breathtaking – I could have spent hours upon hours in there, just taking in everything. I absolutely understand why we couldn’t take pictures, but I DO wish I could have just to make my family supremely jealous….
I did love learning about who was buried there and, for some people, exactly why they’re buried there. I had no idea that Charles Dickens was buried there, near Shakespeare. And speaking of Shakespeare, I loved seeing a memorial square in place for Laurence Olivier right in front of him – a rightful honor. I knew Shakespeare wasn’t buried here – I’ve seen his grave in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but this memorial for him was beautiful. That whole section of the Abbey was filled with greatness.
I particularly loved learning more about the medieval/Renaissance rulers and notable people and where they are buried in the Abbey. As a Victorianist, I don’t get much of that kind of history, and if I do it’s only in relation to Shakespeare. I do love Royal history, so this was an unexpected treat to focus on this.
Speaking of Shakespeare, I am beyond happy we got to see Much Ado About Nothing! It is one of my favorite plays by him, and this was possibly the best production of it I’ve ever seen. Beatrice was simply divine – witty, brilliant, and sharp acting. Benedick was a perfect sparring partner and, as Dr. McLeod and I discussed, he looked a LOT like Jason Jones! 😉
The set was beautiful and I loved how they used it. More often that not sets are just sets, but especially with the eavesdropping scenes this could not have been further from the truth. I absolutely adored the blocking with the Christmas tree and the dancing overall – adds a lot of pep to an otherwise surprisingly deep play.
Dogberry was perhaps the biggest surprise. This is an easy character to play dumb – I saw a production at the Shakespeare Tavern recently of Much Ado and the actor who played Dogberry swung as far as possible on the “bumbling idiot” spectrum. Nothing at all wrong with it – but this performance from RSC brought a tumultuous history to Dogberry. His scene alone on stage was possibly one of the most emotional in the whole show and took my breath away.
It’s always a pleasure to see Shakespeare plays, not just because I love them, but because my thesis is based on the intersection between the Victorian era and Shakespeare. Quite a number of writers, creating poetry and prose alike, are influenced by Shakespeare and his characters. In particular, a woman named Mary Cowden Clarke, whom I’m basing my thesis on, devoted her life to Shakespeare and wrote a Complete Works as well as The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines, which acts as a preface of many of the heroines in Shakespeare’s plays, including Beatrice and Hero. I’ve yet to read that story of Clarke’s, but I’d be interested to see how it played into RSC’s interpretation!