He’s not still banging on about Edinburgh is he? ‘Fraid so – well, he doesn’t get out much at his age.
My excuse is that (a) there were a few recommendations I failed to share with you, dear reader and (b) it provides a link to my post-Edinburgh attempts to deal with the obvious and sudden drop in cultural and creative input to my life.
Alexis Dubus, being himself rather than his French creation Marcel Lucont, told a very entertaining and amusing story (in rhyme) about travel and finding love. It also took place in The Stand V which is a small, but still rather nice, room in a boutique hotel – rather than the usual, slightly tatty venue carved out of some of the student infrastructure owned by Edinburgh University.
Sheeps were very funny repeating the same sketch in preparation for a supposed gig at Wembley, providing a comedy take on that music staple of the theme and variations. This took place in the Bedlam theatre, which is slightly tatty, but did offer the cheapest beer by far of my time in Edinburgh (albeit Deuchars IPA from a bottle rather than a tap) and will call you a taxi when you leave.
Des Bishop‘s show on his experiences learning Chinese while living in China managed to be funny, informative and educational. His degree of application and linguistic prowess stand in judgement over the rest of us (well me, anyway). The downside is that I do now eavesdrop on Chinese conversations to work out which of the four tones they are using.
This last show also slotted in nicely to a China strand in my recent life. This started with Andrew Graham Dixon’s always surprising BBC4 documentary on the Art of China, and continued with an exhibition of Ming treasures at the National Museum of Scotland. The wisdom of the Chinese also featured in the opening quotes of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings; a proverb states “The true measure of a mountain’s greatness is not its height but whether it is charming enough to attract a dragon”. Very much my own view – and why I have always preferred Cader Idris to Snowdon (and Cader did, I seem to recall, attract a dragon in Smallfilms’ Ivor the Engine – and also is rumoured to be home to an afanc). Des, however, did give me reason to believe the Chinese are not always quite so wise – the number of knock-offs of Take Me Out (albeit spared the Paddy McGuinness element) broadcast (and enthusiastically viewed) in China is not wholly compatible with a reputation of sagacity.
Since my return to the south, I have been (relatively) bereft – though have managed to reclaim some much needed sleep. Still, to ease the pain of withdrawal I went up to London last Saturday to get a “fix” of culture. I started my afternoon with Radical Geometry at the Royal Academy which appealed to both the mathematician (lapsed) and the art-lover within – a small, but perfectly formed exhibition at which all the works and artists were entirely new to me.
I then headed down to the St James theatre to see The Lion – a spoken and word and guitar-based life story involving the death of a father and recovery from cancer, but with no sign of Ant, Dec or Simon and no exhortations to vote. It was a lovely show and my first time in the “studio” where I had booked the balcony (to show off my new-found lack of fear of heights, rather than based on any knowledge of the layout)) which offered quite the most luxurious seating I have ever experience at a theatre.
Finally, I had my first visit to the Old Red Lion theatre (I’m slowly working my way through London’s fringe theatres, though won’t be troubling Big Chief I-Spy for a while yet) to see The Picture of John Gray. A story about people who knew Oscar Wilde (and our hero inspired one of his books), though Wilde himself never appears, which was very good – funny with some properly witty lines. It did rather make me wish I had my own Andre Raffalovich – though probably more the figure from the play, with his flavour of a much less annoying Poirot, than the historical original (though the play does stick close to the facts as laid out by everyone’s favourite Hawaiian on-line encyclopaedia) – who did seem a particularly excellent friend and general factotum. The ORL, as its name suggests, sits above a pub – which must be congratulated for its ability to serve a well-pulled pint quickly and efficiently to a thirsty theatre audience at half time. Many a hostelry (and bank) could learn from them!
Even my train ride home provided culture as thanks to the 2i’s (Pad and Player), I watched the recent St John Passion from the Proms. I’m not normally so high-brow on the train ride home, but a friend is the chorus master for the Zürcher Sing-Akademie (and I’d missed their performance in Cambridge) and this was my last chance to watch it before it once again became missable (and missed). Bach’s music made for a surprisingly effective accompaniment as the train scampered home through the darkened countryside of Surrey and Hampshire – though I did feel slightly out-of-step with my fellow passengers (nothing new there, though).
So, with this cultural methadone safely injected, I have now survived a second week back from Festivals and fun. With the summer holidays over and students returning to university, the cultural scene in Southampton and environs (and even in the nation’s capital) should all be starting up again soon: so I think I may just make it through (well, as far as the horrors of Christmas at least).