Written by Caroline Scudder, Columnist
At last, our study abroad program has reached its final portion of the trip with our 6-week stay in London. Having spent an extended amount of time away from the urban lifestyle, exploring a new city with many attractions felt quite overwhelming. Our time at the farm was filled with solitude and the simplicity of nature, so being thrown into the commotion, excitement, and busyness of London naturally required some getting used to. Moreover, each of us felt strange living in our own single-room apartments after having grown used to living in communal spaces for much of the trip.
Picking back up with a more structured schedule, we continued our studies at Birkbeck, University of London. A particular highlight for me has been our weekly theatre outings. One of the stand-out productions for me was hearing a retelling of ghost stories (that were based on real events) at the Globe prior to Halloween. Because of dropping temperatures, the main open theatre was closed. However, the theatre our show took place in had an unexpected seating arrangement. Rather than the cheaper seats being on the floor-level for the standing “groundlings,” the indoor theatre had the balcony as standing space for attendees. This reversed design was quite the viewing experience as we each used the guard rails for support. We were all happy to step outside into the cool air after being at the top of theatre where all the heat within the room had risen and given us a complimentary sauna-like experience.
Before the performance, we were also given a lecture on theatre architecture and improved our acting skills from one of the Globe’s noteworthy actors. Though our theatre course primarily took place in Stratford-Upon Avon, the plays sprinkled throughout have continued to add to our knowledge of theatre and a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s greater influence. Within our final weeks, we are all excited to head back to Stratford to see “King John” and also see “King Lear” then back in London. As part of our class schedule, we also have had Tuesday’s reserved for talking about the plays we see each week. Commenting on staging decisions, set design, and character portrayals, each of us is able to discuss the play’s greater meaning and our own personal takeaways from the performance. All in all, our Monday and Wednesday class days for British Romanticism and British Landscape Ecology are broken up by this designate time for reflection in regard to theatre as an art form and our cultural experiences that have informed us in London. Speaking of entertainment, many of us have taken advantage of the opportunity to see other performances such as The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and even Mamma Mia. A theatrical hub in itself, London has provided many opportunities for enjoyment of the arts, excellent food, and much exploration from our adventures on the Tube. And of course, we have scheduled a few football matches to add to our cultural experiences. With a little over 2 weeks left of the program, we have all felt enriched by these experiences. While leaving will be tough, I am excited to continue to process all that I have learned on this United Kingdom journey. Thanks for following along! Wishing you all an enjoyable rest of your semester at Furman.