Saints at the Stake
On Thursday, we went to a production of Saint Joan at a warehouse theatre in London. This particular production made some interesting artistic choices—the set, and costuming for all characters other than Joan was quite modern, whereas Joan’s costuming was medieval. Adding to the anachronism, many of Joan’s miraculous actions were described via market reports, such as one might see about the stock market.
When it came time to discuss the play the next day, we were sharply divided on the subject of Joan’s confidence and pride. Some argued that as she had always been right before, expecting to continue to be correct was quite reasonable—particularly given that she believed herself to be receiving advice directly from God. Others made the argument that there were other factors affecting her previous successes, and that relying purely on faith was the failing that led to her downfall.
Final London Explorations
A large group of us went to the Old Operating Theatre, a museum devoted to Victorian surgery. In the apothecary room where the trip started, there was an array of specimens and medicines on display. Next, we went into the operating theatre itself, set up like a lecture hall, with surgical equipment in the centre. There, we received an interesting lecture about the history of surgery, and the lecturer pretended to amputate a student’s leg.
Earlier in the week, a pair of us visited the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, a branch of the Imperial War Museum. This was a concealed bunker in Westminster, where the war cabinet of Britain took shelter during the Blitz, and coordinated British war efforts from. There was also a biographical museum devoted to Winston Churchill, the prime minister at the time. The war rooms themselves were an interesting glance into the centre of the British war effort for much of WWII. The Churchill Museum offered a detailed look at one of the more famous recent British leaders.
On Friday, before our next show, we went to a Turkish restaurant for an excellent—and quite large—dinner.
Pub Theatre: An Unusual Show
This was our first experience with Pub Theatre, and we definitely had no idea what we would be encountering on stage. The show, Strangers in Between followed a very young gay man named Shane in Sydney, Australia, who had run away from home recently. The show focuses on his relationships with two other gay men, Will and Peter, as well as Shane's elder brother, Ben. Shane initially maintains relatively sexual relationships with both Will and Peter, but later in the play these relationships instead become more platonic, at times even brotherly. It’s Shane’s relationship with Ben that’s the most interesting though—there is clearly a long and troubled past between them, and it’s quite possible that Ben’s actions are what prompted Shane to escape his home.
York: Really Bloody Old
On Saturday, we left our hotel rather early in order to catch an 8:10 AM train to York. Upon arrival, we dropped our bags at the new hotel, and headed off to explore York Minster, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals still standing. In the Minster, we climbed to the top of one of the towers, explored the undercroft, and admired some exceptional stained glass windows. That evening, we went to either a Pantomime or a Ceilidh. The Ceilidh was a traditional Scottish dance, not unlike contra-dancing, and everyone who attended greatly enjoyed it. The rest of us attended the Pantomime, which was rather like a cross between a comic musical and a drag show.
The next day was a free day for exploring the winding and ancient streets of York. A few of us strolled through the gardens of the Yorkshire museum, some walked on the ancient walls of the town, and everyone explored whatever seemed most interesting to them. Many of us finished the day with a comedic ghost tour of York. We didn't see any ghosts, but we had a good time looking!
Off to Manchester
After our brief stay in York, we boarded a bus and hurried off to Manchester. Today we're spending our last day in the United Kingdom writing and exploring--stay tuned for one last post detailing our final adventures!