Friday, September 29, 2000

The Antipodes

After I had checked in to my London hotel, shaved and showered, it was time to find dinner. I looked in a restaurant guide from the hotel to find something interesting and appropriately located. I settled on Livebait -- "Fresh Fish with a Difference." After I sat down, they placed a bowl of prawns on the table to stare at me. Fortified by that, Bushmills and a selection of their excellent bread, I placed my order. They had a Friday fish 'n' chips special, but that didn't seem to have enough of a...difference (even fancy fish 'n' chips). So I ordered the pre-theatre "set price" menu. (I was going to the theatre, after all.) The first course was sardines with sweet potato and rouille on mixed leaves. The main course was grilled marlin on crushed new potatoes with tapenade and pesto. Excellent, excellent. I followed that up with the mango creme brulee and then sped my way on to the theater.

I left Livebait and walked down to the Globe. When I first got tickets for The Antipodes at "Shakespeare's Globe," I assumed that I really just wasn't familiar enough with the Bard's work to have heard of this particular play. (Hey, "Hamlet" sold out.) Eventually, I discovered that it was, in fact, not written by Shakespeare. Well, a play written by Ben Jonson would be OK, too right? No, wait, this was written by Richard Brome, Jonson's manservant. Hmm. Well, I had ordered the ticket already. Apparently I wasn't the only one to suffer the confusion. As I was waiting to collect my ticket, I heard someone behind me say, "I just assumed that I had never heard of it," followed by, "Darn it."

After collecting my ticket, I head...where else?...for the gift shop. I noticed with some amusement that the T-shirt declaring me as a "groundling" cost twice as much as the ticket to be a groundling. The groundlings stand right in front of the stage. In Shakespeare's time, admission was 1 penny and the groundlings had a reputation for rude and uncouth behavior. I quickly took my place at the edge of the stage and rested my elbows on it.

Looking around, the first thing I noticed was how many young women there were around me. Wow. Why didn't somebody clue me in to this when I was 16? The show began with some announcements (e.g., no photography). We were told that there was a celebrity among us. (Presumably he got to sit down.) Richard Fauldes, England's first gold medalist of the 2000 Olympics was in attendance. This was deemed appropriate, since in the context of this play, "the antipodes" were the lands on the opposite end of the globe.

The Antipodes is a comedy about a country lord who comes to London seeking a cure for his daughter-in-law's madness. It turns out the whole family is pretty much bonkers, with the lord's son lost in dreams of faraway places, and the lord himself gripped by jealousy over his young wife's supposed infidelity. The cure involves the doctor and the lord being visited putting on a play (also called "The Antipodes"). They fool the son into thinking he's been transported to the anti-London, where everything's backwards (Bizarro London?). Since it's a comedy, everything works out in the end, and it is pretty funny in the process.

After the show, the artistic director came out to thank us for attending the last show of "The Antipodes." The actors threw white roses out to the audience. (I caught one, which died a quick death in my hotel room.) He thanked everybody involved, and talked about how great it was to have the house filled for such an obscure play. (I wonder if he realized how many people bought their tickets and said, "Well it's Shakespeare, right?"

I then walked out and admired the views of the London skyline (in particular, St. Paul's Cathedral) across the Thames. A man next to me turned to his companion and said, "It looks just like something you'd see in Washington DC." Glad I made the trip. I walked along the Thames and into the city to the Internet cafe at Charing Cross.

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