Enjoyed Tessa Farmer's tiny, destructive Unwelcome Visitors careering their way through the Holburne, Bath. I didn't really have enough time, but I wasn't sure if I'd have another opportunity before the show ends in September, so I decided a short trip was better than none. I hope I do go back, though - reading about it afterwards (as is my contrary wont), I discovered that I'd missed quite a lot - the 'visitors' were so well integrated into the displays that quite often I assumed things were part of the original and moved on too quickly, without enough attention to what was there.
For me, the whole thing was finely balanced between delight at such a brilliant conceit, jaw-dropped awe at some of the miniscule craftsmanship and (I confess) a touch of squeamishness in the face of some of the exhibits - intimidatingly large ants, for instance (not desperately keen on ants at the best of times), and a generously sized caterpillar, squashily skewered on a stick. I had occasional difficulties with what appeared to be varying scales, too, but I think more attention to the work might solve those.
On to the Hot Bed Press Wayzgoose this last Friday and Saturday - essentially one of their occasional 'under-the-bed' print sales, with much added letterpress this time as well as a handful of printmaking demos. When I looked through my planchest drawers a couple of weeks previously for old prints to put in the sale, I discovered not a lot, so I decided to complete a small edition of a tiger print (I started it three, four years ago and then abandoned it at the time so that I could do the same image rather bigger for the 20:20 print exchange).
I know that people do turn up, look round and leave again empty-handed, because I saw a couple at the very start, but it's rare - most of us end up leaving with something new to put on the wall, and many with lots of somethings. I was unusually restrained, but I did acquire just a few things, including a lovely inky blue lithograph of a crow by Katy Hollinshead (the charcoal-coloured version is in the picture below right).
And finally 'Around the World in Eighty Days' at the Royal Exchange. It was just fantastic, inventive fun from start to finish. I suppose some of the more slapstick elements could have been too much if I'd been in a different mood, but as it was, I just thought it was all great, from Phileas Fogg's beautifully timed daily routine at the beginning to his wedding with Aouda at the triumphant finish. The train carriages! The ship scenes! The elephant! The slo-mo fights! So many brilliant, ingenious things.
Just been to see Orlando at the Royal Exchange - excellent! Get tickets! There's still a week left - go!
I wasn't sure what to expect, having seen Miranda Richardson in a version at the Edinburgh Festival way back when. When? 1996, it turns out, and I remember being faintly bemused at it, more than anything else. Whereas this, this was engaging from the very first moment, and funny and fascinating and my attention didn't waver for a moment. There were instances of such ridiculousness that I found a part of my brain thinking that I surely couldn't be enjoying them this much, but the other part didn't understand that and wasn't even listening because what was happening on stage was too good, too much fun. I should probably say that I haven't read the book (and am currently convinced that it couldn't be anywhere as good as this was) and admit that I have no deep understanding of what was going on. And I don't care. It doubtless helps that it's surely been a long while since I've seen a play at the Exchange that truly grabbed me, but everything about and everyone in this one was brilliant.
Saw Royal Exchange Manchester's latest production To Kill a Mocking Bird yesterday. It was so good! I've never read the book (I find the idea of depression-era USA writing too potentially miserable) but it's hard to get through (mumble mumble) years of life without picking up at least a broad outline of the plot, so that in spite of a slew of excellent reviews online (apparently - I'm not the one who looks them up) I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. However it was a pleasure from end to end, if admittedly an intense experience. I find it quite hard to pick out highlights, but Shannon Tarbet (21 or possibly 22) was unbelievably convincing as Scout (9 or 10). I thought too that the starved and presumably rabid dog, a wire sculpture hound, was amazing. I suppose people had a point when they carped about hearing everything clearly, but I have to say that such small patches didn't diminish my enjoyment at all - after all, it always takes me a measure of time to 'tune in' to Shakespeare, which isn't a problem either - and yes, the dog was so close that the shot by Atticus didn't seem impressive, but personally I was happier to have seen the sculpture than to to have them create some invisible hound offstage as the target.
My one uncertainty was moving the narration around various actors when throughout it was so obviously Scout's - I felt it worked only once with the other actors, when Tom Robinson told what happened to ... Tom Robinson, while Scout listened. Still, brilliant play, but I can't recommend folks go see because apparently it's completely sold out - you could queue for returns, I suppose. It would be worth it.
A few other arty things. Hot Bed Press has a shared exhibition at the moment with Highland Print Studios at An Talla Solais in Ullapool - I don't think I'll be making a trip, though I'd love too.
Odd, I think, how the mind works. I was in Manchester's Royal Exchange today where there turned out to be an exhibition of past posters. I went up to the mezzanine (lovely word, mezzanine) to see it and although there were a few very good examples, over all I felt disappointed and slightly flat. It took very little time to realise that, when it comes to Royal Exchange productions - and other theatres' too, but especially Royal Exchange - music is one of the things that has lifted a number of them into the realm of memorable, making me want to go back to see them (sometimes only to hear the music again). Cymbeline, with Art Malik, was one - though I do remember that one for Art Malik too. Oh yes. And one of their productions of Twelfth Night, possibly the most recent, had memorable music. In fact for quite a while music was just wonderful in any number of their Shakespeare plays.
There must be plenty of others that I've now forgotten, alas - I've often thought they should video perfomances, and I suspect music might well be why I think that would be a good idea. The play has to be well performed in the first place, obviously - music is not enough on its own - and the music has to be good too, but more than that it has to be (I think this would be the right word) visceral. It has almost to enter from your feet up, something much deeper than how it sounds to the ear.
And then I went and riffled through the recent classical music releases in Forsyths, and realised even more quickly, and with no sense of surprise, just how many I would be tempted to buy for the artwork instead of the music. Packaging is embarrassingly important to me.
So what's that all about? I look at the art and want the music; I look at the music and want the art.
Well, those might not have been the actual words, but that was the gist of a review of Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre's latest production, A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's the sort of description guaranteed to strike fear into the soul of someone like me - I sit through their farces and near-farces, more often than not grim-faced and with folded arms. I console myself with the thought that surely you can get a return from something you hate and that sees two hours of your life trickling away from you forever, just as you can from a really enjoyable production. If nothing else, it gives you a benchmark for dire, and that must be worth something? So I approached this whacky fun in a reasonably negative frame of mind - chalk it up to experience, I thought.
I couldn't have been more wrong. It was brilliantly good fun, both true to the original and wildly original in itself, and I cannot remember the last time I laughed so constantly at a play - my face ached as we left, and we spent our walk through town smiling broadly and exchanging quotes and chortling happily. If that makes us sound like a bunch of idiots, that can't be helped. Not everything quite worked out - the music, or at least some of the singing, was, um, variable - but there was that feeling that this production got to the heart of what the play is about. I've seen attempts at the madness and mayhem before, but not truly realised what they were at, and probably just sat through those sections waiting for them to end.
It's only on for another week - go see, and do your own chortling.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.