Tuesday 16 November 2010

London 12-14 Nov 2010

ultra-cool: Daniel Radcliffe did The Elements a capella on the Graham Norton show on Fri night.

At the NPG on Sat: Thomas Lawrence portature exhibition - very good & and well-put-together exhib; Photo Portrait Prize - the one of Tony Blair showed him as aged and care-worn; Royal Society 350th anniversary; the Lady Chatterley trial.

At the Coward Theatre I saw the thriller Deathtrap (review and trailer). This is in Sleuth and Dial M for Murder territory. The cast are excellent and the play has many layers & twists, reaching a satisfying conclusion.

On Sunday I went for my first walk across Regents Park, carrying on across the canal and road to Primrose Hill. It was odd being in a place for the first time yet with it being utterly familiar, as this has been in so many films/TV.

Down the Hill to Regents Park Road - a high street of small shops (no high street multiples), with cafes and delis predominating.

On the corner of Regents Park Road and Sharpleshall Street, behind the library, is the pop-up Museum of Everything in its current instance. I'd missed the first two so was determined to see this one. Exhibition #3 is curated by Peter Blake: a fascinating series of rooms which could be characterised as the byways of popular culture: (review)

  • pics of Victorian freaks
  • dolls & puppets
  • Ted Willcox embroideries - witty satires on contemporary life (same territory as Grayson Perry's Walthamstow tapestry)
  • Peter B's collection of Hornby trains and circus posters.
  • Walter Potter's extraordinary collection of stuffed animals, making tableaus of the 'improving' Victorian kind, saved from The Potter Museum of Curiosity (Art Gallery: The Museum of Everything - The Arts Desk)
  • Arthur Windley's miniature fairground - a room full of hand-built classic toys, built up over 40 years - a delight (BBC news)
After a short walk to Chalk Farm Tube and the Northern Line to Bank, I went to the City of London's just-opened first shopping mall, One New Change. The roof viewing gallery is supposed to be open to midnight every day but wasn't actually accessible. There were just 2 useful shops (Foyles, M&S Simply Food), all the rest are the usual fashion victim stuff.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Lady Benda

I saw this in the paper on 25-sep and I wondered... Lady Milverton... if there was a link to Britt's grandmother-in-law, who I met just once, at Britt's wedding 15 years ago. The family always spoke of her as "Lady Bender" (which puzzled me - an unlikely aristo name) - now I know it was "Lady Benda". Then I read Daisy's blog which led via Google to a fascinating group of articles:

Sunday 3 October 2010

G&S thoughts

The Sky Arts Gilbert & Sullivan season is winding down now.

I just saw a treat within it: a Thames TV filming of Jonathan Miller's ENO production of The Mikado from 1987 and featured Eric Idle as Ko-Ko and Lesley Garrett as Yum-Yum.

The setting was relocated to an English art deco seaside hotel of the 1920s, with the chorus featuring as customers, maids and bellhops.

The superb costumes were by Sue Blane (sh also did The Rocky Horror Show). The Mikado himself is in a fat suit seemingly inspired by Peter Ustinov as Poirot or Mr. Creosote.

I saw the ENO revival around 2001, which seemed delightfully fresh. There are too many people who are overly-protective about the G&S canon and opposed to doing what G&S would have done to keep bringing in new audiences.

Simon Butteris's excellent documentary series features contributions from his friend from Cambridge G&S Soc. days, Nick Hytner, who said that G&S's time has come again. That made me think that he'll now plan for a revival at the National Theatre sometime in the next couple of years. He has been putting on revivals of classic musicals and G&S are the origin of the modern stage & screen musicals, so it's a natural step.

There's a clear antagonism between a group of purists, seemingly aligned with the defunct D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and people who want to bring G&S to modern audiences. For instance at one of Raymond Gubbay's Christmas concerts at the Barbican, fearuring ex-DOC personnel, some of them made carping comments, clapped by some of the audience, about more recent revival attempts, seemingly based on a lack of 'purity'.

In 2002 I saw the New D'oyly Carte Opera Company's production of The Mikado at the Savoy, featuring Brian Blessed as a wondrously OTT Mikado. Sue Blane's costumes for the film Topsy Turvy were used in this production.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Sat 21 Aug 2010 trip to London & Chatham

05:45 train from Cambridge then 07:17 train from London Bridge to Chatham at 08:24.

This was my first trip to the north Kent coast so looked out of the train window the whole way. The view from the train was mainly of chalk cuttings, tunnels and trees. To the south there's farmland but to the north lots of industrial sites. There was a brief glimpse of the M25 bridge (with slowly-moving traffic).

In retrospect I should have Googled for bus info but I had it in mind to see the area on foot, having 90 mins before the Historic Dockyard opened.

Just beyond the station are some old shopping streets, now part-pedestrianised. Beyond that the road leads past the entrance to Fort Amherst and then there's a long way to go with not a lot of interest to see until the entrance to the Historic Dockyard area, which has been the focus of a lot of renewal and investment.

Chatham Historic Dockyard has lots going on. While I was waiting a steamroller was being readied just ouside a working boatyard. There are several steam-powered boats moored. The dockyard railway engines are being maintained and there's an assortment of rolling stock.

The £18.50 ticket (including guide book) is valid for a year. I started with the much-acclaimed Stanley Spencer exhibition - his paintings of Clyde shipbuilding. The adjacent galleries of naval models and paintings are also impressive.

The guided tour of the Ropery was a hoot: set in 1875, the foreman "Mr. Steve to you" tells you all about life in the Ropery and some rope gets made by the group.

I went round the museum of the dockyard - lots of fascinating details. The quay outside is where the docks scene in "The Mummy" was filmed.

I didn't have time to see/do these:

  • HMS Ocelot submarine tour
  • trip on Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle
  • Fort Amherst Heritage Park and Caverns
  • Old Brook Pumping Station
I caught a Kings Ferry bus back to the station and a train back to Charing Cross. I was keen to get to the Jermyn Street Theatre for a ticket for the short run of 'If So Then Yes' - a rare new play by NF Simpson. I also got one for the much-talked-about 'Ghost Stories'.

This was may last chance to catch the National Galley 'Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries' exhibition: it was packed but as interesting and enlightening as I thought it would be. I also went across the road into St Martins for the new 4th Plinth candidates exhibition; Once again the standout candidate, the ATM-and-organ, seems unlikely to succeed (like Tracey's Meerkats last time).

The 17:28 back from Liverpool Street was cancelled without explanation, so I had a tedious 50min wait, a sour note to a fine day. Then the Arsenal fans who boarded the service were well-behaved family groups - could have been much worse.

For future reference:
From Chatham Station turn right and right aging for the bus stops. Kings Ferry Dockside shuttle (80p single) and Arriva 140 are the main services between the station and the Historic Dockyard site.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Trip to London 8-Aug-2010

05:45 train to London then tried a new route to the Olympics site: bus 205 from the front of Kings Cross, along City Road and on to Bow Church. The pace of work at the site is stunning.

Next I went to this year's Serpentine Pavilion by Jean Nouvel – a huge red tented cafe in essence. The Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition next door was good – some very striking works. [review]

The Fleming Collection had on the Scottish Summer Exhibition, with some fine works but all at high prices.

Next I went round the corner to the Marlborough Gallery for the Paula Rego exhibition but it's closed August Saturdays (contradicting its web site). The exhibition was previously at the Foundling Museum.

Then on to the RA for the Summer Exhibition (some good stuff, as usual the architecture room being best). The Sargent & The Sea exhibition was as good as I thought it would be. [duff Grauniad review, accurate Telegraph one] - I bought the book of the exhib.

In Covent Garden piazza there was a huge crowd around the opening of the new flagship Apple store. The snaking queue cheered each time someone emerged with a purchase and there was a stills photographer taking each person's pic. In the NE of the piazza there was a secondary queue. [review]

Diagonally opposite Holborn station is the new Metro Bank, which looks very bright, spacious and smart, a refreshing change of image.

Near Holborn Circus, Ye Olde Mitre was specially open as it's GBBF weekend. Good to see no changes, other than a much-needed refurb of the loos.

Next it was bus and train to Dulwich Picture Gallery for the Wyeth Family - their first UK exhib. since 1987 at the Fitz. Sadly there was no book of this exhib but 1987's was available.

On the way to Dulwich the ticket barriers at London Bridge refused my zone1-6 Travelcard so I had to use an Oyster card instead. What's that all about?

I stopped off at Borough Market, which was still heaving at about 4pm. As I left Anna Maxwell Martin pushed past on her bike. I see she's soon to be in a new Andrew Davies adaptation.

I stopped off at the JDW Crosse Keys before finsihing at the Barbican for Surreal House – an entertaining angle on surrealism at home. There's also a John Bock exhib. - essentially ensembles of stuff in pods sticking out from walls and ceiling.

Monday 5 July 2010

London trip Sat 3-Jul-2010

I've been trying to use the Woolwich extension of the DLR since it opened about 18 months ago; this would have been my first trip to Woolwich. I set out at 05:45 to make the most of the coolest part of the day. Instead this happened.

On leaving Shadwell station I headed north through a very run-down 1960s residential/shopping centre, Watney Market, where market stalls were being set up. Emerging on Commercial Road, there was a 10min+ wait for a no. 15 bus westwards, which was fairly full.

I was trying to get back on plan but arrived at Borough Market at 08:30, which proved to be too early as not enough stalls were ready, though it opened at 08:00. I carried on via buses RV1 and 77, arriving at Lambeth Palace at 09:15.

Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library was fascinating - stunning old books, documents such as the death warrant for Mary Queen of Scots...

I went next door to the Garden Museum, a lovely little museum with a very popular tea room attached.

Next stop was Aldwych Tube station for the Transforming the Tube exhibition. The exhib. was good but the attraction was this rare chance to see the disused station - still very much looking 1930s-1950s.

Next I went to Somerset House's Terrace Rooms to see City Living – highlights from the Fleming Collection. They showed a much wider selection than the old favourites such as the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. On the way out, a troup of young women danced in the fountains in the courtyard.

After lunch I arrived at the Comedy Theatre to see La Bete, starring Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce, and Mark Rylance. As usual with plays with big names, it attracted people who don't know how to behave.

David Hyde Pierce opened the piece with a monologue of about 8 minutes, setting out his character's artistic credentials as actor-manager of a serious troup and ranting about the popular performer his patron, the Princess, has lumbered him with. Then Mark Rylance comes on and has an even longer monologue putting his case for populist entertainment - mass appeal. There's no plot to speak of, just argument and counter-argument, done with style and wit, all in rhyming couplets. David Hyde Pierce was particularly fine: a subtle, nuanced performance, with little looks and gestures. Mark Rylance (as so often) gave a rather larger-than-life performance, suiting his character. Joanna Lumley wasn't on stage that much but was suitably regal. The last third was rather dull and drifting. [Review]

An odd couple got up and left about a third of the way through the interval-less performance. (Why do such people bother to come and then leave? Didn't they check first?)

On leaving at 16:20 I tangled with the end of the Gay Pride March & Traf.Sq. rally, so I headed into the City by bus for peace & quiet. Unusually lots of pubs were open, even after 5pm, due to World Cup (Germany getting their just reward of a semis place for their earlier good work in knocking England out).

    [An aside, on a favouite theme: this is a notable step forward. In the last 10 years the numbers of people in the City at weekends has been rising. Many coffee & sandwich bars have noticed and are open but pubs stubbornly refuse to open. (There are exceptions in the high-volume tourist areas of St Pauls and Tower Hill.)

I've given up on the rush&crush of afternoon/evening Kings Cross return trains and go with the civilised calm of Liverpool St ones (usually 70mins instead of 50mins).

England football team

Back around December 2007-January 2008, thinking about the state of the England football team, I came to the conclusion that the way forward was as follows, which is definitely not a quick-fix.
  1. Current premiership players to be banned from selection to England team. They are not and will never be sufficiently committed to the national team, as their ambitions are focused elsewhere, to the international arena of premiership clubs and all the associated sponsorship opportunities and celebrity culture.
  2. Establish a pool of central contracts, very much like rugby union and cricket, to encourage and stabilise promising talent and form the core of the team.
  3. Whilst this no doubt would be hugely disruptive for the team at first, once Division 1 & 2 players get used to the new situation, they will see there are two equally valid career paths : national team or Premiership.
  4. There must be significant periods of whole-team training. Again this is something rugby and cricket have resolved. The Division 1 and 2 clubs need to see that a successful national side is essential to their well-being. It took rugby and cricket clubs years to 'get' this and it's unlikely that Premiership clubs would ever accept such a sacrifice.
  5. Premiership managers to be banned from selection as England manager, since they inevitably have similar issues to the players. Ideally only former England players should be eligible but EU employment laws may hamper this. This is an important part of building a proper career structure and motiviation around the national team.

On joining the knife crime stats, 3-Jul-2010

Man with knife on train arrested:
    Source: Press Association. Published Date: 03 July 2010

    A man has been arrested after he was seen with a knife on a train, police said. Officers were called to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train shortly after 7am between Shadwell and Limehouse, east London.

    A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: "At 0707, the BTP were made aware of reports of a disorderly male seen with a knife on board a DLR train between Shadwell and Limehouse.

    "Officers from the BTP and Metropolitan Police attended and at 0822 the male was detained by police.

    "A member of the public was injured during this process but these injuries are believed to be minor.

    "While this incident was taking place DLR and C2C services were suspended."

    Copyright © Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I'd had an uneventful journey so far, 05:45 train to Kings Cross, Tube to Bank, and at 06:58 onto the middle car of the DLR to Woolwich. About 150 yards past Shadwell station the emergency stop button was pressed and we halted. The train guard came through from the front of the train to the rear.

Nothing happened for about 15 minutes - trains continued to pass - but looking back to the rear car it was clear the guard and a young man were 'in a situation' - the man had a long kitchen knife. The guard moved forward steadily, with the man following.

In the middle car the guard continued to do a great job of keeping the bloke (20ish) talking whilst moving gradually forward. The man was clear about staying 'within stabbing distance' though generally he rambled and was clearly under the influence of something. I was studiously avaiding the possibility of eye contact and I think all the passengers instinctively did something of the sort. The pair moved through to the front car.

About 07:35 the rear passenger doors opened and we started to de-train. There was a large group of DLR staff and police just behind the rear of the train and lots more on Shadwell station, where our names and addresses were taken.

The police suddenly decided that we should now leave the station and escorted us out, through sets of 'Police' tapes. As we left, a heavily tooled-up armed response unit arrived (machine guns, tear gas mortar...). There were 10 or so police vehicles in the street, the police helicopter was circling and even at that time in the morning a curious crowd beyond the tape barriers.

Saturday 19 June 2010

London trip Fri 4 – Sun 6 Jun 2010

a mix of exhibitions and theatre...

National Portrait Gallery: Bridget Riley Portraits - early drawings; Irving Penn Portraits (2nd visit); Alex Katz portraits - very striking pics so bought the book

Leighton House refurbed plus Closer To Home: Leighton's Collection Returned - a very unusual place, beautifully designed and now restored

White Cube Masons Yard: Antony Gormley – Test Sites [review] Generally I like his stuff but Test Sites (the grid of lights) was a yawn. Upstairs was his latest reworking of his body cast theme: imagine his usual metal body casts, in the usual array of poses, but each rendered in a set of metal cuboids to represent his body.

NLA gallery: Strata SE1 tower - stunning new landmark in Elephant & Castle; formal opening is on 1-jul; 1st building with own set of wind turbines - 3 at the top

BL: Magnificent Maps

Museum of London, at last fully reopened afer 2-3yr refurb of the Modern London galleries, which are stunning - must go back when gallery is quiet

Duke of York's Theatre: Bedroom Farce [review]- there were some cast changes for the transfer to West End [more]

Tate Modern: Exposed - the high-profile exhib was a disappointment though I'll go again when it's quiet to get a better view

National Theatre: exhibition of history of West End theatres and a Sunday performance of Thomas Middleton's excellent Women Beware Women - so much more entertaining than his contemporary Will Shakespeare (who's "dull & worthy" in my view) [review]

I should want to see these current high-profile productions: All My Sons, The Prisoner of 2nd Avenue, The Late Middle Classes, After the Dance - superb writers and/or casts but I can't summon enthusiasm for 'em