A “normal” sort of week. A bit of reading, a bit of culture…
Anthropocene at the Hackney Empire
The title of Stuart McRae and librettist Louise Welsh‘s new opera refers to a ship, rather than to the geological era, although there are references to global warming and icecaps melting here and there. This was a “modern” opera, with modern music (so no songs). The first act worked for me. There was tension and some power plays, and a sense of threat from the “thing” in the ice. (some quite deliberate referencing of “The Thing” here). The second act fell apart a bit for me, in terms of story, although the voices stayed strong and the visual presentation was powerful. I didn’t like the idea of human sacrifice that too easily explained the central mystery. The end of the opera was depressing. Given the chance to save the world from icecap melt, our band of explorers chose the “self-interest” option, and let the world go hang.
I enjoyed the performance, and it was good to see/hear something new. But it wasn’t great opera, for me.
Dracula at the London Library
Creation Theatre put on a terrific two-handed performance of Bram Stoker’s story.
The library’s reading room was an excellent setting, and the story was told using a variety of media, including some very clever projection work. I enjoyed this very much, and the ending made me smile at its unexpectedness. Full marks for creativity.
Dead Pig Collector is a short story about a murder that goes wrong. It is clever and it left me unsure of who the baddie really was. I read it because someone recommended it, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I picked The Thing Itself as a result of seeing Anthropocene. Like the opera, the book starts and ends with horror during scientific exploration at the poles. Unlike the opera, the book veers away from the ice and into a range of historical settings, seemingly randomly at first, and introducing two main themes; Kant’s philosophy and artificial intelligence. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the novel that I realised the significance of some of the lurches into time. I like Adam Roberts’s work, but this was not among my favourites of his novels.