Exhibition – ‘Opera: Passion, Power and Politics’, V&A, 23rd November 2017

V&A exhibitions are usually on a fairly large scale, but the opera exhibition surpasses even their usual standards. A little sign at the entrance suggests you allow 70 minutes for your visit; myself and my friends K and S were actually in there for nearly 2 hours reading the plaques, watching the clips and, of course, listening to the music.

The exhibition is beautifully laid out, taking you through 7 European cities and 7 opera premieres that took place in each, with associated music that plays through the headset that you’re given on entering as you walk through each area. Some are well known operas (relatively speaking; I think most people have some familiarity with ‘The Marriage of Figaro’) and some are much less well known (I hadn’t even heard of ‘Rinaldo’, although I am now desperate to see it when Glyndebourne stage it in 2019). There’s plentiful reference to the changing times as reflected in opera, for example sexuality and eroticism in ‘Salome’, and the banning of ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ by Stalin as he felt it wasn’t appropriate behaviour for Soviet women to see.

Overall: a huge and beautiful exhibition which is a real feast for the senses.

Play – ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, London County Hall, 23rd November 2017

Regular readers will know there are certain things that can guarantee I will be enthusiastic about a play- I’ll see anything with Tamsin Greig in it for example. Another thing I’m always enthusiastic about is Agatha Christie -I started borrowing her mystery books from my school library aged 11 and shot through them all in a matter of months. Since then I’ve seen pretty much any film/TV/stage adaptation that’s come along and I’ve seen ‘The Mousetrap’ twice, though not for many years (in fact perhaps a repeat visit is in order!) so I was keen to see this new production, and the fact that it was set inside London’s County Hall was a real bonus.

I know the story well (I’ve read it and seen the TV adaptation in the past) so it wouldn’t be fair to comment on the twist since I knew what was coming, but as always with Christie, you’ll get a clever mystery with an outcome you don’t anticipate. I LOVED the setting, with a real magistrates’ bench for the judge to sit at (and the jury get sworn in on the left hand side bench just before the play starts -keep a look out for it!) and the layout feels like you really are part of the performance, especially in the courtroom scenes when you feel like you could be in the spectators’ gallery.

Overall: great fun in a unique and beautiful setting. Go go go.

Play – ‘Oslo’, Harold Pinter Theatre, 20th November 2017

No, not another sneaky post about our Scandinavia holiday, but the title of the play which has had a lot of buzz around it -not surprisingly with the challenging topic of little-known Norwegian diplomats arranging peace talks between the Israelis and the PLO.

It certainly is fascinating, but my advice is to do your homework (if you don’t know much about the background you will be pretty lost) and you do need to concentrate- miss a bit of dialogue and you’ll spend the next half hour whispering to your companion trying to catch up (in my case frantically asking my friend R ‘so was that an Israeli..?’) However, it is well worth a watch and there are some lovely touches of humour included within the serious stuff (the enthusiasm for the Norwegian cook’s waffles was great!)

Overall: not easy watching, not lighthearted, but a proper good stimulating evening’s theatre.

JAPAN – November 2017

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Japan had been on my wish list for the longest longest time. But I kept putting it off because ‘it’s so expensive’!! Only to realise that no matter what, it won’t get any cheaper… so we should probably just get on with it. It was booked in February, which is the furthest in advance I have EVER booked a holiday, but on the plus side gave me loads of time to plan and get excited!!Read More »

Musical – ‘Big Fish’, The Other Palace, 14th November 2017

Apparently this was a popular film starring Ewan McGregor, which I had no idea about until my friends K and C with whom I saw this musical told me about it. I’m not a film buff at all, but I love musicals, I love The Other Palace (a beautiful comfortable little modern oasis of a theatre in the chaos of Victoria) and I love Kelsey Grammer – so there were plenty of reasons for me to see this musical.
It was absolutely lovely. While in some ways I wished it was in a proper West End theatre with a big stage and huge jazzy sets, there’s no denying that the intimacy of the theatre made a big difference to the production, particularly in the emotional bits (of which they were many). The relationship between Edward Bloom (played by Grammer) and his son Will was beautifully portrayed – who hasn’t had a major love-hate relationship with their parents?! And wow, can Grammer (and indeed all of them) really sing…
Overall: a perfect example of a whimsical, emotional musical

Play – ‘Apologia’, Trafalgar Studios, 13th November 2017

Trafalgar Studios often put on interesting plays but yet again the draw for me here was the (fairly) big name of Stockard Channing. As a huge musicals fan she will always be ‘Rizzo’ to me. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her live on stage.
Unusually though, I must say that in the end she impressed me less than the play itself. A ‘family drama’ focusing on a mother, her 2 sons, their partners and the erstwhile relationships between them all, it handled some difficult emotions with sensitivity, humour and grace. I felt the ending was a little unresolved – but that seems to be the trend in modern theatre these days sadly.
Overall: in the nicest possible way, Stockard Channing is the very least of reasons to see this interesting play.

Play – ‘Labour of Love’, Noel Coward Theatre, 4th October 2017

My friend J suggested this play based on an interesting storyline (the author is James Graham who wrote ‘Ink’, which I loved) and good leads in the shapes of Sarah Lancashire and Martin Freeman. But between the time we booked and when we actually saw the play, Sarah Lancashire had been replaced by none other than Tamsin Greig- about my immense love for whom, I’ve written before.

So the stage was already set for a good night even before the curtain rose on the Nottinghamshire constituency office where Martin Freeman’s affable MP David Lyons is waiting for the results of the 2016 election with his agent Jean (the ever-wonderful Greig). From then on, the action moves backwards and forwards in time, looking at both the change in the political climate (screens show news clips from various time periods between scenes) and the change in the relationship between Freeman and Greig.

Overall: a great watch if you like people, politics, smart comedy, good theatre… Basically must-see.