29 July 2012

For Puck's sake

You still have chance to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal Exchange, and might I suggest you do. I'll admit I was a bit reluctant to go when I heard there were musical numbers and no interval, but this production blew me away with its innovative approach to Shakespeare's text, dragging the play kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I suffered no problems with the language - much of the Mechanicals' speech has been "translated" into modern English while the Athenians deliver many of their lines as songs and with plenty of gestures, which helped enormously in following the plot. The magic of fairyland comes alive with some amazing sound effects created live on stage using a variety of instruments and improvised noise-making implements, and with some excellent devices and props (the pop-up tent for starters).

The Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre Company present their interpretation in the round, with a clever set (ignoring the weird sunken bath Titania, played by Poppy Miller, and Bottom, unlisted, sleep in) and clever set-ups. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is great and there are some fabulous takes on the various characters: as well as Ed Gaughan as the brilliantly exasperated Peter Quince who talks ten to the dozen, Jonathan Broadbent is a standout as an Austin Powersesque Oberon - though even he doesn't come near Ferdy Roberts' swaggering and sweary lager-swilling Puck (pictured). Just awesome. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs until Saturday 4 August. Visit www.royalexchange.co.uk for tickets.

Image: Jonathan Keenan

11 July 2012

Crafty way to tell stories

The lovely Manchester Craft & Design Centre is celebrating, having risen from the ashes of a derelict former fish and poultry market 30 years ago. And a good thing too. Not only does the Centre now house 35 artists and designer-makers in 19 studio boutiques, plus a nice new cafe, it is a beautiful building with its ornate glass and metal roof, not unlike other places in Manchester such as Barton Arcade and even the Royal Exchange.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, Saturday sees the launch of the Crafting History exhibition, the culmination of Collecting History. Curated by artist Lucy Harvey - who, it has to be said, loves a found object! - this project has been bringing together people's memories of the market, the early years of what was known as Craft Village and the surrounding Northern Quarter. Tell you what, it's unearthed some lovely stories - I love all the stuff (which you can read on the project's blog) about former stallholder Ellen Gibbons, provided by her son John, granddaughter Patricia and great-great grandson Jack.

The Crafting History exhibition will feature a specially commissioned ceramic installation by porcelain artist Carys Davies, interpreting the tales and memories that have been collected since April. There will also be pieces responding to Collecting History by artists and makers based at the Centre, and these will be auctioned off at a special event in November 2012, with all proceeds going to charity. Says MCDC Director Kate Day: “The launch of Crafting History marks an important milestone in our 30th anniversary celebrations, giving our resident makers and associate artists the chance to interpret the amazing stories and memories people have been submitting.”

During the launch event for Crafting History on Saturday (14 July), there will be free sampling activities (2-4pm), including an embroidery workshop, then, from 6.30pm, the sampler-cultureclash collective will host a free evening of “sampling shenanigans”, including a live audio performance by DJs, musicians and spoken word artists. This sounds like storytelling with a difference, so I'm interested to see what pans out!

See the MCDC website for more and book tickets (they are free, but it's to make sure you get in) for the Saturday evening shindig via Eventbrite.

06 July 2012

So much art, so little time

I've been so busy looking at art recently, I haven't had time to write about it, but Mother's been on again, telling me off for not posting anything for weeks, so here you go.

First off, there was the Fortnight project, which I took part in vicariously, hearing about some of the weird and wonderful goings-on from a true participant and accompanying them to a house in Whalley Range then peeking at some projections through a net curtain. Next was the launch of the Richard Creme exhibition in the Link Gallery at Manchester School Of Art - some really great portraits; I really liked this stylistic number...

The following week, I got out of the city and went to Tatton Park for the launch of the Biennial. This is on until 30 September, and you really ought to go, if only to see Olivier Grossetete's Pont de Singe (pictured), which is lovely and ephemeral. I also like The Cartland Institute For Romance Research - a tribute to the pink lady herself, installed within a Bedford Rascal. Nice.

Then I took one of those Pendolino thingies and visited the Hayward on the Southbank to see the David Shrigley (pictured below) and Jeremy Deller shows. Both good - particularly liked Shrigley's satirical cartoons and Deller's cycling activism. I also went to check out my pal David Wightman's show - he does amazing Alpine landscapes with block colours and collaged wallpaper, but I also really like his new pencil line drawings - lovely and subtle. 

After that, I got another train, this time to Nottingham, taking part in an art night at the really rather ace Primary Studios and checking out the Mika Rottenberg video work at the Contemporary. I'm not a big fan of video art, but this was good - thought-provoking yet tongue-in-cheek. Back in Manchester, I went to the Stanya Kahn thing at Cornerhouse - more video and cartoons; the top floor is the best (this is on until 16 September) - and the FutureEverything exhibition at MoSI, which kept me happily entertained with some interactive works.

Then it was back outside, first at Windermere for Les Commandos Percu to celebrate the arrival of that torch wotsit, then at the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, where I saw the Prometheus Awakes performance and Motor Show, which involved sitting in the pissing rain to watch some crazy dance (though it was pretty inspired). Yesterday, I was supposed to go to the launch of Liz West's Chroma at Blankspace, but I'm all arted out so that will have to wait; next week it's the launch of Crafting Histories at Manchester Craft & Design Centre.