By Richard Fitzwilliams
BADA 2018 DUKE OF YORK’S SQUARE
This exhibition marked the centenary of this world-famous art and antiques fair which featured displays in over 100 stalls. Its Charity Partner was Children in Crisis which provides education, care, support and protection for children in areas affected by conflict.
The decorations this year were a departure from the norm, multicoloured plastic panels in the shape of fountains were installed at intervals where seating was provided and specially designed stands showcased a variety of works from individual exhibitors in “contemporary living spaces”. However when celebrating a centenary I think sculptures, floral displays and real fountains would have made far more of an impact.
The stalls displayed examples of artefacts in pristine condition as they always have. Those in search of beauty invariably find something here to enrich their lives. I noticed a large number of exhibits which featured the natural world, especially birds, in paintings, engravings and in statuary such as the exquisite examples in the Laura Bordignon Stand. There were delightfully incongruous pairings, a pair of stone gargoyles from Beedham Antiques Ltd gazed across the aisle at a majestic Persian tribal rug from Gallery Yacou.
There was a huge variety of paintings and I was particularly struck by the number of portraits. If purchased, these would presumably be passed off as family but most seemed to me profoundly unflattering and not the sort of ancestors you would really want to advertise! With exceptions, such as Mirror Image by John Monks, a large and wonderfully colourful contemporary work created with a palette knife which dominated the Long & Ryle Stand, many of the paintings were somewhat underwhelming.
The champagne certainly flowed and the Taittinger Bar was much in demand. The preview was, as always, a popular event and yet was never overcrowded.
A large number of the objects, many of them priceless, have fascinating histories. To wander from stand to stand is like going on a journey through time while surveying some of the marvels which have been created with such skill. On the occasion of its centenary, BADA can proudly boast of a reputation for excellence which is internationally recognised and it is a magnet for admirers of fine craftsmanship.
MARY STUART DUKE OF YORK’S THEATRE
In the opening moments of this play Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson step towards each other at the front of the stage. A member of the cast spins a coin which decides which of them will play Elizabeth and who will play Mary. It is an electrifying moment and marvellous theatre.
Friedrich Schiller’s play, disastrously staged at the National 20 years ago, depicts the power struggles of the period, the rivalries between courtiers and the clash of wills between its protagonists. Mary, though imprisoned by Elizabeth in Fotheringay Castle after she fled from Scotland and sought refuge in England, is the freer spirit. An angst-ridden Elizabeth is confronted with how to cope with her and also how to be rid of her as she is the focus of Catholic plots to assassinate her.
Juliet Stevenson captures Elizabeth’s changing moods, her caprices, her vanity, her ruthlessness and how the challenges she faces affect her. It is a fine, commanding performance. As the play’s eponymous heroine Lia Williams has charm, an openness and a sincerity which is deeply moving but there is torment too as nemesis moves ever closer. The play is at its best when either or both are on stage. Their fictional meeting is its high point and is a riveting confrontation.
The sparse but claustrophobic setting is ideal for its mood and the characters, often pacing around it, seem confined beneath it. The play runs for over three hours and should have been shorter. The supporting cast are mainly well chosen. Elliot Levey’s Burleigh is perfection as Elizabeth’s ruthless functionary. Michael Byrne as Elizabeth’s faithful Talbot uses his powerful voice to good effect. Carmen Munroe’s nurse conveys serenity amid the turmoil with conviction. However Rudi Dharmalingam’s Mortimer is miscast as he lacks the emotional range this pivotal part requires.
This was a tumultuous period where England was threatened by foreign powers and internal insurrection supported by the Pope. Among Elizabeth’s countermeasures were regicide using judicial murder. The plot has echoes in our own time when Britain also faces an uncertain future, this time outside of Europe. It ends with a crime which has blackened Elizabeth’s name ever since as she knew it would. This tense and dramatic play directed by Robert Icke in modern dress lays bare the dilemmas at the heart of one of history’s most famous royal rivalries.