A Canadian friend had encouraged us to get tickets for the current production of “Hamlet” at the National Theatre as soon as we got to London, since she had seen the production at a movie theater in Canada. One of the National Theatre’s major success stories is to do broadcasts of their plays around the world. “King Lear” is coming up this week and we will probably see it at the Odeon cinema, since tickets have been impossible to obtain for the stage play. The Hamlet we saw was staged in modern dress, and Rory Kinnear was absolutely mesmerizing. The set design and the machinations of Claudius seemed to point at Putin’s Russia, and the first three acts flew by. The scene changes were ‘brilliant,’ as the British like to say. The last two acts seemed to drag, however, and the ending? Well, I won’t carp, but in my opinion, Shakespeare has done a lot better.

What is Hamlet’s problem? Aside from the fact that his uncle has murdered his father and married his mother? How could someone bungle revenge so thoroughly that absolutely everyone dies? My take on it is that “Hamlet” represents an extreme case of “seasonal affective disorder.” It gets dark up here far too early and stays that way far too long. We are presently at latitude 51 degrees 30 minutes, a bit north of most of the Canadian population, and Denmark is north of here. When we arrived in London at the beginning of January, daylight was disappearing around 3:30 in the afternoon! Does that sound healthy? If you are anything like me, it can send you around the bend.

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O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter. O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

We are talking about someone with serious issues. Get thee to a therapist, Prince! Get some exercise. Get a light box!

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Fortunately, the International Mime Festival hits London at this time of year, bringing a little laughter and light to various venues around the City. It took me awhile to realize that the word “mime” is interpreted loosely. It is really a Fringe festival, and the offerings range from circus to cinematic. We saw a Russian absurdist take on the idea of “hero” that combined elements of Kafka with technical wizardry disguised as magic; a bizarre, hilarious, manic American parody of Office as Apocalypse, with taxidermy taking center stage; an Italian/Icelandic pair of clowns from Denmark exploring, what else, end of life issues; and a French acrobat/juggling duo of “gardeners,” with the front page of a newspaper taking on a memorable role in a bit of cover up.

The month of January ended, as it always does, with my birthday. On this particular occasion we were favored with a visit from Katherine, a French friend who came bearing gifts– champagne, chocolate, pate, a selection of fine cheeses.  My wife invested in a wonderful cake and we celebrated the year’s end with an Italian colleague and his charming wife. Not too shabby, as my friend Bob used to say.

I’m counting backwards now. Sixty-five promises to be a very good year.  Peter Pan never did grow up, so who says you have to grow old?

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