Ursula Arnold, Arno Fischer, Evelyn Richter: Capturing Time

At the Museum der bildenden Kunste Leipzig

Husemannstrasse

Something’s pretty fantastic about accidentally ending up in a photographic exhibition in Leipzig when your husband discovers half-way through that his mother had viewed some of these very same shots at The Family of Man exhibition, hosted at the MoMA in New York, sixty-one years earlier. She apparently relished the show, and it’s easy to see why just from the photos we had to hand. The people captured are real; the composition of the shots detailed without being exhausting; and in terms of getting an appreciation of the lives of others – educational.

Arnold

This is a representative selection of the considerable works of three talented photographers, dating I think back to the 1940s through approximately 60 years of their work. So not only do you get a real taste of history, both political and social, but also the advantage of seeing where the photographers were similar and then differed in their styles. You also get the opportunity to gauge the differences in terms of their subjects.

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These photographs at the time didn’t just toe the party line or a socialist agenda, on the contrary, they welcomed the viewer (and still do), to think about what’s going on in the photograph, ask questions about the environment in which people lived, and provide almost a stepping stone for you to consider what’s happening in these people’s lives, not just when the picture is taken, but before and after. It’s as if the subject is providing the platform to share, and us the viewer, to learn and experience and be informed.

Arno Fischer

A few things that struck me, the people in 1950s East Germany didn’t look that different to the British, dress was similar, statue and street scene are almost too familiar and it is only when examining the 1980s photographs, you get the sense that there was definitely a divide. Yes, you guessed it, it’s the dress and the hair, it’s also the ‘place‘. Everything looks a little out-of-date and crying out for a make-over.

Richter

Having said that however, (sadly I can’t recollect which of the three photographers were responsible for some New York photos in the early 80s), what was interesting, is that NYC‘s represented in such a rundown state, almost a no go zone, one you definitely wouldn’t be hankering to fly off immediately to and visit…so those beliefs that things were always so much better in the West, for me now just don’t ring true.

On a personal level I did a lot of re-evaluating my idea of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. Crazy as it sounds, I had this ridiculous notion that human existence wasn’t that normal, so seeing it through the lens of these talented three I at least now have a more educated grasp.  Life was normal. People lived and loved and got on with things.

It’s on until 3 October 2016

Mouth pleasure in Poland

If by chance you find yourself in Kraków, head here.

Veganic (ul. Dolnych Młynów 10) – it’s the kind of place you dream of when confronted with meat dumplings deep-fried in goose fat (if you are lucky) at each and every restaurant, when all you ever wanted on a day of 25⁰+ was a crisp glass of Rosé, some palatable grub and an opportunity to chill with the locals.

Happiness arrived for me in the guise of a mango soup with lime sorbet and to continue, a baked celery and lentil salad. Nice…very nice!

The restaurant is just off the tourist zone, though only a tiny bit. It’s hiding a fabulous garden – not necessarily in terms of planting (but it’s landscaped and will grow) – rather in terms of vibe, cool looking locals and gee I wish I’d discovered this spot on Day One of our trip.

I challenge you not to be impressed and alerting the publishers of Monocle or Wallpaper guide

Fashion Forward 1715 – 2015

at the Musée des Arts décoratifs

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Apologises for not checking in as it’s been two weeks since I squealed and almost threw up in happiness because…Team Family not only found themselves in Paris, but better still found themselves at the Musée des Arts décoratifs.  Thankfully just cross the way from the Louvre, which easily distracted the hoards and enabled us to have that very rare experience, a gallery space almost to ourselves and bursting with the most exquisite ensembles a girl from suburban Sydney could dare to imagine.

I accept that adoration of glorious pieces of apparel might not be where you wish to be, but for one whom used to stuff her mini suitcase before heading off to kindergarten with an extra outfit, exhibitions like these are worth the journey. Particularly when you enter the 1920s room and you see your very first live Vionnets and Schiaparellis and realise it’s very OK not to own it, just to have 20 minutes with it, admiring its creativity and construction.

I would have been honestly satiated with this, but thank the Lord for we had another 95 years to go with choice offerings from Dior, Balenciaga, Westwood and Izzy Miyake put into the mix. You name it, they were there. So the Wonka Chocolate Factory experience continued, not just in fantasy devising but, ‘Oh Mein Gott – there it is’ up super close, as luckily the gallery has said non (or is it pas?) to glass-cases and oui to mind-blowing opportunities for examination of stitching and cut.

Adding to the thrill, I’d spent a happy 12 weeks last year attending a course at the V&A which focused on these very pieces, so party all round and I was loving my husband a little more.

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It’s on until 14 August 2016, so if you are anyway near Paris – do it!

Plus double bonus…Barbie features in the same museum with her very own exhibition, on until September. She’s as you remember – but she’s also got a lot more going on…

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A Mother’s Reckoning

By Sue Klebold

A mothers reckoning.jpg

After hearing Sue Klebold being interviewed on Radio 4 I knew that this was a book which would leap-frog the statuesque pile of others currently seeking residing rights next to my side of the bed and deserve to be read more than soon-ish…and dear readers it has been and I’m very glad I did.

Not glad in a happy ecstatic way, rather in a learning understanding way.

You see, Sue Klebold is the mother of one of the boys whom killed and then killed himself at Columbine High School in 1999. So it’s tragic, horribly tragic, but also important to read, for it tells of a son loved and mourned; a family coming to terms with its loss and the hideous loss of others by their child’s hand; the responsibility and guilt they carry; but perhaps most importantly – it’s not scared to broach the subject of depression and how someone you thought was in a good state, was suffering…silently…and you the parent had absolutely no idea of the extent of their suffering and how desperate they were to escape and shut out the pain.

Klebold doesn’t shy away from the facts or attempt to paint her son Dylan as an angel, instead she wants us all to learn from this horrific incident. She wants to broaden awareness and help others spot the issues and anxieties our fellow humans may feel and experience, and give support or find support for those in need.

Klebold also forced me to re-evaluate.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty quick to blame the parents in all cases of a child/teenager behaving less than virtuously, however post reading this, I’m quickly realising that even with a home life full of love, encouragement, boundaries and normality, things can go dreadfully wrong.

Additionally, Klebold has taught me a valuable lesson. Next time the youngest member of Team Family provides me with above average levels of unkindness, instead of shutting it down with an equally unfriendly retort, I’ll be calm, state that I find his words not the best and give him a large, long hug.

 

 

Brideshead Revisited

By Evelyn Waugh, adapted for stage by Bryony Lavery
Performed by the ETT in co-production with the York Theatre Royal
At the Oxford Playhouse

Brideshead-Revisited

Spurred on and swaddled in an 8 year old’s soft memories of Anthony Andrews, loving his teddy and sporting a pastel sweater hung delightfully upon his shoulders, Team Family minus one, arrived at yesterday’s matinee clearly ready to see some fabulous 1920s outfits; a bear with a name; and an exploration into Man Friendship. Gratefully we got that and more, so much more.

Mummy issues were explored; insecurities were shared; artistic creativity included; the impact of war; but most fascinatingly for me, maybe as I didn’t get it or understand it the first time, the influence of religion, specifically Catholicism, can have on one’s life, not just in terms of the choices you make but the guilt you carry.

Somewhere in the fog of my limited memory I think I recall having a couple of discussions with my husband about Waugh as a writer and how religion was something he had an opinion on, but it wasn’t until yesterday’s show that I believe I’ve felt it as being so profoundly central to the story being told. I guess I tend to think of him as writer of horridly funny books which take the mickey like The Loved One or Vile Bodies, but maybe I missed the religious comments in those…Anyway, one thing’s for sure, I’ve added another book to the forever increasing must read bedside stack and now back to the yesterday’s production.

With limited staging and well considered props, Charles Ryder’s memories are shared simply and effectively. From the 1st Act where you are participating in imagining what he sees – an ornate fountain, a private chapel, a grand house that holds so many dear and real memories – your imagination fills in the necessaries and makes the stage more stuffed and filled with the kind of pieces you’d expect to find in a grand house then a design team could ever wish to detail.

And I just remembered a ripper scene where Charles and Julia are on a boat sailing across the Atlantic and not only is it moving in an emotionally enjoyable manner, the way they spin across stage with the assistance of some ropes and a pulley system – simple and extraordinary.

The casting is also very good, ‘Julia’ is guarded but loving; ‘Lady Marchmain’ detestable and thankfully not my mother; ‘Sebastian’ you just want to cuddle and remove him from the situation; and ‘Charles’, although hardly off stage, manages to present and inhabit a character whom is reversed, frustrated and a true friend, in the most believable way possible.

And the adaptation – picks up on the essentials. The memories are explored, a variety of places are visited, and time moves back and forth, without you ever being confused or feeling ‘You know what this doesn’t work’, because it does work. Lavery has taken a much loved book, TV series and movie, and turned it into a thoroughly enjoyable, thinking piece of live theatre.

A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara

A little life

In a courageous bid to break my addiction to daytime playbacks of Reality TV, in particular anything that starts with ‘The Real Housewives of…’, I thought it would be safest to turn to my bookshelf for some escapism instead, so prepare yourselves as my reviews might be coming in thick and fast.

Kicking off with A Little Life, which is anything but little. It’s sweet, upsetting, beautiful, revealing, disturbing and difficult, but definitely not little.

It’s so tough at times I started think, ‘Can I do this?’ however I did and couldn’t put it down all day yesterday as I continued to turn the final 250 pages.

You are placed in a character’s head (and not just one), throughout the telling. Silently watching their decision-making and you’re drip-fed details throughout, either from the present or past and then suddenly you are in the future – though you shan’t be confused by the structure, it actually feels right, the story should be delivered this way.

And sometimes it reads so slowly and then at others it’s like your speeding through, like in the olden days when you could use your video remote controller to run the picture in slow-slow motion and then at normal speed.  The author’s deliberate use of this focus on time, gives you time to absorb and then continue – like you would in everyday life.

Oh and you never know what’s coming. Honestly, I couldn’t predict even the next page.

Based around four male characters whom have met in college and moved to NYC in their early twenties, this tale is more an epic for it spans their lifetimes. The more you read, the more familiar they become and you become, to the way they see things. These are normal people, they have issues, they are dealing with them in the best way they can. As the reader you are left powerless to intervene, but this I guess is the point, sometimes you can’t, you can’t save, you just have to support and love and adjust. For loving people, and friendships, are rewarding and fabulous, but also tough.  You know it, I know it and this story explores it with such authenticity and beauty.

Yanagihara invites you into the scene and provides you each characters point of view. She doesn’t preach, she doesn’t provide you with solutions, she just gives you the facts and illustrates how humans negotiate their environments.

Presented with some pretty hard-core no-win situations, where every angle or approach can be justified in the circumstances by at least some of the characters (even if delusion is the only validator at times), you’re made to stop and think and reassess.  In particular, the issue/impact of immense psychological damage as a result of years of monstrous abuse. Never before have I read a book that looks at how the victim deals with life afterwards and takes steps to normalise it.

Strikingly, it’s also a very positive book, for you are privy to some truly tender private moments which are so beautiful and saturated in love as well as great declarations/celebrations of shared love.

And yes, there is a high probability you’ll cry, surprisingly I only started at page 607, had a little breather until page 641, eye-sweated again for a page then spent the final four pages hiccupping away my tears.

This is a remarkable book and I look forward to reading Yanagihara again.

The Alchemist

By Ben Jonson
At the RSC
The Alchemist
Twenty years ago I had the happy pleasure of experiencing the Belvoir Street Theatre (a fabulously talented Sydney based theatre company), interpretation of this hilarious treat. And double bonus to such (and thank you so much Jess South), I was sitting front row and was in the presence of two insanely talented actors – Hugo Weaving and Geoffrey Rush – delivering this extraordinary tale of con with a huge helping of play and chemistry. So naturally that evening and the play have stayed with me…will kind of…

So, I remembered the intimacy of the space; the way the actors bounced off each other and clearly relished sharing the script; and the wit; but what I didn’t recall was the actual events – so luckily six nights ago, I had a refresher.

From the musicians who start off the wackiness and confusion and hilarity through to the final bows, this show is crazy-silly-funny and delights. Often I see theatre which is serious and sometimes dark, so it was a great change just to laugh along with the satire.

Additionally, the casting’s great and Team Family were overjoyed to play, ‘I know him, wasn’t he the husband in Queen Anne’ and golly I could go on, I mean the RSC’s really gifted at identifying and hiring the very best actors working now.

The action places itself in 1610, when the plague is reaping havoc across London and the opportunity to take advantage arises. Jeremy’s Master’s left town and he, with two other less than trustworthy types, start trading in the not so honest and taking advantage of the gullible whom arrive at their door. Among them are, the merry and saucy Sir Epicure Mammon looking to turn his pots and pans into gold and pick up a little love along the way; two Dutch Protestants whom you know are slippery and played so particularly well; a gambler with bad teeth; a tobacconist with the cups not just half full, but going to overflow in a couple of moments expression; and a very amusing brother and sister combination.

It’s all jolly good fun and on in Stratford-Upon-Avon until 6 August, then transfers to the Barbican.