Friday, June 23, 2006

The Royal Academy - Summer Exhibition

The Detective would not normally count the ghastly Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen as culturally significant but his programme on BBC2 about the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has been an intriguing insight into this institution.
The Royal Academy is not the normal haunt of the Detective, although I did attend a private viewing of the Matisse exhibition last summer. I felt considerably out of place as no one else seemed to be wearing a battered trilby and trench-coat.
I will be strolling down Piccadilly to take a look at Damien Hirst’s new sculpture in the courtyard. It looks magnificent. Has anyone else seen it? Have you been to the Summer Exhibition? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Book for Bibliophiles - The Shadow of the Wind

This book is a revelation for anyone who is a confirmed bibliophile, as is the culture detective. Carlos Ruiz Zafon has authored a book about books. If you are a bibliophile how can you not read a book with the opening line, “I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotton Books for the first time.”?

From then on you are transported in to the world of Daniel and the mysterious author Julian Carax. This is a compelling book I read on a recent trip to Romania (it involved a stay in a mountain monastary which I may describe more fully in a future post) and I have now fallen in love with it. Mrs Culture Detective, who reads far more than me as she has to commute on a train everyday, gives it a glowing review as well. If you are looking for a pacey plot, great characters and evocative writing then this book is well worth opening.

No need to cry for this Evita

The first reviews have been published for the new production of Evita at the Adelphi Theatre. Directed by Michael Grandage they have taken the bold step of casting an Argentinian actress, Elena Roger, in the lead role that was created by Elaine Paige in the original 1978 production.

The Times (4 stars our of 5) says that Elena Roger is “quite a revelation” and describes Philip Quast who plays Peron as “looming over her like a brontosaurus over a stick insect.”

Although the Guardian (3 out of 5 stars) considers the show is just a succession of Lloyd Webber songs and is dramatically insubstantial it does acknowledge that Roger, “occupies the stage by right.” But somewhat dismisses her singing ability, “while her voice pleases, it doesn't have the clarion ring of Elaine Page or the lyric intensity of Julie Covington...” The Independent disagrees saying she has “a clarion voice capable of thrilling shrillness and of a pensive purity that's just on the point of curdling.” So the wonderful critics disagree over a clarion voice!

Charles Spencer in the Telegraph notes that previous critics have disliked the glorification of fascism by the central characters. He is right that sometimes we feel sympathy (or even empathy) with the baddy whether they are on stage, in a film or book. Sometimes I wonder if people are able to distinguish between reality and make believe. Yes, the characters have a fascist tone and yes the Peron’s in real life ran a brutal fascist regime. That does not mean the musical glorifies all the atrocities that were undertaken in their name

I remember saving up my pocket money to buy the original cast recording and then listening to it over and over again until it was confiscated by my parents. Looking at the video clip of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina Elena Roger seems to have the right sense of fragility and iron determination that will make a convincing Eva Peron. The Culture Detective will be wanting to check this out in person very soon.