The other day, while most of the UK was gripped in the battles of snow-filled roads & skies, I went to Sheffield for some cultural sights & sounds. Firstly I went to the Millenium Gallery & saw 'Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin's Landscape' which features many of John Ruskin's drawings & paintings alongside historical & contemporary artists interpretations of landscape. From the famous seascapes of J.M.W Turner, to the map-like, made-up landscapes of Carol Rhodes, David Nash's film documenting 25 years of recording his carved wooden boulder's journey down a stream & Julian Opie's animated flowers in a field. Here's a few of my favourites:
Our past, present and future are all based intrinsically on the land, from our origins as a species we have always relied upon the land for our basic needs, from farming the land for food and building materials to creating reservoirs for our water.
Landscapes are mostly thought of as traditional scenes of natural landforms, majestic mountains, green valleys and emotive sense of a place, but I feel it is most powerfully expressed and meaning found in those artforms which have a true physicality; sculpture & installation, film & documentation. Like David Nash's film 'Wooden Boulder' which documents 25 years of a wooden boulder's journey down a stream in Wales, from it's carving out of an old oak tree to it's last sighting in an estuary in 2003, before it reaches the sea. It came from the land and went on a journey into the sea, and when it is destroyed it will be returned to the land/sea, a lot like ourselves and life.
While pretty paintings of landscapes can be marvelled at for the beauty the artist caught in that moment, they are often only like postcards of a place. While true landscapes are in a constant state of flux, holding danger, emotion, weather and people within their earth. I often feel like the only point of some landscape painting is its beauty of form, as it can never really convey the amazing feeling of actually being in that landscape. To feel the wind in your face, mud squelching beneath your feet, rain soaking into your skin makes you really experience and feel how fragile and precious the earth is and remind us of our fight to protect it much more than any oil on canvas can do.
Next I went to see 'My Fair Lady' at the Crucible, which I got a ticket for at the last minute. I didn't even know the story or many songs. Musicals are often a bit hit and miss with me, some parts especially when they have a big ensemble song & dance, the smile can be engrained on my face all the way through, but then there were some quite drawn out boring solo songs as well. My favourite songs were with Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's dad, singing 'With a little bit of luck' & 'Get me to the church on time'. With such greats as Julie Andrews & Audrey Hepburn having played the part of Eliza before on the original Broadway production & film respectively, it was always going to be hard to find the right lead. Carly Bawden at times didn't have the strongest of stage presence but she sang beautifully and of course 'Wouldn't it be loverly' was magic and her chemistry with Mr Higgins as played by Dominic West was a bit forced.
Old programmes/posters from previous productions
The Crucible is a theatre in the round which is always special as it's so much more intimate and you often feel a part of the action with actors using the stairs and lower ramp entrances to the stage, the photos above are just before the start where the actors were in character, setting up the covent garden market scene while the audience was coming in. No doubt it will get picked up in London to become the next big hit musical in the West End.
Here's a little trailer of clips from the production:
Might just have to go find the famous film version to watch now with Audrey Hepburn to relive my fave songs & dances.