#130 - "Her tinfoil zeppelin is a thing of buoyant beauty" - exhibition review, Lee Bul: Crashing 31/05/18

Hayward Gallery

Tom Lubbock once noted that Brancusi put fun and naughtiness back into the po-faced art world and Korean artist Lee Bul may fulfil the same function. Although there is high seriousness in her work (videos of performance works about abortion) one can’t help but smile at her dangling bladder-like forms, futuristic utopias and bulbous cyborg ceramics. Her tinfoil zeppelin is a thing of buoyant beauty. The day after the press view one artwork partially made of dead fish had to be removed and another caught fire, closing the gallery: how’s that for adding to the gaiety of the nation?

#129 - "A decisive and intriguing start to Michelle Terry's tenure" - theatre review, As You Like It/Hamlet 18/05/18

Shakespeare's Globe

Michelle Terry confidently stamps her imprimatur on the Globe in two clear and simple, gender-blind productions, performed by an ensemble of six men and six women, one of whom – Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah – communicates and is communicated with in sign language. This brilliantly expressive dimension works better in As You Like It where Nadarajah’s Celia is thick as thieves with Jack Laskey’s Rosalind, in a staging suffused with bittersweet yearning. The gender switch for some characters quickly seem the most natural thing in the world. Terry plays bit parts here, including old Adam, keeping her powder dry to deliver a damaged, capricious Danish Prince in a Hamlet stronger on domestic and family relations than on regal or supernatural atmosphere. I’ve rarely felt Hamlet’s love for his father more powerfully; the soliloquies are strong; the sudden starts of Hamlet’s rages and madness stronger. Here, the cross-casting illuminates clearly how Hamlet and Laertes demand to be heard, and how Ophelia is only listened to once she is deranged and doomed. Altogether, the show feels less coherent. The directors of both plays are Federay Holmes and Elle White, names new to me, but the vision is clearly Terry’s, and mark a decisive and intriguing start to her tenure.

#128 - "A great, pugnacious powerhouse of a performance" - theatre review, Red 18/05/18

Wyndham's Theatre

Usually art that’s about art annoys me, but John Logan’s play is an exception. Director Michael Grandage and actor Alfred Molina have intriguingly revisited a work they first explored in 2009 - a portrait of the obstreperous Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, yanking his russet Seagram murals out of his heart and soul, aided and irked by a young assistant (Alfred Enoch). It’s a passionate, sometimes discursive, discussion about what art means and why it matters, in which death – both figurative and literal – looms large. Molina gives a great, pugnacious, powerhouse of a performance and Enoch makes a springy foil. And it’s artfully, economically done by Grandage.

#127 - "A potent sense of loss and suppressed needs" - theatre review, Nightfall 11/05/18

Bridge Theatre

Like all his work, Barney Norris’s new play has a beautiful quietness, though for once the ordinary lives he depicts are over-pregnant with conflict. We’re on a Hampshire farm where the farmer has died, but still dominates his children Ryan and Lou through his widow, Jenny. Pete - Lou’s ex and Ryan’s bezzie - could offer escape, or the secret he carries could trap them all forever. There’s a potent sense of loss and suppressed needs in Laurie Sansom’s production and the family’s miscommunication is beautifully physically expressed, especially by Ophelia Lovibond as Lou. But on a big stage, Norris’s over-engineering of the story is exposed.

#126 - "It is young Fox's evening" - theatre review, An Ideal Husband 09/05/18

Vaudeville Theatre

Young star Freddie Fox as witty Lord Goring and his real dad Edward as his grumpy stage pater enliven Jonathan Church’s stylish but somewhat flabby production. This is the most engrossing revival so far in Classic Spring’s year-long Oscar Wilde season but still has longeurs whenever the Foxes or Frances Barber’s waspish Mrs Cheveley are off stage. Should one illegal or immoral move destroy a brilliant career or a marriage? Increasingly, Wilde’s plays seem exercises in autobiography, and Goring is his mouthpiece here for wisdom as well as banter. When I was there an older audience gave Susan Hampshire’s supporting role an exit round, but it is the young Fox’s evening.

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