Brains and Bottoms | Tony Woodcock

February 6, 2015 8:28 PM

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Paris has a new, state-of-the-art concert hall, something the French have been waiting for since they dispatched Louis XVI in 1793, thus making possible government- funded arts venues for the people. It's called the "Philhamonie de Paris." Not the most inventive of names I would suggest. It was designed by Jean Nouvel and opened in the midst of controversy over a €187 million budget overrun and three-year completion delay. Indeed, architect Nouvel was so affronted by accusations of extravagance that he demonstrated true Gallic temperament and refused to attend the grand opening given before the Parisian elite including President Francois Hollande. Looking at the pictures of the building reveals that a great deal of money was spent in making the hall an absolute palace of culture. In studying the design I started to ask myself if, in this day and age of social unrest and economic gloom, the French were getting their priorities jumbled.

Just before Christmas my wife and I made a special journey to London to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) production of Henry IV, Parts 1&2 at the Barbican with that wonderful spirit of the theatre Antony Sher as Falstaff. It did not disappoint. But the actual experience of sitting in the th...

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