Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dinner at The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford is famous for being the hangout of The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other noteworthy writers and scholars of their day. They referred to the pub as The Bird and Baby. This place has been in business since 1650. That sounds pretty old, but not as old as The Turf Tavern or The Bear (more on them later).

After spending the day strolling around Oxford, we walked to Regent's Park College to meet our friend Lynn, who teaches there, and her son James. They also have tickets for the Hamlet production at Blackwell Bookshop later in the evening. It's just a short walk from Regent's College to The Eagle and Child.

The Eagle and Child is a long, narrow pub that goes back, room after room. The food was great. I had Haddock Fishcakes and chips. It was fabulous. Also Scottish cider and hot mulled wine. 

James and Lynn chat outside the Bird and Baby.

As we walked to Blackwell Bookshop, we passed a large monument to three martyrs, named Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer. They were two archbishops and one bishop who became protestant and were condemned by Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) to be burned alive. About a block away, in the middle of the street and just a few doors from Blackwell Bookshop, are the stones where, in 1555, Latimer and Ridley were burned while Cranmer was forced to watch. He recanted to avoid this fate, but Queen Mary didn't believe he was sincere and he was burned anyway, which made him repudiate his recantation. Bloody Mary was responsible for 300 people being burned alive. 

After this, Hamlet is almost a romantic comedy. 

What a rogue and peasant slave am I!

Is it not monstrous that I, in a fiction, in a dream of passion, have been strolling around ye olde Oxford among scholars and ancient universities?

If I sound strange, it's because we not only spent Monday in Oxford, we also attended a performance of Hamlet Monday night at Blackwell Bookshop, after a delicious dinner with Oxford friend Lynn, her son James, and our roommate Maria, at the Eagle & Child pub. 

Blackwell Bookshop is in the heart of Oxford. In more ways than one.

The stage was set up in the basement room of the store. After the store closes, chairs will be set up in the raised area where Robin is walking.

We found one of our new books on the shelf at Blackwell. I'm wishing now that we had taken the time to write it in iambic pentameter. 

The director welcomed us and told us this is experimental theater and to expect anything. He said "I'm the director, but before the night is over you'll probably ask yourself 'What did he direct?’" He noted that the actors had not even had any rehearsals, then called upon two actors who know the role of Hamlet. Each actor picked an audience member as their "champion." The two champions played a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine which actor would get the part of Hamlet. This process was repeated for all of the main parts, then the play began.

People were asked to bring props of any kind. Actors would occasionally grab props from the audience and work them into the scene. For example, for the sword fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes at the end of the play, there were no sword props. Each of the actors did have a glove, however. They fought and struggled to put a glove on each other's hand. So weird. But creative. During the graveyard scene Hamlet speaks to a teapot lid instead of Yorick's skull. Well, we didn't come here to see just any ordinary production, now did we? 

The actors take their bows and applaud the audience. The groundling area around the stage was for audience and players.

All the actors were great, especially Hamlet, the bald guy on the right.

As we left Blackwell's bookshop for the bus stop that would get us back to Uxbridge, I noticed this chalk art on the sidewalk. 

As we left, Hamlet's words echoed inside my head: "The cat will mew and dog will have his day." I don't know what that means, or how it applies to this blog, but I'm just a rogue and peasant slave. Maybe you can figure it out.