Sunday, February 17, 2008

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Perfect for Valentine week.... yes, except Thou might have been a sense of internal divinity rather than a lover, though possibly both. "In the West we make too big a distinction between physical love and spiritual love" suggests poet Paul Sutherland, talking about Omar Khayyam at the Bath Royal Lit & Sci Institute. We know so little about this Persian philosopher who inspired Edward Fitzgerald to create, as 'translations', those sensusal verses now accepted as the Ruba'iy. Khayyam lived in a place of beauty at a time of danger, and the urgency to seize life pulses through his words, whether that life is sufi inner spirit or epicurean erotic passion. Fitzgerald translated only about a fifth of the 500 verses in existance, and only a tenth of these are estimated to be by Khayyam himself. "Maybe we don't need to give a name to the writer, or any of the writers,' Paul suggests at the end of his sensitive and intriguing discourse, "maybe we should just treasure these as fragments that somehow survived a thousand years."

The Merlin artists' salon this year was held in the Bath Arms on the edge of the Longleat estate - very useful when debate reaches need-to-walk-in-the-sunshine intensity. The bedrooms have intimate names like Bird-in-the-Hand (where I nestled) and Axis-of-Medievil (ok I made that one up). Artistic discussion ranged from Is The Play Dead? (conclusion: at Death's door, might yet be pulled through...) to Why We Do It: why we embark on what dance choreographer Mark Bruce so lucently calls 'the long journey of making something that's about your life, and producing something which is special, and potent, and touches people'.

And back to the theatre on Saturday, to see the current Rejects Revenge production.
"To be honest, Here Be Monsters, created in difficult circumstances, is not a classic Rejects show" writes Lyn Barber in the Guardian. awarding the play two stars. One for the acting and set probably, but the second must surely be in consolation for those difficult circumstances, it can't be for the script. Is The Play Dead? well it will be if stage wit descends to injokey jibes about arts funding.

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