Orfeo

I went to the Roundhouse in Camden this week for a performance of Orfeo. I hadn’t been to that venue before and it does seem ideal for that sort of performance; a circular stage in the centre of the theatre with a Globe style gallery erected at one side (in this case, the gods can speak from the upper level and the Baroque orchestra can play beneath) and a long gangway to a door on the upper level opposite; when the theatre is dimly lit this serves perfectly in this context as the door to and from the underworld. In addition, much of the performance uses climbing ropes hung from the ceiling to allow the actors to move up and down (e.g. when the soul ascends at the end of the performance), making for a performance that freely utilises space. The music was beautifully performed throughout but aspects of the performance did seem questionable; dressing everyone is grey clothing in the first act did make me wonder if we were already in the underworld while the presence of child dancers rolling around on the ground added little.

A few weeks later and I visit the disused Aldwych station on the Strand. We pass from the oxblood tiled exterior to an entrance hall lined with green emerald tiles before heading downwards into a labyrinth of empty corridors. The first station platform we visit has various 1940s posters advertising foodstuffs or evacuating children to the country; replicas as it turns out, for a 2008 film; a second platform has genuine posters from the seventies; I note one advertising the benefits of the common market. Other parts of the station equally relate to its status as a film set, such as a Bakerloo line sign from Mr Selfridge. Finally, I get to stand on the tracks in an darkened tunnel before re-emerging back out on the Embankment.

A few weeks later again and I’m at the Tate for its exhibitions of Victorian sculpture and photography. The sculpture exhibition dwells on items like Chantrey’s busts of Queen Victoria, Gilbert Scott’s replicas of Westminster Abbey tombs, replicas of the tombs of Queen Elizabeth and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Minton ceramics of peacocks and a white elephant, replica friezes from the Parthenon, extraordinary linden wood carvings from Wilkinson Wallis, Raffael Monti’s Veiled Vestal Virginthe silver gothic Eglington Trophy by Edmund Cotterill, the Greek Slave by Hiram Powers, a sculpture of Earl of Winchester in chain mail from the Houses of Parliament, a chess match between Queen Elizabeth (again) and Philip of Spain to Leighton’s Athlete Wrestling with a Python. The antiquarian and classical focus of much of the subjects contracts with the use of mass production to create them, from electro-plating through to the use of parian ware. The other half of the exhibition is early salt print photography, much of which used this technology to take photographs of medieval and classical buildings. Fox Talbot obviously features prominently, with photos ranging from the famous elm at Lacock to still lives of glass vases. The other artist who stands out was Roger Fenton, with his photos of the Crimean war. Later on, I walk through the parks and have a look at the Swans, Red Breasted Geese and Pochards before passing by an SWP demonstration at Trafalgar Square, where the skeletal Gift Horse has been added to the fourth plinth.

Food cooked: Spare ribs with chestnuts and raisins, Chicken with garlic and lemon, Swedish sausage hash, Corsican beef, Balinese spiced duck, Chicken fricassee with gherkins and paprika, Fish stew with orange and peppers,  Cannelloni stuffed with chicken livers, Feijoada, Sauerbraten, Lamb with hasselback potatoes, Piri piri chicken with patatas bravas, Pastitsio, Fish sauce chicken, Satay chicken Chili con carne, Buffalo burger with Boston baked beans, Singapore Laksa, Pork cooked in milk.

Birds seen: Nuthatch, Woodpecker, Goldfinch.

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