The Suitor is on in Bristol at the Slapstick Festival
The Suitor is on in Bristol at the Slapstick Festival

January 2017

Christmas is over, the mornings are dark and the evenings darker and all seems gloomy as you realise how much heavier you were than just a few days ago. How you could murder all those Christmassy events and start again in November.
Speaking of murdering Christmas there’s a play during the rounds by New Old Friends. Crimes Against Christmas is a comic Agatha Christie type story where the guests at the county house keep getting bumped off to the theme of the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s on in Bath at the Theatre Royal from January 3-7.
Which brings us to death. Just months before his death in 1669 Rembrandt painted a self-portrait sporting a rather natty beret. He was 63 and had already painted a number of self-portraits charting the 17th century aging process – got covered in muck and became increasingly dark with all the grime and soot. In the late 1960s it was given a clean revealing Rembrant’s signature and instead of being rather dim in tone was really quite colourful. It can be seen at Bristol’s city art gallery.
Meanwhile the Cartoon Museum in London goes all Punch with an exhibition of some the best cartoons from the magazine’s history. Sometimes cruel, sometimes ultra conservative and sometimes offensive they were often timeless and extremely funny. One thing is always the case with these 19th century drawings: the draughtsmanship is excellent. And of course they open a window into some aspects of Victorian life. Pictures from Punch: A 175th Anniversary Exhibition – runs to January 22.
Also in London there’s an exhibition of Picasso’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. Rapscallion’s favourite art gallery is always worth a visit as it is free and contains such an eclectic collection of portraits both painted and photographed through the centuries.
Coming to the Roxy Cinema in Axbridge in January is the film A Bigger Splash. Billed as a darkly comic drama it’s set in Italy where a couple staying in Tuscany having a visit from a long lost friend. You know what’s coming – the past arrives to haunt the present with a certain amount of emotional fall-out.
It’s directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by Alain Page and David Kajganich, based on the film La Piscine and features Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson.
Speaking of relationships the Bristol Old Vic’s poetry nights has something of a battle over the vexed emotion ahead of St Valentine’s Day. Held once a month on a Sunday evening (although January gets missed out) Blahblahblah on February 13 features Love vs Cynicism. Two teams of wordsmiths go head to head to argue each side of the case. Expect soaring ballads, tenderness, pain, bitterness and hilarity from some of the best poets around.
One of Bristol’s great festivals arrives in time to cheer everyone up from the winter blues. Slapstick 2017 returns with film, performances and talks.
On Wednesday, January 20, there is Rediscovered and Restored featuring the talents of one of Europe’s finest silent film champions Serge Bromberg as he presents his latest collection of newly discovered and restored silent comedy shorts to open the Slapstick Festival.
Another interesting evening is on the following day when there is a screening of Bed and Sofa, a 1927 Russian film which somehow escaped the dead hand of the Stalinist censor with its focus on human relationships and disregard of state and party.
During the week there’s a talk by Lucy Porter about the fascinating life of Anita Loos – one of early Hollywood’s most talented and prolific screenwriters and there’s a screening of Charlie Chaplin in The Kid.
The shows mainly take place in the Colston Hall and include appearances by Bill Oddie, Ian Lavender and Robin Ince.
And another delight is the screening of the The Suitor or rather Le Soupirant in the original French title. It is a 1962 French comedy film directed by and starring Pierre Étaix and is almost silent throughout.
Stylish and beautifully shot it was Pierre Etaix’s tribute to Buster Keaton in which a young man is pressed into finding a girl friend by his parents in an amusingly droll story of  his bungling attempts at love. It’s all a bit Rapscallion in the way real life seems to turn into farce.
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