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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Friday, November 2nd, 2001

Time Event
12:24a
Always true ( in my fashion)
OK - I know, excuses, excuses - but then, it was yet another Roz catastrophe. When flu jabs go wrong...Probably I had a bug of some sort already, or it may just have been that this year they are inoculating for three strains, which means three chances of a bad reaction. Anyway, no fever, but the weight of the world on my shoulders and a chance to sit around with no brain watching movies and shivering a bit and taking lots of asprin with lots of herb teas and almost no coffee. This was not so much a health decision, but more that I was feeling too ill to go out and get it and didn't feel right about asking My Beloved to go out of her way to get something she doesn't drink very often.

But anyway, I'm better now, thanks for asking, and this afternoon I popped into the Algerian coffee shop in Soho and got 250 grams of their house dark mix which is what is currently providing me with early morning zing, as opposed to the late-night near zzzzz I am experienceing at this moment.

Only mildly, though, because every time my eyelids droop, I am back in the Victoria Palace Theatre, where I spent this evening watching Cole Porter's wonderful 'Kiss Me Kate' in a new revival based on the current Broadway run. We got two stars from the Broadway show and one from its tour, but the dancers are mostly London-based and so are most of the bit players. ( A friend was reviewing the show, so I got another freebie; feel free to hate me...) And I had forgotten just how many Brits there now are who can do this sort of big American show with total command of the idiom - we finally learned to produce great hoofers.

OK Kiss Me Kate 1.01. Porter in the late 40s, feeling freer than ever to include a lot of double entendre in the lyrics - it's the show that has 'Too Darned Hot' in it, and 'Always True to you Darling (in my fashion)' and 'I Hate Men' and the two gangsters singing 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare'. The Spewacks' book sets off an onstage musical version of 'The Taming of the Shrew' with a backstage plot that says something entirely at odds with the grotesque sexist brutality of the Shakespeare play; Lili comes back to finish her performance because she realizes that her ex, Frederick, is a big pussycat compared to the pompous military bully who wants her to give up Paris hats when he runs for Vice-President - and sends her orders via his aide de camp.

The musical ultimately subverts the values of the play it superficially endorses; Fred and Lili accept who each other is. Because we end with them, on stage, playing Petruchio and Kate, it is easy to forget that she is there because she has come back, not because she is broken like Kate, but because she wants to be there. They are a more wounded version of the young couple Lois and Bill, with his compulsive gambling and her relentless pursuit of sugar daddies; both couples have that mutual love of difficult individuals which is so much more interesting than cutesy-pie romance.

And yes, I did find myself fantasizing Lili/Lois or Fred/Bill slash; the show is so damn sexy that you can't not. Essentially, in this post Bob Fosse era, they have reimagined it as the show Porter would have had if he could in the 40s/50s - they haven't changed a word, but the stress they put on the words brings out the raunchiness and rawness.

And 'Too Darned Hot' becomes a fifteen minute dance extravaganza in which all the minor players get to dance variations and jive and jump around and you have never seen anything quite so wonderful or happy. This production makes a subtle point - the lead dancer in the number is not one of the 'cast', but rather Fred's black dresser; this is Baltimore in 1950 or so - a really talented black dancer is not actually in the 'show'.

Actually though, my favourite bit was the opening song ' Another opening, another show' which starts off with the theatre doorman mopping the stage and someone hammering scenery and gradually introduces everybody one at a time, using the old overture as dance music in between choruses. I just love that sort of hey! we're in a theatre! double-bluff artifice.

All of which is just a prelude to saying how much I hope that the musical episode of Buffy is as good as rumour has it - I will be applying horribly high standards after tonight.

Oh, God, I'm happy this evening - that's what theatre does for you. Doctor Theatre isn't just for performers...

The Guardian had a thing today in which they asked people what five paintings they would have on their walls if they could get them. I don't have that much room, which sort of rules out all those big Veroneses and Carravaggio's St John and Hockney's Mr and Mrs Ossie Clark and Percy the Cat. So I thought I'd go with: Carpaccio's Vision of Saint Jerome, simply because it has the most wonderfully silly dog in Renaissance painting, which is odd, because normally St Jerome has a lion, but Carpaccio liked painting dogs - there are some silly greyhounds in another picture. Absolutely definitely, Rembrandt's picture of his fourteen year old son Titus that's in the Wallace Collection, just because it is so full of pride and hope and yet the shadow of the older man that Titus never quite lived to become somewhere behind it. Any of the quiet gray Gwen John self- portraits - she has a still melancholy I love. The Peter Blake toy shop - which isn't so much a painting as a lot of things glued to a canvas, but what the hell! And one of those Caspar David Friedrichs with soulful Germans looking at the North Sea. What staid tastes I do have...

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