Friday, November 04, 2011

Bits and Pieces: The First

The last fortnight has looked a bit like:

Somewhat accidentally Arsenal Fan and I have been on something of a Mike Bartlett kick in the last fortnight. For Arsenal Fan’s birthday I’d fashioned a voucher promising him a trip to the National Theatre and he’d made noises about seeing The Kitchen and I’d umm-ed and gone “if we must” in a way that betrayed that though this was his birthday present and thus I would sit through some tepid Wesker if I must this was not exactly what I’d had in mind. Then Arsenal Fan happened to offhandedly mention 13 and I started shrieking about this being THE PLAY WE SHOULD SEE and he got the message, and we went to the first preview. And, bloody hell, I loved it. Epic and complicated and intelligent and funny and disturbing and ambitious and powerfully (painfully) about what it is like to live now. It also has a beautiful analogy about the limits of human understanding that is the type of writing that makes my heart soar (if I used Linksuch terms I would say it was Stoppardian). Filled with Bartlett love we then went to see Earthquakes in London, which I’d seen in its original staging in the Cottesloe and which I claim – with much arm waving and superlatives - as my favourite production of 2010. Transposed to a proscenium arch theatre and with an entirely new cast it did feel like a little bit of a different play, clearer and more emotional, but also smaller and less visceral. Even after my slew of “climate change plays” in early 2011 (thank you The Heretic, Water and Greenland) I still think it is the most interesting and compelling play on the subject. Basically I heart Mike Bartlett.

Back when I was living in The Flat on the South Bank at the start of the year I won, via twitter, priority booking for Michael Sheen’s Hamlet. Which I thought was a very cool thing at the time, but which nearly resulted in the type of rage that I’d previously only experienced in relation to CAMERON MACKINTOSH SEVERS. After almost punching a computer I ended up marching to the Young Vic (which I could do as I was living just down the road if I hadn’t mentioned it) and purchasing tickets by cheque as their card machines had gone down and coming home with my ticket details written on a compliments slip as they couldn’t get their computers to work either. Then I realised I’d accidentally booked for Halloween (I know, it’s not like it moves each year) but decided this was a GOOD THING as there is a ghost and everything in Hamlet.

Obviously I should note here that I SAW A PREVIEW and everything I say should be seen in that light. There is a lot of Hamlet going about in recent years (it is, I say in earnest tones, the Shakespeare of our times, in the same way that there was a lot of Lear going about in the 80’s. Read into this theory what you will) and this production is certainly not safe. It’s got a central concept (spoiler: it is set in a psychiatric ward) which yields some truly stunning, I’m-seeing-these-lines-in-a-new-way moments (the players scene is a little bit joyous and Vinette Robinson, who I’ve already loved this year in Tender Napalm, gives the best Ophelia mad scene I’ve ever seen). It also unbalances, reduces and sometimes even stops the play from making sense. There’s a real beauty simply in hearing Sheen speak Shakespeare’s words and there’s a manical glint to his Hamlet that makes the play truly disturbing (I’m rarely scared in theatre and, even knowing the play to the extent I could do a quote-along-version, the first encounter with Old Hamlet scared me). The concept also meant that even I could only do a half hearted Sheen-is-too-old-to-play-Hamlet. But: this is mad Hamlet writ large. And y’know what? I don’t think Hamlet is mad. And, as the play unwinds, it’s difficult not to feel a little cheated. What changes in this world of Hamlet from the beginning to the end? Possibly nothing. And three and a half hours is a lot of time for nothing.*

*It does, however, have “Let be” and The Pirate Scene.**
**It doesn’t, however, have the line “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead”. EDITING, PEOPLE.

Though designed as an exercise in doing cool London stuff together, if I’m entirely honest there is the possibility that mine and @arexx’s cultural excursions have become an elaborate excuse to eat cake. Which is why I should note that whilst Tate Modern delivered us an utterly glorious Saturday evening view of London it failed entirely with the cake bit. I had to settle for some sort of tart whilst @arexx was consoled with olives stolen from the women whose table we colonised. Frankly, I expect better and if the Tate wanted to give us some cake as an apology then that would be good.

Tate Modern did considerably better with the art bit of the bargain (as you would hope), even as we wandered around using @arexx’s response as an indication of whether something was art or not (apparently a mirror is not art, a mirror that is not quite a mirror is. What can I say? I do not make the rules). Tacita Dean’s Film, the peg to which I’d hung our visit (film is much less scary than MODERN ART, right?), turned out to be most interesting in its relationship to the space of the Turbine Hall and the people viewing it. Even though Dean labels it a poem and labelling things poems immediately makes me take note, I struggled to engage. Not to be out done by children kicking the projections and people pretending to ride the on screen escalators, once everyone had buggered off and the hall was deserted but for a few people taking photos at its limits, @arexx and I stood so that our silhouettes were part of the footage and he pointed out that I was now part of the poem. And, okay, so at this point I did like Film a LOT because I am a sap.

Unexpectedly it was the Gerhard Richter exhibition that proved the hit of the night (especially given neither of us knew his work beforehand). Seeing the twists and turns of someone's artistic output over the course of decades proved entirely compelling and Richter has the sort of preoccupation with form that thrills me.

This may look like some odd scribbles, and I concede they are odd scribbles, but this is also the notes for The New Play I am writing. Really it came out of a challenge that Breakfast Club Boy set me for whilst I was in Edinburgh (which I failed miserably) but I’m about two thirds of the way through the play and it doesn’t make me want to stab things in my eyes so we are calling this a good thing.

This is a Porn Star Martini. It came from Ballans in Soho. It is a cocktail of JOY and the substance in the shot glass is champagne. I "wasn't having a late one" this night. That didn't quite work out.

Hoop art is my newest, favouritest sewing thing. Three things to note:
1. The quote is the final line of Ginny Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (ten points if you already knew that)
2. The fabric is from Sanderson's Bloomsbury range (it's "Vanessa" should you be wondering, and Vanessa was, of course, Ginny Woolf's sister. This all makes me very happy indeed.)
3. The wonky "o" is as yet more proof that I shouldn't try and sew whilst watching X Factor as the rage it induces is too distracting.

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