Friday, 13 June 2014

Remembering World War I Artistically

Hello, yes I know, where have I been? All sorts of places, doing all sorts of things including learning how to successfully commute along the towpath without falling in the canal! One of the great things about living in London is that there is always something new and interesting to look at. This week I consider 2 of the ways WWI is being commemorated here in London.

War Horse - New London Theatre

This amazing stage play started life as Michael Morpurgo's children's book of the same name. Young Albert Narracott is born at the turn of the century on a farm he has a passion for horses but not a lot of money . He is astounded when his father, buys a thorough-bred colt at a show and decides he will ride and train it. even when that means subjugating this athletic horse to plough work. The show follows this close relationship from the farm to the war-fields of WWI. 

The play features all that I have come to expect from the National Theatre, revolving stages, lovely A/V, and a talented cast. For a show that is primarily about a boy and his horse, you may be surprised to hear that the show doesn't actually feature any live horses but puppets. The puppeteers are seriously talented at copying the attitudes of horses and making hydraulics, bamboo canes and reins come alive in this way complete with neighs and braying. 

By the interval I was in tears. Such was the success of the puppeteers in producing something so believable. Credit ought also be given to the young Jack Loxton who plays Albert. If you are under 25 you can see this show for £15, do it!

British Museum

As far as museums go the penchant for acquiring foreign objects is second to none at the British Museum.  So it should come as no surprise that the British Museum has a fair quantity of German WWI artefacts. The BM have got a whole year of memorialisation coming up; but exhibiting artefacts so closely linked to ethnic identity, at a museum where the nation is mentioned in the name is not without its difficulties! Anyway, what should you see?

Hidden away, just off the Citi Group sponsored room about money is the numismatist and medals department. It is hidden in a squat little metallic box far more akin to space than the BM’s typical spaces. But on display here they have a selection of German WWI medals. Unlike British medals made in their hundreds by the state to high quality, German medals are more like small artisan artefacts reflecting the heart of a nation. Amongst the medals death often features leading the both sides of the war in a merry dance of death, Japan and America are depicted as the real winners, and the controversial stockade of German ports after WWI by the allies is also shown. The medal series are a unique way to depict the German perspective – the exhibition is free to visit, take a look!

Whilst you’re at the BM go and look at the series of prints, ‘Germany Divided: Baselitz and his generation’. I ought to warn you early on that this exhibition is not for the faint-hearted; these are the drawings of men who grew up in post-WW2 East Germany, they knew the horrors of war and held out little hope for their nation; this is reflected in their work.

Like I say this is not the last we will hear of the BM and WWI. Keep your eyes peeled for an exhibition in the Autumn.

See you soon, perhaps for Shakespeare!