K and I rush M out of the flat this morning at 11 am so that we can go to a jewellery exhibition before lunch. Poor M opts for more sleep rather than breakfast, but manages to squeeze in a pudding at lunchtime (lemon posset, if anybody is interested).
Our next show, Coalition is political satire, set in 2014 as the next General Election looms on the horizon, and the Lib Dems tear themselves apart under the strain of broken electoral promises. The Tories see less and less need to placate their coalition partners, and for every small concession exact a large step backwards from their 2010 election manifesto. The hapless leader of the Lib Dems, Matt Cooper, has just agreed to support a programme of building nuclear power stations. The energy secretary resigns and the Lib Dems are left trying to find a candidate to fight the ensuing by-election. Clegg is savvier than the hapless Cooper, and the Tories less Machiavellian than they are portrayed here (no, really!), but there are enough uncomfortable truths in the production to make us feel…uncomfortable. Indeed, a couple of people stalk out of the performance, declaring that they are Lib Dems and won’t stand for this rubbish. What did they expect, we wonder? Phill Jupitus is a wonderfully oleaginous Tory fixer, and Jo Caulfield convincing as the cynical, world-weary Lib Dem chief whip. Amidst the wreckage Cooper is left muttering his mantra: “Gladstone, Lloyd George, Attlee, Grimond, Cooper”. “Never mind,” says Macintosh, the Tory pm who finally finds a space in his diary to see Cooper. “You’ll end up with a seat in the Lords.”
Then it’s back to the Museum to see an exhibition on Catherine the Great. The desk downstairs is labelled “information and tickets”. Despite this, when we finally manage to speak to one of the underemployed staff manning the desk, they refuse to sell us tickets. “Oh, no, you want the third floor”.
After several minutes of waiting one of the new shiny lifts arrives. There is indeed a ticket desk on the third floor, manned by two staff. One of them is explaining something in great detail to a pair of tourists. The other one is standing around aimlessly. We try to buy tickets from him. “Oh no, you need to speak to Nicole.” (She is the occupied one). Several minutes later, Nicole is finally free. By now we have exactly an hour to see the exhibition. “Sorry you had to wait,” says Nicole cheerfully. She gives us a discount on the grounds of shortness of time. This is a somewhat bizarre business model, but what the hell.
The exhibition is odd but informative. We learn all sorts of interesting things about Catherine the Great. The first is that she was not Russian, but German. The second is that her name was in fact Sophie. The third is that she seized power after her husband’s aunt, the Empress Elizabeth, died and she probably did away with her husband, the emperor Peter III. We spend some time wondering why her monogram was the letter E rather than C. “Is it Cyrillic?” wonders Michael. He is very nearly right, as a little later it is revealed that the Russian form of Catherine is of course Ekaterina. The objects in the exhibition are rather less interesting than the history, being comprised mostly of various sets of china, clothes and furniture from the royal palaces. Catherine was a serious collector of art, (as opposed to the china, which I think she mostly accumulated) but this is only really demonstrated by a film about her palaces, oh, and some actual Roman stuff, displayed in the last room.
After this we meet up with A and J to go for a curry, before our final show of the day, Quantum Battlestar Deep-Space Voyager Tardis Wars. With a title like that you would be justified in expecting an Ian Sorenson-style production, and you would be more or less right, although it is more professionally done (probably due to additional rehearsal time). I was going to say it had better special effects, but I don’t think that was in fact true. I think everyone enjoyed it, but I was mostly asleep by then.