Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 30: V&A pt. II and a play

Friday morning, all of our library course-related activities finished, Holly, Christina and I met up to run some errands in the morning. After getting some theatre tickets, we popped into Topshop, where Holly was successful in finding a floral skirt.

The three of us parted ways after that shop, and I headed over to my favourite of all places in London, the V&A. I first ventured up into the Prints & Drawings gallery, where the current exhibition features Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit illustrations. One room is dedicated to Potter's earlier drawings of her pet rabbits and the works that came before The Tale of Peter Rabbit, while the second room features Potter's original illustrations accompanied by the full text of the tale. What a great look into both process and product!

I spent a bit of time wandering through the Tapestrires gallery, and from there to the Theatre & Performance galleries, where I took time to admire the theatrical costumes on display. I also found the miniature stage sets very interesting; the models recreated ground-breaking and famous stage sets from various productions in London.

From there I took a break for lunch. Today I chose from the cafe's cold offerings: a prosciutto, mozzarella, and basil sandwich; mixed leaves salad; and pesto potato salad. I finished it all up with a huge meringue--my absolute favourite thing to get at the V&A!

I wanted to peruse some of the other galleries in the museum I hadn't really seen before, so I next checked out some of the small special exhibit galleries in the western wing of the building. Two of the rooms are currently dedicated to architects' models of possible renovations to the V&A. For the small exhibit, the V&A challenged several architects to create a large temporary exhibition space for the museum, and to simulatenously make a better entrance to the museum from Exhibition Road. The variety of plans submitted was really astounding, although I have to say my favourite was the version including a labyrinth.

After short walks through the permanent fashion and Rapheal galleries, I took the elevator all the way up to the sixth floor. All ten rooms on the sixth floor feature the museum's ceramics collection, which includes ceramics from long ago to the present and from nearly every place on earth. The whole of the collection on display was rather overwhelming, so I decided to focus on three particular aspects: how British tea things have changed over time; the actual ceramic-making process; and the special exhibit of ceramics by Richard Slee, titled "From Utility to Futility." The Slee items on display were very interesting because, while they were very beautiful, they were impractical and without a function beyong the aesthetic. For example: a variety of full-size and hand brooms with ceramic bristles. The brooms were gorgeous, but would shatter if you tried to use them for sweeping. Think about the statement such objects make.

I spent the last of my time in the V&A during this trip in the two museum shops, the book shop and the main shop. Happily, I had the self-restraint to not buy anything, but I did enjoy one last browse before heading out of the museum, not knowing when I will next return.

I had a quick dinner in my room before meeting up with all the other British Studies Program folks for our end-of-term research symposium. After the symposium, four of us headed over to our theatre performance for the night: The Prisoner of Second Avenue. The comedy, by Neil Simon, starred Mercedes Ruehl and Jeff Goldblum. Oh. My. Goodness! They were hilarious! In all five acts, I don't think I every really stopped laughing. Both Ruehl and Goldblum had great stage presence and perfect comedic timing, and their facial expressions in particular really made a few scenes. I don't want to give any of the hilarity away, but suffice it to say that several surprises and an artistic ending really made the whole production fantastic.

We walked back to the flats along the Waterloo bridge, taking in the evening sights:

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