Great to reconnect on Thursday with Grace Gould who runs the Salisbury Poetry Café: I enjoyed guesting and the amazingly high standard of all the open-mic participants at the Arts Centre - special mention to Anthony Fairweather for his witty musings on the lobbying scandal: Geoff Hoon for sale or rent... to the tune of King of the Road. Look out for a special feature of 'The Salisbury Set' at the Frome Poetry Café later this year...
My father, who admitted to irrational pride in his prejudices, shunned musicals so although my childhood was immersed in theatre I'd never seen Sondheim on stage till this week - and in the unlikely setting of Shepton Mallet. The Musical Theatre School students performed a more-than creditable interpretation of A Little Night Music, revived last year on Broadway by Trevor Nunn who believes "Sondheim writes as richly poetically as Shakespeare does and as psychologically insightfully as Chekhov does."
Shepton always seems to be aiming for some county record as 'most inert town centre' and on Saturday afternoon its stillness was almost gothic but within the Academy theatre all was song and silken rustling as turn-of-the-century love affairs and liaisons unfolded. A Sondheim musical, I discovered, is not just Shakespearean and Chekhovian, it's also like a luxurious dessert that makes you want to lick your spoon slowly to make it last. The dialogue has witty Wildean putdowns like "Are you addressing me young man? From the quality of the conversation so far you can hardly expect me to have been listening.”, the satire is incisive but unsavage, and the lyrics - to quote Trevor Nunn again - are brilliant little plays in themselves. Nicholas Silverthorne, playing way above his age as leading man Frederik Egerman, had talent and charisma in bucketloads, and the costumes were very nearly ravishing (corsets are a cruel necessity if the women are to avoid looking like mobile drapes.) Sadly I couldn't find a picture of one of this zestful cast's lovely tableaux, so here's one of the great SS himself as it's the week of his 80th birthday.
Back on the subject of childhood theatre visits: however irascible it made him, I could never resist asking my father 'Which bit did you like best?' so I was delighted to discover that Ken Loach used precisely that question as his starting point for Looking for Eric . Eric Cantona wanted him to make a film about football fans, and in search of a story he asked the Man U superhero what was the best moment of his career. It was a pass - not a goal, but a moment when he gave something glorious to his team, and that notion of mutual support tapped into something Ken Loach had wanted to express for some time.
I know all this because this wonderful director introduced his movie himself at the Kilmersdon village hall on Saturday night, speaking frankly about his passionate belief in community and the power of people working collectively. "We did it from everyone according to their ability, for everyone according to their need." he said, making Marx's words sound far more sensible than any of the policies of the last thirteen years. He tells us too that Eric Cantona in real life is a surprisingly modest unassuming guy - which could also be said of Ken Loach. An amazing privilege to hear this sincerely committed director speak, and all credit to Reel People film club for such a great night.