I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Comedic Greek Tragedy And A Rhinocerus In London

To London for a few days . . . On Wednesday evening it was the Old Vic with Kristin Scott Thomas and Diana Quick in Ian Rickson's production of Electra. After reading some positive reviews, I must admit we were a little disappointed. The disconcertingly flippant style took some getting used to, and the longer the performance went on, the more it seemed to play for laughs. Laughs in a Greek tragedy? Although Scott Thomas as Electra was impressive in her histrionics, and Quick as her husband-slaying mother Clytemnestra a wonderful foil, we were left feeling rather let down: a case of bathos rather than catharsis. The next morning we walked from the Travelodge in Farringdon Road to the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street (above), along Chancery Lane . . .

 . . . through Holborn, past the Law Courts and down the Strand . . .

. . . to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, where we bought tickets for Rembrandt: The Late Works. The show was simply stunning. Many famous pictures were on display, including several self-portraits. Compared with the flat, prosaic book and poster illustrations we're all familiar with, the original oils are all about vitality and texture — you could witness close-up the rough layers of paint Rembrandt applied with a palette knife, giving human skin a sweaty, tactile, lived-in quality. Unlike most of the visitors, who dutifully toured the exhibition in the pre-planned order of their yawningly tedious audio guides, we darted about here and there, going where the crowds were the thinnest, sometimes viewing etchings and paintings from more distant and unusual perspectives across dimly-lit rooms. I was especially struck by this sketch of a young woman sleeping (above) . . .      

On Friday we climbed to the top of St Paul's . . .

. . . to a bird's-eye view of modernist London in muted greys and greens.

The Thames and Blackfriars Bridge.

From St Paul's we crossed the river by the Millennium Footbridge and made our way past Tate Modern to the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre.

Sunset over the Thames.

The Hotel Russell, Bloomsbury. I remember many sales conferences here in times past . . .

. . . but back to times present, and it's Saturday morning, and we decided to visit the British Museum before catching our train. London had been vibrant and dynamic — buzzing with happy, optimistic young people — but we were glad to return to the peace and quiet, the serenity and fresh air of home.

Marble sculptures from the Greek Parthenon.

The special exhibition Germany: Memories of a Nation: a 600-year History in Objects was well worth the price of its £10 entry ticket, and included Tischbein's iconic portrait of Goethe and Dürer's woodcut print of a rhinoceros

5 comments:

am said...

A fine city walk! So much to see and do in London.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sounds a nice, preChristmas break for you both Robert. Lovely photographs brought it to life.
Love the Rembrandt sketch. Our Dutch friends have been to stay and bought me a lovely book from the RIJKSMUSEUM.

Ruth said...

Yes, a very nice walk. It's good to get away to the city and then be glad to get home.

I, too, like that Rembrandt sketch very much.

I am tickled to see the Hotel Russell, a building I walked past morning and night when I stayed in Russell Square a week in 2005 (just a week after the bus bomb) visiting our students on study abroad. The building that was our dorm (UCL) was once lived in by both Virginia Woolf and Maynard Keynes. I love the rich history of those environs.

Ruth said...

I don't mean to be gruesome, but I meant to add that the bus bomb was just right there, near Tavistock Square. Our students were rocked to their core hearing it...

And so interestingly, while I was there one week later, each and every time a police or medic siren went off, I watched Londoners pause in their tracks. I imagine that at a more distant time from the terrorist attack, they might have ignored sirens.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Am, Pat and Ruth.

Yes, London is stimulating to visit for a short time — it's one of the great cities of the world — but I always return home with relief.

7/7 was horrific, Ruth, and sobering to think you and your students were close to those horrendous events. London is on full alert again at the moment in the run up to Christmas.