Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Time and The Conways

For J.B.Priestley's play i'm tempted simply to refer you to my below post about Chekhov, as in many ways Time and the Conways is so Chekhovian it's insane. INSANE. maybe that's because i saw The Cherry Orchard so recently and it's left a searing impression, or maybe it's because i desperately wanted to ignore the temporal philosophy JBP tries to overlay onto the story of an aristocratic family's terminal social and financial decline, which takes place during Britain's interwar years. or maybe it's becasue that real point of the play, the Time of the title, was basically not explored enough for me to engage with it. but more o that later.

anyway, the first act sees the 21st Birthday party of Kay Conway, which takes place in 1919 in a grand house in the English countryside, where she's celebrating with her three sisters, brother and mother. Charades are played, spirits are high, strains of socialism, hope, burgeoning love and creative energy fizz in the air, with a fair dose of social snobbery and fatal dramatic irony casually thrown into the mix. the second act sees the same family collected for a more sombre family meeting 19 years later, in 1938, once again on Kay's birthday - her 40th. But this time it's crisis time, the gregarious matriarch (Francesca Annis), so ebullient in the first act, now reduced to grovelling for money. As you come to realise how the family have evolved, what misfortune has befallen them due to their stupidity, mostly, the narrative speaks volumes about a dying breed of English family who cannot connect with the social flux of their times, and how that's affected the writer, the actress, the socialist, the beauty, the recluse and the cad of the family. To be honest, they all come across as being pretty odious, but there's such a compelling downshift in their spirits, reflecting how they are a product of their times and how those times have shaped their characters, that the odiousness is bearable (up to a point).

It's a very mannered production, directed by Rupert Goold. in fact, it's almost a bit like a morality play, with all the characters basically being a type, who fall to their doom because of their particular brand of hubris. at least that's how this production plays out. The Time theme seems a bit of a tag on. I guess, loosely, it explores the notion that in fact, far from separating us into different versions of ourselves, time happens to us all at once. in a single temporal continuum. Kay is the main conduit for explaining this, and it's played out very visually in this production. the first act ends with her wanting to record her present emotions for future use in a novel, but that action inadvertently transports her to the future. and then the second act closes with 10 or so versions of herself all staring at their reflections in the mirror - the same version of herself all lined up taking stock of the different scenes in her life (possibly). In the third act (which leaps back to the party of 1919), Kay then appears to have seizure like telescopic moments, where her awareness of the future is seemingly invading the present - thus rendering the whole temporal continuum immediate, by which i mean that the present and the future are effectively happening in the same time. basically showing that everything happens in the now, the past future and present are always now. one moment. this idea is then played out with Kay aged 40 dancing with a hologram type version of her 21 year old self, as if the two are one-and-the-same in the same time.

anyway, i really enjoyed it, but up to a point, that point being when the mannered performances BECAME TOO MUCH. which tended to be about 10 mins before the end of every act, when i tended to clutch my sisters beside me and hiss something like 'this CANNOT go on. it's SIMPLY TOO MUCH'. i blame Rupert Goold, even though i do love him (mostly). it is a great production in the main, but it felt a bit like trying to squeeze something into the a box that's just (and only just) the wrong size. but the wrong size nevertheless. basically it works, but there's a tiny bit that won't quite fit. and by playing it so mannered it eventually strays into being irritatingly hammy, which reaches a crescendo of annoyance which eventually becomes UNBEARABLE. It's very much in the vein of the Miss Marples he's directed for TV (or actually 'Marple' as they are now called, dropping the Miss, which completely infuriates me as the POINT is that she's an elderly spinster - she is part of an UNSEEN and IGNORED group in society and thus can pick up info to do with the mystery because people don't notice her). anyway, if you've watched those on TV you'll know what i mean. the costumes, the way of speaking, the playing it up takes over any real characterisation, or actual interest in the mystery itself - it's all about the gloss. with Time and the Conways, i think Rupert Goold has sacrificed JBP's main point - his temporal theme, for the sake of a more Chekhovian presentation of the fall from grace/grandeur of an aristocratic family, which grows out of the mannered performances.

Gosh it's taken me a long time to say this.

Chanel doll clutch bag

words ESCAPE ME. ok, so this outfit was worn by Miss Allen in January which would indicate that i'm not very quick on the uptake, but hey. i LOVE it. Chanel BTW.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Jeff Koons

Almost called this post 'Jess Koons', which would have been appropriate as i went to the private view (which opened the show last night) with Jess. and THANK GOD i did, rather than going under my own steam with my paltry press invite, as the 'plebs' queue to get in was about 50 people long, and by the time i came out the queue to get into the park (BEFORE having to queue to get into the exhibition) would have been round the block - if The Serpentine was indeed on a block. anyway, with Jess, who has recently become a Future Contemporary of The Serpentine, and who is getting married in the summer pavilion there in August, we avoided the hoi polloi waiting thing entirely and went in the back door, which made for a very 007 stealth entrance. LOVED that. and i rather loved Koons' ironic celebration of tack, too. whoop whoop to the insubstantial, pop culture, the banal, the shallow, the naff. except it isn't entirely that, obv, as his sculptures aren't the actual things he's 'celebrating' at all, which obviously makes it all very... well, very. this time, his 'inflatables' (not inflatable at all, rather made from aluminium to look like plastic inflatables) are poolside blow ups - dog rubber rings and lobster lilos (above) doing rather jaunty things like being suspended from the ceiling and holding chairs, or supporting a whole forest of chopped wood. That so much work has gone into re-creating a plastic toy that costs about £4.50 down Asda, making it from something of substance, and thus into art, art that attempts to comment on our value judgements, aesthetic sensibilities, and materialism seems particularly interesting, somehow, given the amount of 'real' plastic faces wandering around the exhibition amongst these pieces. literally hundreds of plastic surgery freaks whose smooth faces were completely betrayed by their wrinkly legs. People = the art, i thought - shiny, plastic people who were made to look young and carefree - wrinkleless, like time has stood still and experience hasn't taken its toll. sort of walking, superficial works of art. probably worth less than a Koons, though. Koons, BTW, brought his kids along to the show. They were dressed like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange in monochrome suits and bowler hats. Odd. Very odd.
PS. spotted: Stella McCartney sporting a v cool gold jacket with her husband Alasdhair Willis (such a dish).
Jeff Koons is on until 13 September at The Serpentine Gallery, London.
Image: Jeff Koons Acrobat 2003–09
Polychromed aluminium, galvanised steel, wood and straw
228.9 x 148 x 64.8 cm
Bill Bell Collection
© 2009 Jeff Koons