Week 12

A shocking week. Everyone will remember it for the act of terrorism outside Parliament. I wasn’t in central London on the day it happened, but I shudder to remember that I was in the exact spot just the day before. The day after, I made the same decision as most other Londoners, and carried on as normal (or as near as possible, given bus diversions and other necessary disruptions.)

 

Theatre

Jermyn Street Theatre

Stephen Sondheim: The Frogs (adapted by Nathan Lane)

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Jermyn Street is such a tiny theatre that you wouldn’t think they could fit in a cast of more than two or three, but for this quite wonderful production, they managed a four piece band, a chorus of six really good singers, and three principals. The set was minimal- looked like the inside of a copper tank, with visible rivets and pipe work, and minimalist lighting supplied by those fancy light bulbs with the coppery glowing filaments. Costumes were all-black “found items” with copper highlights (copper spectacle frames for one character, copper belt for another etc). The chorus were given a Greek half-mask effect with metallic copper face paint. The change from human chorus to frog chorus was effected by putting them all in tailcoats. Altogether, this was a very clever production, with wonderful music and voices,  and I am really glad I made the decision to go on the day after terrorist action a few streets away. I wasn’t alone. The theatre was sold out, and deserved to be.

 

Exhibition

Westminster Cathedral 

Cross the World- Building Bridges with Wood

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An exhibition of wooden crosses and crucifixes from around the world, exhibited here in advance of their eventual permanent installation in the Museum of the Cross in Lorraine, France. Highlights for me were mother-of-pearl inlaid crosses from China, and a cross made from  the wreckage of a boat washed up at Lampedusa. This was a small exhibition, hidden away in a side chapel (note: this was the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, not the nearby Westminster Abbey), and was poorly signposted. Coincidentally, while I was there, children were rehearsing their version of the passion play at the main Cathedral altar-told with the POV of various trees (e.g. a tree in the garden of Gethsemane), and it was quite lovely to listen in.

 

Pop culture icons

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(RED) is a charity set up to help combat AIDS. A variety of manufacturing companies produce “special” red variants of their popular items and donate part of the sales price to the charity. Apple is one of the participating companies.I upgraded my iPhone ( itself now a cultural icon) and got the red one, which I love.

Books

Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

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A bleak, dystopian novel set in a pretty near future England. Another first-person POV, which I don’t really like, although I do understand why it is written that way, as it allows the author to bypass a lot of explanation of the world they have imagined. This is a science-based future, rather than an ideology-based one, which makes it slightly less scary just now.

 

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Week 11

Theatre

Visible Theatre at Southwark Playhouse

Sonja Linden: Roundelay

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What to say about this? It was rude. Very rude. And disturbing in that it broke the last taboo, sex and old people. It was meant to be disturbing, of course, and that worked. I went to a matinee performance, which always guarantees a larger number of “mature folk” in the audience. What I wasn’t expecting was that most of the cast were elderly. The theatre is a small, “in the round” space, and this production used the space to the full, with aerial circus arts included (two cast members were young enough to take this on). One of the lead characters was a woman with Alzheimer’s, and we saw her deteriorating over the course of the play. This was upsetting for me as I have had the experience of watching a family member go through this awful disease.  All in all, this was a mixed experience for me, but that was not the fault of the actors, who performed a difficult play very well.

Books

I am ahead of my target for this point in the year, having read 32 of my proposed 100 books for 2017.

I have come late to Val McDermid, but am realising just why she is known as the Queen of Crime. Wire in the Blood is the second in her Tony Hill series, and was thoroughly enjoyable.

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Week 10

A quiet week, to make up for last week’s frenzy.

 

Theatre

The Old Vic

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Tom Stoppard

 

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This was the first live play I saw at aged quite young. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but it was definitely while I was at school. It must have been a school trip (my parents were not theatre-goers), but as I wasn’t a literature student, I can only think there must have been a spare ticket going for some reason. Anyway, I loved it then and I love it still. I’d booked tickets in the stalls (pricey but worth it), and we had a great view of the stage. The set was quite lovely- cloud paintings and silk curtains, and the costumes were perfect- just “off” enough from period.  I love seeing good actors performing a good play, and this was good all through. A brilliant end to my week. Oh, and before I forget, there is maths in this play. Don’t let that put you off though, it’s just a little bit of probability at the beginning.

Books

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The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel, a genre I usually enjoy. Sadly, this one doesn’t live up to its promise. I struggled with the copious footnotes, and the whole thing left me unsatisfied. To reward myself for my noble effort in reading to the end of it, I turned to another favourite genre, only to be left unsatisfied again. I didn’t like the detective in The Extra Cadaver Murder at all, and the other characters were tropey stereotypes. It felt like a bad detective fanfic. A two-star rating was generous, I think.

 

 

Week 9

Theatre

Hijinx at the Little Angel Theatre: Meet Fred

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I vaguely remember going to this little puppet theatre as a child, and the chance to see an “adult” puppet show took me back there again.  The production was very good. The bunraku style of puppeteering gave convincing life to the title character – a hard ask when the character is a naked, featureless cloth doll. The play itself took a hard look at the hard knocks of life, and brought a tear to my eye more than once. I highly recommend this show – it is still touring for a few more weeks, in various venues.

Opera

Live screen from the Metropolitan Opera: Rusalka by Dvorak

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A fun fairytale, loosely based on the Little Mermaid. Brilliant costumes, some excellent voices, good set design, and a chance to see what happens when things don’t go quite right backstage during the interval. This would be a good introduction to opera for newbies and youngsters.

Art

Eduardo Paulozzi ( Whitechapel Gallery)

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Three rooms of wide-ranging offerings from the artist who designed the famous Tottenham Court Road station mosaics. My favourites are the bronze sculptures, but there were also lots of prints, including on textiles, and a projection of Paolozzi’s film, “Bunk”.

Books

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One crime book this week, and one cook book. Dare Me was pretty dire. It featured a lot of cheerleader jargon, which slowed the action down for anyone unfamiliar with cheerleading, like me. The angst of trying to maintain place in a group of “popular” girls came across well, but this was a first-person narration, and that never really appeals to me, even when I like the narrator, which I didn’t in this book.

The Dali cookbook is a huge, lavishly illustrated golden tome, and it has taken me two months or more to do its weird and wonderful recipes full justice. I probably won’t be cooking many of them, but just reading them was oddly satisfying.

Street Art

Boe & Irony: Chihuahua

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A new addition to my collection of pictures of truly awful street art. This giant chocolate-box dog takes up the whole of the end wall of a block of flats in Poplar. I took the picture from a moving bus, hence the odd angle.