Five things to do this monthby Prospect / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Silver prosthetic nose, on display at the Wellcome collection’s “Superhuman” exhibition. Mounted on a spectacle frame, this was worn by a woman who had lost her nose as a result of syphilis.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
National Theatre, 24th July-12th September
An explosive evening could be on the cards in the collaboration of novelist Mark Haddon, controversial playwright Simon Stephens, and War Horse director Marianne Elliott. Originally a prize-winning novel, The Curious Incident… announced Haddon’s ability to get inside someone else’s head completely, in this case that of a 15-year-old mathematical genius with behavioural difficulties. Alienated from his father, Christopher sets off to solve the murder mystery of a neighbour’s dog he finds impaled on a garden fork.
It will be fascinating to see how Stephens—who, earlier this year, traced a rather different murder mystery to the heart of the European sex-trafficking underworld in Three Kingdoms—untangles the dense first-person rollercoaster narrative on the stage. Haddon himself has theatre form: his debut play Polar Bears at the Donmar Warehouse in 2010 was a weird but spellbinding fable of a pregnant writer who might be bipolar or merely manic depressive. As his work shows, other people’s misery can be so uplifting.
Wellcome Collection, 19th July-26th October
A photograph of Thomas Hicks, winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon, propped up by two men as he stumbled towards the finish line is one of sporting history’s oddest images of victory. Whereas a failed dope test can now ruin a career, Hicks quite legitimately dosed up on strychnine in brandy during the race to boost his endurance.
The Wellcome Collection’s “Superhuman” exhibition shows the various aids men and women have used to try to achieve things that had previously seemed beyond human power. Often these are everyday objects—the exhibition includes false teeth, tubes of lipstick and an iPhone. More interesting are those paintings and photos which contain the suggestion of an enhancement. For example, a pair of spectacles with a silver nose attached to them present a mystery, until you read that they were worn in the 19th century by a woman disfigured by syphilis.
The show includes prototypes and portrayals of enhancements that have never been realised, as well as those which have become near-indispensable. Side by side, the failures make the successes seem all the more fantastical.
The genius of Hitchcock
Various venues in London, July
Anyone who’s ever seen Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint escaping across Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest knows that Hitchcock had a penchant for chases in famous places. But no one has ever seen the spectacular chase across the roof of the British Museum in Hitchcock’s 1929 thriller Blackmail actually screened across the museum’s back wall. Until now.
On 6th July, for one night only, the film is being screened there in the world premiere of a freshly restored version. There is, however, much more where that came from thanks to the BFI’s splendid restoration of Hitchcock’s silent films. Their new version of The Ring, his 1927 love-triangle melodrama with a climax at the Royal Albert Hall, premieres at the Hackney Empire on 13th July. And The Lodger, Hitchcock’s career-making suspense thriller, is being premiered at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra playing a new Nitin Sawhney score. If you cannot be there, worry not: next month The Lodger will be released in selected cinemas nationwide and the BFI begins a retrospective of his complete works.
Metamorphosis: Titian 2012
National Gallery, 11th July-23rd September
The forthcoming collaboration between the National Gallery and the Royal Ballet is an attempt to bring together painting, dance, music and poetry into one fabulous beast of a programme.
The inspiration behind the festival is three of Titian’s late series of mythological masterpieces—Diana and Actaeon, Diana and Callisto and The Death of Actaeon—which will be displayed at the National Gallery throughout the summer. The works mark a high point of Titian’s late style during which he experimented with fleshtones appropriate for the erotic mythology of the subject matter. The title derives from the source material of the paintings—Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which a succession of heroes, humans and gods all change shape, either by design or decree.
Taking their cue from the paintings, choreographers including Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon will be creating a trilogy of dance works for the Royal Ballet. In addition, artists such as Chris Ofili will design the sets and costumes and produce paintings, prompted by Titian, to hang in the National Gallery.
Original music for the ballets has been commissioned, and poets including Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney have contributed poems responding to Ovid’s text and Titian’s paintings.
Devil In Me
by Natalie Duncan (Verve,16th July)
There are various theories as to why Natalie Duncan stands out from the latest wave of female neo-soul singers. Some say it’s the voice, which is powerful but untrained, and seems to reach into the depths of human experience, its default setting being a kind of warm, sticky misery. Perhaps it’s the songs themselves: there are no co-writers on this debut, which is virtually unheard of today—just rich, velvet compositions so classic yet fresh, as though the 23 year old from Nottingham had never heard of Nina Simone or Bonnie Raitt but hit their resonant frequencies by happy accident.
Devil In Me was produced by Joe Henry, known for rebooting the careers of jazz greats like Allen Toussaint and Mose Allison, and for the pin-drop precision of his live studio recordings. Duncan’s tales of urban life, addiction and heartbreak will invite Winehouse comparisons but she’s less street-smart and more literary than Amy. Where the latter teetered between jazz and soul, Duncan has a classical edge—waltzes, polkas and Moonlight Sonatas weave in and out of her piano accompaniment. Even in an age of too much music, the ear can distinguish between accomplished imitation and the odd raw, rare flash of talent.