I was battling a bad cold this week, and nearly didn’t make the effort to get out of the house, but in the end, I’m glad I did.
Yellow Earth Theatre at the Arcola
Christopher Marlowe: Tamburlaine
This was a very pared-back production. No set, apart from a white backdrop used to project text, and at one point a bizarre inclusion of negative film of a saxophonist accompanying Billie Holliday singing “My Baby”. I didn’t “get” that, and I haven’t seen any other reviews that have explained it at all. The cast were very good, swapping in and out of roles seamlessly, and the costuming and very few props were well-chosen. The lead female actor played a male tyrant believably and with great strength. The play was accompanied throughout by excellent Taiko drumming, and I would have happily sat through this separately as a gig.
Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (Royal Academy)
I won’t deny that my main reason for going to this was to see Kandinsky’s Blue Crest.
I was surprised at how small it was – I had somehow expected it to be an epic piece. But never mind, it was still a highlight of the exhibition for me.
I found the rest of the extensive exhibition somewhat less than inspiring, although I did like the ceramics. This was another expensive gig where no photography was allowed, and only a very limited set of postcards were available. The catalogue was weighty, but too pricey for me. I bought a copy of the Soviet cook book, which will doubtless be reviewed here in the near future.
The life drawing room, Royal Academy Schools
Cathie Pilkington: Anatomy of a Doll
This was a delightful bonus addition to my visit to the RA. I found out about it, by chance, five minutes before the tour started, and was able to join the group on a trek through the back alleys of the RA site where the public is only rarely allowed. The artwork was very interesting – Pilkington’s installation filled the entire life drawing studio, and incorporated a number of the RA’s own casts (a giant head of Homer and a flayed crucifix being the most “obvious”). Crucifixes keep popping up on my travels just lately. Maybe it’s the proximity to Easter that is making me aware of them…
The installation is transferring to Brighton soon, but the RA casts and shelving will not travel with it, so it would be interesting to see how different it looks there. One obvious difference will be the student benches (as old as the Academy itself), which will be reproduced in pink plastic foam.
St James’s Market Pavilion
The Paper Aviary
This was quite lovely- a tiny installation of paper birds hidden away behind the Haymarket. I heard it before I saw it- the sound of birdsong isn’t often heard among the treeless streets in this part of London.
Picadilly Circus Underground Station
The Frank Pick memorial
I really like this. The simplicity and appropriateness of it appeals to me. Pick first commissioned the London Transport “roundel”, and it is fitting that he is commemorated with one.
The Peace Mural
This was painted in the 1980s, and has become quite important, apparently. I must admit that I wouldn’t want it painted on the side of my house, but it is better than a lot of other murals that I have seen. If you look carefully towards the top of the painting, you will see the words “Nuclear Free Zone”. I find that faintly amusing, if meaningless. Does it mean “no nuclear reactors in Dalston”? I can’t imagine where anyone would fit one in, anyway. Perhaps it means that if a nuclear war started, Dalson would be a magically safe place…
Two crime novels this week.
Wild Chamber is number 15 in the Bryant and May series, and it is as good as ever. I love Fowler’s London, love the Peculiar Crimes Unit and I am very fond of the creaky old Arthur Bryant.
Cockroaches is the second of Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels, set in Thailand, and as convoluted as ever. I like this flawed detective, even if he is a trope. Once again, the love interest doesn’t last out the book. I wonder if this will continue as a theme?