There have been a few events this year that do not fit into the conventional categories. I really enjoyed Like a Fish our of Water from Seven Sisters, a strange little tale told through an iPod touch with headphones while walking around Uxbridge lido watching short performances from members of the English National Ballet. As every year nowadays, there were fun happenings on the South Bank and Slow Food UK‘s family event at Massimo’s in February was lovely but it was telling that half the people there were Italian.
However, the most wonderful of all was the Musicircus at the Coliseum, celebrating what would have been John Cage’s 100th birthday. I thought this would be interesting but did not expect such perfect entertainment. From the hand-clapping sisters above (from the ENO’s Flickr set) to the brilliant musicianship of Sxip Shirey. Perhaps the favourite of all my favourites.
The commercial West End has outshone the both the NT and the Old Vic this year. The year started with Death and the Maiden, then a couple of great Noel Coward revivals, a tour de force by Anthony Andrews in Bully Boy, but the peak was the riveting production of Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo Theatre starring David Suchet. There is a perfect description of it in this Telegraph review.
I enjoyed Bronze and I found the Metamorphosis:Titian exhibition a bit disappointing, although I did enjoy the associated ballets. However, despite the rubbish weather, the big thing this year for me was sculpture in beautiful, outdoor settings: David Nash at Kew Gardens, the Garden of Reason at Ham House and this. There are some great pictures of some of the works here and Christie’s press release shows the thinking behind it. The juxtaposition of the modern art with the old was sometimes great, such as the Robert Indiana sculpture contrasting with three more traditional images of love:
(all photos taken by me – please ask to use elsewhere).
I am very surprised to realise that I enjoyed this more than any other opera this year. Other productions were better, such as Robert le Diable or Pilgrim’s Progress and if I’d kept my eyes shut then Julius Caesar would have won easily. However, the synthesis of music, performance and production reached its peak for me in the ENO’s production of Martinu’s Julietta. The most promising work was probably Dr Dee. I am a big fan of Damon Albarn and recommend The Fall by Gorillaz but this didn’t quite work. I gather it was an improvement on the original Manchester production and look forward to seeing further refinement – I think it could be really great.
I bought a recording of this back in the 80s on the Obscure record label but it has evolved since then and this concert took place on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic hitting the iceberg. Gavin Bryars and his musicians were joined by Philip Jeck on turntables playing old, scratched vinyl that fitted beautifully with the corroded film of the Titanic leaving on its only voyage. There is a very similar performance available for download from Amazon for the amazing price of 69p. I was going to mention a couple of other concerts I enjoyed but nothing else I’ve been to bears comparison with this wonderful and unique event.
It is a bit unfair to count All That Fall as ‘small’ apart from the size of the theatre (I saw it in the Arts Theatre): a Beckett play starring Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins directed by Trevor Nunn is huge in every other way. My runner-up was Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley at Trafalgar Studios 2: a riveting vision of an apocalypse that felt like it could be just around the corner. An honourable mention goes to Mother Adam at the Jermyn Street Theatre: a powerful revival of Charles Dyer’s play from the early 70s.
It’s that time of year when bloggers list their “best of the year” but I’m not going to pretend I know what was best. I do know my favourite and that was les Noces as part of a terrific Royal Ballet triple bill. It has been part of their repertoire for years but this was the first time I had seen it. I loved it so much I went back the following night! The music itself by Stravinsky is so wonderful that I would have enjoyed simply watching the performance from the musicians and the choir. Add to that vibrant, unique dancing and I was completely won over. Runner up was the English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballets Russes (more Stravinsky with Rite of Spring and Apollo) and a special mention to their unique collaboration with Flawless which was great fun.