11000 meter in the air, flight British Airways 786, departing Heathrow, destination Stockholm, Arlanda. Some thoughts on London.
Words can grind bones into dust and words can build castles in the sky. Words can give birth to nations. Of those who understood this force we find the lettered revolutionary Alexander Hamilton, principal author of the foundational Federalist Papers and among the founding fathers of the United States of America.
The musical carrying his name entreats us a 2.5 hour snapshot of the life he lived. Hamilton is centred, but the play gives us deep insight into the parallel and intertwined lives of Eliza, loyal wife, and fellow statesmen Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and George Washington.
And if the memory of the American revolution is one of 4th of July glorious fireworks, and the memory of it’s men and women are the paintings of austere and unflinching personalities debating important things like a constitution, the play does a brilliant job of
(Seriously who actually shops on planes?)
humanizing this memory.
Revolution, glory, victory, are all depicted, perhaps as we could expect. But Hamiltons public as well as personal failings and private relationships are equally illuminated. However, and deliberately so, when summed up, none of this nuance, whether shone on Hamilton or anyone else, distances the audience from the play’s characters. Rather, it endears us further to them.
Shifting alliances, between Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, depict the turbulent times post-revolution. Turbulent to say the least. Eliza’s personal thoughts and sentiments often take centre stage. And there is a moral to the story, certainly there is a sort of meta-narrative, or perhaps multiple meta-narratives. Though I have yet to really put my finger on it or them.
When it comes to delivery, however, there are no two sides, for everything is planned and executed to the millimetre with punch and power. Many times did I turn to my cousin, shaking my head in disbelief at the level of performance.
And of course finally, there was the irony of seeing this celebration of the American revolution and criticism of an insufferable British crownhead, in front of a mainly British audience in London.
London, the city so familiar, yet also not. It struck me that though the global language is English, England and London remain peculiar.
We took a tour of the famous British Museum, how kind of all these collectors to bring all the world’s artefacts to one place. Anyhow, ranking among the most visited museums in the world, walking through its exhibitions is a walk through times and places as disparate as is possible.
(-Cousin: do you think one day people will look at our everyday stuff in museums
-Me: Hahaha, yeah probably
-Cousin: they’re gonna be like ‘OMG it’s a Nike sweater’ 🤯🤯🤯)
And one day, we will be among those disparate peoples, with only the words we write traversing time.
I think Hamilton would have agreed.
Thank you and au revoir London.