Now I guess this had to happen at some point. Yes, it's time for my year in review. I have always found the idea of sifting through the gems and debris of each passing year, an odd occupation. So consequently, I have opted to try a slightly more focused and potentially crazy way of exploring my year via the cultural events and places I have visited. I anticipate that breaking my year down into a succession of cultural pastimes may help to stimulate my memories and feelings. I find choosing top tens etc quite tedious as a means of exploring the wealth of stimuli that we are all exposed to each year. This way, I can look at everything and write exactly as I please either in detail or more sparingly. This is a test for my memory as one curious thing that happens as you experience lots of things is a gradual merging of events until only one detail remains of each passing moment, this can be an emotion or some recognition of the arrangement of space or an action. Sounding pretentious enough yet? Hopefully, it will all make sense by the end.
Friday 2nd January 2015 - The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
I visited the 'Horst: Photographer of Style' exhibition in the morning and unusually, the exhibition although busy was not as busy as most of the V and A's exhibition. My major memory of this exhibition was of the models and the photographer's preoccupation with surrealism and command of colour. Another peculiar thing that still resounds with me is the wide range of materials that he printed his images onto including platinum. In fact, other than looking at Man Ray's work, I have rarely focused on how images are changed through the materials they are printed on. I also saw another exhibition when I eventually found it. I believe that it was on Russian Avant-Garde Theatre. My abiding memory of the exhibition and trying to find it was the sense of unease I was feeling. I received a phone call around the time I found the exhibition and very briefly looked at the costume designs etc in the horribly red exhibition space. I left the building and learnt that my Dad was in hospital. He died the following day on Saturday 3rd January 2015.
Sunday 4th January 2015 - 'The Theory of Everything' at the Barbican.
I was in two minds about whether I should attend this film or not, but I decided that I should. The mourning process is very strange and unique to each person. I have discovered that personally, I need to keep doing things. It doesn't stop you thinking and exploring your feelings but it provides a different context, in which to come to terms with loss. The film was brilliantly done and it leaves you with a comprehensive sense of both Stephen Hawking as a man and as a scientist. Eddie Redmayne deserved the accolades he received for his performance. Felicity Jones also deserves recognition for her portrayal of his wife. The film leaves the viewer with an abiding sense of hope. Yes, there are moments of intense sadness but somehow, leaving the cinema you could feel the positivity. I had a random thought that was part of my grieving process for my Dad. I suddenly felt the recognition that Dad would never see my children if I ever choose to have them. This saddened me at the time. In typing this, I feel a residue of that feeling returning.
Tuesday 6th January 2015 - 'Birdman' at the Barbican.
I attended 'Birdman' with a friend. The film as a whole is effectively a film about the process of staging a play. I commented then and still bang home the point that the film would have worked better as a stage play. Unlike many people, I was not particularly enchanted by Michael Keaton's performance. It wasn't terrible but nor was it life changing. I was more interested in Lindsay Duncan as a critic and her sadly brief appearances as she engaged in some particularly fascinating exchanges with Keaton exploring the problems and limitations surrounding putting on expensive shows with stars from TV and film. A phenomenon that has always been true in Broadway and is certainly becoming an issue in the London theatre scene, particularly in the West End (thank goodness for the fringe scene that counterbalances the tendency to place film stars in productions, in the hope of encouraging 'bums on seats'. No, I didn't feel this film deserved to win 'Best Film' awards. I remember feeling really shattered on this evening, so thanks to my friend for perking me up.
Wednesday 7th January 2015 - 'The Play That Goes Wrong' at the Duchess Theatre.
I went to see this production with a friend. We went for a meal first and thanks again to my friend for putting up with the shattered and down me. The production was great fun. I have always enjoyed intelligent productions, which explore the dangers of putting on theatre productions, particularly if you are an amateur company with little money and a slightly dodgy production team. It featured brilliant scenes such as the gradual destruction of the set and the actors having to perform acrobatic acts to prevent them from falling to the ground.
Wednesday 14th January 2015 - 'Gein's Family Giftshop: Volume 1' at the Soho Theatre.
'Gein's Family Giftshop: Volume 1' was a peculiar sketch show. Many reviewers have compared Gein's Family Giftshop's work with the 'League of Gentleman', although I didn't really see the parallel. It's a three piece group comprising two men and a woman, I remember some of the sketches touching on traditional gender roles. Uniquely, I remember this was one of the first times I used Twitter to contact a group and I communicated with them a couple of times. They were quite funny and I felt as though I was seeing them at an embryonic stage. They performed in the Upstairs space in the Soho Theatre, which like the other two performing spaces in the venue has its own unique atmosphere. It is a relatively small space, quite dark with a low(ish) ceiling. This helps to create a definite sense of intimacy with the performers whatever show you are watching.
Friday 16th January 2015 - 'Orfeo' at the Roundhouse.
I attended this event with a friend. We met for a meal first then had an interesting experience trying to find our seats in the Roundhouse. I think if I recall correctly, there was a queue to get into the auditorium for some reason. I have only been to the venue a couple of times and it's surprisingly big and strange. 'Orfeo' was a modern take on the story of Orpheus in the Underworld. Quite a powerful opera and I enjoyed the staging of the show. My friend and I were sitting further back in the venue at a fairly high level, but through the use of a ramp leading from the back of the venue to the stage, the performers could walk and perform in the middle of every section of the audience.
Sunday 18th January 2015 - 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' at the Barbican.
A very beautiful film in two parts. It was directed in 1945 by Marcel Carne. A film about a beautiful woman called Garance and the men who attempt to woo her. I have vivid memories of the very attractive male mime artist. Mime still fascinates me and this film if it is nothing else is a potent evocation of the theatre of the past. The film is over three hours long but it left me with a feeling of optimism and satisfaction when I left the cinema.
Friday 23rd January 2015 - 'Light' at the Barbican.
Strangely beautiful future vision staged in the Pit Theatre in the Barbican. I have fond memories of this space owing to the eclectic range of productions I have seen in it. This was part of the London International Mime Festival, which is staged each year in January. Theatre Ad Infinitum created a horrible dystopian future where everyone's thoughts are monitored through implants. These days that future seems so much more inevitable as we slowly merge metaphorically with our electronic devices. Stylistically striking through its use of light and darkness. Sudden moments of illumination followed by complete darkness. I attended this show with a friend who I recall also enjoyed it.
Saturday 24th January 2015 - 'Allen Jones' at the Royal Academy of Arts.
I had absolutely no recollection of this exhibition until I just looked up the artist Allen Jones on Google and everything came flooding back. Lots of artworks involving beautiful women in unusual poses. Some used as furniture. I remember the theatricality of many of the pieces. The bright colours and the movement. This was a good exhibition.
Sunday 25th January 2015 - 'Whiplash' at the Barbican.
One of my favourite films from last year. This was nominated for a number of awards and won several too including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons as the sadistic instructor. Basically, this film involves a talented jazz student who is pushed excessively by his instructor. In fact, it makes for uncomfortable viewing as Andrew Neiman (the student) becomes so driven that he loses track of most other areas of his life. The title of the film is something of a cautionary note for any other aspiring students who end up pushing themselves too hard. One of the few films where a ten minute drum solo is captivating viewing.
Thursday 29th January 2015 - 'Dogugaeshi' at the Barbican.
Another production I was lucky enough to see with a friend. Effectively dogugaeshi is the Japanese art of creating illusions through perspective. So basically, it involves the manipulation of gilt and paper panels upon a stage. The movement of panels creating or furthering mini stories. Live music was performed on a shamisen by a performer to one side of the stage. The performance was followed by a talk with the creator of the show where he showed the audience how the panels are moved vertically and horizontally. Basil Twist is a genius.
Friday 30th January 2015 - '32 Rue Vandenbraden' at the Barbican
Another show that was part of the London International Mime Festival. Two trailer homes were on stage and the characters moved from one to the other. The stage was covered in simulated snow and ice. It's amazing how even seeing simulated snow and ice can make you feel cold. There was quite an odd narrative running through this piece involving relationships between couples. Somewhere in the equation, I vaguely remember a baby too. But whether that was real or imagined in retrospect, I can't remember.
Barry Watt - 9th January 2016.