The setting could not have been better for this production, the octagonal Council Chamber in London’s County Hall, previously the home of London County Council then Greater London Council with ‘performers’ such as Ken Livingston.
Opened by King George V in 1922, the audience enters this Twenties opulence from the minute they walk in, ascend the marble stairs and take their plush red leather seats.
From her 1925 short story, this production of Agatha Christie’s 1953 play centres around shifty Leonard Vole in a spiv like suit who stands accused of killing a wealthy elderly woman whom he casually befriended. His German wife Romaine, his alibi, viciously turns the tables when called to the witness stand by the prosecution.
Director Lucy Bailey made good use of the thrust stage which is always a problem with foreground actors masking others, but she kept them moving so it was fine for the audience. She kept the script clear and punchy, while subtly poking fun at the British establishment’s smug complacency.
The play takes place on the thrust stage in a well designed Old Bailey set by William Dudley; he turned what might be seen as a disadvantage by some into a very positive setting.
The lighting design was very effective, particularly as designer Chris Davey only had limited places to put lights, he took advantage of everywhere he could to position them. The lighting cues throughout were all razor sharp in application, a great example of theatre lighting as it should be.
Unusually for me it was the sound by Mic Pool that stole the show. I loved the music bridges used to cover scene changes, more often done in a sort of shuffling limbo, but not this one.
At times the actors, although excellent, seemed to try too hard but never enough to spoil the performance. For me, overall, the direction and staging, set design lighting and sound made the show. This is a show in an unusual theatre setting on the South Bank and well worth seeing if you can!
Following my Red Rum exhibition at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London’s Belgravia in April, and thanks to gallery owner Geoffrey Hughes, I was asked to donate four of the images by Peter Jenson for The Jockey Club sponsored British Sporting Art Trust charity auction which I readily agreed to.
After selection and being beautifully printed, mounted and framed by Point 101, the four photos from the exhibition were sold on Tuesday 5th June at the racing charity auction held at Christies in King Street, the world’s leading auction house.
Hung in the same room as my photos (but not in the charity sale) were also oil paintings by Alfred Munnings, George Romney and John Constable.
Humble is far too grand a word to explain my reaction on seeing this juxtaposition, my photos alongside work by some of the world’s greatest artists, an impossible situation to have ever expected. Everything at Christies is beautifully lit with theatre style lighting which makes every picture a star in the spotlight, the best lighting of any gallery or saleroom in London I know of.
After being treated to admirable Taittinger champagne and canapes for an hour, the excellent Christies auctioneer, Hugh Edmeades, skilfully got the price up of every lot before my four photos, Lot 12. Bidding started at £1,000 and within five minutes were sold for £3,000, a great result for the charity. The total for the whole evening was £43,000 from the very generous bidders.
But for me the best thing is that those Red Rum photos of mine will be hung in the Boardroom at Aintree Racecourse thanks to Rose Paterson, the chairman. I could not wish for them to be in a better place than Aintree where Red Rum went into horse racing history, became a legend and is buried at the finishing line.
I am totally astonished by all this; never in my wildest dreams could I have thought this would happen to me. All in all a most wonderful night!
Copyright images by Chizuko Kimura and Jeremy Hoare
The invite was good; an evening for the launch, with a friend, of the new-look British Museum online shop, to explore the Collecting the World gallery out-of-hours, meet the artisans and designers behind the unique products and to enjoy complimentary drinks and canapés.
After going through the bright and well-lit shop, attempting to display in a huge room beyond it with almost non-existent lighting were Nicholas Humphrey-Smith of the Ancestors group with beautiful hand crafted reproductions of some Museum artefacts, Sima Vaziry showing her exquisite jewellery and Mia Sarosi presenting lovely porcelain ceramics. But how Britain’s No.1 tourist attraction with 6.22 visitors last year could show this work in such abysmal lighting conditions is beyond me. It was so bad I decided not to even bother to take photos.
When we left it was somewhat eerie to find the Great Hall entirely devoid of people as every one of the many times I’ve been previously it has been like Piccadilly Circus, packed with people and the loud hubbub of voices.On talking to the security guy, a very pleasant one for a change, he told me that once when he and a colleague were checking all the many rooms to see if anyone was still present after closing, they got to the main door to leave and found themselves locked in. It took them about an hour before they managed to find someone to come and let them out.
As he was telling me this I had the thought of the exhibits coming to life and having a party. In the Egyptian rooms the Pharaohs were doing a Wilson, Keppel and Betty sand dance while in the Elgin Marbles room they were dancing around to Mikis Theodorakis’s ‘Zorba the Greek’.
In many ways the unoccupied Great Hall reminded me of empty theatres of which I have experienced many. There is an atmosphere in them of all the things that have happened in that space. The most personal one for me being the Theatre Royal Drury Lane where my father had been manager for 26 years. I don’t believe in ghosts but once when I was in his office above the main entrance late at night after the show years ago, all the lights went out and I had to grope my way along the walls to get to the pass door to the sage which did have some lights on, it was all quite scary. He told me that the next morning when he went I, a lot of the paintings were at odd angles where I’d groped my along them in pitch darkness.
So I know from experience what these places usually full of people can be like when they have gone home, spooky to say the least.
(C) Jeremy Hoare 2018
What a brilliant, diverse and dynamic photo show this is, so much to interest anyone who is interested in any aspect of photography, the medium of our time.
Now in its fourth year, Photo London is an international photography event befitting the city’s status as a global cultural capital and has become the keystone exhibition of photographic art in the UK with galleries from all over the world exhibiting. Held each year at the beautiful 18th century former tax office of Somerset House in The Strand, it also has a growing number of satellite events to augment it and maybe next year there will be a Fringe Event too.
After a welcome by founder directors Michael Benson and Fariba Farshad, there was an excellent introductory talk hosted by Photo London Talks Director Bill Ewing with multi-award winning artist and designer Es Devlin and a photographer known for his depictions of global industrial landscapes, Edward Burtynsky. This got the show off to a good start.
The range of imagery on show is huge; from small 3 inch square Polaroids up to one print which is six metres wide. A good collection of vintage prints too; in fact some of the images taken in the 1860s are better than many taken today. I suspect that’s because 150 years or so ago, it took so much more effort and expertise than today with almost everything digital being able to take a photo, proving that speed is not everything in the creation of photographic art.
After several hours going through all the galleries, it was hard for me to pick any real favourites, I liked so many and loathed so many too. Key trends this year seem to be more black & white and also bleached out colour images. It covers more space this year with a further twenty two galleries attending so it is a huge effort to just get round them all while trying to remember where exactly I saw a photo I liked an hour before actually was.
The largest image, 3 x 6 metres, is made up of 122 merged images by Edward Burtynsky entitled; Carrara Marble Quarries, Italy 2016, and is quite spectacular.
If Photo London gets bigger in size and stature, it will surely become the world’s leading and most prestigious photo show, but even today the message is loud and clear – London is where photography is at!
As it’s ‘Golden Week’ in Japan, which is a week from the 29th of April to early May containing a number of national Japanese holidays, here is some excellent Japanese art on show in London at the enchanting Henry Sotheran bookshop which is the longest established antiquarian booksellers in the world which was started in York in 1761.
Located just off London’s Piccadilly in Sackville Street, it has recently been the venue for exhibitions and talks about two of the most famous and revered Japanese woodblock artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige, artists of the floating world.
The woodblock print that most people know is ‘The Great Wave’ by the master Hokusai, who lived 1760 to1849. If you don’t know the original, you will certainly know of the many uses of it for all sorts of advertising. He did the ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series’ of which this is the first.
In December, Japan expert and lecturer Suzanne Perrin gave an amusing talk about him surrounded by excellent prints executed by this most renowned of ukiyo-e artists, Hokusai.
A second treat in the same venue was to follow this April with an exhibition of Hiroshige prints. He lived from 1797 to 1858 and was another Japanese ukiyo-e artist who is considered to be the last great master of that tradition. He is best known for his landscapes such as the series, ‘The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō’.
Dr Monika Hinkel of SOAS gave an insightful talk about Hiroshige, bringing the man and his work to life, also surrounded by many examples on display and for sale.
There have been many reproductions of the original prints by both of these artists, some good some not very good. But the underlying art produced by both artists is still wonderful and has had a lot of influence. Vincent van Gogh went through a phase of copying Hiroshige’s work and Monet also was influenced by these masters of the art of the ‘floating world’.
This took place on Tuesday 10th April at the lovely Osborne Studio Gallery, 2 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JU thanks to Geoffrey Hughes and Anna Rowlinson.
The book and exhibition have had an impressive amount of press coverage in the following;
Hampstead & Highgate Express
Horse & Hound Online
The Guardian Online
The exhibition has now been extended until Monday 23rd April and signed copies of the book are available in the gallery at a discount price of £25.
Private View photos by Chizuko Kimura.
Mark Jenkins & Sandra Fernandez, Male Suicide
I saw these poignant sculptures the other day walking along London’s South Bank on the LWT/ITV Tower, a powerful and compelling statement about the fact that every week, 84 men die from suicide in the UK. There are 84 life-size statues, based on real people, created by artist Mark Jenkins and collaborator Sandra Fernandez.
Sad as this is, it made me think about the irony that they should be placed on this iconic building which will soon be demolished so the money vultures can make even more from a new building with smaller studios.
Many people were stopping to look, most taking phone pictures and probably some with no understanding about what it was they were seeing; I hoped they would find out as this is terrible blight on our supposed civilised society.
‘The Great Wave’, Dorfman Theatre at the National
My visit to the South Bank was because I was on my way to the National Theatre to see a matinee performance of ‘The Great Wave’, not about the well-known woodblock print by Hokusai, but a new play by Francis Turnly about the abduction of a Japanese teenager by North Koreans in 1979. Her mother feels her missing daughter is still alive and tackles the reluctant to get involved Japanese government which eventually takes on a global political dimension. The well written play was moving and well acted, the set and video projection design and lighting were beautiful and should win awards.
But the Dorfman Theatre is such a dreadful design, a studio theatre gone wrong, one that means so many people have Restricted View seats, as I did, which rendered it nothing like the experience theatre should be.
The director used most of the thrust stage which meant that I could not see the action on the right side of it; those parts could have been a radio play. This I can only view as greed with the object of getting as many people in as possible whether they could see or not. A friend who went to an evening performance had the same problem with not seeing what was going on one side of the stage.
None of this will persuade newcomers who venture into a theatre to return, so sad that our National Theatre should have set such low standards for its audience in the Dorfman.
The Secret Science of Pop – Hit Song by Computer?
A rather self-opinionated academic, Professor Armand Leroi, tried hard (and failed) to get computer algorithms to make a hit record, utterly pretentious drivel that was never going to succeed.
With a lot of whizzy computer graphics he managed to get other people involved in it. Nike Jemiyo, a bright young talented singer, Trevor Horn, a celebrated music producer, songwriter, musician and singer, and Rhys Hughes, the head of BBC Radio 1 Programming. All of them seemed slightly embarrassed to be in it but humoured the hapless academic along, which the camera picked up but he didn’t.
He even had the gall to relegate The Beatles to ‘below average’, with average being his benchmark that he wanted to achieve. The words ‘passion’ ‘heart’ and ‘creativity’ were remarkably absent of course; no algorithms would ever have a spark of inspiration. For example, in the 1960s, Eric Burdon and the Animals, recorded a pop song that is still played today, ‘The House of The Rising Sun’, in one take. The Beatles, who he rubbished, recorded their best work on a four-track tape recorder, yes four-track! But they had the true genius of George Martin producing them, not a computer.
So it would not surprise me if the BBC doesn’t ask him back to make another waste-of-time programme about getting a computer to make a new and obviously much better version of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel. For once, I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
All that I could like about this programme was the sheer front the guy had in persuading BBC Four to fill up an hour of primetime TV with this fatuous pap which was a wasted hour of my life.
There are very few rules but shooting when the sun is at its highest is usually a bad idea. Around the middle of the day it can be directly overhead which results in unpleasant shadows, especially with people. Up to three hours after sunrise and three hours before sunset will yield better pictures. The light then is coming from a lower angle so planning is necessary to make sure you are in the right spot to take what you have in mind.
In the past the best and first thing to do was to head for a souvenir shop and look at the postcards on sale there for ideas. That can still work but today you can use Google which can do pretty much the same thing.
Try and work out the time of day when the ones you like were taken; a church might look at its best in the morning with a lot of architectural detail visible but in late afternoon it could be just an outline silhouette.
Planning is essential at a large parade and knowing where to stand can make a huge difference between good and not-so-good shots. If you cannot visit the location prior, either study a good map and with the compass direction or look at it on Google Street View. You should be able to work out where the sun will be so you can plan where to stand. In a city a crossroads corner position gives several angles and also there will be a gap in the buildings to let the sun hit the subjects. An easy ‘rule’ to remember is to get the sun over your shoulder. But sometimes it is better to have it three-quarter backlit to produce better facial modelling.
With views and landscapes, try and frame a foreground object to give the picture greater depth which will lead the eye into it; a tree, archway, signpost or a road going into the distance are easy to find examples. If there is time, most places or subjects should be explored, that means you could put together a photo story.
Detail and close ups for instance can sometimes sum up an entire situation in a highly creative and conceptual way.
Whatever you do, have fun with your camera and always remember that it is just a device for telling a story, what that story can be is up to you!
The highlight of the National Hunt racing calendar, the festival always provides plenty of winners and losers and inevitably becomes a British v Irish trained horse’s event and this year’s was great.
Held over four days, 13th – 16th March, hundreds of millions of pounds are bet over the week and Cheltenham is noted for its atmosphere, the “Cheltenham roar”, which refers to the enormous noise the crowd generates as the starter raises the tape to start the first race.
The first big race of the week is the 2m½f Champion Hurdle worth £256,275 in which eleven started and was won by Buveur D’Air ridden by Barry Geraghty and trained by Nicky Henderson. In second place came Melon with Mick Jazz coming third.
My late wife Gillian’s 1976 oil painting of the great Night Nurse with Paddy Broderick up who won the Champion Hurdle twice and has been acclaimed amongst the greatest ever hurdlers.
The main race of the whole event is the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase run over 3m2½f, and worth around £370,000 to the winner. This year with fifteen runners at the start it proved to be a classic head-to-head duel from the start with eventual winner Native River ridden by Richard Johnson and trained by Colin Tizzard just beating Might Bite into second with Anibale Fly coming third.
From another era, Midnight Court and John Francome winning the Gold Cup in 1978, a painting by my late wife Gillian, best known for her Red Rum paintings and drawings, some of which are in my book, click the Link above to see it.
The winning Jockey for the 2018 festival was Davy Russell who rode four winners and the winning trainer was Gordon Elliott who saddled eight winners.
2018 has been a great year for the Cheltenham Festival and also for jump racing!
‘Photographs’ the invite said, as indeed it was; but not as I knew them.
I was lucky enough to attend the opening of a new Soho gallery where the work of two very different photographers was on show. Black Box Projects is a new art gallery which specialises in contemporary photography and contemporary art that is created using photographic materials.
Steve’s work was muted and dreamy, enigmatic and mysterious. You wrote your own story within the structure he gave you. All shot in the UK on a large format camera, he uses nature to share the conceptual impact and influence it can have on our emotions, our health and our imagination.
Liz’s work was from another planet photographically speaking, probably why she calls them photograms. Brilliant colours in wonderful shapes and patterns and each one a unique piece. Her unique photographs are printed in the analogue colour darkroom with handmade negatives and found light sources. The technique I could guess at but the execution here was beautiful, transcending reality into different worlds.
Overall, a very enjoyable launch exhibition but is only on for a week so do hurry to catch this great show.
Black Box Projects, 15 Bateman Street, Soho, London W1
10am-6pm, Tuesday 6 March – Saturday 10 March