My Nerdy Weekend Extravaganza!

Sorry again that I was so late with my post about Morocco, but to make up for my tardiness, you can have two posts in one day! This weekend was equally, if not more exciting than the last. I did a lot, and I almost feel like I should be making two separate posts, but I think there was some continuity to the weekend, in that I spent most of my time immersed in fandom despite being away from the Internet. Confused so far? Me too. I’ll just start at the beginning.

This weekend was a long time coming, and much planning went into it. My friend Michelle and I have been calling it our romantic weekend getaway, because we’re inseparable at school, and we decided to go and see an “anti-Valentines” show on the most “coupley” weekend of the year, then stay together in a private room. The show was part of a series at London’s Criterion Theatre called Stories Before Bedtime, featuring actors reading short stories at 10:30 at night. My reasons for being there: Tom Hiddleston reading Tennessee Williams’ “The Kingdom of Earth” and Russell Tovey reading Ovid’s “The Art of Love.” For all two of you who aren’t yet aware, I’m nursing an embarrassingly large celebrity crush on Hiddleston, which started when I saw him play Loki in Thor. Tovey played George on one of my very favourite shows, BBC’s Being Human (which sadly just jumped the shark, but that’s a post for another time). Both men are immensely talented, so needless to say, this was a big deal for me. We all know how I get with my obsessions.

Anyway, we headed into London on Friday morning, but due to train delays only arrived in the afternoon. After burritos for lunch, we checked in at our very classy hostel in Soho – the gay area of London, of course. We went first to pick up our tickets (which had been hastily purchased by phone in Cambridge weeks before), and asked as nonchalantly as possible where we could find the stage door. The guy at the box office was really calm about telling us, and didn’t seem to think that we were creepy, obsessive fangirls for asking – although he wouldn’t have been too far off the mark if he had. Afterward, we walked around London, got some shopping done, as well as some photos of Westminster Abbey and the surrounding area at sunset. We decided to dress up for the occasion, so we got ready, and headed out for dinner. We found this really funky little vegetarian restaurant off Regent Street, and after dinner walked down to the theatre.

Our excitement is written on our faces here

My first impression of the theatre was that it is gorgeous. Old architecture, gold embossing, and tiled walls make for a very Victorian atmosphere. My second impression was of the crowd: “oh my god, we’re all from Tumblr.” The audience was probably 85% female, and while I hate to stereotype, it was simple to pick out the bloggers, especially since they made up most of the population. I suppose I should explain that Mr. Hiddleston has an enormous and very passionate following on Tumblr – so passionate that he received most of the questions in the Avengers panel at the New York Comic Con, surprising the panel and most of the reviewing journalists at the event.

Russell Tovey signing for someone else… and also my face.

We were seated in practically the centre of the third row. The seats went right up to the stage (there was no orchestra pit), so we were maybe 10 feet from the stage. The stage was dressed more than I expected, with two chairs front and centre, a writing desk to my right behind them, and a bed to the left. I noticed that the young woman next to me was also alone, and learned that like most of us, she was there for Hiddleston. Shortly after introducing ourselves, the lights dimmed and without any introduction or fanfare, Tovey and his co-star from Him & Her, Sarah Solemani came onto the stage, and read the introduction from Ovid. They read three times throughout the show, and were absolutely hilarious. I knew Russell was funny, but Solemani probably got the most laughs of anyone in the show. Some of her jokes were apparently spontaneous, like when she paused after saying that “women should come late.” The mostly-female audience exploded into laughter, and it took Russell a moment to see why – then he too started giggling. She also demonstrated women’s “purring” during sex with a “meow.” But Russell was great too, even when he flubbed a line and confessed “I have no idea what I’m saying.” They moved around the building (doing one section from two boxes), and played off each other very well, so they kept the show lively. They spoke on the subjects of obtaining a partner, keeping said partner, and of course, sexual positions. It was hilarious and I was hugely impressed.

While we’re on the subject, here’s me with Russell

After the introductory bit to Ovid, Niamh Cusack read a sort of modern re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast. It was the story we all know, only with references to telephones and cars. It was pleasant, and more like what I was expecting – she read us a story. I felt a bit bad for her though, since she was soft spoken and not adequately mic’d, so you could hear the audience shifting in their seats, as well as the subway going by beneath the theatre while she spoke. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that she was sitting behind the desk, which makes it difficult to connect to the audience. That said, she did read well, and did it by candle light, which was terribly atmospheric. The story was more something I’d like to be read before bed, so she actually conformed to expectations.

After another Ovid interlude, the lights went down and “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow” from O Brother, Where Art Thou? came on. Excited whispers went through the crowd as Hiddleston walked out in what I could immediately tell was a tank top and coveralls, the arms of which were tied around his waist. The lights came up, and happily excited gasps erupted when we could see that he was covered in dirt. He opened his mouth and rather than his usual gentle, posh British voice came a surprisingly accurate Tennessee accent. This story was in the first person (so essentially a monologue) about an uneducated man who falls for his dying brother’s “loose” wife. Given the erotic subject matter, I thought I kept my composure with remarkable tact, although Michelle insists that I was squirming. I was better off than the woman hyperventilating behind me, and the one falling over in front, at least. Aside from my fangirling, he was excellent. He read with his usual expressiveness, and was completely in character the entire time, changing his voice and body language the few times he spoke as different characters. Telling a story as the woman, his body language was absolutely hilarious, and he got a few unexpected laughs. He is an immensely talented actor, and he was on in full form. I had a great time, and was completely absorbed in the story.

This is the best picture I could get of Tom – and it isn’t zoomed in at all

After a group bow, Michelle and I headed to the stage door along with our new friend – and a huge crowd of girls already waiting there (all of the people I had picked out earlier, I have to say). Russell came out fairly quickly, and I managed to get a photo with him. Michelle, whose love for him is evidently stronger than mine, was way less cool about it than I was, despite all of our friends expecting the opposite. She asked him to sign an advertisement for the event without his name or picture on it (which confused him hilariously), and then got a photo wherein her eyes are closed. She calmed down after that spaz attack, which was good, because we had to wait around for about 40 minutes. In the crowd, we befriended another fan, who happens to go to school with a friend of mine from Tumblr, and who was also on exchange in England. It’s a small world.

To give you an idea of the crowd

When Hiddleston did finally come out, it was obvious that he was exhausted and just wanted to go home. Even so, he did sign a few things with a smile, and the crowd was remarkably quiet. I felt too guilty to ask him for anything, so I just flashed a camera light at him a few times. He got in a car and left, so Michelle and I walked home, our new friend Natalie helping make sure we got there. We tried to go to bed, but in our excitement just talked about the night for about an hour before we could even think about sleeping.

Wow, this post is already stupidly long, isn’t it? Well, it’s only halfway done! The next day, Michelle and I caught a train to Brighton, where she met up with our classmates who had a field trip there, and I finally met some of my “Buffy Friends,” about who I’ve spoken before – Janet, Kelly, and Shaun. They were all just the best people, and exactly how I imagined they would be. I mean, I’d being speaking to them since 2007, so obviously I knew what they were like, but it’s different when you can attach an actual voice and body to a person. We met up in the mall, where I was greeted by a sign written in yellow crayon, proclaiming the event “Allison and Wee Frosty’s 1st International Buffy Convention.” (Janet had assumed correctly that I would be bring my Loki bobblehead, who I’ve named Wee Frosty, and has been the subject of many photos of my trip that I’ve been posting daily on my Tumblr.) Everyone signed the poster afterward, like a yearbook, and I put it up in my bedroom when I got home. They took me to Harry Ramsden’s, apparently a popular fish and chips joint in the UK. After lunch, we went back to Kelly’s hotel (an adorable B&B), and played an old Buffy boardgame, which was ridiculously complicated, but fun. There’s not so much to tell that makes a good story to anyone else, but we were all able to catch up with each other in person, which was new and exciting.

After the board game, out came the presents. I still feel horrible that I brought exactly nothing to the event, but they insisted that since I was the visitor to the UK that I was the subject of the party, so they all brought incredibly thoughtful gifts. Janet made this unbelievable cake, decorated with blood and the logo for Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy. She also made a wooden stake out of chocolate icing, and put a heart shaped hole (filled with icing) inside the cake – so it was a stake through the heart! So clever! Kelly brought a bunch of things, like perfume flavoured of orange blossom (my general moniker online), a book of Buffy quotes, and some lovely British tea (which I drink as I write this). Shaun added to my Loki obsession with some toys, and (I still can’t believe this) gave me his copy of the first Buffy comic, along with a yellow crayon. I barely kept myself from crying after all of this. The internet can really bring people together, and here is proof.

Unfortunately, we only had time to watch Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, since Shaun hadn’t yet seen the whole thing (*gasp*) and then depart. Janet graciously took all of us to our destinations for the night, including bringing me back to the castle. It was so hard saying good bye to everyone after so little time, but I really hope to see everyone again one day, even if not together. Another member of our little group was unfortunately sick, and unable to attend, so I hope too to meet you one day too, Laura!

I wish the second part of this entry could have been longer, as it was just as amazing and special, but it’s so hard to explain lunch with friends, you know? For those who haven’t had a friendship like this, the explanation is literally impossible to explain. I mean, we’d known intimate details of each other’s lives for years, but occupying the same physical space seemed to solidify something about our relationship. I’ll miss all of you terribly, even though we will continue to speak to each other online, the way we always have.

Look at my prezzies!

This weekend was just incredible. I’m sorry this post had become so long, but I need to write all of it down so I don’t forget anything.

Fandom is the best.

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  1. I was totally calm. Totally. I honest to goodness can't remember what really happened, that's how excited I was. I am sad. Sad.Loved the post, by the way.

  1. Upon Leaving the Castle « Prodigious Leaps!

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