May 2015.Last May was relatively quiet. I got to see some quite interesting things including the revival of 'Shock Treatment', which really should have transferred to the West End.
Friday 1st May 2015 - 'A Mad World, My Masters' at the Barbican.
The Royal Shakespeare production of Thomas Middleton's comedy transposed to Britain in the Fifties. I remember finding this production hilarious. Not least because sitting in the front row left me open to being used as a prop by the actors. At one point, one of the actors jumped off stage and held me, relaying his dialogue and then quietly whispering that 'I didn't have to do anything'. Somehow, it's hard to know how to feel when somewhere deep down inside there is a performer aching to come out.
Saturday 2nd May 2015 - 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' at the Barbican.
I saw this in 3D and although, it completely deviates from the comic stories that inspired it (Hank Pym created Ultron, not Tony Stark and Bruce Banner), it was pretty watchable. Paul Bettany as the Vision is a surprisingly sympathetic character, precisely because his character grows like a child, learning more of the ways of human beings (he is a Synthezoid, an android of types sharing many similarities with human beings). The 3D effects as ever underwhelmed me. It was a less than wonderful gimmick in the 50s and continues to offer nothing to the audiences' enjoyment of a film. I enjoyed how in many respects, Ultron within this film becomes like Frankenstein's Monster, the victim of Stark and Banner's vanity project. It also quite rightly jumps to the conclusion that human beings and the Avengers are part of the problem, when one considers issues of how best to maintain peace and stability.
Friday 8th May 2015 - 'Knightmare Live: Level 2' at the Udderbelly Festival.
A second trip down memory lane as I had seen this once before live. 'Knightmare' used to be screened on ITV after school I believe on Fridays. It involved a small group of children leading another child who wore a helmet and satchel around a computer generated dungeon. The group had to avoid obstacles including monsters and traps. They also had to solve riddles. Overseeing all of the action was one major figure, Treguard the Dungeon Master and also various villains including Lord Fear. The live action version basically takes the format of the original and uses adults to guide a member of the audience who ends up wearing the helmet. As the Udderbelly Festival is a comedy festival, the guiding team are comedians. The humour comes from the fact that the sets look terrible but somehow, the whole experience evokes the feelings I used to experience when I saw the TV series. Essentially, it's a nostalgia trip but a good one.
Saturday 9th May 2015 - 'Sonia Delaunay' at the Tate Modern and 'Far From The Madding Crowd' at the BFI.
I have just discovered scribbled on my calendar a reference to the fact that I attended an art exhibition at the Tate Modern, prior to going to the BFI in the afternoon. It was in fact the 'Sonia Delaunay' exhibition and all I remember about it was how colourful her creations were. Vibrant uses of colour and shape.
'Far From The Madding Crowd' was the 60s version of the film starring Terrence Stamp and Julie Christie. For me, Terrence Stamp still epitomises the 60s, something about his brooding good looks. Julie Christie is also ideally cast as Bathsheba, Thomas Hardy's wonderfully named and strong character. It's a great adaptation of a brilliant novel.
Sunday 10th May 2015 - Artists' Open House 2015 (Various locations around South East London).
I went round a number of properties with a friend exploring the art works of local artists. A very stimulating way to pass a Sunday afternoon. One artist created faux cinema posters and another local landscape paintings. So many talented people.
Tuesday 12th May 2015 - 'Alice's Adventures Underground' at the Vaults.
I attended this immersive experience with a friend. Basically, the events in the performance mirrored the two novels, 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Alice Through The Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll. The most powerful scene for me being the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Basically, the audience were seated around a long table with the remains of china ware scattered in front of us. The Mad Hatter was running up and down the table scaring the life out of the audience. I also remember one point where I was left alone to spy on the characters to try to ascertain who had repainted the flowers. The whole experience was quite surreal and just a little bit too busy. It's hard to critique an immersive performance as you get out of it what you put in. I liked the details including the use of mirrors.
Friday 15th May 2015 - 'Betrayal: A Polyphonic Crime Drama' at the Village Underground.
This was a truly unique experience. It used the music of Carlo Gesualdo, an Italian Renaissance composer who killed his unfaithful wife and her lover. In fact, each of these elements informed this immersive experience. The audience were all given small torches to light up the performers who danced and sang. The Village Underground in Shoreditch was also used like a crime scene with notices and crime details stuck around the venue. The darkness and patches of light made for a very uneasy yet thrilling experience. I Fagiolini, the vocal ensemble, were amazing. I saw this with a friend and it still resonates.
Tuesday 19th May 2015 - 'The Pride' at the South London Theatre.
Lovely version of a play by Alexi Kaye Campbell. It explores various relationships and attitudes towards homosexuality. I enjoyed the play a lot. The bucket was also an interesting feature in the Prompt Corner (used to catch any water if it rained). My enduring memory of this production was the quality of the acting and direction. The South London Theatre's original location is currently undergoing restoration work and I am glad that they are currently based at the nearby Stanley Halls until the work can be completed.
Friday 22nd May 2015 - The Tiger Lillies at the London Wonderground.
Gosh, I have seen The Tiger Lillies a lot over the years. Their bizarre blend of cabaret, murder ballads and other songs about the darker side of life greatly appeals to me. Also the accordion becomes an essential musical element in their performance. Also I am glad that I have like minded companions who enjoy their music too. It's also fun seeing them in the Spiegeltent that is regularly used during the London Wonderground season each year.
Wednesday 27th May 2015 - 'The Harvest' at the Soho Theatre.
So many apples! A play about apple picking. The stage was surrounded by overhanging fruit. A very funny play about the problems of apple picking exploring the dangers of over packing crates (you can bruise the fruit and once one apple is bruised, the rest can become bruised). I attended this event with friends too and I recall lots of smashed apples at the end and broken wooden crates.
Friday 29th May 2015 - 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
My second visit to the exhibition and I still felt that it was overrated. The curators should have let McQueen's work speak for itself rather than impose their artistic vision all over it. This second visit was a very quick trip too.
Sunday 31st May 2015 - 'Shock Treatment' at the King's Head Theatre, Islington.
Pretty major revival of Richard O'Brien's 'Shock Treatment'. This was the first time I had seen the musical and it was brilliantly staged. The stage area and auditorium were designed to resemble a TV studio and the performance was anarchic. Well acted and the songs were eminently memorable. Sadly, despite a bit of a campaign on social media sites, it hasn't transferred to the West End yet but really should!
Barry Watt - 12th June 2016.
All of the productions and exhibitions etc are copyright to their respective owners.