Back to life. Back to reality.. 6 January 2014

How binging on TV during the holidays has reinvigorated my need for live cultural experiences. 

After two weeks of box sets, Netflix and a lot of  properly horrible weather, we sat down to plan some cultural activities for the first quarter of 2014. Whilst it's true to say that television is enjoying a boom period, so too has our ability to control our viewing habits reached a peak, leaving us excuse-less as far as taking advantage of London’s cultural landscape goes. And although keeping weekends culture-free has been a long held tradition in our household, and country walks and cooking considered no less important for the soul and no less impactful on the grey matter, weekdays segue from working for culture to consuming it, in its various forms, more often than not.

As a return to the bright lights of the big city looms, we are reminded of how lucky we are to have such a (sometimes overwhelming) amount of choice as to how we spend any spare time we may have between working and sleeping. So what's on our January - March list?

Piña Bausch at Sadler's Wells tops the dance list which also includes Wayne McGregor’s The Art of Fuguefor the Royal Ballet and feral Australian (not dance really..) company Circa returning to the Barbican.

Music - aside from new albums from Warpaint, St Vincent, Beck and Bruce Springsteen - is classical (concerts-wise) so far, with a Chamber Classics season at Kings Place, The Sixteen performing Handel’s Jeptha at the Barbican, ETO’s Paul Bunyan at the Linbury and the San Francisco Symphony on the Southbank plus the annual operatic trip to the Royal Albert Hall (possibly my favourite London venue) forLa Boheme. Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton and Beyoncé would be on the list were they not playing arenas....

Theatre tickets that are so hot to handle that I have not managed to procure them yet (though actually trying is my next move) include Simon Russell Beale’s Lear and The Duchess of Malfi opening the Sam Wanamaker Theatre. I hope to have better luck at a second attempt to see The Weir in its transfer and the return of Red Velvet to the Tricycle. In this year of the First World War centenary, my own engagement in its cultural programme will begin with Oh What A Lovely War at Stratford East and I'm already all booked for Blurred Lines at the Shed, having vowed to see everything Carrie Cracknell does from now on. Also booked is The Mistress Contract at the Royal Court along with an irresistible trio of Beckett's Not I, Rockaby and Footfalls.

Exhibitions include Turner and the Sea at the Maritime Museum, Jeremy Deller at the William Morris Gallery and Martin Creed’s Hayward show.

Funny then, or maybe not, that despite gorging on big movies and big budget TV series this past fortnight, the highest quotient of cultural must-sees in the first quarter actually goes to films. I didn't go to the cinema much in 2013, and yet in the next three months I absolutely have to see American Hustle,The Wolf of Wall Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nymphomaniac  (though this is one that might be small screen friendlier), Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin and Aronofsky's Noah (I am so ready for a Biblical epic right now) and finally the one I'm most excited about, Spike Jonze’sHer (2014 is Scarlett Johansson’s year it would seem).

I know the live event list will grow. I also know that TV will have its place. I have yet to see Game of Thrones season 3 and I will definitely give season 2 of Orange is the New Black and (the US version of)House of Cards a go. And in the wake of getting to the end of Breaking Bad by leaving my sister’s Boxing Day dinner a little earlier than I ought to have, I know that the entire box set of The Sopranos (a show I have probably seen a total of 20 episodes of in almost as many years, it seems) is waiting for me. And I am ready for it.

And books? Don't get me started....

Clair Chamberlain


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