Saturday, March 13, 2010

Painting The Face - The First Mask

Painting the face has several purposes, chief amongst these being beautification (as in cosmetics), transformation (as in today's face painting, also traditional clowns), and preparation for war (from the earliest history of mankind). The use of cosmetics can be traced back to the ancient Assyrians (2000 years BC and more), the Egyptians (Cleopatra being a noted practitioner), and the Romans (the court of Nero particularly requiring make up for both men and women).

Amongst the achievements of the European crusaders was the importing of cosmetics from eastern harems back into their home countries, since when their use has been continuous in the western world - though they have not always been considered respectable! On stage a whole range of materials were employed to paint the face before grease-paint came into use - chalk for a white face (e.g. a ghost), umber to suggest a tanned or weather-beaten face, white lead, gold paint, antimony, kohl, rouge, cochineal, cuttle-fish - and a whole further range of products similarly derived from minerals, plants, animals, and insects.

Women on stage (though not it seems the Elizabethan boy actor, for whom blushing youth seems to have sufficed for the expression of femininity) could "colour their faces with certain oils, liquors, unguents and waters made to that end" (Philip Stubbes 1583 - quoted in "the Oxford Companion to the Theatre").

It's interesting just for a moment to consider the main purposes of stage makeup through the ages. In my theatrical lifetime (my first job, as an ASM in a UK Rep was in 1963) makeup has had three purposes, varying as priorities according to circumstances: firstly to highlight key features of the face for an audience seated too far away to appreciate the subtleties properly, secondly to provide facial modeling when the lighting might be too bright and too frontal and tending to flatten the features, and thirdly the long established purpose of disguise.

Initially stage makeup was all about disguise. It still is to a degree, especially in the lower financed end of this theatrical spectrum. The better financed a production is, the more likely an actor can be hired specifically for a role because he most clearly "is" the character. In the good old days of Rep however one company of actors would play a wide range of characters who often had very little in common with themselves, and that's when makeup as disguise comes into its own.

Looking back to the historical starting point for makeup, the ritual dances of primitive tribes, we can deduce disguise - as animals, as spirits, as devils.

Beautifying the face on stage came later, probably post Elizabethan theatre, and probably with a view to enhancing the beauty of the actress playing the role. This might well have been followed as a practice by changing the skin tone of young men required to portray old men.

The trouble with beautification of the feminine face is that the more of it that was needed, the less able the actress became to express emotion on her face. There are a number of very enthusiastic responses to the occasional actress who left the paint off her face and was, as a result, able to supply mobility of expression to her acting, and with it a more satisfying portrayal of humanity. In any analysis of course, disguise and beautification are both about presenting in public a version of oneself that is not the true image. There are all sorts of reasons for doing this, such as vanity, dramatic necessity, invoking the help of spirits and/or ancestors, or simply escaping the long arm of the law.

In many of these purposes face-painting shares a common bond with the world of masks.

London Theatre - 2009 Preview of West End Theatre

If theatre mirrors life then you would expect 2009 to be a bad year for the performing arts in London: economic downturns and credit crunches sound like gloomy news for our discretionary entertainment spending. But West End theatre box office figures have kept on going up in recent years, and the huge number of new productions sailing into town during 2009 could mean that Theatreland manages to buck the trend.


The RSC, National Theatre, Donmar and Old Vic dominated straight drama in the West End in 2008, and they haven't finished yet. Big hitters coming to town include Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike in the Donmar in the West End's Madame de Sade at the Wyndhams; Jude Law offering us his, hopefully fighting fit, Hamlet; Gillian Anderson in Ibsen's A Doll's House and Rachel Weisz in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse; Helen Mirren making her return to the London stage in Phaedra at the National Theatre; and a number of crowd-pleasing revivals at the Old Vic, no more so than Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel's hugely successful play starring Andrea Corr, and Sam Mendes directing Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, both featuring Ethan Hawke, Simon Russell Beale and Sinead Cusack.


Other stars shimmying into town include Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket, Ken Stott and Hayley Atwell in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York's, heavy-hitter Pete Postlethwaite as King Lear at the Young Vic, and Antony Sher giving us his Prospero in the RSC's The Tempest. The Gavin and Stacey phenomenon continues to roll on, as we see Joe Orton's delicious romp Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios starring Gavin himself, Matthew Horne, alongside Imelda Staunton; whilst Gavin's onscreen Mum Alison Steadman plays a barking Leeds housewife in Alan Bennett's Enjoy at the Gielgud Theatre.


The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that all of these plays are revivals rather than new work, keeping audiences firmly in their comfort zones. That said, new plays may be thin on the ground but not absent all together, with the National offering up Richard Bean's England People Very Nice, following two lovers across four centuries, and Samuel Adamson's Mrs Affleck set in the 1950s. Jez Butterworth has two new plays in pre-production, with comedy Parlour Song at the Almeida and Jerusalem at the Royal Court. Also at the Royal Court, Mark Ravenhill will bring his new play Over There. Plus Hollywood man of the moment James McAvoy is to star in Richard Greenberg's acclaimed play Three Days of Rain at the Apollo, and at The Old Vic Richard Dreyfuss headlines the world premiere of American playwright Joe Sutton's new play Complicit, directed by Kevin Spacey.


In musical theatre, 2009 promises to be a year of great big fabulous and familiar shows, surely enough to see us through the dark times? And it's no coincidence that many of them are based on hugely successful films.

Oliver! will be well and truly steaming ahead through 2009 at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal with Rowan Atkinson and Jodie Prenger; La Cage Aux Folles will continue camping it up at the Playhouse but with Graham Norton taking over from Douglas Hodge; and at the Adelphi Theatre Lee Mead will bow out of Joseph to be replaced by Gareth Gates.

Jason Donovan will be donning the wigs and lip gloss to take us on an Australian power-mince in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre. And Sister Act at the London Palladium will be doing its best to recreate the fun of the film, helped along by Whoopi Goldberg as co-producer. And not quite a musical but as good as, Calendar Girls the stage play will up the naked flesh quotient in the West End, starring Patricia Hodge and Lynda Bellingham at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Also in musicals-land the power of reality TV continues to wield its power, with Gareth Gates going into Joseph at the Adelphi Theatre, the X-factor's Niki Evans continuing in Blood Brothers at the Phoenix, Jodie Prenger in Oliver at the Drury Lane, and Ray Quinn and Danny Bayne in Grease - joined for a limited time by the legendary Jimmy Osmond.


Kids should also see a good year in 2009 with an enormous live theatrical production of Walking with Dinosaurs coming to a stadium near you, and War Horse transfers from its successful run at the National Theatre to the New London Theatre.

To book these shows visit:

Creative Thought Process: An Act Of Faith

The notion of faith compels us to be accountable to a whole lot of accompanying circumstances and people. Creativity is inculcation or acculturation of our imagination, hypothetic suggestions and natural assumptions built on the faith of a mind until it is proven. And when it is vindicated, it is obligatory to live up to the faith of the community, nation or even humanity. Every natural thought starts with inevitable trust on prior knowledge or research initiated and substantiated by a generation, now superseded by a generation of evolved ego. We rely on the convictions of the past to restructure the present chain of events and hence define the future course of action. Creative thought process is never creation in isolation. Its rather accumulation of ideas over years, standing on the shoulders of giants and looking beyond the horizon, extracting from ingenuity declared in a bygone era and rewriting the epoch through discovery and dissemination of knowledge. Its more of a transmissive process accentuated by application of logic and improved faculty. Creativity embarks on originality and appropriateness for its integrity though it may be fuelled by remarkable achievements and marvelous determination of the secrecy so poignantly poised in the universe by our ancestors. It is this obligation to our past that forces to consign ourselves to an arrangement of erecting confidence on history to assign refinement to our fundamental and inventive competence of our intellect. Creative conviction can be partial or wholly natural owing to previous influences or divine intervention respectively or even may be an act of serendipity obliged to accidental discoveries. But whatever be the mode of investigation and subsequent assimilation of succeeding consequences, productive ingenuity can be authenticated only by utilization of existing resources and employment of empiricism. The ubiquitous incidence of inspiration, intuitive insight, lateral thinking and discarding of preconceived and prejudiced notions is attributive of the creative thought process. Newton once mentioned in his memoirs ---" I do not know what i may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me". Thus creative process ensues from our affiliation to and constant intimacy with the world around us that had a fascinating history worth unearthing and lives now to be in the annals of history of the forthcoming generations, pledged to a scheme of reliance and trust on what exists to defend the submission of mind to rational enquiry.

Books In Sync Announces Across Australia From East To West by Thomas Palfy

If You Love Illustrated Books With Breathtaking Photography You will Love Thomas Palfy's Work!

Thomas has traveled extensively throughout Australia; notebook in hand shooting breathtaking photos of Australia's diverse awe-inspiring scenery, interesting people and unique wildlife. To keep all those memories alive and to share them with you Thomas has written travelogues and created photo-collections with useful (and funny) comments. His Books Are A Must Have On Your Coffee Table and In Your Library!

About The Author: Over the years Thomas Palfy along with his wife and traveling companion, Susan has visited numerous attractions of the fifth continent. Out of these rich experiences the books Australian Adventures and Images of Australia were created. These two works describe and illustrate visits to the main cities as well as many national parks with their weird and wonderful landscapes, unusual plants, fascinating animals and encounters with people. The West of the West is a travelogue of a trip to the West Coast and the Kimberley region of Western Australia with many color illustrations. The Hub of Australia and Beyond is a similar account of tours in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Australia Illustrated: The Eastern States completes the trilogy of descriptions and illustrations of recent tours to the states and territories of the fifth continent. Definitely Digital! is a recently published guide to digital photography. Across Australia from East to West is Palfy's most comprehensive work presenting many of Australia's incomparable tourist attractions in words and pictures!

Featuring: Across Australia From East To West by Thomas Palfy

Thomas Palfy's most recent travel guide-photo essay follows the trend established in his earlier works to create interest in the unique attractions of the fifth continent. Melbourne, Australia, July 11, 2009 - Across Australia from East to West by Thomas Palfy is a set of descriptions of several journeys to all states and territories of Australia, richly illustrated with landscapes, people, flowers, buildings and animals. Palfy, with his notebook and camera in hand, his wife by his side, faithfully recorded his encounters with Australia's diverse scenery, interesting people, and distinctive wildlife.

Serving as a pictorial guide, Across Australia from East to West takes readers on a tour across the length and breadth of the country. Starting the journey in his home state, Victoria, the author then ventures out to the rest of Eastern Australia, followed by visits to the centre and the West. He shares his experiences in words and spectacular images with the would-be-traveler and armchair traveler.

As a follow-up to Palfy's other travel-photo books, such as The West of the West, The Hub of Australia and Beyond and Australia Illustrated: The Eastern States, this new work could be just the amount of inspiration needed for readers to plan a trip to this unique and extraordinarily beautiful part of the world. Palfy is also the author of Definitely Digital!-a recently published guide to digital photography.

King Tut Tour Takes Over North America

As one of history's most gossiped about characters, King Tut has proven that fame is certainly more attainable after death. Throughout 2010 the latest exhibition of antiquities from the boy king's tomb is touring North America and creating quite a stir. The tour started in San Francisco and visits Toronto, Denver and New York City before retiring back to Egypt. The exhibition isn't the only reason King Tut is making headlines lately - a few weeks ago a much anticipated DNA test result was released.

For decades scientists have pondered the cause of King Tut's death. However due to the results of the most recent DNA test, theories of murder and scandal have all gone out the window and it appears that the king died of complications from a broken leg aggravated by malaria. It may not be the most exciting revelation ever, but it couldn't have come at a better time as the latest exhibition of King Tut's belongings tours North America.

Although the King Tut Exhibition of the '70s set new records, the latest exhibit, 'King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs' hopes to be a hot contender. It includes an outstanding array of Tutankhamen's burial objects. In addition to 50 objects straight from Tut's tomb, there is an array of other Egyptian artefacts from the 18th Dynasty. This 'Golden Age' of Egypt spanned one hundred years and produced some of history's most impressive antiquities. The exhibition also features new forensic studies of King Tut's mummy. The cause of his death is explored from CT scans and visitors can also look the king in the eye - or rather that of a life-sized bust created by forensic specialists.

When the original exhibit launched at the British Museum in 1972, 'Tut Mania' was born. People queued for over eight hours just to see King Tut and his treasures. Since then, Tut Mania remains ever present with visitors already tallying around 4 million. The new exhibit features iconic pieces as well as never-before-seen objects. It's definitely worth a trip even if you aren't located in one of the cities on the tour.

Vintage Fabric, Quilting, Sewing?

Christmas is over, and so the hard work begins. I am currently back at college, and the work has started to mount up. There are designs to make, projects to think up and craft materials to source. Thankfully, apart from the constant supply of tea that is fuelling my life, i have managed to stumble upon a local company who sell beautiful vintage buttons and vintage fabrics. It also seems to be the escape from the darken days with lots of colours, and pattern and a familiar sense of chirpiness - Spinsters Emporium is my new love.

My new found love saved my from valentines day, by inspiring me to dust the sewing machine down and get to work with the projects that I've been meaning to get around to. All my Christmas money has gone on vintage fabric and craft packs. I am going to tell you straight here the craft packs were made by Gods. 1 pack can include a beautiful collection of vintage fabric cut offs, ranging from floral fabrics to retro fabrics, or vintage buttons, or even embellishment ideas. There is so many wonders, i believe i lost my breath for a second! Today the idea of quilting popped into my little head, and nana will be proud. With the help of spinsters emporium, and a rebirth into quilting, spinsters everywhere can make anything! I have recently purchased, Cuter than a daisy vintage fabric pack. Plus all the products come with adorable, fun loving names!

So, basically its time for quilting, and I am a little nervous about this venture, so a book has been found which is also at Spinsters, in other lovely stuff. Do they have everything you would ever need? Yes, my friend, I believe they do. Quilts have always fascinated me, but they are such an expensive thing to buy. My nana had a beautiful quilt that envolved patchwork, and little embellished delight; there is nothing more beautiful than something handmade. She was in the era of make do and mend but i believe that we to are in the new era of make do and mend, we may not need to make do, but I am a simple soul looking for simple ways of being happy this is happiness.

Etsy is bursting at the seams with patchwork, handmade delights, and I hope one day that I will be able to sell my happiness to the people of the world, the spinsters are the makers, looking for a chance of love, in spending the joy. Recently I read an article of quilting involving the upcoming exhibit in the V&A, and what was fascinating was the young groups of girls who would share patterns and ideas for making a huge quilt! Any one of there who would be my friend? Wanted: quilting fabric, vintage fabric, a steady hand and a good sense of humour. Contact me on.... haha the spinsters personal ads.

Preserving Antique Furniture Part 1 - Patina and Why You Shouldn't Disturb It

The point of restoration most often discussed, sometimes argued but rarely agreed upon is patina. There is no real right and wrong but there is a very strong sense of responsibility on our part for conserving our past in a sympathetic manner and not disturbing more than is necessary. This does not always please the customer, especially those who call on you with a piece of furniture that is pristine condition and in need of no more than a good clean and wax. We explain the way we would approach the restoration of that article and they say "No! I want it stripped, sanded and refinished- I want it looking new again."

Then, a long silence and an attempt to dissuade the owner from causing irreversible harm to the piece of furniture by removing its well-worn finish or patina.

Patina, as defined in the dictionary, is "a gloss produced by age on wood", which is probably oversimplified, as this does not take into consideration the role of the millions of scars, scratches and bruises, along with a gentle discolouration of both the polish and the faded upper surface of the timber. With rustic or primitive furniture the paint will mellow, being rubbed through on busy areas such as around edges of cupboard doors, handles and the edges of work surfaces. Then there is the build-up of human body oils which are present as darker regions around handles, finger grips and key escutcheons; and subtle variations in colour about the feet and plinth from a gradual build-up of both wax and dust, as well as in quirks, hard to access areas and tarnish-coated brassware such as handles, locks, hinges, escutcheons and castors etc.

Patina is an overall summation of all of these factors and more that gives a piece of furniture a warmth and character that no restorer or polisher can re-create in a short period of time. If you have anything like this, treasure it -it is the ultimate. Add to it, nourish it, but for goodness sake, try never to disturb it. Care must be taken to retain as much of the old as is possible. Disturb only if there is no other choice but to make repairs to polished surfaces because a piece of furniture must be workable and useful. Patina holds a fascination for the true collector wondering who once used this piece and what they were like. Did they care for this piece, or was it just a utilitarian piece? These years of use should not be lost, as it is like tearing pages out of a hook of history if the patina is removed.