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The Deep Blue Sea - National Theatre - and National Opens New Season

From the National Gallery it was straight over the bridge to southbank and the National Theatre to see Rattigan's 'The Deep Blue Sea', . The lead is played by the inimitable Helen McCrory, whom I saw in Medea, which, like this play, was also directed by Carrie Cracknell.

The play is set in a flat in Ladbroke Grove in the 1950s. Hester Collyer, an artist, lives with Freddie Page, ex-RAF and now an unemployed test pilot. But she remains married to Judge Collyer, which becomes apparent when Hester's flat has to be broken into when she turns the gas on and attempts to kill herself. And so the story of Freddie and Hester unravels, all whilst her husband the Judge makes clear he wants his wife back. I enjoyed the performances, which were polished and emotive - McCrory clearly ringing herself of the torture the character is in, not helped by the fact that her work is clearly not selling, and Freddie is on the golf course trying to network himself into a desperately needed new…

Elizabeth Strout - Olive Kitteridge

Having recently read My Name is Lucy Barton by New England writer, Elizabeth Strout, I turned to another by her, Olive Kitteridge, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Strout excels in characterisation through concision. Just a two-word expression by a character, which crops up through the text, is enough for this reader to more fully imagine what makes them tick. 
Olive Kitteridge is the type of character people love to hate, or hate to love. She is, on the surface, brusque, no-nonsense, plain-speaking, forthright. And she is, to a large degree, the same beneath the surface. A former 'math' teacher, each chapter introduces us to former pupils, neighbours, son, former daughter-in-law, and local shopkeepers, as they each contend with the struggles and strifes of life in a small New England community by the sea, (and the disapproval of 'the summer people') and Olive's interactions with each. The New Yorkerrecently featured a profile of Strout, by Ariel Levy…

Not pregnant

I am not pregnant. A couple of weeks ago, just a day after returning from a week in Cyprus, I had pains, which got so bad that I felt like jumping out of my own body and discarding it somewhere. Husby took me to the local hospital, which I had never wanted to step foot in due to an unsatisfactory appointment I had there a few months ago, which involved a patronising consultant and feeling like I had been dragged into the 1950s. Four hours after waiting in an A&E room that was only a third full, I was sent back home - nothing confirmed. The next day the pains were much worse - like nothing I had ever experienced, and hope I never will again. I felt like a tortured animal, with sounds to match. This time I was rushed back to the same hospital bypassing the waiting room, and within five minutes had been given enough morphine to take the edge off the pain. I was kept in overnight, and a miscarriage was confirmed. The nurses and doctors - all of whom save one were female - were exempl…

Pregnant

I'm pregnant. I never wanted any children, throughout my twenties and thirties, and even as I entered my forties I didn't have those 'urges' that some women refer to. I love babies and toddlers, but am also happy to give them back after a couple of hours. But we had decided that we wanted a child with each other - the Husby and I. And perhaps that's the difference. So now I'm ten weeks preggers, a bit of nausea, a LOT of cramps as the uterus stretches to accommodate the new life, and contemplating my first visit from the midwife, (today) and then hopefully, the first scan. When talking about 'it', I always add 'hopefully', my version of 'god willing'. 
I am forty-three years old. I am due to give birth when I am forty-four (inshallah!). 
I will have to get used to being referred to as an 'older mother'. In my thirties, I was the 'mature student'. The 'eldest daughter' in a family of seven children. But it recalls so…

My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout

A few years ago I read The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout. It revealed the long held tensions of the siblings of the title as well as those of their sister, whose teenage son had been found to have committed a hate crime in their small town. It was a timeless yet timely tail well written. But with her latest, more novella than novel, Strout has excelled in conveying powerfully a mother daughter relationship. My Name is Lucy Barton is written sparely and more powerfully for that. Lucy Barton is a young mother in New York, trying to recover in hospital from an operation, making do only with infrequent visits from her husband and their two young daughters. And then her Mum appears and stays with her daughter, in a chair at the foot of her bed, for five days. Lucy's mother seems a folksy type, who manages to exist for the five days only on cat naps taken whilst seated. Lucy and her Mum connect through the sharing of small town chatter that both hides and reveals their shared histor…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.

Mo…

King Lear at The Old Vic

Husby and I went to the Old Vic for the relatively short run of Glenda Jackson as King Lear. Her return to the stage came after a twenty-five year absence; twenty-three of which were spent as an MP in my old neck of the woods in north-west London. And my god, was it a return. Her performance was well received in most UK and US press. She is eighty for crying out loud. And yet her voice is strong and even though we were seated towards the back of the stalls, heard her clearly - although the same couldn't be said of all. Rhys Ifans was perfectly cast as the Fool, the only permitted truth-teller. The husby found himself seated next to a jolly, round, middle-aged man who it turned out was a Rabbi visiting his old home country for a few days before returning to Jerusalem. He called the visit to see Lear as a 'little treat'. Indeed. Next week we are off to see Peter Pan at the National (Husby's daughter and grandson!) and then a few days later, he and I are seeing Amadeus, …

Good Canary

Forgot to mention that we went to see Good Canary at Kingston's Rose Theatre last week. Star role played by the brilliantly intense Freya Mavor, who plays a speed addict. It's directed by John Malkovich - his UK's theatre directorial debut. Will try and post more about it later.