Dance/theatre review – “Ahnen” (Pina Bausch) Tanztheater Wuppertal at Sadler’s Wells

April 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink


It’s not possible to really explain what happens in this performance, it makes more sense as a list.

One body becomes two

Two bodies become one

Brick walls are built

Water falls on tarpaulin

A man jumps through a hoop into a wall (repeatedly)

A fully clothed woman lies in a perspex bath full of water

A lady climbs a ladder and gives painting instructions

A blind woman fires a gun

There’s a remote control helicopter (might be a reference to Vietnam?)

Someone is buried under hay

A women relentlessly polishes some sort of white chopping board

Bits of food are placed around the stage

A man dressed as a sort of hobo-native american chief sits at a microphone but doesn’t use it

And so on and so forth…

I liked this. There is no narrative that I can grasp, but the show is full of little pleasing bits and pieces. The music throughout is great; varied, interesting and well used. The first half is pretty frantic, lots of arm movements and running across stage, there’s a lot of running when a wind machine blows paper across the stage. The second half is quieter, slower and has more spoken elements and ‘conventional’ dancing. For me, its just a bit too long. It starts to become tiring and uncomfortable (maybe that’s the point! etc) and personally I wouldn’t mind a wee bit of narrative.


Photo by Tristram Kenton (Guardian)

Generally it appears to celebrate everyday movements, moments and props. Lots of things happen at the same time, so you can choose what to devote attention to. It is farcical and slapstick and absurd, though at times I thought it wasn’t funny enough (it’s no House of Fools) but as I was thinking this, the funniest bit happened. A man and woman take turns to mime acts of cartoon violence on each other, and its funny. I’m guessing they are a couple of long-standing and long-endured irritation. There did seem to be a lot of what I will call ‘over-laughter’ from the audience “ oh ha ha ha, that is sooo funny, a woman flashed her pants”. There was another good bit where a man translates a famous operatic tune (? I think…) from German to English.


Photo by Ursula Kaufmann

I liked the intro when a guy in leather jacket, ray bans and a kilt brought on some of the ‘characters’ to the stage with a satisfying strut. For me, some of the best bits were just the highlighting of movements that can occur everyday. The way the kilt swayed as the man swaggered. There was a point when a mid-50’s (?) woman in tight skirt and high heels ran round in a circle on the stage and I noticed the way her body was constricted, the way she had to totter on the heels to turn a corner, all of these little details are only ever possible if a mid-50’s woman in high heels, with large hips and a tight skirt runs in a circle. As pure movement it is satisfying and precarious.


Photo: Ursula Kaufmann

There are three moments of intimacy that I liked, one where a seated man has one hand stuck out in the air (“like an Egyptian”) and a woman approaches slowly, bends slightly, then quickly sucks his hand. A woman dusted a chair with a fur jacket thing. A man breathes into his slow-dance partner’s ear.

Generally, there was a feeling of childishness, repetition, aimlessness and movement for its own sake. There was also quite a lot of female anger and male impotence/uselessness.


Photo by Tristram Kenton (Guardian)

As the piece seemed to be nearing an end, the fire curtain came down on stage and made everything feel slightly claustrophobic. The kilt man came on and hung from a metal bar acting like a monkey, eating apples and spitting them out. Then another guy came on with a big rubber walrus. He tried to make it climb a cactus (the stage is strewn in huge cacti), then proceeded to climb into the walrus suit thing. Once inside he told two terrible jokes and clapped his flippers together. He got out, and looked at the fire curtain. He looked a bit bewildered. Two men joined the stage and started sweeping. The walrus guy didn’t know what to do. We thought this was part of the show. He left the stage, then came back on and said “the curtain is meant to go up, I don’t know what’s wrong”. We still thought it was part of the show. He came back and said “no, really, the curtain should go up, I’m sorry we will have to break for 20 minutes”. It should really have been the end, regardless. So, we left at that point, it seemed appropriate. Left on stage were two cacti and a rubber walrus. We didn’t get the chance to give them a round of applause, but it was a satisfyingly ridiculous ending nonetheless. Here is my round of applause.

Reading the Bible – Ep.5 – Sodom & Sarah

April 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

In Genesis 18, the Lord appeared to Abraham, and after Abraham got some food together, the Lord said that Sarah would have a son, despite her age:

“And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

The Lord is not keen on Sarah laughing inwardly at this. She lies and says she wasn’t laughing. But she was. The Lord then walks with Abraham, and tells him that the sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are ‘very grevious’ but the sins aren’t explained. Abraham then manages to convince the Lord not to be too angry if there are some people in the city who are not righteous.

In Genesis 19, the Lord sends two angels to speak to Lot (Abraham’s nephew) who lives in Sodom. At this point it gets a little vague, but there is an association between Sodom and ‘sodomy’, so its easy to jump to conclusions. The men of the city surround Lot’s house and demand to see the two men (angels) ‘that we may know them’… Lot asks them to ‘do not so wickedly’ and tells them to take his own two virgin daughters instead of the male visitors – ‘do ye to them as is good in your eyes’.

The angels stand up for themselves, and blind the men of Sodom, then decide to destroy the city ‘because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD’

Lot, his wife and his daughters (mercifully) are told to leave the city quick, before it’s destroyed, but ‘look not behind thee’. So they skedaddle, but as the ‘LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ Lot’s wife carelessly turns around to watch and ‘she became a pillar of salt’.

Lot then has to escape to a cave with only his daughters for company (more of that later).


1. The LORD is aware of your thoughts, and I have a feeling he might have something in for Sarah. But, he is promising her a son, despite her having gone through menopause.

2. Sodom & Gomorrah’s sins are bad, as it seems they like to ‘know’ men, and that’s bad. But giving your daughters to them to do what they want is not such a bad sin.

3. The phrase is ‘brimstone and fire’ not ‘fire and brimstone’

4. It might seem pedantic, but how do they know Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt without looking round themselves? Did they realise she was gone, return at a later date, see the pillar of salt and say “that must be her”? Or is the disappearance of the wife into a pillar of salt symbolic for something that I’ve missed? Does she see God? Does she want to hang out with the bad men of Sodom?


“Lot’s Wife” pillar at Mount Sodom, Israel – does kind of look like a woman in a flowing dress.


Destruction of Sodom, Monreale Cathedral, Sicily (12th century?)



Destruction of Sodom, Nuremberg Chronicle

Lot’s wife seems to be smiling at Sodom in her pillar-state. I like the topping over of the buildings by a top corner cloud blow.


“The Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah” John Martin (1852)

This is satisfyingly over the top, and I like that Lot’s wife is struck by salt-lightning. There is drama and pomposity here.


“Lot Fleeing with his daughters from Sodom” Albrecht Durer (1498)

One daughter looks bored, she must be teenage. The other has some sort of spinning thing and some keys and a wee box. Lot appears to have a hot water bottle on his back. There is not a lot of drama, or pomposity here.


“Lot and his Daughters” Lucas van Leyden (1520)

Durer drew a portrait of van Leyden, I guess they were friends. This painting combines the destruction and the following episode of Lot and his daughters in the cave. Wine is flowing, cuddling is happening…..


Valentino spring/summer 2015

April 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink













Reading the Bible – Ep.4 – Abraham & Hagar

March 31st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink


So, Genesis chapter 16. Recently, Abraham has been in a big battle (Genesis 14) and protected some slaughtered animals from birds (Genesis 15) and God has revealed to him that 1. His seed will be numerous and 2. Abraham’s seed “shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years”. However, in chapter 16, there seems to be a bit of a threat to this, as Abraham’s wife, Sarai (Sarah) “bare him no seed”. So, what Sarah suggests is that Abraham sleep with her handmaid instead, and the handmaid can have Abraham’s children. The handmaid is an Egyptian called Hagar (not this Hagar).

hagar the horrible

Sarah actually ‘gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife’. Hagar and Abraham get together, she becomes pregnant, but Sarah now realises she doesn’t like the whole situation. Sarah is mean to Hagar, she runs off to a well in the desert, where the LORD reveals himself to her (ooh er..etc). God tells Hagar that her seed shall be multiplied exceedingly, to call her son Ishmael, that Ishmael shall be a ‘wild man’, and that he will face a number of difficulties. She seems to relax, and returns to Abraham and gives birth to Ishmael. Abraham is currently 86 years old.


– It’s ok to sleep with your wife’s handmaid, as long as it’s her idea.

– The handmaid doesn’t get to have a say in this.

– Abraham’s seed has longevity.

– Has Sarah lost patience with God, and is she trying to speed up the multiplication of Abraham’s seed with this idea?

There are a number of artworks based on this scene, here are some.


“Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham” Matthias Stom (1637)

This one shows Hagar already getting undressed, and she seems to be concerned for Abraham, reaching out to him, but with a little encouragement from Sarah. Abraham seems a bit not bothered either way, though obviously is ready for bed. His left hand and eyes seem to say “you sure?”, though who he might be directing the question to is debatable.


“Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham” ‘Spranger’ (16th century)

‘Spranger’ here is a little racier – Abraham seems distracted by her naked breasts, while Sarah looks a little like she’s trying to convince him it’s a good idea. He isn’t really listening though. While Abraham looks relatively ‘old testament’, Hagar doesn’t look that Egyptian. She is obviously a fine figure of a woman though, and is wearing some very thin material over her hip. Why the artist bothered with that I’m not sure, unless its just to suggest some tension, something holding her back (barely). I don’t know what that monster in the corner is.


“Sarai showing Hagar to Abraham” Matthias Stomer

This is also by Stomer, and is a little creepier. Hagar has waddled in, and Abraham is ready to go, inspecting her and peeling off the blanket. He may also have a boner under the blanket. The wee dog is symbolic of his lust I guess, though the dog seems to be looking the wrong way. The little boy (perhaps a dwarf) on the other hand seems to be almost bowled over by Hagar. This time Sarah doesn’t seek Abraham’s approval, instead she is performing a purely perfunctory role. Everything is a little rubbery looking.


“Hagar & the Angel in the Desert” James Tissot (1896)

This one is a little different, showing Hagar by the well. I guess the angel is a personification of the LORD (angelification?). I quite like this, Hagar is desperate, feet on the edge of the well, holding a big pot thing – perhaps she is considering jumping in, weighed down by the pot. The angel pretty chilled out though.


Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham – Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media


I might put these illustrations in future posts. They seem to have done a number for Genesis. At least here Hagar has a hint of Egyptian (I do wonder what bible illustrators are thinking when they draw such fabric tension between the breasts of Hagar, and also “are Sarah’s breasts old enough”?)- she is also embarrassed looking, casting her eyes to the floor. Abraham seems ready to spring from his chair. Sarah is positively delighted to present her handmaid to her mulleted 86 year old husband.


Reading the Bible – Episode 3: The Generations of Noah

March 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

So, Genesis 10 & 11 is basically a long list of the generations of Noah, all but one of whom is a man. Also, judging by the amount of sons that some people had, I reckon Canaan and Eber are going to have big roles to play.

Sons of Noah


I found it all very confusing so made a handy diagram to make sense of it all (click on image to increase size). Apparently this is also known as a Table of Nations. Here are some other people’s versions.




Youtube Compilation

March 25th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink






Reading the Bible – Episode 2: Noah

March 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

After God floods the earth, once the rain stops after 40 days, Noah sends a raven out off the boat who “went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth” then he sends a dove – the dove comes back with nothing, then heads out again, returns again, this time with an olive branch. This is proof the waters have abated, the year is 601, the first day of the first month.


From Die Schedelsche Weltchronik


Later, once they are settled down again, God makes a covenant with Noah and says he’ll never do it again and “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud”

That’s a nice image. God also

“blessed Noah and his sons”

So, Noah now can relax a little, and in Genesis 9:20;

“Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard;

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethern without.

And Shem and Japeth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their fathers nakedness.”

So, Noah gets drunk, one of his sons sees him naked, tells the others, they cover him up without looking.

“And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren”

So, Noah is pissed off because his son (Ham) has seen him naked, so he then curses his own Grandson (Canaan, Ham’s son) and condemns him to be a slave of slaves.


1. Nobody is concerned about the whereabouts of the raven.

2. God put a bow in the clouds. I am hoping to learn what became of this (or at least what natural phenomenon it refers to).

3. Nakedness is worse thank drunkenness. Unless seeing his father naked is not what is meant by Noah knowing “what his younger son had done unto him”. Is there some other unmentioned crime that Ham has committed while his father was drunk and naked?

4. Noah is a mean man who punishes his Grandson for his father’s (perceived) failings. However, it may be the case that as Noah and his sons are blessed by God, his grandson’s aren’t, so Noah can curse Canaan but not Ham.


Reading the Bible – Episode 1: Garden of Eden

March 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I am reading the bible, and trying to get my head around what must surely be one of the best selling books of the last two millennia. I will sporadically be writing these, with some art historical images and my understanding of what is being written. It might take a while because it’s quite long. I am reading the King James version. Feel free to tell me that I am wrong or have misunderstood. Obviously I am reading without knowing too much about what happens later in the bible, so I might make certain assumptions which I later contradict. Oh well. First up, some Garden of Eden.


Adam & Eve – Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia

In Genesis 3:5, the serpent (who is not described as anything other than a serpent) tells Eve not to worry about eating the fruit of the tree (not apple specifically) in the midst of the garden, because unlike God has said, it won’t kill her. In fact, the serpent says God doesn’t want you to eat it, because if you do you will have your eyes opened and you shall become like Gods.

She eats it, and indeed her eyes are opened, and she can see she is naked. She doesn’t die though, and though it might be imagined that by eating the fruit, humankind has been made to suffer and die forever, God says later he is getting rid of Adam and Eve from the garden to ensure that they don’t also eat from the Tree of Life –

“And the LORD God said; Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” – Genesis 3:22

So God doesn’t want them to eat from the Tree of Life, because then they will be immortal. So, they were already mortal, and thereby the serpent told the truth about God’s reasons for telling them not to eat it. It didn’t kill her, she became aware of good and evil and they have become like Gods. I don’t know why that is plural, but God himself says “man is become as one of us” which is to say he is a God among Gods.


1. The serpent can be relied upon to tell the truth.

2. God said they would die on the day they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, but they didn’t.

3. Adam & Eve were already mortal, because only if they ate from the Tree of Life would they “live for ever”

4. There is not just one God, or, at least God thinks there are others he counts to be “us”.

5. It might not have been an apple.

Ways & Means (Budget Resolutions) – A Visit to Westminster

March 20th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I visited the Houses of Parliament today, I sat in the public gallery and watched some of a debate about the budget.

You aren’t allowed cameras so I did a couple of drawings, and the image above is one of them. I think it should be a rug or a wall hanging or something. Here are the notes I made during the hour or so I could bear it.

– It much smaller than I thought, though the ceiling is very high, the floor space is not a lot, the TV camera’s must use some sort of lens that makes it look longer and thinner, its actually quite squat, and in its way a satisfying space.

– There are little audio speakers built into the benches so you can hear what is said, and there are about 70 mics hanging from the ceiling.

– Some MP’s (there were about 30 there…) have loads of bits of paper, others have none.

– There are signs as you go in saying “no camera’s, no phones, no pagers (!)” but it is apparently ok for MP’s to sit scrolling through their phones and tapping on their ipad’s without looking up to pay attention to what’s being said.

– There is a lot of leaning over benches and whispering into ears.

– Lots of people come in and out, and whisper things in the (deputy) speakers’ ear, then they leave again. The (deputy) speaker also taps the chair’s of the judges (? they wear wigs…) in front of him to get their attention, and then there’s more whispering. I have no idea what the ‘judges’ do.

– The MP’s are totally oblivious of the public gallery.

– The public gallery is in fact only 1/4 of the ‘gallery’ space. The other 3 sides had about 5 people in it who I am guessing work for the MP’s or are civil servants or something. The public gallery is entirely glassed off, so you can’t get to the other bits. The MP’s below, and behind the glass, look like an experiment in a petri dish.

– The (deputy) speaker isn’t actually paying attention to what’s being said a lot of the time. I guess it wasn’t a lot of work with so few MP’s, but he isn’t even listening when the MP speaking says “the question is deputy speaker….” but the camera’s don’t pick that up.

– There is a lot of pointing, and a lot of over the top panto expressions, one female Labour MP in particular was hamming it up excessively.

– It was boorish, but not as boorish as I feared. Again, I think this is probably because of the numbers, and because it was the day after the real budget debate.

– The main purpose of interrupting and talking over people is to try and catch the speaking MP out. They are desperate for one another to say the wrong thing, and to stumble in some way, however small. It is a lot like a prowling bully at school looking for an excuse to give you a dead arm. They are leading each other into dead ends, trying to neutralise and bring all chat to a stalemate. There is no desire to reach consensus on anything.

– There were a lot of tired looking people. One Labour whip in particular kept rubbing his eyes and looked knackered. He kept leaning on the speakers little pew thing, and his ill-fitting shirt was not good for those who don’t like seeing sausage meat. Eric Pickles MP on the other hand, was not as large as I thought he was.

– There is no sartorial individuality among the male MP’s.

– The top of the speakers box/pew thing really needs a dusting.

– There were about 20 primary school kids in the gallery at one point, God only knows what they thought of the whole thing. I am absolutely certain none of them left inspired.

– Oak Leaves / Corn Cob / The Spiky Gate & the Plumb-line Chain

And that was UK democracy in action….

Xpelair Taurus

March 19th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for…

xpelair taurus


I was walking past a work colleague’s desk the other day and spotted a fan. Wow, that fan looks familiar I thought. When I was a kid, living in West Germany, we had a fan like it. It was….The Xpelair Taurus. I remember the brown plastic fins (?), the satisfaction of pushing the buttons ‘0, 1, 2′. I can even feel the weight of it, how it was heavier at the back. I would put my fingers on the cage, imagining if it had the strength to chop them off. I realise now, I had affection for that fan. Anyway, that’s the model, up there. Apparently “the history of these unique fans is a bit vague” which I find hard to believe. You can watch a video of one if you like (over 5,746 views….?):