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You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice . It also has one hell of an evocative title. The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol , which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan .  However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing p

Art: Stanley Spencer Heaven in a Hell of War

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War presents Spencer's series of large-scale canvas panels depicting life during the war which form part of the Sandham Memorial Chapel. It is a rare opportunity to view them up close at Somerset House and appreciate them for their beauty and modernity.

The panels are based on his experiences as a hospital orderly and as a soldier, focusing on the mundane, the banal and his recollections of his experiences of the time. What is astonishing about the works is how they feel so modern yet also from a different time and place. Everyday activities such as cleaning are elevated to a form of spiritual retreat. Realism and dreamlike settings combine to astonishing effect. The altar, which could not be removed from the chapel is recreated here as well to give a sense of the scale of how the pieces worked together.

The exhibition presents the panels (displayed above) alongside other sketches. There are also paintings by his friend Henry Lamb and information on the background of the chapel.

Stanley Spencer was an English painter known for his large-scale religious scenes and was appointed as a war artist after his return to England from the front line in 1918. It is his wartime experiences in Bristol and the Balkans that were brought together in these series of paintings for the chapel, which is modelled on Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua.

The exhibition will no doubt arouse interest in future visits to Sandham Memorial Chapel. The Grade I listed chapel is closed for a major restoration and will reopen in July 2014 in time to mark the centenary events for the outbreak of the First World War. The exhibition runs at Somerset House until the end of January. Admission is free. The paintings will then travel to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex from 15 February until June 2014 before returning to the chapel for the reopening.

Images: Sam Roberts Photography taken at Somerset House

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