Ooh, it’s getting cold…
Metropolitan Opera live in cinema
Thomas Adès: The Exterminating Angel
This is an opera I couldn’t afford to see at the ROH. Luckily, the Met performance was the same production, conducted by the composer, which was a bonus. The opera was another of those modern ones with no memorable “tunes”, but a lot of very difficult, very very high soprano singing, and some wonderful musical moments (a room full of drummers; a string section of miniature violins; a lot of bells). The story is odd, a surrealist nightmare, and I enjoyed it very much.
The Puppet Theatre Barge
Wendy Cope: The River Girl
I really enjoy puppetry, and this production was lovely – some beautiful underwater scenes, and a literally breathtaking opening when a huge wave of haze rolled out over the audience. I found some of the puppetry a little clunky (the puppeteer working John Didde didn’t seem to have mastered the art of making a marionette kneel, for instance), but the use of narrative poetry was clever, and I came away from the boat very happy.
This is moving ahead slowly. I like Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series, and this book brings me up to date with that. I find it odd reading books that have been translated out of order, and I am still very irritated with Ari Thor Arason, but that is part of the experience. No spoilers here – I recommend these books.
Had a cold, and a nasty lingering cough. I should have gone to a couple of galleries (Dulwich for Tove Jansen and the Tate for Rachel Whiteread), but didn’t really feel up to the effort. Was feeling a bit better by the end of the week, so did manage a trip to the theatre.
The Young Vic
Aeschylus: The Suppliant Women
I enjoyed this very much, and was pleased to see the Greek theatre traditions in play, including the libation to Bacchus at the beginning of the play. There was a lot of haze, and a lot of actual smoke from lamps and flaming torches, which didn’t help my poor lungs, but did add enormously to the atmosphere of what seemed a very contemporary play.
Sjón is lauded for his strange novels. The Blue Fox was very short (I read the whole thing during one insomniac night), but very clever, with a magical edge to what could have been a very bleak tale. I shall read more of his work, I think.
My total of books read this year now stands at 82. Will I get to 100? I have 6 weeks…
A cold week. A visit to the cinema for an actual film (not a live-broadcast), and a brand new theatre to enjoy.
Clive Coleman and Richard Bean: Young Marx
I like this new theatre very much. Very stylish. Fizzy water (free) on tap, is a nice touch, and warm madeleines in the interval were a joy on the cold day. The play was good, if not the “riotous comedy” promised by the advertising. Rory Kinnear was good, of course,and the rest of the cast were strong. There was a running “Engels and Marx” musical joke which made me smile.
Armando Iannucci: The Deathof Stalin
I absolutely loved this film. Brilliant performances by everyone, especially Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria ( who for some reason isn’t on the poster). There was a nice little surprise of a cameo by Tom Brooke, one of my favourite actors, in the opening and closing sequences, and the comedy was dark and very funny. I need to get the video of this and watch it again I’m sure I missed some of the jokes.
Continuing the Russian theme, I downloaded the second in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “Moscow Trilogy”. One Night in Winter is a better read than Sashenka was, and the connection between the books is rather vague until Benya Golden appears. I ended up rather looking to the third in the series, which is on my wish list.
This week contained Guy Fawkes Night (aka Fireworks night, or for the more traditionally minded, Bonfire Night), when we in the UK celebrate the fact that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 failed. There are some huge public displays of fireworks in London, and one of the biggest is quite local to me. But I didn’t go to watch fireworks, as I was busy doing other things.
Rory Mullarkey: Saint George and the Dragon
This was a straightforward allegory (if there can be such a thing) of Brexit, ending with the cast and audience uncertain of what should happen next. There were some fun moments – the flaming dragon heads crashing down in fabulous pyrotechnic display; the clever origin of the St George’s cross on a flag. The set was very original, and made good use of the Olivier’s revolving stage. I think the time-jumping aspect of the story could have been managed better, but overall, I enjoyed this play.
Mel Brooks: Young Frankenstein
This was, as expected, full of “knobs and knockers” jokes, but having said that, it was very funny, even if I did find myself thinking “oh dear, I shouldn’t be laughing at this” more than once. The performances were strong, and there were some very clever scenic elements. The cart-horses were particularly inspired, and whoever thought that idea up should get a medal.
A trip into science fiction territory this week. I enjoy Adam Roberts’s quirky takes on the future, and this married my old love of SF with my new love of the crime thriller, by providing me with a locked door mystery that I didn’t solve, but could have, if I had though laterally. Clever stuff, but I would have liked more character back story. My total of books read this year now stands at 80. Can I make it to 100? Watch this space…