Simian Substitute Site Of The Month April 2017: Museum Monkeys
MONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2017
Art: There's a bit of a cold war going on at the Royal Academy at the moment, with rival exhibitions from America and Russia battling it out for your attention in the same building. I can't really say much about America After The Fall: Painting In The 1930s because I haven't seen it, although people I know who have seem to have enjoyed it. But the much larger Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (showing here till April 17th) is a monumental collection of work. The dates in the title are a clue as to why: the exhibition spans from the immediate aftermath of the Revolution (and Lenin's ambitious use of multiple artforms for the spreading of Bolshevik propaganda) to the point where Stalin had effectively abolished the avant-garde, leaving only Socialist Realism in its place. The narrative line of those fifteen years is brilliantly laid out, and results in a collection of art where everything has a subtext, whether it's pro-Bolshevik boosterism or anti-Stalinist subversion. It's a heady mix of painting, posters, photography, film, and a splendid room dedicated to one of Vladimir Tatlin's worker's flying bicycles, which apart from anything else makes you marvel at the way the words 'worker's', 'flying' and 'bicycles' bounce off each other.
Movies: When you've been going to the pictures regularly in London for over thirty years, it gets harder and harder to say 'hey, I went to a cinema this month that I've never been to before.' But this month, we managed it. Olympic Studios in Barnes have been showing films since 2013: before then, they were the Olympic recording studios, which was probably the starting point for at least one record in your collection. (The advert for the cinema itself shows the Rolling Stones recording Sympathy For The Devil there.) Now it's a two-screen cinema which acknowledges its roots in the quality of its sound - it's the only London cinema with Dolby Atmos, and even something as simple as that Volkswagen advert with the Dead Prez soundtrack ends up having bass so solid you feel you can hold it in your hands. The programming policy is mainstream, but with a couple of quirks: the specific reason for our visit, for example, was that it was the only cinema in London that was still showing Loving by the middle of March. As a bonus, the attached restaurant is rather terrific as well. Olympic's only a couple of bus rides away from Château Belated-Monkey - and thanks to The Mayor Sadiq Khan, we only need to pay for one of those - so I suspect we'll be back in the future.
Theatre: The Belated Birthday Girl always insists that she doesn't enjoy theatre as much as, say, film: but there are two main exceptions to that rule, as she will go out of her way to see anything directed by either Robert Lepage or Simon McBurney. This may be because both of them have a detail-intensive, multi-media, almost filmic approach to making theatre: and McBurney's latest project at the Royal Court, The Kid Stays In The Picture, takes the parallel one stage further by being about the movie business itself. More specifically, it's an adaptation of the autobiography of movie producer Robert Evans - if you think the title sounds familiar, it's probably because they made a film of it fifteen years ago. The producer of The Godfather, Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby has a lot of stories in him, and they're well told here. But like the 2002 documentary, this is really just a talking book with added pictures: what makes it work as theatre is the extraordinary array of images McBurney and co-adapter/co-director James Yeatman conjure up on stage, using a battery of video effects. You could argue that it's less emotionally driven than some of McBurney's other work, to the extent that even the impact of Sharon Tate's murder is dampened by the technique used to tell the story. But that technique is dazzling. It's only got one more week to run, closing on April 8th, so hurry hurry hurry.
As for what I'm up to this month... well, there's kind of a clue on this page already, but there's also a backlog of stuff to get through from last year, including more BrewDogging, what we did over Christmas, and a post-projick review of our 2016 quest to visit twelve brewery tap bars. Let's see how much of that we can actually deliver, shall we? Comments, as ever, are welcomed in the box below.