#121 - "A difficult work I could engage with endlessly" - theatre review, The Writer 24/04/18

Almeida Theatre

Boldly metatheatrical, justly furious, terrifically frustrating… I fear I'm mansplaining Ella Hickson's full-throated shout against the patriarchy, which is also a cry of anguish about the how awful and hard it is to be a true artist (groan). The politics are fascinating, funny and apposite, but the play challenges conventional narrative and expectations: in other words, even corralled by Blanche Macintyre’s production, it’s a deliberate, huge, hot mess. Purnell disarms impatient audiences and critics by mincing their views onstage, and even indicts her onstage avatar, played by Romola Garai, for white privilege (and for being tall). A difficult evening, but one I feel I could engage with endlessly.

#120 - "A must-see" - art review, Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece 24/04/18

British Museum

Auguste Rodin’s debt to Greek statuary was always obvious but this wonderful show – in the very institution where he saw and sketched the Elgin marbles in the 1880s - makes the connections beautifully clear and explicit.  Attitudes and poses echo down the centuries, though what in Greece was poised and smooth becomes in Rodin’s work taut or explosive, the musculature almost flayed. Never mind the brooding face of The Thinker (actually an expression of mourning, the curators suggest): look at his humped and knotted back. Other very familiar works – The Burghers of Calais, The Age of Bronze – reveal themselves afresh. A must-see.

#119 - "Daft but brilliant" - Theatre review, An Evening of Meat 19/04/18

The Vaults

What a daft but brilliant exercise this is. In Kate March’s show dancers in armoured layers of burlesque-wear crawl and stare and mock-wrestle through guests’ six-course meat feast, in some sort of comment on female objectification. The politics are incoherent, the choreography limited – there’s barely headroom to stand up – and the mass-catered banquet isn’t all that. And yet, and yet… There is something challenging in the proximity and interaction with the dancers, and their ease with background conversation and cameraphone flash. And the Vaults can’t help but be atmospheric. Bliss it is to be alive in London when such mad stuff is going on.

#118 - "Ravishing and provoking in equal measure" - art review, Rationalism on Set 18/04/18

Estorick Collection

This exhibition of Modernist architecture and design in 1930s Italian cinema is ravishing and provoking in equal measure, and I suspect of niche appeal. The mostly black and white images it contains of sets, fonts and furniture are beautiful, though there are not enough of them. To set them in the context of the wider Modern movement in film in Germany and the US is worthwhile, but to largely isolate them from their narrative context (largely romantic comedy) and historic backdrop (erm, you know, fascism) seems perverse. Still, look at that bar, that clock, that Mies van der Rohe chair…

#117 - "Eccentricity is definitely the keyword" - theatre review, The Moderate Soprano 13/04/18

Duke of York's

Here, committed socialist David Hare hymns John Christie, the rich English eccentric who constructed the elite operatic paradise Glyndebourne for his singer wife (helped by refugees from Nazism). True, it’s a fascinating story, wittily and cleverly used to discuss art, democracy, will and passion. It’s also old-fashioned and explanatory and though well made you can see all its workings. Roger Allam brings all his tricks and skill to Christie and Nancy Carroll is alternately underused and given operatic deathbed scenes that feel unearned. I slightly despised myself for enjoying it as much as I did. Eccentricity is definitely the keyword.

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