The centrepiece of Antony Gormley’s current exhibition, Fit, at the White Cube in Bermondsey is this fabulous maze consisting of more than 500 recumbent cuboid iron figurines laid out in geometrically satisfying grids over an area of, I estimate, at least 200 square metres. It’s a work that encapsulates the theme of the show: the relationship between people and the built environment. The discrete pieces are at once architectural and human and together they add up to a perfect metaphor for the urban, anonymous and increasingly solitary lifestyles that dominate the western world today. The rest of the exhibition, which runs till November 6, is pretty bloody marvellous too…
Belarus Free Theatre’s first foray into a production with an all-British cast is a devastating inquiry into schizophrenia based on a book by former sufferer Arnhild Lauveng. Five actors – Emily Houghton (outstanding), Grace Andrews, Samantha Pearl, Oliver Bennett and Alex Robertson – alternate playing the patient and thanks to their skill and ingenious staging by director Vladimir Shcherban we are taken on an emotional, almost visceral, roller-coaster ride through the pitch-black labyrinth of mental illness. The work is less convincing dealing with Lauveng’s insistence that she has recovered from an incurable condition. But I’ve seen nothing that captures the suicidal hopelessness engendered by psychosis since the plays of Sarah Kane. Tomorrow I Was Always A Lion is at the Arcola till October 29 then moves to the Albany in Deptford for 12 days from November 1.
In a city replete with small but perfectly formed museums, few are more delightful than London’s Wallace Collection in Marylebone. It has an astonishing array of historical armour, cases full to bursting of rare ceramics, rooms lined with antique Japanese cupboards and European chairs. But best of all is its range of paintings, from huge rococo Boucher canvases, graphic Jan Weenix still lifes, dark Murillo religious visions, gorgeous Velasquez portraits, sweeping mythological landscapes by Rubens and Reynolds, Hals’s famous Laughing Cavalier, a gaudy Fragonard, Poussin, a marvellous selection of Van Dycks. There’s also a luminous Daphnis and Chloe by Pisano which demonstrates exactly what inspired the pre-Raphaelites. It’s hard to imagine a treasurehouse that offers such a spectrum of artistic styles and, as such, the Wallace Collection must be cherished for ever.
A fabulous Trinity Laban double bill at St Alfege in Greenwich as violinist Harry O’Keefe and Francesca Fierro on piano played Ravel before cellist Catherine Lee and her accompanist Giulia Semerano tackled Debussy. The first pair took on Ravel’s notoriously difficult Tzigane, a whirlwind of pizzicato, spiccato and legato bowing for the violinist and a hurricane of shifting tempi and keys for both players. Undaunted, O’Keefe and Fierro gave a near-miraculous performance. If Lee and Semerano felt nervous about following such musical pyrotechnics they didn’t show it. In fact, they came close to miracles themselves in Debussy’s Cello Sonata in D Minor, particularly the later sections. This was a magical recital – and like all Thursday lunchtime concerts at Greenwich’s parish church, it was free. Marvellous.
The V&A’s look at “records and rebels” 1966-1970 is an amazing journey into the past for those of us whose world view was cultivated by and in that remarkable lustrum. It is also a surprisingly objective examination of the titanic events of those times – the Vietnam bloodbath, the Cold War, black power, feminism, gay rights, Mao’s cultural revolution – as well as the cultural impact on literature, fashion, design and, most of all, music. Little on show will be unfamiliar even to visitors with no direct experience of the era. Yet the way it is brought together proves the sum is greater than its parts by creating a wonderful impression of the hopelessly naive optimism of the time while also acknowledging its long-term and massive failures – war is still commonplace (and altogether more horrifying) and the Utopian dream of returning the planet to some kind of prelapsarian ideal are farther away than ever thanks to half a century of industrial pollution, much of it perpetrated by turncoat one-time hippies. The exhibition has rightly drawn large and enthusiastic crowds and I recommend it unhesitatingly. It’s by no means comprehensive – but it does make a significant contribution to our general comprehension of what has become a hugely mythologised period.