Saturday, July 04, 2015

Frome Festival 2015 officially off ~ to a spanking start

Silk Mill always has a lively presence, this year leading off with an exhibition of paintings by Romi Behrens and a sizzling opening night party. Here's gallery owner Kate Moore with 'master plaster caster' & raconteur extraordinaire Peter Hone (& Basil the dog). Romi's oeuvre is here hailed as 'a magnificent and star-strewn reality' though the artist herself disclaims echoes of the masters to whom she's likened ~ understandably since Picasso believed paintings should 'bristle with razorblades'.
On to Wheatsheaf New Venue for Polaris Experience: projected visuals and live voice by Gene Serene, unforgettable singing 'hold me, touch me' to the swirling cosmos.  Add a mind-shifting AV created by Andrew Shackleton and a dance set from Johnny Normal and that's an extraordinary evening.

Several arty open nights on Friday: Frome Open Studios this year features 67 local artists at 21 venues. Welshmill Artists are at The Hub with paintings of townscapes & landscapes, and music from Tim Manning's hammered dulcimer, while  Black Swan Arts has  exhibitions in both Round Tower and Gallery. Mell Day's postcards from an ordinary childhood are displayed together with the extraordinary and very touching Home In Frome memory quilt,  created from collage patches & poems. Music provided by John Law and Nick Sorensen.

Then ~ segueing neatly via beds & memories ~  back to Silk Mill to weave through the thronged yard of the pop-up cantena for Frome Drama Club's performance of Mrs Shakespeare, a tale inspired by that famous codicil by the bard bequeathing Anne Hathaway his second-best bed.  In a monologue enlivened by romps we learn how Mr Shakespeare gets lucky in his marriage, despite his passion for Henry Wriothesley, when he discovers young Anne absolutely adores his erotic fantasies. She thrills to role-playing the crazy girl in the river, the sleep-walking Scottish queen (whose name she can never remember), the shrewish wench who needs a spanking, and adores being Queen of the Fairies ravished by a donkey...  Tina Waller's young Anne is a glitter-bomb of sexiness, and Stephen Scammell's Will leaps to the challenge in these entertaining sections. Although the script betrays too much of its radio origins, for lively effrontery alone FDC deserves the praise this show is receiving. The bed is amazing too, and mandolin playing & roundels to greet the audience are a charming touch.

The Valley are about to start their second half by the time I finally arrive at the Cornerhouse. "It's going to be a good week," Griff says, "I've booked myself into rehab for Wednesday - you've got to think ahead."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fringe-ing Frome's festival

While half of Frome disappears to Pilton to either work or perform, the rest of us are warming up for our town festival starting next week. As anyone in, or interested in, Frome will know there's so much creative stuff happening all the time that festival fringe activities aren't exactly oases in a cultural desert but this week the buzz is even more bombinatory than usual.  Or bombinatious, not sure which is the right adjective from this great verb. Where to begin?
Muffin Man 1 & 2 had two nights at The Cornerhouse, and my marvellous actors & co-writers, Ross Scott and Fleur Hanby-Holmes spent a full day in rehearsal with the relevant pastries before our opening on Thursday.  The show comprises a replay of my 'Bard of Frome' title-winning short from last year, followed by our devised sequel to the cliffhanging ending of this unlikely rom-com, The Morning After. The opener is a stand-up routine and there's a song between the two plays, both 'bonus tracks'  created by the characters to add depth to their roles. Lots of audience laughter and brilliant feedback forms, especially after the awesome Saturday night performance summed up Great entertainment - well told story - good fun! and even more succinctly Funny as f##k. (You can see them all here)
Midsummer Dusk is developing sensationally well and tickets for the extra Saturday performance selling briskly at the Festival box office. Sunday's evening rehearsal gave us a shivery sense of how atmospheric the Dissenters Cemetery will be...  our superb cast is already virtually word perfect.

And it's bang goes the neighbourhood affordability-wise, as once again Frome is in the national press:  our Share Shop is commended in Positive News, and we're now a 'Great Town' officially, as a winner in this category at the Urbanism Awards ceremony this month.

Moving briefly out of the cultural hub for two visits to Bath: on Tuesday to talk my poems, as they now say, at the Rose & Crown where lovely Speakeasy organizer Jo Butts entertained us with thoughts from Mark Thomas's People's Manifesto (Goats are to be released on to the floor of the House of Commons - no more than four) and local regular John Christopher Wood aired his views on Cheese (it is an urban myth / that Palestinians make cheeses of Nazareth)  so my chirpy appeal for provision of therapeutic gigolos in Homes for the Elderly fitted in nicely.

Also in Bath, Stepping Out have been performing The Square Wheel of Time at the Rondo. The 'big show' productions from this Bristol community theatre company are always zestful romps with dancing, song and magic tricks as well as wild comedy, bizarre characters, and a thought-provoking bite that lingers. Mark Breckon's script and an exuberant cast combine to tick all these boxes once again. Directed by Cheryl Douglas with lavish costumes and clever stage techniques to create filmic fights and atmospheric flashbacks, this show took and tweaked the company's usual play-within-a-play convention: among many highlights I'd have to pick out 'Tamas' dirty-dancing to Time of My Life (Black-Eyed Peas version of course), the urbane and unscrupulous Dr Charles Lavelle, and Cecilia the stolen daughter dancing secretly with the gipsies, but this was an ensemble piece and everyone deserves praise.  The plot, involving eco-warriors returning to the 19th Century to change history, is sublimely incredible but the intention, to prevent the dominance of chemical intervention in mental health treatment, raises a serious issue. Behind every character, laughable & lovable or outright pathetic, we begin to see a third dimension: the real person damaged by trauma, loss, emotional abuse, or even unresolved family history. More than mere diverting entertainment, these plays from Stepping Out invite audiences to take a realistic & critical look at the current 'medical model' of treatments. As the Square-Wheelers have learnt, chemical pills are not the only, or the best, way to return to health.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Life after Spain

It’s not easy taking over a course at short notice, and difficult too for participants who chose a specific facilitator, so big appreciation to the stoic souls who arrived at Cortijo Romero last week to seek their inner poet with me instead  ~ and did so with warmth & humour as well as honesty, integrity and sometimes a bite of raw sorrow. It was a delight to hear and a privilege to discuss these multi-textured, lucent, colourful pieces, whether free-flow or shaped into form, netted from experience or fly-fished from wild imagination. Cortijo Romero in June is exquisite and abundant: the gardens blossom-filled & tranquil, the cool dining room filled always with bowls bulging with local fruit ~ oranges, cherries, apricots, plums… On our day off I took the river walk to town, arriving after a long hot upward trail at a garden bar I remembered fondly. I stood at the gate, calling through “Are you open?"  "Not yet" said the barman courteously, "come in," and he gestured below shading orange trees and brought me a beer.  Spain, I love you.

Another consequence of my short-notice travel was anti-social flying hours, which meant I was at Malaga airport 12 hours early, which turned out to be a brilliant way to spend a final day in Spain: exploring old-town Malaga, revisiting the Picasso Museum, and remembering all over again why I love this perverse & puzzling painter. “You have to wake people up,” he said, “to force them to understand they're living in a very strange world that’s not what they think it is.” 
Picasso loved Malaga but he didn’t spend much time here: this collection, while beautifully curated & presented, doesn't reflect his best work. But there is one exquisite piece: a tiny, half-painted drawing of a young man watching his lover sleep. I can’t decide which is the most moving: the superb single-line drawing, sensuous fleshlike painting, the transcendental way both merge, or the inspiration of form, allegedly unfinished yet quintessentially perfect. I guess it’s all of these, and more.

Back home in Frome now and the week ahead is brimming over: Nevertheless Productions' Frome Festival production of Midsummer Dusk sold out completely on both nights and Rosie has enterprisingly organised an extra date on the final Saturday ~ get booking now if you were one of those missing out and clamouring! Rehearsals are in the cemetery, which in the summer solstice glow is more beautiful than ever. Principal gardener Gerald Shakespeare has trimmed branches and strimmed around the gravestones but there's still a sense of fecundity and wildness all around. The cast are so good they gave me goosebumps, I can't wait to see them in costume and fully off book...
In the meantime, Muffin Man (One & Two) is on at the Cornerhouse on Thursday and Saturday. This is a reprise of last year's 'Bard of Frome' comedy winner plus a sequel to the cliff-hanging ending, and with bonus tracks of song & comic standup from talented duo Ross Scott and Fleur Hanby Holmes.  A Festival Fringe event, we're calling it.

And on Wednesday I'm booked to do poems at Jo Butt's Speakeasy event in Bath, always a lot of fun and with a lively open mic so I'm hoping my theme of older women behaving badly will fit well... 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Siblings, stories, and other stuff

A bit of a medley this week. First off, a trip to Wells with Alison Clink to talk about her memoir The Man Who Didn't Go To Newcastle which was discussed on Clare Balding's show on Radio 2 for the start of National Carers' Week. A warm review commented on the insights into an extraordinary situation and Clare applauded the "humour as well as  humanity"~ essential in my view for any difficult writing.

Another sibling story - and other Clare: Clare Reddaway who runs A Word In Your Ear, a lively bi-monthly event in Bath where actors present the best of submitted short stories, has branched out into recordings. I've been lucky enough to be picked for the live performance a couple of times & am delighted my caustic tale Sisterly Love was selected for this new venture. Beautifully read - thanks Caroline Garland. Another Frome writer & blogger is featured too, with a flash and a mystery from Sally Gander. Do check us out - and if you're a writer, consider submitting to monthly performances. There's a different theme each time.

Still for writers: The Royal Literary Fund has set up a writing project in Bristol with, as well as more specific support, a series of talks at the Watershed. Monday's event featured writing for stage and radio, with an excellent contribution from Tina Pepler which was both inspirational and full of practical tips.  Refreshingly modest as well as helpful, Tina didn't even mention her award for radio drama and extensive script writing for films and television where her credits include Downton Abbey.   Thanks Trevor Day for the heads-up, and the lift.

Another great Roots Session at the Grain Bar: international performer Mara Simpson ("soulful, sincere, warm, rich and intimate" ) supported by a local favourite. To quote the organisers,"Mara has been captivating audiences around the world with a set which is eclectic as her background. PLUS the chocolate vocals and golden larynx of soulboy, Steve Loudoun...Gee Baby ain't we good to you" Couldn't put it better.

The Silk Mill, showing again what a great venue it is for paintings, hosted a fantastic exhibition of vibrantly coloured paintings by David Moss. A real party atmosphere at the preview on Friday, but even without the bubbly this is a show not to be missed: on till June 20th.

Next posting will be from Spain. I'm going back to lovely Cortijo Romero for a week ~ I'd intended to take a break from foreign courses this year, but am stepping in to cover a writing course as the leader had to pull out. I'll miss two exciting productions,  a solstice party, and Frome in all its mid-June glory, but this beautiful retreat is always a place of healing, creativity, warmth & joy.
Humour and humanity, in fact.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Flaming June: suddenly it's summer... again

Exeter-based comedy troupe Le Navet Bete returned to the Merlin with their new show Dick Tracy.
The square-jawed, hard-hitting, fast-shooting detective arrived in comic book form in the 1930s. In this version, clever Dick foils the baddies but has no intention of apprehending them as that would stop the crime wave ~ and Dick loves crime as much as his girlfriend loves Dick... As well as their trademark heroic parody, there's the ever-reliable flamboyant display of circus-skills including mime, songs, absurd masks & props, and general buffoonery. A talented performing quartet, supported by their inventive props man, contrive to create an extensive cast by supplementing  lightning role-changes with a mannequin and some cardboard cut-outs. You could almost see the plot-line of evil BigBoy Caprice's social manipulation as a metaphor for American society, but then again maybe it was all just an excuse for the DIY wrecking ball & throwing masses of sliced bread at the audience.  Hilarious, and full of unexpected moments of marvellous mayhem. Lovely to see the ECOS amphitheatres stones illuminated in the warm night too.
 And on the subject of theatre, a small self-trumpet here: it's always nice to know my review is appreciated by the company, especially when - as with the current production of School for Scandal - it's quoted alongside a soundbite from The Guardian as the show's online promo:
“Brilliant directing from Andrew Hilton is supported by terrific acting from all the cast…SATTF has become a must-see company for many theatre­-goers in the southwest and beyond”  - Plays International on Arcadia 
Celebrations till late on Saturday as The Artisan opened its doors with a great dance band - The Sparks -  giving Frome another music venue. Unlike the Wheatsheaves, now thriving but still 'Name TBC', the old Olive Tree has been transformed as well as renamed. Sunday's Jazz Jam at the Cornerhouse with Vicki Burke was another goodie.
A new month means another Sunday Independent market filling the town with stalls, entertainment, crowds, and that feeling of universal benignity & bliss that sunshine brings. My visiting friends from Wiltshire were overawed with the range and splendour of the event and left after four hours of happy browsing with bags of artisan items, garden seeds, organic cheese and scotch eggs. The Words at the Black Swan group met too: you can see some of our previous art/writing collaborations in this archive gallery collected by Kim Woods.

Fascinating footnote this week of celebrating sunshine came from a trip to Wilton House, which I discovered has an extraordinary history and an art collection more superb than most city galleries, dripping with paintings by Rubens, Tintoretto, Raphael, Hogarth, Van Dyke, Frans Hals... a place where a Gibson neoclassical marble sculpture can be rediscovered abandoned in the grounds and a massive Murano glass chandelier found abandoned in the attic... it really is worth a visit, in other words.  Shakespeare apparently stayed there, but there's a more fascinating connection with the bard: Mary Sydney now recognised as the most important literary woman of her generation. She not only led the way for other women writers but may have written, or at least contributed to, some of the plays currently attributed to 'the Man From Stratford.'   
So to end a week of fabulous summeryness here's a quote from another determined & pioneering woman, Gertrude Jekyll: What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Truth, lies, and fairy tales

The Freedom Theatre of Jenin is the 'cultural resistance' movement of a refugee camp in occupied Palestine, and they're currently touring the UK in just 10 venues & arousing outrage from the Daily Mail, both reasons for Frome to feel immensely proud to host their show.  The Siege tells, from research & interviews with the exiled fighters, the story of their 39 days in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002.  On the night before the show here's writer/director Nabil Al-Raee with actor Faisal Abu Alheja talking with Jim Laurenson at the welcome-to-Frome party hosted by Frome Friends of Palestine, whose "imagination and tenacity" brought them to Merlin Theatre, the only small town venue, and only one in the southwest.  Jim summed up our feelings of respect for the company: As actors we have an insecure life but compared to you, our insecurities are as nothing. They played on Saturday to a full house & prolonged standing ovation.
Inevitably intensely moving, The Seige is also brilliant theatre. Nabil Al-Raee has written a terrific play and the staging is terrific too. Projected exterior views, great set & sound design, and powerful acting all bring unforgettable impact to the violent storyline. "We are facing the Israeli propaganda machine that speaks every language. It turns the oppressed into the oppressor and the oppressor into the oppressed" says one of the fighters, and this was picked up by Ken Loach in the Q&A afterwards in identifying 'rage of injustice at the lies told and believed.'  The actors agreed. "The media do not tell the truth so we tell the truth. Through theatre we are fighting not just the occupation but the media." Including, to our national shame, the BBC.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest, Burn the Curtain has revived Angela Carter's dark fairy tale The Company of Wolves for a performance requiring around 80 extras otherwise known as the audience, and stretching the notion of 'promenade theatre' to a record limit with miles of Longleat estate to traverse. The cast and backup team enlivened our hilly trek with some great cameo moments using lights, sounds, masks, smoke and fire, and brilliant acting by the duke and his secret lover. Involvement was maintained by selective participation too, and I was amazed, after long walks in which it was hard to stay in role, at the emotional impact of the gripping finale.
I don't have any image of the theatrical highlights as we were told cameras would spoil the atmosphere, which was clearly true as demonstrated by the posse of Salisbury Festival photographers circling us constantly with lenses aloft. Little Red Ridinghood must have felt more like a starlet spotted at Cannes than a brave girl standing alone as wolves howled through the gloaming.  So here's a quick snap of the long leat that gives the park its name, where we rested briefly to hear more of the story unfold. And that quibble aside the team was great, the hot chocolate very welcome, and when it was over I wished I could do it all again and this time be one of the wolf girls running wild with the wonderful lupine duke.

Back in Frome the third Steampunk Extravaganza arrived at Cheese&Grain to present Victorian modes and memorabilia as a rich feast of eccentricity. Here's Steve Hillier, maker & purveyor of recycled jewellery, showing a treasure discovered literally in his attic. He's holding the list of reasons why the brother on the right challenged the brother on the left to a dual 26 times between 1853 and 1869. Reasons range from the trivial (Laughing at latest haircut ) to the frankly bizarre: Putting marmalade in slippers.  Frederick, the challenging sibling, lost every time and the ensuing grazing wounds are listed too, eventually with 'again' and exasperated exclamation marks. The story only ends with the mother confiscated their dualling pistols, as a good mother should.

Grain Bar Roots Session featured the fabulous sounds of Gravity Drive this week and a full house enjoyed great vocals from Ava and Elijah Wolf, all songs written & instrumentalised by Elijah. There's a sample of their music on the website, if you missed the gig.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Smother love

Playwright Florian Zeller ("young, blessed with the floppy-haired good looks of a rock star” to quote the programme biog) is the golden boy of French contemporary writing. An “overnight star” as a novelist at 22, he was coaxed into theatre by Françoise Sagan and at only 36 already has a drawerful of international awards.  As a dramatist he acknowledges the influence of Pinter and an aim to unsettle his audience, both dominantly clear in The Mother now at Theatre Royal Bath Ustinov Studio until 20 June ~ a companion piece to The Father produced here last year with the same prestigious team of translator (Christopher Hampton) and director (Laurence Boswell).  Both plays represent an intense study of disturbed psychological mind-state, rather than the social role of the title: the father had dementia, and the mother is addicted to social drugs and suffering empty-nest syndrome.  In his professed intention to lead the audience into the character’s head and show reality through their eyes, Zeller is blessed to have Gina McKee in the title role.
She is simply superb, strangely empathetic even when irritating, cruel, obsessive and frankly deranged: her aura of exhausted beauty transforming a character who could seem, if were possible to whisper such a thought about a play by a giant, a tad clichéd.  The trio of family members she adores, loathes, needs, resents and suspects by turn are superbly well played too, but it’s this mesmeric performance that holds the story and the stage. Excellent design enhances the disturbing mood: a cold Hockneyesque set echoing the estranging couple's contact and disquieting music as the mother’s memory struggles into each new scenario. 
Quoting the programme again, Zeller has said his play was inspired by his own mother's sacrifices.  But it doesn't say what she thought about that.

As a confessional footnote, I wasn't one of those rapturously impressed by The Father last year, finding it ~ for the first time in my experience of the Ustinov ~ emotionally laboured and self-consciously 'prestigious'.  It went on to top the listings for Play of the Year. I mention this neither penitently nor defiantly but as the daughter of a theatre critic who wrote after the opening night of The Mousetrap in 1952, "I give it a week".  My father, I salute you.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Looking forward, looking back, and looking down...

This week several projects which were bubbling along nicely have started coming to the boil, which means I've now got various fabulous flyers and posters to distribute. Muffin Man is returning to the Cornerhouse for two nights in June with a sequel devised with impro from the cast: talented twosome Ross Scott and Fleur Hanby-Holmes. The show comprises a reprise of the original short play ~ which gave me the title Bard of Frome 2014 in the Frome Festival comedy play contest, a title I hand on in July to the next winning contestant ~  and an original song and stand-up comedy routine as well as the new play The Morning After.   
Looking ahead to the festival, as we do now the box office is open and tickets selling fast, our guest at the Poetry Café, hotfoot from Hackney's Hammer & Tongue, is 'Angry Sam' Berkson and a special open-mic on that Monday night will include selection of 'Festival Poet Laureate'. That's at the Garden Cafe and we're hoping, if it's a fine night, to be actually in the garden.

Midsummer Dusk is the festival offering from Nevertheless Productions ~ our first site-specific event, directed by Rosie Finnegan with my script and our newly-formed acting company. First read through last week confirmed this quintet of 'Star Players' are well-named: this promises to be a fantastic show and, since it's only on for two nights (Thursday & Friday) we expect to sell out early.

Black Swan is showing paintings by Dan Hampson inspired by the notion of exploration, and it's the most exciting exhibition I've seen for ages. Dan was at the launch and spoke tentatively and intriguingly about these cultural icons ~ Stanley, Livingstone, Captain Cook etc ~ as 'trying to be heroic but things are spiralling out of control because they're incomprehensible.' I can't wait to explore further myself at the Words at the Black Swan writers' workshop on Sunday 7th.

Reverberations of the Independents for Frome recent election success continue with a feature article in The Guardian on 'How Flatpack Democracy beat the old parties in the People's Republic of Frome', with a great picture of our joyful mob rulers and the story of their amazing triumph. And the week ended exuberantly with Frome Street Bandits and Orkestra del Sol in a dance-fest extraordinaire at the Cheese&Grain.

One of the quirks of writing a blog about what's on in and around Frome is the diversity sometimes leads to strange juxtapositions. Here's one of them: We Are Many directed by Amir Amirani ~ on general release from May 22nd  ~ had a special showing at 90 cinemas on Thursday, one of which was the Little Theatre in Bath. I had been one of the thousands who lost hope after that 2003 massive global protest when the largest mobilisation in the history of the world met with derisive dismissal from that reptilian pair of conspirators Bush & Blair. I went with Jill Miller on the march, and we went together a year later to see David Hare's play Stuff Happens expose the lies that were seeping out by now ~ the fait accompli timing, the dodgy dossier, the tricking of Blix. So now we all know this was an illegal war that needlessly killed millions and cost trillions, why does Jon Snow (who led the live Q&A) hail this movie as as 'a huge achievement which has exceeded all expectations"?
I've already seen querulous comments on facebook about the protest being worthless, but I still find it heartening to hear people like Tony Benn, Nelson Mandela, Ken Loach and Mark Rylance speaking so powerfully, and to see the Women for Peace calling out the war criminals and the Iraq veterans hurling their medals, and to know unequivocally that history shows 'the "deranged lefties" were absolutely right and the governments were wrong.'
But this movie offers more hope than Auden's lament Time will say nothing but I told you so.  There's been a seismic shift since the day 35 million people in 789 cities in 72 countries across the world said together 'Not In My Name.'  When Cameron in 2013 tried the same old rhetoric, his call to war was, for the first time ever in an English parliament, defeated. And in Egypt the seeds of the democracy movement that became know as the Arab Spring were sown.

A lighter end to this posting: I've yearned to go up in a balloon since watching Ashton Court fiesta, and my sons gave me a trip which for reasons mainly climatic was delayed until today. So at 7a.m. here I am floating over the fields beyond Bath on a champagne flight with Bristol Balloons.  A stunningly beautiful tapestry of sunny fields and dramatic shadows scrolls below a sky of searing blue as the Royal Crescent dwindles and for a delicious hour we watch field patterns unfold, deer running & cows meandering, ending after 14 miles at 2000 feet in a field in Nunney.  What can I say but Recommended.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The past is another country, but trespassers are welcome

Growing up in the 1960s on the edge of Brixton the notion of segregation completely passed me by, though over in America the Governor of Alabama was calling for continuation forever, Kennedy appealing for an end, and Florida was rioting.  Meanwhile in Baltimore, according to the 1988 musical rom-com Hairspray, a plump teenager named Tracy was doing her bit for racial harmony by bringing 'negro' dancing to a popular TV show. Reflecting era aspirations I do vividly remember, wannabe-worldsaver Tracy longs to escape post-1950s humdrum by rebelling at school and losing herself in yoof-empowering music. I had only Radio Luxembourg on a tranny to transport me, Tracy has 'The Corny Collins Show' on local network TV, and Corny needs a new dancer...  Can Tracy overcome puppy-fat and the producer's prejudice to bring everyone together for a grand finale? It takes a lot of angst and ensemble singing, but of course she can! The Broadway version of Hairspray won 8 Tony Awards, and the 2007 film remake was listed as one of 500 greatest movies of all time, and Frome Musical Theatre has been showing why.
An immense cast of incredibly talented singers were brilliantly choreographed & directed by Vicki Klein to bring out the comedy as well as the moves in this warm-hearted fairy tale ~ I especially loved the duet as Tracy's Dad (Norm Langley) reassures his weight-worrying wife (Jon O'Loughlin) 'You're timeless to me.'  A thoroughly feel-good show deservedly a sell-out ~ I'm glad I saw audience comments on facebook in time to catch a returned ticket on the final night. Now I'm looking forward to their Peter Pan in August.

In slightly tenuous connection via the 1960s, Alison Clink was at Frome Library this afternoon for another Q&A with me about her book The Man Who Didn't Go To NewcastleThe primary focus is the story of her brother's death in 2008 but some of the early sections of this moving memoir recall their shared childhood in South London. With several writers among the audience there was particular interest in how to retrieve distant memories that can seem lost in the past. "The more you go there, the more things come back to you," is Alison's experience and her advice.  And does writing heal?  "Yes - and no. But yes, it can."