December 1, 2011


Keith Pattison: No Redemption

The miners' strike of 1984-85 tore apart many long-established communities. Keith Pattison was at Easington Colliery to photograph the events from behind the lines, charting the progression from the optimism prevalent in August through to the deepening pessimism of winter and the eventual vote to return to work. On Election Day 2010, he returned to Easington with David Peace, author of the Red Riding Quartet, to interview three people who were caught up in the strike and still remain bitter 25 years later. Pattison's immensely powerful images of women pleading with the police, desperate miners scrabbling for sea coal and shell-shocked people wearing Still Alive badges can be seen in the gallery at Northumbria University from 2 December to January.


Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Housed in a superb Arts and Crafts building in central Edinburgh since 1889, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery was the first purpose-built gallery of its kind in the world. It is scheduled to reopen today after extensive renovation by the Glasgow-based architects PagePark to return it to the original architect's vision and increase available space by more than 60 per cent. Much of the Victorian detail, long hidden behind ugly partition walls and false ceilings, is revealed, while the magnificent suite of five top-lit galleries on the upper floor is restored to its former splendour. The superb collection of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and photographs, charting the nation's history from Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie to Sean Connery and Ewan McGregor, is split into 17 sections, telling the fascinating stories behind the artists and sitters.


Orpheus in the Underworld

Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld (1858), probably the first operetta to draw on classical antiquity for its plot, is both a brilliant parody of earlier grand opera and a viciously funny satire on Parisian life under Napoleon III. Few audiences can resist some of the catchiest tunes ever written, culminating in the famous can-can, or the sequence of ever more ridiculous scenarios in which the characters get entangled. A dazzling new translation by Rory Bremner updates the events to a contemporary media-savvy, celebrity-obsessed London. Oliver Mears' endlessly inventive production continues at the Young Vic until 10 December.



Traumas can be personal or impersonal, physical or psychological, short-lived or long-lasting. This group exhibition at GV Art (2 December until 18 February) looks at manifestations of trauma both natural and man-made, on scales ranging from the micro-molecular to the global environmental. Luke Jerram, for example, uses delicate glass sculptures to underscore the fragility of the human body when faced with viral infection. Rachel Gadsden reveals the invisible world of those living with HIV/Aids in South Africa, drawing on her own disability to create a direct emotional connection. For Anais Tondeur, meanwhile, the botanical mutations in the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl offer a resonant microcosm for the wider implications of man-made disaster.


...think only this of me...

If we knew we were to die shortly, what would we want to communicate, and to whom? And how do we piece together fragments of our past, memories of what we've done and the testimonies of others to make sense of our lives and find a path towards a meaningful future? Those crucial questions are at the heart of Olivier Blanc's Last Letters, which brings together correspondences written during the French Revolution by men and women facing imminent death. They also inform this specially devised piece of multi-disciplinary theatre inspired by it. Christian Burgess, director of drama at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, has joined forces with director of composition Julian Philips to create it with 31 drama students and musicians. It can be seen at the Silk Street Theatre from 2 to 7 December (matinees on 5 and 7 December).

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