I am on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Folger decided to have its June board meeting in London this year. The Board meeting itself was held at the British Library and quite productive. (Or, rather, getting to know the other Board members and the senior staff better was extremely productive. Hopefully, the staff, for whom this board meeting was orders of magnitude more work than normal board meetings, thought so, too.)
At any rate, we got to see not only the British Library, which had an exhibit not only on Shakespeare (duh!) but also had a punk exhibit, where there was the only document signed by all the Sex Pistols (kicking out one of the original band members and signing on Sid Vicious), but also two plays.
The first one was “Elegy,” which a board member who shall remain anonymous reacted to by saying he would rather cut off a finger than see it again. Someone labeled the play as a thought experiment, which I think is an accurate description. Note that I myself am not fond of thought experiments as plays.
The second play was “Romeo and Juliet” with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It was a fabulous production—set in fascist Italy and superbly acted. As I get older, however, this play becomes less a romantic and tragic love story and more about the idiocy that results from an overabundance of testosterone. But I digress.
I stayed on an extra day and decided to spend it at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I emerged four and a half hours later. The museum is nominally about the decorative arts, but it really is so much more. It has everything from illuminated manuscripts to Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks (5 of them!) to ceramics from around the world to Islamic art to architectural models. Not surprisingly, the European exhibits are much stronger than the non-European exhibits, but everything is good.
Add onto that an obligatory trip to Harrod’s to check out the food stalls, and I would call this a very successful visit!