Hipsters & Daggers: “Hamlet” London Theatre Review

hamletprod8

“I thought it was dystopian!”
“I thought it was modern?”
“I thought it was the past…”

The Millennials are confused, and understandably so. The Barbican Centre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, directed by Lyndsey Turner and filmed before a live audience, presents a unique and refreshing perspective on the 400-year-old play. It is not the medieval Danish world of Shakespeare’s setting, and nor does it sit well within any of the centuries that have occurred since then. The buildings are Victorian, the uniforms modern, the clothing contemporary, but the weapons historic. Hamlet has traded in his doublet for a David Bowie shirt, but keeps a dagger by his side and listens to Nat King Cole albums on an old record player. And just wait until you see Horatio.

Continue reading

U2

NOTE: I’d like to warn everyone that this memoir is super long and fairly detailed. I’ve broken it up into chapters to aid with navigation. Feel free to read as much or as little as you please. Or, if you prefer, just skim through and look at the pictures. I wrote this more for myself so that years from now when the memories start to fade and I start to wonder if it really all happened, I’ll have this record to force it back into reality.

A NOTE ON PHOTOS/VIDEOS: In order to spend as much time as possible appreciating the shows in the moment, I didn’t actually take many photos or videos myself. I’ve included some of the ones I did take, and most of them are fairly poor quality simply because I was shaking with excitement and couldn’t be bothered to actually *focus* on a subject.

In some instances, I’ve borrowed pictures from other social media sources and given credit when necessary. The few video clips that I did take are mostly very very quick clips, just to give a snippet idea of the general mood of the experience. If you’d like to see more, check out any of the many fansites that have much higher quality material.

Enjoy.

Background – My history as a U2 fan
Night 1 – 5/26/15
Night 2 – 5/27/15 (Special Night!)
Interlude – 5/28/15 – 5/29/15
Night 3 – 5/30/15
Night 4 – 5/31/15 (Special Night!)
Interlude II – 6/1/15 – 6/2/15
Night 5 – 6/3/15

Other sites for pictures and info:

http://zootopia.u2.com/gallery/

http://www.atu2.com/

http://www.u2gigs.com/

http://www.u2tourfans.com/

Interlude

THURSDAY 5/28 AND FRIDAY 5/29

Photo credit: Nia

“Dream beneath the desert sky…” Photo credit: Nia

The days between shows were a blur of social media updates, retweets, emails to photographers and rewatching the videos over and over. I was having a hard time eating, my system too jolted by all of the experiences to care for food or sleep or much of anything except U2. It was an odd stretched-too-thin feeling that was hard to shake and yet felt fun and exciting. We went to the beach. We went around town. We drove to Joshua Tree and spent about twenty minutes hunting for the Joshua Tree pictured on the album “The Joshua Tree” before realizing that we were in the wrong National Park. Good thing we only spent 20 minutes searching. We watched old videos—PopMart and Elevation shows. We went down to the Roxy to check things out and ran into Sara, who’d tried all day to get in and still didn’t make it. It was a pair of beautifully aimless days spent drifting with the wind.

1925048_10206923755236937_8960020259747691128_n

IMG_5723

IMG_5722

 

Next: Night 3 – 5/30/15

Wednesday 5/27 – Night 2

Another day, another wristband

Another day, another wristband

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know Houston had been flooding.  I woke up around 6:00am that morning in both a state of blissful delirium but also uncertain foreboding. I couldn’t sleep; a phenomenon that would reoccur mercilessly over the next several days as the needling pangs of excitement for what had happened and what could be would return to me. I checked my phone and saw an update from my sister, Nia. She told me that her flight which had been scheduled for an 8:00am departure had now been delayed two hours.

This irked me. The GA policy at the Forum was to distribute wristbands beginning at 9:00am, but only to complete parties. Even if I had a wristband, I couldn’t get one for Nia without her present. The original plan was to pick her up when she got in at 9:45am, rush over to the Forum and grab wristbands with numbers hopefully below 200. But now she was scheduled to get in at 11:30am.

I admit, I’m not very good about things deviating from plans, even due to unforeseen acts of nature. I was also antsy because it was my first time doing general admission, and I didn’t know what to expect. So in an effort to stave off uncertainty, I try to plan as much as possible. Considering how I usually am, I actually took the news pretty well. At first.

As the morning wore on (me still in bed, skimming through social media posts of the concert the night before and my poor sister stuck in an airport terminal), the news only got worse. The flight was delayed another 15 minutes. Then an hour. Then another hour.

At that point I couldn’t take it. I needed to do something instead of waiting for the news to get better. I pulled on a pair of yoga pants and a floppy pink hat and drove down to the Forum. I decided to get myself a wristband in the possibility that Nia’s flight was cancelled altogether and that I would need to attend the show alone. While waiting in line I met Novelle who had traveled from Minnesota to hear the band play and had three U2 tattoos.

I also called Ticketmaster and learned some interesting tidbits about my order. Back in December, I had actually accidentally purchased two tickets for 5/27, one on each of two credit cards. The wheels in my head started turning as I realized that Nia and I could actually enter the venue separately and then meet each other inside. This was good news.

I checked in with her periodically, thinking that if her flight got in early enough she could at least go and try to meet the band with me, but it soon became clear that that wasn’t going to happen as her flight was further delayed. In all, she didn’t miss anything. The tragic death of Dennis Sheehan, U2’s tour manager for the past 30 years, had cast a pall on the day and the evening’s festivities, and the band wasn’t in a meet & greet sort of mood.

Instead, I got to know new fans. This time I met Jeff, a devoted fan who follows the band regularly and knows most of the crew on sight and by name. He even related a conversation he had had the previous day with Mr. Sheehan and expressed his condolences during a taped local TV news interview.

I waited in the pen until about 4:00pm when the call finally came in that Nia’s flight had landed. I knew that in order for my wristband to remain valid, that I would need to be back in line by 5:00pm. At first I thought of abandoning the idea of going in separate from Nia, worried that something could go wrong with my credit card that would put her in a sticky situation, or that we would be divided between North Side and South Side and lost in the general GA shuffle. In the end, the other fan friends encouraged me, told me that with the Forum so close to LAX, that I could probably make it there and back in time to keep my spot in line. I turned the idea over in my head about twenty times, but in the end we decided to go for it.

I raced down to LAX, found her on the curb, shoved her two suitcases and guitar into the back of my Versa and sped back to The Forum. I ended up having to pay for parking twice but in all, we made it back just a hair before 5:00pm when access to the wristbanded GA line closed (I would come to learn in later days that enforcement of this rule was lax but we had no way of knowing that at the time). I took my spot in the wristband section and Nia took her place at the end of the line, a few hundred people behind me.

I texted her about 30 times, asking if she was okay and what to do if there was an issue with my credit card. I was trying to prepare for the worst, knowing that it was my duty as big sister not to lose little sister in this big town, and I worried that I was already failing.

Are you okay?

Yeah

Still have my credit card?

Yeah.

Worst case scenario, if I can’t find you by 7:00pm, let’s just meet at the car and go home.

Okay.

Are you hungry?

No.

You sure?

Yeah.

Okay. Remember, meet up by the car if I can’t find you.

I know.

You still have my card, right?

Stop texting me.

Did I mention that I’m a planner and that I don’t like uncertainty? But Nia was cool, more bored than anything, and a trooper after spending all day in an airport and then going straight to the venue. Finally the line started moving. I had learned through reading online forums that it’s best to pack light and bring no bags so that you can breeze through security easily and grab a spot quickly.

Down the stairs, around the corner, divided between North Side and South Side once again. Finally, inside the arena at the back of the stage, I noticed a tiny piece of untaken rail and went for it (speed walking of course. never never running). I grabbed on and grinned in triumph. On the other side of the rail near the stage, a kind security guard named Tom introduced himself. To my left, a pair of awesome rocking sisters, Carrie and Shelley, slapped me high fives as we pumped each other up for the show. Still, I kept glancing nervously over my shoulder for Nia, telling her that it was good that she kept her tennis shoes on after the flight because she needed to book it to my end of the stage.

stagenight2

Position for Night 2

But what I hadn’t noticed the night before was how well this show had been planned out — plenty of standing room space available and plenty of stage rail space at that! Finally I spotted Nia and called her over, we hugged, reunited and rejoiced, slapped hands again with Carrie and Shelley and waited for the show to start. During the usual pre-show chit chat, I learned more about our group, which had grown to include a traveling fan named Sara as well as Carrie and Shelley’s friends Mike and Frank.

11390019_10207137124690303_8290126813667862107_n

U2 Friends Forever! Photo credit: Shelley

We heard amazing stories — Carrie and Shelley’s first discovery of the band. The time Carrie got a stage tour from a roadie and a pair of Larry’s drumsticks, and also how Adam kissed her during the Elevation tour. There was a good feeling in the air, and I knew this show was going to be good but I had no idea how good.

The idea of “Sisters on Stage” had apparently been buzzing for a while, but like most people I first noticed it during one of the Phoenix shows when Bono pulled up a set of three sisters to dance with Edge during “Mysterious Ways.” I also had noticed a pattern of pulling up folks in general to dance during that song. And why not? It’s so much fun!

Carrie and Shelley had made a couple of signs, one saying “Sisters on Stage?” and then another expressing how they had been fans longer than they hadn’t been fans. The show began. We danced, we laughed, we goofed around. We waited as the show migrated from the main stage down the catwalk to the party at the B-stage at the end.

sistersstage

Photo credit: Shelley

The boys came down and played what I’ve recently taken to calling my favorite song — “Until the End of the World” written as a fictitious conversation between Judas and Jesus after everything that went down between them. Musically it’s a great song, perhaps not one of U2’s most innovative or unique, but like most things that I like, I appreciate the storytelling aspect of it and the way that it delves into what must be one of the most dynamic relationships in history.  But I digress.

Bono came around, working his end of the stage and spotted me and my sister. She was dancing, I was singing. He looked between the two of us and held our eyes for a full verse, then drifted away. That was exciting enough. My night was made. The fact that Bono made eye contact with me during my favorite song was more than I had hoped for going into that night’s show and I knew I could go home happy.

When “Mysterious Ways” rolled around, Nia and I knew that if we were able to show how much fun we were having, we might get the chance to join them on stage for some dancing. We did our best to look the most coordinated (Nia succeeding far more than I did), and borrowed Shelley’s sign to indicate that we were sisters. Bono saw, did a strange little pointing gesture and then walked back around the stage. “Mysterious Ways” wrapped up and the boys went into “Desire.” To be honest, I was a little bummed, thinking that we’d missed our chance to be on stage since the dancing song was over. But I was wrong.

After “Desire” finished, Bono strode back over to our end of the stage, pointed down between us and asked “Which one of you is better at the technology?”

Any thoughts I could have had to the intention of his question left me. I went on autopilot, remembering my days at Apple and thinking that someone somewhere had an iPhone question. I raised my hand. I didn’t know it at the time, but Nia also pointed to me behind my back. Bono waved me up and beside me the crowd parted to let me on stage.

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber
http://www.mechaber.com

It didn’t feel real when I ascended the stairs, but rather that I had fallen into another adolescent daydream. Bono took my hand while I stared out at the crowd in awe. After a moment I noticed that he was also staring at me and I turned to say “Hi.” He returned the greeting an then I lapsed into a hug.

IMG_5715

That first hug is the only part of the ordeal that felt real. I was actually hugging Bono. I was hugging the boy-turned-man who danced a jerky awkward jig in the “I Will Follow” video that I watched in 8th grade, the rock star who pulled a crushed fan on stage and waltzed under the eyes of Wembley Stadium during “Bad” at Live Aid in 1985, the performer who wore make up and high heels and pranced on stage as MacPhisto during ZooTV. This was the same guy who told me it was a Beautiful Day back when I was just a little kid and whose voice kept me company on long lonely bus rides. I tried to put every ounce of love I’ve ever had for him into that one hug, and I hope he felt it.

I didn’t want to dawdle so I released him quickly and someone handed me an iPhone with the Meerkat app already up and running. It still felt like a daze as Bono had me test it out—panning across the crowd and back over the band. He introduced them to me, as if they needed to be introduced. Edge smiled. Larry waved. Adam blew me a kiss. It felt like every imaginary jam session I’d ever dreamt up. They were so near and so real and the feeling was indescribable.

Bono announced “Angel of Harlem” which went along perfectly with my “Rattle and Hum” T-Shirt and I bobbed and danced and grooved along with them as I did my best to pan the stage and broadcast the performance. All of them were so cool, and gracious hosts for letting me share the stage. Edge and Adam were kind enough to move out of my way as I walked backwards, oblivious to their presence. Edge did a little twist dance with his guitar, inviting me to follow him around the stage on his side. Bono directed me over to him and Larry behind drum set, possibly knowing that had I tried to venture back there on my own, Larry wouldn’t have been too pleased. As far as I could tell, Adam was the most visibly happy to see me, possibly remembering me from the front row the night before. Whenever I smiled at him, he smiled back, which made me smile even wider and the cycle continued.

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber
http://www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber
http://www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber
http://www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber www.mechaber.com

Photo credit: Jared Mechaber
http://www.mechaber.com

At some point the song ended, Edge bowed to me and I awkwardly bowed back, still holding the phone. Bono wrapped me in a hug and kissed my cheek, which I didn’t even realize until I watched the video hours later. He asked me my name and I told him. I then babbled something about how I’d been a fan for half my life (more than that really), and thanked him. He kissed my hand and hugged me again and I popped a quick kiss on his cheek. Adam was sweet enough to hang around for a hug so I did the same for him, and also for Edge. Larry had left early to get back up stage. Bono guided me over to the stage exit and I offered him the phone, asking if he wanted it back. He laughed, saying “I don’t know what to do with that!” and then let me hand it off to a stage hand. A security guard guided me back to my spot on the rail and I collapsed onto my sister in a hug.

(The whole video, taken by Frank.)

I don’t remember much about the rest of the show, having felt my energy and excitement sucked out of me. I was certain that I had hit the peak of my U2 fandom and knew that no future show could ever be as good.

The rest of the night passed in a daze and when the lights came up people were finding me from all over the arena to take pictures and swap contact info.

Photo credit: @bethandbono

Photo credit: @bethandbono

Back at home, Nia showed me the video she had taken on my phone while I was on stage. I watched it about ten times just that night. I even found a bootleg video of the meerkat stream that had gone out live to viewers. Only after I watched that did it start to settle in and feel real. I couldn’t sleep. I watched “Rattle and Hum” and fell asleep at 3:00am.

I do remember one moment when they played “Bad” and Bono spoke about letting go and surrendering. In a way the overall message from this day was that despite all my planning, nothing went as it should have and yet everything turned out better than I would have imagined. It’s a lesson I’ll need to remember.

Next: Interlude – 5/28/15 – 5/29/15

Saturday 5/30 – Night 3

IMG_5808

Round 3! North Side again

Saturday’s show was an anti-climax for me, not in terms of the performance, but because Wednesday was a tough act to follow. It also hurt that Nia couldn’t be there. I hadn’t been able to score a ticket for her and it being a weekend show, they were hard to come by. Also, after not-sleeping, not-eating, and not-hydrating, my body had started to protest and I felt in my throat the beginnings of a cold. But you’d be surprised what it takes to keep me away from a U2 concert. I loaded up on pills and vitamins and toughed it out.

IMG_5801

Later on, Nia was finally able to come with me to the pen and we camped out under the heat of high afternoon while we waited for them to show up. After a couple of hours, Edge’s bodyguard came over and announced that Edge would come by just to say Hello to fans, but not to sign any autographs. That angered some of the eBay hounds (good) but pleased the rest of us. Nia got to see him up close and shake his hand. I shook his hand and tried to thank him but I’m not sure he heard. His bodyguard however came over and complimented me on my camera work from Wednesday. That was great to hear.

During the show that night, I had another spot on Adam’s rail, an even better spot than Tuesday night but I don’t think he was able to see me. I was disappointed because I had made a huge “Thank You” sign and taped it to the rail and hoped that someone would be able to see it, just so I could express how much I had appreciated everything they do and also that they invited me on stage. Before the show, another one of the security detail members gave me a high five for my work. I pointed to the sign and mouthed “Thank You” (he was wearing a headset, and with the show starting it was too loud to hear). He nodded and mouthed it back, which was also very nice.

stagenight3

Position on Night 3

IMG_5811

For most of the show it seemed like the sign would go unnoticed until Bono drifted down to my end of the stage during “City of Blinding Lights.” He squinted, studied my face, then smiled. I waved and smiled back. He put his hands over his heart and bowed. I knew he understood.

The show finished up as wonderfully as always. During the pre-show festivities I had the pleasure of meeting John and his friend who were seeing their 2nd show this tour. I went home and looked forward to being able to bring Nia back with me.

(Playing “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” which the day before I had told Nia that they would never play >_<)

(Adam looking hot during the opening of “Bullet the Blue Sky”)

(“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”)

Overall it was another great show, just as I’ve come to expect from this awesome band. The energy was high and on point, and the performances were beautiful. It would have been nice not to feel so sick, but it didn’t take away from the night too much.

Next: Night 4 – 5/31/15 (Special Night!)

Sunday 5/31 – Night 4

IMG_5835

Night 4. North Side for the win!

By Sunday we had the drill down. We showed up early, got wristbands (high numbers but not too bad for our favorite spot in the back), went home to chill, then came back to get into the pen. We decided to slow our roll and not show up to the pen super early, instead giving others a chance to get prime rail spots.

I had explained to Nia that these show days were all day events really because of the chance to geek out with other fans in ways that real life doesn’t afford. We met up with Jeff again and got to trade dorky comments about U2 albums and other mundane facts. At one point, a staff member handed out bottles of water sent to us from the band, a good sign that they were likely to stop by (as well as an extremely considerate and gracious gesture). But as the day wore on, the pen overflowed out onto the sidewalk and any chance of seeing them up close again shrank with each passing moment and added fan. The venue simply didn’t have enough guard rails in the area to barricade us off, and we began to recognize that no bodyguard worth his salt would allow a client into such an uncontrolled environment. Eventually we peeled off and went to join the GA line.

Once inside the arena, we took up our favorite spot toward the back of the B-stage once again and were fortunate enough to land next to a pair of friends named Nathan and Mitch. We got along instantly, and did the usual exchange of swapping stories of favorite shows and favorite songs. We tried not to lead off with my experience on stage, but found that toward the end of nearly every conversation that we had managed to end up there anyway. Nathan and Mitch were very excited to hear about it and very sweet.

IMG_5837

Position on Night 4

Position on Night 4

We also met Judy in the row behind us, a fan since the Joshua Tree tour who’s still not too fond of “Bullet the Blue Sky” (she uses that song as a cue for a bathroom break). She recognized me from a few nights earlier when she had been in the seats and was excited to see me again. She alluded to the possibility of Bono seeing me again and inviting me back on stage (and she wasn’t the first person to do so). Whenever someone posited that theory, I politely declined the possibility, knowing it to be someone else’s turn.

Unfortunately, that was also our first encounter with a belligerent attendee. A woman behind us felt the need to be aggressive and inconsiderate, trying to push her way around us to the front of the rail. Sharing rail space is different, but when we were already pressed together, to force one’s way onto the rail is rude and bad etiquette. When she started picking on Nia and taking advantage of her natural “no conflict” disposition, I jumped into action. I tried to remember Bono’s message of surrender, but I also was torn with the desire to stand up for myself and for my sister. When she pushed, I pushed back until security eventually forced her to behave.

I only bring up this negative event in order to show how it was sublimated into a positive one later on, similar to how the bad luck of Nia’s arrival day somehow yielded the magic of the evening beyond anything I had ever imagined. Our neighbor Mitch commented on what the ordeal with the woman behind us revealed about us—that Nia was the gracious, no-conflict, surrender type while I was more of the decisive and direct protector.

The show continued in its usual fashion, and the excitement and positivity of the evening washed away any lingering traces of negativity. Once again, Bono locked eyes with us during “Until the End of the World” and smiled. When the boys launched into “Mysterious Ways,” Nia and I held our breaths. Although neither of us said it to the other directly, it was becoming clear that we were hoping to be noticed again and for something magical to happen. I wanted it to be Nia’s turn, and during the previous night I had had the strangest certainty that Bono also wanted to give her a turn.

Bono started circling the stage, fingers out, as if looking for someone to bring on stage. At first I thought he stopped and found someone, but he kept going, then, finally, he rounded back to our side of the stage and pointed directly at Nia, waving her up. We were stunned and I started screaming. For a moment neither of us moved while Bono shouted “Come on! Come on!” in time with the beat.

Behind us, the belligerent woman launched herself forward as if in response to his call. But Edge’s bodyguard met us at the rail, picked Nia straight up and set her back on the ground in front of the staircase. She took Bono’s hand and raised her fist in triumph. Together they grooved to the end of the song.

(Video of Nia getting invited on stage, cued up to about 3:40 where you can see Bono start *looking for her!*)

When “Mysterious Ways” finished, Bono handed her the iPhone to do the Meerkat stream and I lost myself in shouting. “THANK YOU BONO! I LOVE YOU NIA!” was my refrain for a good couple minutes before I regained my head. I was so happy that I would get to share this experience with her, and not be the only one to hold onto it. Once again the band played “Angel of Harlem” — a song that they only played for me and Nia during their time in LA, and Nia did her thing.

(video that I took of Nia on stage, it straightens up after about 5 seconds)

When it was all over, Bono gestured to the bodyguards to escort Nia back to her spot. With the belligerent woman still on the rail, I made sure to clear a wide spot so that she could land safely. We hugged and watched the rest of the show in that same familiar sweet daze.

Photo credit: Judy

Photo credit: Judy

They gave Nia the setlist after the show, and she gave it to me! So sweet

They gave Nia the setlist after the show, and she gave it to me! So sweet

Mitch was kind and said that he felt blessed to have shared the show with us that evening. He reiterated a point he had made previously in the evening, about how Bono must have picked up on our energy and been drawn to us from the beginning. It’s as good a theory as any. As a performer, Bono has likely grown very skilled at picking up on positive and negative cues, who he can trust and who he should be wary of, and it’s comforting to hear that he was drawn to us on some level because we stand out in his mind. This may not be the most humble thing to admit, but it’s always nice to recognize when someone likes you just for the simple fact of you being you.

IMG_5937

Wonderful Night!

Next: Interlude II – 6/1/15 – 6/2/15

Interlude II

IMG_5886

MONDAY 6/1 AND TUESDAY 6/2

We had expected Sunday to be our final show together, and I was even more bummed for a solo visit to the Wednesday show than I had been for the Saturday show. Something deep down inside us didn’t want to be separated, so we spent the lingering two days before Nia’s flight to NYC by each other’s side. Nia came to work with me. We made our social media posts about the amazing week we’d had. We went to Malibu and listened to a mellow U2 playlist during the sunset drive back. Again, we watched the stage clips over and over, watched videos over and over, and danced danced danced.

I had already lined up a buyer for Nia’s ticket for Wednesday, a cool mellow rocker named Dan who’s been going to U2 shows for the past 20 years. But little did I know that Nia was working the strings of fate, asking our dad if there was any way to push her flight and extend her trip long enough to catch the final LA show. A few different things happened at once—we asked our dad to check and he somehow found a mystery flight which had been completely unavailable at the time of booking only a weeks earlier. Around the same time, Dan was understanding enough let me hang onto my ticket, and also kind enough to give us compliments. Most of the people we met this week had kind things to say to us all around, proving once again that U2 fans are some of the best people on Earth.

 Next: Night 5 – 6/3/15 FINAL SHOW