Sunday, September 22, 2013

Art and Life

The Holburne Museum in Bath has been showing a special exhibition of works by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries which, though it could have been more honestly titled Some 17th Century Dutch Artists, was rich with social interest and included several fabulous paintings. Most stunning of these was Rembrandt's portrait of his mother, painted when he was only 23, of which the Indie review said simply This one is worth the price of admission alone. You could take a folding chair and just gaze at this picture all morning, just absorbing its humanity. 

This was a fascinating era for painters: the first generation of artists who painted for a market rather than for wealthy patrons and the Church, and subject matter was less about individual portraiture and more about society, with something of a moralistic tinge to many of the domestic scenes.  Several have narrative strands redolent of a dread of indolence and what it may lead to, while some of the landscapes show social changes with the emergence of the new bourgeoisie.  And after this enthralling immersion, there's a toy theatre of painterly characters and props to rearrange and make your very own Dutch interior... hoe zit dat!

Also in Bath, The Persistence of Memory, written by Alison Farina and directed by Nancy Medina, transferred to the Rondo after a highly successful run in Bristol. The play deals with contemporary issues ~ dementia and family breakup ~ in a classic context as Mneme, the muse of memory, arrives to oversee Dante DeLucca's decline and to use her goddess powers to console him and his daughter as his life fades away. With so moving a theme sensitively treated by the script, and such excellent lead actors, it's not surprising this piece garnered 5-star reviews: there's subtle humour from the start with Mneme's C-list-celeb self-introduction, but by the end I wasn't the only one damp-eyed as her terrible pact with Duncan Bonner's Dante is finally concluded. 

And now back to Frome, where our annual Carnival on Saturday filled the streets with pirates, music and circus skills and processions for children throughout the day, and in the evening roads throughout the town closed for an eclectic parade of Carnival Competition entries which range from elaborate floats with illuminations that would shame Sirius, to blokes with a penchant for girly underwear, including plenty of whirling twirling majorettes of all ages and sizes. It's excellent street theatre, and the best place to be a groundling is at Cornerhouse corner, where after the 2-hour road-show is over, the awesome Pete Gage Band plays fantastic blues rock that gets us all dancing.

This week's tenuous footnote: any scriptwriter wondering how to move an audience to tears with exquisite non-expositional narrative should check out the final moments of Coronation Street on Friday, as Roy Cropper watches his beloved, terminally-ill, Hayley (the first transexual soap heroine) gaily singing When Will I See You Again? with Fizz and Sean at his birthday karaoke.... which just shows, you should never disparage 'Continuing Drama' series simply because they're popular: the best have strong characters, gripping storylines, and actors like David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh to ensure superb pop-up theatre on a small screen near you now!

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