Saturday, March 20, 2010

UP DOWN BOY at the Brewery, produced by Myrtle Theatre Company, is a family story featuring Matty who is charming, his mother who is lucid and sympathetic, and some stunning animation that lifts the two-hander formula as high as a flying superhero. What it isn't really, though, is drama. Matty's mum veers between maternal emotions of exasperation and grieving for the end of an era as she packs her son's case for college; her monologue of reminiscences, enlivened by Matty's illustrated imagination, is the storyline. There's genuine feeling here, and some unpalatable memories of indifference from professionals and rejections from public, but a scriptful of anecdotes looped together with 'Remember when....?' isn't really a play. But it's presented with endearing sincerity by both actors and it's 'honest, funny, and touching' so it does do what it says on the flyer.
All credit to writer Sue Shields, clearly snapshotting from life, and to the whole team... and it's interesting to see the different approaches of Myrtle and Firebird, both with the immensely important goal of social inclusiveness. Myrtle's website statement is "We use theatre to explore social concerns..." Firebird, more overt in their use of the term disability, say: "Our job is to make plays for everyone..." Let's hope with theatre companies like these, making plays soon means never having to say how unacceptable the term 'mongol' is.

Realism of a different sort... Sound & Fury's KURSK, which had its final night at BOV on Saturday, was a Promenade Performance, which meant not that the audience sauntered around the set but that all seating was removed and the Studio Theatre transformed into the interior of a British submarine – equipment, mess deck, bunks, shower and all. Despite their pre-publicity I managed (this won’t surprise anyone who’s ever had me on their quiz team) to miss the point that the key episode in this drama, the Russian submarine disaster which the men unexpectedly witness, is based on a real event ten years ago. Knowing this does add a political edge, but even if the entire scenario had been invented this was amazingly poignant and a brilliant a piece of theatre. Pacey performances from all the men conveyed the normalities of their abnormal world, their rivalries and camaraderie, jokes and fantasies, loneliness and pain. Moral dilemmas and unseen tragedies of the Cold War crisis are mirrored in the human situations unfolding around us only a few feet away, and though there were plenty of laughs in the Red-Dwarf tedium of the men’s isolation, when ‘New Dad Mike’ (Tom Espiner) hears bad news from home the grief in that auditorium was palpable and unforgettable.

A new venue for spoken word is always good news, so three rhyming cheers for Sue Drew who will be launching a Poetry Cafe in the Art House café in Melksham to coincide with the town's food festival in June... watch this space for further details. And indefatigable Bath bard Kevan Mainwaring reopens the doors of Garden of Awen on Easter Sunday for another night of lyrical frolic, this time on a theme of Tricks and Fools.

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