The first was The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett in the NT Live season. This was an encore performance - so not exactly 'live', as it had been recorded a few years back. And I am so glad we managed to see it. Anything written by Alan Bennett is always worth seeing in my book, and it was lovely to see the late Richard Griffiths in what must have been one of his last stage performances. He played the poet WH Auden in the latter years of his life and the play culminates in an imagined meeting between Auden and his estranged friend and former work collaborator Benjamen Britten (Alex Jennings). The play is very funny, yet touching at the same time. The structure Bennett has chosen for his play is fascinating, because he has set the piece in a rehearsal room. The real actors are portraying fictional actors in a rehearsal space, preparing to put on a play about an imaginary meeting between Auden and Britten. The stage manager, whose task it is to take charge of the 'run through' on the instruction of its absent director, is played with great warmth by Frances de la Tour. The play was directed by Nicholas Hytner and the supporting cast, many of whom are familiar faces in the NT repertory, were all very accomplished. All round a superbly crafted piece of theatre.
Our second visit to the Tunbridge Wells Odeon a few days later was to see Gravity. This has only just been released in the UK, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and has quite deservedly received nigh-on a hundred percent perfect notices from all its reviewers. I tweeted shortly after watching it that it is the first 3D movie I've seen that I actually really liked. I normally find the rigmarole of wearing the glasses and waiting for the next bit of 3D action to make me go 'Oooh' or 'Ahh' simply annoying (my wife has implied on occasion that I'm a 'grumpy old man'! To this I say - Hurumph!). However, I'd never seen a 3D movie before that totally engaged me from its opening to closing credits. Although I'm sure this movie would have done so in 2D too! Its stars are both excellent, particularly Bullock, who is on screen for about ninety percent of the picture. The dialogue is sparse and lean, the CGI effects are truly astounding, yet it's the human story (another thing in common with The Habit of Art!) unfolding before our very eyes that really commands the audience's attention. I can't imagine Sandra Bullock not receiving an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for this, and it may well prove a fruitless year for any other film actress about to put in a career best performance. It was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who I suspect will be up for an Oscar as well. And I daresay the film will be nominated in several other categories too. This is definitely a movie worth seeing on a cinema screen as it is truly spectacular.
So all in all a week when any personal requirements for mental and visual stimulation were met most satisfactorily.