Favourites on Friday - Shakespeare and a Museum

My favourite moment of today – the sun was shining!!  What a difference after a couple of days of wet and wild weather.

But the ‘favourite moments’ of this post refer to moments from last week.  First, Shakespeare.  Thanks to ‘National Theatre Live’, a project of the National Theatre (which began in 2009), last Thursday we were able to watch a Shakespeare play, broadcast live from a London stage to cinemas across the UK, and also around the world.

Gordon wasn’t in the mood, so it was just Liam and me who went to see ‘Coriolanus’, a Shakespeare play I’m not at all familiar with.  It’s at the Donmar Warehouse, a 251-seat theatre in Covent Garden, but, because of NTLive, I only had to pay for a couple of cinema tickets and a car park ticket :D  And, watching it at the cinema, you get the best seats in the house.

 According to the blurb, the play is a ‘searing tragedy of political manipulation and revenge … When an old adversary threatens Rome, the city calls once more on her hero and defender, Coriolanus.  But famine threatens the city, the citizens’ hunger swells to an appetite for change, and on returning from the field, Coriolanus must confront the march of realpolitik and the voice of an angry people.’

Tom Hiddleston plays Coriolanus, and he is one fine actor.  Having already seen him as Loki in ‘Thor’ and ‘The Avengers’, and as Henry V in ‘The Hollow Crown’, I knew we’d be in for a treat.  The staging was very minimalist, and the cast numbered only 13, with about 5 actors playing multiple, lesser roles; it didn’t get confusing though.

The play portrays perfectly the idea that a successful soldier, loved by the people for his victories, will not automatically be a good politician, especially if he loathes the people.  Caius Martius – who is given the epithet ‘Coriolanus’ after, almost single-handedly, defeating the city of Corioles – is an extremely charismatic general, but also a proud and odious man, open in his dislike of the common people.  He’s pushed into running for Senate by his domineering mother.

The unfolding events made for great viewing; the fight scenes were believable; the pain of battle-wounds, most convincing.  The strong emotions portrayed by Hiddleston, and especially, Deborah Findlay (as his mother, Volumnia), and Hadley Fraser (as Coriolanus’ adversary, Aufidius) added to, in my opinion, an already fantastic production.  And the ending is so powerful, it left me wide-eyed in shock!

I was pleased, and Liam was too, that he enjoyed it, and happy that he didn’t get ‘lost’ with the Shakespeare dialogue; from a drama point-of-view, he found the staging and production very interesting.

The museum we went to is in Bournemouth – the Russell-Cotes, also called East Cliff Hall, which was the home of Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes.  Building work was started in 1897 and it was completed in 1901, after which Sir Merton presented it to his wife as a birthday gift!  As it was the year Queen Victoria died, it makes the house one of the last Victorian buildings that was built.  Not short of money, the couple, like many wealthy Victorians, travelled the world, collecting artefacts, which they displayed in the house.

Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes

The couple generously gave the house and their extensive collection of art to the people of Bournemouth.  They continued to live in the house even after it was opened to the public in 1909, until Lady Russell-Cotes’ death in 1920, and Sir Merton’s in 1921.

Embarrassingly, I’ve lived in Bournemouth many years but I’d never visited the museum!  In a way, I’m glad I waited this long and didn’t take the boys when they were younger; at the ages they are now, they not only appreciated the art inside, they were also really taken with the building itself and the interior furnishings.

Unfortunately, picture-taking is not allowed, but the website has pictures and descriptions of the layout of each room.  It was starting to rain so I took some quick shots outside …

The old entrance, no longer used

On the wall by the old entrance

The front of the house (the entrance is around on the left)

Garden path

The interior is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, it really has to be seen to get the full experience.  Sir Merton wrote: “I made up my mind to construct it architecturally to combine the Renaissance with Italian and old Scottish baronial styles …” The house ‘reflects Moorish, Japanese and French decorative styles alongside contemporary Victorian design.  The interiors provide a context for their extensive collections of artefacts, furnishings, sculpture and paintings.’

The best moment for me – I did not realise that Sir Merton used to visit Edwin Long; there are original Long paintings displayed there!!  I walked into the first gallery past the main hall and my mind almost exploded at the sight of 3 huge, almost floor-to-ceiling paintings by Long!  I had to carry on into the second gallery … deep breaths, regroup then slowly walk back in to just stand, awe-struck!  There are other Long paintings there as well but the 3 that demanded my attention, I’d never seen before … ‘Jephthah’s Vow’, based on an Old Testament story – in return for a peaceful settlement in the Israelites war against the Ammonites, Jephthah vows to give to the Lord, as a burnt offering, the first thing that comes out of his house when he returns.  Unfortunately, that ‘thing’ turned out to be his daughter, his only child.  She agrees to help him fulfil his vow, but first goes into the wilderness to prepare herself; on her return, she is sacrificed.

'Jephthah's Vow - The Return'

'The Wilderness'

'The Martyr'

By the time we went up to the first floor, we were starting to suffer from art-overload!  There are even more paintings … each room leads into another room, jam-packed with all kinds of pieces … We had a quick look around and decided we’ll go back for another visit … and another visit after that … I can see myself popping in there regularly just to gaze at the Long paintings…

By the time we left, the rain had eased off and we walked back through the gardens.  I took a few more pictures – different view for me as I’ve never taken pictures leading away from the pier from that angle before.

Bournemouth pier

Left of the pier

Never seen the pier approach so empty!  In the summer, you can't see it for people.

Upper end of Bournemouth Gardens

Resident duck couple