Friday, November 24, 2006

Point to ponder: Why the decrease in professional theatre productions in small theatres over the last decade? The question was posed at the Merlin Theatre AGM, and the concensus of professional actors supported the Director’s frank answer: Because of the lack of high quality professional theatre companies. There are still the big productions - the usual suspects, marketed with TV star names - but “small scale theatre isn’t happening like it used to.” It’s a bit of a chicken&egg thing, from the sound of it: more good drama & comedy on the box means the best writers want to work for TV, while theatre is losing popularity with audiences who can watch better stuff at home. But which came first? Or is it a reciprocal cultural shift?
In the meantime the good news is that dance events are increasingly popular and Live Lit is making headway, while Am-Dram shows always fill the (local) house. Ray Cooney’s farce “It Runs In The Family” isn’t the kind of humour that would rock the Guardian, but the Frome production was immensely popular.
And here’s one of the reasons: Ben, playing a dysfunctional teenager. The real Ben right now is in Japan, having taken an early gap year to be a planetary emissary for all things sustainable, bringing eloquence and hope as well as humour to this self-set task. I hope the planet deserves him, though I sometimes doubt it.

Nights are coming so early now. Emily and I went to Stourhead for an afternoon stroll that turned into a night walk. Thick coppery leaves underfoot, bare trees twisting like Shiva dancers in the gloaming. Owls hooting as we neared the Six Wells Valley and the silhouette of St Peter’s Pump, the source of the natural spring that feeds the lake, loomed from the shadows. We've been inspired to retrace our walk at the next full moon - Long Night Moon, as it's aptly called.

Je suis une seigneurterrasse, I discover, from a review of 'Tingo' in the current Writing Magazine – an excellent issue by the way. 'Tingo' (which means 'to borrow objects of desire from a friend's house until nothing is left') is a collection of useful words from around the world, like 'mbuki-mvuki' which Indonesians use for those times when you take off your clothes in order to dance, and 'seigneurterrasse', the French term for someone who goes into cafes to spend plenty of time and very little money. My second novel included an a table in the local cafe among the acknowledgements. Off now to Green Park Brasserie in Bath, to meet a poet & talk about writing...

And the week ends with Alison's story writing workshop on Saturday (enjoyable and humbling, as participating in group writing always is) and Sunday supper with writer friends, including playwright Steve Hennessy. Steve spearheads Stepping Out Theatre Company and writes powerfully on themes which fascinate me: outsiders in society, and that blurry crossover point between carer and cared-for, especially in institutions. We haven't had a chance to meet up for a while so lots of catchup, and animated converse on all things writerly: work in progress (& how to fund it), literary heroes & inspirations, dramatists & poets... a really good night.

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