There's been a huge buzz around Love and War from The Mark Bruce Company, a highlight at Mayfest and sell-out at the Merlin Theatre. Mark lives in Frome and has developed this dance performance with support from the Merlin, so to theatreatti he's as much a local boy as Jenson Button. More importantly, the show has fabulous theatrical energy, brilliantly chosen music, and terrific dancers. The through-story, if there is one, is hard to follow but intensely evocative: in turns mythical, political, romantic, tragic, brutal, even baffling, always compellingly dramatic. There are street fights and love affairs, madness and mayhem, and each episode brings challenging imagery and shocking surprises. A bath is wheeled in, only to be made a deathtrap by an enormous spider. Dogs of war unleash, and a bubblegum-popping cheerleader lashes her pompoms to a Nirvana track. There's what seems to be a high school massacre, scarlet petals falling like splattered blood, but as many moments of intimate tenderness. Designer Marian Bruce's imagery is disturbing and unforgettable.
The Merlin stage was transformed into theatre-in-the-round for this production, with seating for over 100, so I'm hoping to see this more intimate, accessible option used more often in future. A more compact, studio-style, venue will make it easier to bring contemporary drama and spoken word events to the town, so three compact, studio-style cheers to director Mark Bruce and theatre director Claudia Berry.
Rehearsals have started for my play Love Bites, on at the Alma Tavern Theatre all next week with Conor McPherson's St Nicholas. It's a fantastic thrill to watch Matt Ward and Kirsty Cox, together with director Chris Loveless, bringing the story off the page: getting into the skin of the characters, pulling out the comedy as well as the conflict. We spent an entire day discussing the intentions and dramatic tensions of the first few pages - a rare and cherished privilege for any writer.
Over to Bath for the launch of Sarah Duncan's latest novel, Kissing Mr Wrong. Sarah's entertaining speech featured Things I've Learned From Writing, with number 10 on the list being: "Everyone wants to know how much you earn - they've heard of JK Rowling and don't realise the reason for that is because she's so unusual." How (often) true!
Brochures for Frome Festival are finally out, and the banners for the Writers and Publishers Day have arrived. Bookings are up, short story entries are up, and if the weather keeps this good everything looks set for the best fest yet.