A special offer for New Statesman readers

Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel and The Pitmen Painters.

MONDRIAN || NICHOLSON: IN PARALLEL and The Pitmen Painters for £28.50!

***** Evening Standard
***** Daily Express
***** Mail on Sunday
***** Sunday Express
Winner of the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play

"A wonderful piece of theatre: comic, sad and stirring in the same breath"
Financial Times

Presented by Bill Kenwright, following celebrated seasons at the National Theatre and on Broadway, Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters is currently enjoying a West End season, following a summer national tour.

Written by Lee Hall, creator of the worldwide sensation Billy Elliot, The Pitmen Painters has received huge critical acclaim and won the Evening Standard award for Best New Play.

In 1934, a group of Ashington miners hired a professor to teach an art appreciation evening class. Rapidly abandoning theory in favour of practice, the pitmen began to paint - prolifically. Within a few years avant-garde artists became their friends and their work was acquired by prestigious collectors; but every day they continued to work, as before, down the mine. The Pitmen Painters is highly amusing, deeply moving and always entertaining as it examines the lives of a group of ordinary men who do extraordinary things.

"Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel" explores the largely untold creative relationship between Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson during the 1930s. At the time the two artists were leading forces of abstract art in Europe. Their friendship culminated with Mondrian moving to London in 1938, at Nicholson's invitation, where the two worked in neighbouring Hampstead studios at the centre of a vibrant international community of avant-garde artists. This is a unique opportunity to experience some of the greatest works ever produced by these two exceptional artists.

Package deal includes top price ticket to The Pitmen Painters (normally £49.50) and admission to the Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery saving £27.00.

For more information and to book tickets visit www.LOVEtheatre.com/Pitmen or call 020 7907 7000.

The Pitmen Painters
Written by Lee Hall
Inspired by a book by William Feaver
Duchess Theatre, Catherine Street, London WC2

"Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel", until 20 May, www.courtauld.ac.uk/mondrian, Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London WC2

Terms and conditions apply. Package includes a top ticket to The Pitmen Painters and admission to the Mondrian/Ben Nicholson exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery. Offer is valid on all Monday-Friday performances until 6 April 2012. Subject to availability. Offer cannot be used retrospectively or in conjunction with any other discounts. A booking fee of £1.95 applies when booking by phone.

Read the New Statesman's review of Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel here.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt