Hey Archy! What can you tell me about the city hall, "the Shard" and the Gherkin aka 30 st. Mary axe? (London, U.K.) . Thanks! Ps: Awesome blog👌🏼
City Hall (above), designed by Foster + Partners, houses the chamber for the London Assembly and the offices of the mayor and staff of the Greater London Authority. Together with The Shard (below), designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and 30 St Mary Axe, also designed by Foster + Partners, represent the new London. These iconic buildings, together with other projects like the Eye of London to say one, do show a new direction for the city meant to be sustainable, transparent and modern. You can find out more about each project on each firm’s website.
I had barely slept through the night. My mind was preoccupied thinking about Harry, stuck between acute embarrassment and intense desire. There was a constant back and forth in my brain where I’d see the lustful way Harry had eyed me for sixty minutes straight and then my vision would swim and I’d be back on the studio floor, concerned faces surrounding me. I couldn’t believe I had fucking fainted. There was no doubt I would have gotten laid, probably had some of the best sex of my life, last night had I not passed out. Harry all but confirmed it as he left me in the locker room, admitting that he enjoyed watching me. Had I not been a complete idiot and hydrated better, I wouldn’t have been in the showers alone after class.
My arrival in London started the amazing-train immediately. My airplane flew over the city like they were giving us a sky tour. I saw everything. The London Eye, Tower Bridge, that skyscraper at “30 St Mary Axe” that looks like a glass football (hey it does to me, ok). I would have taken photos if we weren’t in final descent and banned from using our phones. Even the weather was in fine form. Perfect clear skies, white puffy clouds without a hint of rain and rather warm for winter. To top it all off the traffic was behaved. My driver from the airport was in mild shock at this and remarked on it twice.
Driving to my hotel I passed even more landmarks. The Odeon, Harrods, an enormous school complete with children playing in these impeccable little red uniforms complete with cloaks that seemed to be ripped right out of a Harry Potter book. Before I knew it I was smack dab in the middle of Seven Dials/Covent Garden. I checked into my hotel and immediately went for a long walk.
I’m not a proper tourist I guess whenever I go someplace new. I like to wander (almost aimlessly but not enough to get into trouble) and people watch. So I was less interested in Big Ben and more interested in traversing the tiny cobblestone streets and watching the hustle and bustle of people going about their everyday business. This city is everything I hoped it would be and I ended my first day locating the Donmar Warehouse, snapping a few photos, then settling down at a pub for a pint (or three).
But enough of this, you’re waiting for me to get to the damn point, yes? Coriolanus and the big man himself (or I should state, “men” because Mr. Gatiss is equally responsible for me traveling to see this play)…
The Play Is The Thing
As you’ve probably already heard, Donmar Warehouse is tiny. The street it’s on is small, the entryway is small, yep…it’s small! They don’t really have a foyer/waiting area/box office, they have a narrow hallway with the box office desk nestled at the end (definitely a job where you better like your co-worker!). It’s too small even for a coat check area. However, for what it lacks in size it makes up for in service.
The folks working there, especially the bar staff, were polite and efficient. I had to return a ticket and there was no muss and no fuss. I even cracked a few jokes with the box office peeps. The bartenders didn’t skimp on the drinks and I happily tipped them well. I even had a fangirl/fanboy moment with the bar staff as we talked about Brian Cox and “The Weir” production when it was playing at the Donmar among other things (and yeah, Mr. Cox is a sweetheart and they are the luckiest staff ever). If I didn’t live so damn far away I’d visit this theatre regularly. I was that impressed.
This is not the only play I’ve seen while here. I’ve seen “The Weir” (also directed by Josie Rourke, and playing at the Wyndham Theatre now) and “Henry V” (with Jude Law), both bigger venues and very nice, but I liked the Donmar best. The people there were just really sweet.
Also, stating for full disclosure, I saw Coriolanus twice (Henry V as well). Why? Well for one, I’m fortunate enough that I can. No, I didn’t camp outside nor get Barclay tickets. I got my tickets the boring way, the day the play initially went on sale. Second, I like seeing plays (and movies for that matter) at least twice. For plays in particular, I just find I really like that 2nd viewing to really let it soak in.
The reaction of the crowd (I’m a people watcher remember) is usually different from one show to another, with folks either laughing or gasping at different things at times. Heck even the show itself can make little subtle shifts, like an actor giving a look that he didn’t give a day or week before. I realize that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s how I roll.
[Note: I also attended the Coriolanus - Open Workshop hosted by the Donmar. I won’t detail that here, but I highly recommend it. It was well organized, loads of fun, I learned lots, and no you don’t need to be an actor or “in the business” to enjoy it. It’s completely group-centric and very interactive though, it’s not a lecture or just a discussion. So if that’s not your thing I’d skip it, but it was exactly what I was looking for. Again, many props to the Donmar.]
I’m also a Shakespeare nerd, so yes I’ve read Coriolanus in the past. Admittedly, it’s not one of my favorites on paper. This can be said of all his plays, but you really need to see this one performed. On paper there are parts in the play that (to me) really drag on, but on stage they just seem to work. It’s kind of unexplainable. So, if you’ve read it and didn’t “get it”, don’t be disheartened. Give it another go. Sadly, this play really isn’t performed nearly as much as others, but if you can, go watch it (the NT Live showing, in person if you can swing it, or even the Ralph Fiennes movie version which is currently on NetFlix). But anyway, back to the production itself…
As with all things at the Donmar the stage is small too, and as others have stated the whole experience is “intimate”. Both times I was seated in the stalls. The first time I was 2 rows back from center. The second time I was front row stage right on the end. For the curious, no the theatre was not full of raging fangirls on either day.
It was a good mix of men and women, young and old, couples and folks on their own. And I wouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions on who the crowd was present for. I ran into a lot of folks seeing this to see Mark Gatiss in particular, which made my little fangirl heart merry. It was also a veritable smorgasbord of nationalities. First time I met a girl from France, and her friend from Russia, several folks from Italy, from Spain, Germany, Brazil, various parts of the UK and the US. As an avid people watcher this made the experience all the more enjoyable.
The play starts with Caius Marcius’s son painting a square on the ground, framing the stage, then *bam* it starts and you feel like you’re in the thick of the action. The costuming was well done. I collect antique weapons (mainly swords), so I admit that my eye lingered way too much on everybody’s weapons (and how they were used) and not a whole lot on what they were wearing! So yeah, I spent way too much time looking at Tom and Hadley Fraser’s (Aufidius’s) thighs…namely the one thigh with the falcata sword strapped to it…as well as their footwork when they were fighting. Sorry, it’s my thing! Regardless, nothing in the costuming made me raise my eyebrow and think, “that isn’t right.”
The props were simple chairs, that single lonely ladder, the occasional bowl/platter/cups, and paint (used to graffiti the wall and paint the floor). When the chairs are moved around the stage the change is punctuated with music (electronic/techno). I’ve read that some critics didn’t dig the music, but for me it worked. It wasn’t too loud, or overly used. It didn’t detract from the play at all in my opinion.
I won’t spell out the overall storyline, plenty of other bloggers and journalists have done that well enough. So I’ll focus on a few things that struck me most. I have to give praise to how the Virgilia character (Caius/Coriolanus’s wife) was handled. This is the character I like the least in the play. In other productions I’ve seen she is so overshadowed by Volumnia it’s almost laughable. In this production she seems to have a bit more purpose to her existence. The loving and faithful wife. What she lacked in dialogue was made up for in poignant glances and loving kisses to her husband (On a side note, what a job! You get to romantically kiss Tom, ok Caius, multiple times per day, get thrown lovey-dovey looks, and get paid for it. Where did I go wrong in life?! *ahem* Moving on…). I did notice the hairstyle shift/change between Volumnia and Virgilia between acts. It’s subtle and it works.
Mark Gatiss was perfect as Menenius. So perfect I can’t see anybody else in the role now. I feel for this character the most, so yes he’s my favorite in the play. Sure he’s a typical politican, and says some rather arrogant and dick-ish things quite frankly. But there is nothing like seeing a close friend seemingly piss everything away and be powerless to stop it, and even worse, lose the friendship altogether.
The parts where a bit of levity were introduced were done well in my opinion. This is a tragedy after all, and the lighter points did not lessen this fact. Despite the laughs you know everything is going nowhere positive. Mr. Gatiss did this part massive justice. He was phenomenal. (On a side note, I forget how damn tall Mark is. Seeing him on TV he clearly isn’t short, but on stage you really notice his height. When I was sitting front row I had to seriously look up when he passed me.)
Yes, the actors make eye contact with the crowd at times. Tom does it the most, but Mark, Hadley, and others do it quite a bit as well. And it’s not just the folks in the stalls (1st floor) they are looking at. They look up to the folks in the circle (2nd floor) a lot. I’d say more so than anywhere else. When I was sitting 2 rows back in the center I thought, “Bah, I’m safe way back here. No way anybody will look at me.” Well, I was wrong. I got Tom’s eyes full blast for a good bit. Don’t ask me what was said during that moment in time because I don’t remember! I was too busy thinking, “Wait, did that just happen? Holy fuck it did!” Ditto for the second showing when I was front row. It was brief but my brain did “skip” for a millisecond.
Ok, the infamous “shower scene”. You knew this was coming, right? Well, there was nothing and I mean nothing sensuous or sexual about the shower scene unless you are seriously into pain. (And if you are into pain, then well this scene is right up your street.) Have you ever cut yourself and then had water poured on it while it was still raw? It sucked right? Probably stung? Well that’s what this scene was like, except it wasn’t just a cut but big gaping bleeding gashes as water poured on him.
It didn’t look fun, and despite the shirtlessness, it did nothing for Your Humble Narrator’s libido…nor was it meant to. It was a powerful scene and you could feel the audience respond to it immediately. There were gasps (and not the “oooh that’s hot” kind) when he took his shirt off and you saw the wounds. I saw more than one person wince when the water hit him. It looked like it hurt like the seven hells and even I winced once when Tom gasped in pain.
As you might have heard, the part of Sicinius Velutus (in this production, “Sicinia” Velutus) is played by a woman (Helen Schlesinger). There is a scene where Sicinia and Junius Brutus (played by Elliot Levey) kiss. It’s brief, but I gotta admit my first thought was:
I didn’t see this one coming, but it still worked. It made their conspiring together seem that much more realistic in a way. Like a power couple relishing in the triumph of taking someone “big” down. When I saw it the second time it kind of colored those two characters in a different way in my mind. And yeah, needless to say both actors were incredible in their roles.
Last but not least, the Coriolanus and Aufidius kiss. This was not a tonsil-cleaning, face-mashing, erotic kiss to my eyes. It wasn’t exactly innocent, but it wasn’t this huge snog-fest as some have made it out to be. Perhaps they toned it down from the preview showings to what it is today in the final cut. Whatever the case may be, the kiss looked rather one-sided to me. Aufidius being overjoyed about Coriolanus switching sides and embracing him. But Coriolanus didn’t really look into it. Actually he looked like he was kinda doubting his decision a wee bit. After the whole exchange, even Aufidius’s people looked at each other like, “What the hell? Seriously bro?” which actually got a laugh both times I saw it. So, maybe I’m reading it wrong (or into it too much), but again I didn’t find anything overtly sexual about it at all. An obsessive kiss maybe, but not really sexual.
At the end of the play some in the crowd, myself included, gave a standing ovation. Not just to Tom, but to everyone. I didn’t touch upon all of the performances, but trust that each person in the cast did their job extremely well. If this production isn’t given a nod or more when award time rolls around, then I call supreme bullshit. If Tom wasn’t filming Crimson Peak soon, I’m sure that the production would have been extended even longer than the additional week they are adding and probably be moved to a bigger venue (like they did for “The Weir”).
However, I’m also a little saddened that the NT Live showing will most likely not get properly recorded and released later on DVD. I really wish they would consider it. This cast acted their asses off in a play that (arguably) not a lot of folks like. In my mind it feels like it should be preserved. Which brings me to the last bit…
The Man Himself
Every time Tom takes the stage you know it. Even when he has no lines to deliver you can’t completely ignore his presence. Let it be known, Tom fucking OWNS this stage. If anyone is judging his skill by the Marvel movies alone, you’re doing him a grave disservice. I’m a fangirl yes (I run a blog with his name on it for fuck’s sake), but I never ever bullshit anyone. If I think an actor (even one I REALLY like), is “phoning it in” I’m gunna call them on it. Fangirl or no, I want a good show for my money. Well, there was no so-so work being shelled out here to make a quick buck. Of course I’m comparing him to the other few productions I’ve seen of this play, and there is no doubt that his take (as well as Rouke’s quite frankly) is the best by far.
When he’s angry, you can feel the atmosphere change to being uncomfortable. When he’s being sarcastic you can’t help but laugh and relish the sass. When he breaks down in tears (streaming legit tears on command I should add) you can’t help but feel for him. I think the gentleman next to me got choked up during the scene where Tom sheds tears! I know that feel bro. Your heart goes out to Coriolanus in that scene. Make no mistake, for a good portion of the play the character is a total asshole, so to feel anything for him in the end is a testament to great direction and even greater acting.
His voice was strong and clear, and even though he was coming off of a cold (and poor Mark seemed to be on one!) he seemed healthy to my eyes. I know sometimes you see him in photos or on TV and he looks thin. A relative of mine called him, “weedy”. Hell, even I admit that I think he looked like he was losing a little too much weight. Well, let me set the record, and myself, straight…he is in incredible shape.
He’s tall, svelte, and every inch of him is packed with lean muscle. There is a scene where Coriolanus is wearing his senator’s garments (begrudgingly that is, his disdain for the whole situation including the garment is palpable). It’s really nothing more than a homespun shift/smock, but seeing him in it proves my point. He’s not too built and he’s definitely not too thin. From his feet up to his neck, he has a body that should be immortalized in goddamn sculpture. Guys, it makes you want to get down on your knees and thank whatever higher power for the male form. This may seem like exaggeration, I assure you it is not.
The fight scene with Aufidius (towards the beginning of the play) is nothing short of great. They are truly going at it and it’s wonderful. This is the sword collector/martial arts nut in me talking, but that scene definitely did make Your Humble Narrator’s libido skyrocket. I think my blood pressure rose to questionable levels during this scene. I regret nothing. If I died, I would have died happy. I wish they had a wee bit more hand-to-hand combat at the very end, but again that’s probably the swordswoman in me talking!
[Note: The rest is stage door-related. I only queued once for Tom, the 1st time I saw the play. Stage doors are like premieres, sometimes you’re lucky and meet everyone and sometimes you crap out and see no one. I was lucky enough to see Tom, but not Mark…c'est la vie. Anyway…]
After the play let out, I queued in line like everybody else. As you might have heard we were lined up. Two lines, one for the matinee folks and the other for the evening performance folks (this was the line I was on). The security guy checked our tickets and eventually broke down the rules for us. No guarantees on Tom coming out. Don’t rush forward. If you wanted to try to catch the other actors you needed to go to the other side of the street, the lines were for meeting Tom only.
Nothing unreasonable and quite frankly the security guy in my opinion wasn’t rude at all. Yeah, he easily recognized a few fans trying to sneak on line with tickets that were not theirs. He told us to keep to our lines. No, you could not get any non-Coriolanus stuff signed (yes, some folks tried and were told, “no”). He even let someone take a photo of him, smile and all, and let another girl stay on line after she lost her ticket but showed him her receipt. Guys, I’ve seen security men (and women) that put the “A” in asshole. He’s not among them. This guy was just flat-out doing his job and doing it rather well in my opinion, the man is quite frankly out-fucking numbered.
Anyway, Alfred Enoch actually came out first (side note, wow has he grown! He’s forever a boy in my poor old brain!). He signed a few things and took a few photos at the front of the line, but as much as I wanted to meet him I didn’t want to give up my place. When Tom came out, and I was suprised he did because it was pouring rain and complete crap outside, both lines rushed a little forward and I got unceremoniously shoved over to the other line.
Now, in the past, I’ve been forcefully shoved up against barriers and streetlights by crazy screaming crowds rushing up to see a star. I’ve had rude people waving shit in my face, yelling, trying to get the attention of stars in front of them and me. So this, in comparison, was extremely mild to me, but I can see how folks would be annoyed by it. Tom did say to the crowd something along the lines of, “hey guys, this *hand on the security guy’s shoulder* is my friend, keep it orderly”. As soon as he spoke people listened, and everything moved in a clockwork and orderly fashion from then on. Two orderly lines, no more pushing, and no nonsense.
Personally, I don’t worry about Tom and the fans. This isn’t his first time at the rodeo nor will it be his last. He’s not doing anything, or being pressured into doing anything, he doesn’t want to. If he doesn’t want to bother with the line that night, he won’t. That’s his right and it’s that simple. I trust in the fact that he as well as the Donmar staff know their business.
Let’s be real here folks, there are asshats everywhere. Movie, play, sporting event…it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those sad absolutes in life. I’m not saying you have to like it or accept it, I’m just sayin’ shit happens (and yeah it’s fucking annoying). I have no doubt that some have made their way to the Donmar and engaged in asshattery. Having said that, the Donmar stage door was not a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Even with the bit of pushing in the beginning I saw plenty of folks smiling, getting along, and having a grand ole time. If anything, the stage door seems to have its good nights and bad nights, and thankfully I had a good night.
I personally liked the “assembly-line” routine they have going on at the stage door. (Did I not mention this place is tiny as hell?) It didn’t seem like they were using this method just to corral the disorderly horde or lessen the experience, it simply seemed like good damn sense.
But enough of this, let’s get to the good part! Quicker than I expected I was face-to-face with the man himself. We said our “hellos” and I got the standard, “What’s your name darling?” question and he signed my (damp, damn weather!) program. His voice was a little hoarse, but with all that yelling in the play (and doing two shows that night to boot) it’s small wonder his voice was done.
I told him that his performance “was brilliant” and also said, “You were better than in The Hollow Crown, I didn’t think that was possible.” To which he responded, with a “thank you” and also said, “Well, that’s reality for you!” Then I got a hug. It was that good proper bear hug he’s sorta well-known for, even though I was wet as a dog and probably looked like a hot mess (I didn’t have my umbrella!). I’m only 5'3" so I was completely enveloped in 6'2" Hiddles. Guys, I will take the feel of those muscular arms around my body to my grave. I thanked him for the hug (as if the shit-eating grin on my face wasn’t tell-tale enough that I enjoyed the hell out of it) and got that little signature laugh we all know and love.
You could not take pictures with him while on the line. So the photos I have here were taken after I met him. There were just too many people waiting and if he stopped for photos he’d have time to see even fewer of us. Some folks got creative and had people off the line take their picture for them. But even without the photos he didn’t get to everyone. However, he apologized more than once for having to go and for not meeting everybody and waved to the crowd. In short, he is as charming in person as you’ve heard. The man knows the value of keeping his fans happy, and there were many happy people indeed.
I walked back to my hotel, rain had stopped but I was still dripping wet and trying to keep my signed program dry. Like I said in other blog posts, I’m in my 30s and due to where I’ve lived/live I’m used to running into celebrities (usually at odd moments…don’t ask), but there is just something about Tom that’s different. Something rather undefinable. I might never meet him again in my life, so it’s almost bittersweet. But I don’t regret it for a second and I am immensely thankful.
Tom is smart, talented, funny, with a brilliant career behind him as well as ahead in my opinion. Hey my sapiosexual peeps, how many men do we meet who can have a philosophical discussion about the classics, read it in the original language(s), and then be willing to switch gears and happily hunker down to watch Jackass 3D afterwards? Not many. (And if you are meeting such men on the regular, you need to drop me a note in my Ask box! I would learn from you sensei.) Regardless, after meeting him I’m still scratching my head on how he’s single, but I’m not complaining that he is. Mr. Hiddleston is a rare bird indeed, and I wish him nothing but blessings and good fortune.
[Final Note: Some folks have given Tom gifts on the queue line, he doesn’t seem to mind (hell, who doesn’t like gifts?). However, the Donmar staff actually prefers that you give any gifts to the House Manager and let them pass it on. I left Tom a gift in that manner. No idea if he got it, but I hope he did, and I doubly hope he and the cast enjoy it! Because they damn well earned it.]
hello sir! can you post some modern design dome interiors?
You will find out very quickly looking for “modern” domes that the days where the dome was a structural device for large spans are a thing of the past and that any modern dome tends to be a transparent light filled space. The only dome structures, not built out of glass and steel, that you will find in the recent past tend to be inside a geodesic structure or an open pavilion structure.
Diamond Island Community Center Vo Trong Nghia Architects