Linda by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre, 28 November 2015

We received an e-mail from the Royal Court, fewer than 10 days before going to a preview of this show, to say that Kim Cattrall had withdrawn from the show on doctor’s orders and that Noma Dumezweni would start rehearsing about a week before the first preview.

Truthfully, we had not booked this production to see Kim Cattrall; we had booked it because we had been so impressed by The Village Bike, Penelope Skinner’s previous play at the Royal Court.  We had also previously been hugely impressed by Noma Dumezweni, not least in the lead of A Human Being Died That Night at the Hampstead Theatre in 2013 and more recently cross-dressing in Carmen Disruption at the Almeida earlier this year, so we were really not bothered.

Noma needed to work from book to a greater or lesser extent for most scenes our night, but she was almost there and we could tell that work was in progress for a great performance.  We loved the play and thought the supporting cast were all excellent.  Amazing staging too, so all the creatives have a lot to be proud of.

Perhaps because of the unfortunate circumstances or perhaps because we liked the production so much, we were hoping hard that the show would get great reviews and so, on the whole, it has – five great reviews linked here by the Royal Court.

Our friend (perhaps now former friend) Michael Billington was less sure about the play though generous with his praise of Noma, click here.  Ditto Paul Taylor in the Independent, click here.  

Still, top marks from both me and Janie, plus five out of seven from the critics; it’s a big hit.

Stile Antico, Wigmore Hall, In Pace: Music For Compline, 27 November 2015

What a wonderful way to end the working week; a concert of beautiful early music.  We’ve seen Stile Antico before at the Wigmore Hall; they are a truly inspirational vocal ensemble.

We ran into Eric Rhode and his wife, Maria at this concert, as often we do.  He is no doubt at the Wigmore Hall even as I write, as I know there is early music on there right now, a couple of weeks’ after the Stile Antico event.

You can read all about Stile Antico and the superb programme of early music, if you choose to click here.


Alexander Calder at the Tate Modern, Followed by a Mousse Wine Tasting, 23 November 2015

This was one of those coincidental days that worked out ever so well. Janie and I had run out of steam on our previous visit to the Tate Modern (to see The World Goes Pop) but wanted to see the Alexander Calder exhibition properly. We had a booked a day off for 23 November, as we had arranged to spend the weekend in Bristol with Hil, Chris and the family, so that day seemed a suitable date for the Calder.

Meanwhile, Helen Baker at Mousse Wine invited us, at relatively short notice, to a wine tasting that very evening, just around the corner from the Tate Modern.

So, on the day, we enjoyed a decent game of tennis in the morning, a light lunch and then off to the Tate Modern.

We really enjoyed the Alexander Calder, finding his sculptures soothing as well as interesting and pleasing to the eye.  There’s a good Tate stub on this exhibition with all the details – click here.

The wine tasting focussed on Nebbiolo wines – mostly Barbaresco and Barolo – here is the list of wines we tried:

Nebbiolo tasting 23.11.15 invite list np

This was Janie’s first (and my second) Mousse tasting. Not only does Helen put on a very interesting tasting but the small group of people she attracts are a pleasant, interesting bunch too.

A most enjoyable way to end a day off.


Plaques and Tangles by Nicola Wilson, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 14 November 2015

This was a very interesting play at the Royal Court Upstairs. As usual these days, there is an information-packed stub on the Royal Court website – here, saving me much of the trouble to write about the basics.

I had been avoiding the subject of dementia for a while, but I guess we booked this some six months after mum died so I was starting to feel able to handle the subject again.

In many ways, this play was about a different type of dementia, as the protagonist has a rare genetic form of the disease that takes over the person’s life much younger and therefore far more invasively.

This difficult subject and the dilemmas that spring from it were handled with skill, dignity and humour in this play. Well acted and produced too.

Lots of rave reviews are linked through the reviews tab in the Royal Court stub – click here specifically for that tab.

Michael Billington was not so sure in Guardian – here...even less sure was Matt Trueman in WhatsOnStage – here.

Janie found the non-linear nature of the piece (moving backwards and forwards in time on several occasions in short scenes) more than a bit confusing. I think we were supposed to feel somewhat disoriented, to enable us to empathise with the protagonist.

Still, we were both glad to have seen this one.


The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, 12 November 2015

By the time Janie had waded through the materials from Kim’s very generous membership birthday gifts, which included membership of the Tate, she realised that she/we had missed the previews of this exhibition but there was still one members evening left, so we arranged to meet at the tate Modern early evening.

I had a long-arranged/rearranged lunch with John Farthing at a wonderful new Japanese Restaurant, Kiru, with which John is involved and to which I went again with John White a couple of months later – click here.

Then to the office for a few hours to clear some stuff before wandering over the (formerly wobbly) bridge to the Tate. It all felt a bit different, doing the members evening thing. As it was relatively late in the exhibition, this members evening was not so crowded and really did feel like an opportunity to see a popular show in quieter circumstances.

The Tate does excellent on-line stubs for past shows, so there is no need for me to repeat facts about the World Goes Pop exhibition – click here.

It wasn’t quite as much fun as the stub makes out. Some elements were really good fun, but there was also a lot of agitprop art and swathes of grim as well as swathes of lighthearted, colourful stuff. As usual, we were quite selective, spending longer in rooms that interested us and skimming stuff that did less for us.

Still, it was quite a big exhibition, so although we also fancied seeing the Alexander Calder we soon realised that, in the evening after work, we couldn’t possibly do justice to the Calder as well, so resolved to return very soon, which indeed we did, less than a fortnight later.

Janie bought me a couple of really snazzy ties in the Tate Modern shop that evening; these weren’t directly connected with the show but did have a sort-of pop art look about them. I have had more positive comments about those ties than any others in my collection, but sadly the Tate modern subsequently seems to have fallen out of love with ties.

A Further Education by Will Mortimer, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 6 November 2015

Janie had a bit of a brainstorm ahead of this one, turning up ludicrously late for our arranged pre theatre meal at Harry’s having lost all track of time that afternoon.

Add to that confirmation in my mind that Harry Morgans has gone plummeting down hill since its recent take over (we have not returned since), we arrived at the Hampstead frazzled and just in time to get good seats together downstairs.

In short, bad start to the evening…

…but a good play.

It needs some belief-suspension on the part of the audience; I cannot envisage the bureaucracy in a modern era university enabling an interloper into classes…perhaps back in my day the scenario might just have been possible…but the bundle of issues that the slightly dodgy conceit throws up are interesting, as is the interaction between the characters.

I cannot find a stub for this one, so various “news stuff” will have to suffice – perhaps ahead of some archive rejigging at the Hampstead end:

Downstairs, so of course no formal reviews either.

Oughttobeclowns blogspot liked it. As did we.

Stella Gonet (hadn’t seen her on stage for years) in particular was excellent, but the whole cast was very good indeed.

Deserves more than a short run at the unreviewed (and now seemingly unarchived) Downstairs at Hampstead. Oh well.