We did not have a Cole Porter moment on our last day but it did…
That was my favorite random sign of the day, Wednesday, November 16, maybe the week. Most of the day I spent walking anyway; no lifts required. It started sunny, like Tuesday it was mild, 15 or something. I stopped at an outpost of Bill’s (sort of the Australian Jamie Oliver) for scrambled eggs and bacon and sour dough which was immediately forgettable but the waiter was from, of all places, Prince Rupert.
Late morning I went to the National Gallery for the Caravaggio show. First, I’ve never particularly liked the National. I think the outlook, so prominent, facing down (literally down) at parliament, puts it metaphorically on a pedestal. Plus, the “national” in the title gives it an all things bright and beautiful motif which prevents it from being as brilliant as it could be. Special exhibitions: Next door and down two flights please. Seriously!
The second thing about Caravaggio is that, if you care, if you care at all, you’ll never see anything sufficiently in a “show” as most of his work never leaves the apse where it was painted (probably in Rome). Anyone especially in awe of Caravaggio is not going out of their way for a Caravaggio show, they are making a pilgrimage.
But who cares. This is a good show, an impressive show, a moving show. Crammed into seven small rooms, poorly lit (any dimmer and we’d be Ebeneezer Scrooge with an oil lamp), stuffy and with barely an inch to maneuver, it is from start to finish absolute gold. With fewer than a dozen actual Caravaggio’s, but many from Cecco, his servant slash student slash possible lover, along with a slew of those who followed or copied or admired him, it is start to finish dead impressive.
At some point in the afternoon, after ambling about the West End, Soho and Fitzrovia, I passed a Curzon showing Tom Ford’s latest, Nocturnal Animals, with a start time only four minutes hence. I ducked in. Well. Well, well. It’s a long ways to go for not too much return. In the style of this cinema, I’d prefer Nebraska; more laughs. But the Michaels (Sheen and Shannon) both shine, while Amy Adams does a scene without lipstick. Meow. Any more base on Armie Hammer and you’d have the George Hamilton Story Retold. Casting three Abercrombie and Fitch models as your hillbilly deviants shows a) little knowledge of film and character and b) that he’s never seen a Coen brothers’ film, cast to perfection to within an inch of their lives. For Ford, everything has to be beautiful, even some poor uneducated rapist sap with a flush toilet on his front deck.
The weather had changed after the film. Darker. London does that. Unpredictable. At one point I picked up new specs from Black Eyewear. Each frame they sell is inspired by a jazz artist. If you have the chutzpah, I’d recommend Dizzy or Miles or Duke. I went a little waspier.
For dinner a set price affair in Covent Garden at Café Murano. After dinner, play five of six: No Man’s Land. Like the title of this post, lift not working, use other lift, that could be dialogue lifted from any Pinter work; sharp, ironic, pointed. The play is brilliant, cerebral, in a weird way haunting, and if you have the patience, rewarding. But to pull it off, to make it work, to make it worthwhile, it has to be over the top brilliant. Anything else is simply incoherent chatter.
This is the “hot ticket” play of the week, the only one which sold a full slate of standing room only tickets–on a Wednesday no less; in fact, I could have resold my ticket in the “royal circle” at a profit. Nobel laureate Pinter, the “Sirs” McKellan and Stewart, Damien Molony (not known in Canada unfortunately) and Owen Teale (yes, Game of Thrones Owen Teale). Stellar cast (better performances from Teale and Molony in fact). Sold out run. Going international with NT Live in December. Check, check, check.
But the production is not stellar; the direction is predictable, the staging almost tired. You can only imagine, dream, of how magical Gielgud and Richardson would have been in the 1970s original; you cannot fathom why there is but one long static set of lighting, not much in the way of production, sound only at act’s end, and sections of near infinity where there is no movement only elocution. I felt sorry for the 20 per cent or so of those attending under 30, who felt alienated by the cryptic dialogue and metaphor, the lack of linear development, the inertia. But, still, they got their standing O. So it goes.