Wednesday, 25 March 2009

In Which There is a Disappointment

So, blogging has had to slow down a little as I currently have no internet access at home (May fleas infest the beds of the people at Tiscali) But, on the pus side, I had a trip planned to London, to go to the theatre and see a couple of exhibitions.

I had a trip to London, to visit relatives and go to the theatre. We had tickets to see ‘Madame de Sade’, starring Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike, and I was interested in seeing it for that reason, and also because a play which has 6 characters, all female, and several of them past the first flush of youth seemed to be to be worth seeing!

I was able to combine the trip with a work-related course, which meant that I could be at leisure in London by 4.45 on Friday evening instead of arriving at 10 p.m. – it was a lovely bright, sunny day (not, admittedly, when I was sitting on the railway station at 6 a.m., but later in the day, by the time I’d arrived in London!)

I met up with my 2nd Cousin John at the Royal Academy, where we were visiting the ‘Byzantium’ exhibition – very interesting it covered the period 330-1453 although the majority of the exhibits seemed to be from the later end of that span – mostly icons and other (Christian) art, but also various manuscripts, silverware, ceramics and jewellery. I found it interesting to see where the various pieces had been borrowed from – lots from Venice (no doubt things which were pinched when the Venetians sacked Constantinople in the 13th Century) but also some from Moscow and a lot from Athens. There were some particularly impressive 6th Century paintings which were originally painted for a monastery at Mt. Sinai – 4 or 5 of them are still at the monastery and had been lent by them, the other 3 were on loan from Moscow, having been taken there in somewhat questionable circumstances some time in the 1850’s…

The exhibition has closed now, but there is further information here

It was interesting to see similar patterns used in the back ground to religious paintings as I had seen in tile work while I was in Istanbul.

On the Saturday we were mainly visiting relatives, then went to the theatre in the evening. We were disappointed to learn, on arriving, that Dame Judi Dench had, unfortunately, sprained her ankle badly on Thursday night so she would not be appearing, instead we would see her understudy. This was a big disappointment as I am a huge fan of Judi Dench’s and have not seen her live for many years.

I have to admit that I was also disappointed by the play itself. It was written by the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and translated into English – it’s hard to tell whether the fault was with the original or the translation but it did seem very slow moving and there were a number of speeches which were crying out for an editor. The play revolves around several of the women in de Sade’s life; his wife, her sister, his mother in law, and two society ladies, one of whom is a paragon of virtue, the other of whom is decidedly not, and finally, the maidservant. There are no male characters, the Marquis de Sade is the subject of most of the dialogue but is never seen or heard directly.
None of the characters came across as real people, they all seemed to be there to take philosophical stands and then justify them, so that the Wife has speeches about wifely duty and devotion, the courtesan about the ecstasy of sensuality and so forth. Quite interesting viewpoints, in some cases, but it came across almost more like a staged debate than a play.

The set was simple and static – no scene changes, very little in the way of propos, the costumes, on the other hand, were sumptuous – the play is set in 1772-1790 and 5 of the 6 characters are aristocrats, and the costumes reflect this – full period dresses and wigs, which at least gave me something to look at when the speeches dragged!

All in all, I would categorise it as interesting rather than enjoyable – not one that I would feel any wish to see again (even if it had Judi Dench in it the second time around!)

Sticking with the Japanese theme, on the Sunday I went to the Kuniyoshi exhibition , which opened on Saturday at the RA. I had not previously heard of Kuniyoshi but the exhibition was fascinating – the works mainly date from around 1830-1860 but have a very modern feel – you can see the connection to modern Manga. Well worth a visit!

Having a little time left before the train home I finished up with a quick visit to the National Gallery, always worth a look. My attention was caught by a portrait of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Madame de Pompadour which reminded me of Dr Who, and ‘The girl in the fireplace’!

So despite the disappointment over Dame Judi it was a well-spent weekend!


spacedlaw said...

Still. A weekend in London is always a treat (haven't had one for ages - that was before the new Tate opened, if you can go back that far).
Shame about Judi Dench missing, but I don't suppose she would have livened the play much.

Marjorie said...

Yes, although she would probably have been more interesting - for the first act, at least, the understudy was clearly conetrating so hard on remembering her lines that she didn't have any spare energy to act, as well!

But I agree, weekend in London is always good. (Or Paris - haven't been there since before you last were in London, from the sound of it!)

Dragonsally said...

Sounds like a busy weekend - shame about JD. God, I'd love to see her live.