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Fifi and the Theropod's weekend of archaeology, history, Shakespeare and SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

So, me and fififolle descended upon the city of Bath this weekend, and had an absolutely fantastic time, not least bcause of some awesome fangirl Primeval related squee, but more of that later.

The weekend started on a less than promising note, after I'd had a nightmare train journey, and then we got to the hostel on Friday and realised that we were booked in for the wrong nights, and what's more, they were entirely full on that Friday night. There was a brief moment of panic, but then the very nice lady phoned the other hostel which was literally 200 yards up the road, and checked if they had any vacancies, which luckily they did, so we duly trundled up the road and checked in at the other place. Crisis averted! After that, the rest of Friday passed by in something of a blur of food, drink, squeeing, and a very nice walk around the city on a surprisingly warm evening (and some surreptitious scouting out of the theatre and the Roman Baths in advance of Saturday).

On Saturday, the heavens opened, and we got utterly drenched traipsing around the city before we eventually took refuge in the Roman Baths, which are far, far bigger than I actually realised. You see them on TV and it looks like it's just the big courtyard with the pool and the columns all round it. It's not. There's a huge warren of tunnels and excavations under the city revealing a massive bathhouse complex, several other pools, Roman drains, and they've done a really good job with the museum and everything. I had quite a lot of archaeological squee and took many, many photos with my shiny new digital camera.

This is the famous Roman Bath courtyard and pool (remember it from Bonekickers, anyone?)
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And I have to admit my archaeological squee went into overdrive at the sight of this incredible hypocaust (the Roman underfloor heating system). It's apparently one of the best preserved in Britain. Actually, there were many signs all around the visitor cetnre telling us how the Roman Baths in Bath are the best preserved example of several things in the whole of Britain, if not the whole Roman World! 
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As an added bonus, by the time we had finished going round the Roman Baths our clothes had dried off after the morning downpour, and it had stopped raining, so we got some lunch and hardly ate anything because we were too busy squeeing at the thought of the next item on our itinerary - going to the theatre and seeing Ben Mansfield.

Henry IV Part 1 was awesome. I have to admit, I haven't ever seen proper Shakespeare performed by a proper professional company before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I suppose if you're going to start anywhere, the Sir Peter Hall Company is probably one of the best ways to start . I also have to admit that I was worried that I might not really enjoy it, or might only be really interested in the scenes where Ben was on stage, but that wasn't the case at all, all the actors were excellent, and I really enjoyed the entire play.

But of course, the highlight was Ben Mansfield. Firstly, the costume. Baggy white shirt, tight black trousers, knee high black boots, and occasionally a military jacket over the shirt, and frequently carrying a sword. The word 'sexy' does not even near begin to cover it! And he looks bloody gorgeous with a beard as well (this coming from someone who doesn't normally like men with beards!). And he can act. God, can he act. Without meaning this to sound like it's going to, I was very pleasantly surprised by just how *good* he is on stage. He has stage presence, even amongst several veteran theatre and Shakespeare actors, and it was great seeing him throwing himself into the role of Hotspur. The over-riding impression of the character is passion - whether that be at politics, on the battlefield, or with his wife, the character is passionate, and Ben played it wonderfully. I don't want this to sound like I didn't think he could act before, but let's face it, if you only really know him from Primeval, the character of Becker doesn't really offer him a particularly  wide dramatic or emotional  range to get his teeth into, so seeing him play Hotspur was so much more of a treat because he was such a fiery, passionate, excitable and angry character.

And then the best bit of the weekend - we met him! Well, we loitered around the stage door for about ten minutes, getting ever more nervous and panicky, until he suddenly appeared and I had to be the one who attracted his attention and asked if we could get his autograph. I know Fred and Nietie and the others all said this last week, but he's lovely. He was so friendly, he stopped and signed autographs, let us get a couple of photos, and chatted for a couple of minutes, asking what we thought of the last series of Primeval, and he seemed genuinely pleased when we told him how much we'd enjoyed Part 1, and that we were staying to watch Part 2 that evening as well. And he was more than generous with his time, considering that his mates were waiting down the street for him, and he quite clearly needed to go and get something to eat and have a break between the two shows (he was going to be back on stage again in slightly less than two hours at that point). 

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I think it's safe to say that both myself and Fi did not stop grinning or squeeing for the entire rest of the weekend after this, and I have to admit the next hour or two passed by in something of a blur!

Anyway, that evening we were back at the theatre for Henry IV Part 2, in which Ben was playing the role of Pistol. It's a much smaller role than Hotspur, and again I was worried that I might not be too interested in the play when he wasn't on stage, but again, it was completely unfounded. Part 2 may not be quite as enjoyable as Part 1, but it was still a very good play, and by that time we were both starting to recognise other actors from Part 1, and finding ourselves caring about them and their characters as well, so it didn't feel like we spent half the play waiting for Ben to appear. When he did, however, it was well worth it. Drunk, rowdy, debauched, and with a pretty convincing Cockney accent, Pistol dominated the first scene that he appeared in, and didn't do too bad a job of trying to steal the other scene that he was in as well! Plus, Part 2 also had the unexpected bonus of Ben playing a non-speaking soldier in another scene, and I have to admit, I'm fairly sure there were some incredibly plot critical politics going on in that scene, but I spent most of it staring at Ben and thinking 'He really, *really* needs to do some period costume drama for TV, because he looks bloody gorgeous in that uniform!'.

Finally, on Sunday, Fi wanted to see the Royal Crescent Georgian houses, which were very impressive. We also discovered that neither of us were entirely certain exactly what date range constituted Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian, and may need to go and look it up at some point! I'd also spotted on the map the William Herschel Museum of Astronomy, and I'm a big fan of astronomy, so we went and gave it a look, and it turned out to be the house where William Herschel had lived, and from where he discovered the planet Uranus, so that was quite interesting as well. 

Of the weekend as a whole, it was nice to actually feel like we'd had a proper holiday and done touristy stuff as well as just go to the theatre (which, to be fair, was the main point of the weekend). Bath is a lovely city, and it was a great weekend. 

Re Ben Mansfield, I have to say that I was very impressed with his performance in both plays, and if he continues to do lots of theatre work rather than TV, finances and travel logistics permitting, I fully intend to go and see more of his stage roles. I know some of the Denial gang were muttering about seeing whether they could afford to go after the rave reviews that came back last week. I'll just say, if you are thinking of going, if you can only see one play, make it Part 1, because Hotspur is brilliant. If you *can* afford to go to both, Part 2 is also pretty good, even if Ben is only in three scenes (one of them non-speaking).


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textualdeviance From: textualdeviance Date: July 17th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I so wish I could afford to go back in August so I could see this. Really dying to see him perform live.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 17th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was incredibly impressed by how good he was on stage, I honestly don't think I was expecting it to be that good. The contrast between seeing him play Becker on Primeval, and seeing him as Hotspur and Pistol on stage was amazing. Also, he really looked like he was enjoying it!
nietie From: nietie Date: July 17th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE your description of his roles. When I read the plays in advance I was so thrilled about the character of Hotspur. And although I couldn't understand everything, all the actors were amazing and wonderful to look at.
Lovely picture of him. I gather you're standing next to him?
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 17th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ben was brilliant on both roles, but Hotspur was just awesome. I'd been trying to read the play before I went to get an idea of what was going on, but seeing it on the page and seeing it being acted on stage are so *totally* different. I loved all his ranting and anger, and the scenes with Hotspur's wife were brilliant as well.

Lol, yes, I've cropped the pic but I'm standing next to him with my arm round his waist and a very happy grin on my face! And I only come up to his shoulder! He's so tall!
fififolle From: fififolle Date: July 17th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great job of describing Ben on stage! That is so the way it was *g* He was very, very good and looked great!
I'm so glad we saw him during the day and it wasn't raining!!
Thanks again for a fab weekend! *hug*
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 17th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ben on stage was brilliant. I want to go and see his other theatre work now as well. Fingers crossed he gets more theatre roles in cities that are easy to get to!

Yes, I'm so glad the rain had stopped by the time we were waiting at the stage door, otherwise I doubt he'd have been so keen to hang around and chat to us like he did.

Thanks for coming with me (since I sort of dragged you along and poked until you said yes!). *hugs*
taraljc From: taraljc Date: July 17th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love love love Henry IV 1&2. Like, MADLY. Mainly cos I saw Branagh's Henry V when I was 15 and wore out my VHS I loved it so hard. So when we read the plays at uni, I wasll "OMG BEST PREQELS EVAH!!!!!"
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't really know much about either play, I'd tried to read them before I went to see them, but ended up not having time, so I just read the synopses! They were both really good, though, and I followed what was going on far more than I'd expected to.
dreamer_98 From: dreamer_98 Date: July 17th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much for sharing your review.

I'm really glad it worked out that you were able to find another place to stay on Friday night.

Bath sounds like such a neat place with such history. I would love to visit someday.

Thank you for sharing your experience of meeting Ben and your reviews of both of the plays. They sound like they were excellent.

Thank you again for sharing; those of us who can't go can live vicariously through you, lol.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 10:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Bath was a lovely city, I've never been before, and really enjoyed just walking around and seeing all the beautiful architecture. The plays were really brilliant, and actually meeting Ben was the highlight of the weekend!
reggietate From: reggietate Date: July 17th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds like you had a smashing time :-) Yay! I suspect Ben will have quite a decent run of work ahead of him in the future.

I've only ever been to one play, twenty years back, to see Jeremy Brett in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, but I remember how different it was from seeing him on TV, and how awesome it was to see him backstage afterwards.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
You're right, it's a completely different experience seeing someone on stage live than just seeing them on tv.

I think from a fangirl point of view I'd like to see Ben do more film and tv work, because it's more easily accesible and you can record it and rewatch as many times as you like. But for the quality of performance, and the experience of seeing him live on stage, I'm now really hoping I get the opportunity to see him doing more theatre as well, because he really was so *very* good.

Edited at 2011-07-18 11:20 am (UTC)
cordeliadelayne From: cordeliadelayne Date: July 17th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, yay! I'm glad you had a good time and got to meet him :D
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:19 am (UTC) (Link)
yey! It was an awesome weekend, the play were great, and actually meeting Ben was brilliant!
basched From: basched Date: July 18th, 2011 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)

I so pleased and a bit jealous that you had such an amazing time. :) So chuffed to bits that Ben is so friendly and nice and I would LOVE to go and see him in the play. It's not run out has it?! August....hmm...the only problem is i have no more holiday left.

But thanks for sharing and I'm really so happy for you!! So went and did it, you saw him and that is something you'll never regret!

deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, the reports of how nice he is were not at all exagerated, he was wonderfully friendly and nice, even though he really did need to rush off.
bigtitch From: bigtitch Date: July 18th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
brilliant pic, sweetie.
I'm so glad you met him and enjoyed tge play! Wasn't he gorgeous in it!
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
He's so tall! I only come up to his shoulder, I was on eye-level with George!

Ben was absolutely awesome in the play, he looked incredibly good in the costumes, and really looked like he was enjoying himself in the roles as well. I'm so glad I went, and that I saw both Part 1 and 2.
lukadreaming From: lukadreaming Date: July 18th, 2011 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Fab report! And what an awesome weekend! Ben is such a sweetie....

Bath's a lovely place to wander around. And LOL at the memory of Bonkers trashing most of the south west!
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)
For some reason I couldn't help thinking of Bonekickers when we were at the Roman baths. Bath is a lovely city, I'm really glad we did the toursit stuff and had a good walk round, rather than just doing the theatre.

Reports of Ben's adorableness were not exagerated!
fredbassett From: fredbassett Date: July 18th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm sooooo glad you got to see him and get the piccies and stuff. Words don't really do justice to what a total sweetie he is!

I love the way you've described him in the play. I couldn't agree more. He really was bloody brilliant as Hotspur.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)
We were debating whether to try to wait for him at the stage door after the first or the second play, knowing he might be short on time in the afternoon, but I'm glad we went for it after the first play rather than waiting until after the second. And even though he clearly was in a bit of a hurry, he didn't make it feel like he was rushing, or that he was annoyed and wanted to get away, he was totally relaxed and friendly all the time.

I was so impressed with the plays, and with Ben's performance, I honestly don't think I was expecting him to be *that* good, but he was absolutely brilliant in the role.
telperion_15 From: telperion_15 Date: July 18th, 2011 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Ben sounds like he was amazing! Am sooooooooo jealous!

Am also jealous of Bath in general - I wish I could have made it! I think they've redone the museum bits of the Baths since I was last there, so I really need to get down there and see it :)
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Both me and Fi really wished you'd been able to come with us. But given that I am now fully intending to go to any future theatre work that Ben does, I'm hoping there will be many more opportunities for us to go and see him.

I'd never been to Bath, there was so much to see and do, we sort of looked at the map and picked out the things that we most wanted to see, but I could have quite happily stayed for a longer holiday there. One day I might!

The Roman baths were amazing, and so much bigger than I'd expected. The only problem was they were *very* crowded with people, so it was somtimes quite hard to actually see the exhibits, or get decent photos wthout people wandering across the camera shot and getting in the way!
jaynedoll From: jaynedoll Date: July 18th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds like a great weekend & Ben does sound like a lovely guy. I hope he does get more work - if I could I would definitely go & see him in a play.
And yes, it would be fab if he could do some more period drama he looks so good in those outfits.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
he looks absolutely fantastic in the costumes, period costume definitely suits him!

At the moment he seems to be doing far more theatre work than tv work, so it's definitely worth keping an eye out to see what he'll be up to next when this play's run is finished. I meant to ask him that actually, if he had anything lined up next, but I forgot.
ebonyfeather From: ebonyfeather Date: July 18th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was pretty much the same when we went- I've never really been a fan of Shakespeare but pt 1 was brilliant. Now I really wish I could see pt 2! He was really good, and the Hotspur outfit was just... yum!

Ben was very sweet, wasn't he? Let's just hope he does more theatre (preferrably somewhere further north!) and we can all have more denial outings to see him.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 18th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Part 1 was definitely the better of the two plays, but Part 2 was well worth seeing as well, I'm glad we decided to go for both. Oh yes the Hotspur costume was verrrrry tasty, I'd love to see him in that sort of costume more often.

I'm still slightly stunned by just how sweet and lovely Ben was!
vintagememories From: vintagememories Date: July 18th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I went last weekend with the others I'd only seen Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth although I only saw the film of that, but I've only read those plays, I hadn't read Henry IV so I didn't understand it much but I enjoyed it a lot more then I thought I would but I had an awesome time, and I loved meeting Ben afterwards, made going down on my own to Bath for the first time totally worth it. And I hope he does more theatre work like ebonyfeather says, and definitely more up North ;), Manchester/Leeds way would be brilliant haha. But it was great.

I'll have to do an entry on my LJ even if I am a week late. But I'm glad you guys had a great time. He definitely is a sweetie.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: July 19th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ben was a total sweetie, really nice and friendly, it would definitely be good to see him do more theatre stuff.
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