It was marvellous to experience this current Greenwich exhibition, entirely dedicated to Turner’s lifelong fascination with the sea. In 1796, aged just twenty-one, Turner exhibited ‘Fishermen at Sea’ at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition - the first of many marine paintings he produced throughout his fairly long life. I suppose the sea as a subject is not altogether surprising for someone of our island race, where it’s never possible to be more than seventy miles from a coastline. Incidentally, the majority of Turner’s sea paintings were concentrated in the earlier and later years of his life.
On the same day, we managed to get across to the Finborough Theatre, Earls Court to see an excellent musical adaptation of Therese Raquin. The novel is of course by Emile Zola, a book which I’m sorry to say I’ve not (yet) read. I mentioned that we were planning to see this production to a friend who is not only very well-read but also a great aficionado of musical theatre. However, I couldn’t persuade him to come along with us, his email back read, “Oooh, I read the novel at university, it’s an awfully dark subject for a musical ...” My wife, Judith, who has also read the book, was equally quite intrigued at the prospect of seeing it staged in this way.
The show, I am pleased to say, exceeded expectations. We were totally drawn in and captivated by the action. The production design managed to conjure up the grim claustrophobic environment where these lower middle-class Parisians act out their sad drama of betrayal, repressed sexual passions, murder and hellish despair. It’s hardly any great surprise that Zola’s novel was considered scandalous in its day - it is still immensely powerful stuff!
The main roles are fully inhabited by Julie Atherton, Tara Hugo, Jeremy Legat and Ben Lewis. The singing, by a surprisingly large ensemble cast for such a tiny venue, is excellent. I imagine the ease with which the drama appears to unfold before its audience, only goes to demonstrate the skill of its performers. I am no singer myself but I know enough to understand how technically demanding performing this work has to be. The musical score is composed by Craig Adams with book, lyrics and direction by Nona Sheppard. It seems a shame that such a powerful production, due to close shortly when it comes to the end of its allotted run, can’t be re-mounted in a bigger venue for a larger audience to appreciate what is a wholly impressive piece of work from everyone concerned.