A few weeks ago, I took a trip to the Tate Modern to see The Jordan Wolfson installation Coloured Sculpture. Sadly, the exhibit was closed due to “technical difficulties”, and I was disappointed. It seems that there are many things that can go wrong with this piece of work, and today, there were technical issues with the eyes (I think it was the motion-sensors) which meant that the exhibit had to be closed again. Fortunately, I had already spent a fair bit of time being alternately horrified and sickened by what is clearly a representation of abuse. The bursts of Percy Sledge (When a Man Loves a Woman) made it horribly worse, and I feel fortunate that the puppet was not able to turn its gaze on me. It wasn’t terrifying, but it was disturbing. The videos of the piece don’t do it justice. You lose the scale, for one thing. That puppet is big, and it thumps down hard.
The work is on show until the end of August, and entry is free. Go and make your own judgement.
Last summer, I read Edward St Aubyn’s first Patrick Melrose novel, Never Mind, as the first of my SUMMER reading challenge books. It gripped me and horrified me enough to make me buy and read the other four books in the series.
Almost exactly a year later, Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of Patrick in an eponymously titled TV miniseries, and plays it masterfully.
The series doesn’t flinch from the abuse suffered by the child Patrick, but thankfully doesn’t feel he need to portray it graphically. A closing door is evidence enough of what is happening.
Events in the books are rejuggled. The series starts with the death of Patrick’s father, and ends with the death of his mother. The optimistic end of the last novel is omitted completely, as is the new-age Irishman’s comeuppance.
There is wit and humour, and darkness.
This series deserves to win awards. I will be terribly disappointed if it doesn’t.
Back in January, I saw the musical The Grinning Man, based on a novel by Victor Hugo. I enjoyed the show very much, and that led me to read the book, which I found to be very difficult, full of description of the British aristocracy and with a much crueler ending than I had expected.
A few days ago, I came across a graphic novel version of the book, which rendered the story as much more readable, but kept the darkness and the unhappy ending.
A worthy addition to my graphic novels shelf.
I had a ticket for the camera rehearsal of what will be a live broadcast to cinemas from the National Theatre. Sadly, Rory Kinnear was not available for the performance I saw, but his understudy did a good job, and Anne-Marie Duff was a brilliant Lady Macbeth.
This production has had mixed reviews, but I really liked it. The post-apocalyptic setting worked well, and I liked the little touches – mismatched enamel mugs at the banquet, gaffer-taped armour, a glittery dress made of offcuts of fabric and plastic.
The set was excellent and the action made full use of the Olivier’s revolve stage.
The action started with a very realistic beheading, and ended with another one. In between there was the usual goriness, augmented by some very dark manifestations of the supernatural ( with their heads on backwards for some reason) and three spectacular witches. There was a low-level, threatening rumble of music, and excellent lighting effects. In addition, this was the most inclusive casting I have seen recently, with a good mix of genders, ethnicities and dis/ability on stage. I especially liked the idea of having a girl in the youngest role, Fleance.
I thoroughly recommend this production.
Let me start by saying how much I loved the Barbican Theatre. This was my first visit, and I found the separate doors for each row entrancing. I loved the live video feed of the audience, and it was amusing to see other audience members waving to themselves. The air conditioning was a little fierce, but that bodes well for the summer.
The opera was a little shaky for my taste. I wasn’t really overwhelmed by any of the singers, and I thought the inventor father was a bit silly. I liked Kitty Whately as the mother/other mother, and her bad cold didn’t seem to affect her performance. The music was typical Turnage – no “tunes” for the many children in the audience to take away and sing, and I wish there had been a cat.
The set was clever and made full use of the revolve stage, although I didn’t understand the significance of the large hole in the ceiling.
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience.
Having seen the musical play “The Grinning Man”, I decided to read the book it was based on. Victor Hugo’s works are available for free from iBooks, so I downloaded a copy and settled in for what turned out to be a very bleak ride.
Like many “period” authors (Melville, Dickens and the like), Hugo indulges himself in lengthy descriptive passages, and whole chapters of what seem to be lists of the peerage. I found the book to be a difficult read because of this, and caught myself skipping sections in order to get on with the story.
There is a (thankfully not too detailed) description of the surgical procedures used on Gwynplaine, and a quite horrible account of his reception by his peers towards the end of the book. The actual ending shocked me, and was quite different from the ending of the play.
Last entry for 2017. No cultural outings this week – a quiet Christmas, followed by a sick in-between week wherein I am fairly sure I poisoned myself and various family members.
I finished my Reading Challenge!
Some highlights from the list: Yellow Blue Tibia – probably the best pun in a title ever; King Dido -a historical crime novel I would recommend to anyone; The Night Sessions, excellent SciFiCri.
I won some audio books, all Maigret stories, and listened to some of them; I read a few graphic novels, and some children’s books, including The Dark Is Rising, which I wasn’t supposed to finish until the new year, but I couldn’t resist.
I finally got to grips with Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, and made a dent in the Dickens backlog. There were six cookbooks, and three books I bought because I didn’t think I would get to see the plays based on them, and then actually did get to see them all . There was a new Donna Leon, a new Dave Hutchinson, a new Christopher Fowler, a new Jo Nesbo and a new Ragnar Jonasson (do you detect that I like a crime story?)
Finally, there were two new Hogarth Shakespeares, based on Othello and King Lear.
It was a real challenge to read 100 books this year, as well as keep up my weekly culture outing. Next year’s challenges will be simpler, I think.
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.
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.
Blackeyed Theatre: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The 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.
Harry Denford: Joy Division
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.
Brockley Jack Studio
Edgar Allan Poe double bill
It is so rare to get “goth” theatre. I tried very hard to like this, but sadly, I didn’t. The first half was the MasqueoftheRedDeath, a famously scary story that didn’t really work for me in this setting. Perhaps it was a bad night, but I’m afraid I didn’t wait around for the FalloftheHouseofUsher, scheduled for the hour after the interval.
This was a lot of fun. The Merchant family seem to be Bollywood legends; Vaibhavi and Shruti choreographed the production, with Salim and Sulaiman writing the music that linked the Bollywood standards. The dancing was good to my untutored eye, the costumes were spectacular, and the largely Indian family audience seemed to love it, despite (or perhaps because of) its adherence to Bollywood tropes. This was my first Asian dance experience, and I would certainly go again.
Only one this week, but a good one. This is the second book about Yashim the eunuch. An interesting case story, with a brilliant sense of place. Reading this, you can hear and smell Istanbul, and almost taste the food Yashim loves to cook while he is pondering his cases.
This brings my reading challenge total up to 54. Still on target, but only just…