I went to see the film last night. I’d read the book when it was first published and did say in a review that I thought Ian McEwan had done a brilliant job of portraying the life of a lawyer – in this case a judge. The film is perhaps even better. Emma Thompson is superb as the judge Fiona Maye. Every advocate knows that moment as one walks into the courtroom – one’s personal life, ones feeling left behind. Emma Thompson gets it just right.
The scenes in court reflect the real world. One could say that the robes aren’t quite right but the behaviour is. A High Court Judge in a tetchy mood is not to be trifled with. It also demonstrates the emotional cost for lawyers dealing with these very difficult cases, not just in the family courts but in the criminal courts as well.
The setting of the film in and around the Royal Courts of Justice and Grays Inn are as I remember them. Elegant buildings, a haven from the rough and tumble of every day London, set around manicured lawns.
In the Guardian on Saturday, the playwright David Hare wrote about his ideal theatre. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/dec/30/david-hare-my-ideal-theatre . I’m not sure I agree with all his proposals. Why shouldn’t a new theatre be in central London? There are already a number of theatres in the suburbs, Hammersmith Lyric for one, but they struggle to draw the audiences for untested plays. There is an excitement about going to the theatre that is enhanced by being in the centre of a theatre-going culture. Coming out into the street after a great performance along with many other theatregoers is exhilarating.
Does size matter? I don’t think so. Some productions work well on a small stage, others need a large stage and auditorium. Do a younger audience want to be close up to the action? Certainly, the live transmissions of opera would suggest that does change the experience whether it would change the audience and attract younger people I don’t know. My experience in a provincial town suggests not. It is the older generation that goes to these transmissions whether the opera or the theatre. What does attract a younger audience is an actor they know from television eg Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.
I too would like to see new plays although I enjoy new productions of the classics when they speak to today’s world as they so often do. In fact when it comes to policy while I agree the state should be a patron of the arts, is there not a danger that playwrights would then pander to the whims of politicians, something from which even Shakespeare was not immune. Is it wrong that the National Theatre should produce musicals? There have been some wonderful productions by great directors giving a new life to that genre. David Hare seems to reject the idea of a theatre that is commercial as well as subsidised. What about a play like ‘War Horse?
I think his approach is too purist and would simply create a theatre for an elite instead of entertainment for all.
I love the live theatre. Nothing compares with the buzz generated by great actors playing great parts on the London stages. I first went to a theatre when I was sixteen, taken by my school to see Macbeth after the Scottish play had been the subject of our ‘O’ level exams, but it is not that I remember. The play that gave me my love of theatre was the RSC’s production in 1961 of ‘The Devils’ starring Dorothy Tutin and Richard Johnson. I can still picture the scene where Sister Jeanne (played by Tutin) kneels at the feet of the priest Father Grandier (Richard Johnson) after he has seduced her.
I would love to see a theatre in every city and the main companies do more on tour. I saw that production of ‘The Devils’ in Manchester. Again on a school trip. That’s something governments should support.
My ideal theatre would be more practical. More comfortable seating and good sightlines where ever you sit. Theatres that don’t use ‘airline’ type pricing or use ticketing agencies that add such high fees for booking with them. Decent wine and light snacks both before and during the interval. And finally more ladies loos.
There is always a good exhibition somewhere in London, often too many. A trip to the Royal Academy on Picadilly is usually worthwhile. We wanted to see the Matisse exhibition this time. How fascinating. There was not an enormous number of painting but they were exhibited alongside some of the objects he used for his work. The idea was to encourage the viewer to look at the objects the way an artist might. I love his use of colour and textiles and this exhibition was no exception. I’ve often thought that if I was asked what books I would want on my Desert Island, a copy of Matisse’s work would be the first thing I’d chose.
There was also an exhibition of the work of Charles Tunnicliffe in the same building.
He was a Royal Academician best known for his illustrations for books. Think Tarka the Otter. (Memo to self – must read.) What became more interesting was copies of the cards he did for Brooke Bond Tea. The cards were in the packets of loose leaf tea and one could send away for a book in which to stick the cards. Seeing those cards and the book brought back all sorts of memories. I’d collected the Birds of Britain. We started talking to the room steward who told us his had collected the Birds of Africa as he had lived in Uganda as a child. He showed us the Ladybird series of books ‘What to Look for in Winter’, and it’s companion volumes. Tunnicliffe was an amazing artist and deserves to be remembered.
One of the exciting things about the summer months in London is the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. We haven’t been to a concert there for quite a long time. It was so hot on the last occasion we left before the end. This summer we didn’t have that problem — it just hasn’t been that hot.
We hadn’t booked in advance so we took a chance and went to whatever we could get tickets for. It proved a blessing. The first concert was a French choir singing Monteverdi’s Vespers. I love these pieces for their mathematical precision and the music was enhanced by the choreography. It began with the singers facing away from the audience, the backless dresses of the ladies showing Gallic sophistication. Then as the evening proceeded the choir divided and moved around the stage and then regrouped. Soloists peeled off and sang from different parts of the auditorium, adding another dimension to the music.
Three weeks later we went to a concert by the BBC Orchestra and Singers of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. The Resurrections. The orchestra was augmented by extra timpani – five sets of drums I think- and by the addition of brass instruments. Big choirs filling that huge bowl with sound. The music was visceral and I was close to tears in the final movements.
Thank you to the BBC.
We had always wanted to visit Carlyle’s House in Cheyne Row Chelsea and this summer we finally got there. When Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane moved there it was in an undesirable part of Chelsea. They paid the princely sum of £35 per year. The house is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house It has been kept much as it was during his time – very Victorian. Virtually anybody of importance in 1830/40 visited him and his wife, including Dickens, Robert Browning and John Ruskin His books are very rarely read today, but he was the founder of the London Library and instrumental in the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery.
Today this is one of the most expensive parts of London but many of the houses are simply investments, not homes and a large number stay dark and uninhabited from one year to the next. When I first moved to London I lived in the next road, Lawrence Street, in a very similar house. I loved this part of London.
One of the pleasures for me of London is the unexpected meeting with someone of interest. We were upstairs in the house when the warden came into the room. She lives in the house and I asked her if she felt haunted by the presence of such an influential man and his equally important wife. She said she did feel their influence. We went on to talk about the area. She remembered the wine merchant’s in Justice Walk and the Cross Keys Public House before it became a gastro pub. The houses were all occupied; a mixture of young and old, city lawyers and bohemian artists. The nearby Kings Road the place to be for fashion. We reminisced for a while, before leaving one of my favourite places.
It is quite a while since I’ve done a post. I have been very occupied with trying to write my second Cassie Hardman novel and it’s proving difficult. Possibly because the subject is a rape trial, so it has been very easy for me to get distracted. A trip to Norway cruising to the North Cape and back; a trip to see relatives in the North and then a week in the Yorkshire Dales have eaten into the time. Also, we have spent some time in London feasting on some of the events the city has to offer.
We had tickets for the NT production of Angels in America. I like going to the theatre in London as the average age is much lower than similar events (hard to get in the provinces apart from live transmissions in the cinema) in Devon. But, even by London standards, the number of young people attending this production was very high. There are two plays, Millenium Approaches and Perestroika and the audience was very enthusiastic about both. Rising to their feet at the end and clapping wildly. I can’t say I felt the same. It is a tour de force for the actors particularly James McArdle who plays Louis Ironson.
Some how it seemed dated although the issues of the treatment of minorities are.still live. Aids has not at least in the West been the ‘end of the world scenario depicted here. And so much has been achieved as far as gay rights are concerned. The relevance today is in the view of politics and how far individuals are prepared to go to hang on to power in the form of Ray Cohn. In addition the perennial topic of deceit, self-delusion and hypocrisy in our relationship both with ourselves and with others.