"If I'd read the write-up I don't think I'd have come," said the lady in powder blue & pearls in the queue for the loo after the matinee performance of Pornography at the Theatre Royal, "-it was all over the place. Was he a bomber?"
He was indeed, and the pornography lurks in the 2005 attack on London rather than in the snapshot glimpses of people whose lives this touched. Writer Simon Stephens says that in the end the play is not about terrorism but about human beings, and can be performed in any order. There's a haunting quality of compassion in the portrayal of each of the 8 characters: the difference between these ordinarily transgressional lives and the vengeful terrorist is only a matter of degree.
I loved it for the actors' spare & elegant interpretation and for the writing, which had that moving, tough, blend of colloquial and lyrical achieved in the best of Jack Allsopp's lyrics (listen to Blood on the new album All Night Cinema to see what I mean: an urban opera in two verses). Billy Seymour and Sheila Reid stood out in an outstanding cast; Sean Holmes directed.
Frome's Merlin Theatre hosted the Made in Somerset conference of theatre practitioners, organised jointly by Theatrework, Salisbury Arts Centre, and Take Art. Delegates get a mini-programme to wear like the Glastonbury gig-guide, except with cow pictures instead of psychedelia, and lots of tastes from the extensive tapas of local-based work in progress and tour-ready shows. An inspirational, informative, and exhausting 3 days of showcases, talks, and discussions interrupted with breaks for excellent food & intensive conversations on the sunny lawns beside the Ecos amphitheatre, entertained by Frome Street Bandits.
It felt an amazing privilege to spend a day watching such a wide range of dance, drama, and community theatre - that's not an icecream van by the way, it's Fuse's I Scream van - and great that young people from the college came along to participate.
Several positive outcomes from the symposium too: Emma Stenning, new executive director, affirmed Bristol Old Vic commitment to support artists across the southwest, not just within the city. And Rob Jones, Policy & Development Manager for Arts and Creative Industries, refuted the tag of artistic backwater: "Somerset is one of the most culturally diverse places I've ever seen." Good news, then... especially for those of us who didn't know that post existed.
I'll leave you with a miscellany of recent news items you may have missed, piquantly peppered with my own personal prejudice perspective.
• Outrage over the raffle prize of a lamb from a school farm, in joint form, from the mother whose daughter sobs nightly because ‘an animal she bonded with is going to be slaughtered.’ Well call me Cruella de Ville, but surely the school’s intention was not to find her a fluffy sibling substitute but to show her where food comes from and introduce her to the realities of traditional rural life? Still, one more vegetarian is no bad thing…
• Shadow Cabinet Minister Alan Duncan has been sacked for saying he feels like he’s been ‘on rations’ since the new rules on expenses. Am I the only one who feels this is a little unfair? He was merely whingeing - I want the bastards stopped from ripping us off, I don’t particularly want them to like it.
• ‘Lunacy’ says art critic Brian Sewell of Bristol Council's decision to let citizens vote before scrubbing out graffiti, after over 300,000 voted with their feet for Banky’s exhibition. “It will result in a proliferation of random decoration” he predicts. Imagine it- an enjoyably decorated environment, a sense of personal choice for the hoi polloi... dangerous stuff. “A world gone crazy.”
• Tough words too from Joanna Lumley, who says aging actors should accept media preference for young faces. “I think we’ve got to be a bit sensible’ says Joanna, a bit sensibly. “None of these things going to change, so get over it.” Journalists leapt to compare her comments to the complaints of ageism by Anne Robinson, who has just unveiled a new face of which journalist Liz Hunt said “I’m all for growing old disgracefully, but you should be able to move your face enough to laugh about it.” Tee hee. I’m with lovely Rose Flint, who has decided the time has come to forget about her inner child and nourish the inner chrone.