Reflecting on 2021: Culture
As we have slowly emerged out of strict COVID-19 restrictions following many extended lockdowns last year, it probably comes as no surprise that I have taken the opportunity to explore as many cultural gems in and around my university city of London.
As well as taking many a trip to the theatre, one of my most favourite pastimes, I have also found great enjoyment in visiting exhibitions this year, some of which you will read about below. I have also included some podcasts I have discovered and loved this year at the end of the blog too.
The Last Five Years
The Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London
This unique musical follows the five-year relationship between Jamie, a novelist, and Cathy, an actress. The narrative is split between two timelines, so that we follow Jamie's story chronologically, whilst Cathy's unfolds in reverse; they meet in the same temporal sphere only once, on their wedding day. The way the narrative unfolds means we intuit the end of their narrative from the opening, and the dynamics evoked through their respective songs means the musical is a rollercoaster of emotions. The music is exceptional, the 2021 production was in very safe hands with the talented Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson as Cathy and Jamie respectively, and it was simply a joy to behold. A true wonder of a musical that I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did.
Gillian Lynne Theatre, Drury Lane, London
This new musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber is captivatingly brilliant. Starring the wonderful Carrie Hope Fletcher as Cinderella, with lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, the beloved classic fairytale you know so well is given a new lease of life in this musical adaptation. It's funny and lighthearted, but also poignant in its discussions of embracing your individuality and accepting others for who they are. Although there were moments when the plot felt slightly fractured and rushed, it is a very enjoyable musical with a wonderful musical score. And, the way the stage is used during the performance is brilliantly innovative, but you'll have to watch it for yourself to find out more.
Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London
This exquisite adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's timeless novel is magical. The musical follows Jo March, a feisty aspiring writer who lives with her three sisters and mother, and this adaptation is truly beautiful, from the classic costumes to the clever use of the theatrical set. Every member of the cast performed phenomenally, and Jason Howland's spectacular score brought the show to life. A fantastic watch ahead of Christmas, but just as worthy of a visit following the festive period. And, I also adore the Park Theatre, it's cosy and vibrant and an excellent venue for this exceptional musical.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57 Exhibition
The Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Natural History Museum’s exhibition of this incredible annual competition, where photographers around the world submit their fantastic nature and wildlife photography. The Exhibition is on until 5 June 2022 at the Museum, and I would highly recommend you visit. Check out all my thoughts about the Exhibition here.
Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It
The Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London
I quickly returned to the Natural History Museum to check out the Our Broken Planet Exhibition, which showcases the debate surrounding climate change, wildlife conservation and protecting our natural world. From lowering wheat's dependency on water and chemicals to reduce our carbon footprint to microplastics in the River Thames, consumer culture and the cost of fast fashion to the threatening impact of coffee, the Exhibition covers the breadth and depth of scientific research that is contributing to our better understanding of the planet so that we can make informed choices about how to protect it. I particularly liked the interactive mediums used throughout the Exhibition, such as when we could listen to scientists talk through their research, the short films that detail key parts of this research, and the opportunities to share our thoughts at the end of the Exhibition by writing down our commitments for living a more sustainable life.
Never Have We Ever
As they enter the new world of parenthood, Chessie King and Mat Carter's podcast is a whirlwind of uncensored discussions about their first pregnancy. I first came across Chessie's YouTube videos a few years ago, before following her on Instagram and attending an event about positivity and cultivating positive thinking she hosted with her sister, Bronte, with EY. I practically binge-listened to this podcast. Chessie and Matt's energy is infectious, and their honest, open conversations about their experience of pregnancy with their first child Rae are intensely funny, whilst also provoking us to think about the more serious aspects of their journey. The episode with Charlie and George discussing their experience of multiple miscarriages was really insightful and moving.
How To Fail with Elizabeth Day
This is a podcast I have heard so much about, but only this year have delved into it for myself. And I am so glad I did. Changing the narrative on failure, every episode welcomes a new interviewee who shares three failures and what they have learnt from them. It's a brilliant concept, and it is delivered brilliantly too. Day normalises that failure is a reality, and alongside her guests helps us to reflect on and subsequently navigate our own failures. She encourages us to embrace them for what they are: lessons. I am looking forward to listening to more episodes next year, especially those with Lemn Sissay, Vicky McClure, Dame Kelly Holmes, Tom Kerridge and Nadiya Hussain.