Roman Tragedies at the Barbican review *****

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Roman Tragedies

Barbican Theatre, 19th March 2017

Right that fella in the pic above is Hans Kesting. And for my money he is the best stage actor in the world (though to be fair the fact that I have only seen a small sub-set  of the total universe of stage actors may lead you to suspect some exaggeration here). Yet I don’t understand a word he says (well maybe one or two). And I have only seen him twice. But I stick by this.

His Richard III in Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Kings of War last year was mesmerising. His powerful frame crammed into a tiny suit with a birthmark on his face (all that was required to conjure up disability and difference), and using a mirror to expose his soul (did I really just write that) and lay bare his self-hate, he nailed it in my book.

And if anything in this production his Mark Antony was even more powerful. His funeral oration in response to Brutus’s justification was riveting as he prowled around the stage sometimes leaving the microphone and tearing at his tie – frankly I would have done whatever he asked if he were a leader of men in the real world even as I knew he was lying through his teeth. And he wasn’t alone. Eelco Smits as Brutus constantly probing his own conscience, Bart Siegers breaking down outside the auditorium as Enobarbus, Chris Nietvelt’s skin crawlingly needy Cleopatra, Gijs Scholten van Aschat as Coriolanus throwing the ultimate power tantrum. There were many others. The whole ensemble is just extraordinary having worked together under wunderkind director van Hove for many years. The last hour or so of A and C was perfect theatre – they must all know exactly what they are doing but it just felt so utterly and aggressively spontaneous.

The thing is by translating Shakespeare into Dutch and then back into English through the subtitles you can follow all the action whilst still retaining most of the poetry. By hacking all the war scenes out and focussing solely on the rulers and not on the ruled that they generally disdain, the real motives behind the exercise of political power are exposed. Ego, prejudice, love. ignorance, jealously are all laid bare with cool heads and analysis in short supply. By setting the action in a conference centre cum news room (so everything is “on”and visible), and in modern dress, the timeless nature of the exercise of power is exposed. And by allowing the audience to shift around at will, all this can be seen through multiple viewpoints (which you choose) and with us, the observers, becoming the observed/the ruled. The parallels with the populism in the world today effortlessly emerge (as no doubt they did in Shakespeare’s day – the experts can tell you more).

And it is anything but a marathon. Watching episode after episode of the Wire or Breaking Bad or that Game of Thrones cartoon is a bloody marathon yet millions of people do it. This is a breeze by comparison and you can even eat you sarnies and sit on a sofa.

Anyway hopefully you get the picture and can see why the punters and luvvies rave about this.

Of course it isn’t much good telling you this now that this is over but Toneelgroep Amsterdam stays at the Barbican for Obsession with Jude Law as the lead Gino in an adaption of the Visconti film and then the ensemble will bring their take on a couple of Bergman films. And they will I am sure be back again next year and they have the collaborations with Simon Stone and Katie Mitchell on their home turf. Maybe not the same as these genius Shakespeare mash-ups but whatever comes will be mandatory viewing anyway. Just look on their website at what they haven’t brought to London yet from the back catalogue and salivate.

Korn maar op!

The Miser at Richmond Theatre review ***

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The Miser

Richmond Theatre, 22nd February 2017

Just catching up with this from a few weeks ago prior to the current West End run at the Garrick Theatre.

Now comedy is a tricky business to get right. Moliere’s tale with satirical and farcical forebears by way of Plautus and Italy has all the stock scenes you might wish for. The cast is definitely up for it with a performance of great energy from Griff Rhys Jones, a sardonic turn as multiple characters from Lee Mack on his “proper” theatrical debut and sterling support from the likes of Matthew Horne, Kathy Wix and Andi Osho (for me the best performance here) all off the telly.

And the whole thing is brought together by the go-to director to deliver sure fire comedy theatre in Sean Foley. LD and I really enjoyed The Painkiller which he directed as part of Branagh’s last London season though I think the playwright Francis Veber combined with perfect roles for the comedy talents of Branagh himself and Rob Brydon (anyone remember Future Conditional) made Foley’s job easier. Otherwise though whilst the whole family enjoyed The Ladykillers and SO and I tolerated Mad World My Masters, nether set our pulses racing.

So how was this Miser. Well enough gags and visual humour stuck to raise a few laughs but it all felt a bit laboured and obvious to be honest. Not unenjoyable but not memorable. I think the play has the capacity to offer a satirical insight in today’s world with Harpagon’s worship of money but this was more Mrs Browns Boys than Father Ted if you get my drift. The obvious can be subtle just not here. But like I say comedy on the stage is really tough. Oh for another Old Vic Noises Off.

Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place review ***

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Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion

Two Temple Place, 15th February 2017

Just a quick shout out for this interesting, compact exhibition. For those who don’t know Two Temple Place it is a neo-Gothic, late Victorian mansion on the Embankment built for an Astor and full to the brim of OTT panelling, carving and painting. It puts on occasional exhibitions at the beginning of each year and this year it is a diverting journey through key British figurative artists of the first half of the C20.

Many of the artists represented here spent sizeable chunks of their working lives at various locations in Sussex hence the theme and many were associated with the Bloomsbury Group and latterly whimsical British surrealism. Sussex no doubt because the houses are nice and the rich toffs have always liked it and it was close to the capital. But also to be fair because the landscapes did offer material to feed the muse. But don’t expect any proletarian radicalism here.

What you do get though are 120 or so works by many of the key figures in British art through the 1920s to 1950s.My favourites are the sculptures from Eric Gill (we can still appreciate the art I think), some lovely Vanessa Bell works (including a perfect still-life and fine fabrics), an Eric Ravilious interior, landscapes and studies by John Piper, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash, watercolours by Edward Burra and some haunting photos by Lee Miller.

All in all worth a detour or a lunchtime trip if you work close by. And it’s free. On until 23rd April.

P.S. I note that a fair proportion of the works on show here come from the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne which is one of my absolute favourites. It always has interesting exhibitions informed by its permanent collection. Like the Turner Contemporary in Margate a great excuse when the sun comes out to get on the train, scoff some chips and ice cream, take a look at some of the shops set up by the East London bearded dispora and generally promenade. Lovely.

Hamlet at the Almeida review *****

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Hamlet

Almeida Theatre, 11th March 2017

“…. but I’ve forgotten what Hamlet is about. 

It’s about a young man called Hamlet. And a girl called Ophelia who goes mad. And a ghost. And a Queen called Gertrude who gets poisoned. And a king called Claudius who gets stabbed. And a young man called Laertes who gets killed in a duel, and an old man called Polonius who gets killed by mistake.

I remember now. Not a Bright Piece …. “

From Henrietta Sees It Through by Joyce Dennys

The SO’s unparalleled reading of first half C20 memoirs turned up the above. A perfect spoiler/summary which tickled me. Hamlet may be the greatest play that big Will ever created but for me it still has some plot development that needs a deft directorial touch as well as, obviously, a believable psychological portrait from the Prince himself. That means a logic to the pile up of corpses, a Hamlet who loves Mummy and Daddy, reasons why Gertrude might love Claudius who therefore cannot just be just a weakling or a tw*t from the off, a Polonius who isn’t a total buffoon, an Ophelia who isn’t off with the fairies, a properly p*ssed off Laertes, good reasons why Hamlet might still have mates whilst his behaviour gets ever more erratic and preferably sotto voce reference to Norway and England.

For me this Hamlet ticked all the boxes and much. much more. I can’t pretend I have seen loads of great actors do their thing here nor can I remember vast swathes of the text. You can read the proper reviews to get all of that. But I can tell you that this is, in my view, about as good as Shakespeare gets.

Casting Andrew Scott as Hamlet if I am honest, probably didn’t require a massive leap of imagination. He looks the part (still sufficiently youthful) and surely was a shoe-in to play an unhinged mind based on previous work (oh alright based on his Moriarty on the telly as that is all I really know).

But OMG as the kids might say. Does he deliver. The conversational delivery meant I could savour almost every line and hear plenty that had not previously registered. There was an inevitability to his behaviour as events unfolded reinforced by the continuous animation in his face and hands . The petulance and narcissism that I want from a Hamlet was abundant. Let’s be honest he can be an annoying little s**t.

The relationships were perfectly pitched. The archness in the scenes with the actors, with Polonius, with Horatio and with the gravedigger were spot on. And the emotional tension created in the scenes with Gertrude, Ophelia and with Claudius (a gun and a dream, maybe – brilliant). And the soliloquies were perfectly delivered (and there are some cracking notes in the programmes about the psychology around voices in the head).

Hard for me to imagine better performances as well from a tactile Juliet Stevenson (Gertrude) especially as realisation turns into self-sacrifice, Jessica Brown Findlay (Ophelia), just edge of seat stuff with the herbs (a phrase your are unlikely to hear again!), Luke Thompson (Laertes), lump in throat in the final scenes with Hamlet, and Peter Wright (Polonius) a proper loving Dad and a vital right hand man. And for me Angus Wright’s (Claudius) more declamatory delivery fitted the nature of a chap who I think is rarely plagued with self doubt unlike his step-son.

The real genius though is director Robert Icke who is at the top of his game here. That’s not to stay he is infallible. Myself and BD (who was a massive Simpsons fan when she was a littlun) didn’t get on with Mr Burns where the concept drowned the characters for me, and whilst The Red Barn at the NT looked amazing I think the story was perhaps ultimately too thin, even as it passed through the hands of David Hare and the eyes of Mr Icke, to support the promise. 1984 though was brilliant, his Mary Stuart was absorbing and, for me, his Uncle Vanya was revelatory (I have not always got on with this), but even this was surpassed by Mr Icke’s Oresteia which was magnificent with the expanded prologue setting up the moral pickles and making the intervention of the gods gripping instead of a bit bonkers.

In this Hamlet the use of video is inspired not hackneyed, in the Ghost scene, in the play close-ups and in the conclusion, all reinforcing the the themes of surveillance and tine passing. The idea of Claudius’ confession as a dream is intriguing as is Ophelia’s breakdown from a wheelchair. There is mordant comedy in the Polonius/Hamlet scene. All in all lots of bang up to date ideas but which all serve a purpose.

Love it, love it, love it. And the good news. It is transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre apparently. So no excuses now. Get a ticket.

John Latham at the Serpentine Gallery review ****

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John Latham: A World View

Serpentine Gallery, 17th March 2017

in recent years I have had a growing fascination with the “pure” Conceptual Art (only capitals will do here) of the 1960’s and 1970s and the way it appears to have come to influence chunks of today’s artistic discourse. This is from the perspective of an amateur observer/consumer so I have no idea about the theories that lie behind it, how it is taught in art schools and who owns or buys this stuff, but I have sought out opportunities to see some of it and feel compelled to investigate further.

It makes sense to me to distil art down to the concept that lies behind it and I am strongly drawn to minimalist artistic out put (in music as well as “art”). I am not a maximalist which I think is why most of the Western art canon from the C17, C18 and C19 leaves me cold. I just can’t be doing with acres of flesh and frocks and gods and classicism and rich folk. I like the straightforward where looking doesn’t give me a headache. If I walk through a “national” collection I will pay close attention to the Flemish, Dutch and Italian “primitive”, the Dutch Golden Age portraits and still lifes, then ignore everything until some of the Impressionists and post Impressionists appear, then again be selective about the C20 until the really minimalist stuff appears. Oh and then most contemporary stuff also leaves me cold.

Now I gather that the UK and US fellas (usually blokes) who first came up with the Conceptual wheeze (Sol LeWitt, this bloke Latham, Art & Language, Fluxus, John Cage and so on) were not entirely enamoured of the kind of minimalism represented by the likes of Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Elsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Carl Andre and so on so I must be careful not to get by -isms in a pickle. But there is something for me in this Conceptualism I think.

The Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979 exhibition last year at the Tate Britain turned out to be a cracking insight into what I found interesting and in some cases less interesting about Conceptual Art of this era. The bit where the theorising disappears up its own a***hole, and I fear there are a lot of these, are hard to handle. The pointless simplicity or hopeless naivety of some of the “concepts” can also be frustrating. It is all well and good preaching that artistic endeavour should seek to criticise its own ecosystem (though to me a bit pointless as it is axiomatic that a) artists go to art school and b) that artists only exist when public or private patrons are there to “own” the art), as well as explore the relationship between art and society/culture, but if the best you can come up with is a neon light sculpture saying bash the rich then in my book you need to try harder.

And there are also an awful lot of wry, one note visual jokes in Conceptual Art. Oh and a lot of junk scattered on the floor or glued on the wall.

Then I see something where the idea and the making process is interesting and thought provoking and multi layered and where the result has some sort of aesthetic beauty (for me). And that really. really works for me. Not in the way that peering at a van Eyck does but still a comparable rush.

And this exhibition of John Latham’s output has all of this for me with very little of the “tough to bear” stuff that this simpleton can’t fathom. I confess the theory stuff, “least” events and “flat time” was well beyond me but the works, the one second spray paintings, the burnt books, the roller blind paintings, the land art, were all fascinating. And the way in which his ideas have gone on to influence a current generation, communication and language in art, the interaction of art with science and philosophy, the role of chance, intervention and the role of the artist in government, was an eye opener.

So no need to swallow all the potentially pretentious, brain aching stuff and nothing ugly to look at just a very condensed introduction to a fascinating character in a lovely space. And some thoughts to take away. Take a look if you are in the vicinity. It’s on until 21st May. It’s free. Oh and wander along to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery next door. There are four artists whose work is directly informed by John Latham. I wasn’t sure about 3 of them but the video of Tania Bruguera describing what she is up to in Cuba both artistically and politically is inspiring.

 

Some ideas for the culturally inclined in London

So here is a brief list of what is on in London or coming up … and is of interest to me and maybe to you

Theatre

This is just an update of the following post … with a few new ideas that have cropped up recently

Some forthcoming theatre ideas

Current best picks – what’s on and booking

  • Obsession – Barbican – booking and opening shortly – should be a cracker based on Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s track record
  • INK – Almeida – booking now
  • Against – Almeida – booking from May
  • Othello – Wilton’s Music Hall – booking now
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Harold Pinter Theatre – on now – reviews say it is unmissable but fancy West End prices have to be stomached

National Theatre

These I have already mentioned …

  • Follies – Summer 2017
  • Network – Nov 2017
  • Mosquitoes – July 2017
  • Macbeth – not until Spring 2018
  • Amadeus is coming back in 2018

These are the newly announced

  • Beginning – Oct 2017 – new romantic comedy by David Eldridge – “the morning after a party two couples…blah blah … changes their lives etc” – I don’t know his work but it is directed by Polly Findlay who is terrific director – the words romantic and comedy should normally give cause for concern but the NT has backed this writer before so I think worth a punt though don’t think it will fly off the shelf
  • The Great Wave – Spring 2018 – set in Japan and Korea – that’s all there is on the website but co-production with Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn (which is tip top and currently being refurbished) and directed by Indhu Rubasingham who is the director of the Tricycle

On now or booking … I thave alked about these before

  • Twelfth Night – I haven’t seen it yet shortly but reviews are great
  • Angels in America – sold out – decide if you want to see it in the cinema but I would understand if you don’t …
  • Consent
  • Salome
  • Common

Barbican Theatres

Just saw Roman Tragedies by Toneelgrope Amsterdam – it was utterly brilliant – so when this bunch come back next year and put on a classic you should go – no excuses

Barbican will announce new season shortly which willI guess will include RSC transfers from Stratford of Titus Andronicus and the three Roman plays, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, that is the three plays that make up Roman Tragedies above – happy days ….

As a reminder this is the forthcoming list which I discussed in the previous post

  • The Winters Tale – Cheek by Jowl production
  • Obsession – this is the Toneelgrope Amsterdam production I am most interested in with that lovely Jude Law
  • The Tempest –the RSC transfer

Young Vic

Nothing new to report so I still am most interested in the following

  • Life of Galileo – Brecht classic
  • Wings – Juliet Stevenson is the lead
  • The Suppliant Women – transfer of classic Greek tragedy

Royal Court Theatre

Again no recent additions so more details in previous post

  • The Ferryman – sold out but the West End transfer is still available
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture – has opened but no reviews I can see yet yet
  • Anatomy of a Suicide
  • Road
  • Killology
  • Bodies
  • Victory Condition

Almeida Theatre

So a re-cap first about Against as I think this will be a rapid seller and it will pay to get in early I reckon

The new play by Christopher Shinn (Other People, Dying City, Now or Later, Teddy Ferrara) who is a massive luvvies favourite has been announced – it is called Against and will be directed by Ian Rickson and will have the lovely Ben Wishaw in the lead – if you have never seen Wishaw on stage then with all due respect you are a numpty – he is brilliant though I have a crush on him I admit – anyway here’s the blurb from the website

Silicon Valley. The future. A rocket launches.

Luke is an aerospace billionaire who can talk to anyone. But God is talking to him. He sets out to change the world. Only violence stands in his way.

Now to me that sound bloody fantastic so I will stab a guess this will sell fast – booking opens in May for performances in second half August and through Sep – so let me know I interested and I will get some dates planned – I am a member so happy to book for you

The Hamlet with Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) is just brilliant – certainly the best Hamlet I have seen and up there with the best Shakespeare – but I can’t see a cinema performance yet

I still highly recommend INK by James Graham who wrote This House, which is about Parliamentary politics in the 1970s and is a brilliant play – this new play is about Murdoch setting up The Sun and should be a very funny satire – directed by Rupert Goold

Donmar Warehouse

Limehouse and the The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui both sold out – reviews for Limehouse are so-so

I will keep my eyes peeled for the new season when announced – they have a new ticketing system but this is usually a bun fight

Old Vic Theatre

Woyzeck, Girl from the North Country and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – (where reviews are strong) all booking

Hampstead Theatre

Filthy Business (reviews are very good as might have been expected), Occupational Hazards, and Gloria – these are the main stage productions I have already covered – there are a couple in the downstairs stage but they don’t grab me

Fringe Theatres

A couple of new things at Southwark Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith and Wilton’s Music Hall which I have highlighted

Orange Tree Theatre – The Lottery of Love and An Octeroon

Southwark Playhouse – The Cardinal and now The Island which is a modern classic by SA playwright Athol Fugard about two inmates on Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned – you can do worse than a bench on a school night at Southwark Playhouse which is consistently good 

Park Theatre, Finsbury Park –Madame Rubinstein, Twitstorm, A Clockwork Orange as before

Gate Theatre, Notting Hill – Grounded – I loved it but nearly over and not compulsory

Grounded at the Gate Theatre review ****

Finborough Theatre, Earls Court –You’re Human Like the Rest of Them and Incident at Vichy – both revivals of neglected or early works which is the theatre’s forte (as it is for the Orange Tree)

Arcola Theatre in Dalston – there is a Cherry Orchard by Chekhov coming up I am going to – initial reviews are mixed but the boy Chekhov normally rises above directors and performers to deliver a worthwhile couple of hours – the new season is open – Marlowe’s Tamburlaine by a British East Asian women’s company, a version of Camus’ The Plague and a Richard III with Greg Hicks, a veteran Shakespearean

“Outer” and Other Theatres

Rose Theatre KingstonMy Brilliant Friend Parts 1 and 2 – reviews in the sensible papers are good and I agree but not sure I would insist you schlep out this far if you are not a local

My Brilliant Friend at the Rose Theatre Kingston review ****

Lyric Hammersmith – can be relied upon for properly controversial revivals (and excellent stuff for kids) – City of Glass (based on the Paul Auster novels) looks interesting – the reviews from Manchester where it is currently playing suggest the staging is interesting even if the story is a bit slippery – adapted by Duncan MacMillan who has been involved one way or another in most of the innovative theatre in London over the last few years – maybe one for your correspondent alone – also coming up is Terror a German courtroom drama about a pilot’s decision to shoot down a hijacked plane where the audience gets to decide the outcome – and a new Seagull (adapted by a favourite playwright of mine Simon Stephens who adapted Curious Incident …) where Chekhov basically sets out all the themes/characters he would bang on about in later plays – yes there is a gun, lots of voddie, pompous schoolteacher, unrecognized writing genius, ageing but still sexy matriarch, shrewish wife, some serfs watching on – all in all I think these three plays all look interesting and the Lyric is very good value

Wilton’s Music Hall – A new shout here – the Othello coming up at Wilton’s Music Hall – for those who have never been the venue is a real treat – super shabby in a Victorian ghost story sort of way it is often used for period TV pieces – anyway this Othello comes from Bristol Tobacco Factory and has cracking reviews – again cheap as chips here if a bit uncomfortable

West End Theatres

Nothing new vs last time so just a recap

Philanthropist at the Trafalgar Studios

Apollo TheatreTravesties – an awful lot to take in but well worth it if you put the effort in

Travesties at the Apollo Theatre review ****

Wyndhams TheatreDon Juan in Soho

Harold Pinter Theatre – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – the reviews suggest this is a must see

Theatre Royal Haymarket – The Goat or Who is Sylvia

Duke of Yorks – The Glass Menagerie – seen it and loved it but it is very Tennessee Williams

Art Galleries and Museums

Don’t miss

  • Cezanne Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery – from Oct 2017
  • America After the Fall – Royal Academy – reviews outstanding
  • Revolution: Russia Art 1917-1932 – I thoroughly enjoyed this and a great foil for the American one above

Same as for theatre above – just a checklist really

Tate Britain

  • David Hockney – to 29th May
  • Impressionists in London (from Nov 2017),
  • Rachel Whiteread (from Sep 2017)
  • Queer British Art

Tate Modern

  • Robert Rauschenberg until 2nd April – have seen it and now know why the smart people bang on about him – he just seemed like an all round top optimistic bloke which came through in the art
  • The Radical Eye photography until 7th May
  • Wolfgang Tillmans – I saw this and liked it – a prolific photographer with all sorts of thought-provoking ideas – but not an essential unless you are in the Tate
  • Coming up Alberto Giacometti, Modigliani and Red Star Over Russia

Victoria and Albert Museum

From May there is the Pink Floyd exhibition

National Gallery

  • Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites from Oct
  • Monochrome: Paintings in Black and White – from Oct

National Portrait Gallery

  • Cezanne Portraits from Oct 2017 – compulsory
  • Howard Hodgkin – about to open – UK’s greatest colourist and made more poignant by his very recent death

Royal Academy of Arts

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 to 17th April – this was a real eye opener into Soviet Art for me and the relationship between State and artists and there was plenty of new stuff to get my teeth into – highly recommended

Russian Art at the Royal Academy review ****

America After the Fall – I recommend seeing both of these back to back ….

Other galleries

Other exhibitions that catch my eye

  • John Latham at the Serpentine Gallery – so the daddy of British conceptual art – I went and it just bolstered my fascination but would not be offended if you though it was complete b*******s
  • Whitechapel Gallery – Eduardo Paolozzi to 14th May
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery – Vanessa Bell to 4th June
  • The Japanese House at the Barbican from 23rd Mar
  • At the British Museum is the American Dream exhibition of prints
  • Robots exhibition at the Science Museum

Opera

I only deal with a bit of C20 opera (notably Britten), some contemporary opera, some Mozart and some Baroque … so basically most of the canon is off limits for me which is of precious little use to you I realise. Sorry.

Royal Opera House

The Exterminating Angel – Thomas Ades  – this will be a fabulous score I am sure – based on the surrealist Bunuel film – this is seriously pretentious but I have very high hopes

Mitridate, re di Ponto – this was written by Mozart aged 15 – a classical theme so closer to Baroque structure than the mature operas – a revival which had top reviews previously -booking opens 28th Mar for us mortals

Elsewhere Hackney Empire puts on a lot of Baroque opera by English Touring Opera – I have seen some Monteverdi there which was jolly – I like the sound of the Julius Caesar by Handel in two parts in Oct – for those who like the noise Handel makes this should be a treat though Baroque opera often involves dodgy sets and “park and bark” singers who don’t do much acting so beware

Film

Loved Elle – I could watch Isabelle Huppert read the telephone directory (do they still exist) but this was perfect for her brand of hauteur and facial tics but be warned it is provocation after provocation to us liberal types like most of director Verhoeven’s stuff so read reviews carefully

On the to see list now is Lady Macbeth and that Personal Shopper as well as Get Out

The End

Michael Andrews and Richard Serra at the Gagosian Galleries London review *****

Michael Andrews: Earth Air Water *****

Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill London, 2nd February 2017

Richard Serra: NJ-2, Rounds:Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, Rotate *****

Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street London, 21st October 2016

Just a very late shout out for two of the most interesting gallery exhibitions currently on in London in my view. Mind you the Michael Andrews closes on March 25th but if you are anywhere near the gallery (on Grosvenor Hill just off Grosvenor Square) this week I very strongly recommend you take a look. The Richard Serra exhibition at the other gallery on Britannia Street just round the corner from Kings Cross has been extended to April 13th is also definitely worth a visit if you find yourself close by.

I knew nothing about Michael Andrews but he was a contemporary of the big lights in his early days in the 1950s and 1960s in Britain (Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and so on). Apparently post 1970 he focussed on landscapes and by heavens it is as well for us that he did. The Proper reviews can walk you through the important stuff. I will just say I found these works extraordinarily beautiful. I mean just aesthetically some of the most wonderful things I have see in a long time. The key lies in the spray painting technique he employed apparently. This means big swathes of acrylic paint to build up landscapes (of Australia in one room and Scotland/the Thames in another) with a further room dominated by a recurrent theme of an air balloon above the landscape (the Lights series). And the room full of paintings of fish is just stunning – I know that sounds a bit daft but it really is.

Anyway please just take a look. You will not regret it.

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The Richard Serra is equally stunning. Three recent sculptures, with NJ-2 the standout, created on a monumental scale. I just kept walking in and out of it – couldn’t help myself. All you need in terms of form and volume but playful and the colour of the weathered steel is breathtaking. The colour of the other two pieces is similarly draw dropping as the weathering on the Rounds pieces is like some sort of reptile skin. Anyway the clever people will tell you more but do go and have wander through NJ-2 and you will see that I am not wrong. It might just be hunks of metal at the end of the day but some of the best hunks of metal I imagine I will ever seen.

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