Monday, February 20, 2012

A Brighter Shade of Yorkshire: David Hockney at the RA


There's no doubt about it, even in a mild winter London is dim and dismal.  When I see TV images of East Yorkshire, though, usually covered by floodwater or threatened by gales, I count my blessings.This happens when a friend, currently  teaching abroad, makes her twice-yearly return  to check on the house that her mother left her, in a village near Hull. I wondered what she'd think of David Hockney's portrayal of her home territory, which contradicts the wind-swept greyness  I remember from my visits.

I'm not really a Hockney fan. His enormous red canvases depicting the Grand Canyon, in a previous exhibition at the RA, seemed flat and lacked drama, which was strange, given the subject's potential. I was underwhelmed, too  by  a giant 'stand of trees' on walls surrounding a staircase at Tate Britain, which seemed to stare back at the viewer in the same insipid manner.

Hockney was apparently inspired to by  road journeys to make these pictures -much of the exhibition is filled with iPad sketches he made while sitting in his car. It's true he sat outdoors when the weather permitted, but even that must have been for brief spells only.  

I attended one  of the preview days of this new exhibition  at the RA,  and was astonished.  Wandering through room after room of these oversized, brightly coloured canvases was like taking a stroll in a magic kingdom. In  depicting the landscape  around his home town of  Bridlington,  Hockney imbues the northern landscape with the brightness of California.

Looking  at  these  technicolour, one might almost say garish, depictions, they   remind  us that when it comes to art what we see is not so important as what  we imagine. It's as if the artist has put the gloss of American glamour over a landscape that too often  seems rather drab and depressing; as if Gauguin painted French landscapes with a  Polynesian palate.

I hate it when people say of a film 'it was nothing like the book' - I want to say, 'Why should it be?'  So I don't know why I should object that these paintings are nothing like East Yorkshire. In fact, I like them much better - they're a definite improvement on the original, in my opinion.

The exhibition continues to April 9th

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Lot  to Sing About: 'Next Time I'll Sing to You' at The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond

I saw this play last November and forgot to post the blog. A recent visit to Richmond's other theatre (see below) reminded me to look it up.

This must be one of  the best fringe theatres venue in London. For a start, the well-padded seating is arranged on four sides of a smallish central space, so the audience is never far from the actors.

The technical apparatus is good so that  minimal staging is enhanced by state-of-the-art lighting and sound  There's a bar serving reasonably-priced drinks, for, as is often the case with  fringe theatres, it's  attached to a well-attended  pub.

This venue scores well for other criteria, too - it's  within a short walk of a tube/ train station, has an efficient and pleasantly manned box office,  and  a cosy  foyer decked  with photos of previous productions.

The  programme contents were excellent, giving  information about the background and origins of the play and the writer's inspiration plus actor biographies and and a potted theatre history. It certainly eases a reviewer's task.

Here's my review of the play on The Public Reviews website

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Boredom in the Stalls : Murder on the Nile at Richmond Theatre

I saw this Agatha Christie play in a beautiful theatre, tucked away near Richmond Green and a complete contrast to the modern theatre-in-the-round called The Orange Tree, nearer the station.

It was good to spot Carolin Kopplin at the end of the performance. She's a fellow fringe theatre critic  whom I met only last week to chat with on press night  for 'Sense and Sensibility' (see below)  at The Rosemary Branch.

She confirmed that despite the efforts of cast and creative team the play itself was a let-down.  As she stated in her own review for the UK Theatre Network, she'd spotted one or two elderly patrons nodding off during the first half.

Here's my review on The Public Reviews website

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Cliff didn't mean Lowestoft

Maybe I thought myself too mature for the early 1960s pop music scene. In 1963 I turned 20 and was living in Portsmouth, where my husband was a full-time student at the Polytechnic, so maybe there was too much going on in my immediate circle to take much notice. I remember we played a lot of  Subuteo, when I wasn't busy as an unqualified teacher in a local junior school. All the same, it was there in the background, I suppose, on the radio.

Luckily, I have a  music-loving friend who lives a short walk away from Churchill Theatre, Bromley. So when I volunteered to  review  'Save the Last Dance for Me'  and it was one of Roy's bridge nights, I was very happy to have Diana sitting next to me to offer comments.

'Mm, the choeography looks a bit samey', I'd say, thinking it was mainly arm- waving,' but she remind me the stage was a tad small. Another thing she noticed, which I probably never would, was how well individuals played their instruments. For me the sounds were pleasant and faintly familiar from a rock n roll era that never really captured my attention when I was of an age to appreciate it.

Here's my review on The Public Reviews website: