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.

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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 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 24

It is the hottest week of the year (so far!), and I chose to go open-air, with mixed results. I went to the Globe theatre for the first time, travelling by boat. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Sadly, I didn’t get to go home on the boat, because I was taken ill at the end of the performance. All praise to the first-aiders at the Globe, the paramedics and the wonderful staff at St Thomas’s hospital. Luckily, it was nothing serious and I got to home later the same night.

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Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe

Knee-high Theatre: Tristan and Yseult

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This was wonderful. The theatre was everything I had hoped for. The production was modern, costumes very simple, acting excellent. The music was well-chosen- everything from Wagner to Daft Punk, and the actor-musicians were excellent. My favourite character was Yseult’s maid, played in panto-drag, but producing one of the deepest, saddest moments of the play. I loved this.

Exhibitions

Barbican Centre: Into the Unknown

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Getting into and out of the Barbican is always a nightmare for me. It is extraordinarily difficult for a less than perfectly mobile pedestrian. But once inside, what a wonderful exhibition this was. A perfect few hours for any science fiction lover. There were books, including a whole lot of Russian versions of classics; there were classic film extracts running at various points through the curved exhibition space; there were actual film props and costumes. There were robots! There were Stargate Goa’uld helmets! There was a new and strange film. There were video games.  There was everything, really. I liked this very much.

Public art

Anthony Gormley: Quantum Cloud

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I have a fondness for a Gormley, and Quantum Cloud is one of my favourites. It is right next to the Thames Clipper pier at North Greenwich. From the right viewpoint, you can see the figure inside clearly, but I didn’t quite get it this time.

Books

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I didn’t actually finish anything, but Bloomsday fell this week, and so I proudly proclaim That almost exactly a year ago, I  actually read Ulysses for the first, and most likely the last time.

Week 19

Another “exhibitions” week.

The Wellcome Collection

Electricity: The Spark of Life

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This was surprisingly comprehensive for a free exhibition. The exhibits spanned the whole of human history, from lightning to modern power generation, and included art as well as artefacts. “Pure” science was well-represented, and Galvani loomed large. The film of a frog in zero gravity was oddly sad, but it was an interesting inclusion. The exhibition itself was well laid out, following a timeline from ancient to modern. Well worth seeing, even if you are not science-minded.

The British Library

Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths

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This is the second Russian-revolution-themed exhibition I have visited in this centenary year, and despite it having no Kandinskys for me to drool over, it was by far the better experience. Obviously, as a library exhibition, the main focus was on text and illustration, but there was enough archive footage, flags and realia to make this really interesting and worth the admission fee. The layout was exemplary. It was not possible to miss anything, there was ample seating for those who, like me, need a rest now and then, and the exhibits were very well chosen. My only gripe is  the prohibitive cost of even the paperback version of the catalogue.

Public art

Eduardo Paolozzi: Newton

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This is one of my favourite pieces of public art. I do like a big bronze, and this one has a sense of gravity (heh). It sits on a huge plinth outside the British Library, and I couldn’t walk past it without taking a snap.

J C F Rossi: The New St Pancras Church Caryatids

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Another favourite of mine. I was surprised to discover that they are made of terracotta, around a steel core. They look very much like ancient stone. The church faces on to the Euston Road, and is grade 1 listed, so these ladies will be around for a while.

Books

Only one book this week, and it was a disappointment.

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I like Inspector Montalbano a great deal, in both his TV incarnations, and I expected to like this. Sadly, the book does not read well. It feels like a caricature of the TV programme, rather than a “proper” crime novel in its own right. I know the books came first, so I imagine this must be a poor translation.  Catarella comes off particularly badly, and that is a shame. Even the food descriptions are poor. I don’t recommend this.

Week 18

An arty week this time. And some books, but no theatre.

Galleries

NOW Gallery: The Iris – Rebecca Louise Law

Menier Gallery: The UK Coloured Pencil Society – Annual open exhibition 2017

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The Iris was lovely. Obviously, by this (the last) week of the installation, the flowers had dried and yellowed, but somehow, I think this improved the work, making it into more than a floral arrangement. This is a fairly new gallery, and I shall be keeping my eye on what happens here.

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The pictures in the UK Coloured Pencil Society’s show were all very well executed, and clearly the prize-winners deserved their medals, but I prefer my art a little more abstract than any of the pictures on offer here. It was an interesting half-hour though, as there were several artists actually creating work while I was there.

Public Art

Today I spotted three works dotted around the Greenwich Peninsula.

Alex Chinneck: A Bullet from a Shooting Star

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The top picture shows this as it actually is today, taken from as close as I could get to the same position as the bottom one, when it was originally installed. I like it. Even though it is just an upside-down pylon.

Morag Myerscough: Colourblock Cranes

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You can just about make out the colours in my picture (top). I hadn’t realised that this was an art installation, as these are all actual working cranes, being used in the building of their surroundings. A clever idea.

Also in the top picture, you can see a granite “tramline”, which is supposed to be a longitude line. There are a number of these, separated by one-tenth of a second of longitude, interspersed with plaques showing various time-related facts. The picture below is one of my favourites.

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Yes, those are my boots. I have not been able to find out whose idea these lines and plaques were, but the granite tiling in the square was installed by Cundall (civil engineers).

Pop culture icons

The Alessi “Juicy Salif” juicer. A triumph of form over function. It spills juice everywhere, and you can’t use detergent on it or it turns itself, and every lemon thereafter, black.

But it is so beeyootiful!

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Books

Three this week, including the CCCP Cook Book that I mentioned a few weeks ago, and from which I plan to never cook anything. It does give an interesting picture of the bleak and awful kitchen landscape of The Soviet Union.

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The other two books are crime novels (well, one is a novella).

Legion is a clever concept. A schizophrenic whose hallucinations have hallucinations. I really enjoyed this, and I want more. Cold Storage, Alaska is a gentle story that reminded me a little of an old TV series called Northern Exposure. I enjoyed reading it, and again, would read more if it became a series.

Week 15

Theatre

Live broadcast from the National Theatre 

William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

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For the first time, I really appreciated that this was one of the Bard’s comedies. I laughed out loud at some scenes, and this is rare for me. The cast were excellent, of course. Viola and Orsino were the best I have ever seen, but the outstanding performance was Tamsin Grieg’s Malvolia, who left me in tears at her eventual fate. The set design was outstanding, making full use of the Olivier’s revolving stage, and I really wish I could have seen this in the actual theatre, rather than as a broadcast.

Festivals

The Tall Ships

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This was, in the main, an unpleasant experience. There were two venues, a long way apart. And the good stuff must have been at the other one on the day I went. There were crowds. (I know, it’s a festival, there are supposed to be crowds). Advance publicity had indicated that there would be music all day, on a number of stages. I chose the Woolwich Arsenal venue, on the grounds that it was likely to be less crowded than Maritime Greenwich. I could only find one small stage, where four sad old men sang sea shanties for ten minutes or so. The rest of the festival was basically a very long avenue of food and drink concessions, a few fairly average children’s entertainers, and an immense queue for the actual ships, which were hidden from general view by said immense queue. I decided that the best way to see any ships at all would be from the water, so I got on a Clipper boat and went the two stops to Greenwich. This was arguably the best part of the day. A seat on a catamaran, a good view of the ships on the river, a chance to take some photographs, and did I say a seat? Greenwich was awful, of course. Much more crowded, still no sign of the music, and I couldn’t wait to get on a bus to get far away.  I’m sure a lot of people really enjoyed the festival, but I wasn’t one of them.

Public art

Peter Burke: Assembly

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One good thing about going to the Tall Ships was the opportunity to see this installation of sixteen iron figures, at Woolwich Pier. They seem vaguely Gormley-ish, vaguely Paulozzi-ish, and I like them very much.

Books

Donna Leon: Earthly Remains

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I’m always happy when a new Donna Leon comes out, and especially happy when it’s a Brunetti book. I buy very few actual books now, I do most of my reading on a “device”, but this is a lovely exception, and sits well on the bookcase. No spoilers, as this is brand new, but it is Brunetti, it is set in the Laguna, and the case is resolved at the end. I enjoyed it.

Week 7

A quiet week.

Culture

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Watched the the three remaining parts of the Ring. Really enjoyed Die Walkure. Siegfried was as annoying as usual, and Gotterdammerung felt slightly low-key. Even so, this was one of the best-voiced Rings I have seen/heard.

I caight up with the Portrait Artist of the Year in a one-afternoon binge-watch. I hadn’t realised this was on, and am glad to have found it before the heats end. My money is on the guy who painted Ben Okri on a concreted-over cupboard door.

Street Art

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I came across this truly awful thing in Woolwich. It was apparently presented to the town by the Mayor of Reinickendorf, Berlin.

Woolwich is, interestingly, divided by a wall. Inside, nearest the river, is the “cultural quarter”. Posh new flats, expensive bars and cafes, the farmers market….

Outside, the rougher, more common, old Woolwich, with a giant Wetherspoons pub and a big screen in the town centre showing perpetual sport (snooker on the afternoon I took this photo). It is interesting that a nice statue of the goddess Nike, presented to the borough, is inside the wall. The ghastly bear is firmly on the outside.

Books

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A bit disappointed in this. A murder mystery within a murder mystery. It had all the tropes, and I wonder if Horowitz was playing the same game as his fictional author. I’d give this 5 out of 10.