Saturday 18 May 2019

This is one of those annoying recommendations of a film that was on for one night only in London, part of the ongoing French literature festival at Ciné Lumi ère, which always throws up something good; it left me wanting to read Marguerite Duras's war memoir. Some reviews have been lukewarm but I was gripped - and realised that I knew almost nothing about the immediate aftermath of liberation when France awaited the return of prisoners from the camps. There's a trailer here. Sorry, seems I was wrong and this is now on limited release elsewhere and is on in London until July. 

It has been ages since I've been really engrossed in a book - but I couldn't put this down. After I finished, I came across this report claiming historical inaccuracies - the bit about penicillin had jarred on me as I was reading, I admit. But I do think it's rather harsh - the book makes no claims to be authoritative history and it's based on interviews with an 87-year-old man. And I say that as someone who loathed the well-meaning trivialisation that was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Saturday 11 May 2019

I set out yesterday afternoon to see the exhibition of Elizabethan miniatures at the National Portrait Gallery ... then felt the tug of Martin Parr's good-humoured take on Britishness. This is his Brexit photo. Anyway, how can you resist an exhibition with an old-fashioned caff in the middle selling tea and slabs of Battenberg cake? Actually, I did resist the cake as - being British - I'd already made a lemon drizzle for the weekend. But I'm all in favour of themed tea and cake to wash down the cultural stuff.
I thought I'd better see the miniatures, too, as I might not get back before the show closes ... sadly there was no caff selling marchpane and tankards of Hippocras. But the paintings were truly exquisite, especially when seen through a magnifying glass - which does mean that there's a lot of queuing but it was worth it. 

Thursday 2 May 2019

Thrilled beyond words to see Dame Maggie last night - one of those rare nights in the theatre when you feel honoured to be there. I skipped past the long queue for returns (not a chance!) unable to believe my luck that only a few days ago I'd spotted a tranche of £15 tickets on the website. I was resigned to the fact that my 'restricted view' seat would probably mean peering around a pillar ... but what a wonderful surprise, the cheap seats are the best in the house - for this performance at least - and I was about 10 feet away from Dame Maggie, as intimately engaged as if I were sitting across the room   listening to her reminiscences of life as Goebbels' secretary.
She was astonishing ... 1hr and 40 mins onstage, alone, and you could feel every eye in the theatre was riveted on this 84 year old. I wondered if it would be my last chance to see her perform live - but maybe not, because she looks in fine fettle! Standing ovations are easy-come-easy-go with today's excitable audiences ... but this was a standing ovation with 900 people on their feet! I looked at some of the young people and wondered if they realised that this was probably one of the ten best performances that they'd ever see in their life.
It was incidentally an excellent play by Christopher Hampton - because even a fine actress is only as good as the writing! (See below.)
Then I skipped (well, creaked, dodgy knees, mentally I skipped) across Tower Bridge, back to the tube station, admiring the view and thinking, 'Wow, what a night!')

Saturday night was another one-woman performance: Avalanche: A Love Story. Now, I admit, a play about IVF doesn't exactly scream, 'Saturday night out' ... but it was Maxine Peake, so I thought I'd give it a go. Aaaarrrggh ... it was like listening to someone's medical notes. A fine actress let down by mediocre writing. I nodded off, bored - woke with a jerk and she was still only on her fifth round of treatment and I just didn't care enough about the character to want to know if she succeeded. I realised I was far more interested in the cynicism of the Bentley-driving doctors who spin a 2% likelihood of conceiving and present it as  40%. Dame Maggie held me enthralled for an hour and a half. Avalanche, alas, had me wondering if it would ever bloody be over. Maxine Peake deserves better.