Monday, 18 March 2013


The Light Show at the Hayward Gallery

The doors closed behind us and a waterfall of tiny lights greeted us. 'Home,' I thought, 'I am home again.' No, I had not been overdoing the interior decor, I had come back to the Hayward Gallery after far too long. I had brought the children to see the Light exhibition.

Pickle gets straight to the point 'is this art?'. Like a pro I swat aside this comment and tell her it is called art, then get her to tell me what she sees, what she likes and what she thinks. Suddenly there are more important questions than whether light installations were art and we were away.

Pickle dictated that pace, spoke her mind and we listened and followed. Picasso said 'Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.' Watching her face was as instructive as any exhibition catalogue.

Looking at her in Anthony McCall's light installation was a revelation; pure wonder as she walked through smokey beams of light. Even DB was in on the act, just getting used to the galley: watching, enjoying and just being.

The Carlos Cruz-Dies' rooms were unashamed grandstanding. Pristine white rooms lit by a series of coloured lights, where colour dictates our perception subtlety as we went from red to green to blue. Even the catalogue picture (copied above) shows children revelling in the aura. We had flickers of recognition that it could have been about more than rolling around on the flour as we compared how we looked in the different rooms, but no searching questions.

Pieces by Conrad Shawcross and Olafur Eliasson grabbed our attention and sparked the imagination; Shawcross's soaring arc of shadows and Eliasson's disconcerting freeze frame flicker across moving water forced us to look hard and doubt our senses. Ivan Navarro tardis of light and mirrors was just plain fun to experience with a cheeky six year old.

Sadly there are limitations on visiting galleries with little people, and I had to sacrifice a close viewing of both Dan Flavin and Jennie Holtzer's works. Dan Flavin's piece in particular was far too subtle to merit more than a cursory glance as we almost finished our tour - which was is particularly sad given his international standing.

The trip was a huge success, it was fun, it was revealing and it another step in making gallery visits part of my children's vernacular. Forget these highfalutin ideals, if you get half a chance, book those tickets and go, Go, GO! You won't regret it and you will be talking about it for days.

The Woman in White at the Theatre Royal Windsor and on Tour.

It was one of those shows, you know the ones where you have to get the programme to work out who they are, you know those actors off the telly. It had all the elements designed to make it a crowd pleaser, an engaging plot from a well know Victorian writer, period costumes and a handful of famous actors. With a cast of around twelve touring to mid scale theatres it needed to get bums on seats.

It was all highly professional, some of the acting was highly impressive. Some of it was just lightly smoked ham - not the melodrama expected by a Victorian audience, just an escalated posturing with no scope for crescendo.

The show was entertaining but then when we are bombarded with content across so many different media I find it hard to see the role of theatre as bland entertainment. Sure the blue rinse brigade my dust down their tweeds and be reassured that the country it not going to wrack and ruin as you can still see theatre with good old fashioned values. For me? I need more, much more; with well scripted, challenging television on offer for those who track it down why bother leaving the house for the bland.

Congratulations to the Ambassadors Theatre group for keeping regional theatres going, it my be a great training ground for those that really want to go on and create worthwhile. For me, count me out; I don't need to go out of my way to find inoffensive bland and alas, had I to sum up this production in a word that would be it: bland.

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