SMU-in-London: Arts 2012

During the SMU-in-London: Arts summer program, students are taking courses that explore solo performance and the city “as” performance. The students will create and perform original works, all against the backdrop of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Summer Olympics.

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Theater at Battersea Park

An update from Carson, a junior theatre studies major:

Standing in line outside of Battersea Park, we had run out of things to occupy our time. It was 10:25, almost half an hour after the park was supposed to open. We had been waiting since 7:30 that morning as it rained down upon us. To keep from concentrating too much on my wet socks, I turned to people-watching.

Behind me was the largest display of theatrics that I saw the entire day in Battersea Park. There stood a woman dressed in a full-length white dress. She had slept in pin curls and sprayed her hair within an inch of its life, secured in a standard ’50s up-do. Atop her head sat a rhinestone tiara from what looked like a child’s store. She wore oversized pearl earrings and a faux white fur coat. And to top it all off, she carried a miniature stuffed Corgi under her arm. The theatricality of this woman could not be denied; she was attempting to be the Queen.

As we walked through the park later that day, I saw women and men decked out in Union Flag apparel, shouting and singing, holding flags with a printed “HELLO!” – all to display to the audience of those around them that, yes! I am patriotic! I care about this country and about this Queen! Look at me!

These theatrics inevitably were to draw attention to the wearer. Those inside the park were looking to impress their fellow Englishmen. On the bank of the River Thames, we saw hundreds of people in costumes, waving “HELLO” to earn the attention of the Queen, or perhaps even more prestigious, of Kate Middleton. What we saw of Battersea Park paled in comparison to its inhabitants. I couldn’t find a more well-produced show within its boundaries.

As for the Jubilee celebration itself, I found that it was well intentioned. There were lines of tents with foods of every kind, and at least four venues for music from across the 60 years of the Queen’s reign. However, the crowds could not have been handled more poorly. From the time we entered to the time we left an hour and a half later, there were still long lines of people attempting to get into the park. The spot we had reserved along the bank had been crowded out, and we were all soaked to the bone from waiting for that spot in the first place.

An hour after entering, the crowd was still growing and there was no way anymore to see any part of the Flotilla, let alone the Queen. So instead, we drank tea and watched the royal family from the comfort of our own flat. With all due respect to the Queen, I found the watching of the actual Flotilla much more enjoyable while in my pajamas. And with the weather the way it was, I’m certain Her Majesty wouldn’t have minded joining us.

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