Saturday, 7 January 2012
A Year in Culture
As Camus always says ‘Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.’ My thoughts exactly!
If Music be the food of love, play on, and pride comes before a fall, a stitch in time saves nine and nothing for a pair, not in this game.
I do like a spot of culture, I can’t deny it, although it must be said I am a creature of habit and don’t often stray too far from the National or the Tate. I love the Southbank; in fact it is one of my favourite things in London, being next to two of my other favourite things - the river and the view from Waterloo Bridge.
But saying that I do sometimes stray, and have, like so many adventures off the beaten path, often found some great joy in cultural corners less trodden (both mixing our metaphors there Mrs O).
And even if what you see isn’t the best thing ever, no boat was floated, no tears were formed as you screamed ‘author!’, it’s been a new experience, a night out, your horizons have been broadened a little and you’ve been taken away to somewhere new for a couple of hours or so. All culture is good for the mind and soul, even if you question its quality or validity. Look it’s made you question, got you thinking and discussing.
So as 2011 drew to a close, I went off piste, otherwise in a good mood, to Sadler’s Wells, where I hadn’t been since I saw the Rambert on the opening night following the SW’s major refit of 1998. My sister’s company was a major sponsor at the time, so I got to have a canapé, a good seat and some nice men in tights (lords a leaping) all courtesy of a FTSE contender.
My fond return after so many years was for Matthew Bourne’s Nut Cracker. Well I suppose it all depends on how well fitting the tights are. My lady accompanist asked by way of deciding which seats to purchase ‘How close do you want to be to the balls?’ Really! I mean! But that’s the ladies for you, very forthright in their approach and always focusing on the nuts - I find. Anyway an excellent production, very much enjoyed, although with ballet, I do keep expecting someone to say something and then think it feels a bit strange when they don't.
How we love the ladies. It must be said, I do spend a lot of time with the ladies. My brother, for it is he, always asks when I say I’m going out; yes we do live together in a big showbiz house, ‘are you going to the theatre with a lady friend?’ And of course invariably I am. Well if I am ever to take/find a wife, I must practise curtsying, pinning a corsage and laughing at ponies. How gay the ladies are.
The new cultural year, for it is now 2012, was joyfully christened with some Gerhard Richter at the Tate Modern last weekend. This was followed by a skinny latte and a brie and grape sandwich in the Members’ Room with my afore mentioned brother. I only buy soft drinks now, and spend the tax saved on shoes. And excellent it was too.
2011 was certainly varied in its cultural pursuits, and looking back, as I am just about to do in edited highlight form, reminds me that it was a very fine vintage. So which cultural puddles did I splash in during 2011?
First there was Gaugin and Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern. Now the Ai Weiwei was very good and terribly interesting even though my companion kept on trying to get me to distract the security guard so she could assist some souvenirs into her handbag. The Gaugin I could take or leave, and wish I had left. But I was still on the wine then so the day was saved by a large Sauv Blanc or was it a suave blond?.
Then there was a visit to one of my favourite places in one of my favourite places, in one of my favourite places. Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives, Cornwall. Gorgeous, very much looking forward to going back in June!
Next up was 12th Night at the Cottlesloe. Excellent and very funny. It was a very special production as well, as former Director of the National Theatre Peter Hall returned to direct to celebrate his eightieth birthday. Tickets were very much along the lines of hen’s teeth and ginger nuns. The only down point was the lady with the zip and the speed of the old people – thank heavens there wasn’t a fire. Full details previously blogged here.
Later on in Feb I experienced some young people doing a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and some other young people talking and rustling their crisps throughout. Well it was Catford. Not bad though apart from the scene where the set started to smoulder. Well if you will use lampshades to set the scene what can you expect!
Two days later I made two debuts, the Southwark Playhouse and some Sondheim. Now I know I’m a Gay, but I don’t usually go in for musical theatre. This was very good though and I thoroughly enjoyed it, apart from Mark Curry’s American accent, him from Blue Peter. The wine wasn’t up to much either. Cheap roadhouse whiskey! Great venue though and I am looking forward to returning to it in a couple of weeks for a bit of Harvey Milk.
March saw a return to an old hunting ground of mine, and if you’ll excuse the indelicacy, very good hunting it was too (well mostly). To the Stag pub, which now has a theatre upstairs. In our day it was a disused function room. But a very good programme they have up there and we went to see a stage production of the film My Beautiful Launderette. All in all very enjoyable and some very good acting in parts. The lead was very handsome, but I will never be able to work out quite how he kept his shirt so perfectly tucked in throughout the entire performance. He must have had the tails velcroed to the tops of his socks. Well it’s an outing.
April and May saw two visits to the second Mrs Godwin’s literary salon Polari at the Royal Festival Hall. Some wonderful writers reading from their work, and even the glorious Fenella Fielding doing an excellent if not rustly reading (papers very close to microphone). I must say it is a very good idea, and a great opportunity to hear new Gay authors reading from their published and unpublished works. I shall be back in March as the wonderful and very talented Patrick Gale will be reading from his forthcoming volume. He lives with a farmer in Cornwall don't you know!
Local art for Local people was the focus of the wonderful Dulwich Open Studios 2011. I won’t bore you again with the amazing variety of art I enjoyed, but there was some great stuff and there’s nothing nicer than walking round the neighbourhood on a lovely sunny day going into strangers’ homes and looking at their things. I wrote about it all here with pictures.
May also saw a lengthy but excellent evening with Zoe Wanamaker in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at the National. If you ever go and see it I strongly advise a cushion and maybe even a hamper. Slow to start, but very gripping and really enjoyable. She’s very good at the acting.
June, now there were two very wonderful culturals this month. First there was the magnificent wonderfulness that is Mx Justin Vivian Bond at the Soho Theatre in their great new downstairs cabaret space (Oh look I’m all New York) – quite unsurpassable really, in many ways. I first came across Mx Bond in the film Shortbus, and have been mesmerised by Mx Bond and v’s music ever since. Wonderful.
Later in June and another joy to behold, apart from the old people grunting hysterically in the adjacent seats (very strange and disturbing), was the sing-along version at the Prince Charles of one of my most favourite films. The Wicker man (1973 version of course). Luckily I have the soundtrack and so know all the words, as did my trusty companion. This is currently my most anticipated blu ray release.
The Royal Opera House beckoned as La Wainwright and family took residence for a week in the middle of July. Of all the nights on offer, I was drawn to the one where he was double billing with his father Loudon III. And what a voice Loudon has - excellent. And together they were really great. Very teeny tiny seats far far away, but the beauty of the place is that it was still an excellent view. Gorgeous ice cream, and what a place the ROH is - another first for me. Champagne for Rufus! So glad I got to see them together on stage - brilliant.
The end of July heralded a return to the National for a cleverly staged production of A Woman Killed with Kindness. Written in 1603, set in 18somethingorother and produced in 2011, quite a mix of the visual, aural and moral, but an interesting domestic thriller and a night out at the theatre in some very good seats, and no riposte.
August was dry culturally but I made up for it at the start of September with some art and a very intriguing installation. In the end I could take or leave The Vorticists at Tate Britain, but was completely spell bound by an intriguing installation by Mike Nelson called The Coral Reef. This piece is a disorientating network of 15 interconnecting shabby, seedy and slightly post-apocalyptic feeling rooms. You find yourself somewhere which has obviously been very recently abandoned and clues are strewn around as to what had gone on before. Not quite sure why you are there, what has happened or what you are going to find, this was very exciting and I think a real winner for me.
Then there was the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern which I also adored. I love a bit of Spanish, art, and even though it was sometimes hard to work out which of the 3 red dots represented the fate of the peasants and which the oppression by the fascist regime, it was great, so much colour and life all expressed with that vibrant Spanish exuberance. When I retire to Andalucía to run my brothel – you’re all invited by the way – I will hang a Miro to remind me of my middle years spent in the galleries of London.
Towards the end of September I ventured back to the National to see Arnold Weskers’ The Kitchen. This was a wonderful production, and the way the work of the kitchen and the lives of the characters were brought to life was very clever and captivating. I once worked with Arnold Wesker’s daughter, or was it his niece – I forget, anyway the production was brilliant and far less forgettable, and again in my favourite seats. I’m so easy to please.
October brought music in the form of a wonderful evening at the Assembly in the Royal Spa of all places, with Mr Marc Almond, singing very well in an evening of chanson, torch songs, and Russian romances. I think it is a miracle that he is still with us; he is like a cat with nine lives. But thank the baby cheeses that he is. And what an oeuvre! A most enjoyable evening in an excellent newish venue so close to the ancestral home.
Dashing back to the National for 13 – OMG, got to see it to believe it. ‘Across London, people wake up from an identical, terrifying dream’. Edge of the seat stuff and one of the most inventive exciting sets I have ever seen there. Action packed and good looking - a bit like me I suppose.
A return to musical theatre later in November, this time for a slap up evening at Priscilla Queen of the Desert with a few showbiz pals. This was a glorious reimagining of one of my favourite films and the music and the performances were just divine. And my first visit to the Cambridge Theatre, and I got eyed up by a handsome man with a beard! Well done everybody - they could certainly all get their Mabel to the back of the gallery.
And so to the penultimate outing for 2011 and this time to St Martin in the Fields for a spot of your actual Messiah at the end of December. Excellent seats and some very rousing performances, even if the second violin was chatting to her mate throughout! The key thing for me was the timps, we were sat right behind and I was fascinated by the many many adjustments the timpanist was constantly making to his drums. Now there’s a euphemism waiting to happen. Either he was a perfectionist or he slept through his sound check/rehearsal. The life of a jobbing orchestrati is a busy one I imagine. Absolutely lovely and such a wonderful prelude to Christmas - completely made up for the lack of mulled wine over the yule tide.
So, there you go. I don’t spend my entire life on the sofa in my pants, as some of you imagine, after all. And there’s plenty more where that came from. Here’s to even more Kultcha in 2012. Let me know if you hear of anything good!