How much theatre can you fit into a single week? The folks who went on Olney Theatre Center’s London Trip enjoyed a fully immersive experience. Which is to say, they fit in a lot of theatre.
In 6 nights/5 days, most on the trip saw 6 shows, which they thoroughly dissected afterward in discussions both formal and casual. They met with 3 different theatre professionals - an actor, a director and a critic. They shared 4 dinners in some extraordinary restaurants, where the wine and the conversation flowed freely.
Some on the tour took in even more shows; some spent their time on one of London’s celebrated walking tours. Because the week began in conversation with Michael Billington, the veteran theatre critic for The Guardian, guests were well prepared to seek out plays on their own that weren’t included in the itinerary.
Olney Theatre Center’s Artistic Director Jason Loewith curated the week much as he does our seasons. He researched the shows that were playing and asked his colleagues to share their ideas. Ultimately, the trip delivered a week that included:
- A new play that experiments with the form, Sabrina Mahfouz’s A History of Water in the Middle East. Part musical, part TED-talk, the play explored bi-cultural identity and Britain's history as a colonizer.
- A classic, Translations, by Brian Friel, directed by Ian Rickson. In our conversation with Mr. Rickson the following morning, he was generous in talking about his career, including his leadership of London’s storied Royal Court Theatre. He even asked the group for their thoughts on Translations, which the group had seen in preview.
- A gripping drama The Son, by Florian Zeller. Having met with Zeller’s translator, Christopher Hampton, on a previous London Theatre Trip, the group was especially interested to see more from this team.
- A new play, Two Ladies, that turned contemporary international politics on its head and gave the group a chance to see the legendary actress Zoe Wanamaker on stage before meeting her in person.
- Ian McKellen On Stage, an utterly charming performance made even more so when Sir Ian walked through the orchestra during the interval and stopped to say hello to OTC’s Managing Director Debbie Ellinghaus and other members of the group.
- And Six, the rollicking, imaginative and of-the-minute musical that gives voice to a cohort of women better known (until now) as the wives of Henry VIII.
It was an exhilarating week during which the group had time not only for shopping and sightseeing, but to visit the Barbican Center for a private tour of Into the Night, an exhibit that recreates some of the world’s most iconic cabarets, cafés, and clubs, and tells their stories through the lens of pioneering artists.
If you ask some of the folks on the tour, you’ll also hear about Hamilton, Come from Away, and Mephisto, just some of the productions that made their way into individual trips. Because, honestly, can you ever get enough great theatre?