Posted in Theatre

June 9: Stitchers

I always find it amazing that the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre can put in such “big” shows.

This time it was a wonderful play about prisoner rehabilitation through embroidery. Based on fact, this play by Emma Freud was fierce and moving. It brought back the feeling of helplessness and frustration I felt as a prison teacher when classes were cancelled without notice because of lockdowns, and reminded me that the frustration was far worse for the inmates.

The inmates were not softened at all. There was no “do-goodery” about Lady Anne. Nevertheless, good was done, and hard edges softened.

There was a shocking moment towards the end of the play, but on the whole, it was an uplifting experience.

Sinéad Cusack was wonderful, of course, but the whole cast put on a fine performance. I was pleased that the trans woman character was actually played by a trans woman. I feel that the true horror of being a trans woman in a men’s prison could only really be shown this way.

There was one extra little surprise. The programme was actually the entire text of the play. A real bargain.

Go and see this if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

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Posted in Theatre

April 21: Great Apes

This was an interesting production – a very sparse set, some excellent music and choreographed group actions. An excellent performance of Dr Zack Buster ( the alpha male) by Ruth Lass was the highlight of the play for me. I liked the costumes – the brown harem pants and polo sweaters, the sock-gloves, the short crutches all came together to suggest “chimpunity” cleverly. The female oestrus, depicted by an obscenely pleated pink bumbag affair was ghastly but effective, and overall, the acting skills of the cast suggested ape behaviours very well.

There were differences from the book, as there always are, and I was glad that some of the more extreme behaviours weren’t included.

Overall, I enjoyed the play, and feel it made the story more accessible than Will Self’s very convoluted language in the book.

Posted in Television

April 15: The City and The City part 2

I love China Mieville’s book. It is one of my favourites and one I re-read regularly, and I was very excited to hear that the BBC were adapting it for TV. I wondered how they would show the two cities, and I think they’ve done a pretty good job. I really really like David Morrissey as Borlú. Next time I read the book I know I’ll be imagining him. I downloaded and binge-watched it all, of course, although the series hasn’t finished running on the BBC yet, so no spoilers from me here, but I do have to say that I wish the BBC hadn’t gone for the missing wife angle. The book is so much more interesting without that trope as a main theme.

Posted in books

March 27: The City and the City

I reread this book in advance of the TV series (starting next week, watch this space), and am happy to say I love it just as much as I did on first reading it. Tyador Borlú is one of my favourite detectives, and Beszel and Ul Qoma together make a fascinating setting. I am really looking forward to the TV version, and can’t wait to see how they do the magic which will clearly be required. I have heard that the Ul Qoma partner is to be a woman, rather than the man China Miéville wrote, and I hope this is to match more closely to the many recent “international noir” series rather than to add romance or sexual tension where it isn’t necessary. I like Borlú because he isn’t full of tropes. He doesn’t drink, he isn’t unhappy in love, he isn’t depressed… I hope they let him stay that way.

Whatever happens with the TV series, I will continue to love this book.

2009/10 Winner of: Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clark, Locus, World Fantasy and Kitschies Red Tentacle awards

Posted in books

March 11: Red Clocks

Unintentionally, I read this on Mothering Sunday, in the early hours of a morning following a sleepless night. It didn’t ease my anxiety at all, and brought home just how easy it is for a world to slide into dystopia.

In this book, a law has been passed outlawing all abortions. A follow-up law bans in-vitro fertilisation (but not artificial insemination); and a third law is on the cusp of enactment, outlawing adoption by single persons.

The book follows five women in a small American town as they deal with the fallout of these laws. In addition, they all have to deal with the general male power over women, and the troubles that go along with small-town bigotry and superstition. There is only one sympathetic male character. All other males are tropes – (the jock boyfriend, the wife-beater hiding behind respectability, the creepy gynaecologist etc), but the women feel more real.

I liked this book a lot. In particular, I liked the glimpses of Eivør’s struggle to claim her own work.

Well worth reading.

Posted in books

February 21: Walkaway

Reading this book reminded me of how much I love good science fiction. Cory Doctorow is a favourite author, and this book is a mixture of cyberpunk, post-apocalypse and politics. I like Hubert Etcetera, and wish there was more of him in the story. There is an interesting mix of gender and racial characteristic examination. The rich guy is pretty much always the bad guy, but actually, not quite. A lot of years pass between sections of the book, and there are some disconnects that I would have like reconnected. I enjoyed this book, a lot.

Posted in books

January 18: The Man Who Laughs

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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.

Posted in books

9th January: Reading

I have had a soft spot for science fiction crime novels ever since I discovered Isaac Asimov’s Elijah Baley and R Daneel Olivaw, a long long loooong time ago. Going through the lists of new books coming out in 2018, the blurb for John Scalzi’s Head On caught my eye. It’s not out until April, but I noticed that there was an earlier book with the same characters…

I liked the idea that technology can be used to allow people with severe disabilities to live an active life. One such person is the protagonist, who is “locked in” , but has his mind downloaded into a “threep“- a robot body.

The crime element of the book is interesting, and the plot is fast-paced and believable (given the sci-fi context). I liked the diversity of the characters, mostly, but I wish the protagonists’s female cop partner didn’t have to resort to the old booze and random sex tropes to deal with her demons.

I enjoyed this book very much, and will definitely be buying the new one when it comes out.

Posted in Art, dance, Theatre, video

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.

Posted in Art

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.