Thursday, 22 July 2010

Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the World

This exhibition, by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto at the Hayward is completely bonkers. Brilliantly so. It is absolutely the thing to pop into over the summer - it'll lift your spirits, make you smile and if you bring your cozzie you can have a dip in the rooftop pool (see above, book in advance by telephone 0844 847 9910), which is a sort of bastard child of a swimming and a paddling pool.

The exhibition guide is pretty pretentious, so i quickly glazed over, but walking through the exhibition's colourful tunnels, crawling into domed caves, climbing into womb, lung and heart like constructs all made from coloured stretched fabric that looks and feels like tights, i felt like i was simultaneously underwater (jellyfish, seaweed, fish-like associations), on a spaceship (colourful domes, labyrinthine passages, alien-like blobs), crawling through bodily passages and organs (capillary like extensions to the tunnels, bundles of spices, stones and herbs dotted about the place like undigested matter or fragrant mucus) and in a kids adventure playground (turrets to climb up, rooftop pool, walls to balance and walk along).

Since Ernesto Neto has critical acclaim lavished upon him like butter on hot toast, i am sure i was supposed to glean something deeply profound from the show, but I'm not exactly sure what i took away from it. a comforting sense of return-to-the-womb security? a renewed rush of childish glee? a sharpening of my adventurous streak? who knows, but it was fun.

ERNESTO NETO: The Edges of the World
19 June to 5 September 2010
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Apects of Love

Ok, so i thought it was about time that a pair of pneumatic, grossly inflated breasts were no longer the first thing anyone clapped eyes on when they clicked on my blog... it's time to finally post something new after AEONS.

And so to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, currently showing at The Menier Chocolate Factory, on Southwark High Street. a few things we should probably clarify. i was brought up on Andrew Lloyd Webber. Starlight Express, Phantom, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar - the lot. if you'd ever like anyone to break out into an impromptu out-of-tune rendition of Jacob and Sons (from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), I'm your woman. Whilst other, cooler parents, were playing Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to their sprogs, my sisters and i had Don't Cry for Me Argentina blaring out of the car stereo thanks to my mother's involvement with 'The Really Useful Group', a financial team behind ALW. Secondly, after several years of trying to deny my love of all things musical (which clearly i deemed an affliction forced upon me), i surrendered to the inevitable, and now wholeheartedly love them. Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady - the whole raft. not all of them, it has to be said, but lots. most. arguably too many. Still, Aspects of Love is a corker if you ask me. It's much more operatic than a usual musical - it's definitely not made up of pizazzy show tune numbers or huge song and dance extravaganzas in the way something that Guys and Dolls is. And the story is exceptional.

Based on the novel by David Garnett, it tells the story of young and impressionable Alex, a coltish lad who, at 19, falls in love with Rose - a beautiful French actress - older, brazen, wild, ballsy, impetuous, demanding and with a taste for the theatrical - as much off stage as on. His puppyish adoration sweeps her off her feet (eventually) and they decamp to his guardian's house in Avignon where they spend a few blissful days basking in the golden, melifluous, summery rays of love. Hearing of Alex's occupation of his home, Alex's guardian leaves his lover Julietta in Venice and hotfoots it back to Avignon... and so begins a 'love quintet' that weaves between generations and propels the story forward with its sexual vigour and lusty voraciousness. Literally not more than five minutes go buy without somebody unexpectedly jumping into bed with an entirely unsuitable lover, or generally behaving in a lunatic way that can only be attributed to being driven mad by love. It's completely compelling, even more so when you know the story behind the novel/musical.

David Garnett was part of the Bloomsbury set, and as a young man was the lover of Duncan Grant. Grant later went on to have an affair with Vanessa Bell, sister of Virgina Woolf and married to Clive Bell. They had a child, Angelica, over whose cot David Garnett stood and vowed to marry her. 20 years later he did. Aspects of Love is a thinly veiled dramatisation of this history, with a few gender switches. It's nothing if not histrionic. in the best possible way. as if there was any other way.

Trevor Nunn's production at this former chocolate factory (such a cool venue, both for plays and dinner... despite permanently Saharan temperatures; every time you go it's sweltering and you see audience members pealing off layers like stars of the Burlesque stage) is truly wonderful. Despite universally terrible wigs and the chronic misjudgement of a scene-stealing dress (think of a dress that has the significance of Rebecca's dress that the new Mrs de Winter wears by mistake), which was more belly dancer than belle of the ball (totally extraordinary) - it was pacey, moving, wholeheartedly emotional - the song 'Seeing is Believing' literally made my hair stand on end. Loved the whole thing.

Set in the inter war years, the fashion was utterly glorious, and given my penchant for 1940s/50s clothes, i sat there desperately wanting to rip the clothes of Rose - fabulous 1950s dresses, plus a rather cool high waisted-turn up-trousers-and-braces look on one of the extras.

But what really made the show was the chemistry between all the leads - it crackled between each one, but was totally different depending on who was involved - playful and naughty, sensual and artistic, puppyish and devotional - there really were languages of love spoken through their bodies as well as in the songs they sang. and also the singing was superb - none of the OTT 1980s stuff; thoughtful, moving, intense - but not ridiculous. cringe factor was low, in other words. the Menier is so intimate, cosy and unflashy, it was perfect for a toned down production of what up until now has been a bells and whistles West End musical. I'm not sure it'll wholly convert a non-musical lover - but at £35, it's worth a try, I'd say. the two people who i invited (read partially dragged) - one of whom edited Angelica Garnett's most recent book, The Unspoken Truth - loved it, despite one of them jokingly (only half i suspect) threatening to walk out at half time even before curtain up.