November 6th, 2009

Arturo Brachetti: Change

Tonight I went off to the Garrick Theatre, to see Arturo Brachetti perform Change, which I enjoyed.

Back in the 90s, when I watched Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (the Dean Cain series), there were a few different ways for Clark Kent to change clothes into Superman. One method involved him stepping into a room, closing the door, then immediately opening it again to come out in different clothes. That's basically what Brachetti does, as a "quick change artist", and it's very impressive: he'll be hidden from view for a very short space of time (sometimes less than a second), and change into a different outfit. There's a video on his website which shows a few examples.

In a way, this is similar to what Derren Brown does: he's addressing the audience directly (rather than us being invisible voyeurs to a story), and there's an element of illusion involved. However, he's not really a conjurer, and people aren't scratching their heads trying to figure out how he did it. The changes are hidden from view, but presumably the clothes are done up down the side with velcro straps (or a quieter equivalent) and he has assistants to yank things off.

It's a relatively short performance (1h 45m including interval), as compared to other plays I've seen, but I don't think it should have gone on for any longer; as impressive as it was, it's basically the same thing being repeated several times. Actually, I think my favourite part of the performance was when he did shadow puppets, which made a nice interlude to all the costume changes.

At the start of the performance, when they reminded everyone to turn off mobile phones, the announcer referred to Mr Brachetti's "advanced age". He came on wearing a grey wig, and then a lot of the show involved him switching back and forth between this character and his younger self. I assumed that this was misdirection, and that he's actually quite young while pretending to be old. However, he was apparently born in 1957! If I'm that athletic when I'm 50, I'll be happy.

I was sitting at the back of the first floor balcony. (Well, first floor relative to the stage, although this was slightly below ground level relative to the theatre lobby!) I had a good view, and I only had to duck my head once (to see something at the very top of the stage), so I assume that most seats in the the theatre would be equally good.

Here are a few other reviews: The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph.

Outdoor swimming

Back in January, I went along to Tooting Bec Lido for the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships. I was there on ambulance duty, so I didn't take part, but I thought it looked quite fun. While I was there, I bought a copy of Wild Swim (by Kate Rew): it's basically a guidebook for various outdoor swimming locations around the country, e.g. rivers and lakes, but it also acts as general advocacy for the activity itself.

After that, it took me a while to actually try this out myself, but in July I went along to the Serpentine Lido, and in October I swam in the sea off Brighton beach. In a few weeks, I'll be trying it again, at the OSS Plum Pudding Plunge. This will involve jumping into Parliament Hill Lido, and swimming two widths; that doesn't sound too bad, except that it's a huge pool (30m wide), so two widths of that is equivalent to three lengths at my gym. Oh, and it's unheated: last year the water temperature was 4°C! Anyway, it should be fun, so I'm looking forward to it. If anyone would like to join me, please feel free, either as a participant or a spectator.
Edit: It turns out that everyone who attends has to pay £15, even if you don't swim. You do get mince pies and a swimming cap in return, but it's probably not worth it if you're just a spectator.

If all goes well, my provisional plan is to cancel my gym membership in April and join the South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido instead. That way, I can swim through the summer (when it's relatively warm) and gradually acclimatise myself to the cold during the winter (when it's closed to the general public).

I'd also like to try night swimming at some point. Kate Rew mentioned it in her book, and Sarah Hall wrote a Guardian article about it, which makes it sound very appealing. However, I think I need to get a bit more experience first, so that I can handle longer swims in cold water (rather than a quick plunge followed by a swift exit).