Last Saturday, we had one of our "culture" days in London. It was a satisfying 10/10 for the cultural experience but unfortunately more like 3/10 for the "hell is other people" experience, especially at the gig in the evening. I think my misanthropy is getting worse with age. I won't regret it when I've moved to a quiet green patch of Dorset.
More often than I'd like, I find myself standing in front of an artifact, vaguely distracted from my concentration (we always spend hours inside exhibitions, making sure we read, watch, look at everything and pick up every single crumb of information available), pondering people's attitudes. If you have paid a tenner - sometimes more - to see a show, why, oh why do you spend your time having conversations without any link to the exhibition, obstructing the way and preventing others to read and enjoy the exhibits? Can' you just let go of your blooming mobile phone for three seconds and concentrate? Do you really have to come with your babies/toddlers (who invariably start crying) and the whole nursery crammed into your huge buggies?
Although this time, most people had come to the exhibition to see the one coat - worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC's series Sherlock (yes, it's there, in the very last room, and it's very nice indeed). Most didn't stop to look at anything else and just wandered around, their empty eyes not registering anything not "Cumberbatchy" (new word).
I can be very modern for certain things, but I really do hate it when people mess up with well-known characters and try and bring them up to date with our modern society; this has become a frighteningly virulent illness among TV and other commissioned writers (even Anthony Horowitz's very own attempt at an authentic Sherlock story, The House of Silk, didn't ring right.)
From Jane Austen to James Bond or Agatha Christie stories, what makes the charm of a story and character is their setting, the way they relate and react to their time and environment. Trying to force in some elements to appeal to our modern sensibilities doesn't work at all and spoils the fun.
Sherlock Holmes is Victorian and will always be; this is one of his raison d'etre. He is a product of his time and this makes him all the more extraordinary and unique.
So I watched the few extracts of the new slick, designer trainers Sherlock, bemused. Not for me. This is not Sherlock. Give me Jeremy Brett any day - for he perfectly impersonated the great detective (just like Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry ARE Jeeves and Wooster!)
The exhibition itself is a triumph: the entrance is through a secret passage carved into bookshelves. Beyond you will find a real treasure trove of films and TV series extracts showing the multiple faces of Sherlock Holmes - the images created by the illustrator Sidney Paget for the original publication of the stories in The Strand have defined Sherlock's appearance ever since... A few beautiful original movie posters are exhibited; Conan Doyle's manuscripts are there too, as well as an array of Victorian era artefacts: scientific and forensic equipment, theatre props, weapons...
But it is the section dedicated to the central role played by Victorian London which thrilled us the most! Setting the scene for the detective's adventures, 19th Century London is beautifully evoked via fascinating maps, paintings, etchings and prints. We follow Sherlock's tracks through the mean streets (and railway lines) of the capital by foot, hansom and train.
I now want to go back to my "complete Sherlock Holmes" collection and re-read it all over again!
If you are really looking at an original and delectable new approach to Sherlock Holmes, I very much recommend Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series: after his retirement, Sherlock finds his match in the young, intellectual and intrepid American academic Mary Russell. They get married and embark (often rather reluctantly) on some exhilarating adventures. All the books in the series are fantastic and offer a fresh (but faithful) portrayal of Sherlock Holmes as a man of flesh and blood. It is very well written, bouncy, evocative and deliciously clever. It's a wonder why it hasn't been made into a high-budget TV series; it would be fabulous!
From one engrossing violinist to another...
I was so thrilled to see the absolutely wonderful Sieben again after his mind-blowing show at the Kaparte Oxjam 2014 last October. Unfortunately, I think something was wrong with the sound: we could barely hear Matt Howden's haunting violin.
Actually, we couldn't really hear anything at all (incoming: rant about the audience number 2).
Contrary to the perfect silence and respect given to Sieben in the autumn (see link to my blog above), the punters were incredibly badly behaved at The Garage and the noise coming from the back of the venue was beyond acceptable. It really spoilt it for us. What a lack of respect for the artist!
The set was also wayyyy too short, but it is always the case when you come first as support.
Oh well, I took home some more Sieben/Matt Howden goodies to help me wait for the next gig (listening to No Less Than All as I type).
Sherlock and Sieben have inspired me to turn one character in my next book The Right Place into a Sherlock Holmes-loving, violin-playing maverick who fills his empty manor house with plaintive melodies until late into the night. Let's see what I can do with it...
I had never seen Spiritual Front on stage but had seen their name around, and was therefore happy to finally get to attend one of their shows.
The Italians are "classified" as a neofolk band and have evolved into an incredibly sleek and elegant proposition which veers towards more "poppy" melodies (the band have been known to describe their music as "nihilist suicide pop").
Spiritual Front (fronted by the darkly charismatic Simone "Hellvis" Salvatore) is poetic, arty, decadent and sexually charged.
I know it's always a bit odd to quote oneself, but when I saw Daemonia Nymphe at The Lexington last year, I wrote the following on MY BLOG:
"Everyone should be proud of themselves: attentive and respectful of the silent/quiet bits in the sets, holding their breath at the end of each song before applauding enthusiastically. It was just a pleasure to be there."
Guess what: not so at The Garage.
Daemonia Nymphe are not only a band but a whole performance troupe who relies heavily on atmosphere and ambience. Everything is precise and carefully crafted and tuned. The start of the set had already been delayed because of technical issues (a pesky lead didn't want to work properly) - a far cry from the Fantastical Ancient Greek world they summon up during their performances. They didn't need the venue to be filled with chatterboxes who just carried on with their conversations, totally oblivious to the artists on stage.
People just didn't shut up; the swarming sound of conversations rose and rose and infected the magic. A real shame, because seeing Daemonia Nymphe on stage is a unique experience.
Read my more detailed review of their show last February at The Lexington HERE.
I think therefore I write.
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