Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
Visiting Rome for the first time since the 1970's is a wonderful experience, especially in a week when most of the museums are free (it's Cultural week in Rome) and the mid-April sun is shining bright and warm.
The highlight after our first two days is the Palazzo Barberini which houses the National Gallery. The upper galleries, in particular, took our breath away. Carravaggio's "Narziso", so dark and brooding, more than made up for the absurd horror-movie blood spouting from the clean cut rendered through Holofernes' neck by Judith in the large composition nearby. But the ambiguous expressions of the female figures in the picture are very moving.
Two small El Grecos stand out from the rest of the mannerist paintings, with the flame-like quality of their execution, almost reminiscent of the work of Munch more than two centuries later.
The portrait by Holbein of Henry VIII was a surprise - so often seen in books and media but I'd forgotten it was here in Rome Next to it, the portrait of Erasmus hangs, formidably learned and intelligent.
The Coliseum didn't compare in interest to the Barberini collection, especially when our guide gave us the slip and we were all left hanging about in the midday sun for half an hour until a guide from a rival company picked up the pieces and allowed us to accompany her group round the Palatine, free. Of course, today we are joining her group for the Vatican tour.