Cultural Face-off Part 1: London

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve been packing in the cultural things.

First up : London 25th/26th, on a girls weekend for my birthday.
Itinerary: Spitalfields market, Fortune’s Fool at the Old Vic, and The Cheapside Hoard at Museum of London.

Fortune’s Fool is a Turgenev play, with a typically small cast and inward-facing plot. In a nutshell: downtrodden gentleman Kuzovkin is stirred from his stupor by the return of newlywed Olga, daughter of the house, and her husband to the family seat, where Kuzovkin has been a permanent houseguest for years. Some unfortunate neighbours come calling and before long, Kuzovkin finds himself the Fool again and a whole sorry tale comes spilling forth, with some shocking consequences…

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Iain Glen was supposed to be in the title role of Kuzovkin but is sadly unwell, so the understudy Patrick Cremin has been on stage for some weeks. Even though I knew that prior to the show, it didn’t colour my viewing and actually I couldn’t quite imagine Iain Glen playing such a down at heel, self-effacing part as I’ve always seen him in strong character roles.
Overall this was all that you would expect from a Russian piece – dark humour, many layers to the story and profound philosophy underneath a simple narrative. Definitely worth a look even if you aren’t usually one for this type of play.

The Cheapside Hoard is currently being exhibited at the Museum of London (until 27th April), and last Sunday was ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ day. Predictably but sadly nonetheless, photos are not allow in the exhibition and for that reason alone you should go, because some of the pieces have to be seen for real to be believed. It was discovered back in 1912 but this is apparently the first time it is being displayed in its entirety.

My favourite pieces were an emerald watch case which would be an impressive creation today, let alone 300 years ago, and some of the brooches including the salamander brooch, also on the highlights list, and one of a miniature ship.

They’ve come up with a clever idea to have magnifying glasses available so you can see the fine detail better through the cases, it doesn’t always work to best effect but is a nice addition for visitors. No one seems to have come up with a solution to the problem of lots of people trying to read case labels though! My top tip: be patient, spend as much time as you want in there and if there’s a crowd round a case, circle back to it when you spot a space.

After the MoL, we also popped round the corner to the Guildhall gallery, which I can imagine does not get the visitors they deserve. They really have a remarkable variety of portraits, from enormous portraits of royalty to modern views of London. Oh, and there’s the remains of London’s roman amphitheatre in the basement, it’s just a shame they’ve decided to create a kind of holographic Tron experience down there. My favourite two pieces were a portrait of Lady Lavery, a socialite of the early 1900s, and a modern piece Broadgate Reflections by Brendan Neiland.

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I was going to put my trip to Birmingham in this post but I think it’ll be too long, so that can be instalment part two.

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