The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'Art' Category

05 April
Comments Off on “Heroes” At The Archway Theatre, Horley….Starring The Aged P (aka Henri)…lol…(Vanity Post)

“Heroes” At The Archway Theatre, Horley….Starring The Aged P (aka Henri)…lol…(Vanity Post)

 

Review of “Heroes” By Gerald Sibleyras

Archway Theatre, Horley, Feb 2013

 

There is always a look of disbelief when I observe that annually there are more tickets sold for theatre performances than for football events. But why do we go to the theatre, a medium that requires a high element of imagination and tolerance of the “non reality”? It is not an easy activity – you are obliged to keep perfectly still, no rustle of sweetie papers, uncomfortable seats, large heads in front of you etc – but still we keep going. I know why I go. I love to be shocked, surprised, amused and to learn about the  human condition. I love to hear our beautiful English language (Tom Stoppard offers us the best) and, most of all, I love knowing that the artists are giving something of themselves to we, the audience.

 

Our “Heroes” and those mysterious ghosts who sorted out the set between each scene all certainly gave something of themselves to their audience in this production. It was a sweet and gentle experience for me.

 

The introduction music smoothly took us to the location of the play and as the curtain opened a sunny veranda was revealed. Gary Andrews, the set designer, tells us that “the hardest thing with this kind of set on such a small stage is to create a sense of distance”. Gary achieved that illusion with Liz Delafaille and Nicholas Merrick’s beautifully executed backdrop, the stone wall surrounding and lovely stone floor.

 

Eddie Redfern’s lighting and sound was subtle and appropriate. I was particularly impressed with the sound of the flying geese. I was able to “see” their flying route until they disappeared over the horizon. Not an easy task in such a small theatre.

 

The play itself is a kindly look at three WW1 veterans living in a residential home in France. We witnessed these elderly men trying to make sense of their narrow, restricted lives whilst plotting to escape the clutches of the Sisters caring for them. Their lives were made all the sweeter in their friendship,their bickering and the fact that they were the only users of “their” verandah. The knowledge that other inmates may soon occupy their space because of building works elsewhere was the impulse for the plans for escape (to Indo China or – maybe – just beyond the poplar trees).

 

On the evening I attended, the performances took some time to establish (never overlook the importance of a pre-performance warmup), but once the actors settled in, they told us a tender story with honesty and compassion. Tom Haddon’s Gustave was biting and verging on the vindictive.He made no effort to be liked, wishing his fellow retirees to know that he was superior to them. His brisk manner and beautifully cut suit camouflaged his internal anxieties. We gradually learned that he is fallible and afraid, but only at the end of the play do we actually see the physical manifestation of this. Tom handled Gustave’s breakdown as a man not used to showing his despair with enormous subtlety.

 

David Riddick as Henri, the eternal optimist, a man dressed for comfort played this character with great energy, did not overact. Henri’s age and physical fragility, and his kindness and empathy for his fellow inmates came through with charm and sympathy.

 

Philippe,performed by Clive Grieg was a jolly character and his fainting moments were convincing. It was a joyful moment in the play when we realised that his shouts when coming to from the faints did not relate to his activities on the battlefields but those at a local brothel – I half expected his bow tie to swivel at this revelation!

 

These three actors worked as a close and supportive team, comfortable with each other and their characters. This must have come from the expert direction of Yvonne Lee who will have worked to ensure that they understood their importance in the play. Yvonne moved her actors with quiet confidence and commitment and never “forced” a move or emotion that did not fit the roles or the play.

 

Hercule – well – I think the best description of his acting would be “wooden”. They say never act with animals – even those made of stone. How true.

 

Thank you to the cast and crew for a lovely evening. (PS: lovely cup of coffee too).

 

 

Sue Harrington

 

 

More about the original London production here

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01 June
Comments Off on Horses In The Buttercup Field – A Beautiful Moment…..

Horses In The Buttercup Field – A Beautiful Moment…..

We walked into this field and had one of those moments when you wonder if you are looking at a Claude Monet painting….

Horses in the buttercup field

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10 April
Comments Off on The Most Beautiful Bus Stop In The World?

The Most Beautiful Bus Stop In The World?

A few years ago a lady in the small Cornish town of Fowey felt that a local bus stop shelter needed smartening up……….but instead of just sitting around and moaning she and her neighbours did something about it…

It was scruffy and horrible and the seat was broken and it is one of the first things people see when they arrive here.
All the bits of furniture and paintings have been donated by lots of different people who all wanted to see the bus stop improved

So you can wait for the bus in proper comfort – now that is what I call real community action. Moreover the shelter has an annual makeover. We took the photo above last year (we go to Fowey quite often because it is my wife’s home town) but this year, as our grandaughter discovered) it has gone all modern.

What a difference when ordinary people decide to do things themselves…..

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14 February
Comments Off on Jan Vermeer’s 1670 Masterpiece Is Just Right For Valentine’s Day

Jan Vermeer’s 1670 Masterpiece Is Just Right For Valentine’s Day

The Dutch artist Jan Vermeer painted “The Love Letter” around 1670 but the mood is timeless and so appropriate for Valentine’s Day….capturing that glorious moment of surrender to the magic of loving and being loved….

The subject of this painting is love. This is evident in the presence of musical references (the instrument held by the woman and the musical score on the chair in the foreground) which were commonly used as a metaphor for harmony between two people and the letter which the young woman holds, undoubtedly from a loved one whom she speaks of with the servant. The painters of interior scenes often included paintings within paintings to clarify the meaning of the composition. In this case the paintings on the end wall, a landscape with a man and woman and a seascape, undoubtedly refer to the absence of the loved one….

Across 350 years we are in that house. We see their faces and we can almost hear their voices.

That is the power of art….

That is the power of love….

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19 January
Comments Off on Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

As a former schoolboy (a long time ago) and a teacher (now retired) and an amateur actor (still mumbling) I must confess enjoying a moment of guilty pleasure when I watch that Blackadder clip…

It came to mind when I learned a day or so back that I had just landed myself a part in our amateur theatre group’s Shakespeare spring production of “The Winter’s Tale”….not a particularly big role but, as Private Eye might say, it’s small but perfectly formed…..

I love being involved with a play, be it on or back stage. For a few weeks you are part of a joint endeavour with a group of people for one common purpose. You share all the ups and the downs, the crises and the celebrations, the laughter and the tears. Forget those familiar dividing lines of social intercourse age, sex or experience. You are pitched together like a close family battling the world. Then the set is struck and you go your separate ways. Once or twice the bonds made during a run might hold long after the scripts are filed. But more usually, once the play is done, the connections dissolve and disappear down memory lane.

The Bard, however, raises different issues for he is the broccoli of drama. We are told how good he is for us yet so many leave him on the side of the plate. Amateur groups feel he has to be performed even though quite a few tickets will be left unsold.
Shakespeare is often the amdram equivalent of a loss leader.

But he shouldn’t be. The characters are fascinating. The language is powerful and vivid. The themes are universal. He is part of every school’s curriculum.

We all have studied Shakespeare – and there’s the rub.

He is studied because he is a Good Thing. In school we have all analysed and dissected Billy S like a specimen on a laboratory bench. We have discussed characters, motives, meanings and symbolism, turned over metaphors and deconstructed references and laid bare every bone, muscle and sinew. His words are revered like a biblical text, a scientific hypothesis or a philosophical treatise. There is a vast Shakespeare industry employing thousands of actors, academics and gushing media scribblers and talking heads.

The guy’s works are being adulated to death – so here’s a thought.

Let’s turn off the tap for five years. Embargo the puff pieces. Deep freeze the academics in a cryogenics unit. Remove Stratford’s name from all road signs and sat navs. Ban Billy S from being mentioned in the school classroom. Perform the plays with zero hype. Hang anyone who dares to say “the bard”

Shift his library classification from the doom laden “Literature” to cheap and cheerful “Entertainment” – because that was how he was regarded by the noisy, bawdy riotous townsfolk who watched his plays in Elizabethan and Jacobean London.

As a schoolboy in 1950s England any chance of appreciating Shakespeare was ground out of my consciousness by hour after hour of mind numbing analysis until the very mention of the name would cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to slip into neutral.

Then one evening in 1955 I went with my bus driver dad for our weekly cinema visit. He had misread the bill and was expecting to see a gangster movie. By the time we realised it was Laurence Olivier’s film of Richard III our tickets had already been purchased so we went in, expecting to be bored to tears.

How wrong we were. It was magical.

At the end, as the final credits rolled the audience in that packed cinema in a working class suburb of South London sat motionless and silent for a few brief moments. Then as we walked out into the night there was a massive buzz as we all began to talk of what we had seen and my dad looked at me and said “That wasn’t the Shakespeare that was hammered into me at school. That film must be the real Shakespeare….what have I been missing all these years?”

So, unlike Blackadder, it’s not the real Will Shakespeare I want to punch on the nose – it’s the polystyrene cultural idol created by the termites of the Shakespeare industry that I would like to target with my custard pie.

Mind you sometimes I do find Colin Firth a tad irritating……

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24 October
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The Last Supper – The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper is one of the most famous of Leonardo’s pictures. Commissioned by da Vinci’s patron, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, it was painted on a wall inside the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan in the 1490s. The Last Supper had always been a popular subject for devotional painting but Leonardo’s interpretation lifted the image to a higher plane in terms of art.

Firstly it was a snapshot fixed on a specific moment during the meal when Jesus shocked his comrades

Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in the spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
The disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.

Look at the expressions and postures of the disciples – Leonardo portrayed them as ordinary men suddenly charged with conflicting emotions, not (as had traditionally been done) as a gathering of “saints” with either pious or adoring faces.

See how he also forces the onlooker to focus on the picture through the figure of Jesus, calm and serene compared with all the others.

Bartholomew, James Minor and Andrew form a group of three. All are aghast, Andrew to the point of holding his hands up in a “stop!” gesture.
Judas, Peter and John form the next group of three. Judas, you will note, has his face in shadow and is clutching a small bag (of silver?). Peter is visibly angry and a feminine-looking John seems about to swoon.
Christ is the calm in the midst of the storm.
Thomas, James Major and Philip are next. Thomas is clearly agitated, James Major stunned and Philip seems to be seeking clarification.
Matthew, Thaddeus and Simon comprise the last group of three figures. It appears that, when a situation turns ugly, Simon is the “go to” guy for explanations.

The potency of this work of genius is immeasurable – it allows the observer into the painting itself through the strange interaction between the divine serenity of the eternal Jesus and the so recognisable ordinary everyday humanity of the disciples. In this way Leonardo’s achievement is to transform what is essentially a two dimensional wall decoration into a moment when the hand of God Himself appears to reach out to the unexpecting passer by.

For anyone in London between now and early February there is a once in a lifetime chance to see a unique collection of da Vinci’s paintings at the National Gallery. You will not see the original mural, of course – that remains forever upon the wall of the convent. But there will be an early copy.

One point to note…..looking at the mural it appears to suggest the back of a large empty chair opposite Jesus – it is, in fact, a door, built into the wall by some witless oaf a century after the painting had been finished…..

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20 October
Comments Off on Obscure Old UK Blogger Skirmishes With Top UK Media Film Critic Over Palin…..

Obscure Old UK Blogger Skirmishes With Top UK Media Film Critic Over Palin…..

Why am I creepy? I’m hardly pro Palin, if that’s your insinuation.

What sort of person would use that as a defence?

But let’s begin at the beginning.

Perusing the UK Daily Telegraph online, yesterday (I refuse to put a portion of my hard earned pension into the wallets of the Barclay brothers for the dubious pleasure of reading the latest trillings from Bryony Gordon printed on a dead tree) I came across this review of Nick Broomfield’s documentary on Governor Palin by the DT’s film critic, Tim Robey.

Now as I am on a fixed income and therefore have to count my pennies I must confess that I don’t usually read Mr Robey’s pieces because I can rarely afford the luxury of a visit to the cinema or the renting of a DVD – it would be like pressing my nose against the toyshop window lusting for the £50 robot dog with my 25p clutched in my hand. But I understand in the world of the cultural media elite he is highly regarded by the great and the good (including that arbiter of all things artistic, Guy Lodge) and, on the few occasions I have read his musings, I have no reason to dispute the contention that his place in the higher levels of London’s Culture Heap is richly deserved.

So, having a passing interest in the world of US politics, I linked onto his Broomfield article to find out his opinion of the film.

To be fair to Mr Robey he wasn’t particularly impressed with it either technically or artistically. Of course he was rather sniffy about the Governor’s parents (“all homespun pieties” with “an impressive mountain of antlers in their yard”) and ended up with the usual stuff about the significance of “approval ratings” more than a year before an election but hey…what do you expect – he’s a film critic and it’s the Daily Telegraph for crying out loud….par for the course…

But then I read this..

There’s something creepy, for sure, about the fierce guarding of Palin’s reputation in town

…and I thought creepy? He thinks it’s creepy for people in Wasilla to treat Broomfield like something unpleasant stuck on the sole of your shoe?

So I looked up Mr Robey’s profile at the Telegraph, couldn’t get that word out of my head and took off for Planet Twitter

TheAgedP The Aged P The creepy @trim_obey at UK Telegraph creepily predictable on Broomfields Palin film (which bombed even with US left)tgr.ph/olVclY

Which prompted a reply which I initially regarded as hilarious but on further reflection seemed to be rather sad….

trim_obey Tim Robey @TheAgedP Why am I creepy? I’m hardly pro Palin, if that’s your insinuation.

He had assumed, I fancy, that I was some sort of lefty wingnut who had felt he was being too soft on her. Did he suddenly have visions of being cold shouldered at the next North London dinner party or struck off the BBC Newsnight invitation list for being a crypto Tea Partier or, even worse, another David Starkey?

Worrying….

What had triggered my response, however, was the fact that, although he had regarded the film’s technical and artistic values as rather shallow, Mr Robey had appeared to accept, at face value, Broomfields presentation of “the facts”

Gradually, though, the gossip they dig up from erstwhile friends and campaign managers – giving the lie to popularity-boosting Palin myths about her sports prowess and family life – prompts the communal cold shoulder.

I thought that was a sloppy piece of journalism, especially when I recollected what The New York Magazine had said about Broomfield in their review

• Broomfield wants to show what a superficial individual Palin is, so he includes a sequence about her alleged plastic surgery and Bump-it hairdo. Ah, sexist and inconsequential! Point: Palin!
• Broomfield attempts to highlight the suffering Palin caused others by introducing scandal after scandal, then cutting to a shot of its victims trashing Palin. The result: Regardless of the viability of their grievances, her enemies just look like spurned brats. Point: Palin!
• To try to paint a compelling portrait of Palin’s two-faced, evil nature, Broomfield regurgitates just about every blog post from the last three years, throws in clips of the Katie Couric interview (which at this point would put even Rachel Maddow to sleep), and digs into the revelation that Palin wasn’t actually nicknamed “Barracuda” because of her intensity on the high school basketball court, but rather because she liked the Heart song of the same name. Point: Palin!

The NYM is the newssheet of anyone who is anything in the hip cultural elite of US media, more Tina Brown than Tina Brown herself, light years from Wasilla and as Palin unfriendly as you can get – yet even they smelt something fishy about Broomfield.

Which is why I tweeted this

TheAgedP The Aged P @trim_obey a more honest review from a source that could never be described as Palin friendly http://bit.ly/r6LvKb

This obviously touched a nerve.

trim_obey Tim Robey @TheAgedP Perhaps that’s me being credulous, which you’re more than welcome to argue, but I don’t see how it’s dishonest.

There were further exchanges between us of a similar nature but I hope you get the drift of the debate, such as it was. There was, of course, no resolution. Mr Robey could obviously not accept my point that anyone who gets paid, probably quite generously, for writing in the public prints, needs to do a little of what R S McCain calls shoeleather on a topic or, at the very least, employ that golden “get out of jail” card of every hack – the word “alleged”

Should I have bothered? Was it worth all the hassle? I think it was. People like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Margaret Thatcher and other conservatives unafraid to challenge the assumptions held dear by a media/academic elite overwhelmingly imbued with the ideas of the liberal left will always have to endure the prospect of death by a thousand cuts – phrases, comments slipped so often into discourse that, Lysenko like, they become accepted as truisms. The beauty of the internet is that, at last, the journalists can be held to account. With a much smaller megaphone, of course, but at least something can be heard – though Mr Robey might not agree

trim_obey Tim Robey @TheAgedP Yes, I’m sure my media career is finished. Good luck with yours.

Heh – as Prof Reynolds would say – how about that Army of Davids?

PS…..I am distraught – I have been crucified by Guy Lodge himself…..

@GuyLodge:@TheAgedP @trim_obey What’s creepy about this back-and-forth, if I may, isn’t anyone’s stance on Palin, honestly influenced or otherwise…. It’s that you’d use a fairly coolly argued review as a springboard for a personal attack on someone you don’t know.

..as distinct from “a fairly coolly argued review” which implies that someone he doesn’t know who has a political background with which he appears to be totally unfamiliar has not discouraged untruths about herself for political gain, Mr Lodge?

Heh….

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24 May
Comments Off on The Maynard Dixon Painting That Told Me To Go To The USA

The Maynard Dixon Painting That Told Me To Go To The USA

During the late 1940s and early 50s my dad would sometimes buy a copy of the Saturday Evening Post from our local WH Smith in South London. It was a much better deal in terms of pictures and articles of interest than anything published in England at the time. I particularly remember being astonished at the advertisements for food and drink – this at a time when food continued to be rationed in a rather run down dilapidated post war London suburb, still pock marked with bombed out buildings.

As the years rolled by and prosperity returned Hollywood and Rock n’Roll crafted part of my own cultural outlook. As a history teacher and politics nut I developed a fascination for the American scene but never imagined crossing the pond for real, only in my imagination.

Then in 1990, browsing in a local discount bookstore I picked up a copy of “Exploring The West” by Herman J Viola and there, on page 240 was this picture, “Open Range”, painted by Maynard Dixon in 1942…..


the grim gaunt edges of the rocks, the great bare backbone of the Earth

I was hooked. I just had to go out there and see that for myself – the big sky, the majestic mesas, the sandy, scrubby landscape. I wanted to sense it, feel it, drink it in with my eyes. Moreover I wanted to stand in front of that painting which the book said was part of a collection of western art near the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. So in the mid 90s we booked a fly drive and I took the car east across the Rockies to Denver, checked into the Brown Palace that night and, bright and early next morning, sauntered out of the hotel to where the gallery was supposed to be and – no gallery, no collection, no picture….apparently the whole project had been closed a few months before and the paintings scattered to the four corners of America.

So I have never seen the painting.

But we did see the landscape. We have driven all around Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. First year we drove from Flagstaff to Bluff, Utah and alongside Monument Valley and I saw it for real.

A few days later we drove to Moab and I stood at Grand View Point in Canyonlands – thinner and with more hair than now – and wanted time to freeze for ever……

….and I so much want to return.

Thank you, Maynard Dixon….

BTW – a few years later we did see many of his paintings at a glorious exhibition mounted at Brigham Young University…..but that painting, sadly, wasn’t there…..

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