Week 41

Last week, I saw The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, wherein the female lead begins as a singer at Wilton’s music hall. By strange coincidence, I was at Wilton’s myself this week, and a wonderful place it is, too.

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Wilton’s Music Hall

Les Enfants Terribles: The Terrible Infants

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IMG_1018The play in question was a sort-of musical, a little like the offspring of  Shockheaded Peter and Oyster Boy might be, if you can imagine that.

The actor-musicians were very good. The story was pretty much what I expected – cautionary tales aimed for a mixed audience. A lot of the action was through ingenious puppetry, which was excellent. The theatre space was fabulous. Seating was more comfortable than I expected, and I had a jolly good time. The only downside was the awful walk from Shadwell along Cable Street. A warning to fellow pedestrians – go via Aldgate East and Leman Street. It won’t be much quicker, but it will be more pleasant.

Reading Challenge

I haven’t managed to actually read anything this week, but I did win a competition to win what I thought was one audio book, but which turned out to be three audio books.

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Week 40

A very sad week.

A couple of theatre trips had been booked a while ago, and I decided not to cancel, as I needed to think about something other than sorrow and regrets.

Greenwich Theatre

Blackeyed Theatre: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

DCB12581-CC2F-4D66-8BB5-A5C6BFD68E7DThe first “Goth” offering in this Halloween season was a well-designed, well acted, old fashioned melodrama. The small cast played multiple roles very well, and the set design was a delightful reworking of a pile of junk shop furniture. Red lighting was used cleverly, suggesting threat and blood. I enjoyed this, and was glad I had decided not to cancel.

The London Theatre

Harry Denford: Joy Division
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This venue has a very grand name for a theatre no bigger than my living room in a New Cross basement.  Unsurprisingly, there was no scenery- the wooden floor and a door were the whole set, and at times, the actors  were uncomfortably up close and personal with the audience. This short play was a powerful depiction of the horror of the “Joy Division” – the women used as whores for the Nazi officers.  It was grim, and thought-provoking. I can’t say I enjoyed it, exactly, but it did not leave me unmoved.

 

Week 39

A quiet week, punctuated only by essential “winter wellbeing admin”: flu jab; purchase of a rug to stop the living room feeling so chilly; renewal of magazine subscriptions.

I cancelled a subscription to a monthly cheese club on the grounds that I could buy all the “mystery” cheeses I’d received (the same suppliers, identical packs), from Waitrose for less money and a guarantee that I would actually want any that I bought. And I wouldn’t have to wait at home for the postman to bring me a weird-smelling parcel.

I had planned to see “Labour of Love” starring Martin Freeman, but the performance I was booked for was cancelled. Instead, I caught up with some reading.

2017 100 – book reading challenge update

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Four books this week: two crime books, a science fiction and the newest from the Hogarth reimagined Shakespeare series.

The Seagull is Ann Cleeves’s newest Vera Stanhope book. I have to admit to only having seen the TV incarnation of Vera, and I like that version of her very much. The book version is harder, rougher around the edges, less well dressed, more of a drinker. I found her less engaging than the TV character, but I still enjoyed the book. It seems odd to start with the last in a series, but I assumed (correctly) that this would be a story that had not yet been adapted. It was interesting to see that the literary Vera, even in book 8, was still a DI and still had her core team of Joe and Holly around her. This makes me hopeful that the other books will be different enough from the TV series to make them enjoyable reading. Next on my Vera list will be volume 1.

The second crime book is no 5.7 (!) in the Rivers of London series. They are crime stories, and Peter Grant is a detective (and another of my favourites), but there is so much magical realism in these books that the crime could take second place. This is a novella set between two other books in the series, and is great fun.

New Boy is an interesting retelling of Othello. I am enjoying this series, and have read each one as it has been published. This one is set in an elementary school in Washington DC, and is full of the petty jealousies of children and teachers that come to a head on one school day. It could have been longer and more nuanced. I give this three stars.

Finally, into outer space. I have really liked Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe series, and decided to give this a try even though I have not really been a “hard SF” fan for a long time. Spaceships and aliens generally leave me a bit cold nowadays, but I loved this. No spoilers here, apart from saying spaceships figure large!

These four books bring my total up to 78 so far this year. 22 to go before the end of the year. I think I’ll make it.

 

Week 38

The autumn equinox this week heralded the start of probably my favourite season. Long-sleeved dresses, thick tights, woolly jumpers and warming food. I look forward to Harvest festivals, Halloween and bonfire night, and a new batch of cookery books.

Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe

Tristan Bernard: Boudica 

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The Globe is a much better experience when the weather is cooler. And it pays to invest in a seat in the gallery, a seat cushion, and a backrest. Comfortably ensconced, I thoroughly enjoyed this play. Gina McKee is a wonderful actor, of course, and the rest of the cast were brilliant, too. The atmosphere was wonderful, and the production was well worth seeing. The subject matter is well-known, and this was a straightforward telling of the story, but with a main theme being the differing aftermaths of the two daughters’ experience at the hands of the Romans.  It was gritty at times, and funny at times -I liked the dry humour of the Roman sentries and the brilliant choice of “London Calling” for the musical interlude. I recommend this.

 

Reading

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Three titles this week, bringing my progress towards my 100-books-in-2017 reading challenge to 75. The first up is one of Georges Simenon’s Maigret books, in audio CD format. I have to admit that I won this, rather than bought it.  Maigret is one of those detectives that everyone knows about. In my case, from very old TV programmes that I wasn’t that struck on. I do like the new Rowan Atkinson Maigret, and I hadn’t read any of the books until after seeing this version. I find the books themselves quite ordinary, and there are so many (76) of them. As with so many works that are translated to English, the story loses something in the translation, and I am never sure that I am hearing the author’s authentic voice. However, I found the audio recording of this story more enjoyable than I think I would have found the reading.

The second book is another crime novel, set in Reykjavik, and by one of my favourite authors, Arnaldur Indridason, who is one of a few authors who doesn’t seem to suffer in translation.  This is the first in a new series that does not feature dour detective Erlendur. I think I am going to like the new guys.

Finally, my first new cookbook for a while.  It does exactly as it says on the cover, and I have the six-hour lamb in the oven as I write this.

Week 37

Theatre

Arts Theatre

Samuel Becket: Waiting for Godot

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This is a play I have waited for a long time to see. I dearly wished to see Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as Vladimir and Estragon, but that was not to be. This version was Irish through and through, and had some moments of comedy breaking up the bleakness. I found Pozzo and Lucky very irritating, but Didi and Gogo were excellent.

Once again, I found that I had been moved to a stalls seat (always a problem for me in these little theatres, as it usually involves negotiating a LOT of steps) because of a small audience. I really wish that theatres wouldn’t do this. And this time they were very high-handed about it -as if they are granting you the great privilege of paying £50 for a cold, noisy seat in a half-empty theatre.

The play itself was good,  but the cast must have been as fed up as the audience with the noise leaking in from the basement bar next door.  I can’t recommend this as a venue, sadly.

Art

Illustration Cupboard Gallery

David McKee: 50 Years of Mr Benn

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I like Mr Benn, and was pleased to see this exhibition.

The pictures were mostly straight from the books, with some animation cels. The gallery is very small and tightly packed. There were three other people in the main room when I was there, and it felt like a crowd.

IMG_0925My favourite item was a design especially commissioned by Turnbull and Asser (the tailor next door to the gallery).  It is Mr Benn as James Bond, and is going to be a silk pocket square that is sadly just too small to be used as a neck scarf. (I popped next door to enquire, just to be sure).

 

Week 36

The Arts can often be an antidote to the grim reality of life. At other times they can be cathartic, allowing release.   This week’s outings were all produced by women, and all addressed the hard parts of life.

Theatre

Dorfman Theatre

Lucy Kirkwood: Mosquitoes

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This play has been the season’s hot ticket. A complete sellout from the beginning of the booking season, only two tickets allowed per customer, and only very occasionally appearing in the “Friday Rush”. I managed to bag the single ticket on offer for the performance I saw, and it was well worth the effort I had gone to in order to get that seat.  Olivia Colman was absolutely wonderful as the most damaged (and damaging) relative anyone could ever have. Scientific themes threaded through this excellent play, but it was accessible to the non-nerd.  I loved it.

Art

White Cube: Dreamers Awake

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A very comprehensive feminist surrealist exhibition, curated by Susanna Greeves and featuring work by (amongst others) Tracy Emin, Mona Hatoum, Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois. There were some beautiful works, some very peculiar works, some that were hard to look at. None of it left me unmoved.

Dance/Video

Rosie Kay Dance Company: 5 Soldiers

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This piece was staged during a local festival back at the beginning of the summer. I wasn’t able to get to it then, and so was really pleased to see it being live streamed from an actual army base this week.

The dance shows the progress of five soldiers through their training and deployment. The interaction between the recruits and their officer, and between themselves were very well portrayed, with some difficult moments between the sole female soldier and her male colleagues played out effectively. One of the soldiers suffers a life-changing injury during deployment, and this is addressed well.

 

The female perspective made all of my “culture”  difficult to look at this week. There seemed to be a specific harshness about life itself in these pieces.

Week 35

This week signals the end of summer.

Exhibitions

Somerset House

Perfume

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I was a little worried about this, as I have an aversion to strong perfume, hovering around physical discomfort and sometimes actual breathing difficulties if the perfume assaults me in a confined space. However, the ten perfumes were presented in a way that made them pleasant and not overpowering.

 

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My favourite in the “blind” smelling was presented in a confessional-style cell., and reminded me of the smell of old churches. I later found out it was Incense:Avignon, created for Comme des Garçons, with base notes of Frankincense.

 

 

Also at Somerset House

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This was a strange little exhibition of faked artist biographies and portraits, alongside found objects and strange manipulations of everyday items. It was quite amusing and filled some time on a rainy day.

Art installations

Royal Festival Hall

Peter Lazlo Peri: The Sunbathers

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This piece has an interesting history. It was made for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and installed on the South Bank. After the festival was over, the work was lost until very recently, when it turned up in the garden of the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath. A crowd-funding campaign was launched and the work was restored and installed inside the Royal Festival Hall.

It was smaller than I expected, although not tiny by any means. I liked it.  Sadly, the exhibition is temporary, and will soon be taken down.

Marianne Heske: Gordian Knot – Necklace

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This is another temporary installation at the Royal Festival Hall, which I was pleased to see on its last day in situ. I liked this very much. The macabreness of the dolls heads juxtaposed with the mathematics of the Gordian knot appealed to the geek in me. I would wear a necklace like this.

Water

The Edmund J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House is a lovely example of a water feature that the public can get wet in. On the day I visited, it was pouring with rain and chilly, so I was able to take a picture of an unusually empty courtyard and “dancing fountain”.

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I crossed the river from one dancing fountain to another. Jepp Hein’s Appearing Rooms is less pretty, but more exciting. If you don’t correctly anticipate where the next “room” will appear you can get very wet. It was still raining when I was there, so again, I got a picture of an empty fountain.

Books

SUMMER reading challenge

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The idea was to read all six of the books before August Bank Holiday, and I achieved it with a couple of days to spare. I may set myself another mimi-challenge later in the year, but for now, it’s back to my main 100booksin2017 challenge.

Reading

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These two bring my total so far to 71. I am well on track to meet my target.

Harry Hole is one of my favourite detectives, and I thoroughly enjoyed this continuation of his sober life with Rakel and Oleg, despite spending the first part of the book thinking he was dead.  Hard Cheese is an interesting and amusing “locked room” amateur detective mystery, well worth a read, and yes, there is cheese.

 

Week 34

Went for a walk in the park this week.

Galleries

Serpentine Gallery

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-I had been looking forward to this exhibition for a long time, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a bit of everything, and I was particularly pleased to see the “Brexit” vases, as I had been following the process of their production on TV and various social media.

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I particularly like Perry’s large tapestries. Last time I went to an exhibition of his work I treated myself to a set of plates with images from his “Map of Days“. This time I treated myself to a silk scarf depicting his “Red Carpet“.

Water Features

This is a new category for this blog, but there are a lot of these about, so it’s worth mentioning any of note.

Hyde Park: The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain; The Italian Gardens; Two Bears drinking fountain.

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My picture shows the water on show in one small part of the park. I liked the Italian gardens, with their very formal lily ponds and fountains; I liked the quiet end of the Serpentine, away from the boats and crowds; I liked the two little bears hugging each other on the drinking fountain, which I was surprised to find actually working.

I really did not like the Princess Diana fountain. It seemed to be not much more than a paddling pond, and was full of people when I was there. Maybe I might have liked it more up close. But I would have been giving myself a hill to climb back up on a hot day, so I took my picture from a distance.

Public Art

Hyde Park has two of the most famous and least inspiring statues in London, and I can’t leave this blog without mentioning both of them.

img_0679Peter Pan is famous, and I am a little ashamed that I hadn’t seen this statue before. Now that I have seen it, I have to ask what all the fuss is about. It is the sort of thing that you might find in your auntie Maud’s garden ( if it was a little smaller). I think it counts as an example of ghastly art.

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The Albert Memorial is truly awful. I shudder every time I see it. It was marginally better before it was cleaned up and re-gilded. I’m just pleased that it does not lie on any of my regular routes through London, and that I don’t have to see it too often.

Week 33

An interesting mix of things this week.

Opera

Arcola Theatre: Grimeborne Festival

Kurt Schwitters/Lewis Coenen-Rowe: Collision

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This is described as part sci-fi, part Weimar-decadence, and is a short ( hour and a half straight through) opera, set in prewar Berlin, with an end-of-the-world plot involving a large green globe on a collision course with earth. I have to say, there wasn’t much sci-fi to be had, and perplexingly, all the lighting effects were blue and red. So, no sign of a green globe,  but there was a bit of Cabaret-style decadence. Casting a high soprano as the (male) chief of police was odd, especially as the soprano was scantily clad in a thankfully well-engineered red brassiere. The other voices were strong, apart from the inevitable weak tenor. The music was performed by a live band, and was very good. The set design and costumes looked very amateurish, but this was possibly deliberate. Overall, this was an enjoyable performance, well up to fringe standards

 

Tod Machover: VALIS

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This is another short, sci-fi opera, based on the VALIS novels by Philip K Dick, and available to download free.

I really liked this, even if I didn’t fully understand it. You can make your own judgement-  read more and listen to it here

 

Literature

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On August 15th, 1947, India was partitioned and Pakistan was born. To commemorate this, the BBC broadcast a dramatised adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. I binge-listened to all seven episodes on August 15th 2017.

I had read the novel, quite a few years ago, and liked it. I liked this version too.

SUMMER reading challenge

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The challenge comes to a successful early conclusion with R for Runcie. This is the fourth Sidney Chambers book, and one in which the female characters have become particularly grating. I go on reading these in the hope that something dire will happen to Amanda, Helena or the irritating Hildegard.

Week 32

This should have been an interesting week. I was going to see Titus Andronicus,  a Shakespeare play I have only ever seen excerpts of. In addition, it was the last week of the Opera in the City festival, and I had tickets for a couple of new pieces.

Sadly, life intervened, in the form of illness in the family, and I didn’t get to any    of the things I had booked. Once again, it was a couch culture week.

Musical Theatre/TV

BBC Proms

Rodgers and Hammerstein: Oklahoma!

 

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This was a lively, semi-staged version of an old favourite. A bright spot in a dark week.

 

SUMMER reading challenge

IMG_0502E is for Eco. This was a bit of a variable feast. In some parts, it was a fast and lively murder mystery; in others a tedious wade through pages of description or chapters of historical detail. I found it hard going, although the central story had me hooked. I might revisit this one day, as I am not sure I really did it the justice of  giving it my full attention.