Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Henry IVth Part TwoWhere was I?

Exhibition split into four sections - Britain, America, Europe, Japan.
Britain: Much as one would expect from an Arts and Crafts exhibition. A fair amount which fails on the "believe to be beautiful" aspect and often on the useful aspect as well. Rather too much crudity for the sake of crudity; the makers are so busy getting back to the rural artisan roots, that they produce things the rural artisans would be ashamed of.

America: Squat, fat and dark. They had the entrance from one house, complete with stained glass and acres of stained wood, only it was positioned a foot off the ground, and ended not far above my head. And this is on a 20th Century house. They had Frank Lloyd Wright interiors, as well as models, pictures and designs for his Mid-West houses. They are all depressingly low. They celebrate the boundless freedom of the prairie by sprawling all over it. One stunningly designed pendant lamp had a large square of stained glass on the base, with panels about half a foot high round the sides. This was slung beneath a wooden ceiling rose (can it still be a rose if it's not round?) of gargantuan hideousness (think of the pattern Buzz's holy cheese mating). As someone commented "Don't they have flies in Pasadena?" (which the American woman standing nearby confirmed, while stating they have screen doors as well).

Europe: It's quite odd looking at Scandinavian designs stemming from the same movement, and realising that I am far more familiar with what had happened the other side of the Atlantic than I was of what had happened the other side of the North Sea. But houses clad in mock-pinecone shingle [I'm sure that's the American word, but I don't know the English version. Anyway wooden tiles, usually hung on walls], combined with bright orange Mediterranean tiles aren't quite what I would choose. There was the usual Viennese designs, along with Russian equivalents. I find it odd that one aesthetic simply disappeared shortly afterwards, and the other has struggled to move on.

Japan: It all gets a bit blurry here. Not least because of air conditioning which obviously was only ever assessed on average. Some good, some irrelevant, some I'm entirely sure what it does. But by this stage I was losing patience with the dreadful design of the exhibtion, and the constant puzzles to work out what was where. Nothing seemed to flow, and much displayed seemed contrived simply to fill space.

This is taking too long. Basically, this exhibition failed. I didn't feel awed or inspired. I couldn't even find a postcard I wanted to buy, and that's from someone who has a postcard of some wallpaper (Angus Fairhurst's Underdone/Overdone).

The next cultural highlight was seeing Henry IVth Part Two. I didn't fall asleep. Unlike when I saw the first part. Although I was fairly young, and it was past my bedtime. Unfortunately, that occasion also happened to be the time when we got seats right at the end of the circle, and were therefore on the same level as the actors, and few feet away from some of them. Waking up under the observation of the bit-parts is not fun. Apparently even "the definitive Falstaff" (whose name I strangely cannot recall) had been taking an interest in my position.

Back to Part Two. It could really have done with a "Previously on Shakespeare...". Perhaps it had, but it took me a while to get into the language, and much longer to figure out who was a goodie and who a baddy (it didn't help I only saw the cast list, and hence the list of parts, in the interval).

It felt like it dragged a bit in the first half, and got its rhythm in the second, but it might simply be that I was scrambling to work out the connections between various people, while being given prompts about as yet unmentioned people called Bolingbrook (and that most of the audience had tried to find out if they had time for one more in the interval). Shakespeare's so much easier when, due to some administrative oversight, you've already done the play three times, and know as-an-orange before they get to it.

Not wishing to recap every nuance in every scene, the play was pretty much standard Shakespeare. Perhaps better acted than some I've seen, and whilst being good, it just didn't have the fun or the power of some other plays. No idea if it was the play or the production (now there's finely honed criticism for you). The last play I saw was a Propeller production which, although somewhat at least felt more cohesive, more lively, and much more innovative.

When the production did veer from po-faced if-this-was-Propellor-they'd-be-fingers-moaning-brandy-glasses-by-now-ness, it did so with a noticeable judder. Suddenly it's all unnoticed cross-dressing and drunken judges doing slapstick.

I'm being harsh, but there was something missing. Regrettably I don't know what. I just wasn't enthralled. I wasn't suddenly aware it had finished and people were leaving. I wasn't oblivious to the guy in the front row flirting alternately with the girls either side.

Falstaff (played by Michael Gambon; see, I knew he was someone famous, I just didn't know who) often sounded drunk. I know the character is essentially a lecherous drunkard, but slurring rushed lines really doesn't help the audience in knowing what was said. Oddly most of the other leads didn't glow quite as one might expect, and it was the minor players who carried off their roles better.

But heck, a play's a play, and it wasn't awful, and I did get to watch the sun setting on St Pauls from a new view, and discover that the clock on it is slow, and it's a long way down from here; all that for only ten pounds (apparently it's some scheme to encourage people who wouldn't normally go to the theatre to go. The man behind me, who was also in the cheap seats, repeatedly shouted bravo; obvious first-timer).

So thank you Travelex (and whoever cancelled the day before), even though I've no idea who you are and what you do (well, the name does suggest something, but the bank does that, and so does the Post Office - who, in a bizarre timeloop, are now getting in the telephony market. Just in time to be Skyped out, said he who has yet to buy a suitable headset, worries about whether his computer will take the strain, and realises that having free phone calls to the other side of the world might mean I'll have to speak to someone).

So that's before the weekend covered. I think the weekend itself will have to wait to later in the week.


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?