Across the Pond: All the world’s a stage

Sophie Hernando Kofman

Ever since I was little, I always associated going to the theater with the exciting experience of journeying to a place far from my home.

We would always drive for an hour to get to the Denver Performing Arts Center, and we would always dress in our Sunday best. The memory of these thrilling events has stayed with me as my passion for theatre has grown. And now, here in London, I don’t have to travel for an hour in a car to go to a professional performance, and I don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to see it.

In a city so large, theaters can be found anywhere. From the big West End theaters to small rooms in the back of pubs with a small stage and benches for the audience to sit on, the variety of performance spaces is incredible.

I saw the musical “Pippin” in a room that was in the basement of what used to be a chocolate factory. It gave the whole play a sense of closeness because to get there the audience has to climb down small flight of stairs and then pass through a hallway that has a very low-hanging ceiling. The company really used the space to their advantage.

There is a class here called Fringe Theater in London, and with this class, we get to go see a play each week that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out. I have seen multiple shows apart from those that we have been seeing for the class, which gives me a balanced perspective on the theatre here in London.

Some of the plays have been boring, like an hour-long monologue about the life of Darwin called “Mr. Darwin’s Tree” and the play “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Others have been hilariously entertaining, such as the play based on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The 39 Steps,” and the comedy about disaster in the theater, “Noises Off.”

Two that have made a deep effect on me are “Matilda the Musical,” and “The Pitchfork Disney.” Both are very different. “Pitchfork” is a psychological enigma that messes with your mind and leaves you wondering what exactly you just saw, whereas “Matilda” is a new musical on the West End that gives you the opportunity to remember what it was like being a kid.

Apart from all of the shows I have been seeing, I am also participating in a production with the Drama Society at Imperial College. We are doing the play “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” by Dario Fo. It is a political satire about inflation in prices and how two housewives and their husbands retaliate. I play Antonia, the housewife that begins the whole mess of stolen groceries and riots in the supermarkets.

It is a very interesting experience acting in a culture that is similar to mine and yet so different at the same time. Whenever Antonia gets worked up — which is often — she shouts things like, “You dozy cow!” or “Blimey, what a pain.” The differences in speech are subtle, but they make an effect on the way that the lines are performed, so I have to pay close attention to the culture so I don’t say things in the wrong way.

My whole experience here in London has focused mainly around theatre, and yet I feel like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more availability here that it’s very tempting to continue to delve into the depths of the theatre world. Wish me luck!