Before I read Vietnam Eye, I didn’t really know or understand Vietnamese art. It wasn’t covered in my History of Art A-Level, or the Fine & Applied Arts section of my undergrad degree (both were unfairly weighted towards Western art, except for a token glance at Japanese woodblock prints), and I’d never knowingly learned about a Vietnamese art movement in galleries around the world.
However, the coffee table book Vietnam Eye (published by Skira) is a chance to understand contemporary Vietnamese artists, and the enduring themes they deal with. Many of the artists are graduates from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, and their work now sits in galleries around the world. Here are some of my favourite discoveries from this new coffee table book.
‘All the world’s a stage’, but let’s remember that not all stages are equal. If you’ve sat through a performance in a cramped or strangely pungent space, you’ll know it can be quite distracting (unless you’re at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in which case it can be a selling point, and the smell of damp is strangely comforting).
On World Theatre Day, it’s time to take a look at theatre facts: some of the strangest pieces of trivia from theatreland, including the playwright who became President, and the ghost who was used as a mascot.
Half a century after its debut, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead returns to The Old Vic. Things may have changed around these parts in the last fifty years – off the top of my head, there’s a branch of Byron down the road, and the price of theatre tickets has increased dramatically – but this play, just like its venue, remains sharp.
It famously lifts two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who we know end up dead, hence the non-spoiler-alert title, and tries to fathom how they met their fate. Was it just a case of really bad luck? Were they a bit dim? Was everyone out to get them from the start? Stoppard may not have all the answers, but he scrutinises their unfair side-lining by the Danish court, and gives them a chance to voice their side of the story. That is, if they even know what the story is. Or where they are. Or which one is which. In these ever more uncertain times, where we’re bombarded with cries of ‘fake news’, conspiracy theories and 24-hour coverage of distressing events, The Old Vic treats us to lines like ‘We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style’. This could have easily described Donald Trump’s tweets, and not a key character’s philosophy on the language of acting.
It had me at ‘free tea and biscuits’. I’ve been to more museums than I can count in my 26 and 3/4 years, but never have I been offered a free cuppa and snacks as part of the deal… until now. Evidently, the Museum of Comedy isn’t your average tourist attraction, but the promise of a good old-fashioned English treat, alongside decades of authentic comedy memorabilia, worked wonders.
Based in a church undercroft between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, this small but mighty two room venue covers the history of British comedy, from variety acts to TV sketch shows and stadium tours, and all that’s in between.
The Royal Academy’s latest exhibition, Wanderlust, is like being given an intravenous drip feed of retro travel photos, postcards and scrapbook materials. It’s like swallowing hundreds of ‘vacation’ Pinterest boards in one go. For anyone with an incurable sense of escapism, this is a drug, and it’s delivered by a little-known bachelor from Queens, New York, who never went abroad.
A self-taught American artist, Joseph Cornell created mixed media collages using anything from Baedeker’s travel guides to old maps, tickets, compasses, adverts and newspaper clippings, calling his collections ‘explorations’.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is nearly upon us for another year – where does the time go? In fact, time is all too precious when you’re at the Fringe, and it can feel as though you need to be a logistics expert to pack as much into your day as possible.
However, taking a breather in between shows doesn’t have to involve lurking in the nearest Starbucks. Those tiny bits of free time can be maximised by doing something fun, unusual and also cheap.
Dine student-style in Southside – 30 mins
Nearby venues: Underbelly Med Quad (V302), BBC@Potterow (V25), Assembly George Square Theatre (V8).
Lonely Planet describes the Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) as ‘somewhat Soviet-looking’. However, the interior is definitely bang up to date, thanks to a £22 million renovation project affecting every part of the inner space, from the snazzy trap door in the stage to the 100 extra seats and the distinctive ceiling art in the cafe.
I took a free tour of the new layout, as part of the first Live Night, a special event aimed at theatregoers aged 16-25, which took place shortly before the evening’s performance of Amadeus.
Sometimes talking about the Ed Fringe makes you sound like a character from a Vietnam War film. “You don’t know… you weren’t there… it was carnage,” is just one response likely to wind up festival newbies. Yet I cannot emphasise enough how annoyingly important it is not to walk into this event blindfolded, either metaphorically or literally (ouch). Of course you’ll enjoy blustering around and trying to work out which performances sound like your thing, but you won’t be having so much fun when you’re greeted with the crushing sense of disappointment delivered by an ever-increasing box office queue or, worse, a huge list of sold out shows when you reach the front of said queue.
Start reading up on the history of Leuven and you’ll quickly realise this city is a survivor, with the scars of two world wars to prove it. Buildings like the university library, which I touched on in my previous post, have their own stories to tell, but it’s one of the newest additions to the city that has taken up the theme of conflict and explored it through art. Enter the M Museum Leuven and its Ravaged exhibition (referred to as Ravage in Flemish), ripping through scenes of destruction dating from the 15th to the 21st century.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.