Friday, March 05, 2010

The Tempest is a complex play with a complex protagonist in Prospero - usually. In the retelling by Firebird Theatre, the tragic hero is not the wronged Duke of Milan but his slave Caliban. In fact Prospero, for all his Eric Morecombe glasses and Eddie Izzard housecoat, is a nasty piece of work - a bully who, like a BNP leader denying racism, shows his true colours with every contemptuous word. No wonder Caliban is vengeful. "You think you are a monster because they say you are - you behave like a monster because they say you are. Once called a monster, it stays in your mind all the time." This is Firebird's free adaptation of the drama, identifying a theme which has strong resonance for this group of 16 disabled actors.
You'd have to be made of flint not to be moved by their simple, powerful, storytelling style, supported by echo and response, signing and cello, and hospital-scrubs-style costumes. The romance between Miranda's and Ferdinand which concludes the human's feuding is used primarily to provide welcome comedy: "No sex before marriage" thunders Prospero. "Sir I promise" responds the young prince, and Miranda strikes a diva pose of thwarted disappointment.
But the final, and profoundest, message belongs to Caliban: I am also changed by the storm. I will not worship fools again... but one day they may respect the difference and see the man. Big credit to Bristol Old Vic for supporting this innovative company and this production.

Garden of Awen has cornered the Poetry Cafe market for laid-back bohemian eclecticism, it seems. Sunday's event, affably hosted by Kevan Manwaring, was the usual unusual pot-pourri of words and music, mingling poetry with story-telling and song, with bread & cheese free at the end of the night. In the relaxed setting of the Chapel Arts Centre we heard Irish reels on the fiddle, children's poetry from Iceland, a fable from Japan, WB Yeats recited and William Blake strummed, as well as poetic 'green shoots' from the audience. Very pleasant.

And March 8th of course is International Women's Day, which was celebrated in poetry and prose at the Garden Cafe in a wonderfully inclusive event organised by Rosie Eliot - 18 writers sharing thoughts about grandmothers, mothers, daughters and grand-daughters, about mother earth and moon magic, about crones and cunts and feather boas, and about men. Stunning writing, genuine feeling - from the opening applause for Kathryn Bigelow, in the news today as first woman to win an Oscar as best director, to the final love poem by Gordon Graft in acknowledgement that "One of women's greatest achievements is to live with men". Here's Rosie with some of the writers.

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