The next morning, Saturday 29 November, remained cold, and portions of the United Kingdom--Scotland and Northern England, began to began to experience some snow. Nevertheless, Benedict wanted to play football that morning.
Before I forget, a note or two about the libraries. Each borough manages its own library system. In the case of Ealing, there is the large main branch at Ealing Broadway (the main local shopping district) and nearly a dozen smaller branches in outlying neighborhoods. Library cards can only be used within the borough it is issued. Interestingly, taking into account the borough's massive ethnic diversity, the Ealing system has books in many different languages, including Polish, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Somali, and others. This diversity of language offerings is not limited to Ealing libraries. Last week on my way to the National Gallery I stopped in on a library run by the Westminster council. This was off Leicester Square about a block from the National Gallery and St. Martin in the Field. There is a Chinatown near Leicester Square and in this library, which was not the main branch, contained many hundreds of books in Chinese. A few people sat around reading Chinese books.
Of course both passed a collection plate.
After the service we we bundled ourselves up and took the short tube ride under the Thames to the river's south bank. Good fortune smiled upon us as we possessed tickets for a brilliant production of 'Hamlet' at the National Theatre that afternoon. We ate our lunch in one of the cafes as we waited to enter the Olivier Theatre, one of the three theatres in the National Theatre complex. I suppose most people are more or less familiar with the play. But this production was a revelation. We're familiar with the issue of wondering why Hamlet procrastinates in revenging the death of his kingly father, and that mystery usually occupies the center of the previous versions I've seen. This production, however, also brings out the political issues, as the set of the play makes clear. Hamlet's Denmark in this version is a totalitarian state complete with spies, informers, machine-gun toting soldiers, emphasizing the distrust that the innately decent Hamlet develops as the rottenness of the state of Denmark reveals itself beneath its crumbling surface, and who sends his own friends to their deaths and drives the woman he loves to madness and suicide. Terrific. That night the actor playing Hamlet, Rory Kinnear, won the best actor award from the London Evening Standard.
We barely made it home that evening before the start of another tube strike. Monday morning complicated commuting expeditions with the addition of a sprinkling of snow on the ground. Temperatures, especially at night, fell below freezing. I remained at home that day working on this blog and Erika ventured to CAPA to get some work done there.
Tuesday there was more snow, though the tube strike was over. Erika went into teach her next-to-last class, and after Benedict came home from school we joined her at a Belgian restaurant near the Roundhouse Theatre for dinner. Jim and Susie were there, and Janine, who teaches a theatre class for CAPA, were also there when we arrived. I had a hamburger and a very nice Belgian beer, skipping several beers on the menu brewed at Trappist monasteries. We came together to attend the final Shakespeare production of our London visit, the sixth one for me. 'Romeo and Juliet' by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Again, fantastic. Vibrant, moving, romantic, violent, funny, and of course tragic. The actor playing Mercutio gave a remarkable performance, and every other member of the cast was wonderful.
I have been so impressed by the quality of the performances and the productions in almost every play we've seen, including the non-Shakespearean ones, that I am forever spoiled. We've seen at least a dozen plays while here, and there are dozens more playing all over the city. What a treat we've had!