#211 - Amelie the Musical

Criterion THeatre

This sweet musical adaptation of the 2001 French cinematic fancy lifts the spirits, though its narrative flaws are more obvious in the West End. Craig Lucas sticks loyally to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film but adds flourishes of his own, such as Amelie fixating on dead Princess Di and a lot of romantic prevarication in the second half. Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen’s 36 string-driven songs blur into pleasant variations on a theme. But a tight ensemble of actor-musicians conjures a vivid Parisian whirl on Madeleine Girling’s lovely set, and Audrey Brisson adds a welcome sharpness to the heroine’s potentially saccharine whimsy.

Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare's Globe

This carnival-style Dream is a resolutely silly one, but perhaps that’s what we need right now. The emphasis of the neat, 120-minute revival of Sean Holmes’s 2019 production, is on fun. Gender is flexible rather than flipped: the lovers are cis/hetero – Shona Babayemi’s Helena is the standout - but Bottom is given charming, lusty life by Sophie Russell. I’ve seldom seen funnier Mechanicals, and this production contains the most amusing Wall ever. Social distancing in the courtyard is less intrusive than expected. God, it’s good to be back.

#201 - Oasis Leisure Centre 27/09/19

32 Endell St WC2H

The mind plays tricks. I remembered the Oasis as being on top of the tower block that sits opposite the Shaftesbury Theatre – an absurd folly of architecture and engineering that perhaps inspired Soho House’s rooftop pools. In fact, it’s behind, ringed by flats and pleasingly sealed off from city hubbub, with an indoor pool that had also slipped my memory. On a warm day the bath-like temperature was almost too much: there was as much posing and socialising as swimming going on in this easygoing spot where all sorts rub along together. For a man used to 15m lengths, this made for a pleasant, leaf-strewn challenge.

Single swim: £6.15

Length: 27.5m

Heated: Yes

#209 - Marshall Street Baths (sorry, 'Leisure Centre & Spa...') 20/09/19

Marshall St, Soho W1F

I last swam in Marshall Street baths when I was around ten, and the Civil Service Swimming Club – of which my dad was a member – decamped there while their own pool was repaired. Returning this summer I was amazed how many styling details I remembered of this gorgeous pool, begun in 1928, completed in 1931 and refurbished in 2010. The way the Sicilian marble floor overhangs the water. The scrolling font of the depth markers. The surprising three-metre deep end. The gorgeous, barrel vaulted ceiling. Even the way people leave their clothes on the side (there are lockers if you bring or buy a padlock). There were semi-pro, triangle-torsoed swimmers and learners there the afternoon I went. A gem.

Single swim: £7

Length: 30m

Heated: No

#208 - A study in stark contrast - exhibition review, Tim Walker vs Antony Gormley 19/09/19

V&A/RA

How amusing to have such starkly contrasting shows open, a 15-minute bike ride apart, on the same day. Tim Walker’s flights of fancy are all about artifice and distortion – Tilda Swinton as Edith Sitwell, a model with another’s shadow attached, Kate Moss as a naked flower fairy, the pomp and inflation of high fashion. Antony Gormley’s work comes down mostly to stark geometry and the dimensions of his own body, to rough metal and stone. In Walker’s show the early high-gloss photographs impress more than the later – often grotesque - responses to artefacts from the V&A’s collection, many of them mounted on tacky stage sets. With Gormley, the experiments in mass, volume and weight - one room full of metal coils and one of water, a huge suspended mesh oblong, cables stretched between galleries and carving up empty air – come as a relief from the insistent self-portraiture. The prospect of entering and groping about inside a room-filling, cuboid rendering of Gormley’s body is frankly offputting, though a small humanoid – the Iron Baby in the RA courtyard – will surely be this year’s most Instagrammed artwork. Is it actually a rendition of the artist himself as a baby? Knowing his work, probably.

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