Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sobering Up

This subtle but arresting image came just before Christmas from my friends Keran James and Michael Keenan who run the Studio 1.1 Gallery in London's Redchurch Street.  After a bitter year for so many people, I thought it was very appropriate.  It has an even more elegiac quality when you know that this is the site of the Battle of the Somme which took place during the First World War between 1 July and 18 November 1916. One of the most traumatic military operations ever recorded, there were more than one and half million casualties. 

Saturday, 19 December 2009

That Time of Year

With apologies to Madame Yevonde for messing up her photograph

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Heroic and The Unheroic

London's Imperial War Museum

I was lucky enough to attend The Sun newspaper’s Military  Awards, affectionately known as The Millies at the Imperial War Museum on Tuesday.  You could describe it as a mini Oscars ceremony for the heroes of our armed forces on active service, except that every one of the recipients who had put his or her life on the line neither wept nor postured on the podium. They all spoke articulately with impressive modesty and it was, if my smudged mascara was anything to go by, terribly moving. 

Princes William and Harry presented awards and showed they had inherited  the natural compassion of their mother, Diana, and the good humour of their father, Prince Charles.  There was an affecting moment when a bereaved mother laid her head on Harry’s chest and he responded by putting his head down towards hers and his arm round her shoulder.  Nothing fake about that.

You can read more about it all on The Sun's website here.

But it was not a mawkish occasion at all.  A host of famous actors, comedians, and icons of popular culture added glamour to the presence of men and women in uniform and there was a real buzz of excitement.  I myself had a teenage moment on being introduced to Alexander Armstrong of Brit comedy duo Armstrong & Miller. 

That man is so gorgeous, so amusing.  It’s lucky he hadn’t changed into his Royal Airforce uniform to do one of their signature sketches (World War II pilots speaking chippy street slang and claiming their human rights in the face of the enemy) or I might have not have been answerable for my actions.

At our table I sat next to a really charming man, Michael Ball, heart-throb singer and actor who has just finished starring in Hairspray.  I warmed to him instantly when he confessed to leading a mutiny in his school cadet force, which took the form of firing blanks at their commanding officer.  Not clever, not heroic, not funny.  Except it was, very.


 I hope my pals abroad will enjoy being introduced to Armstrong & Miller in one of their most famous sketches.  You can find more of this perfect juxtaposition of the heroic and the absurd on You Tube.

Images from top: http://www.london-se1.co.uk, http://www.digital-tv.co.uk, http://www.onenationmagazine.com, http://upload.wikimedia.org

Sister Act

I dedicate this to my three lovely older sisters. I saw White Christmas as a child and wanted this costume so badly.

That gorgeous night club  in full. This is also dedicated to Toby Worthington who reminded me of Rosemary Clooney's torch song 'Love, you didn't do right by me' and Stefan of Architect Design who just loves Rosemary Clooney . It's also for everyone who laments the fact that these divine, sophisticated nighteries no longer exist.

Monday, 14 December 2009


Continuing my fantasy horsey theme, I go from War to Merry-go-Round.   Anything to relieve the look of Christmas ..

Whoops, this beauty comes from the film White Christmas

And I played around with the image on photoshop

© Rosie West

I love this restaurant and the diamond window panes, but I can't remember where I found it.  

Greedy collector Jean-Paul Flavand from Paris seems to have cornered the market here!
From: Obsessions by Stephen Calloway, pubd. Mitchell Beazley 2004

Thursday, 10 December 2009

War Horse

I have just been to see War Horse at the New London Theatre in Drury Lane.  Adapted from a story by Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo, it is set at the outbreak of World War I in a Devon village.  A chap who's had a few too many ales buys a colt at an auction and his son forms a deep attachment to Joey as he grows into a fine hunter. Unfortunately the wretched father sells the horse to the Army and the young lad must follow him to the battle front in the hope of  being reunited with his beloved equine friend.   It is a poignant story and the staging is impressive in its minimalism, the use of projection, lighting effects and alarming sound.  But undoubtedly the stars of this production are the horses.  

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How Not To Handle Handel

 I was excited when an old friend got three tickets to English National Opera’s The Messiah at the Coliseum on Friday.  Then I saw a review in The Guardian and a nice big picture of the chorus in an assortment of high-street clothing hugging each other during the Hallelujah Chorus.  I searched around for a blindfold to put in my handbag.  D. had not entirely clocked the fact that this was über-cool Deborah Warner’s production, the first  major attempt to stage Handel’s majestic oratorio.

I sensed her excitement mount with the plaintiff notes of the orchestra tuning up. Those notes resolved themselves into a glorious baroque sound and a gauzy curtain lifted on a sea of light. Curiously, this resolved itself into London traffic  at night  projected on the black marble floor.  Then a beautiful grid of suspended golden lilies slowly rose and a scene was assembled:  a hotel bed in one sector, a line of chairs at the back (the dole queue?) and some benches Stage Right which I interpreted as church pews. Oh, and a computer console beyond but I didn’t have much of a theory for that.  What a ghastly mess.  On strolled the chorus, like a crowd of weekend travellers at Paddington Station.   Catherine Wynn-Jones, the sublime mezzo soprano dressed as a Building Society clerk sat on the bed, why?  Now a little kid ( the future of mankind? search me) runs around, jumping over benches and playing on the computer.  Then a maid comes on and strips the bed, extravagantly folding sheets and duvet. (Off you go - now! - back into the wings. Some of us want to concentrate on the chorus.)

There was some choreography too. I actually loved the girl in the blue hoodie expressing her joy at The Annunciation. (The one with her jeans tucked into a pair of tan leather boots and the grey cardi was the angel.) Then again, the idea of the crucifixion was given power by some brutal contact improvisation amongst the symbolic golden props. A tricky one, that. (Our friend Andrew noted that Deborah Warner always has a ladder in it somewhere.)

I don’t mind experimental theatre but this was a fatuous conceit, attempting to make it the ‘outreach’ Messiah  using lame 21st century metaphor.   By the second interval and an infantile nativity scene (mothers snapping their darlings on camera phones awwww) the seats were mysteriously emptying.

  The woman next to me was thinking of getting back to Leicester early but I suggested it would be a shame to miss ‘I know that My Redeemer Liveth’, one of Handel’s most poignant arias. Imagine how I couldn’t look at her when it was delivered from a hospital bed with the soprano getting a blanket bath into the bargain.  I have never laughed in the Messiah before.  Then the nurses pulled the sheet up over her head and I felt a bit bad.  But, really, I could have wept for the whole cast.

D.  may have been embarrassed at first but we retrieved George Fredrich Handel from this tragic contextualisation, thanks to the astounding orchestra and the electric singing.  Then we tried to ponder the notion of the Sacred and the Profane.. A bucket of champagne did help it all go down.

Images: George Fredrich Handel by Mercier ca 1720 here;  The E N O  Messiah  photo: Tristram Kenton The Guardian;  Fra Angelico: The Annunciation 1438-45; Piero della Francesca Nativity c 1470

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

My Hobby Horse

Thanks to my  partner-in-crime in the Blog 'hood  Little Augury for featuring my horsewomen (here). She makes me sound a lot grander than I happen to be but then I did admit to wearing a tiara once.  Live by the sword, blush by the sword, I suppose.   

I shouldn't omit those whip-crack-away rodeo girls.  Love them.

Images © Rosie West

Washing Up and Stuff

A woman is washing up and clearing away the dishes after Sunday lunch.  She's going on about her marriage and her thwarted ambitions.  Is that all there is to her life?

A short but disturbing film  'Washing Up'  was made by my eldest son Will West.  It stars the wonderful Pam Miles who happens to be married to distinguished British actor Tim Pigott-Smith. Their son, Tom,  composed the score. So rather a family affair.  Oh , and it was my debut as an art director!  

 It lasts six minutes. 

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