13th April 2001 at 01:00
The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the centenary of Queen Victoria's death with an exhaustive trawl through the achievements of her reign, in the exhibition The Victorian Vision: Inventing New Britain.

The intention is to show the Victorians as they saw themselves - as the makers of the modern world. Paintings and artefacts (many on loan from royal collections) illustrate the age through the themes of royalty, society, nature, the world, and technology.

Beginning with the Victorian royal family, the entrance drowns in red velvet, gilt and ermine - with huge regal portraits by Winterhalter, gilded porcelain and silver statuary; and a cabinet of chubby royal infant limbs, carved in marble, and resting on plush cushions under glass domes.

Paintings of teeming crowds are everywhere. Crowds at Paddington Station; crowds at the Great Exhibition; crowds at Ascot; and crowds on Ramsgate Sands - a great upholstered mass of humanity, in frock-coats and crinolines, turning the beach into a sitting room, all decamped only inches from the waves, defiant as Canute, in the certainty that they have nature firmly under control.

There's exotic booty from all continents too - tasselled fez hats, Hawaiian feathered cloaks, Australian opals, and a stuffed Bengal tiger; and a room of technological advances - machine guns, bicycles and motor cars, telegraph machines and an elaborately decorated public urinal.

The exhibition scores best in its amassing of iconic paintings: Landseer's "Monarch of the Glen"; Hughes's "The Long Engagement"; Sickert's music-hall balconies; Tissot's ballrooms; Alma Tadema's swooning harems; and Briton Riviere's winsome "Sympathy" - the one with the crestfallen little girl, sitting in disgrace on the stairs while her dog snuffles faithfully into her shoulder.

At the Vamp;A, London, until July 29. There is a free private view for teachers, guided by the curators, on May 3. Book the educators' evening on 020 7942 2209; school parties on 020 7942 2197. Website:

From Victorians to Albertans. Catalyst, the innovative theatre company from Alberta, anada, is currently touring the UK with The House of Pootsie Plunket, the show which won a Scotsman Fringe First Award at last year's Edinburgh Festival.

Pootsie Plunket takes the Greek tragedy of Electra and turns it into a darkly comic gothic fairy tale set in a frozen northern landscape. Pootsie, in ginger pigtails, is the proud daughter of a dynasty of plucky pioneers, gleefully recalling the heroic feats of her gritty ancestors who braved blizzards to carve their monumental palace - and with it the family fortune - out of ice.

Comedy melts into catastrophe as Pootsie and her brother realise that their pantomime villain mother and her hot-blooded beau are not exactly grieving at the death of their pa. It's an entertaining underlining of the archetypal Hamletian story, strongly staged with some lovely effects, as projections of the ancestors' portraits glimmer through the columns of the ice-house.

Pootsie Plunket is at the Pleasance Theatre, London, until April 15, tel: 020 7609 1800; then the Merlin Theatre, Frome, April 20-21, 01373 461360; the Arc, Stockton on Tees, April 24-25, 01642 666600; the Tron, Glasgow, April 26-28, 0141 552 4267.

You don't have to be Clytemnestra to want to murder your family. A bank-holiday car journey will do the trick. If you're on the M1 this weekend, and feel your hackles rising, pull into the Granada service stations at Donington Park (jct 24: April 13-16) or Toddington (jct 11 northbound: April 17). Their foyers are the venue for light-hearted musical family theatre, Wheels on Fire, which tackles the subject of road rage.

Developed as part of the Year of the Artist scheme, which brings art to unusual places, Wheels of Fire uses snappy sketches and snatches of pop songs to highlight road-safety issues. Providing lessons in controlling motorised aggression, the show also offers relief from traffic jams and back-seat squabbles in no more than the time it takes to slurp down a coffee and queue for the loo. The free performance lasts 15 minutes, with shows at 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm. Information line: 01629 760910.

Judith Palmer

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today