Thursday, 15 March 2012


On 14/1/12 we saw Colchester Chamber Choir at St Teresa's, Colchester, because my old mate A is now a member of the choir. Ambitious programme: Gesualdo's Tenebrae (or some of them -- a candle on the altar extinguished after each one), Allegri's crowd-pleasing Miserere (for which they split, with the bulk of the choir remaining in front of the altar and a small detachment coming to the back of the church), some Lotti, some Palestrina. Not easy to sing, the Gesualdo especially, and they struggled here and there. But generally very satisfying. St Teresa's a 1950s structure, undistinguished outside, very handsome inside, though my efforts to discover the architect proved fruitless.

The flyer here:

On 19/1/12 we saw Lovesong at the Lyric Hammersmith. The girls liked this more than me. I couldn't fault the performances but the script seemed somehow unsatisfactory -- surprising, given that it was by Abi Morgan, whose recent credits include The Hour, The Iron Lady and the film adaptation of Birdsong. Produced by physical theatre specialists Frantic Assembly, whose pool hall Othello we much admired at this address. Two couples, one in childless old age, the other just starting out. It gradually becomes clear that they're the same couple, though Sam Cox as the older man and Edward Bennett (who played Laertes and often Hamlet in the David Tennant Hamlet), though both quirkily-featured, look nothing like one another; and nor really do Leanne Rowe and Sian Phillips. He's a dentist, she's a homemaker (as they say): they're English (or at any rate they speak with English accents) but for some reason they're in small town America. We see the relationship develop. They row over his decision to buy his own practice. There are (I think) problems with money. He takes (does he?) a lover. Their childlessness troubles them. Few props and no set. They move between living room and kitchen and garden by means of words and sound (Carolyn Downing). There is a bed. They climb in and out -- and sometimes spectacularly (a touch of the horror films about that). And they move, dance, intertwine, sometimes across the generations. So let's hear it especially for Sian Phillips, nearly 80 and amazingly supple. There was a moment when I felt moved (can't remember when or by what now), but otherwise one to admire coolly, with detachment.

On 21/1/12 we went to York to see the panto, York Family Robinson at York Theatre Royal. Berwick Kaler has been writing, directing and starring in the York panto for 33 years, which must be some kind of record. He is apparently a legend in Yorkshire... and beyond, which is how I'd heard of him. At the time I tweeted that he effortlessly steals every scene, which he does: as a dame he's right up there with the best, raucous, rude, with fine comic timing, a great ability to ad lib and an impressive command of slapstick. He has a regular stock company of supporting players, each of whom gets a spot, and none of whom come near him in skill. But that's really the best that can be said of it. He shouldn't really be writing and directing and starring, and certainly not after 33 years on the trot. It had all the elements of a proper panto, but the plot was absurdly complicated and it went on far too long, losing energy towards the end and then making sure to send everyone out looking bored by doing the birthday messages and such after the final curtain rather than halfway through.

And the following day, 22/1/12, we went to see an exhibition of paintings by William Etty at York Art Gallery.

On 25/1/12 I saw Ralph Fiennes' film of Coriolanus at the Mayfair Curzon. Set in some contemporary Balkan civil war and filmed with Serbian extras.

On 27/1/12 we saw Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs.

At some point we saw Made in Dagenham on DVD at home. Feelgood nostalgia aiemd at the over 50s who can remember the 60s. The bosses are baddies. The union bosses are sexists with snouts in the trough (except for cuddly old Bob Hoskins). Miranda Richards' Barbara astle has a heart of gold and a terrifying way with hidebound civil servants, and bonds over borrowed Biba with our heroine (them were the days when Biba were the height of high street fashion). The Ford ladies are all much younger, better-coiffed and better-looking than their real-life counterparts in shockingly tight perms (not surprising, given they include current Essex girl lookers Andrea Risebrough and Jaime Winstone among their number, both given remarkably high billing for actors with relatively small parts). Sally Hawkins very good as Rita, harrassed, passionate, unconfident leader of the strikers. Daniel Mays as her goodhearted husband who's a duffer in the home when his wife neglects her domestic duties to become a campaigner. Geraldine James moving as the older shop steward, burdened with a husband suffering from wartime PTSD. The serious issue: should the men get more money ebcause they all have wives and kids to support and a woman's place is in the home? The precise casus belli: the "girls'" insistence that stitching together seat covers for Escorts from assorted precut shapes is at the very least "semi-skilled" work and entitles them to be paid as such. A sometimes saccharine treatment, manipulatively (and successfully) designed to bring a lump to the throat. The grey crowd packed it out in cinemas apparently, and you can see why: nostalgia for youth and an optimstic decade (the pristine 60s lovingly recreated), politics lite, sugar-coated recent history and a happy ending.

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