Art from Abroad: London presents innovative theater experiences

People say that traveling abroad is life changing. I had the opportunity to discover this firsthand when I studied Humanities II at Oxford University this past summer. Seeing incredible landmarks and attending plays made the experience even more worthwhile. During our first weekend, our group traveled to Stratford-Upon-Avon and took a tour around Shakespeare’s hometown. We saw his wife—Anne Hathaway’s—original cottage surrounded by a scenic garden. That evening, we saw Shakespeare’s “Othello,” a play I hadn’t read since high school, but enjoyed nonetheless. The seemingly modern comedy incorporated into the play made it laugh-out-loud funny.

After spending time in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we made our way to London. One noteworthy experience from London was visiting Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is filled floor-to-ceiling with luxurious art and hundreds of years’ worth of history. I didn’t realize how many people were buried there—it felt like the abbey was packed with tombstones of important historical figures. Kings and queens were buried alongside famous writers like Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll and Charles Darwin.

While in London, we also went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and saw another Shakespeare play, “King Richard II.” This play also had a contemporary feel, similar to “Othello.”

I think that the actors in these plays portrayed their comedic parts in modern ways in order for the play to be more relatable for audience members. The actor playing King Richard definitely stole the show—he had the perfect balance of a pompous yet wimpy attitude that had the crowd cracking up whenever he took the stage. Due to the spectacular performances from those actors, I preferred “King Richard II” to “Othello.”

After my program ended, I was lucky enough to stay right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, which is comparable to Broadway in New York City. Everywhere you looked, there was a different theater showing a play. The final show I saw was thankfully not a third Shakespeare play, but rather Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s “The Book of Mormon.”

I essentially went in blind to this show and decided that the mystery of the synopsis made it more thrilling. I’ve seen many shows and this is—by far—one of my favorites. The spunk of the characters, the spot-on mockery and the inappropriate, outlandish behavior all merge to form a hilarious play.

At home, I would never decide to go see a Shakespeare play, but this trip gave me the opportunity to enjoy something that is slightly out of my usual interests. I would recommend to everyone, particularly college students, to travel while you can and see as much as possible. You learn more about yourself than you’d think and it is an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life.