The air of a theater, and the heat of its stage lights…The surprising amount of hard work behind the scenes of a performance; the audience’s silence when they are engaged; the smell of sawdust in the workshop; the black clothes and headphones of the stage manager. I was nostalgic for the theater. It was my major in college, something I had seriously given my time to since the 5th grade, and the reason my best friend and I met. For the past 3 years I had not done anything remotely artistic with my life. It’s why I told my best friend that Shakespeare’s Globe was on top of my list for London sights. It is amazing when you study something so much, for so many years, drawing sketches of it, writing papers on it, taking tests on it, and then…actually getting to be there.
This is not the original Globe Theater from William Shakespeare’s time (it burned down twice before, and its exact original site is now under the river). Using the same old fashion construction methods, it has been rebuilt. We sat through a rehearsal for a little while. It may not seem like it now, but in the past, the theater has been a source of controversy and riots. Through a play, who we are as human beings, our beliefs, our actions, the story we belong to can be mirrored back to us directly.
Shakespeare’s Globe is gorgeous. The way the actual theater is painted is a representation of Heaven (the ceiling), Earth (the stage), and Hell (the pit). The wooden and white colored facade was so familiar to me, it was like I had been there before. The nice tour guide was an older lady, representing everything stereotypical of a drama teacher with funky earrings, glasses, red hair, a British accent with the right touch of inappropriate jokes.
“If you are going to work in the true theatre, that job is a great job in this time of final decay; that job is to bring to your fellows, through the medium of your understanding and skill, the possibility of communion with what is essential in us all: that we are born to die, that we strive and fail, that we live in ignorance of why we were placed here, and, that, in the midst of this we need to love and be loved, but we are afraid.” – Robert Benedetti
After lunch we spent a relaxing, partially sunny afternoon on the grass at Hyde Park by Buckingham Palace. My friend napped, I read an acting book, and soon…we were off to a 5 star hotel for an extremely fancy Afternoon Tea (made affordable thanks to a Groupon deal). And so we, the peasants, violated all etiquette. 😉
We arrived at the InterContinental London Park Lane. We wore what we considered to be fancy-chic afternoon dresses, and converse shoes…Which we did our best to discretely change out of by the entrance. This was why I had packed the black pumps I hardly ever wear: to make myself appear polished and “high class.” The area was pristine with beige chairs, and white table cloths. The servers wore elegant satin dresses in an olive green color, with flawless ballerina buns and mascara that does not clump. My best friend spoke in a soft and smooth voice. We were playing around with this, as if we were characters in Titanic. We were both like Leonardo Di Caprio sneaking into first class.
What I experienced next, astonished me. A long list of all kinds of different teas (none of which I remember), and actual eating rules verbally explained to us by our server. There was an order to everything. You are supposed to have a little champagne before anything else to “improve” digestion. We passed on that with a smile and a “We’re fine, thank you” that actually meant, “We’re poor, thank you.” Then they brought out the tower of plates; you eat working your way from the bottom up. First plate had a fancy set of sandwiches that were alright, but not exquisite. I do not remember which flavor this was, but my best friend started gagging the second she bit it. “Swallow, please, I beg you. Just suck it up. Swallow and drink tea right after. Please.” I begged her with clenched teeth, scared to death at the possibility of this becoming the most embarrassing moment of my life. “I can’t. I can’t. I’m gonna throw up. I have to spit it out.” For the next few hours, the chewed up bite was wrapped in a napkin in my friend’s purse. Once you have finished the sandwich plate, you let them know you are ready for the scones. They do not put them in the oven until you are ready, so you can eat them fresh. “It’s actually how they are supposed to be had,” explained the kind server. The scones were delicious.
Each of us got a small pot of tea, with our individual choice of flavor, and my friend poured herself all of it…even shaking her pot for the final drops. “I saw you really trying to get tea there.” Oh no. These server’s eyes never leave your table, no matter where they are in the room. They see everything. From walking all the way across the room just to fix your slightly tilted knife, to making a highlighted remark that you are not supposed to eat out of order (this was after my best friend had a taste of a sweet from one of the upper plates without getting the scones yet! How dare she!). It was really a lot of pressure for two simple commoners like us. Haven’t they heard of breakfast at midnight? What’s wrong with a little dessert before a scone? But it was fun to mess it up. We really could not stop laughing.
To enhance our situation a mosquito landed in my cup as a piece of something I was eating fell on my lap… We were equally out of place. Another pot of tea for each of us, and now we have permission to eat dessert!
The sweets were pretty nice, but we were now beginning to feel extremely full, and could hardly continue on. The top plate was the best part, of course. A delicious, delicate, artistic chocolate cake. We could not take our eyes off it. SO decadent. We ate, and listened in on the Canadian couple sitting near us. They also came here with the discount deal from groupon, and we were glad to have some company from a closer social status. Like us, they were taking pictures of everything.
The server seemed shocked we could not finish the stack of plates and tea. She politely asked if we wanted it packed in a box, to which I replied, “Oh no, thank you. We don’t have a fridge in the hostel.” SILENCE. My best friend died as the server walked away. Apparently, I had delivered this line with a posh movement of the shoulder that suggested we were leading high class lifestyles. “I can’t take this one anywhere,” said my friend to her family that night. It became the dinner-table joke of the day. “Hostel! She said the hostel!” I was hardly ashamed.
We were almost too full to walk, my dress suddenly felt too tight on me. We walked to the lobby, where we sat down on the couch, and changed back from pumps to dirty converse shoes in front of everyone. It was good to be us again. Being posh is exhausting! We still tried to walk away with some decency, but even that went out the window when the doorman opened the door for us, and my friend accidentally let out a massive loud burp. So…we ran. We laughed and we ran so fast, I almost got ran over by a man on a bicycle. He scared me so much, I grabbed by face between my hands and screamed out the F word (that was an accident, too). We stopped at a street corner and laughed, holding our hurting bellies in tears.
We made complete fools of ourselves. All the while, we thought we could be classy, sophisticated, high society ladies. But the truth is that we are just us. We are the girls that drop things, that don’t wash their hair for 4 or 5 days, that wear jeans and converse shoes for both lunch and dinner, have digestive problems, and dance behind strangers’ backs on the street. We laugh so hard our nostrils move unattractively and our eyes tear up. We go on adventures, arrive late, miss the bus, trip and bump into serious businessmen, and cannot live without the pleasure of loosening up our buttons after a big, over indulgent meal. On this day, we learned we love to be ourselves, but even more so, we love being ourselves together. I think this is why we have been best friends for 8 years now. It’s friendship over fortune, any day.