Recent Alumnae Association events
by Judith Roberts on 25 November 2015
A visit to the Houses of Parliament
On Friday 6th of September 2015, twenty Lucy Cavendish alumnae and several of their guests visited the Houses of Parliament. The tour lasted almost two hours, which gave us plenty of time to wander around the historical rooms of Westminster Palace accompanied by our guide Britt Lonsdale, who proved to be very knowledgeable about the Palace’s history and the MPs’ everyday life in Parliament.
We learnt that the original Westminster Palace was built by King William II in 1099 and initially served as the primary residence of the Kings of England. In 1834, however, a terrible fire destroyed most of the Palace, but fortunately the astonishing, enormous Westminster Hall, with its magnificent roof, was saved.
Among others interesting facts, we got to know where Guy Fawkes stored the gunpowder on November 5th - in fact The Houses of Parliament are still searched once a year to make sure there are no conspirators hiding with explosives! We walked into the House of Lords and saw where the Queen sits on the day of the State Opening of Parliament and heard how the MPs are invited to join the proceedings on that day. We went into the House of Commons debating chamber, visited the Central Lobby, where the MPs receive their mail and tried to imagine how busy this place would be on a normal working day.
Following the tour, we had afternoon tea, served in the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons where we enjoyed a great selection of teas, desserts and sandwiches overlooking the river Thames. The ambience was wonderful and our alumnae enjoyed meeting up with each other. Plenty of lively conversation and laughter filled the room, contributing to an excellent afternoon.
I received very good feedback from the people who joined us on the day and I am looking forward to organizing another London activity soon. So stay tuned!
Alumnae Association Visit to ‘The Mousetrap’
On a cold Saturday afternoon in November, twenty-two Lucy Cavendish alumnae assembled in the foyer of St Martin’s Theatre in Soho, London in anticipation of participating in theatrical history. We were in for a treat.
We were gathered there to see the longest-running play in the world: The Mousetrap, which has run continuously for the past sixty-three years, in London and across the world. It was even translated into Mandarin for a production in Shanghai in 2012; in fact it has played in over sixty countries across the globe, almost always to packed houses, where it has been received with enthusiasm by people from many and varied cultures. What audiences in China, Turkey or Mozambique make of an essentially English piece set in the early 1950s, we’ll never know – this could be an exciting research project in theatrical anthropology! Perhaps its appeal is akin to the ‘Downton Abbey syndrome’, where accents are plummy, tea is served in tiny bone-china cups, ‘ladies’ need protection, and everyone is expected to behave frightfully decently. If you don’t conform to these niceties, then you’re a bounder!
The visit was arranged by our Alumnae Association President, Julie McDonald, who has the good fortune to be friendly with one of the cast, Robert Rees, whose character Christopher Wren comes very close to transgressing all the rules of polite company, almost a bounder in fact. Rob took us on a tour backstage, where we saw the ancient low-tech control panel, the cramped wings, the snow room where characters get covered with ‘snow’ before going on stage for winter scenes – and then we all stood on stage for a group photo. Rob proved to be a very entertaining guide, recounting anecdotes about past and present productions and creating an appropriate theatrical mood before we entered the auditorium for the play.
Soon we were all seated and the lights went down, the play began with a scream, the curtain was raised and the transformative power of theatre began to do its work. We are in familiar Agatha Christie territory: a guest house where a group of people are marooned owing to a ferocious snow-storm – and, of course, the telephone is cut off. Following the murder of one of the guests, the predictable but satisfying denouement involves a re-enactment of the crime, after which the policeman (who had earlier arrived on skis) confronts each character in turn, demonstrating how they all have a motive for murder. At the final curtain, one of the cast stepped forward conspiratorially to swear us all to secrecy – so I can say no more!
It was a perfect piece of theatrical kitsch, performed with great style by a talented cast and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, who all left the theatre with smiles on their faces. Our alumnae group went out into the cold evening air in high spirits – it felt as if the best of pre-Christmas festivities had warmed us through.
We’d all like to thank Julie for organising the trip and we look forward to meeting other alums again at the next event.