Archive for November, 2009

Bright Star

November 29, 2009


Another film that troubled me on moral grounds.  To start off with, I was just bored as the relationship between Keats and Fanny Brawne developed very very slowly, although with some lovely interiors and clothes (and close-up needlework).  Then Keats began dying of TB and I felt this was the kind of thing that ought to be kept private, rather than exhibited to the paying public as entertainment.  And especially in the case of a very young person who has not even had the opportunity to develop some framework of ideas to make sense of and react to their death.

But one cannot really accuse the film of excessive realism.  Everyone spoke in the very genteel tones employed for period drama, when in fact Keats had a pronounced cockney accent, which was another stick for conservative critics to beat him with.  Everyone was very nice, apart from the Scotsman Brown (and the Irish maid Abigail was preternaturally stupid–surprising to see an Antipodean like Jane Campion being so sound on the national question), while when I last read a biography of Keats he became very bitter about Fanny not requiting his feelings and blamed her for hastening his death.  (Which is the kind of thing I even less want to see on the screen.)

There were outstanding performances from Edie Martin as Fanny’s little sister and Topper as the Brawnes’ cat.

Under the influence of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale and Mozart’s Gran Partita I cried at the end.  Strange that–the Gran Partita gives you the feeling that nothing bad can ever happen, when normally Mozart has some kind of fragility that makes you fear it’s all going to fall apart.

Me Cheeta (James Lever)

November 29, 2009


Another book group book, but I was in Israel.  I wouldn’t have had that much to say about it anyway, since it rather by-passed my sense of humour.  When I first opened it at random, my eye fell on rather a good joke along the lines of “I can do a good Maureen O’Sullivan impression by screaming and throwing my excrement about”, but that turned out to be a false dawn.

I think that my problems were:

i)  I’m too young (!) to have any clear idea about the stars of the Hollywood Golden Age–and it’s a very long time since I had a TV for the purpose of watching old films on wet weekend– so Cheeta can say whatever he likes about them without surprising or striking me;

ii)  Cheeta starts off with a very sophisticated idea about life being there to cause creatures pain and death, and this supports a rather mild joke about humans being engaged in rescue, but this feels…clumsy…to me–you advance credibility for a rather far-fetched idea (that Cheeta has developed this Schopenhauerian philosophy in the jungle) and don’t get much of a payoff in return.  There’s a story by Sholem Auslander which operates in the reverse direction–God decides to implant shame, knowledge of the moral law, awareness of mortality in your ordinary-Joe chimpanzee in his normal surroundings–and that’s much more effective.  Similarly, there’s ‘Great Apes’ by Will Self, where your drug-taking artist type wakes up one day to find everyone else has turned into chimpanzees (while still living in North London & working as doctors & so on), and he extracts a great deal of humour from the clash between the chimp and human layers of reality;

iii)  the humour wasn’t crude enough for me (more excrement and masturbation required)–‘sex and violence, the principles of chimpanity’ as one of Will Self’s simian savants remarks.

There may be going on in the book than I noticed–at the beginning (in the preface) Cheeta describes the final stage of Johnny Weissmuller’s life in Mexico in quite dignified terms, while at the end of the book the same period is portrayed as being much more sordid.  But since I gave my copy to another member of the book group I guess I’m never going to find out whether there was more to it now.

A week in Israel

November 26, 2009

So, this was the Secrets of Jerusalem tour from Imaginative Traveller booked a couple of weeks in advance with a £200 reduction (so the tour cost £800 in round terms) and with BA flights booked by myself  (£ 282).

Saturday 14 November

My first experience of Heathrow Terminal 5, and it’s very frightening–I manage to check-in at an enigmatic machine and then drop off my bag.  There’s no human contact unless you want to buy things, and the toilets are very well hidden (litter bins are so well hidden as to be non-existent).  And there’s no information–the displays say when your flight is scheduled and give you some instructions, but there’s no data on how flights are running against schedule.

Because of a strong following wing the flight takes an hour less than the scheduled 5 hours, and I get 2 hours’ sleep instead of 3.

Sunday 15 November

The girl at passport control gives me a mild interrogation.  I find the ATM won’t give me any money, so I change $120 at the exchange place.  Most things seem to be open and active at 0530 in the morning.  I go up to look at the alleged bus-leaving-area and it’s all very hard to understand.  I go back downstairs and the girl in the information kiosk says get the train from right round the corner.  I do, and perhaps do not get off at the right stop.  (13.50 NIS, and many conscripts with fat kitbags and submachine guns.)

I trudge into town for a long way and almost manage to get lost/knocked down a few times.  Eventually I find the De La Mer Feng Shui Hotel where I will be able to check in once several hours have passed.

I trudge up Allenby Street and that is interesting:  first of all, there is the adult entertainment district, then something like a town in Southern Russia with old people begging in the streets and even some Russian bookshops.

Allenby--adult entertainment

I wander along Rothschild Boulevard and end up going into a McDonalds, where I have breakfast for 29.90 NIS.  There is a device to summon me when it’s ready, after which I wait some time for an espresso and some very sweet ‘orange juice’.

I go to the hotel about 1215 and a tattooed guy says the room is being cleaned and he doesn’t know how long it will take.  He asks after my room-mate Patrick Barclay.  I say that we are as yet unacquainted.

I go up to Menachem Begin Square, past a closed part of the Tel Aviv Art Museum, and brave the security check at a shopping centre to use the toilet.

I return to the hotel and a younger guy at reception once again has to disentangle the idea of two people in one room.  I seems quite cramped.  I have a phone call from Dalia the local agent to ask whether everything is all right (once she has established she is speaking to me and not Patrick Barclay).

I go out to find a place to eat and after walking some distance in different direction I end up at a place called Miguel on HaYarkon.  It’s all right, and I have mushroom soup and a burger.  When I get back, the clerk says he’s given the key to the other guy, but he finds one for me anyway.  While I find the door locked–nobody at home–some bags and clothes on the floor.

I am in the bathroom preparing for a crap when I hear sounds of a person entering the room.  Patrick seems to be nice enough, though he does lay out smoking equipment on the third bed.  I nervously explain something about the controls of the air-conditioning.  He sets them to ‘cold’ and I change them to ‘hot’.  He says he will set his alarm to 7 and we can go to bed at 11.

Monday 16 November

We go down to breakfast and are joined by Rowena, who turns out to be the third (out of six) member of our group–Patrick met her at reception yesterday evening.  The reception guy tells us to await orders, so we wait in reception.  And Patrick has met the fourth member of the party–Shulamit, a slightly-built black-haired young Australian girl.

We walk along the front to Jaffa, and Shulamit and I test out each other’s knowledge of Hebrew and Judaism.  We take lots of pictures, and Shulamit attempts to leave her camera behind, but we do gain Klaus, a German software developer and a friend of the same age for Shulamit.

Egyptian relic in Jaffa--S. tried to leave her camera on the ledge in the foreground

The Franciscan monastery thing is closed, we have coffee and cakes in a kosher restaurant place (no milk ‘cos it’s kosher, see).  We set off to walk back to Jaffa to do things and look for somewhere for the evening.  I enthusiastically lead the party up Allenby Street to Rothschild Boulevard when we were supposed to be making for Dizengoff Street.  We retreat and eat at a fast food shwarma place.  Shulamit munches on buns reserved from breakfast.

Thinks:  it’s 3.7 NIS to the $ and (according to Rowena) $ 1.68 to the £, hence 6.2 NIS to the £.

We scout out some places for the evening.  Shulamit and Klaus decide to go home and rest, Rowena Patrick and I sit in a cafe, watch the world go by, talk about holidays we have been on.

We return to the hotel and rest with our eyes closed, then assemble in reception.  No Shulamit.  Rowena rings her and she says that she and Klaus might join us later.  Mike the hotel guy advises Rowena she ought to eat in a place called Basta near Carmel Market.  As we walk, Rowena says she wants the kind of place where you can have small amounts of lots of things.

We get lost and end up in a place that seems to have no name.  It is Basta!  A waitress comes over and very patiently explains the menu to us.  It is in cursive–no use to me!  We ask her what she recommends, and end up with calamari and bacon, octopus salad, artichoke ravioli, tabbouleh, ?something else.  Rowena and Patrick have a bottle of  Yatir wine.  (427 NIS overall, including 149 NIS for the wine.)  At some stage, Shulamit and Klaus come in, say they will come back in an hour–and don’t.

At the end, the 3 of us wander out in search of further diversion–Patrick and Rowena go in an animated-looking bar and I go to bed.

Tuesday 17 November

I wake at hourly intervals during the night, wonder if Patrick has returned, find that he hasn’t and go back to sleep.

I go to breakfast, and when I get back some of Patrick’s clothes are on his bed.  Eventually we coincide and lie parallel on our beds kind-of sleeping.  We assemble downstairs and after more waiting a guy appears who says he is our guide called Sakher (or Peter) and the other guy is George, our driver.

We drive.  Sakher tells us how Arab villages were destroyed by the Jews in 1948, and now there are Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and 1948 Arabs.  We arrive at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, an Anglican establishment with a Pilgrim Guest House attached.  We wait for the two remaining members of the tour to arrive from Jordan;  Patrick says it will be a 60-year-old bloke with a 25-year-old Thai bride.  But it turns out to be Sam and Clare, a Canadian couple who have been held up a long time crossing the border from Jordan.

We get in the minibus and drive to Jerusalem.  We go in the Church of the Nativity and people queue to kneel down and kiss a stone where tradition has it that Jesus was born.  Then we have lunch (shwarma) in a place where Peter and George are royally entertained as bringers of custom.

Kissing a stone

We proceed to the fields where the shepherds were traditionally tending their flocks when the angels traditionally appeared to them (but not in December, however traditional that may be).  There is a modern Papist building to look at.

We spend a long time waiting at the Israeli checkpoint to get out of the West Bank.  Sakher says that the Palestinian Holocaust is happening right here.  Sam takes him through the varieties of ‘Palestinian’ status and the particular disabilities attached to each one.

Then we go to some place where tour guides quarrel and the traditional location of the Last Supper is above the traditional tomb of King David.

In the evening Dalia the local agent appears to give us our instructions.  The Canadians make representations about things that had gone wrong in Jordan.  Rowena comments that there was no group bonding opportunity at the beginning.  Dalia says that in order to get to the airport on Saturday I can either book a shuttle bus at reception on Friday morning for $15 or get a taxi for $ 90.

Me, Patrick and Rowena set off to find somewhere to eat and spend a long time walking around a souk-like place that offers only a couple of low grade snack bar type places.  Then a helpful Jewish lad points the way to freedom, and I manage to find out where we are (Tower of David) on the guidebook map.  I lead the way to a restaurant marked there, and we end up at another–the Armenian Tavern, which is more than adequate for our needs.  My headache recedes under the influence of espresso and baklava.  Then with the aid of the guidebook map I manage to find the way through the souk-y thing to the Damascus Gate, where Patrick takes over and I try to kick a bollard out of the way.

I sleep soundly–in fact, I seem to be more tired than Patrick…

Wednesday 18 November

We assemble and get on the bus.  I find that I’ve left my camera behind.  We go to some places–the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations.  Sakher repeats his thing about Christian =נצר   = נוצרי = sprout = sprig of Jesse.

So then we go through more security to the Wailing Wall and observe men praying enthusiastically,  with tefillin attached to their foreheads and arms.  I explain to Patrick and Sam that King Solomon was about 950 BC, and the various types of commandments there are in Judaism.

Wailing Wall

Then we follow the Via Dolorosa and Sakhera feels the place where Herod judged Jesus is certainly known, and we can look upon paving stones that he also looked upon.  I trip several times and fall once, failing to look upon the paving stones with sufficient attention.

Eventually we go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where lots of people queue to touch the stone where the cross traditionally stood and file through half of the traditional tomb that St Helena found and then the crusaders excavated half of it.

After that we have showarma in a showarma place that is all right.

Then we go through Yad Vashem and I am not as depressed as I might have been.  I see that Primo Levi is only allowed to express himself in Hebrew and English, while Evgeny Evtushenko is allowed Russian.  Don’t look at this, even though it tells you all you need to know.

Shulamit and I spend some time in the bookshop before Sakher comes and rounds us up–they have ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’ on sale, *sigh*.  On the way back, I explain to Shulamit that Yiddish was written using the Hebrew alphabet.

When I get back, I find that my camera has been in the bottom of my bag all the time.  Sakher says that his people are not Arabs but descendants of the Byzantine population and the Roman soldiers had an equivalent of Russian roulette called Saturna or ‘King for a day’.  Saturna = satire surely?

In the evening all 6 of us go outside and search for where we think Dalia said there was a restaurant.  We seem to be getting deep into residential East Jerusalem.  Shulamit asks a coach driver, who thinks there is nothing nearby.  We end up in the Christmas Hotel behind our own ‘hotel’ and dine in an empty restaurant next to another empty restaurant.  Rowena tells us about her trans-Siberian experiences and I end up as king of the bill for the day.  Shulamit announces she only has a $20 note.  Sam Clare and I head back to base, leaving the others at the bar.

Thursday 19 November

We are meant to leave at 7 (after getting up at 6), but in fact we’re a bit late as George was delayed getting out of the West Bank.  Clare threatens changing round our positions in the bus tomorrow, but we drive in undisturbed to Nazareth and that turns out to be a cheerful place.  I spot an ATM and the guard helpfully directs me to another one belonging to Bank Hapoalim a few minutes away when that one doesn’t work.

Receiving orders in Nazareth

We look round the Church of the Annunciation and a cave that might have been the workshop of Jesus and Joseph under some other church.  Then we go to the Sea of Galilee and view the Church of the Multiplication and the Church of St Peter’s Primacy–standing by the S of G is very peaceful.  Sakher explains about the Evangelical Triangle (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum), which is new to me.

Sakher explains that one place in Capernaum is where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law while in the synagogue next door he interrupted the year’s Torah(?) reading at Isaiah(?).

We drive along by the S of G and arrive at the ‘da Maria’ restaurant at Magdala and have a ‘St Peter fish’ for $20 (including salad, bread, Turkish coffee).  And the StP fish (apparently tilapia) has a relatively small number of satisfyingly robust bones–double-plus good!

We arrive at Yordanit, which is not where John the Baptist (or Jesus) baptised anyone, but there is a large souvenir establishment onshore and some respectably-sized catfish in the river.  Shulamit says she has had a coffee and got talking to the girl serving who invited her to come and stay on a hippy kibbutz nearby.

We return home.  I worry about getting to the airport on the Sabbath.  In the evening, Patrick Rowena and I go to the green place nearby–or the Kan Zaman restaurant at the Jerusalem Hotel to be more helpful.  And very good it is too:  locals, noise, life, cigarette smoke and copious amounts of nice food.  Patrick and Rowena drink wine and discuss common professional interests while I excuse myself and go back to base, where I enquire about the shuttle bus of the guy at reception.  He says he will be able to book it for me tomorrow morning.

Friday 20 November

Patrick announces he is going to use the Internet ‘over there’ before breakfast.  I feel under the weather and decide I have a cold.  I go to reception and book a minibus for 1240 tomorrow–it will cost 50 NIS, the man says.  Patrick says he has booked a room on his own for the last night, since he will be leaving at 0230 and says he doesn’t want to disturb me.  I say that is very kind of him and he doesn’t have to.

We get in the bus and I wrap myself meaningfully in coat and scarf.  We arrive at Masada and I am very interested–this is real ancient history, without the religiously-inspired tradition to choke me.  I tell Sakher and Sam more than they want to know about the inaccuracies of ancient historians in general and Josephus in particular.

Traces of Roman encampment as seen from Masada

We proceed to Qumran, where we have lunch in a slightly chaotic and not overclean cafeteria.  Shulamit tells me I should convert to Judaism and  I say I don’t believe in God.  She says she believes in some higher power.  We have lots of flies to nourish with our exudate.  Sakher says that Qumran means we have the real Bible, it doesn’t matter who the Essenes were.

We drive to a beach by the Dead Sea.  My cold, skin condition and I decline to bathe, and we drink expensive coffee in a fly-infested cafe.  Clare comes and asks will I guard their belongings on the beach.

We drive to Jericho and look at a fruit stall.  I’m so tired!

The five of us (without Shulamit) assemble to go to the Kan Zaman restaurant from yesterday.  And when we get there it is booked solid all evening.  We wander round for a long time finding nothing.

Finally we end up at a place on the first floor a couple of doors away from KZ.  Sam and Clare go back to tell Shulamit where we are, and a guy plays an electric oud with  electronic backing.  Sam and Clare reappear. We have food, beer and coca-cola.  Sam becomes animated while Clare sits pressed back into her seat, desperate to escape from us all.  They go home and the room becomes more animated as people (foreigners, 20s) stand up and begin dancing.  Rowena starts yawning and I manage to secure the bill.  390 NIS–the cheek of it!  Patrick gives me $ 100 and I sort it all out somehow.

We walk back and the gate is locked.  We ring the bell and rattle the gate for a long time.  Eventually the guy arrives carrying a cup of tea and lets us in…

Saturday 21 November

I go to breakfast and Sam and Clare are waiting for their ride.  Shulamit and I have a chat.  She says she does not remember Rowena leaving in the night.  I give her my Hebrew dictionary since she does not have one.  She says she is going to do an Ulpan and learn Modern Hebrew and after that Arabic; do a Masters and be an eternal student; feed ibex on a kibbutz and as a conscript ride in the back of a truck with her Uzi over her shoulder; become a journalist and report something other than violence from Israel; live for ever and always be happy.

At 1240 I stand outside and wait for the minibus.  At 1250 a taxi appears.  He says it will be 250 NIS.  I ask can I pay in dollars.  At the end, I get $32 back from Patrick’s $100, and we get a couple of minor inspections on the way to the airport.

While I am standing in one of a number of lines a friendly enough young woman inspects my passport and asks me

  • to confirm my name
  • the purpose of my stay in Israel
  • how long I have stayed
  • was I a group or a person
  • was I with the group now
  • to explain how the group worked in that case
  • was it people who knew each other before
  • where I have stayed in Israel
  • where I have stayed in Jerusalem
  • what places I have visited in Israel.

Then I put my bags through a machine.  Then I go to have them inspected,  which means someone passing an explosives sniffer thing over them.  So then I get to check in.  And go through to the landside shops, where I manage to get a heartshaped box of Israeli chocolates.  Most of the businesses are closed in honour of the Sabbath.  And airside, the coffee outlets are nearly all closed, IHOTS while the shops selling overpriced crap are open (in honour of the Golden Calf).

An Education

November 10, 2009



For a long time, watching this film was like having drawing pins pushed in all over my body.

What happens in the film

So it’s the early 1960s and young Jenny is doing her A-levels (studying, significantly enough, Jane Eyre) when she is picked up by a charming older bloke at a bus-stop.

Dave, the older bloke charms her imperceptive parents takes her to concerts and the greyhound racing and Paris and introduces her to his friends Danny and Helen.  Dave and Jenny have sex in Paris.


Dave and Danny have dubious business dealings working for Peter Rachman and nicking things from old ladies.  Dave asks Jenny to marry him–they get engaged–Dave is taking the family out in his flash car when Jenny discovers from letters in the glove compartment that he is already married.  Rather than facing the family Dave drives off–it turns out that he lives nearby with his wife and little boy.  Jenny returns to her studies and in the (happy) end goes to Oxford with a richer fund of experience than her contemporaries.


Why I object to the film

That’s what having worked in children’s social services and knowing something about the realities of child sex abuse does for you I suppose! (Don’t give me that she was over 16–a schoolgirl is a schoolgirl.)  Here we have the father selling his young daughter (not for money but for cheap flattery and cut-rate charm) to an older man so he can have sex with her.  That’s not a comedy with amusing sidelights on the Britain of 40 or 50 years ago.  And what has Jenny so narrowly avoided?  An illegal abortion or single motherhood in an L-shaped room at best–we see no trace of this.

In fact, Alfred Molina gave a total non-performance as the father, while as Dave  Peter Sarsgaard was entirely too wholesome (and young-seeming) to suggest the total vacuity of the glamorous man-about-town with his wife and son in a semi two streets away.  As everyone has pointed out, Carey Mulligan did a brilliant job as the sometime-girl, sometime-woman Jenny, though she didn’t really look 16, thank God.

(What if Jenny had been played by a grown-up woman, but nobody saw it?  What if Dave had been impotent?  There might even be a decent film to be extracted here.)

Amusing sidelights on the olden days

If there was anything I liked about the film, it was the picture of Britain at the beginning of the sixties, when different strata of society–the posh, the respectable, the louche, the criminal–were coming into contact with each other.  And I can see that people who think going to Oxford is impossibly glamorous might also think you are offered a place by a ‘Faculty’.

It’s all too clever for the likes of me to understand

At the beginning, Jenny wins praise from the ‘good’ teacher Miss Stubbs for pointing out that Mr Rochester is blind–and so is she, in not ‘seeing through’ Dave.  And Mr Rochester is already married as well….oh that’s all so clever I can hardly breathe I’m so impressed.

Let’s be optimistic and see the plausible machinations of Dave and his saturnine friend in attempting to ruin Jenny while enriching themselves through fraud and robbery as representing a timely warning against Dave Cameron and George Osborne.  This is reinforced by the non-performance of Alfred Molina, an obvious reference to Gordon Brown, who Britannia Jenny will return to in the end…

The Kreutzer Sonata Gate Theatre 07 November 2009

November 8, 2009


To start at the beginning:  there are three Kreutzer Sonatas–a sonata for violin and piano by Beethoven; a novella by Tolstoy where a performance of Beethoven’s sonata plays an important role; and a string quartet by Janacek that attempts to put Tolstoy’s work (back) into music.

And here we had a stage adaptation of Tolstoy.  The set comprised two railway-type seats facing each other across a table, while a screen in the background could be a window or a screen to show projected images or it could reveal the other two characters in the space behind.

As Pozdnyshev, Hilton McRae addressed the audience from his side of the stage (gradually moving over to the other) and told the story of how he had been a sexually dissolute young man who then got married because he thought he was in love; how Trukhachevsky, an old and violin-playing acquaintance had called on him and how he had ended up playing Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in a musical evening with Poznyshev”s wife; how he had been jealous and returned unexpectedly from a business trip to find them together; how he had killed his wife and finally been acquitted by a court; how music was bad.  This accompanied by music behind the screen and images projected on the screen.

So compared to Tolstoy’s novella a great deal was `omitted, as is hardly surprising.  Tolstoy’s Pozdnyshev wears Russian rather than European clothing beneath his overcoat and occasionally emits strange sounds, like clearing the throat or a laugh begun and broken off.   So he is a broken man, and consequently Tolstoy’s Pozdnyshev–the fornicator and murderer–is a Christlike figure.

Hilton McRae certainly wasn’t any of this here–but he had difficulty in pronouncing the name of Trukhachevsky the adulterous violinist, which could easily have been changed to something more convenient.  (Trukhachevsy ~ Trashy which tells us all we need to know about him, while Pozdnyshev ~ Late–he realises things too late).

So of course we didn’t have any of the discussion of sexal mores with the merchants and the ‘advanced’ lady putting their opposing views.  Nor did the impossibilist view that Tolstoy correctly ascribes to Jesus–that sex is inherently a bad thing and we should refrain from it to reach the Kingdom of Heaven–receive an airing.

This Pozdnyshev did not come to the conclusion that between him and his wife sex and anger are two manifestations of the same animal feeling.  And instead of the striking refractory characterisation of Trukhachevsky the musician,

He played splendidly, and he had in the highest degree what they call tone.  Apart from that, a refined, noble taste, quite uncharacteristic of his character.

here he just called the violin ‘squeaky’.

So this was just a bourgeois horror-show in the manner of  Zola or even ‘Arden of Faversham’, but I did begin to be gripped when the pair behind the curtain actually got to play part of the Kreutzer Sonata and Pozdnyshev described how he killed his wife.  But here we missed both Pozdnyshev’s hypertrophied sensitivity to music

After [the first] presto they played out the beautiful, but usual–not new–andante with the vulgar variations and the decidedly weak finale.

or the most distressing details of the murder

She grabbed at the dagger with her hands, and cut them, but was not able to hold it back.

But all of this, along with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, is obviusly too hard for the Notting Hill audience.  Still, the third or so of Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata that survived is still something, especially with the added portion of Beethoven’s.

What’s more, there’s a 2-for-1 ticket offer here.


Tread Softly/Carnival of the Animals/Comedy of Change Ballet Rambert Sadlers Wells 6 November

November 8, 2009


The evening started with ‘Tread Softly’, in fact tread softly on Mahler’s arrangement of the ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet.


Picture from

I don’t know what choreography would add to such music, but this wasn’t it–it was all rather over-literal doubling of what the music did (with some suggestive thrusting), on a bare stage and with the dancers in what appeared to be rehearsal costumes.  And one of the girls softly trod on three of the blokes lined up for her.

Then it was ‘Carnival of the Animals’.


Picture from

The choreography did have some cutting edge this time, and there were jokes in both the choreography and the music, but they didn’t really coincide and the (rather better I thought) ones in the music went begging.  I daydreamed about my tea quite extensively.

And finally we had ‘Comedy of Change’, an allegedly Darwinian piece with a bespoke score by Julian Anderson and black-and-white clad dancers emerging from chrysalis-style things at the beginning.


Picture from

There was good coordination between the music and action, but what it was all about I couldn’t make out.  They made a cocoon out of aluminium foil and squashed it flat at the end…The pieces were arranged in order of decreasing running time (strangely enough), so we were let out earlier than I had feared.  And I would have had plenty of time to make my tea if I’d not forgotten about my trains being rearranged.