Monday 14 August 2017

A modern classic of the theatre, some theatrical Hitchcock action and a touch of the Renaissance...

7th August - 13th August 2017

A theatre heavy week this one with a smattering of Renaissance art, although a little further afield with most of this week's adventures being further afield than London, so on wards and upwards we go...

Angels In America - Part Two - Perestroika

On Tuesday night we returned to the National Theatre for the concluding half of modern classic Angels In America, the second half being a four hour behemoth, bringing the total for both parts to a whopping seven and a half hours, although don't let that put you off.

Picking up from where part one left off, it continues to stories of our main protagonist Prior, (Andrew Garfield in career best form), continuing with his haunting hallucinations of the angel, interwoven further with the initially unrelated continuing stories of Belize his friend and nurse, (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in a more expanded part here, and absolutely superb throughout), Nathan Lane's sleazy lawyer Roy Cohn, Joseph and Harper Pitt, (Russell Tovey and a sensational Denise Gough), Prior's ex-boyfriend turned Joseph's lover Louis played by James McArdle, Joseph's mother Hannah, (the fantastic Susan Brown, who also plays the spectral Ethel Rosenberg), and the titular Angel played by Amanda Lawrence, (an amazing piece of design with shadowy figures operating the steampunk-esque wings).

Tony Kushner's sprawling epic has been rightfully acclaimed as a modern classic of theatre, an indisputable claim given how mesmerising the entire saga has been, coupled with imaginative but simple staging and flawless performances from all concerned, a tall order having to be rehearsed and ready for both parts as they run together, alternating over different nights.

The continuation of the exploration of themes such as sexuality, mental health, religion, desire and discrimination are further explored, but these only scrape the surface of the themes that the play delves into, evoking starkly the atmosphere of fear and lack of understanding during the AIDS crisis of the eighties, and it's wide reaching consequences as a result of the ignorance and panic that ensued.

This instalment takes a far more existential approach, however was never less than an exhilarating piece of theatre which will linger long in the memory.

It's due to finish on the 19th of August.

North By Northwest

On Saturday we took a short trip to Bath to catch the closing night of another piece of exciting theatre, however this time with more of an action packed tongue in cheek effort.

Being great admirers of Alfred Hitchcock the opportunity to see an adaptation on the stage was irresistible, especially as we had enjoyed a previous effort in 'The 39 Steps' immensely so had high hopes for this too.

It didn't disappoint.

The entire play is presented on a simple plain set comprising a grid like back wall, evoking the Saul Bass opening graphics from the film, which made up a whole wall of a screen which provided the back drop to the scenes.

However the backdrops were not just pictures or static graphical scenery, but were actually live animated backings being produced by the cast with the aid of a small camera, blue/red screens and a variety of props, miniatures and other practical effects at the sides of stage whilst the main action took place centre stage.

Train rides, the infamous crop duster scene, close ups of vital clues and most imaginatively the Mount Rushmore finale were all recreated with a variety of creative approaches and made the show something truly special to witness.

Jonathan Watton acquits himself well in the shadow of Cary Grant and Olivia Fines is also well cast as the surrogate Eva Marie Saint, both lofty shoes to fill which they do with aplomb with deft comic timing and plenty of enthusiasm.

The ensemble around them inhabit the many roles very well, quite like the aforementioned 'The 39 Steps', the fast paced humour never descending into farce and keeping on the right side of thrilling.

As Hitchcock fans we loved it, however prior knowledge of the material is not essential, although the crop duster scene alone is one of those scenes which people are acutely aware of despite having never seen the film.

Hopefully this production will transfer to the West End as it'd be great to catch it again, and if it does don't miss it!

Raphael - The Drawings

On Sunday on our way home from Bath we took a detour to Oxford to visit the latest exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum showcasing a large collection of drawings by Raphael, many of which were equally as dramatic as our theatre excursions though in a wholly different way.

The works in the show are all sketches and drawings carried out by Raphael either as studies for larger paintings or etchings, or glimpses at Raphael's practice sketches to perfect different elements of his work, whether it be faces, bodies, hands or everyday objects such as fabrics.

The show is separated into three main timescales and then broken down into particular groups of studies of certain motifs, themes of more specifically anatomical features.

The first section focuses on Raphael's various works exploring the nature of the mother and the child, specifically The Virgin Mother and baby, also including works depicting various approaches to children.

There is also a look at his works depicting male nudes and warriors in battle, also mainly nudes in response to his contemporaries' work such as Michelangelo and DaVinci.

The skill and deftness of hand evident in these works is something to truly behold, even the less polished drawings which still bear the marks of the metal point stylus used or the rougher outline marks used to scale and position the subjects have a natural ethereal quality to them which coupled with the fact that these were created over five hundred years ago is truly astonishing.

The works continue with a section devoted to various studies which culminated in his work 'The Slaughter Of The Innocents', the completed etching also on show to show the evolution from idea to completion.

The gallery given over to the works of religious figures which were all ideas and suggestions for commissioned decoration of rooms at the Vatican show the evolution of his craft barely a decade on, however the works just get better and better. The perfectionist within Raphael is clearly evident just be seeing the number of works where he has work shopped, perfecting the draping of fabrics alone.

The final room shows some of his later works before his premature death at the age of thirty seven.

The fact that these are works seldom seen, let alone together and in this quantity is reason enough to catch the show which is on until the 3rd of September.

Next week sees some California surf inspired rock, some classic Shakespeare and an action classic on the big screen. Until then, get inspired...

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