It’s a long time since I wrote. I had a lovely fortnight off; chilled out at my mum’s, then swam and sketched for a week in Kefalonia. I came back to work tanned and refreshed, straight into a cloudburst at Gatwick. That was just two weeks ago. Work has been steadily busy ever since, which is good (I hate being bored).
My cultural life since then has consisted of three mixed evenings out. The first was to a concert that was a bit of a curate’s egg – a beautiful, lump-in-the-throat producing performance of The Enigma Variations, followed by Brahms’ Violin Concerto played by a Very Famous Soloist who I rapidly began to want to slap. I’m sorry, but being a “character” does not entitle you to add extra percussion (sometimes off the beat, to add insult to injury) by jumping heavily up and down in fake exuberance as you play. I love the Brahms concerto dearly, and the last person I heard playing it was Christian Tetzlaff, who is a musical demi-god in my book; I don’t want to see it turned into a self-indulgent party turn.
The second was last Friday, to a Hollywood blockbuster of the “lets trash New York with CGI” variety, and the last was last night, to “The Prince of the Pagodas” at Covent Garden. “Prince of the Pagodas” was interesting stuff. I gather the plot has been tweaked a bit, the intention being to make it a scrap more comprehensible; not very successful, I’m sorry to say. Britten’s score veers between very beautiful and very weird, and so does the choreography. But the orchestra and the excellent cast were putting their all into things, and I cannot fault the performance. I’m just not sure it was worth reviving in the first place. Marianela Nuñez was a radiant Princess Belle-Rose, Nehemiah Kish a handsome, gentle, gentlemanly Prince and Tamara Rojo a splendidly contemptuous Princess Belle-Épine, flashing her magnificent eyes and slashing high kicks at everyone. The four evil kings who team up with Belle-Épine were terrific, the daft but saintly Fool bounced like the requisite rubber ball, and all the numerous bit parts were well done too.
But I’m afraid the blockbuster movie was a lot more fun.
There are times when you want perfectly-cooked fresh food and top class wine, followed by superbly-played Mozart, and there are times when you want popcorn and a large chocolate milkshake, and lots of hunky men slinging each other about the place, and explosions. “The Avengers Assemble” has the hunks and the explosions, a plot that is surprisingly easy to follow given its complexity, a script that is well-constructed, intelligent and genuinely witty, and a very good cast. It was a perfect Friday-night movie, and I shall probably buy the dvd when it comes out, to add to my collection of things like “Aeon Flux”, “V for Vendetta” and the “Star Trek” reboot, for those “popcorn-needed” evenings. Come to think of it, of course, although those are all popcorn movies they are, like “Avengers Assemble”, blessed with better than average scripts and good actors (okay, and eye candy).
I’ll grant you that some of the Avengers are, to be polite, more limited as actors than others. Captain America and Thor are big manly lunks of muscle, and they do “decent” and “honourable” and “heroic” to a tee, but I’m not sure either of them would do “Hamlet”. Tom Hiddleston, enjoying himself playing the villain, would be a dream Hamlet, on the other hand (& is my dream Gabriel Yeats). Robert Downey Jnr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Samuel L Jackson are all eminently watchable, in pretty much everything they appear in, whether they are paying their mortgages doing junk or acting their socks off in something intelligent. They can all carry a movie on their own, and any of them would be worth seeing this for. Yes, that’s right, I’m not being silly; this really is a superhero movie worth seeing for the acting.
That brings me to Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, who was new to me, and steals every scene he is in. Even when he isn’t doing anything, one’s eyes stray to him; he’s so hot he burns. I haven’t been able to muster myself to see “The Hurt Locker” (I have a vivid imagination, and don’t want to see the subject matter made any more real than my imagination already can); so I had no idea what this chap was capable of, or even what he looked like. Indeed, I admit that I was vaguely expecting a handsome, high-cheekboned scenery-chewer, trying wildly to capitalise on having been flavour-of-the-month a couple of years ago. Mr Renner however is the exact opposite; a middle-sized guy with nice eyes, who looks as if he might be part hobbit, and does bottled-in intensity so well he could almost be British. He’s terrific.
So, not for the first time, I have the great Joss Whedon (who wrote and directed this) to thank for a good evening’s entertainment. Thank you, Mr Whedon; more, please!
I came home from this so fired up that the Muse popped in and has been hanging out with me ever since. A new story! I’m about 25 pages in, and it’s feeling good.