Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Visibility nil, restricted viewing 5 stars

South Bank in spring sunshine...
I always feel this, not the view from Westminster Bridge, is the stretch of Thames that Wordsworth really had in mind when he wrote of the towers, domes, theatres and temples that enthralled him.  My friend Helen and I met here and walked along to the Tate Modern to see the Paul Klee exhibition. I'd booked with high expectations but left still foggy as to why this artist's work is held in such high esteem. "Formerly we used to represent things which were visible," Klee wrote, " we reveal the reality that is behind visible things." But what reality is that? There's none of the emotional energy of Kandinsky or Mirot, or the spacial exploration of Picasso ~ and though Klee continued to work and exhibit throughout two wars, no suggestion of awareness of these conflicts although two of his close colleagues died at the front in WWI. Apart from some recurrent images ~ fish, circles, lines ~ what predominates is those tidy patches of colour, flat as paint-cards, closely contiguous and inscrutably titled.  Helen & I thought they'd probably make nice cushions, and found on our way out the Tate shop had the same idea.

And then on to Shakespeare's Globe for supper overlooking the river,  followed by a feast of fun at the brand Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a fabulous timber-framed theatre space created from designs based on drawings from early 1600s and lit by beeswax candles.
Their choice of opening production is brilliant: The Knight of the Burning Pestle, written around the same time by Francis Beaumont, is an anarchic pastiche of travelling troupes from the days of mummers and masqueraders, but with the bizarre post-modern twist of a meta-theatrical storyline. Not exactly a play-within-a-play, this is more two plays within a theatre that becomes the play, as narration is hijacked by the Grocer's insistence his apprentice becomes the fighting knight of the title and both conflicting tales are constantly interrupted by him and his good lady wife... perhaps you need to see it ~ though we were standing at the back of the Upper Circle with "Restricted Viewing" tickets, but with a hilariously bathos-laden script (Now in arms I'll never clasp 'er / for she's stolen away by your man Jasper!), high-energy physical comedy and fantastic acting, we loved every minute.

A tenuous literary link as footnote: I stayed over with Helen and next day we walked the Ayot Greenway, past Shaw's Corner where GBS lived & wrote for forty years. The house is maintained exactly as in his lifetime, down to the clothes and notebooks he used, but in those days this path was the train track to London. Shaw had a house in Fitzroy Square as well as Ayot St Lawrence, so we pictured him steaming past on this Lost Rail as we listened to the birds in the quiet woods.

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