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Explore London’s Cultural Scene

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London is known as one of the most cultural cities in the world; not only does it have the glorious West End, but it also has renowned exhibitions, historical monuments and, of course, the Queen.

As the choices of things to explore and enjoy are vast in the capital city, this guide is centred around the area of the London City Suites by Montcalm due to its prime location and the vast range of sights to see and things to do. So whether you enjoy the theatre, exhibitions or museums, there is something for everyone in this section of London.

Experience the Genius of Samuel Beckett

Considered one of the most influential writers of the 1900’s, Samuel Beckett’s work is famous worldwide for its dark and bleak outlook on human life and ways. Born in Dublin in 1906, he is believed to be the last of the modernist writers and, by others, he is thought to be one of the very first postmodernists, which is a skeptical view and interpretation within literature, art and architecture. Beckett’s work can certainly be grouped under the postmodernist label with most of his writings portraying a skeptical view of human relationships, religion and way we see life.

The Barbican Centre celebrates Beckett with its International Beckett Season where it hosts a vast range of Beckett’s work including the world famous Waiting for Godot, Not I, Krapps Last Tape and Happy Days. Visitors can witness Beckett on the stage, on screen and through the medium of radio which will allow them to get a real sense of Beckett’s intentions with his pieces.

  • Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby

The season begins with three plays in one: Not I, Footfalls and Rockaby. From the 2nd until the 7th June, Lisa Dwan, who was trained by Billie Whitelaw herself, takes on these challenging roles under Walter Asmus’s direction.

Not I is a mentally exhausting piece that is performed by a speaking mouth in a spotlight that speaks as a stream of consciousness at the speed of thought. It’s speed and disjointedness causes the audience to really think and can even make them feel uncomfortable, which is exactly what Beckett had intended to achieve.

Footfalls is a piece where timing is critical, each step should be as steady as a metronome and each length of the stage should last nine seconds. These directions are essential aspects of the play that highlights isolation and being a ghost of your former self.

Rockaby is filled with a sense of loss and loneliness. It is centred around a prematurely aged woman who sits in her rocking chair, that inadvertently rocks itself at different aspects of her life that are being recounted by a recording. She engages with the recording at several different points until the very end and it shows how fleeting life is and the need to relive the past in an attempt to eradicate the loneliness of the present.

  • Waiting for Godot

One of Beckett’s most famous and most interpreted plays, Waiting for Godot tells the tale of Estragon and Vladimir who wait for the arrival of Godot near a tree. Their argumentative natures as well as their constant musings on Godot, where they are meant to meet him and exploring his identity, keeps the audiences glued to their seats, even though it has been described that nothing happens in the play. There have been countless interpretations of this play; from religion to homoeroticism, from existentialism to autobiographical and none have been truly confirmed by Beckett during his lifetime, this allows the audience to make their own decisions of the nature of Waiting for Godot.

  • Krapp’s Last Tape

From the 19th until 21st June, one of Beckett’s most haunting plays will be shown at the Barbican. Krapp’s Last Tape focuses on an old man who is setting up to record the last year of his life and, upon setting up the recorder, he listens to an earlier recording that highlights the young, confident man he once was. This one man play looks at the joys and optimism of youth contrasted with the stark reality of life and old age and it is one play that provokes a huge depth of emotion in the audience.

Shakespeare

Being one of the most famous and most influential writers ever known, Shakespeare has continued to pack out theatres for near on 400 years. Hamlet is one of the most studied and most well-known of all the Shakespeare plays; it follows the Prince of Denmark through his trials and tribulations of trying to get revenge for his father’s death which threatens not only his family but also his sanity. Being shown from 5th August until 31st October, this production has been highly anticipated due to Benedict Cumberbatch playing the protagonist and award-winning director Lyndsey Turner at the helm.

Exhibition

The University of the Arts London is hosting a spectacular exhibition from 8th May until 15th June called Capturing Light. Curated by Brigitte Lardinois and the London Alternative Photo Collective, this exhibition highlights the way in which digital pictures have become a thing of the past with up and coming photographers using 19th century analogue processes, such as using photographic film and plates to create their images. It is a testament to the birth of photography and how the old ways can still produce breathtaking results.

 For those who adore the fine cultural aspects of life, the area around the London City Suites by Montcalm is one of the best places to visit, especially if you wanted something different outside of the usual tourist spots. With a plethora of sights to see, plays to view, exhibitions to take in as well as the usual bars and restaurants in the area, you are guaranteed to fall in love with London all over again.

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