Friday, September 02, 2016

Spitting Image / King's Head Theatre

Back to the King's Head for this very interesting revival of Colin Spencer's Spitting Image - the first openly gay play performed in the UK back in 1968 after the decriminalisation of homosexuality and (presumably) the relaxation of theatre censorship, and never since revived.

It played for two months to packed houses at the Hampstead Theatre (greeted with much tutting by the Evening Standard), and transferred to the West End. In the disapproving atmosphere of the times however, the play could not find a publisher, and disappeared. It's amazing that Adam Spreadbury-Maher, artistic director of the King's Head, discovered a script in the Oscar Lewenstein theatre archive at the V&A Museum, and hence this revival was possible.

One half of a gay couple falls pregnant and the play explores the consequences both for their relationship and in society. What is amazing is at the time it was written the idea of gay couples bringing up children was totally unthought of - the play uses it as a metaphor for coming out - but now of course in the era of gay marriage it's pretty topical.

Spitting Image's giddy and surreal social satire sits well in the context of Orton and Stoppard. I actually thought the satirical element worked best - the couple squabbling over dirty nappies and relationship issues less so. The huge concern the play demonstrates over crushing state surveillance is sadly right up-to-date. Nothing's changed there.

The acting was all on point and brought out all the fun of the piece. The set design aimed for minimalism but actually was quite tricksy and distracting with actors having to carry props on and off awkwardly all the time. At least in the first half Sally Ambrose entertained us while this was happening with her groovy 60's dance moves. In the second half she became a character in her own right, mooning after Alan Grant's Gary, the gay man struggling against the odds to keep his relationship and child.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Tribal Art London

The Tribal Arts London fair 2016 is now on in The Mall Galleries until the 4th September. It's a great opportunity to catch an eye-popping spread of Tribal Art all under one roof - areas covered include Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Entry is free but bring your wallet in case you are tempted to buy any of the masks, figurines, bronzes, textiles, ceramics or jewellery on display.

I dropped in to have a look and here are a few of the things that caught my eye. First of all, obviously, some African masks:

(Songye masks from the Congo)

Another Congo mask
A Pende dog mask
A spectacular Sowei/Nowo mask from Sierra Leone

This Fon bronze of a lion with its prey I thought was very elegant.

Exotic head gear!
A fascinating 'power object' - we in the West are more familiar with lovers' locks on bridges - a very different sort of magic I imagine.

The Zulu are very famous as a tribe but actually their art is quite rare - here is a fascinating 19th-century staff with a lion being hunted (top) and a zulu snuff box made out of horn with a metal lid.

Finally, this Ethiopian headrest I thought was striking in its beautiful shape and patina, with highly intriguing metallic adornments and repairs.