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Archive for May, 2012

Hockney’s landscapes at the Royal Academy was the most joyful art exhibition I have ever been to. C and I spent three and half hours there, and thought that if there was a way to measure the happiness levels of visitors at the beginning and again at the end, there must be an increase.  Plenty of reviews have said that there was simply too much in this exhibition, of varying quality, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the volume, or bored by the recurring themes.  Hockney is observing the tiny details, the subtle yet dramatic changes occurring as the seasons pass, and invites the viewer to take pleasure in stillness, in the magnitude of the tiny.

‘It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven’  E.M.Forster

Hockney does do bigness of course, both in his use of multiple canvases and his perspectives on the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.  But I think the multiplying effect shows his fascination with the one square mile, and that it is by appreciating each part that we can wonder at the magnitude.  The majority of the pieces in the exhibition are of Yorkshire, the place of his childhood, and whilst it seems odd there are no grey skies, no muted shades, his bright colour palette creates a feeling that is celebratory, riotous.  He is in his 70s, and his workrate is prodigious.  That in itself is admirable.  Perhaps there is too much.  Perhaps his eye is not what it was.  But his joyfulness and vigour are ‘ebulliant to the point of jubilation’, and jubilation is the feeling created for the viewers.

Chick Corea and Gary Burton have been playing together for 40 years, and they seem almost to be reading each other’s minds when C and I saw them at the Barbican.  I know almost nothing about jazz, so had no idea what to expect.  I might have worried I’d find it a bit boring or inaccessible.  It was neither, I was riveted by their musicianship, and lifted by the sense of fun created by these two jazz legends.  A week or so after that, C and I finished our month of ‘virtuoso eccentrics’ with Camille, also at the Barbican.  “You’re my favourite French lady,” yelled one audience member, “will you be my girlfriend?”  She is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen on stage, vital and sexual and fun.  Her voice is an instrument, she makes musical noise with it, as well as straightforwardly singing.  She is a performer as well as a singer, her set is almost like a cabaret.  She borrowed an audience member’s socks to show off her moonwalk, and did a terrific cover of Wanna Be Startin Something.  Her own songs were joyous and playful, but never twee.  Wet Boy seemed to be both sexual and maternal, and her version of Too Drunk To Fuck was filthy and funny.  She is incomparable.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of many to have been (thankfully) defeated by plans to stage The Master and Margarita. The interweaving strands of 1930s Moscow and the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, magical realism and social realism coexisting in the same storylines, not to mention a naked woman flying across the night sky towards a huge, opulent and hedonistic ball hosted by Satan, make any potential staging of this novel a daunting challenge. Simon McBurney and his theatre company Complicite are known for their experimentalism and innovation, and their production at the Barbican in April was both. The stage was bare, the furniture minimal. The extraordinary lighting and laser projections did the rest. Paul Rhys as Woland and The Master was sinister as one and tragic as the other, Sinead Matthews as Margarita was fearless and committed.  Behemoth was a life-sized puppet, foul-mouthed and Liverpudlian-accented. The Variety Theatre scene used the audience, filming the first few rows and commenting on the clothes and shoes of audience members, modernising and adapting the source material.  It was an experience of ‘total theatre’, intense and compelling, and without being cowed by the source material Complicite did justice to Bulgakov’s masterpiece.  As B and I stepped out into the Barbican, B commented on how ugly a place it is.  I have mixed feelings about it, but the architecture that suggests at a utopian communality and dystopian brutalism seemed like an apt place to stage such a production.

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