Thursday, May 2, 2013

London arts smorgasbord


A flying visit to London, and in three short days I was able to fit in three plays and three exhibitions - although that was merely scratching the surface of what London had to offer the arts fan, it was nevertheless a marathon effort. The plays were all infused with English-ness:

Helen Mirrin in Peter Morgan's 'The Audience', playing Queen Elizabeth II against all of her twelve Prime Ministers was a treat. Fascinating to watch the Brits watching themselves. Here's what the show's website has to say:

For sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace – a meeting like no other in British public life – it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses.
The Audience breaks this contract of silence – and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.
From young mother to grandmother, these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister.

Rowan Atkinson with Felicity Montagu in Quartermaine's Terms
Over at The Wyndham Theatre Rowan Atkinson gave the best last thirty seconds of any play anytime anywhere - in 'Quartermaine's Terms' - here's the Guardian's review:

At first the casting of Rowan Atkinson looks perverse. In fact it's inspired. The truly startling stroke in Simon Gray's 1981 play is that it makes its main character a void. Less of a presence than an absence. Not Mr Bean but scarcely being. Atkinson is on stage almost constantly, but as an often silent, almost transparent figure, a hopeless teacher who prises himself from his staffroom armchair to make a gaffe or meekly receive a snub.

Frances de la Tour and Linda Bassett

And just to catch up with what was on at The National, a visit to 'People' a new play by Alan Bennett - about the necessity of handing the crumbling family pile to the National Trust. As reviewer Michael Billington said:

....Bennett's play fascinates because it shows the two sides of his nature coming into fruitful conflict. His more conservative side shares Dorothy's resentment that the crowd should find its way into the secret garden. His radical side is appalled at the corrosive legacy of Thatcherism. All this comes across clearly in Nicholas Hytner's production and in Bob Crowley's design, which shows the shabby mansion being tartily and spectacularly transformed.

So as you can see, a thoroughly British trio of plays --just the thing for reacquaintance with London.

And the galleries? Manet portraits at the Royal Academy (brilliant), Man Ray photographs at the Portrait Gallery (interesting, especially the celebrity portraits), and the Northern Renaissance at the Queen's Gallery (Her Maj has some very nice Durer prints...and the Holbein, wonderful as always)

Visiting Manet - a highlight

Durer (being cheeky)

Durer to Holbein

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