Theatre West has revived their successful production last year of Moira Buffini's black comedy Blavatsky's Tower. In the penthouse of a monstrous tower block, its blind, disillusioned, architect keeps a tyrannical grip on his dysfunctional family: Audrey who won't use the lift to go out, and Roland and Ingrid who won't go out at all. Bound together by ties of terror and tenderness, they exist in their own secret world until the day Audrey brings a chair into their minimalist surroundings, carried upstairs for her by a passing stranger - a doctor, who takes one look around and prescribes official intervention. "We're a perfectly ordinary family" protests Audrey, but the chink of his visit begins a rift and events move swiftly with Dada's death by patricide, and neither angels nor cremation can help them hold to their isolation now. What illuminates this savagely sad story is the dark lyricism of the writing, and the skill of the cast in illuminating the moments of comedy. Dee Sadler as Audrey is particularly masterly, finding nuances of expression and tone to enhance lines like "Despair, Dr Dunn, is Dada's daily diet", and Dan Maxwell's Dr Dunn was more than just the straight guy in a household of crazies: initially a breath of normality, by the end it seems perhaps he too is needy and self-deluded. It's this subtle development that makes the play not just the story of one misfit family but about the codependency inherent in human nature, the tyranny of desires and the loneliness of life. Alison Comley directed this outstanding production.
Final Words@ Frome Festival event is prize giving for the 'Writers in Residence' event on the opening Saturday. 14 writers stepped up to the challenge: to create a story or poem in 4 hours, inspired by a previously unknown line, working in full view of curious passers-by in a Frome town centre shops or café. The must-include line was “I wondered if the magic was still there”, and the answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’ when results were revealed at the Garden Café on Tuesday. Most of the entrants attended, with friends and family, to hear all the entries read aloud and watch prizes awarded. Judge Tracy Wall enthused about all the entries and selected:
Highly commended: Joan Saunders’ short radio play featuring three chickens
3rd Annette Shwalbe’s beautiful and evocative story of the book worm, inspired by her place at Hunting Raven.
2nd Val Hewitt’s villanelle based on her observations of Frome Wholefoods.
1st Jackie Eliot, whose location of Marmalade Yarns inspired a gripping story showing knitting ‘in a new light.’
And the final-final event is the Words@ debrief, traditionally hosted by Alison Clink in her lovely garden at Great Elm. No real problems reported, and events have been hugely well received, with record audiences and vocal appreciation. A good festival to go out on: I'm standing down, after 10 years in the group, several of them as coordinator. Festival has become a big part of the creative life of Frome and its been a real privilege to have been involved since the start, but a decade I think is long enough. I'll look forward to picking up my brochure next year purely as a punter...