Monday, 4 August 2014

A cultural weekend

One of the benefits of living in Leigh is that London is so accessible. I have mentioned in a previous blog that a few weeks ago my wife and saw the RSC production of Wolf Hall and on Saturday it was time to see the second play based on Hilary Mantell’s popular novels “Bring Up the Bodies”. As before the show was first rate and I would not hesitate to recommend it. This second play was slightly darker than the first and it is worth seeing Wolf Hall first but the entire cast were spot on and greatly appreciated by the sell out audience. A enjoyment of the West End stage is something engrained in to me by my late mother who would take me and my siblings to shows whenever she could afford it. There are few cultural experiences which beat the excitement and anticipation of sitting in a West End auditorium for the 15 minutes or so before the curtain rises – particularly so now that nearly all theatres allow you to take in drinks from the bar in suitable plastic cups! It is fair to say that there has been a change in the nature and make up of audiences over the last 40 years or so. My mother would have been appalled at a failure to “dress up” to see a show and would not have approved of the jeans, shorts and trainers sported by increasing numbers of attendees, but in my view it is important not to be too precious about such things. So long as those sitting around me manage to survive the performance without using their phone, talking unnecessarily, constantly opening sweets with frustratingly loud wrapping or engaging in sexual foreplay I am happy and the fact that audiences have become increasingly diverse and young is an excellent indicator for the future. The key is ensuring that your behaviour does not unnecessarily mar the enjoyment of your fellow members of the audience or indeed the actors themselves. We also took the opportunity to visit one of our favourite spaces in London, the Royal Academy. We have become ever more regular visitors over recent years and became Friends of the RA a couple of years ago – a very worthwhile investment. On this trip we saw the Summer Exhibition which provided the usual balance of exceptional art, challenging art and in some cases (in my view!) crap art. It is particularly interesting to see the prices indicated for the relevant pieces – some of which defy belief. Together with the Courtauld Gallery and the National Photographic Gallery the RA is probably our favourite of the moment although we have attended some great exhibitions at the British Museum, and National Gallery during the last year. Tate Modern was a regular for us but I have become increasingly unfulfilled by a visit there and still feel that the best use of the carbine hall was the first presentation many years ago with a large setting sum projected over the far wall which created a marvellous and enchanting atmosphere across the whole hall. The space has in my view been under used since then. Some modern art I love and some (Tracy Emin) I don’t, but then that is the great thing about it – sometimes not liking something can be as stimulating as loving it, in that it challenges your values and perceptions.

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