Monday, March 07, 2011

Mark Thomas reckons he looks like he's just bagged a rambler in his promo image for Extreme Rambling - Walking the Wall, his one-man show about walking the Palestine border wall: a ramble, as he points out, requiring more than a bobble hat and boots - like an inside contact at UN. For over two hours Mark paces the stage in front of a map of the West Bank, recounting through facts and dramatic sketches the story of this epic journey with energy and passion that never flags. It's an amazing performance - a wildly funny show about shocking realities, deeply felt and inspirationally well-crafted.
Mark calls his trip a mixture of devilment, curiosity and rambling, though he's been warned to claim officially he's writing about birds and wild flowers. It's a journey full of learning. Like, although the border is 315 kilometers, the wall is more than twice as long, deviating wildly in order to include the illegal Israeli settlements. Like, the cruel absurdities of this route include a football pitch split in half, villagers separated from their shops, and children walking to school through a tunnel they share with sewerage when it rains.
There's much to grieve and rage over in his tale but it never becomes a lecture or a rant, as Mark peoples the stage with other characters too: his supporters, opposers, and random companions. We meet juggling Israeli anarchists who quote Monty Python, Palestinians queuing through the night at the border crossing, conscript soldiers, an orthodox Jew estate agent, the dapper Consulate General and the colonel who designed the wall - 'a man who doesn’t let the facts impinge on his life.' We recognise the voices of his hippy cameraman, his exasperated fuck-up sorter Nava, and Mark's inner Hugh Grant.
And the wall's final obscenity is to end at Beityatir, incomplete despite '723 kilometers of national self-delusion'. Mark's journey ends as it began, with an Israeli soldier shouting out a challenge. This time, fired by fury that 'this land so obsessed with identity robs everyone of his own', he yells back a summary of his experiences, concluding with lung-breaking belligerence ‘and I’m writing about birds and wild flowers.’ Brilliant entertainment with lasting impact.

Big contrast at the finale of the Bath Literature festival: Griff Rhys Jones discoursing on his trips to mountains and rivers, which turned out to be mainly a smugly superficial ramble through the peaks and streams of his ego. Thank Groupon for Royal Fizz champagne cocktails at The Lounge.

Saturday was World Book Night, with bedtime stories for children and free books for all at Frome Library. Over a dozen Fromies applied successfully to be donors, which means a total of more than 600 books supplied by the scheme. The big handout was followed by Books Please! - a chance for bibliophiles to share their most-loved reads. My own special favourite was Robyn still in her Where The Wild Things Are costume reading Kubla Khan.

And finally: Only 4 days now till Four in a Bed opens Upstairs at the Lamb. Rosie and I took Alison in to admire the framed poster in the downstairs bar...


Alon Serper said...

I should like to congratulate Rosie and Crysse for a most successful and enjoyable creative writing drama evening at 'the Lamb' in Frome last evening. I found both the organisation and the performance to be superb and very professional. In fact, I had enjoyed the evening so much that I forgot to whine and complain about the hard wooden chairs at the 'Lamb' pub and did not realise this until I was enquired about it.

Whilst it is the first time that I comment here, I referred to this site, this blog and Crysse's work in my PhD thesis (that was on dialectical creative writing as a tool in psychology, ontology and education) as an example of the immense power of creative writing for humanity and human existence and empowerment and the astonishing dedication of small town creative writers. I defended this proposition in my Viva Voce exam and got the PhD. The examiners were convinced.
Alon (Serper)

Crysse said...

Delighted you enjoyed 'Four in a Bed' so much Alon - there'll be notes & pictures about the event in my next posting, so keep reading.

I agree with you about Frome - it's a fantastic place to live. Congratulations on your PhD.

Alon Serper said...

I also have to say a few words about the Wall from my own experience.

When planning it and asked for our our support, Barak's government told us it will enable Palestinian development and stop the blodshed and very naively we thought it will be built on Israeli land inside the 1967 green line. It was during a very scary period of suicide bombs when everything blew up literally around and on us.

We were lied to. And before returning to the UK in 2002, I went with a group of Israeli educators and social scientists to a Palestinian town inside the Green line (inside Israel), in the name of Um Pachem, to see the town and help the town's inhabitants. We observed the constructed Wall and became sick to our stomach, the beautiful scenery and land were 'violently raped' by an ugly snake of ugly concrete.

Crysse said...

Tragic, all of it. Mark Thomas also spoke about the assault on the landscape, which is more beautiful than he ever expected. Your visit must have been a very interesting, albeit saddening, experience Alon.