Back to school

Berowne: What is the end of study, let me know?
King: Why, that to know which else we would not know.

I just finished a weekend at the Open Talmud Project, an annual community-run weekend aimed at Talmud study for everybody. It was a bit of a shock as I haven’t done Talmud properly for a few years, since my hardcore phase just after university when I was missing academia.

What I like best about Talmud study is that it’s very difficult lifelong learning that doesn’t have a point. Read more...

Drunk Theatre: June-July 2016

I’ve been seeing so many plays and not writing about them! Here are a few.

Shitfaced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice @ Southbank Udderbelly: I was so looking forward to this that I got massively shitfaced myself ahead of time, at my friend Ken’s birthday drinks, at a wine bar in the City, where another friend Jo and I had to – had to, for a tenuous reason I don’t remember very well – buy wine by the bottle instead of the glass. Anyway, I knocked back a litre+ of rosé and lost to Ken at pool several times, then tottered over the river to the South Bank Udderbelly and bought a double rum and tonic (“YES, WITH TONIC“) for £7.40, and waved it in front of the Shitfaced Shakespeare MC, who is responsible for keeping the show relatively on the rails. He also hands out gongs to the audience to ring if we feel the drunk actor is sobering up. I got a gong!

The interesting thing about “Shitfaced Merchant of Venice” was going to be how to do a weird tragedy with the structure of a comedy, which historically has been very hard to do without accidentally or intentionally being terrible about gay people, or Jewish people, or women, or black people, or…, in the style of Shitfaced Shakespeare, which is basically ‘loosely controlled anarchy, and booze’. It failed much less than I was dreading! (PR guys, you can use that on the posters if you like.) Read more...

London to Rome in a DAY! On a TRAIN!

Last week I took the TRAIN to Rome, all in one day, which was extremely exciting if you’re me! Although getting to St Pancras for the 05:40 Eurostar was a bit dreadful – I especially remember one French-speaking man picking up his suit jacket from the luggage screening belt, and just staring at it helplessly for several seconds before sort of flailing his arms into it. But it was blooming lovely to slump into a double seat and watching the sun rise along the tracks over Lille.

The centre of Paris is so close together that whenever I need to change trains there, I usually just walk between stations – it’s much less faffy than the metro/RER, and means getting to actually see the city for even that short time. Walking to Gare de Lyon went past Place de la Republique, where the monument to the Third Republic has also become a monument of the city’s response to the attacks last year. It’s definitely a monument, not a memorial – the tone is solidarity (lots of flags of different countries) and defiance.

republique monument

just a little white whale on the go

Stay with me here. Raffi is releasing a new album, which I found out about via this slightly odd Vulture article that fixated on whether he’s slept with any adult fans. (come on, it’s RAFFI. RAFFI WOULD NEVER.) I read this over Christmas and was plunged into a sea of feelings and memories about the song Baby Beluga, his big song. I remember being very young and really feeling what was going on with that whale – and especially seriously communing with the line ‘you’re just a little white whale on the go’. I WAS that whale and I WAS on the go! Specifically I remember waving my bottom around in what I felt was a whale-like way, so happy that a song had managed to capture my ME-ness so perfectly.

When I looked up the lyrics to sing the song to Ewan, I found these lines, which I had forgotten:

Baby beluga, oh baby beluga, sing your little song,
Sing for all your friends, we like to hear you Read more...

The Acropolis and Acropolis Museum in Athens, with Context Travel

Disclosure: I had been intending to book a Context Travel tour when I found out a friend of mine works there, and the next time we saw each other I plied her with alcohol until she agreed to put me on a tour to review. So I didn’t pay for this but I was going to, and I’m booking another (paid) tour for my next holiday; it’s not something I only did because it was comped. I’ve also just realised how many Greek-related posts there have been here lately! It’s just been a Greek few months for some reason!

Acropolis Museum
The Parthenon gallery, Acropolis Museum, Athens

Like a lot of people, I watched what was happening in Greece this summer and went “gosh, that seems a bit not on?”, then “how can I help?” and the answer came: go on holiday! So in July I took a last-minute solidarity holiday (…holidarity!) to Athens. It was a spectacularly good time to go, both for weather and for politics, and left me with a mostly unearned sense of heroism – saving the world, one souvlaki at a time – and a very immediate desire to go back. So I booked another visit for September, and as above somehow persuaded my friend to put me on one of Context Travel’s tours.

Both trips involved a lot of late nights at tabernas (helping! helping!) and after closing out a rembetika and ouzo night at 3am, it was a bit of a struggle to peel myself up for the Acropolis Seminar‘s 9am start. In this case Context’s small group sizes – all tours are six people or less – was less of an upside and more of an accidental public shaming since there was nowhere for me to hide and whimper. Read more...

‘The Odyssey’ Live (Almeida)

It’s something you might do in college, if you had a certain kind of drama department, except it was with some of the best actors in the world and more people watching than just a few very patient boyfriends. The Almeida Theatre read through all of the Iliad in a day in August (starting at 10am, finishing around 1am), after which artistic director Rupert Goold presumably turned to his actors and crew and said, “Well, that was quite good, shall we do another one?”, because last week they also did all of the Odyssey in a day, livestreaming the whole thing both times so people could follow along at home.

The Iliad reading started at the British Museum, where a series of actors got up to read at a podium in the Great Court, and ended at the Almeida itself (in Islington, north London). It was fun clicking over to the livestream across the day, especially the energy pop every time a new reader took over and reminded that gosh, our actors are really good at acting! The main ones I remember are Tobias Menzies’ biceps exulting as Achilles taunted Hector; Hattie Morahan looking alarmed and tall as Odysseus tried to reason with the Greeks; and Adjoa Andoh letting her voice roll and luxuriate in Agamemnon’s persuasive list of gifts. Oh yeah, you kept going, this is why!

And the Odyssey was even more fun; instead of lots of famous good actors walking up to a podium, reading their bit, and walking off again, the production went on a trip around London. Starting on the roof of the Almeida at a sharp 9am, cameras followed actors in cabs down to the Thames, where the reading got on a riverboat (Stephen Fewell winning and holding an early MVP of the day, for flawlessly managing an interruption by an uninformed official – which also led to his winning saddest tweet), and on to the London Eye on the South Bank (for the bit with the Cyclops – geddit, geddit), onto an open-topped bus back across the city, up to Islington Town Hall, over to a building site nearby, and finally to finish at a bar on Upper Street, at an extremely enviable-looking party with most of the day’s readers and general Almeida people. Read more...