Tuesday, 28 February 2017

'The Sleeping Beauty' at the Royal Opera House

Last week we went to see 'The Sleeping Beauty' performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House. This is a special ballet and it's quite historic for the Royal Ballet since it was the first ballet they performed back in 1946 at the Royal Opera House. I'd never seen this production before and was really looking forward to it in the grand setting of the Royal Opera House.  It doesn't have the emotional intensity of some of the other ballets in the Royal Ballet's catalogue, but it's quite rightly an audience favourite and now it's one of my favourites.

Princess Aurora, our heroine, was supposed to be danced by Lauren Cuthbertson but, before the ballet started, the Director of the Royal Ballet came on stage to tell us that Lauren was ill and her role would be danced by Yasmine Naghdi. I trust the Royal Ballet to give us a good show so I wasn't worried about that in the slightest. I wonder how Yasmine felt about it, sitting back stage, waiting to go on that famous stage and wondering where it might lead?

We all know the story of this classic fairytale. The wicked fairy curses the baby princess to prick her finger on a needle and die but the good fairy saves her by amending the curse to make her sleep rather than die. A hundred years pass and the handsome prince is hunting in the forest, finds the sleeping princess and awakens her with a kiss. They fall in love, marry and live happy ever after. There you are you see, you know the story. But how you get from start to finish is fraught with joy and fear and some great dance sequences and our princess seemed to spend most of her time high on tippy toe (a technical term).

From the start this is what, I suppose, we all think a ballet is: lads in tights and lasses in tutus, a cast of thousands (not quite). fantastical sets and gorgeous costumes, and amazing music swirling up to the rounded ceiling which is like the inside of a Faberge egg. The spectacle and the glory of it all is quite magical. And they they start to dance and the story unfolds. I love it when the stage is packed with dancers moving as one and then the principals join them for their show-off dances and I sit there wondering how on earth a human body can do *that* and how they don't hurt themselves doing *this* and how they can possibly do *that*. But they do. Again and again.

Some moments I thought were lovely were the dance of the fairy godmothers bringing their gifts to the baby Aurora, everything with nasty Carabosse in (she can disappear in a puff of smoke you know), Aurora's dance with her four suitor princes and the dance of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund before their wedding. It was all terribly lovely and then we have the wedding itself with Puss-in-Boots, Red Riding Hood and other fairytale creations attending and doing their dance.  One of the more energetic dances was by Princess Florine and the Bluebird, with the Bluebird leaping into the air and soaring across the stage in a great bound.

While there is no incredible story-telling or shock twists and turns, this is very much a feel-good production and quite a historic one. I liked Tierney Heap as the Lilac Fairy appearing throughout the production to make things right again and Hayley Forskitt, as her arch nemesis, the evil Carabosse. James Hay was also pretty spectacular as the jumpy-all-over-the-shop Bluebird with his amazing solos. And full praise to Yasmine Naghdi as Aurora and Matthew Ball as Florimund who only first danced these roles a few days before. They worked well together and it's nice to see the more junior members of the Royal Ballet being given their big break.  I'll watch out for both of them in future.

Thanks for the magic, Royal Ballet.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq 'You Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind)'

Buffy Sainte-Marie has teamed up with fellow Polaris Award winner Tanya Tagaq to record a new song, 'You Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind)'. The song was inspired by the dogsled racer George Attla who competed in the first Iditarod dogsled race in 1973 and was recorded in October 2016. There's a podcast of Buffy and Tanya recorded at the same time that gives background to them getting together, the song, current and native American politics that's worth a listen.

It's fascinating that the song was actually written back in the (late) 1960s for the film 'Spirit Of The Wind' about George Attla and it sounds fresh and right up to date. It calls on people to take a stand for what they believe in, be confident and be proud. It's very appropriate for the politics of today and I love the shout out to Standing Rock at the end.

There are additional verses not included in this version of the song and, in the podcast, Buffy says she's going to record a longer version of the song so let's hope it's included on the new album she's currently recording in her home studio.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern

Taking advantage of its Friday Lates is one of the many good things about Tate Modern that Tate Britain should emulate. It's a good way to spend a Friday evening with some fascinating art and, although it's busy, it's less busy that a weekend afternoon. So last Friday we went to see the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition, the first major retrospective of his work since his death. Now, beyond the name, I know nothing about Rauschenberg so this was a good opportunity to learn more.

It didn't take me long to realise he was an experimentalist, using a very wide range of media to create his works, using different papers and pigments, adding a sock here and bits of string there, even a pillow and a quilt. Any old thing seems to fit his 'palette' or, rather, not 'any old thing' but just the right thing for what he wanted to do.

We're given a retrospective covering six decades and that's a lot of work, a lot of styles to try to cram in. It's a big exhibition and it needs to be, starting off in the 1950s and moving into the 2000s.

Something I found particularly fascinating was looking at the signs beside each work, not to see the interpretation of what the work was meant to be, but to see what it was made of. Mixing oil and enamel paint in some of the early works moved on to using inkjet pigment in the 1990s, moving on as new technologies and new methods became available. I think that's good stuff and shows an artist always striving, always reaching out for the 'new'.

I particularly liked this large painting called 'Yoicks' from 1954, a mix of yellow and red on various papers and newsprint.

Another painting I particularly liked was 'Mirthday Man' that uses an x-ray of his body as the central motif. There's an awful lot going on in this work but it keeps coming back to central image of the x-ray painted on his birthday in 1977 (I think). *I* am the centre of this painting on my special day, he's saying. Once the flesh has gone this'll be me.

It's a strong image and fills a wall. It's hung next to an annoying work that's partially obscured by two umbrellas  - I, of course, made every effort to see what was underneath the umbrellas. Unfortunately, it also plays to my antipathy to large modern art paintings that fill up walls and wouldn't fit through my front door let alone on a wall. They're not painted for you or me, they're painted for rich people or galleries or public spaces. Impressive as they might be they're not for you or me, they're not 'democratic'. I couldn't have this painting in my living room so where is it meant to be placed and seen?

I didn't find this exhibition endearing or attractive. Some of the works are plain ugly, like mashed up metal oil signs, but others hold an imagination and a world view that might be worth exploring again. Sitting having a glass of wine after the exhibition I thought, 'Phew, seen that, Tick' but now I'm thinking I might go back again. I might see something different. Well done Tate, you're exposing me to more things that make me think.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Matthew Bourne's 'Early Adventures' at Richmond Theatre

Before I discovered the joys of the Royal Ballet there was Matthew Bourne, now Sir Matthew Bourne. I like the characters he creates, his narrative and his magic. He seems to come up with a new production every few years but doesn't forget his older works and that's what 'Early Adventures' is, a revival of some of his very early creations. I saw the show five years ago and I'm more than happy to see it again, particularly since this version included 'Watch With Mother' a short dance work I haven't seen before and which seems to be alternating with 'Spitfire'.

The first production was 'Watch With Mother'. You need to be a certain age to understand the title and, luckily, I am. It's set in a school gym with all the boys in grey shorts and the girls in grey pinafores, the way it was in posh schools. The incongruous thing was the boys were wearing polo shirts rather than button-up shirts (I can't help but notice details). And we see the 'children' dance in different ways and different combinations with one boy left out because  there are nine children.

This production is, I think, from 1991 so doesn't have the subtlety of Bourne's later works. There is a lot of repetition and choreographed movement and is a bit simplistic compared to other works. It's probably the least successful of the programme but is still well worth seeing as an indication of where the later works came from.

'Town and Country' is the second production, with 'Town' filling up the first half of the programme after 'Watch'. This is a joyous interpretation of life in the city - at least for rich people. We see a couple bathed and then dressed by their servants in a very funny sequence with the servants coming off best despite ending up serenading their master and mistress with ukuleles.

One of my favourite scenes was the short skit on 'Brief Encounters', the epitome of a middle class film with posh people with money. The entire film is portrayed in that tea room on the station platform with two sets of couple mimicking the film.

The second half of the production is taken up entirely with 'Country' from 'Town and Country'. The posh people go down to the country for the weekend and interact with the local yokels when they have to. We get dancing milk maids and clog dancing yokels, one of which stomps on a glove puppet hedgehog to all our dismay. The bunny checks the hedgehog and then slowly drags him from the stage. This is a lovely comic moment, particularly when, later in the show, the hedgehog gets a solemn funeral.

The final half was taken up by 'The Infernal Gallop', a tale of night-life in the sleazier areas of Paris, with posh blokes in silk dressing gowns meeting sailors and chaps meeting in a pissoire within view of the Eiffel Tower. Our pissoire lovers are just about to get it on when they're interrupted by a troupe of gypsy minstrels in red berets springing onto the stage and singing at them. And then it happens again. The lovers just aren't destined to get off tonight. O well, it can't be helped, I suppose.

That's the finale of the show, with our Parisian denizens showered by rose petals and the show is over. It's a great and entertaining mix of dance and sorry-telling, humour and sentiment. It's lovely to see these early works that set the scene for Matthew Bourne's full length ballets.

'Early Adventures' is currently on a national tour so if you get the chance to see it then you should. It's great fun as well as great story-telling and dancing.

'Hedda Gabler' at the National Theatre

The new production of 'Hedda Gabler' is currently running at the National Theatre. Now, I'm not a tremendous fan of Henrik Ibsen and I've managed to avoid seeing 'Hedda Gabler' for my entire life but the play has caught up with me. I don't have anything against Ibsen it's just that I only have one life and sometimes I just have to spend some quality time combing my beard (Mr Ibsen favoured mutton chops for some obscure reason just to be awkward).

The first thing is the staging, that big bare stage of the Lyttelton Theatre. There's nothing on that big stage apart from an upright piano, a tatty old sofa, a table and chair in the corner, buckets of flowers and a seat for the maid. The maid is sitting there as you walk in and so is a woman with her back to the audience twiddling the keys of the piano. The walls are roughly plastered and painted, waiting to be decorated. It's really quite barren up there, sterile like the lives we're about to see.

Hedda is a nasty piece of work, completely self-centred and unfeeling to those around her and who, for some obscure reason, seem to love her and trust her. She is all about 'me' and gets huffy when her new husband says that she can't have the butler she wants because they can't afford one until he gets promoted at the university. I find it hard to have any empathy or compassion for characters like that

Looking back at the play, the only performance I really remember is that of Ruth Wilson as Hedda, constantly and totally in character down to the little side glances of hate and despair. I think despair is an appropriate word for Hedda since her self-centredness has trapped her where she is and she's desperate to escape, but escape to where? There is nowhere. So she starts to destroy the lives of those around her but somehow keep their love and friendship. That's an usual skill to have.

My favourite moment was when Hedda throws the bunches of flowers from the buckets around the room in a fit of pique and then proceeds to staple them to the walls of the flat - of, course, they may not have much furniture but it's always useful to keep a staple-gun handy. It was just so unexpected and, let's face it, daft, that it sticks in the memory. My least favourite was when the Judge spits gobbets of tomato soup onto her as she cringes on the floor near the end having finally been caught out. Very unpleasant and misogynist and Rafe Spall seemed to be in his best sneery, shouty element for that.

Overall, I can't say that I liked the production but I appreciated it. Ruth Wilson was great as Hedda and out-shone the rest of the cast (particularly the men who seemed to be on a downer the night we saw it). At least I can now go *tick* to 'Hedda Gabler'.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

'Woolf Works' at The Royal Opera House

Two weeks ago we went to see the thirteenth performance of 'Woolf Works' by Wayne McGregor and the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House. This is the first revival of the production that I first saw in 2015 (which was the sixth ever performance). Four days later we also went to see this production at the cinema as it was broadcast live and co-hosted by Darcy Bussell. Yes, it definitely is worth seeing a mere days later and it was a pleasant surprise to see so many close-ups on the big screen.

'Woolf Works' was the first production I saw at the Royal Opera House and my introduction to the Royal Ballet and holds a very special place for me. It also features Alessandra Ferri, who helped create the leading role with Wayne McGregor in 2015. Alessandra is one of those rare creatures, a Prima Ballerina Assoluta. And, of course, she trained with the Royal Ballet and danced with it in the 1980s. She has astonishing poise and skill and is a joy to watch.

'Woolf Works' is a series of three ballets based on three of Virginia Woolf's novels, in order, 'Mrs Dalloway', 'Orlando' and 'The Waves' and named 'I now, I then', 'Becomings' and 'Tuesday'. The programme opens with the voice of Virginia Woolf talking about the English language and words in the only recording of her voice with words projected on the screen and coalescing into her portrait as the curtain rises.

'I now, I then' opens with Alessandra Ferri standing still on the stage with three huge rectangles of wood slowly turning on the stage, sometimes in unison and sometimes at different speeds, and Clarrisa Dalloway is there amongst the sounds of London as the music starts. We see Clarissa as a middle aged woman and as a teenager with friends Peter and Sally, dancing their joys, and sometimes the older Clarrisa gets lost in her memories as she prepares for her party. We also get Septimus and Rezia, and even Evans who died in the trenches who does a dazzling solo as he spins round and round the stage at great speed, vanishing into the shadows at the back of the stage. Septimes's death is quite a shock as he falls from the window and the lights go out.

It's lovely to see the young Clarissa and Sally dance their joy, occasionally joined by the young Peter and, once, by the older Clarissa in memory. The music is perfect for this romantic and quite narrative dance and it was lovely, seeing it on the big screen, to see how they looked at each other as they danced. Sally in all her flighty blondness flitting around the stage, fearless and full of life, the love that Clarissa couldn't marry.

It really is a gorgeous ballet I want to see again.

'Becomings' is a different creature entirely but still telling the tale of Woolf and her worlds. Orlando was born male in the time of Elizabeth but wakes up one morning as female and immortal as she travels down the centuries. The book has been described as the longest love letter, from Virginia to Vita Sackville-West, and while there are some slow and tender moments in the ballet, I remember speed and movement, lasers and electronic music, shiny costumes flashing and lights darting as the maze of dancers spin around and leap and glide.

In several places the action takes place in the spotlight, with dancers leaping into the spotlight to take their turn and then leap out for others to take their place, constant movement, constant sharing of the stage and all impeccably done. And we had Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb dancing together in a world of their own.

One thing that stunned me was that at several points it seemed that everyone on stage was moving to their own dance, moving and twirling across the stage in different formations. How can they maintain such concentration that the movements of the dancers beside them don't affect their own dancing. This isn't just physically rigorous, but mentally rigorous too. This is why these are some of the best dancers in the world.

The stage had a covering of some shiny material during 'Becomings' to create a mirror image to most of the dancing and it was terribly effective - not the whole stage, simply the middle half so the reflections didn't outstay their welcome. And neither did the stabbing spotlights or the lasers that shot out around the auditorium (something we didn't see in the big screen version).

The final ballet was 'Tuesday', based on 'The Waves', with its backdrop of slow motion waves projected on the back of the stage and the constant movement of the dancers. This ballet was preceded by Gillian Anderson reading Virginia Woolf's suicide letter to her husband, Leonard, which got rapt attention in the auditorium. Once again, Alessandra took the lead role in this ballet, with Federico Bonelli and Sarah Lamb.

The constant movement, imitating waves on the seashore, keep the whole piece flowing and moving. Early on, the children from the Royal Ballet School joined their heroes on stage to play on the beach  with shrieks of laughter mixing with the seagulls as they played on the shore. And then the waves crashed again and the dancers appeared out of the shadows.

The repetition was mesmerising, almost transcendent as the dancers moved and created patterns on the stage, appearing and disappearing into the shadows at the back of the stage under the projection of the waves.  You know the tide has changed when the dancers started forming patterns based on waves as they sweep into the shore and then back again into the shadows , time and again as the tide goes out and fewer dancers grace the stage, then fewer still. And night falls.

'Tuesday' is a lovely, gentle ballet with some romantic movements and some narrative twists, that creates a marvellous experience, perfectly matched by the music and lighting on that simple and bare stage.

'Woolf Works' is a marvellous exercise in dance and marries together the music by Max Richter, the lighting and staging. It works as a whole with each element complementing the next. Most of the music is available on CD from Max Richter, 'Three Worlds' and I'm listening to it as I type.

I think 'Woolf Works' is included in the programme of ballets on the Royal Ballet's summer tour this year so see it if you possibly can. I will patiently await it's next revival and will be there to see it at the Royal Opera House. I wonder if Alessandra will take her role again in that revival? I do hope so.

Fra Angelico 2/12

On the 18th of each month in 2017 I will post a photo of a painting by Fra Angelico to celebrate his Feast Day on 18 February. Today is his Feast Day so I'm posting possibly his most famous painting, the fresco of the Annunciation at the convent of San Marco in Florence.

This is a photo that I took myself on my last visit to San Marco a couple of years ago, standing in front of the fresco so the view isn't quite right. It's a fresco which means it is painted directly onto the wall and the paint dries into the plaster to become part of the wall. When you go upstairs to visit the monks' private areas, the dormitory and the library, this is the first thing you see at the top of the stairs through the open doors, a large painting of the Mother of God and the angel Gabriel.

It's protected by a big sheet of perspex to make sure tourists can't touch it but it is still a glory to see, the first of many glories in the dormitory. Fra Angelico painted a scene from the New Testament of the Bible in each of the monks' small cells and it is a privilege to be able to wander round and look at each of them.

From the square in front of San Marco you can get a bus up into the hills around Florence and, just before you reach the small town of Fiesole, you pass the church and monastery of San Domenico in which Fra Angelio joined the Dominican Brotherhood and where he lived as a young man. It still has one of his altarpieces and, on the wall beside it, is a small plaque announcing that Pope John Paul II beatified Brother Giovanni in 1982.

As a Blessed, he has a Feast Day and Il Beato Angelico's Feast Day is today, 18 February.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

'Death Takes A Holiday' at Charing Cross Theatre

Charing Cross Theatre is getting a good reputation for putting on rarely produced musicals such as the excellent 'Titanic' and 'Ragtime' last year. It opens the New Year with the European premier of 'Death Takes a Holiday' by Maury Yeston who also wrote 'Titanic' and co-wrote the marvellous 'Grand Hotel'. I've never heard of 'Death Takes a Holiday' but it's previously been a film and a play and who knows what else because of it's intriguing premise.

The core of the story is a figurative Death who takes a weekend off so no-one in the world dies. He's weary after collecting so many souls during the First World War. Simple, isn't it? Or is it? What happens when Death becomes human to experience emotions for the first time, maybe to even fall in love, to feel passion and power? Who knows what might happen.

The play opens with the Duke's family and houseguests driving home from an evening in Venice to celebrate his daughter's engagement to her long-time fiancee who is driving. He crashes and she is thrown from the car, surely to be killed, but we find her in Death's arms in the mist and he chooses not to take her. He decides to take human form and visits her father, the Duke, to say he'll be turning up as a guest for the weekend and, if he says anything to the other guests, there'll be repercussions. Death then vanishes to change out of his black suit and short to appear again in a black suit and white shirt (a potential major transformation scene missed) with a suitcase to denote his 'guest' status.

I think it's these introductory scenes that helped to fix my view of this production and, in my view, what it lacks. Zoe Doano played Grazia, the Duke's daughter, and she was nice enough but her voice wasn't powerful enough and at times I couldn't hear her over the music - is that a sound problem or is she simply not projecting? Chris Peluso played Death in a really strange, muted way, quite wooden as a central character. I know he can do better since I saw him in 'Showboat' last year but he seems to have forgotten how to act and, in particular, what to do with his arms that hung like useless pieces of wood for a lot of the show, including the bows at the end.

I hate to be critical like this since everyone has obviously put a lot of work into the show - and this might've just been an off-night - but if the central characters don't engage you then the show's lost. It also felt like a few of the songs needed a bit more oomph, whether that's an edit of the songs or in how they were delivered I'm not sure. I can't actually remember any of them as I type this. I suspect the show needs a bit of judicious editing before it's put on again.

I love the premise behind this show and it's a great subject for a musical. I'm also very pleased that Charing Cross Theatre has put it on - shows need an audience - but not all shows are going to excel. 'Titanic' and 'Ragtime' were excellent but this falls below their standard. Sorry people, but, although I'm pleased I saw it, this production didn't work for me.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

'Out Of Chaos' at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Last week I went to see the 'Out Of Chaos' exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. The exhibition is in association with the Ben Uri Gallery and is made up mostly of works in the Ben Uri collection. It's about migration and the impacts of migration but, since I visited the day before Holocaust Memorial Day and coming during a more current refugee crisis, and with Brexit and Trump all over the news, nationalism and exclusion of the other, it took on a slightly different meaning. There is forced migration and running for your life to remember, and, sometimes, it's the little stories around some of these paintings that make them come alive. There is also the sorrow of not being able to run for your life or being turned away, lives cut short and potential never realised, and that's partly what I took away from the exhibition.

It's not all tears and there is joy in this exhibition, the joy of finding two Sonia Delaunay paintings I didn't expect to see. Walking into the room, glancing round and seeing these on the wall were a magnet for me. They were only small but small can be joyful - 'Design for a Poster' and 'Greeting Card' for Gallerie Bing, both simple little works but so very much by Sonia.  Simple colours and shapes making the paint sing and say come, jump in and enjoy. Both works are from 1964 when Sonia had been settled for many years but she had spent her youth as a migrant, living in different countries and escaping wars but always working, always moving forward. Seeing any work by Sonia reminds me of the great exhibition of her works at Tate Modern a couple of years ago, everything from her early Fauvist-inspired works through her own art theory developments with her husband, Robert, to her final works.

Another quiet joy was seeing 'Svendborg Harbour, Denmark' by Martin Bloch from 1934. I've not come across Bloch before but the colours and shapes in this painting drew my eye across the room. Bloch was German who left his country when the nazis classified his work as 'degenerate' and moved to Denmark and then to Britain. Svendborg was obviously a busy harbour with boats and warehouses aplenty, jostling together with crates of fish and other goods bobbing on the tides, with a cloudy sky ready to drop rain at the first opportunity. Merchants and workers are behind those green walls keeping dry and warm - I can't see them but I know they're there while Bloch sits and sketches on the quayside.

A charming naive painting is 'Shtetl' by Chana Kowalska, in lovely bright colours showing a village scene. Bright houses with a water pump in the middle of the road for the people to share, tree-lined streets and a telegraph pole linking the village to the wider world and to the city (see the little dome of a church in the distance). The detail of the cobble stone street is lovely. This is the old world on the cusp of change, a nostalgic look back to a more idealised - and safer - past.

Chana Kowalska was a migrant. She moved from Poland to Berlin to Paris, the daughter of a rabbi, a teacher and journalist as well as a painter. By the time she painted this work in 1934 she was already looking back to a time that had almost vanished. When the Second World War reached Paris Kowalska joined the French Resistance to fight the nazis and, in 1941, she was captured, deported and killed. Her life was cut short at the age of 37 but she fought for what she believed in and against the enemy, like many others. Who knows what she might have gone on to create if she had lived?

On the wall beside 'Shtetl' is the larger 'Crucifixion' by Emmanuel Levy. Levy was the son of Jewish migrants to Britain and he grew up in Manchester so his experience is very different to many of the other artists in the exhibition. He painted this in 1942 as a protest about the news coming from Europe during the war about what was happening to Jews being rounded up from cities and towns and vanishing into camps. I'm not sure whether it is showing Christ as a modern day Jew or is meant to show the mockery of Jews by imitating Christ. The sign above his head, 'Jude' places the painting clearly in the era and the persecution of the Jews by the nazis with the figure looking up to God while his prayer shawl flaps in the breeze. By extension, the smaller crosses littering the field and going back in the distance represent other Jews, now dead and buried. It's a powerful image.

Further along the same wall is 'Interrogation' by George Grosz from 1938, a terrible, painful work in rough ink and colour. A half-naked man, beaten and bloody, with a nazi officer looking on smoking and not reacting to the horror in front of him. Grosz lived in America when he made this and it's a powerful and terrible work. The casual brutality is awful and thats why this painting needs to be shown and seen, especially with the current rise of nationalism and bigotry. We need to see where extreme nationalism can lead.

A final painting to mention is 'Refugees' by Josef Herman from 1941. He painted this in Glasgow after he had fled from Warsaw following persecution of the Jews and escaped from Brussels in 1940 when Germany invaded. It has a strange nightmare quality, thickly painted, showing a family fleeing for their lives under the moon with a suggestion that the hunt has begun. Carrying a few meagre possessions to start a new life somewhere else - if they make it.

There are other works by a wide range of other artists (including Marc Chagall and Frank Auerbach) but these are the ones that stick with me. It's not a pleasant exhibition but it's needed and now is the right time to be reminded about the lowest points of the 20th Century.  I'd suggest that some of our current world leaders should see this exhibition but that would sadly be a waste of breath.

The exhibition is on until 26 February 2017 so if you're in Newcastle I'd urge you to see it.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore left us last week. Hearing the news of her death made me stop for a moment and made me sad. I can't claim to be a fan and have no idea what she's been doing for the last 20 years or so but I loved her TV series in the early 70s and memories of it have stayed with me over the years. I bought the DVDs when they were finally issued in 2005 and blogged about them here.

I first heard of Mary when she played Dick Van Dyke's wife on his show in the '60s - I suspect they were repeats when I saw them. And then she had her own show called simply the Mary Tyler Moore Show in which she worked on the news desk of a Minneapolis TV news show with Lou Grant and lived in a nice apartment with Rhoda Morgenstern living upstairs. Yes, I also loved Rhoda and got the DVDs of her show a few years later when they became available.

The MTM Show was a gentle comedy that occasionally went in hard on some issues. She was a young career woman making it on her own, sometimes bullied in the workplace and sometimes pushing back. There was something about the show and about the character that attracted me and kept her alive in my head for 30 years until the DVDs became available and I had to get them. Was it the awful fashions, the sophisticated comedy or the kitten in the MTM logo? Something made a permanent mark in the filing system in my head. And I remembered.

Mary set up her own production company to produce her shows and a host of others, showing that she wasn't just an actress, she had a business head and a very successful one. She wasn't just being a role model on screen, she also fulfilled that role off screen as well. The end credits were always interesting, with her take-off of the MGM logo and it's lion. Her version had a kitten and that kitten roared!

Farewell Mary. Gone but not forgotten in the Plastic Bag.