Monday, November 28, 2005


I'm back from a great weekend in Paris with the Earlham kids! It was so uber-wonderful to see my close friends again, and I was grateful that they "looked after" me, speaking French so that I wouldn't have to make nasty, pidgeon attempts. The best part is that I have definite plans to see both of them again: one before Christmas in Vienna, the other next spring when he comes back to the UK. It is always, always sad to say goodbye, but so much easier when you know that another visit is already planned. Plus, it has been decided that another dear friend will be coming at the end of January...I love that I'm not even being allowed to get homesick between visits from friends! This friend gives absolutely the best hugs of anyone I know, something I'm looking forward to in the land-of-no-hugs.

In some ways, though, it was a bit odd this weekend. I loved seeing my friends, hanging with the Earlhamites, etc., but I did realize two things. 1) I've adapted fairly well to being out of undergrad. I think my situation has really made the distinction between undergrads and former undergrads very clear. I was sad to graduate from Earlham, but it really was time for me to move on. Don't get me wrong, I love being a "kid" again, but I can simultaneously feel the distance from those days.

2) I realize how well I've adapted to life in London over just the last couple of weeks. I think that the turning point was sometime after Muppet stopped through London the second time. It was sort of a realization that this is my life now, that I can't simply keep turning to old friends, but that I had to find a community here in which to belong if I was ever going to be happy and sucessful in this degree. I feel like I've done that recently, which is so amazingly wonderful. At the same time, it felt a little weird to be going "back" to Earlham...a chapter of my life that I feel like I've been able to bring closure to in recent days. I'm lucky, I think, because I've got another community to take EC's place.

Alright. Enough of that. Paris rocked! It snowed when we were atop the Eiffel Tower and then even more the next day at Versailles. Actually, we'd gotten to the glassed in part of the top of the Eiffel Tower and noticed this gigantic cloud coming at us from one direction. We ran upstairs (outside) to see the view before it was obscured and then waited in the freezing cold until the cloud surrounded us and started snowing! You couldn't even see the ground at that point, but it was so much fun to be that high and right in the middle of the snow!

The "Cloud of Justice" moves in....

Afterwards, though, there was a fantastic light. You could even see the Tower's shadow on the dense air. This was my favorite:
And we even managed a 45 minute trip to the Louvre, on free night. It worked because I only wanted to see four things, all in the Mesopotamia gallery that had been closed the last time that I went to the museum. So, check these off: the victory stele of Narum-Sin, the lamashu from Persia, Gudea's statues, and the Code of Hammurabi! I was a very happy puppy! Still could have spent longer, but I'm totally spoiled by Britain's free museums.

The next day was the Earlham class trip to Versailles. Two people took turns translating for me, which was great. The Hall of Mirrors was completely covered this time for the renovation, instead of only half as it was last Christmas. At least I wasn't disappointed because I knew what to expect. Afterwards, there was a massive snowball fight in the gardens and a snowman was built. Please meet Francoise Pierre Escargot le Premier and a bunch of Earlhamites:
Evan awesomer were all the tourists who stopped to take a picture of him, too. And the fact that one of the builders actually had a carrot with her, in her bag. Randomness! That night we went to vespers in Notre Dame, which was beautiful and smelled nice.

I'm going to give props (unsurprisingly) to French food. There were crepes, Senegalese food, Vietnamese, cheese, baguettes, and putin (the Quebec "specialty," according to my favorite Canadian)...all of which were great. Oh, and pan au chocolat. Yum! I don't think I've eaten more food since I've been in Europe, these past months. Needless to say, I brought back cheese, chocolate, and wine. And, in the wine department, yay for finding Chinon, which I really liked at Christmas but haven't been able to find anywhere in the US or the UK since then. Sunday, after doing this grocery shopping and having a cold picnic with the girl I stayed with, I met up with friends at Sacre Coeur. Their service involved singing nuns, which was so beautiful. I loved wandering Paris with such good friends, especially when the French people made fun of us for taking a photo under the hammer and sickle that make up the Aeroflot logo:
Oh, guys, you made me laugh so hard!

No worries, though, I still love London best.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I guess its time for one of those posts. I've called my grandma and my godparents and my best friend (because her birthday is this weekend), but lots of other good things have happened that I think should be noted. And because tomorrow/today is thanksgiving! I'm still hoping that a pumpkin pie will materialize somehow, but I'm also off to France tomorrow to see the Earlham kids!

1) My review of Coram Boy is being published in next week's edition of the LSE Beaver. Apparently there was some editing, so we shall see.

2) I was by-elected to be a Model UN Officer for the LSE United Nations society (we're combined with the UK-UNYA branch). And the Beijing conference sounds like a better and better idea.

3) The plans for Duchie coming to visit are sounding firmer and firmer. Can I emphasize enough the YAAAAAY!!!ness of this? I miss my best friend!

4) I went tea shopping today at the tiny Twinings store on the Strand. I can't believe that I hadn't purchased any of my favorite vanilla tea before this! I also bought some loose tea, a tea strainer and rose tea in bags. And then I had to get a National Theatre mug from...the National Theatre. Juliana will be proud. She's a tea snob and has issues with teabags.

5) Everyone sounded great in the phonecalls, especially grandma. My godparents are relived that this can be a happy holiday and Duchie's (evil) cat is likely to hide under the beds upstairs all day tomorrow to get away from her young cousin.

6) I feel like I belong here. I'm so lucky to have had this opportunity (although, obviously, I would give it up in an instant for the alternative). I do miss my Mommy and Daddy, no matter how it seems.

7) I bought an orange for lunch today that was so big I couldn't physically finish it. I really like that fruit stand right outside Temple Station and it seems to be the only way to ensure that I have fruits and/or vegetables in my diet.

8) My tutor liked the dissertation topic. By the end of our chat, I think he was even excited about it.

9) My International Criminal Law seminar is absolutely great! Its taught by a barrister [ed. shut up, Juliana!] who specializes in this area and he's just really engaging and gets everyone involved in discussion. I asked one of my classmates later where she'd gone to law school and she asked me the same question. She seemed shocked that I'd know enough about law to keep up after only undergrad. I really liked that! Also, she went to Oberlin undergrad and had, therefore, heard of Earlham.

10) I might have a bank account someday soon. Then I can work on moving out!

I think that's what I can think of right now. Must read about Rwanda. Le sigh.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Well, I'm back from Cambridge, where we had a Model UN. Can I just say that I loved wandering around Cambridge and that it's a really cute market city and the various colleges are just amazing? I can't wait to go back (preferably in the spring when its not as cold)! On the other hand I'm going to rank the conferences as the worst one I've ever been to, personally. I'd say it was mostly because of our chairs, who decided to completely ignore the rules of parliamentary procedure. I'll admit to being quite good at manipulating parliamentary procedure and it makes things really awful when those rules are ignored. Plus, they used them to arbitrarily limit debate in ways that were really frustrating. Other than the chairs and the sort of overall disorganization at the conference, I had a great time meeting new people from around the country (and some of the international delegations), plus getting to know the LSE group. Seriously, in my old age I've started to cherish the non-conference parts of these things more and more. :-) Next up will be LIMUN in February, maybe NAMUN if I can convince LSE to go or decide to go by myself (although that's a lot of class to miss). And there's WorldMUN to think about in Bejing. Anyway, here are some photos from the tourist parts of the trip:

Kings from the Backs (literally, along the River Cam). The Chapel is amazing and going inside is a priority for that next trip!

This is the oldest bridge across the Cam and its part of Clare College. The Cam is beautiful and there were people punting along it, even now!

We also "snuck" inside Trinity Hall College to find Newton's apple tree, which Ghalib knew was still there. I honestly thought that story about the apple falling on his head was an urban myth, but apparently not! I'm telling you, these places make you want to do a PhD even more!

Anyway, back to the reading, since I've got a group presentation meeting tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fingers crossed...

I'm not trying to get anyone's hopes up too high, but I might have found a flat. It's somewhere on Tower Bridge Road (which is fairly long, so I can't be sure where the flat is, but is also less than a block west of me), which would mean getting to stay on the South Bank. This area's got fantastic transportation links and I am unwilling to leave the South Bank (or even to move too far inland). Call me stubborn, but I'd rather stay in Butlers Wharf than move too far away from this area that I love. Of course, if someone wanted me to be closer to school and the National, I wouldn't object....

Saw The Constant Gardener tonight with coursemates. Anyone (Diana) remember how I was after Hotel Rwanda? That's seriously how some of them were after this movie. I was slightly bored and annoyed that they changed so many things from the book. Am I totally callous? Perhaps. I feel bad not being more affected, but I think that knowing it was a novelization really sort of ruined it. (Although Isadore said that everything was true later, and he's worked in the areas of Kenya featured.) Afterwards people needed to debrief and we ended up trying to figure out what made us "special" from other people (which in some ways really reflects the smugness of human rights activists that Conor mentioned in his Hamlyn Lecture last week). Some of us could identify a trigger moment, others couldn't. Me, I think it was getting to know people who had actually lived through things that had threatened their human rights, making me aware in a way that a girl from Indiana probably couldn't have experienced herself. (Did that sentence make any sense?) It was nice to sit and chat, but in some ways I felt less human rightsy than everyone else and feel sort of like the POLS major amongst PAGS majors that I am at heart. Plus, some people are reading things for class that depress them because of the factual events they deal with. What a revalation! My readings are all theory, which I love, but I do forget that these things need to be applied. Or do they? I can understand how the "who cares if HR have a foundation; isn't it enough to know that I think they exist" viewpoint makes so much sense to the people who will be doing HR work in the field, where theory doesn't matter. Me, I still need more. Did I discuss Koskennemi's view? Because I should if I haven't already.

Finally, I did a practice LSAT today. Not so great. I bombed RC (the heck?) and one of the logical reasoning sections. They were the first two sections, so I wonder if it just took my brain awhile to get into it. Next time, I'll warm up a little. I am happy to note that I rocked the games! Knock on wood, but I got through all but two of the questions in the 35 minutes (which is HUGE for me...I'd been getting about half to two-thirds done) and all of those were right! If only I can put together the whole package in a couple of weeks.... Wish me luck! Oh, and I poked around Paperchase for Duchie's birthday present (she assures me that I don't need to think of something other than their notebooks for presents) and found a little one for myself, for thoughts related to my dissertation. It's this: The little one, but in black and with colored pages Obviously, I'm not telling what else I picked out. ;-) I love Paperchase. I wish they had stores in the US, but those of you who are massively jealous can also get their stuff at Border's.

Monday, November 14, 2005

One other note...

Before you think that I'm a freak for seeing Coram Boy again, consider the fact that I spent seven hours straight studying in the NT's lobby today. I think that's what qualifies me as a freak.

It's getting bad when practicing for the LSATs qualifies as a fun break.

Speaking of which, this weekend's class. I do think that they did a good job. I think that most things I had gotten, at least in part, from the Powerscore books. It was nice to figure out that fact, though. What cracked me up more than anything was one of the fellow students. He was probably late 20s, early 30s, makes more money than he knows what to do with (let's discuss the casual mention of multiple homes, cars and motorcycles) and was at least three of me in size. Such the UGLY AMERICAN! New Yorker through and through, also very Jewish, kinda skeezy, convinced of his own correctness. Think Jersey mob and I think you're there. Anyway, the guy (and his girlfriend, of course) have been in London for a year, since he was sent by wealthy investment company and HATES it. (WTF? How can you hate London?) All he wants to do is go back to New York.

I think this story is illustrative. He asked where I lived, since we were the only two from London. I don't expect people to really know what I mean when I say I live at Tower Hill Tube (we talk in tube stations if we really don't want to get into the details), but when I say that I live across from the Tower of London and next to Tower Bridge and still get stares, I'm worried. Especially from people who've been here for any length of time. No wonder the guy hates it: he hasn't seen any of it! I was flabberghasted that someone could live here so long and a) not fall in love with the city and b) not see any of it outside of home, the office and the pub. Oh, and Covent Garden...because its the only place to get a decent sandwich. The hell?

I wrote a whole rant on this once, but wisely have left it on my harddrive and nowhere else.

*End rant*

Hi Choir!

A bit shout-out to all the Coram Boys and Girls who keep stumbling across the blog. You guys are amazing, really! I have a new rule of not going unless with someone else, but my friend Libby turned to me tonight and whispered (after the Messiah at the end): "Can you imagine singing this every night?" And, yes, she was totally speechless afterwards. The choir and the entire company rock!

I can't imagine the show would get good reviews, but best of luck tomorrow night. As we used to say in high school: Break some legs, but not your own! If there's any luck, my review will get published in the LSE paper, The Beaver. And, yes, I'll note that there are factual "issues," if the editor gives me a chance to make some changes. Also, there's no more Hallelujah chorus, any longer, and that was kind of a major thing in the review.

So, yeah. I wanted to respond because none of you leave e-mail addresses! (Can't blame you, really!) Thanks and keep up the great performances!

Friday, November 11, 2005


There's been the most amazing and wonderful news I could ever have hoped for from home:
teb's page
Some of you may remember that my (god)sister Tricia has been battling cancer since May.

I just can't stop crying right now.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

This is a post on acadmic have been warned.

I have two major topics to discuss this evening. Both may be "intellectual masturbation," as someone referred to the lecture we were supposed to read by Derreda for class today. (Did I spell that correctly? Does that reflect badly on my lack-of-finishing the article and not really getting it, other than thinking that he was actually probably doing some basic concepts under all that french?)

1) Foundations of Human Rights
Conor, our program leader, gave one of the Hamlyn Lecture tonight, entitled "A Crisis of Authority; Can Human Rights Survive?" In it, he talked a great deal about how the traditional foundations of HR are crap, how they're largely irrelevant to our current conceptions and not really the best place to start if we think that these things are important. Which I'm totally good with; I'm here mostly because I wasn't satisfied with the things that everyone seemed to be pointing at as the basis of human rigths. In the end, however, Conor (like Professor Klug last week) sort of decided that we didn't really need to know or even to pretend to have a foundation for human rights. He returned to Rorty's idea that human rights are superstitions and noted that superstitions are not necessarily untrue and may be entirely true. Klug, last week, basically told us that we didn't need to know the origins as long as we could tell other people that "this is what I believe. If you want to know why these values are important, look around you." I'm really not happy with these explanations. I can believe that human rights are important just because I think they are, but I can't believe that this is an arguement that I could use on anyone who wasn't already predisposed to believe in the concepts. I'm rather practical and I'm not sure that such a theory is useful. As my coursemates noted afterwards, I'm either too much into the theory or too much of a positivist. Maybe both are right.

2) New Thesis Idea
Did I mention the last one on here? If not, good. If so, ignore, it was kind of crap and didn't actually have anything to do with human rights.

So, the new idea comes out of the discussions that we've been having about pirates in classes (same professor in both and he's currently very interested in the metaphor that the pirate can represent in current society). In LL423, we talked about how pirates could be defined as people who are both a) outside the international legal system and b) nevertheless subject to the political decisons that the international order makes and universal jurisdiction. And, then, I was thinking, well isn't that how we practically define stateless persons? And, come to think of it, why do we think it's ok to treat the stateless (who may be stateless through no fault of their own) as criminals? Who protects their human rights if states are the bodies charged with protecting human rights? So, I think I'd like to examine this intersection between criminalization and statelessness and, perhaps, try to come up with a new framework for thinking about statelessness that doesn't make stateless persons on par with criminals.

And interesting side-idea would be the transition from "pirate" to sovereignty. Gerry (said pirate professor) said that it has happened, in history, that pirates would become respectable and found states. So, is this process similar from the formation of states by former "terrorists?" When do those states stop being outlaws and become members of the international community? How? I'm thinking about the KLA and the fomer PLO, but....

Yeah, that's enough for now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Awww, cwrap!

So, I went to see Coram Boy again and it was just as wonderful, although not quite as scary this time. Now I've got the Messiah stuck in my head and one of those funks whereby I wish I could sing/dance/act/be involved in theatre RIGHT NOW! I'm going to have to move back to London someday, if only for the National. In the meantime I sulk, so send me suggestions for getting out of it.

Also did work all day at NT. Gah, that one article took me hours. And I've got more to do now before a group meeting tomorrow. Oh, and I bought my tickets for Paris...then realized it might not have been my best idea ever. Ooops. Oh, well, there can't be another two weeks of rioting, right? As the French are probably saying: le shit!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Christmas plans!


I've got a plan and tickets for the first part of break!

Dec. 13: Fly to Salzburg, Austria

at some point visit Vienna, also Austria

move on to Bratislava, Slovakia

Dec. 23: Fly back to London

I'm SOOOOO excited!!

Excuse me while I go e-mail Megan with this great news...she's Slovakian, after all. And her dad's an honorary consul, don't you know?

Guy Fawkes Night

...was yesterday. There were great fireworks in Battersea Park, where I went with some of the others from my course. Also, a huge bonfire, but no burning of Guy Fawkes in effegy. I was saddened by this last point; how can you not burn Guy Fawkes, I ask?!? First of all, I was very much looking forward to the bad-assness associated with my first effegy burning. And, I know from a close reading of the assorted adventures of Paddington Bear that burning the Guy (especially if he's wearing Mr. Curry's old clothes) is absolutely essential!

I've heard that the fireworks on Bankside (shot off from Millenium Bridge) were also great. Which leads to the part of the story where I might be joining the College Democrats after all. Basically, here, it's a bunch of cool Americans who hang out with each other. Given that half of my friends are already members, I might as well, right? Yup.

I'm not up for another extensive review but I went to the matinee performance of Pillars of the Community on Saturday (wanted to see Coram Boy again, but it would have involved missing the fireworks). It's Ibsen and one of those talky-dramas that I protested against at the end of the last review. Silly me. It was also excellent! They kept the tension high throughout and made some great points about community, leadership, the role of women, and America (their word, not mine)/the promise of the New World that were just as relevant today as when Ibsen wrote them. The old gentleman who was behind me in the day seats line said that he was finished with Ibsen, "because everyone always has flaws and when you get to be my age they just seem too much like a biography of your own life." I could sort of see his point, although very little of my life has looked like that so far. Anyway, excellent acting, odd set choices, and a crowd that made 60 seem young. Ahhh, that was a long line to turn in the hearing aid things as I left!

My main purpose in going on Saturday was to give myself a chance to take a practice LSAT all the way through (those suckers take a TON of time). Good results, I'd say. Didn't get through all the Logic Games (le sigh), but rocked out with Reading Comp. and have made massive improvements in Logical Reasoning since the last time I took this test. Still can't do the parallel logic ones to save my life, though. Blech. However, if I did as well as I did on Saturday, I'd be a happy camper. I'm signed up for a weekend course next Saturday and Sunday.

There are also secret plans in the works for the evening of November 30. They're dorky and involve singing to a very special Englishman. Heh. Girl's night out!!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mish Da. Mish Ma.

(scroll down quite a ways for the review of Coram Boy...sorry)

Hi everyone! *waves* Remember me?

When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she had just returned from LDYS conference, where, frankly, a great time was had by all. Lincoln is a pretty neat town and I enjoyed my half day of roaming (sleeping bag in hand, I might add). The Cathedral had some great glass (although one of the rose windows was covered over for restoration) and I especially loved the serviceman's chapels. I maintain that the British are brilliant at commemorating wars (with special emphasis on the horrors thereof) and that we should take a lesson from their example. I'm really looking forward to Armistace Day and Remembrance Sunday to take part. People are already starting to wear their poppies. Ooops, I digress. Lincoln Castle is really walls with a Victorian prison and court inside. I like walls, though, and climbed up a rather tall tower to take pictures. However, my acrophobia failed me when it came to the walls themselves and I didn't venture further. Prisons are creepy and I loved reading for subtext in the exhibit that accompanies Lincoln's copy of the Magna Carta. Ahhh, a photo:

Lincoln Cathedral from aforementioned scary tower.

Did I mention that I was a bit disappointed because Lincolnshire is very flat and I like my English countryside green and hilly? I say flat, but there's this...mountain...that one has to climb to get up to the Cathedral and Castle (my Rough Guide says the downhill is reserved for, no joke, the proletariat):

The name of this street? Steep Hill. Heh. Snark.

Oh, and did I mention that they filmed parts of the upcoming Davinci Code movie in Lincoln Cathedral after being denied access to Westminster Abbey? Totally had me fooled with the "wall paintings" that turned out to be reproductions painted on canvas. Booooooo!

But, conference itself was also great. I saw Ryan and Heather again (yay!) and made new friends, was helpful in the kitchen and by moving for closure of debates whenever it seemed necessary (also got the WTF do you mean, "closure of debate" look a couple of times...stilly MUN language), helped rewrite a policy motion that never got debated and slept (rather well, oddly enough) under a table in a church hall. Seriously, though, it was great! I really wish I were here for longer so I could get more involved with LDYS. Came back Monday and had a great time with my random seatmates...there was much innuendo and we'd only just met eachother. Le sigh. Does it say anything about the journey when I tell you that I was supposed to be on the 11:02 train but ended up on the 8:30 am that was still sitting at the station when I got to Newark. (Oh, insert your own joke about having to change trains at Newark. I certainly have.)

This week, other than the little hissy fit about housing that I made partially better by cleaning my room, has been better than the last one. Oddly enough, by not doing any work all weekend, I seem to have done a better job on doing the readings for the week that's just finished. I'm rather proud, really. I didn't get through everything on time, but got a whole lot closer. International Law makes me want to cry because none of the conceptual stuff is sinking in and I feel dumb when people ask very brainy, complicated questions that I barely understand. I'm going to make sure that I do all the reading for next week and then talk to one of the profs. if I'm still feeling the same way. Also, we talked about pirates in International Criminal Law today. Our response? We kept making pirate noises to eachother. Aaaaaargh! I wish I'd dressed up for it.

One part of Joyce's "Nose to the Grindstone Week" was a day and a half spent at the National Theatre. Yesterday I was there from 1:30 until a show at 7:30, but was amazingly productive. I decided to give myself something to look forward to (not to mention a reason why I wasn't allowed to go home) by buying a ticket for the first preview of Coram Boy, because, frankly, nothing else was even remotely appealing. The verdict? OMG!!! It was absolutely amazing! However, since that analysis is not all that complete, I give you my official review. I wrote this, hopefully, for the Beaver (it's already been sent to the editor). I knew that he had given tickets to someone to do it, but I a) wanted to think about the experience and b) not let anyone else say something potentially bad about this amazing work. It would be cool to get published. It was also a great brain exercise. I'm not used to having to think that hard about the theatre I see, but I really enjoyed doing so. The title of this post is from the play, from Meshak, a character who I'm finding more and more interesting (both in the tragic and amazing senses) as time goes on. Right, to the review (and I'd love feedback on this!):

Coram Boy, Royal National Theatre
I’m afraid that I associate Handel’s Messiah with memories of a high school auditorium, somewhere in Indiana. I remember it lasting for a very long time and I remember the seats squeaking and the coats rustling as the audience reluctantly shuffled to their feet for the Hallelujah Chorus. For tonight’s rendition, however, I would have leapt to a standing position, had Coram Boy not just knocked me off my feet.

Coram Boy, now playing in the Royal National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre, is adapted from the book of the same name by Jamila Gavin and follows upon the His Dark Materials tradition of bringing modern “classics” of young adult literature to the National’s stage. In an effort to associate the new play with the success of the past, the posters for the play and the front cover of the book itself are both plastered with praise from Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Frankly, it’s unnecessary; this work can and will be a raging success entirely on its own.

The plot of the play follows two major threads. First comes the story of Alexander Ashbrook (Anna Madeley and, later, Bertie Carvel), a young, noble, would-be composer. The other follows the so-called Coram Man, Otis Gardiner (Paul Ritter), a child slave dealer who turns a tremendous profit by promising desperate, young single mothers that their infants will be taken to Thomas Coram’s new Foundling Hospital in London. Infanticide, burials in the woods and dead babies (both with and without flesh on their bones) follow. The lives of our characters intertwine as we move between eighteenth century society’s darkest secrets and its shining achievements. Overseeing it all are Otis’ son Meshak (Jack Tarlton)—a dim-witted, scarred young man who proves himself capable of incredible acts of love—and the Gloucester Cathedral angel (Justine Mitchell) whom he worships.

The first act is both long and dark (although I suspect that the length will be tightened as the show’s run goes on). Nevertheless, the its events provide the vehicle for a tremendous showcase of talent. Ritter does a fantastic job with Otis, one of the play’s most interesting characters. He swings from promising young mothers that he will take care of their infants to burying the children in the woods in the next scene and is utterly believable in both cases. Abby Ford, as Alexander’s friend and fellow choirboy, has managed to capture the essence of a young teenage boy (all of the children, male or female, are played by girls in this production). It has been a very long time since I left an auditorium at the intermission feeling both disoriented and desperate for the second act.

The National Theatre’s promotional materials for Coram Boy state that this is a “tale of two orphans.” I would beg to disagree. The orphans in question don’t appear until the second act, when we are transported to London, eight years after the end of the first act. They’re also not particularly interesting, other than as metaphors for the deeper themes with which the play is so obsessed. This does not, I should add, preclude some great performances from Akiya Henry as Toby (a young black boy rescued from, and then practically returned to, slavery) and Anna Madeley (who happily reappears after being replaced by a “grown-up” version of Alexander) as Aaron.

There are some delightful moments and significant character developments, but the rather blah-ness of these two central characters in the second act is a bit typical. The first act left us emotionally raw. The much shorter second was left with the task of tying up loose ends and quickly making way for a happy ending that, yes, does portray the first performance of the ‘Messiah’ (Handel was one of the patrons of the Foundling Hospital and it was first performed in the Hospital’s chapel). I won’t say more, but I’m pretty sure that the tears onstage were just as genuine as those in the audience.

The performance that I attended was, in fact, the first preview and (hee!) the unofficial world premiere of Coram Boy. Understandably, there were kinks, most notably in missing costumes, but I don’t think that this detracted at all from the overall quality of the play. The set made use of the Olivier’s massive drum revolve [ed. that's like a normal revolve, except that it can also go up and down at the same time] and very simple furniture shifts to distinguish between scenes that ran from one to the next. Always present, however, is a pipe organ. It’s a constant reminder of both Meshak’s angel and the music that plays such an important role in both the story and the production. But, in general, the designers have used simple settings and lighting to great effect: it wasn’t until later reflection that I even realized that the sets had remained fairly constant throughout.

It is clear from the timing and the extra-reasonable £16 children’s tickets that Coram Boy is the National’s yearly answer to the pantomime. But don’t be deceived. This is a play that wallows in grown-up themes, ranging from poverty and infanticide to slavery and human trafficking. I suppose that what makes it a “children’s play” is the fact that Coram Boy has placed such a strong emphasis on storytelling, somewhat of a welcome break from pretentiously wordy, one-set dramas. This is an epic, produced on an epic scale and dealing with themes that are as relevant in our 21st century world as they were in 18th century England.

Anyone still there?