The designs of Ternunobu Fujimori, the unexpected darling of last year’s Venice Biennale, are a cause célèbre in Japan. His exhibition at the Japanese Pavilion in Venice is reprised here at the Opera City Art Gallery, showing off his quizzical sense of design. Misshapen, otherworldly tea houses perch on stilts or forest treetops; his Tanpopo House is adorned with dandelions. By distorting the clean, functional lines of traditional Japanese building, Fujimori creates something altogether more daring and confusing. This show also explores the defiantly off-kilter work of the Rojo Society (Roadway Observation Society), a group that looks for psychological meaning in modern landscapes.
Ardal O’Hanlon regales Melbourne Town Hall with his goofy but intelligent stand-up schtick, conveying much the same hapless charm that made him so likeable as Father Dougal Maguire in the Irish comedy TV series Father Ted. The Irishman’s jokes are rarely delivered from a lofty plateau – this is everyday humour about breakfast, relatives and the sillier thoughts that most people keep to themselves. This stand-up is a return to his career beginnings – experience which makes him unusually heckle-proof.
What have the Dutch given to photography? The Nederlands Fotomuseum’s first exhibition, Dutch Eyes, offers an answer of sorts, digging out industrial archives (engineers-turned- snappers from the 19th century) and parading the bigger names such as Ed Van der Elsken. His sultry, scruffy street documentary and beatific private moments show the 1960s and 1970s in alternately wistful, Cartier-Bresson- esque black-and-white and richly saturated, Parr-like colour. It’s an interesting corollary to the work of Robert Frank in America.
THE RAKE’S PROGRESS
Robert Lepage’s new production of The Rake’s Progress transposes Hogarth’s story to America in the 1950s when Stravinsky and librettists Auden and Kalman wrote the work, Francis Carlin writes. Tom is James Dean and Trulove is Rock Hudson as in the film Giant. The fleshpot is Hollywood and the satire is directed at vacuous TV culture. Lepage’s visual imagination works its magic from time to time – Tom and Mother Goose sucked down into a heart-shaped couch, Tom’s inflatable trailer. But updating the action to Hollywood is hardly pioneering stuff. As Tom pulls on his cowboy boots singing about the “Cyprian queen (translating) our mortal scene”, you start to question this emigration from the precious 18th century original setting.
Rembrandt shared 17th-century Amsterdam with a swell of religious refugees, fleeing persecution on the Iberian peninsula and central Europe. An exhibition at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme explores the “melting pot” effect on his work and faith, as Jews and Christians mingled together in the Golden Age. Precious loans from the Louvre and others make this an impressive assembly, with five pictures by the master previously unseen in France. Rembrandt’s idiosyncratic etchings of Old Testament scenes are shown in full, alongside portraits of Jewish figures and works by his teacher Pieter Lastman.
CALLED TO ACCOUNT
Richard Norton-Taylor continues his compelling, hard-nosed “tribunal plays” at the Tricycle with Called To Account, a docudrama of what happened when two top barristers tested the grounds for prosecuting the British government for its intervention in Iraq. The neck on the block is, of course, Tony Blair’s, as Philippe Sands (for the prosecution) and Julian Knowles (for the defence) examine intelligence and interview ministers, journalists and lobbyists to see whether the PM could be indicted. Norton-Taylor was given full access to the paperwork of Sands and Knowles’ investigation earlier this year; a morass of transcripts, but he has the skill to extract drama from it. Nicolas Kent directs, but the audience are invited to give the final verdict.
FESTIVAL DES JARDINS
France’s more audacious (and less floral) answer to the Chelsea Flower Show brings together the world’s most innovative horticulturalists to showcase futuristic, quirky garden design. The festival, which opens this weekend, is held in the charming grounds of a Loire valley chateau, with 26 different designers exploring this year’s theme of mobility.
Director Jack O’Brien has had a lot of fun on Broadway, from Henry IV to Hairspray. His production of Puccini’s gloriously expressive Il Trittico will be particularly challenging; quite apart from the logistics of needing three separate casts, the work requires a firm hand to marshall its volatile emotional range. The three one-act (soap) operas each takes a different, melodramatic pitch: in “Il Tabarro” it is dark, jealous matrimony (O’Brien hopes to give this the Hitchcock treatment), in “Suor Angelica” faith and torment, but the evening rounds up on a uplifting note with “Gianni Schicchi”, where the pitfalls of being in love are comic fruits for the composer.
Artichokes, flowers, vases: “natures mortes”, or still lifes, in Spain produced exquisite visions of the everyday – so much so that the state has just stumped up to buy the Naseiro Collection of Spanish artists’ still lifes for the Museo del Prado. Some of the Naseiro works have been loaned to an overview of the genre at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, with about 40 pieces by those who made it look easy: Goya, Zurbarán, Sánchez Cotán and Van der Hamen.
MAN OF LA MANCHA
After the showers of praise for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Chichester Festival last year, director Martin Duncan emerges scrubbed up for another potential hit with Man of La Mancha, Dale Wasserman’s musical take on Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Its bestselling run on Broadway in the 1960s showed that the story of the delusional hero and his donkey-mounted sidekick lended itself well to musical outbursts, with irresistible songs such as The Impossible Dream and I.