Adieu French King

I can’t believe today is the last day of January. I am already done my fourth week in London, which is crazy!
On Monday, Debbie had us working on our monologues, and she saw me standing there with my arms crossed, so she told me to stand more open, and to take up more space. Harder said than done for someone who tries to take up the least amount of space and go unnoticed most of the time, but I was determined to try.
In stage combat, after we spent most of the class practicing what we had learnt and adding more things to it, we were asked to do the routine in front of the rest of the class. We did it twice and me and my partner went second both times, partially to get it over with, partially to …yep, mostly to get it over with. But part of me hopes that volunteering to do something like that before we are told we have to kind of shows it we’re not afraid of it, right?

Monday night was Burns Night, which my grandmother had told me she used to celebrate, and they would have haggis and everything, so I dragged Sydney and Kailea to the Island Grill with me where we had the Burns Night Menu. I had haggis croquettes, to show my grandmother, who later told me that she doesn’t think she actually likes haggis. The risotto was absolutely delicious, with butternut squash, and they let us switch the blue cheese for aged cheddar, which was perfect. My favorite part, however, was the dessert, which I forgot to take a picture of before devouring. It had cake and a warm sauce and ice cream and honeycomb and pistachios and it all blended together to be amazingly delicious. I plan on going back and ordering it again under the guise of getting a picture to show you, but I can’t promise I won’t eat it before remembering to take a picture next time too.
Wednesday we had our songs, both verses, which I think went well. I definitely improved, at least on pitch, which greatly surprised our teacher. He was also intrigued to learn that I was more familiar and comfortable with film, since my performance made people feel things, but was way too small for the stage. The next song he gives me will challenge me to adapt and be bigger for the stage.
That afternoon, we had a masterclass on Restoration/Comedy of Manners, which was really interesting, because I didn’t really know much about them. It also finished early, which meant Molly and I were able to push our tea earlier and get home at the same time we would have without the tea.
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We went to Orchidee, which is actually in the middle of a mall, which was interesting. The sandwiches were pre-made somewhere else, and although some had two so we could each try them, others had one, so we had to cut them in half. There was a Mediterranean vegetable one, cheddar and pickles, smoked salmon, chicken, roast beef, and egg. Molly’s favorite was the vegetable one, but I absolutely loved the chicken salad, since it tasted just like the one we buy at the grocery store back home 🙂
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We each had 2 scones, that kind of tasted like the ones from Pillsbury, but I happen to be a fan of those, so it was lovely. We got to choose our macarons for the pastries portion, so I got one red velvet and one vanilla. Both were absolutely perfect, with the crispy outside and the yummy filling…macarons are what they are known for. We also got chocolate cups filled with whipped cream and berries, some salted caramel cake bites and a blueberry vanilla macaron which was also really nice, because the blueberry takes away some of the sweetness and balances it out.
On Friday, we learnt more RP in the morning, which is so exciting for me! Then Debbie caught me crossing my arms again. I feel like I did it a lot less this week, but it still creeps out. I got to tell her how I want her to keep bugging me, even if I might look like I don’t, and we had a conversation about why it all matters. She was very accurate in saying that my brain works really well at understanding and analyzing everything, but then something blocks me from letting my body act it out, even if I want to be free and got for it. She also pointed out that crossing my arms makes me an observer rather than a participant, which is not something I want. So, instead of focusing on not crossing my arms, I have taken to standing in the superwoman power pose, with my head held high, like I mean it. So be warned.
Debbie also suggested that our movement and Alexander classes would help me open up. Our movement teacher likes to keep us away from our comfort zones whenever he can, so I think she might be right. This week I did cartwheels and handstands before we started, which was a lot of fun. Handstands are still iffy for me, so I had Molly catch my feet, but by the end of the semester, I plan to be able to do them with nothing but the wall to catch me if I go too far. I also plan to be a ninja by then, since Sydney and I did pretty well with the throwing the stick exercise. Most of the time.
After classes were done, Molly, Kailea and I went to Wagamama for supper (see Carolyne, I am working my way through your list 🙂 ) and then we went to Sleazy, the kind of open mic/talent show for LAMDA students. This week there were a few acts by students in the semester program with me, and they were amazing! There was also a poem reading that broke my heart, an original poem that was made a million times more powerful by the way the girl’s hand was shaking as she read it, a singalong that made me smile, covers that were awesome, original songs that inspired me and I want to buy, with a final act that had me twisting and shouting. I am definitely going to miss Sleazy nights when I go back home.
My week ended yesterday with some laundry and Red Velvet. Not the food, but the play. I went in having no idea what it was about, other than it was based on a real person. I had really high expectations, based on my friends’ posts about it, and I wasn’t so sure after the first few minutes, but then it completely pulled me in. The end was kind of heartbreaking for me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the night. Which is the best kind of story, isn’t it?
Now, you might be wondering about the title of this post. And if you were following along, you might be wanting to point out that I skipped Tuesday and Thursday. That is because this week marked the end of our work on Shakespeare’s histories, and we had our first performance of the semester. It was just in our little rehearsal groups, but for someone who has never done Shakespeare and was slightly terrified at the thought of performing with that language, it was a big deal. And, it was my last time working on and learning the role of the French King in Henry the Fifth.
Since our director was still too sick to come in, we got a new one on Tuesday. While the majority of our rehearsal classes had been spent playing games and building an ensemble these last two were kind of intense, at least by comparison. He started out by asking us each what we wanted to work on in our scenes, making notes in his notebook, then came back with a bunch of exercises for us all to do which targeted what each person wanted to work on. He was insistent that the point wasn’t for all of the exercises to work for everyone, but for us to have so many options that we can find the ones that work for us with each particular role we end up with. We also did our scenes multiple times in front of the group, as a kind of dress rehearsal, which I found terrifying. In a good way. I think. Since this is kind of exactly what I came here for. We did an immersive improv, which meant the whole group spent an hour in various situations as our characters, which wasn’t my favorite, since I was French in a room of English, but I think it was an awesome exercise that I would love to try again. I really loved and would no trade the rehearsals we had the first few weeks, but I also feel like I got so much, including a whole lot of tools from our new director.
For our final presentations, we decided to just do all of our scenes chronologically, moving through the room and having the others get up and follow us. This meant both of my versions of the same scene would go back to back. This was kind of nerve-wracking, first because I had to go up twice, and second because I did them both really differently. At first, it was hard for me to reconcile what my research had told me about King Charles VI from a historical perspective, versus the way he was written in the play. Then, one of my groups wanted me to be sitting on a chair to represent my throne, but without a platform and with everyone else standing, I just felt really small and powerless, which is how I might feel if I were a King who no longer had any ruling authority because I had bouts of going mad. With the other group, I stayed standing, and went with what I knew from the play. I still had the history in mind, but I didn’t let it define me. I was a King who was worried for his country and didn’t want to show fear to my enemy. And even when I was scared of the whole thing, I still really enjoyed being able to explore both sides and do the scene so differently.
We opted not to film our performances, and I am still not really good at gauging my own, especially when I was a ball of nerves for most of it, terrified I would forget a line and people would know because it messed with the iambic pentameter (which I still haven’t figured out). But, in the end, I did forget a line. I’m not sure if it was in the dress rehearsal or the final performance, but I know I skipped a line once, and once I said the completely wrong word. But both times I just kept going. And nothing happened. No one called me out, nothing bad happened…the show just went on. And I was okay. More than okay, because apparently, I looked completely at home on ‘stage’. Which is kind of hilarious, considering how I felt inside. My tells were talking extremely fast and lifting my heels. The talking fast I know I do when I want to get through something, so I wasn’t surprised, but I had no idea I was going on my tippy toes sometimes. My notes were to taste every word and let it land, as well as to be grounded. Which is actually good advice in life as well.

“Think like a Queen. A Queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”

-Oprah Winfrey

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