Art and the art of friendship

Art and the art of friendship

There is a revival of the play “Art” currently in residence at The Old Vic. This is a comedic and (as is invariably the case) deeply poignant play, making observations about friends and relationships.  The focus is a work of art itself, arguably over the last 25 years, the art involved is probably less contentious than it would be by some of today’s work that has grabbed headlines in selective media.

Indeed the other notable change since the original French script by Jasmina Reza first premiered in 1994, was that the price of the painting was repriced in Euros rather than Francs. Something that we might do well to remember in the coming days – there was life in Europe before the Euro (no, I’m not making a political point, merely highlighting a historical one).

Older friends

The play is having a 20 year revival since it reopened in December 2016. The play was first (and last) in London opened in October 1996 and was hugely successful, so much so, that its endurance began to draw comparisons with The Mousetrap (for continued performances). However the run eventually came to an end in 2004, having provided a platform for many actors and comedians, with the cast changing multiple times. I cannot recall quite when I saw the play first, but let’s just say it was some while ago and whilst it has not changed, I certainly have.

A friendship of types

The play is about three friends, whose reaction to an expensive, bare, exposed, white, not quite “blank canvas” painting, that Serge buys, in turn reveals the bare-bones and home truths about their relationships. It is a fascinating, often hilarious, exploration of friendship, class, taste and identity. Everyone probably resonates more with a particular character and at various points in the play, I imagine that its possible to identify those in the audience most like the characters by their reactions at key moments, right from the very first scene. Yet despite the genuine discomfort the audience is taken on a journey to resolution.

How people talk about money

Most relationships have a degree of complexity, but what Reza notices most obviously is the way relationships are altered by money. Had the price of the painting been a few pounds, it is unlikely that the subsequent heated exchanges would have occurred. Whilst clearly we have all have friends for a reason, it is unlikely that a friend is a sensible choice for advice when it comes to matters of money. Impartiality and professionalism of course apply to many aspects of “advice” that we all seek from time to time, but financial advice, is rarely, probably never, best discussed with friends around your table of choice.

Time is short

Art is currently showing at The Old Vic in London, until 18 February 2017; starring Rufus Sewell (Serge), Paul Ritter (Mark) and Tim Key (Yvan).

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Art and the art of friendship2017-01-27T11:11:14+00:00

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard

There is something deeply unsettling about the musical Sunset Boulevard which I saw recently. It is currently on at the London Coliseum and stars Glenn Close, (now 69) who most will know from the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction.

The story is one that examines the Hollywood life, or more accurately, the very short shelf-life of movie stars, particularly female ones. Spoiler alert – this is not a new musical, so I will assume its ok to outline the plot. In essence movie star Norma Desmond (Greatest Star of All) of yester-year has long since been discarded and “forgotten” (personally I’m not convinced that this really rings true). The new generation of actors “who need words” are currently all competing for the limited number of roles… and we all know the stories about the casting couch. As with many things in life, the Hollywood honeypot attracts a great variety of bees, the talent pool is more than sufficient, yet to get a good idea or script turned into a good movie – that’s another matter entirely….”Every Movie’s A Circus”.

Money and Happiness

Money or the lack of it, poses problems for “our hero” Joe Gillis, a cynical and weary writer who sees both Hollywood and himself for what they are. Lack or perhaps need (or even desire) leads to compromise. Our writer hooks up with the much older actress Norma, who is portrayed as delusional, perhaps mad, but certainly someone with narcissistic problems. A relationship follows, built upon mutual desperation for something the other appears to provide, yet both are caught up in a self-serving but deceptive story that they tell themselves. “The Lady’s Paying” is a song reflecting Joe’s willingness to let someone else pay… perhaps some self-reflection on this point might result in better questions which move us all forwards about the Panama Papers rather than “how much?”

Whilst I will admit that this is an old story (originally produced as a movie in 1950 by Billy Wilder) so set with that world view, it is frankly all rather too familiar and depressing that older women pairing up with younger men, to feel young are “mad” yet in the very same breath all the male characters pair up with younger women – for the same reasons, and this is “macho”. A woman wanting something, particularly her youth or at least not to be forgotten is typically portrayed as struggling with mental health issues. Yet this is of course an issue that men and women face, with double standards applied by men. The number “Eternal Youth Is Worth a Little Suffering” seems only to point to the outward. Whilst I recognise that this is a period story, it is surely attempting to prompt questions of today… in a culture that is obsessed with appearances, selfies and celebrity…. “I’m ready for my close-up”.

Caught in the Spotlight

The irony of an audience in 2016 largely turning up to see Glenn Close in the title role, merely confirms our fascination with the stars, who now bring considerable ker-ching to the boxes offices of the West End. The audience was enraptured, yet this is certainly not one of the better musicals in the West End, and I was left wondering if the sun had not set on this portrayal of “older” “mad” women. In fairness, it is not clear how old Norma is meant to be, at one point Joe implies that she is 50… (but even in this comment, it is unclear if he is still being “nice”)… so the mere fact that an actress aged 69 playing a 50 year-old rather suggests we have moved forwards, back then women over 35 “didn’t exist”…

Of course, the truth that we all know is that life is short, we cannot deny the aging process and at some point we will become a memory. Hence having a financial plan that reflects your values, not merely your “value” and being in control of your money, rather than it being in control of you, is my way of attempting to address the money/happiness question.

As for the original, here’s the trailer.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Sunset Boulevard2017-01-27T10:58:28+00:00

The Master Builder

The Master Plan

Perhaps it has something to do with the start of a New Year, or perhaps it is simply a case of my awareness of the ageing process is becoming more pertinent; but there seems to be a lot of “stuff” about ageing and the need for a master plan for life.

Ralph Fiennes is currently starring in Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” at the Old Vic. I managed to see this on Monday night, it was very well performed with Fiennes having a huge amount of dialogue to remember. However… perhaps I’m a philistine, but I simply didn’t get it.

The play, (which I haven’t read) centres on a man (Halvard Solness) who, frankly, has some “issues”. Somewhat of a control freak and ultimately has a bit of a god-complex. In essence he is a possessive man, who believes that by wishing something he makes it come true.

He has risen to “power” (in the days of small-town notoriety) through hard work and “good luck” (and the misfortune of others) despite having no qualifications, simply mastering the skills “on the job”. However, he holds the view that this success has a price, which I guess is Ibsen’s attempt at discussing the price of success. The price, that is paid, seems largely to be fear of the constant younger generation taking what he has.

Get out of the way…

Ultimately, Solness does indeed lose everything to the clamour of the younger generation, but totally through his own unfathomable actions. This involves a rather strange relationship with a young girl, Hilda Wangel, who can only be described as mad or at best delusional. Indeed at one point I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t simply meant to be a figment of his imagination, but as others talk with her, I assume that this isn’t the case.

I’m sure that some freudian references could be made to the relationship that Solness has with Wangel, her assertion of his ability to build towers, her apparent disregard for marriages and his confusion about his signficance, whilst she inspires him to new heights of potency.

A better bit of thoughtful planning?

I suppose the play reveals some lessons about marriage or relationships generally. The rather obvious need to communicate, and in particular not to avoid talking about the really important things (unlike Solness) which perhaps would have laid the foundations for a proper “life plan” to work on together.

Financial planning is essentially doing just that. If it’s done well, it will reflect your values. To date I haven’t discussed whether a successful financial plan has a price, in the sense of some form of karmic balance (a yin to the yang) but clearly any choice has a sense of this to it. Saving means not spending it all. Investing means taking a patient long-term view not than the short-term gain. Unlike Solness, wishful thinking has no part in a good financial plan – and a decent planner will help you remain grounded, not building castles in the sky.

The Master Builder is playing at the Old Vic until 19th March 2016. I’d be interested to hear your take on it! Fiennes is typically brilliant with a strong cast.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

The Master Builder2017-01-27T11:01:50+00:00

New Term, New Start

New Term, New Start?

So its September. A new term is about to start (it has already in Scotland). As someone with children much of my life has been demarked by the term timetable, this year its a little different… my eldest daughter begins her career as a teacher…. wow, where did the time go?

Time Flies

I’m reminded of a new play “Everyman” which I was lucky enough to catch it at the weekend – in fact the penultimate performance. The ensemble cast is headed by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role (you may have seen him in “Twelve Years A Slave” for which he was short-listed for an Oscar). The play confronts the familiar big existential questions in a contemporary and provocative way. Everyman’s journey is brief, confronting his values and their eternal significance. At his 40th birthday party he is forced to confront the question – Where did the time go?

There are some memorable scenes – with friends, family, discarded refuse (his and ours) and the checkout of consumer validation – the shopping store. The 2009 Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy pieces together some innovative rhyme, providing a 2015 upgrade to an otherwise familiar tale…. of God, the Devil and everyman…. and reposes the riddled question “have you lived a good life?”.

The stage is itself an almost ghostly reminder of morality plays of old, (stage with pit). Sadly the play is also out of time at the National Theatre, but those that saw it will be haunted by Death’s final call… eeny, meeny, miney.. mo… and the thought that invariably we only confront the value of life in death.

A plan that reflects your values

Whatever your thoughts about the meaning of life, a life well lived will mean different things to each. In an age of 24 hour “news” and the appearance of a shrinking world, we are regularly confronted with the hardship that others endure or suffer, whether on our doorstep or someone else’s. Invariably I find myself wrestling with the guilt of advantages that I have compared to many.

We live in an imperfect world and I have yet to write anything other than an imperfect financial plan. However I firmly believe that the effort made to ensure that your financial plan is based upon your values is more than “a nice thing” to my mind it is of significant importance – helping us come to terms with both our luck and our lack.

So may this term, or new academic year be time well spent…. and full of good performances! (let me know of those you enjoy).

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

New Term, New Start2017-01-27T11:08:23+00:00
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