13 April 2014

It takes an hour to walk around Kew Gardens

Another Sunday morning visit to Kew Gardens but this time with a difference.

Usually I go there to look at something but this time I was with a friend and the only thing on the agenda was exercise.

We got to Lion Gate, him walking me by bus, just before it opened at 9:30 and joined the small queue. Once in we walked all around the outside clockwise. Mostly this meant sticking to one of the main paths but we took a slight detour around Kew Palace to cover more distance and also, surprisingly, too see the garden there. We also went through the Duke's Garden, following the horseshoe path, and behind the Temple of Aeolus for the same reasons.

The only diversion we took was early on when the flash of red called us across to the Japanese Landscape.

We got back to Lion Gate very close to 10:30am, almost exactly an hour after we started. I walk at a fairly predictable 1km in 10 minutes so that makes the walkable circumference pretty close to 6km.

That was a good way to start the day, though the people I know who were running the London Marathon at the same time may feel that they were doing a bit more.

12 April 2014

NeMeSiS thrash the Fox and Duck

NeMeSiS are not quite my thing but they are still worth popping in to the local pub to see on an otherwise free Saturday night.

They are not quite my thing because they are on the thrashy side of rock and, to me, that makes the songs sound much the same. So, for example, when they played Rockin' in the Free World the guitar solo sounded nothing like anything Neil Young has ever done.

On the plus side, they do play songs like Rockin' in the Free World and also established rock cover band classics like Wishing Well, Jumping Jack Flash, Whole Lotta Rosie, and (obviously) Smoke on the Water.

There were a lot of my favourites in their set and in the end the plus side won me over. NeMeSiS entertained.

Brainstorm, the art of Bryan Talbort at The Muse gallery

I have been a fan of Bryan Talbot's work for quite a few years now so I was always going to be interested in an exhibition of his art, even more so when it was reasonably close to home in Ladbroke Grove.

The only problem was finding out about it. Luckily I read the Forbidden Planet blog on the penultimate day of the exhibition and so was able to see it just before it closed.

Bryan had been there for the opening night and is pictured here between two pictures of Nemesis the Warlock from 2000AD.

There were samples of Bryan's work from across his career and I was again drawn to The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and I might just have bought this page had not somebody beaten me to it. It carries the menace of a Nuremberg Rally plus the detail of a fine artist.

I came close to buying another page a couple of years ago. I spoke to Bryan about it at one of his signings (I've been to several) and he told me then that it had been sold just a couple of days previously.

Oh well, I'll just have to carry on buying the books and I've already got two by Bryan on this year's Christmas List, Arkwright Integral, due in October, which reprints the two Luther Arkwright novels in A4 hardback, and Grandville Noel, the fourth book in the series due out in November. I won't have to wait that long to get Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.

The best part about the exhibition was seeing the art from the various projects side-by-side to compare and contrast the styles. There were a lot of differences between them. I am hardly an expert on this but some looked like soft pencils, some thick felt-pen and some watercolour washes. That was testament, if further testament were needed, to Bryan's skill.

It was only a small exhibition but the scope of the work more than made up for that and it got me even more excited than I already was for his next books.

10 April 2014

Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

The first reviews for Fatal Attraction are coming in and they are generally poor. They are also wrong. This is a fine performance and I enjoyed it immensely.

It is not the sort of play that I would normally be attracted but what swung it was the offer of cheap tickets via the theatre club at work and it came with the name Sir Trevor Nunn attached to it.

It was not the sort of film that I would normally watch either and so I went with just a clue to the plot rather than with much detail. I have no idea how close the play is to the film, and I do not care.

Somehow this was my first visit to the Theatre Royal Haymarket though I had walked past in many times, often on the way to/from other theatres.

As this was a group booking I was in the stalls (F5). I had a good view from there but as before the show started all I could see was the large black safety-curtain I have not included the usual view-from-my-seat photo.

Fatal Attraction, in case you did not know, is the fairly simple story of a married man who has a brief fling with another woman which he immediately regrets and tries to walk away from. But she has other ideas and becomes increasing frenzied in her wish to keep the relationship going.

That makes the woman, Alex Forrest played by Natascha McElhone, the centre of the action and she was perfect as both the blonde temptress and then the vengeful mistress.

Another of the play's strengths was the way that it was constructed, and I presume that Trevor Nunn was to thank for much of that.

Physically the set swung effortlessly from scene to scene allowing the action to flow freely between homes, offices and parks. Emotionally the play used Madame Butterfly cleverly to build to the climax, though the final scene was a little unnecessary for those of us who knew the opera.

And while Alex was the baddie in the story some of the blame was also neatly placed on the man, Dan Gallagher played by Mark Bazeley, who took the lead in his initial encounter with Alex, and also on his wife, Beth Gallagher played by Kristin Davis, who in presenting Dan with a choice of town v country spurred him to have that fateful night on the town. The fairly simple story was actually a bit more complicated than it first looked. Their daughter and her pet rabbit were blameless though.

The tension built nicely and there were gasps of surprise from the audience, most of whom I assume actually knew the story beforehand. It was billed as a thriller and it was.

Fatal Attraction was a gripping story well told and I enjoyed it immensely.

9 April 2014

Open Mic night at the Grey Horse (9 April 14)

No excuses for leading with a picture of Catherine Paver again this week. She always makes an effort to dress the part and this week she had a new snakeskin jacket to show off.

I spoke to her after her set about her influences (don't real interviewers do that?) and we discussed TV shows like The High Chaparral and The Virginian. Classics.

But I digress and should go back to the beginning.

Earlier that evening had been to a very unrewarding meeting and I needed something to perk me up and the Open Mic night at the Grey Horse certainly did that.

There were a few adventures with the beer. Young's Ordinary was off so I started with the Brains before moving on to the Naked Ladies. The beer helped.

The music helped too. It was much as it always is, and that is a good thing, with the usual artists playing music in their usual styles. Not sure that I've heard Yes Sir, I can Boogie by Baccara covered before.

This is one of the regular acts Ben Henderon and his partner whose name I've not learnt yet. The same goes for the Brummie lady who sang the Baccara song and who I had a talk with afterwards.

It has just struck me that most of the performers seem to be teachers!

The formula for the evening was just as it always is with fine music and plenty of socialising with performers and audience alike. That's why I keep going.

To end on a bum-note, it looks as though the Grey Horse is going to become a gastro-pub and the music will end. That's really bad news and I just hope that the Open Mic night can find somewhere else to play.

8 April 2014

Hidden at The Cockpit

I had a rare free evening in London so I decided to go to the theatre.

Actually, going to the theatre was the easy decision to make, the hard one was deciding which one. This was made a little harder by my accidental discovery of Theatro Technis in Camden, while on my lunchtime walk, which was doing a Havel play. I also had the option of going to the Arcola but in the end I stuck with Plan A and went to The Cockpit in Marylebone.

I knew The Cockpit from their Theatre in the Pound nights but this was the first time that I had been there for a full performance.

The attraction was the dark comedy Hidden. I like dark comedies.

But first I had to get there. I avoided my usual getting-lost-from-the-tube-station routine by walking there from near Oxford Circus. That proved to be remarkably easy and took me along unfamiliar roads like Wigmore Street, Seymour Street, Seymour Place and Lisson Grove.

I got there too late to have a curry in the restaurant across the road but in plenty of time for a bottle of Budvar and a packet of dry roasted peanuts. It was fairy busy but careful positioning by the entrance to the theatre got me my preferred seat in the front row next to the central aisle.

The theatre was a little cropped from how I was used to it. The stage had been brought forward which meant that almost all of the seating was in the front section with very little at either side. The seats that were in use were almost all taken.

The play started with a surprising voice from the back row of the seats. This was Colin explaining that sometimes when he was in the theatre he was tempted to run on to the stage and drop his trousers, which he then did.

Colin was the first of six characters that we met, three men and three women played by two actors,Peter Carruthers and Laura Lindsay. Their stories were told mostly through a series of short monologues though there were some scenes with both of them.

As they told us about themselves and what they were doing we discovered connections between them, some slight and some significant. For example the check-out girl served one of the men and then went on a date with another.

The scenes gave us interesting perspectives on seemingly small things in life. Such as James' furtive encounters on a morning train that amounted to no more than touching each other's legs which may have meant nothing to the woman but which came to matter so much to him. At the end of that scene we learnt that he was married to one of the female characters and another connection was made.

The scenes also came together to show how these six lives were linked and how each of the characters had aspects of their lives that they kept hidden.

There were some genuinely funny moments and some quietly disturbing ones too and the combination made a compulsive story and good entertainment. I made the right choice in going to see it.


Having stumbled across GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) for their Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen exhibition I am now following them on social media to keep informed on what they are doing.

What they are doing now is TAINT, which they describe as "a deconstruction, interrogation and exploration of the art of painting through contemporary art practise".

That means the works are a reaction to painting and are not necessarily paintings themselves.

The art starts rights at the door with a piece on the floor made out of small coloured pieces. They are arranged in swirls across the floor. The overall effect looked something like a map and I could argue the case that I could see some familiar continents in it.

The exhibition only opened the day before and already the pieces were being spread away from their original clumps. I am sure that was expected and/or planned and the spread added to the effect. It also meant that I had to take great care over where I walked.

One of my favourite pieces was this one.

It took me a while to realise but it is a high-quality (Giclée ) print. I thought it was real until I got close to it.

I like the composition and the colours but best of all, I like the title "Six plasticine balls, three of which are sculptures".The mischief in that is cute but it also raised the serious question as to the definition of art.

All of the pieces were very different. There were constructs with lights, a video, a towel-rail, a painting, some coloured acetate and a page from a notebook with some straight cuts in it. I did not like all of it, and nor did I expect to, but it was all interesting and I spent a fair amount of time, twenty minutes or so walking around the pieces.

GRAD is quite a small gallery so I am unlikely to ever make a special trip in to London just to see something there but it is well situated just off Oxford Circus so it is easy to include a quick visit there in to a larger programme. And as long as GRAD keep putting on exhibitions like Kino and TAINT I'll keep going to see them.

Sculpture in the Home at Pangolin London

The best thing about working at Kings Place is the art. There are modern statues on the two sides facing the canal, a large gallery on level -1 that often spills over to level -2 and there is Pangolin London too.

Pangolin London is the little gallery on the York Road side that lies between The Guardian and the main entrance to the arts complex and the offices. Because of its street-side location it is a gallery that I have looked in to many times but have only popped into a couple of times.

The current exhibition, Sculptures in the Home, was so striking that I had to go in and have a closer and longer look.

Sculpture in the Home was inspired by exhibitions with the same name from the 40's and 50's. It had a rich feast of sculptures and a nice topping of a few pictures displayed in three period rooms.

Everything about it was brilliantly conceived and executed.

The rooms were as lovely as anything in the Geffrye Museum and it was worth going just to see the two Wingback Armchairs in Sanderson Festival fabric. The furniture and furnishings were part of the exhibition and were included in the catalogue. The chairs that I loved were a tempting £3,000 each.

I would have been quite satisfied if that was all that the exhibition consisted of but there was more to it than that. The real point of the rooms was to show off the works of art.

Discretely sprinkled across the room were 32 sculptures and 21 prints. They were placed so naturally that it was hard to find all of them.

The sculptures were by people like Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink who even I had heard of.

I would have loved to take all three rooms home with me just as they were but I was about £1m short of the asking price so I had to be content with just looking and dreaming.