A Retrospective: Shakespeare and Les Misérables

Oh, why hello there 2012! Wow, you really were a lifetime ago. And guess who forgot about this blog entirely in that intervening passage of time? Yes, me! It’s particularly wonderful to take a look back at 19 year-old me from the position of 21 year-old me, a person who has finished university and is now waiting for results and at the same time anxiously trying to lay down the train tracks in front of a moving train which I don’t yet know the cargo, or the speed, of. Does that metaphor hold up? We’ll see if the train derails come results day, I guess.

Whilst we waiting for that impending crash (or maybe/hopefully not) let’s take stock of what changes have occurred since my last post on 15th October 2012. Well, I’ve had 2 birthdays since then, not bad places to start. Especially since the 21st was celebrated in particularly geeky fashion – going down to Stratford with my ever lovely university friend and housemate, Sarah, to see the RSC’s Richard II. So I spent my birthday in the same room as David Tennant, watching him king it up, not a bad way to spend my birthday and it’s so very me that I couldn’t have asked for a nicer celebration. (Well I could have done without the audience member being taken ill half-way through the show, but, I’m sure everyone could have done without that to be honest). It’s been a year or two of Shakespeare, in which time I developed a shiny new obsession. Namely a certain Mr Thomas Hiddleston – of Loki/Avengers, War Horse, and maybe Suburban Shootout fame (do not Google it, for the love of all that is holy) – and that man’s particular penchant for Shakespeare only served to deepen that pathetic fangirling tendency. So, it made sense that when he was starring in Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus, had to see it. It wasn’t a passing fancy and as the reviews came rolling in, it became a mission. I wouldn’t have succeeded if they hadn’t extended the run a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it had only been me trying to nab those sought-after Front Row tickets. I wouldn’t have succeeded if it wasn’t for the tenacity of aforementioned Sarah whose emotional outburst in the library on that fateful ticket-successful morning (the last ditch attempt too) encapsulated feelings that I just couldn’t express. I didn’t fare very well at the performance itself either. Having seen the production via National Theatre Live (which, quick shout-out, is such an invaluable way of getting theatre to the mainstream) I thought I was prepared. I’d cried throughout the second-half of that broadcast because I knew how the tragedy of Coriolanus would inevitably end. I was not emotionally prepared. It was not pretty. I couldn’t stick around the theatre to give a quick thank you of appreciation to the actors who came out to stage door because if I had I just would have burst into tears in front of Hadley Fraser and Deborah Findlay. And we all know that would have been just a touch embarrassing for all involved.

Seeing the RSC’s Richard II and Donmar’s Coriolanus has been two highlights of my 2013/14 and experiences I will definitely remember and cherish. The sad fact of theatre, unfortunately, is its ephemeral nature. But it’s also its greatest virtue, the connection between audience and actor (if you will allow me to be particularly thee-ah-tar, dah-ling for a moment) is something that changes so much from show to show. Aaron Tveit says it well – it’s an exchange of energy between performer and observer, and there’s nothing else quite like it. 2013/14 has awakened, and firmly cemented, a love for theatre (and for Shakespeare) that I didn’t fully realise back in October 2012. Also a shameless love for a Mr Hiddleston, but we’ll leave that one well alone/to my Tumblr.

Which brings me to another obsession which was well fostered and, oddity of oddities, also at the hands of Sarah who introduced me, in the January of 2013, to a little thing called Les Misérables. Who would have guessed the downward spiral that quickly occurred. I’d never particularly been a huge musical theatre fan. Sure, I’d seen a few things – We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang – but they were more to do with my grandma’s love for musicals than my own. How very wrong I was, and how very naive I was to think that Les Misérables wouldn’t grip me the way it did. In the end, for some godforsaken reason, I ended up doing my undergraduate dissertation on it, the book in any case – though I did spend a sizeable portion of that 10,000 word limit talking about the musical and film adaptations. I couldn’t have guessed that in October 2012. I had no clue that I would have obsessed over a blonde-haired student revolutionary called Enjolras; that I would have synced up Spotify playlists whilst we were in separate rooms and belted out an embarrassingly out-of-tune rendition of the entire film soundtrack with, oh you guessed it, Sarah. That I would have spend countless hours of frustration trying to pin down in 10,000 words why Les Misérables needed to be paid attention to – this is the best I could come up with. That I would, thanks to a well-timed Christmas Present IOU from my parents, be able to perfectly coordinate seeing Les Misérables in the West End with that Coriolanus trip to spend two days in London being incredibly geeky but loving it? I couldn’t have predicted that.

That’s the funny thing about retrospection, isn’t it? It’s hard to mentally rewind to that place of inexperience. It doesn’t have to be huge life-changing moments you want to try to un-remember to see what life was like back then, it can be the little things. It can be trying to re-imagine what you were like in October 2012 having not heard Red And Black yet or having not shivered in terror seeing this still frankly scary-as-fuck single expression from Coriolanus. Maybe my next blog post will be about more serious things, more grandiose things, like graduation, examinations, what on earth to do in the rest of that unknowable thing that is my future. Sounds ominous.

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2 thoughts on “A Retrospective: Shakespeare and Les Misérables

  1. Emma 17/07/2014 / 01:06

    If nothing else, it is very me :p

    Like

  2. Liz Whitehouse 13/07/2014 / 19:36

    There is nothing geeky about living Shakespeare and theatre. Well….there is…but they are awesome things to be geeky about!

    Like

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