Sometimes the entertainment has to come from what you’re not able to see. At Late at Tate Britain on 7th February, one of the events was a poetry reading that my companion was quite keen to see. We’d already seen the 1840s GIF party (comprising looped animations using source material from the 1840s room) and the tail end of the One stop GIF shop, meaning we were a bit late to make it over to the Clore Gallery. The auditorium was full, and there was a man who was quite keen to prevent our entry, offering some slightly odd advice to take a specific route back to the main building. My diffidence meant that I couldn’t accede to a sneaky plan of bypassing him, so we had to marvel at the man’s enjoyment of his own officiousness. Before that I’d seen the set of short films from Free Film Festivals, which were inspired by the same paintings from the 1840s as the GIFs, the most memorable being Passionfruit Banananaphobia, which included the line:
Women are playing cards with themselves in their minds at all times
On the Sunday, I made it to the last day of Out of Ice at Ambika P3, a venue that seems to lend itself to installations involving pools of water. In the mezzanine there were lots of video projections of Inuit communities and icebergs, ice floes. I liked the eagerness of the dogteams which pulled the sleds. The Inuits seemed to have a special technique for revving them up, allowing them to become all excited and to start pulling the sled, but with the brake on, so that when the brake was released, the sled burst forward, with the dogs all pell mell. The main area had one pool reflecting various projections, including one of melting ice while the second one was surrounded by live video of the ripples caused by drips coming from blocks of ice suspended above. At one point a staff member appeared with a kettle, presumably to aid the melting process via pipes. Around the corner was a film of Arctic scientists setting up a mobile camp. On the way in, I helped direct someone who wasn’t sure which way to go, which was not too surprising given the industrial environment outside the gallery. Inside, she wandered around and ended up back by the invigilators, having taken an unexpected route, and had quite a chat with them. She said she ‘liked the tractors’ and signed off with
I’m going to love you and leave you. Be good.
It will be touring throughout 2014.
From here I met my companion at the Tricycle, for another of the series of British film showings to support their youth programmes. This time it was Mike Leigh‘s Topsy Turvy, quite an outlier in his output, I’ve always thought. Jim Carter presided again, as he did for A Private Function, the guests this time being Ron Cook, Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville. We were in a fairly select band who’d been to the previous event and were going to the next one.
That shows the private income of North West London
was Carter’s verdict. It’s a rather poignant tale and I meant to ask about the connection between Mr. D’Oyly Carte and the sadly demised orchestra of the same name in Manchester, that I remember from childhood. Ron Cook, who played him, might well have been able to answer, given that he brought along the big book of research he’d compiled for his character, which included the takings of the Savoy Theatre during the period of the film. One interesting revelation was that budgetary constraints meant that certain scenes had to be improvised live, because there wasn’t time to go through the normal Leigh script development process. The scene near the end when Kitty speaks of all the ’empty perambulators’ was also handled unusually, with Leigh prompting Manville the day before to come up with something following that theme. My companion pointed out, referring back to our Dr. Strangelove viewing, that every sort of film has its geeks. In this case, early in the Q&A someone claimed that there was a musical anachronism, but later on someone else said it must have been deliberate. One thing that did surprise me was to notice that one of the male singers was Stewart Pearson from The Thick Of It and Liz’s husband from Grandma’s House, which is, I’m informed, much more realistic than Friday Night Dinner.
The following Tuesday it was back to the Tricycle again for Red Velvet, after being surprised to find that two tickets were available. There was a large school party there – perhaps they are more liable to return some of their seats? I hadn’t been to the theatre before and found it to be the sort of size I like – not too large, nor too baroque. There was a small amount of angst over pupils being in the wrong seats, resolved without too much friction. The play itself suffered when Lester wasn’t on stage, and I thought the actual ending was a little weak after the searing scene before that of the confrontation with the theatre manager/director. In the bar there was a small display of photos relating to Ira Aldridge, with an explanatory sheet. This was a good way of providing context to what we’d seen.
The next day I saw Philomena at the BFI, having missed it last year. I’d heard that the script was very good and this was true. Coogan was a good contrast to the predictably fine performance from Judi Dench, and Frears told the story without any fuss, which was appropriate. The day after that we saw an ‘encore showing’ of the National Theatre’s production of Coriolanus, broadcast from the Donmar Warehouse, in my local Odeon. On some previous visits there I’ve been the only person watching, so it was good to be in a fairly full screening. While Tom Hiddleston‘s performance was very powerful, I found the whole thing rather dense, perhaps to be expected on my first exposure to the play. My companion had a more nuanced verdict, comparing it favourably with Red Velvet in dramatic terms, exploring as it did a flawed figure doomed by his overbearing mother. (This was an echo of W. S. Gilbert’s apparently total estrangement from his mother in Topsy-Turvy). The next day I’d booked to see a preview of Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Hiddleston again, with the ever wonderful Tilda Swinton. As often with Jarmusch there was a little taint of self-indulgence, but it had a refreshing perspective on the moral exhaustion that might follow upon (more or less) immortality. Hiddleston clearly worked a lot harder in Coriolanus. I’ll always think of him primarily in those two Joanna Hogg films – Unrelated and Archipelago. In the film, he was effective, in a role mainly demanding that he brood, lament and pout.