Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Student in the City

London is a lively city, and it seems as if there’s always something to do–whether it’s attending a gig, watching a play, going shopping or browsing the markets. According to my Bandsintown App, which allows you to search for local gigs and concerts, there are literally gigs almost every day of the week! And they are all accessible with the tube. If you love theatre, you can attend one of the many shows in London’s West End, which is such a large and lively area at night. If you’re a shopaholic, you can go to Westfield Stratford which is one tube stop away from Mile End and is one of the EU’s largest shopping malls! And if you want to just socialize with friends, you can visit one of London’s many pubs. I really believe you can find anything that suits your interests in London. If you’re ever bored, you can just head over to the nearest tube station and the city is an Oyster tap away.

Although the universities in London don’t have large campuses, there is no lack of study space in London. There are so many cafes, especially in the East End near QMUL. These cafes are perfect to go to after class to revise and work on coursework.

And though living in London adds up to be expensive for students, there are still many frugal options available. For example, browsing the many museums in London is free–not to mention educational. Living in London is hard on one’s wallet, but it does end up being a good lesson on budgeting as a student.

So far, I have really enjoyed studying in London. In addition to having wonderful experiences exploring my interests in the city, there are also so many places in London that are relevant to my studies in English literature. For example, I’ve been to John Keats’ house and even visited the pub where Charles Dickens frequented while writing his manuscriptsand then I wrote about my visit for an assignment! When I first arrived in London, I admit I didn’t think the city was that great, but now that I’ve been here for seven months, the city has really grown on me, and I’ve come to appreciate the vast amount of options available. Whether you want to spend your day studying in a cafe, going shopping, or browsing museums, any option you choose will be easily accessible in London.

 

 

The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall

Now, I recently visited the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, West London with my sister for the Rays of Sunshine charity concert. Though I’m a born and bred Londoner, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the exquisite site previously and so, it was my very first time visiting. At first sight, one is definitely struck by the sheer size of the slightly oval-shaped building (it’s huge!). Its exterior is dressed with arched, golden-framed windows, dark ochre walls and a dome-like frame.

 

 

Side view of the Royal Albert Hall, opposite Kensington Park!

Side view of the Royal Albert Hall, opposite Kensington Park!

 

 

It is undoubtedly an amazingly designed building with so many doors! Opened by Prince Albert in 1871 through his passion for grand British infrastructure, it’s the famous stage for world class performers like Frank Sinatra, Elton John, the Beatles and Adele, and performers at the traditional Royal Variety Show for the Queen like the dance group, “Diversity”, high political figures and powerful
speakers like Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, not to mention home to the BBC Proms.

 

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The stage from the back row seats!

 

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The beautiful sight of the building at night after the event!

Entering at door 11 stall J, the corridors inside are sophisticated and nicely modernized with historical pictures of events like the Queen’s 50th Anniversary Concert in July 2003 and Jay Z’s performance in September 2006. What’s really nice is that the hall offers an inside out tour of the entire building for individuals and groups (upon request) which would be great for all those new to London and want to explore some of its greatest sites, conveniently next to one of London’s largest parks, Hyde Park.

 

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The brochure about the tours of the Royal Albert Hall

 

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The brochure about the tours of the Royal Albert Hall (2)

 

More information is at www.royalalberthall.co.uk and its official Facebook page!
Mabel I. Osejindu
BA English Language and Linguistics, 2nd Year

London, Just do it.

How do I wrap up five glorious months studying abroad in London in a single blog entry? I really can’t. All I can say is… Experience it for yourself! JUST DO IT! London is the most awesome city in the world and there’s something for everyone here. There’s always something to do and see and experience. Also, try new things! I was never a theatre-goer until I lived in London. Now I love the theatre and am even considering a profession in scenic design. Here are my top seven things to do in London:

 

1. Watch a play or musical (at least one!)

(Queue early in the morning—it’s not that bad especially when you’re with good company—to get cheap tickets. I saw Matilda for £5! I couldn’t help smiling the entire night after watching it.)

'Matilda the Musical'

‘Matilda the Musical’

2. Subscribe to The Londonist

(You can get daily emails about random free or cheap events around London. For instance, I went to a free arts and crafts party. There’s always something fun and weird going on around town.)

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3. Visit markets

(I wrote a whole entry on markets! They are fantastic and a lot better than the ones in the U.S. There are always delicious street food to try and funky vintage threads to look out for in this town.)

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4. Frolic in the parks

(Queen Mary is right next to Mile End Park, which leads to Victoria Park. It’s my favorite park and a great area to have a morning jog. I also recommend the famous Hyde Park. It’s HUGE. There are so many parks scattered around London and it’s a lovely escape from all the concrete.)

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5. Visit castles and palaces

(They are remarkable to say the least! You can spend hours upon hours in one place and not see everything. My favorite place had to be the Tower of London just because I love the history of Henry VIII. I even spent about six hours at Hampton Court Palace and didn’t see everything. London has some remarkable history. The architecture and craftsmanship that goes into every palace and castle is also mind-blowing.)

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6. Visit museums

(Museums sometimes sound a bit boring, but they don’t have to be! London is filled with museums with various exhibits. One time I went to the Science Museum for a special exhibit on zombies. People dressed up and the whole exhibit was interactive and fun! I particularly love the Victoria and Albert Museum and found their theatre exhibit really interesting. Oh, and did I mention that museums are free?! It’s fantastic!)

The V&A's Cafe

The V&A’s Cafe

7. Get lost!

(That’s right, I’m encouraging you to get lost in the city. Although there are maps outside of most tube stations, I managed to get lost a few times, but during those times I got to see parts of the city that I would not typically explore and loved it. You get to know the city a lot better by wandering around and you can actually see how everything is actually so close together and walkable. Don’t worry about not being able to find your way home: there’s always a tube stop nearby!)

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Writing about London makes me want to go back so bad! It’s a city that can honestly steal your heart when you’re not expecting it. I even miss the cold weather! Strange, right? The study abroad experience is really what you make it and I can honestly say I’ve had such a full and wonderful experience. Queen Mary is also a great university to attend while in London. It’s nice to have a closed campus a bit away from the center of the city. I would highly recommend taking the course on London architecture at Queen Mary. Every other week is a field trip and you learn to appreciate the city so much more. I hope you get the chance to study in London or at least visit. It’s been such a pleasure sharing my experiences with you. Cheers!

The End of Classes and the Beginning of Holiday

Getting my Queen Mary memorabilia before it's too late!

Getting my Queen Mary memorabilia before it’s too late!

Wow?! Classes are over already?

At Queen Mary, there are only 12 weeks of classes and most of the classes only meet twice a week: once a week for lecture and once a week for seminar (or as my school back in the States likes to called it, “discussion”). So if you think about it, that’s only 12 lectures per class! Now there’s a month break before exams start, but if you’re studying liberal arts you most likely don’t have many or any exams. Luckily all my exams were given during week 12 and I just have two more papers due by the end of April. However, if you’re studying abroad for an entire year, you might have to cut your month-long holiday short because exam month will not only cover what you learned this semester, but also last semester. I have a flat mate who’s taking seven exams!

Whatever number of exams you may have, you should have no problem fitting in time to travel and have fun. I’ve noticed many study abroad students go out of the country on the weekends (but that’s personally a bit too short of a trip for me and I need the weekends to catch up and rest), but I think you should also spend a lot of time in London to soak in the culture and see what the city has to offer… and boy does it have a lot to offer! This past week I got to see two phenomenal plays and one (‘Peter and Alice’) starred Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw! To save money on plays, I recommend queuing early in the morning for day tickets, which are around £10-12 (compared to £50 tickets you buy ahead of time online). Because of the high demand for ‘Peter and Alice’, my friends and I lined up at 6:45 am, but it was worth it. You’re young and in London after all!

The Theatre!

Theater (or “theatre” as it’s spelled here) is a major attraction for visiting London. There’s the Globe, the West End, and a ton of little theatres doing amazing productions all over the place. It’s basically the biggest theatre town in the world next to New York City.

Thanks to one of my classes I got a chance to see some smaller productions, one at the Royal Court Theatre and one at the New Vic Theatre. They were both a great experience and satisfied one of my theatre goals. The others are to see Shakespeare at the Globe and one of the big shiny West End musicals. Then when I saw the following poster a few months back, I had a new goal:

 

OMG YES PLEASE.

 I mean… Macbeth. McAvoy. Dystopian future. Fighting and gore and did I mention James McAvoy? But as happens when you’re on a student budget looking to attend a limited run of a nearly sold-out show, it didn’t seem to be in the cards.

Enter an awesome friend with a surprise visit and some tickets. I can’t even describe how amazing it was to be sitting in the theatre watching Mr. McAvoy spit the hell out of his lines (saliva = drama, you know) and act like the nutcase Macbeth is. The other actors were just as good, and the in-the-round setting means that the first row on either side were occasionally yelled at or splashed with fake body fluids or even landed on by actors.

Basically it was the best theatre experience of my life. Also, lest we forget for a moment, there was this:

Um. Hello.

Wicked

I just saw Wicked this week! One of the perks of being in London? Fabulous shows and concerts! Last week I went with my friend, Becky, to see Walk the Moon perform at Scala. It was amazing – it was a nice, small venue, and we got to meet the band afterwards! For Wicked I managed to get cheaper tickets through the study abroad group that I came with, and it was absolutely great! I’ve seen Wicked before, but it was definitely worth seeing it again.

I’m trying to see more shows before I leave ~ The day after I’d arrived here, I got to see Chariots of Fire – another amazing show. It was sports and theatre combined, so naturally, I loved it. I saw a one man, social justice play called The Rain the Washes at an exceptionally tiny venue in Leicester Square, and went to see a modern adaptation of Medea for one of my drama classes in December.

Next up on the list of shows: possibly Matilda!

 

 

An Overview (So Far)

What a beautiful sunny day! Today, I can actually see the blue sky but I can’t say that the temperature has gotten that much warmer. I’m originally from Southern California, so I’m use to a lot of sunshine and living in flip-flops. But other than the colder climate, I haven’t had much difficulty adjusting to London. I’m a city girl so I love that every day and night there is something to do and see. And yes, London is a pricey city to be in, but there are plenty of cheap or free options around town!

Queen Mary (from Mile End Park)

If you’re coming here, my first tip is to sign up for the Londist’s emails. Everyday I get updates on what’s going on in the city for free or cheap. One of the best events I attended since being here was Burn’s Night (at the end of January)—an old Scottish celebration that involves lots of dancing—and it was free! I would say it is the equivalent to an American barn dance. Most museums are free to the public or students, so you should visit as many as you can. London is flooded with history and I am amazed by how much there is to learn and absorb here.

Burns Night: celebrating a Scottish poet through dancing!

Oh, and you have to go to watch a few plays here. It’s a must! I’m from Los Angeles where movies are king, but theatre is king in London. There are countless shows going on at once. My personal favorite venue is National Theatre and if you line up early in the morning (it’s easier to get tickets on weekdays and you usually only have to turn up around 9:30 am) you can get theatre tickets for £5 – £12. Such a steal. My favorite shows so far have to be ‘The Magistrate,’ ‘The 39 Steps,’ ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ and ‘Macbeth.’ Theatre-going is actually a norm here in London and people have ice cream during intermission—there’s nothing stuffy about it!

Meeting James McAvoy after his performance in ‘Macbeth’.

And lastly food: it isn’t so bad! I’m a foodie, so I go out looking for good eateries and do a bit of research and I highly recommend the book eat.shop london. It’s a fantastic source for decently priced restaurants and cute shops. If a place looks a bit dodgy, maybe you should avoid it, but I’ve had pretty good experiences wherever I go. There are only a few restaurants near campus (The Gold Fryer and other kebab shops, Nandos, Subway, The Greedy Cow. etc), but I don’t frequently eat out so I can save up. I cook for myself or buy cheap sandwiches during the week and then treat myself on the weekends.

This is just a general overview on my experience so far living in London, but I’ll get into specifics in later posts.

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