After class today Emily and Ames took the students to a backstage National Theatre tour, which is always really interesting. I’ve done it several times so, again, I opted out. Instead I visited the V&A, which had a couple of exhibitions I wanted to check out.
The first exhibition is called Memory Palace and I only knew about it because Time Out London liked it so much. The hot ticket at the V&A right now is the David Bowie exhibit, but it’s been sold out online for months. I was happy to see Memory Palace instead, and if I get a chance to see the David Bowie thing I will be sure to wear my tightest pants and Labyrinth wig.
Memory Palace is an exhibit set in the post-apocalyptic future (which, to be honest, is a little overdone, right?) in a world where people aren’t allowed to remember the past. The exhibit follows the story of a man who is imprisoned for refusing to forget. It charts his ability to remember what life before the apocalypse was. The interesting factor to this exhibit is that several London artists combined to illustrate the story, so the walls are full of these giant murals, like a comic book, and each one features the work of a different artist. I thought it was really cool. At the end of the exhibit you are allowed to create your own piece of electric art which is posted on the wall. The theme was “my favorite memory,” and I drew this. <--------------- font="">--------------->
While I was at the V&A I also checked out the “Club to Catwalk” exhibit, which featured clothing and fashions from the 1980’s inspired by London clubs. Think Adam Ant, Boy George, and Spandau Ballet. It was high fashion at that time, and it brought back so many memories of high school. Denim everything, George Michael t-shirts, strange and incongruous colors, war paint, and so many gold accessories bedazzled all over everything. Nobody I knew in the 80’s dressed like that, but everybody on MTV did. So it was a blast from the past. I kept thinking about how much my stylist sister-in-law Amanda Valentine would have loved it.
I got on the tube at South Ken and rode to Paddington Station to pick up tickets for our show tonight. The box office was closed, however, so I made the decision to walk home through the park. It only took about 25 minutes, which is exactly what the tube would have taken. Sometimes it’s just easier, and way more pleasant, to walk. I saw some little Kensington girls riding ponies. Hyde Park was beautiful and green after a few days of rain. I stopped to look at this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which was designed by Sou Fujimoto. It’s a massive block of white cubes interlinked by glass flats that you can walk and climb on. Or you can sit underneath it and enjoy watching everyone else do that. It’s very striking. One of the better galleries.
At 5:40 we were admitted to Punchdrunk’s new show The Drowned Man, a Hollywood Fable. If you are unfamiliar with Punchdrunk, they are an innovative young theatre company who produced the Macbeth-inspired Sleep No More piece in New York a few years ago. It’s not a traditional play in any sense; audience members wear large white masks and are allowed to wander all over the space watching actors move from room to room. This particular show followed the original story of Woyzeck, but set it in early 1960’s Hollywood. They converted 4 floors of a warehouse into the most intricate film studio and you are allowed to wander through dressing rooms, sound stages, doctor’s offices, trailer parks, motel rooms, cowboy bars, and forests. It’s pretty stunning. It feels, for the first hour or so, like you are trapped in one of those Halloween haunted houses back home. You’re not sure where you can go or what you are supposed to be seeing. But after some time you realize that the play is happening all around you; fights are breaking out, people are hiding and kissing in corners, and lots of stories are being told. It all depends on who you choose to follow. What surprised me the most, however, was that this was essentially a dance piece. Characters interacted through large, pounding, Mia Michaels-style duets, rolling over cars and scampering up and down sand dunes. It’s really fascinating and I liked it a lot.As an interesting side note, I worked for Punchdrunk in 2001. I was in their production of The Tempest and we did this exact same thing at Buckland Abbey, Sir Francis Drake’s country home in Devonshire. I have great memories of doing that show and it was fun watching it, this time, from behind the mask. I knew what the actors were thinking and doing because I’d done it once myself. I remember feeling cold and irritated by the occasional audience member who got too close to me. I tried not to do that to the actors today. Look, don’t touch!
I finished the night by watching Roman Holiday at the British Film Institute. Ames and Emily came, too. I love that movie. It’s one of my top ten favorites. It’s so funny and charming and sad and I think Audrey Hepburn is spectacular in it. So are Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert. I’ve never seen it on the big screen until now, and it was worth the wait.