Round-up: a summer of arts

I have been beyond terrible at recording my thoughts about all the theatre and exhibitions I have seen over the past few months, so for the sake of my terrible memory and for my own sanity I’m putting down in brief words my thoughts.

Medea ntlive at The Flavel, Dartmouth

Beautifully, dynamically choreographed chorus to Goldfrapp’s cinematic but entirely apt music, which seem to fuel Helen McCory’s muscular and impassioned performance. The part of the Nurse was handled particularly well by Michaela Coel, creating a frame of measured direct audience address to surround the emotional intensity of Medea’s story. Coel’s final speech brought us back from grippingly sympathetic emotional turmoil to our own reflexive soul-searching. Not sure about the decision to film her side-on, instead of the usual technique of soliloquy being addressed directly to camera; it was the first time I have felt infuriated watching theatre filmed live due to my lack of agency to look where I wanted to on the stage.

Calamity Jane at The Watermill Theatre, Newbury

I adore the space at The Watermill, with its rustic beams and tight spaces which bring the ensemble together into a tightly-knit, unified group of storytellers. A group of actor-musicians many of whom were playing actor-musicians! ‘Deadwood Stage’ was carried with brilliant, joyful and perfectly timed exuberance. American twang aplenty. Only qualm was Jodie’s forced voice in her final solo – trying to hard to be a high personality for the small, personal space. A night of giggles and fantastically fun songs.

Oh! What A Lovely War at Salisbury Playhouse

Amateur production bringing together the youth and musical theatre aficionados of Salisbury. Stark difference between the excellent professionally designed set, lighting and costumes and the quality of the acting. It’s a difficult play to get right with its nuanced comic timing, perhaps slightly antiquated jokes and what would have been popular knowledge for Theatre Workshop is perhaps now rather highbrow. The light comic entertainment drilled into with black comedy wasn’t quite achieved here. There were far too many actors to try and accommodate with solos – many of whom didn’t have the voice or stage presence to carry them. The feeling of ensemble picking up and casting off roles that was key to the play’s formation have been lost in this attempt. That being said, The Pierrots were all brilliantly played.

Moomins at the ICA

A quaint, little exhibition in a reading room at the back of the ICA. I spent an age pouring over the delightful photographers and original editions of Tove Jansson’s books. Also discovered the ICA bookshop and realised it is possibly the best thing ever – a treasure trove of contemporary culture texts.

Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

Need I even pass comment? Blockbuster. Delightful. I had actually seen an exhibition of Matisse’s Jazz somewhere small and poky many years ago. Think perhaps they must have been prints now. I was astonished at the vastness of Matisse’s bright crafted creations. Wonderfully curated with plenty of space.

The Nether at The Royal Court

Crime-thriller meets dystopian tech love story. Right. Boy was this brilliant. A good first third of the play you’re enticed by the riddles of the crime story until it all begins to click just before it draws to its piercing conclusion. Throughout, you are faced with two worlds – the real world and a gaming pseudo-world of internet make-believe.  This is a play that asks us to think about the legality, ethics and nature of reality of that thing we call the internet. Crazily inventive and delicious set that flew-in the entire make-believe world of a ‘child’s’ bedroom and woodland beyond.

The Crucible at The Old Vic

A play sold by a certain celebrity name, but whose excellence derived from the absolute quality of the ensemble, direction, choreography and set. Yael Farber has been a favourite director of mine since Mies Julie and she didn’t disappoint; she has the knack of creating painfully emotional drama with a kind of raw but epically beautiful intensity. In particular, she gives classics the modern edge they need to speak to audiences today. The Old Vic works brilliantly in the round and came into its own in the court scenes, when I as an audience member began to feel uncomfortably implicated, as though a member of the jury. Wonderful movement direction from xxx whose signature was clear having seen Red Velvet.

Virginia Woolf: art, life and vision at the NPG

Cloyingly teeny space with no room to peer at the first half of the exhibition because it was far too busy. For an exhibition of over 140 objects I can remember very few. The second half, however, presented the wonderful The Conversation by Vanessa Bell, the photographic portrait of Woolf by Man Ray and some lovely first editions. Pertinently, heartbreaking letters written by Woolf just prior to her suicide were on display, as well as the walking stick left by the river bank which her husband discovered before the body was found. For a Woolf enthusiast, delighter in the Bloomsbury Group, or anyone with an interest in modernist fiction – a must see. The life of a tragic, delicate yet robust, woman, whose words about the finitude and ephemeral nature of human experience I have found most empathy with of an writer.

Favourite quotations from the exhibition:

  • “My thinking is my fighting,” (Woolf, 1930s)
  • “Now is life very solid, or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on forever; will last forever; goes down to the bottom of the world – this moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. … Perhaps it may be that though we change; one flying after another, so quick, so quick, yet we are somehow successive, & continuous – we human beings; & show the light through. But what is the light?” (Virgina Woolf)


I went to Glasto and stewarded with Oxfam #yolo. Favourites: Foxes, Kodaline, Lana Del Rey, Arcade Fire. Hating: Clean Bandit, Lily Allen.

[work in progress…]

Cezanne Exhibition at the Ashmolean, Oxford

Spring Awakening at The Nuffield, Southampton

Red Velvet at The Tricycle

The Believers at Warwick Arts Centre

Life of Galileo at Birmingham Rep

Twelfth Night (Filter) at Warwick Arts Centre

Coriolanus ntlive

A Streetcar Named Desire ntlive