Monday, 26 March 2012

Going Dark

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Young Vic
When: 6-24 March

Darkness is key to this play and when you enter the theatre your eyes won't adjust quickly enough to allow you to find your seat without the help of an usher - though it's surprising how quickly your eyes adjust so that you can see the rest of the audience.  The darkness is permanent and an integral part of the story.

The plot revolves around one man and how his relationship with his son and his career as an astrophysics lecturer start to fall apart as he slowly loses his eyesight.

The sole actor does an excellent job of switching from a single parent to telling us all about the universe - I felt like I was back at university. His son is a disembodied voice that moves around the theatre and in the inky blackness, it's as if he's actually there.

The actor does an excellent job at conveying the full range of emotions, with the aid of two simple-looking yet inventive props. The friend sitting next to me (who happens to be a doctor) confirmed that the play does an effective job of acting out the symptoms of going blind - including the visual hallucinations.

This is a short but well acted and engrossing story.  And a bargain at £15 - go see it.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Verdict: Give it a miss
Where: Gazelli Art House, Mayfair
When: 15 March - 19 April
Mayfair isn’t lacking in art galleries but Gazelli Art House are going to try to carve a niche by opening their first permanent home there. Their launch exhibition is named after the Sanskrit word for enlightenment but is full of conceptual art that is more likely to confuse than enlighten.

If you like pieces that sit on the fringes of the definition of art, then you may enjoy debating whether a 500lb bar of soap and a painted cup cast in bronze are works of art.

There are a few things that catch the eye, such as the giant steel man who’s curled up in a defensive posture begging the question of what he has to fear; but such cleverness is in short supply.

It’s a bold move to open the gallery with a show that is guaranteed to divide opinions. As the exhibition has a spiritual title, it’s disappointing that it feels somewhat cold and doesn’t draw the viewer in.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Hubble 3D

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Science Museum
When: Runs until May 11

Hubble 3D is a documentary that looks at what the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us and the work that goes into making this possible.

Word of warning, NASA was heavily involved in this film so there is a lot of slef-promotion here, but it’s a worthy trade-off for getting such intimate access to the astronauts in there preparation and carrying out of a mission to repair Hubble.

The 3D shots of spacewalks and as the camera pans through the stars at millions of mile per hour are immersive and breathtaking. One criticism was there weren’t enough of these scenes as they were the best part.

It’s clear that no expense has been spared as the graphics and 3D effects are brilliant and Leonardo DiCaprio provides the voiceover.

One final criticism is that £10 is a hefty amount to pay for a 50 minute documentary. This may put people off but it’s clear that a lot of money was spent in making this film and so it’s a justified cost.

Hidden Heroes

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Science Museum
When: 9 November 20115 June 2012

This exhibition looks at the everyday items we take for granted and the interesting stories about how they cam to be such an integral part of our lives.

The best stories are the failed experiments such as the attempt at a super-strong adhesive that was too weak and so resulted in the post-it note, or storing tea in a container that proved not to be waterproof and became the tea bag.

It’s easy to take such minor objects such as paperclips and clothes pegs for granted and this exhibit is all about making sure we’re aware of how they came into being and thus making us appreciate them more.  Some stories sound too good to be true - a man turning up to work and finding no spare hangars, fashions one out of metal wire and the wire hangar is born!

Some people may be put off by the fact that there’s an entrance charge for a relatively small exhibition, but it’s full of fascinating information and is sure to come in handy at a pub quiz one day.

Designs of the Year 2012

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Design Museum, Bermondsey
When: 8 February – 4 July 2012

Designs can be pragmatic or artistic, simple or complex, modifications or innovations. So which one deserves to be crowned the design of the year?

The Design Museum has an exhibition of the shortlisted candidates and they range from the household to the world of fashion and through to technology.

Despite all the weird and wonderful inventions on display last year, the winner was a light bulb so it's no surprise to find light fixtures aplenty this year though the spinning light sculpture definitely stands out.

There are plenty of simple but useful items such as the school desk that can protect children from collapsing ceilings during earthquakes. The best designs are often those that make you wonder why it hasn't been done before – such as the new ambulance designed for ease of use that should make treating patients a lot easier.

Included are plenty of mass appeal designs such as the Xbox Kinect and the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress – just a patch of material, not the whole thing.

The overall winner will be decided in April, and judging by past winners, it could be any of the contenders.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Gilbert & George: London Pictures

Verdict: Give it a miss
Where: White Cube galleries (Mayfair, Hoxton and Bermondsey)
When: 9 March – 12 May 2012

Gilbert and George are a modern art duo famed for their works that all feature them in it.

In this exhibition they've turned their attention to London newspaper headlines – specifically those of the Evening Standard, with focus on the key words that keep appearing within the headlines.

It will come as no surprise that in today's sensationalist media words such as 'kill', 'drugs' and 'gangs' are prevalent. These headlines are displayed on floor to ceiling artworks with the key word in red and all others in black and white. This does a great job of bringing out the message of the piece that there's no news like bad news and that London has it in spades.

What lets the pieces down is the images of the artists in the background, yes this is their trademark but this self-absorption detracts from the message of the art.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Natural History Museum
When: 21 October 2011 - 11 March 2012

Every year the Natural History Museum displays the winners and finalists of the various categories for wildlife photographer of the year, and every year without fail it will blow you away.

There must be close to a hundred photographs on display and each one of them is both beautiful and most of them are technically brilliant as well.

There are a large number of categories and even the young photographers are very talented, though they all seem to be in possession of expensive cameras - no cameraphone shots here.

Nobody can walk away from this collection without remarking on several amazing photographs and many people will be tempted to buy the book of all the photos exhibited - a true sign of how great it is.