Sunday, 24 April 2016


Intrepidly, I set off for 'The Complete Walk' yesterday morning.  This was the installation of 37 large screens beading the South Bank from Westminster to Tower Bridge, each showing a 10 or 15 minute clip of highlights from one of Shakespeare's plays: Number 5, for example was Titus Andronicus.  I stood to watch, with a good crowd, hearing little as the trains trundled across Hungerford bridge above us, but remembering just how extremely unpleasant a play it is.  The worst pie in London...

The South Bank was, as the young so vividly put it, rammed.  This is London's promenade, and it is full of variety and pleasure: galleries, theatres, eateries, markets, battleships, malls, sandcastles, pleasure boats, barges, bridges, musicians, mimes, pleasure gardens, aquariums, prisons, railway stations, and a big wheel... 

Several of the screens appeared to have malfunctioned.  I put this down to the Arctic breeze, which was very nearly the cause of my own malfunctioning as the blood in my uncovered head slowly froze as I made my way eastwards.

Most, though, hadn't, and there were some splendid goes.  Simon Russell Beale did Timon very well.  Here's part of his speech:

Who seeks for better of thee, sauce his palate 
With thy most operant poison! What is here? 
Gold? yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods, 
I am no idle votarist: roots, you clear heavens! 
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair, 
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant. 
Ha, you gods! why this? what this, you gods? Why, this 
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides, 
Pluck stout men's pillows from below their heads: 
This yellow slave 
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed, 
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves 
And give them title, knee and approbation 
With senators on the bench: this is it 
That makes the wappen'd widow wed again; 
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores 
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices 
To the April day again. Come, damned earth, 
Thou common whore of mankind, that put'st odds 
Among the route of nations, I will make thee 
Do thy right nature. 

Ah, spital houses and ulcerous sores!  Not to mention wappen'd widows!  Just the job. All very Now, eh? There was a big crowd for Lear, contending with a clamorous Antony and Cleopatra, near London Bridge.  The former had a better backdrop though:  

The Tower of London is behind the pergola. You can just see the spikes of the White Tower.  Macbeth was facing the city of London, from Hays Wharf.  I don't think that signified anything. Nothing, in fact. Walkie-Talkie, Cheese-grater and Gherkin all present.

Most unlikely structures however were the sandcastles and scenes being constructed on the beach: 

A good five or six mile walk there and back.  I had planned on a burger at Borough Market, but if the riverside was rammed, the Market was stuffed almost to the point of immobility.  I got stuck behind someone talking at length about his sperm count, and decided that i wasn't that hungry after all.

A last word, on the Bankside Gallery, which was showing the annual exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society.  It was the last day.  I'm very glad I popped in, because here were paintings full of engagement, in every conceivable style, from extreme realism to abstraction.  I liked a great many of them.  After the dry, humourlessly facetious offerings in the Tate Modern's 'Art and Media' rooms, (even the Sonia Delauney seemed a bit tired and academic) this was refreshing.  I grow old, I grow old...

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