As some of you will know, over October break, 6 lucky students, plus me and then Mom as a female chaperone and my fabulous drama teacher Mark Patton had the amazing opportunity to see 7 amazing shows on this year’s school trip to London.
We started the trip after school when we got on a bus and left for the airport. After a few hours wait, and minor problems with passports, we got on the plane and started our journey. A stop in Amsterdam and our first Starbucks in awhile, and then we where there.
We wandered the city for awhile and then we got to see our first show, The Jungle. This show was so amazing! The Jungle is about refugees in 2016 in France, wanting to get into the UK. You walked into the theatre and you were IN the camp. There were tents and pillows set up everywhere and you were sat down at tables. The actors performed on the tables and around you, placing food at your seat and treating you as if you were a fellow refugee. It was such an amazing performance, you were close enough to see a single tear fall down an actors cheek and see the dirt caked on a little girl’s face. ‘Beer’ was sloshed on you, and the roof literally came off at different points in the show. It was really eye opening to see the refugee problem in the modern day, because most of the time what you see is a lot older. The refugees in this show had bank accounts and Whatsapp, but no place to call home other than their jungle. Volunteers showed up and both made things better and worse, and smoke bombs and bicycles made everything even more realistic. It was very interesting to see it with the group of people I did, because one of the girls, Aya, speaks French, Arabic, and English, so when the characters spoke in their different languages, she was able to understand. People laughed and cried, and when we went stage dooring, we got to meet the people who brought the main characters to life, Ammar Haj Ahmad, and John Pfumojena. Both were very nice people, and were extremely interested in the fact that we were a school group from Lagos, Nigeria. We started our trip on a very high note, one that made us rethink our world today. It was incredibly immersive, and I seriously recommend this show to anyone lucky enough to see it.
Day two, after an interesting night’s sleep in the tiny hotel room, began with breakfast at Pret A Manger, where we ate most of our breakfasts in the week to come. After eating breakfast we began our long walk. We visited the National Theatre where we got to see incredible props and scenery from past shows, as well as how the props and set are made. With our backstage tour we got to see so much of the behind the scenes that you would never notice if you weren’t taught to look for it.
We then had awhile to relax and get some lunch from the food vendors nearby, Mom and I settled for pizza fries.
We walked around and got to go to a really cool food market where we bought the largest meringue I have ever seen and then proceeded to take a picture in front of a mural of Shakespeare himself.
After walking all day, we decided to take a break and sit down next to the river and rest for awhile.
I was nervously giggling about mom’s portable charger being thrown to me. Every single person except Mr. Patton used that portable charger at least twice on this trip.
After we had rested our poor feet for awhile, it was time to start for four hours. First in line, then as a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe. We watched Othello, which is a miracle in of itself, because usually the globe doesn’t have any performances while we are on break, it usually ends just before we leave, but we managed to squeeze ourselves into the last performance. It was so amazing to see Othello at Shakespeare’s globe. As you where standing there, just as the groundlings did hundreds of years ago, you could almost forget that you where in the present, then you’d see a light or a shoe and you’d remember when you are in time. The acting was amazing and sometimes you would forget it was even acting. The actors balanced tragedy and comedy perfectly and I found myself laughing and crying at once.
Day 3 was our tour day, and also the only day when we had genuine London weather. In other words? It rained. It rained a lot. And as a bunch of kids living at the equator where rain is warm, the sleet of London came as a shock. While some of us had come prepared for the London weather, other had to resort to trash bag style poncho’s to keep dry. We hopped on a tour bus and visited Oxford University, Stratford upon Avon, and Warwick Castle, all in the pouring rain. Soup in a cup (a to go coffee cup, for no apparent reason), and Harry Potter themed merchandise aside, we also learned a great deal about one of the world’s most well known playwrights, William Shakespeare. Having just watched Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, it was interesting to see the place were the writer of such a time defying tale was born and raised.
We drove the remaining hours back to London being regaled with fascinating stories about Winston Churchill. Anytime there was a gap in the narrative, we would whisper the words ‘Winston Churchill’ and he would start again. His second favorite pastime was putting on his American accent. He was very impressed by Aya’s English accent as well. Winston Churchill quickly became an inside joke among our group.
Day 4 had a relaxing morning and then we all begged Mr. Patton to let us shop. Begrudgingly he set us free on Oxford Street, and we spent way to much. That evening we watched School of Rock, which I enjoyed and most others in the group hated (I think they didn’t like how light and corny it was, it was very much like the movie and not as serious looking as any of the other shows we watched). School of Rock is very much a corny show, from the very beginning you know how it’s going to end, and you walk away without any emotional damage (which is a change from Les Miserables). The kids where amazing. At one point at the end of the performance the entire band that was off to the side, making music for most of the show, stood up to prove that it was the kids playing their instruments and kicking butt. The kids where so talented and where very sweet at the stage door.
Day 5 had another lazy morning, then a walking tour of street art on Brick Lane in London’s east end and some vintage shopping. Mr. Patton’s old student from a previous school was our tour guide and she was great and had a very interesting job as a model, artist, actress, and dog-walker (Meghna Lall).We where all shocked by how many famous people she knew and we all almost died when she video called a youtuber that we all knew, unfortunately he didn’t answer but it was really sweet of her anyway.
After lunch at another market we met up with an old AISL student who left us last year and got to do a Lion King workshop with her.
After the workshop it was on to The Lion King. The costumes where amazing. You might ask yourself how people could possibly portray such a wide variety of animals on stage, but they managed it. If I was going by costumes, The Lion King would win by a landslide. However, in all other aspects, this was my least favorite performance we watched while in London. I loved how Nala was made a more prominent character, and they gave her a new song that I enjoyed. I also liked watching the stage magic and how they portrayed so many different locations at once. I disliked how a lot of songs where added to increase the length. I feel like ‘They live in you’ for example, could have been done without, and by adding it it took me a lot longer to realize that they where trying to talk about the stars and the past kings. It wasn’t a bad performance by any means, it was just my least favorite show we saw.
Day 6 was by far my favorite day there. We walked around a shopped a little more in the late morning and did a Les Miserables backstage tour. We got to see the costumes they wore (did you know that the most expensive costumes in the entire production is the torn and dirty looking bits they wear at the beginning. Because the actors sweat on their costumes, by law they have to be washed often, and if you wash any torn fabric other than silk it will deteriorate, so all the rags they wear are actually silk), and even got to hold some of them. We also got to stand on the actual stage. That’s right, I’ve stood on a west end stage, looking out into the audience. I’m going to be completely honest and say I was very close to crying, it was actually a dream come true.
Next we had a Les Mis workshop. They had us working on the song ‘At the end of the day’ and I think we ended up doing a pretty good job.
We went to a matinee performance of Les Miserables and I cried. A lot. Les mis has been one fo my favorite shows since I first saw the movie years ago. My friend Kei and I had fangirled over this show for hours, much to the dismay of our group, and I’ve always wanted to see it. I sat in between Kaitlin (the previous AISL student) and Oriane, and we all shared tissues and sobbed the entirety of act 2. By the end people where tired of me crying, and Aya was completely tear free. She didn’t like it much, along with a few others, but in general I think most people liked it. I can’t even say how much I loved this show.
I thought our day was over, but while I was shopping and eating lunch with the group of girls, the boys, Mr. Patton, and Mom had all decided to see one more show. We had finished eating dinner at the station and where about to walk home, when Mr. Patton turned around and said we where going to see Wicked. All the other girls said he was lying and so did I at first, but I soon realized he wasn’t. To say I was exited was an understatement. Out of all the soundtracks I’ve listened to, the top three shows I wanted to see where Les Miserables, Wicked, and Hamilton. I actually started crying, and so did some of the others, the difference was I was crying because I was exited, they where crying because they wanted to go home and sleep. In the end Mom ended up buying us all coffee and Wicked ended up in everyone’s top 4 performances we saw. I’m not going to say I told them so but…
Wicked is just such a powerful musical. There’s a great underlying message about treating others well and not judging people by how they look, the music is amazing, the pure vocal talent in this show is mind blowing (seriously, how do they come out of this show without vocal damage?), the orchestra was amazing, the choreography was so well planned out, the lights and sound where amazing, it was just all around amazing. Even thinking about it now makes me exited. It made me laugh and cry, even though I already knew the plot so well, and I left wanting to see it again. 10/10 would watch on repeat for infinity.
Day 7, Hamilton. When I discovered Hamilton a few years ago, I knew I wanted to see it. I had choreography in my head and everything. I wanted to see if I was imagining the characters right, doing the right dances, and making the right faces in my head. On day 7 I finally got to see, and to my surprise, it was just how I imagined it. Seriously, it was kindof creepy how closely I had imagined the dance for “What’d I miss’. I was so exited to see Rachelle Ann Go as Eliza, because she was so amazing as Gigi Van Tranh in Miss Saigon. I was interested to see the difference between her and Pippa’s voices. One thing I’ve noticed as a musical theatre nerd, more often than not the voices chosen to sing songs in musical theatre are belters. I automatically have a more melodious voice, it isn’t my natural inclination to belt out a song, and it’s hard to find songs in the musical theatre world that don’t have a lot of belting in them. That was one of the nice things about how Lin Manuel Miranda wrote Eliza’s part, there isn’t a lot of belting. Phillipa Soo doesn’t belt out her songs as Eliza, and Rachelle Anne Go, at least in Miss Saigon, does. I was curious to see if I still would like Eliza’s songs if it where sung by a belter instead. After watching Hamilton I can officially say, it works with both a belter or a non-belter, which is really nice and kindof rare in the musical theatre world.
Day 8 we got into a bus to the airport, and hopped on a plane for home. All in all, in the span of 7 days we saw 7 different shows, each written by a different person, in a different time. Each of us have different orders of best to worst shows, and each of us learned something new about the world of theatre and about ourselves. In order of my personal preference: Wicked, Les Miserables, The Jungle, Hamilton, Othello, School of Rock, The Lion King. Honestly, looking back, I loved everything about that week, even the stuff that I didn’t love at the time. It was definitely one of the best weeks of my life.