Sunday, 25 November 2012

In Which there is Bronze and Regicide

I spent Saturday in London, enjoying a trip to the Royal Academy, to see their Bronze Exhibition, and then to Hampstead theatre to see '55 Days'

I has a slightly stressful start to the day, as the first of my two trains turned out, when I got to the station, to be running late, which seemed likely to cause me to miss my connection, but as it turned out, we made up a bot of time getting to Bath, the London train was slightly delayed too, so with a bit of running, I managed to catch the train, and even to find my seat (not an easy task, as the train was very crowded due to an earlier cancellation), so made it to London as originally planned.

The exhibition at the RA was fascinating. The curators have chosen to group the bronzes by theme, rather than chronologically or by region, so in the section devoted to 'figures' were examples of ancient Greek and Etruscan figures,(including the first piece in the exhibition, a glorious and beautiful 'dancing satyr', around 3,500 years old, found quite recently near Sciliy)
'Dancing Satyr' 

Also medieval saints, works by Ghiberti and Cellini,  images of the Buddha and figures from Benin.

Similarly, in the section devoted to 'Animals' there was a glorious Etruscan Chimera (from around 400BCE), as well as a Louise Bourgoise spider, a Baboon made by Picasso, an Elephant from China, and many others.

There were also sections titled 'groups' which included a Frderic Remington group of 4 cowboys on horseback, and also one of the most extraordinary pieces, the Trundholm 'Chariot of the Sun' which is beautiful in it's own right, as well as awe-inspiring for it's age and fragility (It's believed to have been made between 1,800 and 1,600 BCE
Trundholm Chariot of the Sun
I am so glad I managed to get to the exhibition - I know the RA managed to borrow pieces from all over the world for it (although Florence appears to have been particularly generous!)
'Damned Soul' Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, after Bernini
And of course, the 'poster boy', Soldani-Benzi's 'Damned Soul', which I feel sure must have inspired the 'weeping angels' (I felt safe visiting, there were so many people looking at it at all times...)

After visiting the exhibition, I headed across to the theatre, where, after a brief and welcome break for a sandwich (at one of the least stable tables I've encountered for some time)

I had booked my ticket because I wanted to see Mark Gatiss, and because I thought the play (which deals with the period leading up to the conviction and execution of Charles I, at the end of the English Civil War). I hadn't been the the Hampstead Theatre before, and had not realised that the play is by Howard Brenton, who also wrote 'Anne Boleyn, (which I saw earlier this year, and blogged about here)
Mark Gatiss as Charles I
It's a small theatre, with a central stage with entrances at both ends, which means that a lot of the time the actors don't face the audience - but once I got used to it I rather liked it - it makes you feel more engaged in what's going on on stage.

The play switches between the two main protagonists - Mark Gatiss's Charles I, arrogantly and utterly convinced of his own divine right to rule, and Douglas Henshall's Oliver Cromwell, equally sure of himself (perhaps with better reason) and, despite his talk of 'waiting on Providence', coming across as a far more canny politician.

Charles was presented in period costume, but all of the other characters were presented in (fairly) modern dress - with a 50s feel to it. Despite knowing the inevitable outcome the play still managed to be gripping, as the parliamentarians struggles with the issues of whether to put the King on trial, and if so, whether he should be executed, not to mention whether and how Parliament could try him, and whether the ends (putting him on trial) justified the means (Pride's Purge of Parliament, which effectively rigged the vote by ensuring that anyone who voted against the trail, first time round, being excluded from the second one...)

The performance I saw was the last but one of the run, so I can't advise you to grab tivkets and see it, but if it were still running, I would, as it was well worth seeing.

It was a long day, as I didn't get home till  around 9.30, but very enjoyable. I haven't any further theatre trips planned until the new year, now, so for the last \play of the year it was an excellent one to go out on!

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