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Archive for May, 2010

It’s been a long draught.  I’m not sure why, lack of time and money I guess.  But this week I went to the theatre and to an art gallery, both for the first time in months.

I’ve been to many plays over the years at the National Theatre, and been underwhelmed by most.  Royal Hunt of the Sun was risible,  Zoe Wannamaker was embarrassing in The Rose Tattoo.  Matthew McFadyean was limp as usual, and Gambon swallowed his lines in Henry IV part I (I sold my ticket for part II).  August:Osage County was like an overlong American episode of EastEnders, and even the incredible Penelope Wilton couldn’t rescue The House of Bernarda Alba.  The only two things I’ve loved were Simon Russell Beale in Life of Galileo, a terrific, muscular new translation by David Hare, and who wouldn’t watch SRB boiling a kettle, and the utterly spectacular A Matter of Life and Death. 

So when J asked me along to see The White Guard at the National, my expectations were pretty low.  The Master and Magherita by Bulgakov is one of my favourite books, but I thought a play about the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution would be highly unlikely to hold my attention.  Unusually, I hadn’t read any press beforehand, otherwise I might have got a sense of the sort of night ahead of me.  I’m glad I didn’t, as the result was such a happy surprise. 

The play (Andrew Upton’s new translation) is very funny, laugh out loud funny.  The characters are real, three dimensional people, not just ciphers making political points.  The set (and despite all of my previous bad experiences with the National, they know how to make impressive sets) was extraordinary, it operated as an extension of the character’s experiences.    The play restored my faith in the National, and made me hungry to get back into theatre going as a regular night out.

I’d wanted to see Chris Ofili’s exhibition at Tate Britain since it opened, but hadn’t got organised.  I got an email reminder to say this was the final weekend, and realised as I was out of London I wouldn’t get to see it.  Tate Britain is a ten-fifteen minute walk from my office.  Friday lunchtime became now or never.  I asked E if he wanted to come, and always up for a jolly, he said yes.  We had 90 minutes to get there, round, and back to the office. 

I’d seen a couple of Ofili’s paintings in galleries over the years, and would recognise some of his work from reproductions, but E had never seen his work, so had no expectations.  It made it all the more special that he discovered something new, an artist he loved, as a result.  The work is so intense, so vibrant, undeniably beautiful.  There’s a tiny suspicion he might be a (very ornate, beautiful) one trick pony, but the later work shows he has grown and developed.   In the midst of a gallery full of largely traditional, white artists, it felt like a breath of the modern, the real, to see his work.  The only sad thing was that there were only white faces looking at the exhibition, at least whilst we were there.

It’s perhaps not unconnected that I’d experienced my first attack of writer’s block at a time when I hadn’t seen any theatre or visual art.  Influences and inspirations come from all areas, but without exposure to  different art forms, your own creative endeavours can stagnate.

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