Wednesday, July 23, 2014

in the giving vein

This morning I took a group to the London Design Museum, a hip little museum on a hip little street called 'Shad Thames.' Shad Thames is the definition of gentrification. You can tell it used to be a horror of a street in Victorian Times, sooty, babies crying, the smell of fish, murder, you know. But now it's scrubbed clean and is lined with Pizza Expresses and Prets and features a lot of dudes walking around with tight knee shorts and mustaches and nerd glasses (not me.)

The first exhibition we looked at was Louis Khan, an American architect who built everything in a grand, monolithic style. His stuff looks solid, weighty, and deliberate. Very modern. Lots of shapes. I loved it.

Here are Mr. Khan's drawing chalks. Something about the textures and colors of them grabbed me.

We next looked at some work by Daniel Weil called Time Machines, which was a series of melting clocks, or clocks in a bag, or clocks that looked like hanging mobiles.

Finally, we looked at the 2014 Design Competition, where we saw folding bikes, cars that run 100k on 1 liter of gas, Prada jackets with painted faces, 3D viewing masks, and everything else slightly terrifying and wholly futuristic.

 Here is a newly designed primer for Chinese Characters.

A lamp suggested by telephone wires.

More lamps, these built from recycled soda bottles.

We attended the matinee performance of Skylight, a David Hare play performed beautifully by Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy. There were no surprises in either performance; Carey Mulligan seemed to be Carey Mulligan, and Bill Nighy was definitely Bill Nighy (twitchy, mannered, rambling his lines with sudden stops and starts) and that's what I most loved about it. Instead of choosing a play that threw them into outer space or thrummed with African Masks, they chose a simple, quiet play about real people. Neither one of them looked overtly attractive or flashy. They looked and felt real. And the play was written so beautifully and with so much humor and meaning that I forgot, in some moments, that they were actors. It was just a real gem of a piece.

I should mention that, at intermission, I saw Jeremy Piven in the lobby. He was about 5 feet tall, wearing a leather vest and a newsies cap, looking about 20 years older and more weathered than he is, and smoking, I kid you not, a fat old cigar. He looked skeezy.

Then, tonight we were treated to Martin Freeman in Richard III at Trafalgar Studios. I think there was great anticipation from the group (who also spotted and stalked Steven Moffat in the audience) and Freeman didn't disappoint. His Richard was easily the funniest I've seen, if that was his goal. He lacked a little bit of the fear factor, though, and felt sort of teddy-bear cute throughout. But he's still really competent with text and super charismatic onstage. The production itself was arbitrarily placed in the round, and thrust into a late 60's office-style setting. Which functioned as some kind of UN counsel room as well. It was odd. And it was full of electric shocks and buzzing lights and terrifying sounds and old Queen Margaret lumping around on the floor. In a lot of ways this production wanted to be awesome; but being awesome can sometimes be exhausting. Keep it simple, stupid!

Kudos, however, to the great Gina McKee as Queen Elizabeth. Her scene with Richard, while literally duct taped to her chair, was riveting. Still a big fan from Notting Hill, Gina! You were my Steven Moffat tonight.