To celebrate the end of a great year for culture, both in the UK and abroad, we’ve decided to share some of our personal highlights. For this entry, our final entry, we turn our gaze to theatre, film and exhibitions.
This year the Kiln Theatre reopened after it’s c.£7m two-year refurbishment – formerly known as the Tricycle Theatre (pictured above). A local venue to a few of us at BOP, its new look and its new business model (as a solely producing house) was much anticipated. The re-opening in September proved that they had got the building resoundingly right. It has kept the intimacy and uniqueness of the old studio space while opening it up to make it roomier, comfier and with better sight lines. The foyer and facilities have also been considerably yet sensitively enhanced. The first two plays – Alexis Zegerman’s sharp social comedy Holy Sh!t and an exuberant adaptation with songs of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth – bode well for its artistic future; making work that speaks to modern, diverse Britain, while being rooted in the particular community of Kilburn.
Other shows we enjoyed included KIT Theatre’s Digital Ghost Hunt at Battersea Arts Centre, a partnership with King’s Digital Lab. It was an Adventure in Learning; immersive theatre for and by young people. It was thrilling. Papers were blown away by fans revealing clues, digital devices pointed to a ghost appearing across a courtyard, helping unmask a murderer. Attending along with the young people of Shaftesbury Primary School, they were totally engaged. This is the future of education.
A final mention went to Fun House. A play adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, this was based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir about her memories of her 1970s childhood in a funeral home, merged with her college love life and her coming out. With scenes told in parallel time, Fun Home told of Alison’s discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life.
2018 was a great year for British and foreign film. These were our highlights.
First, Loveless, a film that explores the transactional and emotionless state of contemporary Russian relationships. In turn, the movie traces how the nature of those relationships is determined by poisonous politics, and the knock-on effect that has on families, the environment and children born with hope.
Next, BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee’s latest film. Although set in the 1970s, it speaks directly to the racial and political challenges America is facing today. Both entertaining and at times comedic, the film is graced with stellar performances by John David Washington and Adam Driver.
The Square is a satire from Sweden which firmly nails its targets to the wall. The movie collected the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year for its acerbic depiction of the contemporary visual art world, and its interaction with philanthropy, marketing and social media. Not to everyone’s taste, but we found it by turns very funny and uncomfortable.
We also enjoyed Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, a documentary about the life of film composer and Japanese pop icon Ryuichi Sakamoto. The film is a quiet and beautiful portrait of his life and his activism work in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It’s also a cinematic love letter to Japan; beautiful, calming and inspiring. Also set in Japan, the delightful scripted film Shoplifters will surely be a leading contender in the Best Foreign Film Oscars race. The film follows an unconventional group of individuals navigating living in poverty in Tokyo. The film has tremendous heart and challenges our societal assumptions of what a family is and can be.
Finally, the epic Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, features a stunning performance from Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury and the whole band are cast impeccably. While it’s had mixed reviews, the Live Aid performance is so good you feel like you were there.
Terracotta Warriors at World Museum Liverpool World Museum Liverpool was a blockbuster exhibition that truly lived-up to the billing. Much more than just the seven warriors that travelled to Liverpool, this was a show in every sense of the word. It made stunning use of immersive content and AV installations (all made by Liverpool companies) to provide the narrative arc to a dramatic story of empires, innovation and the fearsome determination of an Emperor to transform and modernise his realm.
Elsewhere, we loved the Team Lab exhibition at Helsinki’s newest gallery Amos Rex. It was beautifully worked to make the most of the spaces and to engage visitors who were encouraged to contribute their own creations to the digital landscape.
As with the Kiln Theatre, BOP client Kettle’s Yard has also been through a building transformation. All of the old nostalgia of the place has been retained while the re-opening has added new gallery spaces, a lovely café and shop and new learning facilities.
One of two ‘Best ofs’ for the National Trust this year, We Are Bess was an exhibition at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. It was an exciting, stunning exhibition that hung portraits of inspiring women from the present alongside pictures of women from the property’s collection of Elizabethan artworks. It imaginatively brought to life the stories of women and power across the centuries and gave a palpable sense of meaning to the property.
The Machines are Not Alone at Chronus Art Centre, Shanghai’s leading gallery for tech and media-based art, confronted the fourth industrial revolution head-on. Machines will determine if we survive the impending ecological apocalypse; they can already determine who we love and how we vote. Our relationship with these machines will also determine our health and mortality. This exhibition focused on the deepening relationship we have with machines, to exciting and disturbing effect.