The Homecoming – Trafalgar Studios

Jamie Lloyd Theatre Company, Trafalgar Studios

Home sweet home’, ‘home is where the heart is’, ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. Home is a place we all like to be; on a cold winter’s day we can’t wait to get in or if we’re abroad for a protracted period of time we long to return. It’s a place of solace, safety, often of family and respite, territorially ours, come what may. In The Homecoming now revived by Jamie Lloyd at the Trafalgar Studios, Pinter plays with these notions of home and family showing us that our origins can be as poisonous as they are restorative, a place where you return not just to the home you once knew but also to yourself and the person you’ve been trying to escape from.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Homecoming so this production celebrates Pinter’s acclaimed play with a star-studded interpretation. And having started the year with the deliciously dark The Ruling Class – with a serenely madcap performance from James McAvoy – Jamie Lloyd productions neatly book-end my theatrical year. But Pinter and I have never really gotten along; I enjoyed Betrayal but couldn’t quite get to grips with No Man’s Land, there’s something about the rhythm of Pinter, with its surreal plot twists and grubby interplay, which just didn’t quite fit with me. Never one to give up entirely, I’m glad I gave this a go – I may not be exactly converted but this is a chilling, sinister and intense production that is a fine birthday tribute to a landmark play.

Teddy returns to his London home with his wife Ruth. Married for 6 years but living in America as a university lecturer, Teddy’s family has never met his wife or even knows of her existence until one night when everyone has gone to bed they turn up unannounced on the doorstep for a flying visit. But this is no ordinary family – Max the patriarch still attempting to rule his home with an iron fist, flits between missing his long-dead wife and despising her; Lenny the middle son is a man of the world, a wheeler dealer with less than savoury connections; Joey is the youngest, a boxer who Max thinks will make it big, and Sam (Max’s brother) is the only one with a defined job as a well-respected and much requested chauffeur. The entrance of Ruth into this utterly male world both unpicks the existing dynamics and fills a void over the course of two days. But Teddy’s neat and elegant wife isn’t all she seems, Ruth has come home too.

As with all of Soutra Gilmore’s work the first thing you’ll notice about this play is the design – with the houselights up it’s a black, sparse but elegant looking 60s home with sideboard and chair. In the centre is the throne, Max’s armchair which denotes his status in the house – 2 seats in the whole room. It all looks stylishly 60s, containing the characters in a red-framed room that recedes back to the pivotal front door. But then the stage lights come on and suddenly it looks much grubbier, well used and soiled – a reflection of the family morality within. It’s a very unsettling male world that contrasts brilliantly with Ruth and Teddy’s American preppy style, lit in crucial moments in blood red or by two naked light bulbs suspended at front and rear like a boxing ring.

It’s a small cast and Pinter gives each a chance to shine. Best among them is Ron Cook as Max (also a veteran of The Ruling Class earlier this year) the curmudgeonly father of the house who is both proud of and appears to detest his sons. An old school working-class man, butcher by trade, who constantly reminisces about the old days while laying down the law to his household. Cook’s performance is spot on, unsympathetic and unwilling. Matching him is John Simm as Lennie giving the creepiest performance of the show. By coincidence the programme notes tell us that when The Homecoming was released, audiences could have alternatively seen Turgenev’s A Month in the Country and Simm has just finished a superb run in that self-same play at the National this summer. Also a veteran of Lloyd productions (The Hothouse), Simm is magnificent here as the outwardly friendly but deadly middle brother. With an accent that verges on a working class Kenneth Williams at his most snide, Simm is a sinister figure often appearing unexpectedly and using a chatty manner to imply considerable threat – creepy and brilliant.

Given that the world Pinter creates here is one that existed alongside the Krays, appropriately Gary Kemp has been cast, successfully against type, as the philosophical brother Teddy and he brings a softness and detachment to the role which seems right for Teddy’s separateness from his family.  Also offering a surprising turn is Keith Allen as Uncle Sam, who takes considerable pride in his legitimate job, often absenting himself from family quarrels, especially when Max and Lennie butt heads. Allen brings a restrained camp to his performance of Sam, who seems to perform most of the domestic chores, which gives the audience plenty to consider in this very male world.                                                           

The role of Ruth, then, is a tricky one as the only woman to have entered this home since the death of Max’s wife. Gemma Chan pitches her really well, initially fearful and detached implying the very different life she and Teddy have led in their middle-class American home, but as the play progresses she begins to stand up to them and ultimately it seems to dominate their thoughts and plans. The hints at Ruth’s past come across well in a knowing performance from Chan, and you’re left with the notion that whatever the family has cooked up, she’s been the one in control all along.

While I can’t say that I’ve come any closer to loving Pinter, the production values made this a fascinating and very worthwhile trip to the theatre – especially the design and direction that is bursting with meaning and the almost gleeful darkness of the performances with Simm in particular seeming to relish his character’s dangerous geniality. So wherever you end up and whoever you think you become, perhaps you can’t ever escape who you really are, eventually all of us have to come home.

The Homecoming is at the Trafalgar Studios until 13 February. Tickets start at £29.50 but Trafalgar Studios runs as £15 Monday initiative on the 2nd – so on 2nd December they will release tickets at £15 for all Mondays in December. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1

The Winter’s Tale – Garrick Theatre

The Winter's Tale by Johan Persson

First published on The Reviews Hub Website.

The nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air and thoughts are already turning to Christmas. In theatre-terms this can only mean one thing, it’s time to shuffle our Shakespeare plays by packing away the flighty summer plots of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing and turn to something considerably darker. Instead out comes Macbeth (we’ve already had an astonishing film and a new Young Vic interpretation opens soon), Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale– the first of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company productions to hit the West End stage (followed by Harlequinade / All On Her Own in rep which I’ll post next week).

This is probably one of Shakespeare’s most bonkers stories whose merits cause considerable disagreement among scholars and critics. The Winter’s Tale is the story of King Leontes who in the midst of happy celebration accuses his wife Hermione of betrayal with his long term neighbour and friend King Polixenes and suggests that the baby she is carrying is his. Leontes has her arrested and Polixenes is chased from the Kingdom after his friend demands his assassination. Born in jail, the child Perdita is denied by Leontes and abandoned in the wildnerness, left to the Gods to decide if she is legitimate while untold miseries are heaped on her father. 15 years later bereft all he once held dear will the now teenage Perdita be found and can an astonishing piece of magic ensure Leontes is forgiven?

Kenneth Branagh’s enchanting production is bursting with Christmas magic from the moment the sounds of a music box fill the auditorium as the curtain rises. Christopher Oram’s stunning design is a marvel, merging Dickensian costume with the Imperial majesty of the nineteenth-century Russian court sumptuously realised in a palette of deep red and white. But the beautiful surface sits perfectly at odds with the poison at the heart of the Court. The first two Acts which form the first half of this production are as perfect as theatre can be, riven with tension and almost suffocatingly emotional as Leonte’s Othello-like possessiveness consumes him. Branagh and Ashford direct with incredible pace that overlaps scenes to give a sense of the speed at which events escalate and this whole first half is utterly gripping.

The second half opens with Time’s monologue lit through a twinkling screen that is a memorable stage picture, as is the final Act opening with Leontes facing away from the audience, utterly still in the middle of his now glittering white palace as snow gently falls upon him. Oram’s once luscious court now cold and desolate reflects Leontes’s frozen heart and endless grief. If there is one duff note it’s the idyllic pastoral scene that comes between these two sections that seems like another play entirely. Mostly this is Shakespeare’s fault, as if he wrote a tragedy and was told to lighten it up a bit for Christmas and so inserted what looks like a hoe-down in the middle. Although performed well, this production, neither in style or design, can quite reconcile its enormous change of tone from the brilliance of what came before.

The Winter’s Tale is of course famous for a stage direction about a bear chase and this is brilliantly achieved with a flash of projection on a momentarily suspended curtain before being whipped away. Although the confines of the text prevent this as after the interval 15 years have passed, it seemed a shame not to take the interval on this shocking note. Greg Doran’s Hamlet in 2008 defied convention by stopping in the middle of a line, so it would have been fascinating to play with expectations here too. It means the subsequent comedy scene with the country folk falls a little flat after the breath-taking tension of the court. But these are minor quibbles.

As you would expect, the performances are largely outstanding and for many the chance to see Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench on stage together is irresistible and it is a privilege to see them together. Branagh is superb as the tormented Leontes showing us how his initial suspicions grow into certainty, anger, rage and then tyranny. During the scene with Camillo (John Shrapnel) during which he raves about his discovery, Branagh is so unhinged and dangerous it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, but he is also incredibly moving as grief overwhelms him in the later scenes, particularly in the final section. It’s a brilliant performance.

Branagh is absolutely matched by Judi Dench as Paulina, ardent supporter of the Queen’s innocence and Dench makes her at once maternal, fiercely protective and outspoken, unafraid of the monarch who has betrayed Hermione. Her grief is also deeply felt and it’s impossible not to be moved by her delivery of tragic news. The supporting Court performances are also superb, including John Shrapnel as a commanding Camillo and Michael Pennington as Antigonus whose loyalty and devotion to their monarch is well played. Miranda Raison brings a valuable statuesque quality to Hermione who never cries but shows considerable dignity and possession throughout her ordeal. All the performances in the pastoral section are also good and play to the crowd but somehow still that whole section is less engaging.

The Winter’s Tale is London’s perfect theatrical Christmas present, uniting a magical story with wonderful performances, beautiful design and a chance to see two of our finest actors. The whole thing is beautifully realised and for those looking for a festive story that has a little more gravity than a panto then this is certainly for you. It is largely sold out but a cinema broadcast is scheduled for 26 November. It may be cold and damp right now but this production will send you out onto the London streets with a warm glow in your heart.

The Winter’s Tale is at the Garrick Theatre until 16 January. Most of the tickets are sold out but do check for returns, and there’ll be a Cinema Live broadcast on 26 November. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1


The Crime Museum Uncovered – Museum of London

Museum of London / Alastair Grant

In fiction, we all love a good villain and sometimes even harbour a secret hope that they might triumph over the dull purity of the hero. From Shakespeare’s Iago to Alan Rickman’s dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham via the many crime lords that seem to pepper soaps these days, for some reason the very dastardliness of the villain makes them the most interesting characters. But in real life, while we certainly wouldn’t dream of endorsing their endeavours, the psychology of villains still fascinates us and the audacity of some crimes capture the public imagination for decades.

Earlier this year the Wellcome Collection set a high bar for its exhibition on Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime, examining the development of methodology and techniques by the police to solve mysteries. Building on this, the Museum of London has gained unprecedented access to the Metropolitan Police archive – or Black Museum – of criminal implements and artefacts used primarily to train would-be detectives, and never before seen by the public. It’s a fascinating exhibition that combines a variety of evidence used in the prosecution of notorious and less well-known crimes from robbery to fraud, terrorism to murder.

Established in the 1870s the Black Museum originally took possession of anything people had on them when arrested but soon developed an astounding collection ranging from actual murder weapons to court illustrations and death masks, so this exhibition opens with two rooms that recreate the museum itself, based on original illustrations, with lots of little display cases filled with personal effects as well as evidence used to secure a conviction. Although there are notes with each item, you’ll need to pick up the accompanying ‘newspaper’ guide that tells you the stories behind them – although given the crowds even on a Monday lunchtime it’s hard to take in all the information on display and read the backstories.

Some of the most chilling items in this section include one of the two pistols used by Edward Oxford when he attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria in 1840, a Police poster reproducing the ‘Dear Boss’ letter from Jack the Ripper, and a number of weapons donated by a police surgeon including a penknife used in 1898 by a man to commit suicide and a larger knife used to kill a woman in Shadwell in 1902. It’s probably important to say at this point that one of the primary aims of this exhibition is to ask questions about the propriety of displaying such items and what we can learn from them. Nothing is shown in a sensationalist way and as you’re looking at these things it’s impossible to feel anything but unnerved by the proximity to something that actually took a life.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the second room which along one wall displays 6 execution ropes saved from as long ago as 1847, used to end the lives of convicted murderers. It’s rare for an exhibition to create such a moral quandary but, having so recently seen the excellent Hangmen at the Royal Court, it is impossible not to feel slightly sickened by them even after you’ve read the story of the crimes behind them. Whatever your view on capital punishment it’s a challenge to stand in front of the evidence of it and not be repulsed.

The final room in the exhibition is huge and contrasts display cases about the development of police procedure with a wall of case studies of particular crimes from the nineteenth-century up until 1975. The decision to stop 40 years ago is a sensible one in order to protect the families of both victims and criminals still affected by the incidents depicted. For many, the stories of villains, as I suggested above, will be irresistible and this approach is really effective in giving a chronological history of crime and simultaneously showing that sadly human behaviour never changes. Each case has a description of the story on one side, sometimes with reproduced photographs from newspapers or later with short video reels. Next to that is the glass case containing the items from the museum and this section is no less testing that the earlier ones; it’s one thing to read about a man jealously strangling his ex-girlfriend because she’s become engagement to someone else, but quite another to then look at the scarf he used to do it.

Famous cases are plentiful including the Krays unused poison briefcase and the gun used to shoot Jack McVitie (recently depicted in Legend), as well as evidence discovered at Rillington Place from the Christie murders. Again you may have been fascinated by these people but it’s quite different to stand in front of the implements they used. This is by no means a bad thing, however, because giving this a proper human dimension takes away from the mythology that springs up around violent crime and reminds you that at the heart of it people died horribly and the perpetrators were deeply disturbed individuals.

It’s not all murder however and there are plenty of stories about other misdemeanours like theft including the fingerprints and crockery the gang left behind after The Great Train Robbery and the attempted diamond heist at the Millennium Dome. One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is the way the detection of crime and advancement of forensic science runs through the stories, so it’s far more than a showcase for the crime itself, and each story tells us how it was solved – letting the viewer see the practical application the Crime Museum has for trainee detectives.

This new exhibition at the Museum of London is an excellent companion piece to the earlier Wellcome Collection show, and if you enjoyed that then this is definitely for you. While the stories of crime will continue to fascinate society, perhaps more than anything the conscious effort to address the moral dubiety of displaying these objects sets this apart, asking you to question everything you see and why you need to see it. We may all love a villain but The Crime Museum Uncovered reminds us that in real crime there’s always a victim and their story is usually full of suffering.

The Crime Museum: Uncovered is at the Museum of London until 10 April. Tickets are £12.50 (without donation) and concessions are available. Booking in advance is recommended as it is busy. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1. 

Husbands and Sons – National Theatre

by Dean Chalkley

There’s a real momentum around gender equality and women’s history at the moment. With Suffragette asking us how far we’ve really come in a hundred years and numerous personalities speaking out about the gender pay gap both in Hollywood and in business, there’s a huge spotlight on this issue. In a timely piece of theatre, the National presents Husbands and Sons, a dramatisation of three D.H. Lawrence short stories told simultaneously, covering two days in a Nottinghamshire pit community. As so often with Lawrence the primary focus is on the women – the wives, daughters and mothers of coal miners whose suffering is played out across these stories drawing an overall picture of the different kinds of hardships they endured – suffering contained within the family unit and rarely shared even with their close-proximity neighbours.

Lawrence can be so insightful about women and has a particular sympathy with the matriarchs that govern small community life which is the most striking aspect of the National Theatre’s new production.  What makes this a valuable work is the way these three stories have been woven together to form a complete sense of the various lives going on and in particular a key Lawrenceian theme of difficult communication between men and women, especially married couples. In fact this is something that clearly unites the three stories, a frosty difficulty between all the couples represented while mother-son relationships become suffocating.

The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd tells the story of Lizzie, tortured by her husband’s excessive drinking and womanising, and driven to resent her lot in life. Her only motivation is to protect her son and prevent him from becoming his father, but as Lizzie keeps house she’s frequently interrupted by her mother-in-law and a local pit electrician who has a crush on her. This is probably the most poignant of the three stories as we see Lizzie, played wonderfully by Anne-Marie Duff, suffering endless humiliations and neglect from her husband (Martin Marquez). The scene in which he arrives home roaring drunk with two prostitutes that he picked up at the local pub is particularly painful for Lizzie and Duff displays her outrage, humiliation and pride superbly. Even when Lizzie is offered escape there is always the sense in Duff’s tender portrayal that it won’t last and she’s fundamentally rooted by a sense of innate duty to her home and marriage that perhaps even death cannot shake.

Next door, A Colliers Friday Night will probably be the most recognisable Lawrence tale that reintroduces many of the themes and plot points of Sons and Lovers. The Lamberts are a pit family headed by the redoubtable matriarch Lydia whose love for her son sets him on a high road to another kind of life. But one Friday night the latent tensions in the family come to a head as Ernest’s (Johnny Gibbon) new self-determination clashes with his mother’s hopes for him and he must decide whether he wants to shake free of her. Julia Ford infuses Lydia with all the suffocating worry of a mother eager to see her favourite child succeed, but also her performance taps into questions about the nature of class as she looks down on her husband (Lloyd Hutchinson) despite his ‘providing’ for them and idolises her son’s hoped-for escape.

The Daughter-in-Law in the final home nicely unites both the themes of the other two pieces as we see a newly married couple trying to get used to each other and find balance. The class element is there again as Minnie Gascoigne has essentially married beneath her and brings her own money while trying to adapt to what she sees as lesser manners. Louise Brealey initially seems brittle and unsure of herself trying to navigate around this strange world – both of marriage and pit life – only compounded by another obstructive mother-son bond that prevents Luther (Joe Armstrong) from adapting to his new wife. As tensions between the couple come to a head Brealey shows Minnie finding unknown reserves of strength and dignity to fight both for her own individuality and ultimately for her man.

Previously performed as a trilogy, the decision to run them side by side, cutting from one home to the next, is a risky one, but a decision that pays off in not only increasing the tension in each story by leaving the audience hanging as we move to another home, but also in giving a clearer picture of this way of life, trapped so closely together in tiny homes where all kinds of human drama is being played out. What is perhaps most striking about this production, and therefore offers the most insight into Lawrence’s work, is how lonely these women are. Deprived of other ways to participate in the world, their sole purpose becomes about the husbands and sons of the title. They are almost entirely contained in their homes and even when they hear the problems next door (which Director Marianne Elliott cleverly has her actors react to) they don’t go to help; the women are entirely alone.

Each of these tales has a story but the overall effect is not plot driven but rather seeing the daily lives of this mining community and the toll it takes on the women at its heart. Seeing the parallels and themes emerge across the three houses becomes as much a part of the evening as finding out what happens to them all. Not everything is entirely successful – at more than three hours it’s a long haul but you do only begin to notice this towards the end, especially in a couple of moments when you think it’s finished but then more scenes start. Also bizarrely in a reasonably realistic looking production the decision to mime a lot of the action like opening and closing doors or taking off coats is very odd and sits uncomfortably with Lawrence’s emotional realism – surely someone at the National could have stumped up for a few coats and racks. I sat in the gallery so didn’t participate in the musical chairs of the interval which is supposed to give audiences a different perspective; maybe it does but I didn’t find staying in the same place detracted from what I saw in any way. But these are minor quibbles.

What these women have in common is their strength. For all the physical endurance of their menfolk in the pits, it is the women who make life happen, who keep a household together and who build communities to live in. Lawrence’s women are often something to admire and in these three central performances their determination, pride and resilience in the face of incredible and often dehumanising hardship is striking. Oddly all these women ultimately get what they want but their experiences make them question its worth. Even the one story with the seeming happy ending is not all it seems, for whatever harmony exists now, this tri-partite production shows can only become what the other two houses represent.

Husbands and Sons is the latest in an increasing line of triumphs for the National Theatre offering an innovative take on a well-known author. Lawrence’s world comes to life so starkly in this production you’ll almost want to wipe the coal dust off your face as you leave. As productions go this also could not be timelier and as we are in a period of growing momentum to complete female emancipation this is your chance to see three great actresses playing three admirable women.

Husbands and Sons is at the National Theatre until 19 February. Tickets start at £15. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1

E H Shepard: An Illustrator’s War – House of Illustration

House of Illustration: Artwork from The Shepard Trust archive. Reproduction: Punch Ltd.

You may be forgiven for thinking that the proposed four year commemoration programme for the centenary of the First World War has rather ground to a halt. Once Paul Cummins’s incredible display of ceramic poppies was packed away, everything else went, well, all quiet about the Western Front. Perhaps, unlike the actual event, the remembrance programme really was ‘all over by Christmas’ 2014. But never fear, as the hundredth anniversary of the Somme campaign approaches, you can expect a flurry of related activities to acknowledge one of the most terrible and emotionally scarring periods the British Army ever experienced.

1915 may not be considered a particularly ‘sexy’ year in terms of battles, hence the relative silence this year, but the wonderful House of Illustration has snuck in a brilliant exhibition celebrating the Great War drawings of illustrator E. H. Shepard, most famous for being the visual creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. But Shepard was a regular contributor to Punch the satirical magazine long before he become associated with the honey-loving bear in the Hundred Acre Wood, and this exhibition recognises the anniversary of Shepard’s recruitment into the army where he became a serving officer in the Royal Artillery stationed in the Somme region and participating in a number of significant battles.

Fascinatingly, the House of Illustration not only brings together his satirical drawings, which continued to be officially published throughout the war, along with the accurate terrain sketches Shepard did for his unit which helped to position artillery fire. The ways in which illustrators contributed to the development of intelligence in the war is certainly understudied, and not something an art exhibition has ever fully covered before, particularly in a conflict that is seen as technologically driven and dominated by the inhumanity of mechanisation.

I’ve previously written about the development of aerial photography and how older technologies were being repurposed during this period, so to see this sit alongside the idea of a man and a sketchbook providing to-scale drawings of the Front to add to the available intelligence absolutely reinforces this notion of tradition and modernity meeting and adapting in this conflict. And through Shepard’s remarkable work, we also see the merger of art and function, with the sign text making the point that while you can see his drawings of a wood, perhaps, there is a ruler above it to indicate scale for application purposes (i.e. gauging gun range), but Shepard has also provided considerable detail in the shape of individual leaves. What this is doing is adding even greater nuance to our understanding of the experience of the war and how men responded to it.

Another more common response was satire and one of the mechanisms through which men coped was to find humour in their situation. From Trench newspapers to reviews and shows (which Shepard was involved with), satirising the people and circumstances of war was a key leisure activity and Shepard’s cartoons were at the forefront of this, published in Punch and other magazines. That stoical humour is one of the most interesting effects of war, demonstrating the extent to which men retained their humanity in the lengthy periods between engagements.

There is a long tradition in Britain of political satire dating right back to Hogarth’s stinging evocations of city life and morality in the eighteenth-century and the numerous newspaper cartoons lampooning politicians and events which followed in the nineteenth century. Shepard’s work on the First World War falls neatly into this category, so as well as seeing his work in the context of his overall development as an illustrator, it can also be viewed as part of this historic ritual of satirising important moments and people. Among his best work includes a cheeky picture of a tommy swathed in innumerable layers of clothes he’s been sent for Christmas which mocks the practice of sending gifts to men at the Front. The soldier is wearing about 5 shirts, huge mittens, furry boots and is smoking about 8 cigarettes and a pipe, all with a look of delight on his face. It’s a wonderful picture which really sets the tone for the warmth of Shepard’s images in this exhibition, never bitter but more of a knowing wink at the absurdity of their situation.

Another common concern among all servicemen was the supposed corruption at home and, as the conflict drew on, the seeming indifference of civilians to its outcome. Men frequently complain that while on leave they observe civilians being bored of the war, and one of Shepard’s works taps into this frustration by showing a cartoon strip of a rich looking man passing a newsboard every day. He expresses alarm at Zeppelin raids and then a modest delight at successful British counterattacks, he is pleased by a Russian victory but the final scene shows him collapsed entirely on the floor by the news of heavy taxation at home – Shepard is making the point that civilians can only be really engaged by news that actually affects them.

Throughout this exhibition, Shepard’s works sit alongside one another and there is a clear contrast between those done as pen sketches and his painted pieces, the latter being a little less effective than the delicacy of his ink work. Nonetheless it’s interesting to see how varied Shepard’s opportunities were for art throughout the war and, with over a hundred pieces presented here, the sheer volume he was able to produce is impressive, as well as watching his heavily shaded pen sketches becoming lighter and simpler as time passed. A few post-war pieces are included at the end show his development as an artist and see how this work paved the way for his eventual engagement with A. A. Milne.

The House of Illustration is probably one of the most consistent galleries in London, producing a number of excellent exhibitions since it opened, including those on Quentin Blake, Mac Connor and most recently the wonderful Ladybird book images. And here they’ve done it again with a sensitive and insightful exhibition about E H Shepard’s Great War experience. Not only have they opportunely seized on a quiet moment in the overall commemoration agenda to present these works which should mean it attracts the attention it deserves, but it genuinely offers a new perspective on a much studied conflict.

E H Shepard: An Illustrator’s War is at the House of Illustration until 10 January. Tickets are £7 for adults (£7.70 with Gift Aid) and concessions are available.


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