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.

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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 22

Sadly, this week’s post starts in a similar way to last week’s. Another terror attack, this time in London, and for the first time, south of the river. I was safely indoors when it happened, but just a few hours earlier, I had been at a theatre not too far from London Bridge, having a wonderful time. It is hard to just carry on as normal, but of course, we will.

Theatre

National Theatre (Lyttleton)

Lindsey Ferrentino: Ugly Lies The Bone

 

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This was a grim play with odd moments of comedy. Kate Fleetwood played the returned war hero very well, onstage for almost the whole play, wearing prosthetics and bandages throughout. This was a 90 minute, no interval play, and it was long enough. The set was interesting, largely empty, with elements on rails to ease changes of scene. The “virtual reality” lighting and projection was impressive. I had hoped that Kris Marshall would get a chance to show a bit more of his acting range, but sadly, he was given the role of yet another affable buffoon. Three stars for this. But the Lyttleton is looking in need of a little tlc.

Jermyn Street Theatre

Stephen Unwin: All Our Children

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Another grim offering, based on recent history. The idea that disabled children are dispensable, a drain on society is chilling. The acting was good, and I give five stars to Frau Pabst (Lucy Speed). Jermyn Street is tiny and the audience are practically onstage. I like this little theatre very much, and not only because they sell wonderful stem-ginger ice cream. This was another no-interval play, as seems to be fashionable nowadays. Four stars for this one.

Young Vic

Bertold Brecht: Life of Galileo

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This was wonderful. It had everything. Excellent acting, especially Brendan Cowell (Galileo), who was stellar. There was music (brilliantly composed by the Chemical Brothers), planetarium-style projection, subsonics that rattled my bones, puppetry, dancing…  And some serious science. I’m glad I hadn’t opted for stage seating, which took the form of sponge cushions on the floor. The bench seating was fine – only becoming slightly uncomfortable towards the end of the three hour play. Interestingly, I had a ticket for seat D31, but row D went from seat 30 to 32 with no sign of an actual seat 31. I sat in 32, and luckily, no one came to claim it. Five stars for the Young Vic for this one.

Books

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Two crime fiction offerings this week. Why Did You Lie is a proper Scandi-noir story. Multiple viewpoints, three seemingly-separate plot strands, angsty cop-with-a-problem. It was a good read, but it left a number of threads unresolved. I wonder if there will be a sequel?

I picked up the first in the Grantchester chronicles because it was (a) cheap and (b) a familiar story from a TV series. It was very reminiscent of Chesterton’s Father Brown  stories, rather more gentle than the TV programmes, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series, wherein Sidney promises to move up through the ranks of the clergy.

 

Week 14

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.

Theatre

Yellow Earth Theatre at the Arcola

Christopher Marlowe: Tamburlaine 

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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.

Exhibitions

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (Royal Academy)

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I won’t deny that my main reason for going to this was to see Kandinsky’s Blue Crest. 

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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

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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.

Public Art

St James’s Market Pavilion

The Paper Aviary

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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

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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.

Dalson Junction

The Peace Mural

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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…

Books

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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?

Week 4

A little late in posting this. Still reeling from the events in the States. Not thought about much else, really.

Culture

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I had pre-booked to see the Picasso portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, not cheap, (and a disgrace that the guide was not illustrated and there was no photography allowed, so as to force visitors to buy the catalogue, also not cheap), so I forced myself out on a day of high air pollution to go and see it.

It was quite a small exhibition, and sadly, it was quite uninspiring, with only a very few paintings that gave me the gut feeling I get when I see art I like.

I did buy this print for my living room:

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And I bought a navy blue “Picasso” beret because I needed a blue hat and why not?

Books

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Just crime this week. I didn’t really enjoy “Extraordinary People”. It was a bit too Da Vinci Code-ish, and there were too many protagonists. It felt a bit like a Scooby-Doo adventure. Not recommended.

The “Ruby Elephants”  was a straightforward Sherlock Holmes romp that could have been written by Doyle himself. It was fine, but felt old-fashioned, which was a little disappointing. I’d hoped for something a little closer to Robert-Downey Junior Holmes, but got Jeremy Brett Holmes (not my favourite).

“The Hanging” was Scandi Noir at its Noirest. Very bleak, very convoluted, and right up my street. There was the usual flawed cop trope, and the subject matter was as unpleasant as it can be (no spoilers here). I will read more by the Hammers.

 

Week 1

This blog will be a record of my “cultural” life, week by week.

 

Museums

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This week I went to the Horniman Museum and aquarium.

The aquarium was small, and the main exhibit was closed, but there was still a fair amount to see, including a native pondlife tank, which was nice to see. A good place to take the small boys of the family.

The only other thing I was interested in was the music gallery, which felt overheated, but that was probably because I had my winter coat on.  The sheer number of musical instruments on show was a little overwhelming, given the very small space in the gallery.

Books

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Three books I have enjoyed this week:

Europe in winter; a clever, alternate history with a bit of sci-fi. And no aliens or space-ships in sight. I thought this was the last in the Fractured Europe series, but the author says there will be one more.

The dying detective; my favourite genre, crime. A detective who is actually dying fights his own body to solve a cold case. Very well written, and a good translation.

A room of one’s own; I should have read this a long time ago, I know. It is still well worth reading.