The Mousetrap is having its first ever national tour to celebrate its diamond anniversary. That’s almost as old as me and it’s creaking just as much. It may be old tosh but it is very enjoyable old tosh, so if you haven’t seen it already then there’s no excuse. Michael Gove would approve as the writer was British so it must be better than that dreadful foreign stuff by Arthur Miller, Aristophanes, etc.
Kathleen Turner is absolutely the star of this show, delivering a fantastic performance as a ballsy trailer park mom. Ian McDiarmid plays a perfect foil as the English public school educated art expert arguing about her claim to have bought a Jackson Pollock for $3. Yes, the plot is rather slender and there is no very deep analysis. Who cares? The audience last night certainly didn’t as they rose to their feet to give a standing ovation. This one is all about the acting, not the plot, and the acting is wonderfully enjoyable. As a bonus, I’m planning to go back to Tate Modern and look at the Jackson Pollocks there. I’ve never really appreciated his work, compared to the massive emotional power of the Mark Rothko paintings there, but having listened to McDiarmid‘s character explaining their power and importance, just maybe I will get it this time.
The Royal Ballet’s performance of Balanchine’s Serenade was a nice start to the afternoon but I couldn’t help thinking of Houston Ballet’s performances of Balanchine works last year. They managed to give them a touch of Hollywood – a very American touch of swing and swagger that would have improved this to. However, on to the big event: Liam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets, inspired by the painter Walter Sickert’s obsession with Jack the Ripper. I missed its premiere a couple of years ago so was glad to grab this chance to see it. Unfortunately, not just the subject matter was dark, the stage was too. Although it was excellent, I almost fell asleep and heard a couple of people complaining that they had nodded off. It is possible to convey the necessary dark mood without lowering actual light levels this much. That left DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse which really woke everyone up. The music was commissioned from Michael Nyman to celebrate the French TGV trains. I’d never heard a full orchestra performing Nyman’s work live before, only his own band, and the textures were far more complex and fascinating. The choreography fitted the music perfectly, starting with a 6 Million Dollar Man/ Bionic Woman style of depicting speed through slow motion, then moving on with the music to more athletic action. It’s good to be back in London!
You certainly get your money’s worth with this double bill at 1 hour 20 minutes for David Mamet’s Squirrels and 1 hour 15 minutes for Caryl Churchill’s The After Dinner Joke. The Caryl Churchill was a real treat, a play about aid, poverty, charity, hunger, disasters, politics and more. Amazingly, it also managed to be very funny. Lydia Larson and David Gooderson were brilliant as the two central characters with three other actors playing a huge number of different parts as it jumped from one story to another, all illustrating the central themes and keeping the interest going. Sadly for me, my interest didn’t stay with the Mamet. I have no doubt it was a very clever, well acted play but I have a feeling you need to be a fellow writer, director or actor to appreciate it. Don’t worry, though as the Churchill alone is well worth the £10 a matinee costs for an oldie like me, and if you are lucky enough to be under 26 there are even £5 tickets available!
I’m just back to civilization (i.e. London) and find he’s on at the Scala tomorrow and there are advance tickets for £12!!! Sadly the show is from 10 pm – 4 am, he’s probably not on until gone midnight and I’d be asleep before he started. Oh well – I’ll just have to listen to the CDs again. If you’ve never heard of him, he makes beautiful music like this and extreme but brilliant music like this and even this. Like Aphex Twin only more so – wouldn’t it be great to be young again?
Julian Anderson’s new opera starts in the past, then to the future, then to the present, so I’ll start with Act II, then Act III, then Act I. The second act, Antigone, was for me the highlight of the opera. It started with Peter Hoare as Creon, singing an amazing, virtually unaccompanied aria. With Julia Sporsén throwing intense emotion into Antigone, it was spell binding. The third act, The Death of Oedipus, was a wonderful ending, featuring the ethereal counter tenor Christopher Ainslie as Theseus and Roland Wood as the dying Oedipus. So to Act I. before it started, someone came on stage to tell us that Roland Wood had a severe throat infection but would sing it anyway, despite not having sung for a fortnight. He asked for our understanding but Roland Wood was excellent. It did mean he had not rehearsed it with the other singers, though, so it didn’t quite hang together as it should and I couldn’t really feel engaged with it. The otherwise excellent conductor, Edward Gardner, took it slower than the approximate timing suggested it should be, perhaps nervous about Roland Wood keeping up, and the lighting sometimes left the person singing in the dark. I’m sure most of this will be sorted by the next performance and the other two acts were so good.