Six and Blizzard - FLIP Fabrique
Click here to watch
Two shows from the French-Canadian circus, theatre and dance company, FLIP Fabrique, which demonstrate its ingenious brand of acrobatic physical comedy. Six explores the sweet madness of waiting, the intricate beauty in correspondence and unexpected encounters.
And with Blizzard, FLIP Fabrique takes us on a crazy, poetic and gentle journey in the dead of winter, and invites us to lose ourselves in a moment of complete wonder. With performers at the peak of their art and outstanding visual poetry, Blizzard promises to blow away everything in its path.
Aug 6-31 Aug
Frick Madison - Cocktails with a Curator – Final Episodes
Click here to watch
I mentioned last week that I’m hoarding the final three episodes of the Frick's critically acclaimed, award-winning online program Cocktails with a Curator. I told you then that I’m saving them to eke out in the weeks when I haven't found anything else in art history online that's interesting enough to share with you. One of those weeks is here already.
Poor Lady Skipwith. She’s so pale and wan in this portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds that the first comment anyone ever makes about her is that she looks so sad. From what Aimee Ng tells us about her she probably was fairly sad, having been effectively left on the shelf until she was well into her thirties, very late for an upperclass woman of her time to marry. Eventually, after many times of asking, she finally did accept a man she seems to have disliked but that was all right because he had the grace to die a scant 18months later. They had no children and she never remarried.
It doesn’t help that fashion has dictated the ghostly white lead makeup, highlighted by the hectic spot of vermillion on her cheek. It’s almost impossible to look at this portrait and get any sense of the woman under the huge powdered wig and the ribboned hat which would have been clamped onto the wig with a million hatpins. Not only would all of that have been very uncomfortable perched on the top of your head, the dress, while very beautiful, was profoundly uncomfortable and dug into her all the down to her hips. Look at the way her waist is pulled into less than 17inches. Of course, I don’t know whether her waist was in fact that tiny but at least one maid would have pulled the laces on the corset under the dress as tight as they would go and the fashionable waist size was thought to be 17inches. No wonder the women of Lady Skipwith’s class in the 18th century often died of unspeakable internal illnesses and almost never ate – they couldn’t.
As ever, the wonderful Aimee Ng of the Frick shows us how Reynolds made the painting, with what brushstrokes he achieved the white-on-white effects, and she even shows us an oil painting of the husband, whom only a mother could love, and about whom my mother would have said, “Well, he’s no oil painting!” Aimee, we’re going to miss you.
South Pacific - Chichester Festival Theatre
Click here for tickets
Everyone I know who has seen the current production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, directed by Daniel Evans, at Chichester Festival Theatre has said wonderful things about it. Now we can all see it.
It is set during WW2 in 1943, on an island in the South Pacific, where a unit of American troops are restlessly waiting for the war to reach them. The show’s leading characters, mostly young Americans with no experience of people of other races and nationalities, have to wrestle with inter-racial romance, intolerance, attraction of opposites and fear of the enemy and the ‘other’. It’s a truly great show, certainly a greater show than it was thought to be in 1949, although it was a huge success then, winning the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize and becoming one of Broadway’s longest running hit shows.
This week, to my great delight, it will start streaming internationally which means that those of us who can’t get to Chichester this summer or who would prefer to see it online can just sit back, relax, pour a glass of champagne and, if the spirit moves us, sing along with some of the greatest songs ever written for the musical theatre. Songs such as Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and Bali Ha’i. You don’t even have to know all the lyrics although they’re worth knowing and quite astonishingly prescient for 1949 in a world just emerging from a terrible war.
This Chichester production has a terrific cast. It includes Julian Ovenden as Emile, (a plantation owner with a mysterious past), Gina Beck as Nellie (a young Navy nurse who falls in love with him), Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary (a local entrepreneur), Keir Charles as Luther Billis (a sailor who will exploit any opportunity), Rob Houchen as Cable (a young Navy pilot), and Sera Maehara as Liat (the local girl he falls in love with).
August 4, 9, 14, 18, 21, 26, 31, and September 3. From £10
The Importance of Being Earnest – Roundabout Theatre
Click here to rent
This is the most recent Broadway production of Oscar Wilde’s comedic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starred Tony nominee Brian Bedford in his final stage performance, as Lady Bracknell.
Wilde called it The Importance of Being Ernest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People and it is my belief that, along with Noel Coward’s Private Lives, it is the most perfect example of high comedy yet written in English. I could tell you the plot but, in truth, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the style and characterisation. It’s very difficult to direct Wilde because, if the director makes one casting error, or misunderstands one of Wilde’s many subtle stylistic signposts, the entire edifice falls apart. It’s a souffle and, like a souffle, if it rises, it’s delicious, if it falls, it’s a catastrophe.
Brilliant, hilarious, exquisitely observed, Brian Bedford was a great actor and director who understood both the deliberate vulgarity of Wilde, and all his subtlety, and knew how to play them both with equal weight. He was an unmissable Lady Bracknell who died in 2016 and I miss him still.
The presentation is hosted by David Hyde-Pierce, and includes an intermission feature with actor Alfred Molina and professor Michael Hackett discussing the life and works of Oscar Wilde. You can fast-forward through this if you just want Bedford and the play, untrammelled. In my view, it needs no explanation but it's here if you want it.
3-day rental £15+£3
Met Opera on demand
Click here to subscribe
In case you’re suffering withdrawal symptoms from the cancellation of the Met’s Free Nightly Opera stream and Met Stars in Concert, I thought I should reiterate that we still have access to their archive of opera productions from the past 14 years of film and television.
It includes more than 750 titles, available to stream anytime, anywhere, on your devices. New content is added monthly, with most Live in HD presentations available to stream three to six months after their initial live transmission date. There are more than 140 HD presentations from every season of the Met’s award-winning Live in HD series of worldwide cinema transmissions, and performances from the popular Met Stars Live in Concert series.
The Met is currently offering a one-year subscription for $99.99, a 33% discount compared to the normal rate of $149.99. Once you’ve subscribed, you have unlimited access to the archive and can watch as many productions, as often as you like, for the duration of your subscription. It’s a pretty good deal, I think.
Marie Antoinette - Play per-View
Click here for tickets
In David Adjmi’s contemporary take on the young queen of France, Marie is a confection created by a society that values extravagance and artifice. But France’s love affair with the royals sours as revolution brews, and for Marie, the political suddenly becomes very personal. From the light and breezy banter at the palace to the surging chants of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!” in the streets, Marie Antoinette holds a mirror up to our contemporary society that might also just be entertaining itself to death.
Written by David Adjmi and directed by Rebecca Taichman, this reading of Marie Antoinette has a pretty good cast, led by Marin Ireland, including several original cast members from the 2013 Off-Broadway Soho Rep production. Cast comprises David Greenspan, Jennifer Ikeda, Karl Miller, Will Pullen, Steven Rattazzi, Chris Stack, Kat Williams, and Carmen Zilles.
This reading is a benefit for the Cultural Solidarity Fund
Aug 5 7pm ET then On Demand until Aug9 $5-$50 +$1.94
Centenary Gala for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Click here for tickets
Sometimes you just want to sit back and listen to some beautiful music. I came across this 100th birthday concert, given by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by their former Music Director, Simon Rattle, while their current MD, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, is on maternity leave. Not absent, though, because, following an excellent introduction and programme notes from the actor, Adrian Lester, she greets the orchestra and the audience from a very rural setting in her native Lithuania.
On 5 September 1920, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave its very first concert. It was a gamble: in unprecedented times, a city recovering from war and pandemic had put its faith in the power of music to enrich lives. With a background of film and pictures from the CBSO’s history, and short interviews with former conductors, soloists, members of the orchestra and chorus, Rattle conducts a programme which includes Schumann, Elgar, Saint-Saens, Hannah Kendall and AR Rahman. The soloists are Roopa Panesar on sitar and Sheku Kanneh-Mason on cello.
This gentle concert is just the thing to ‘soothe the savage breast.’ No, not William Shakespeare from Twelfth Night 1602, but William Congreve from The Mourning Bride 1697. Bet you didn’t know that.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.