Indulging in theatre abroad: Crying, laughing, and learning at 32 shows

I was laying in my bed in a little guest house two hours outside of London. The place I was staying in was Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was quaint, quiet and if a car passed by it was a surprise because of the lack of motorized vehicles in the area. I’m exaggerating of course, however, this was the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Now if you don’t who William Shakespeare is, you’re probably unknowledgeable. I don’t even know how you’re reading this paper. But really, William Shakespeare was a pioneer in the world of theatre. Writing 37 plays and 154 sonnets, he populated the 15th century world with great plays that have transcended time and high school English classes. Our study abroad group has at this point seen 32 shows in total (not all of them Shakespeare, but enough Shakespeare to gouge our eyes out…like Oedipus…which isn’t a Shakespearean character, but you get the picture. Unlike Oedipus, because he blinded himself). I have gathered two of the “finest” minds in our group to get a true picture of our experience abroad watching all of these shows. The following is a series of questions and answers with myself and my fellow colleagues.

Jenna: Alright, Alex, stop writing the beginning of this article and ask a question!

Alex: Okay, okay, of the 32 shows we’ve seen in London, which has been your favorite?

Will: I really enjoyed The Lehman Trilogy. It was a three hour long show, however it managed to keep great pacing, it had incredible acting and a story that kept me hooked all throughout. 

Alex: Man, The Lehman Trilogy was so good. It definitely wasn’t my all time favorite, but honestly, it’s in my top set of shows. I loved the story and acting especially. I think it’s going to America soon, so everyone reading about it now will be able to see it. Jenna, what was your favorite show?

Jenna: My favorite was probably The Jungle, because it was a very immersive experience and it talked about humanitarian issues that are relevant to both the U.S. and the UK. Specifically, the immigration crisis of 2015 that happened in Calais, France…honestly it made me tear up.

Alex: Speaking of crying, my personal favorite was The Trench, which was all about WWI soldiers. There was puppetry, live music and it broke me down into a blubbering mess by the end.

Will: I know, I saw. I have to say to that it was definitely up there for me. 

Alex: Now because we’re in Stratford, I want to focus on Shakespeare shows that we’ve liked. What has stood out to you the most?

Will: Well, we’ve seen Macbeth three times and two of them were excellent. The third had interesting ideas but was not able to capitalize on them, mostly because they combined it with Othello.

Jenna: Honestly it was absolute [expletive] because they had a really good set of ideas but couldn’t settle on one. There were so many elements that contradicted other parts of Shakespeare’s characters, that I just couldn’t grasp it as a solid show.

Alex: So speaking of absurd things we can’t grasp, I want to move into the realm of comedy, because hey, you’re talking to me after all. What show did you find the funniest?

Jenna: I’m going to say the show we saw tonight, Tartuffe, because it had commentary on social issues that you couldn’t help but laugh at for how true it was.

Will: I’d say that it would have to be the first show we saw in London, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” because it captured the elements of farce perfectly, and the actors’ ability to achieve in physical comedy was great. The jokes were hilarious too.

Alex: Well I’m glad we’ve seen great serious shows and hilarious comedies. I think we’ve seen more theatre than most people will ever see in their lifetimes, and that’s not hyperbole, but when we get home will you be taking a break from the theatre in general?

Jenna: I would like to say yes… but no, my mother has already bought tickets to see the Nutcracker for Christmas and I’m helping out at a local theatre company. I can never escape.

Will: I’m not going to see any theatre over the winter and probably won’t be participating until after spring break, but soon I’ll be back.

Alex: Well as the readers can see we’ve been through a lot, but we are still committed to what we’re studying and are excited to approach the last few weeks of the program and get home safe.