Thursday, November 25, 2010

I may have mentioned this before but Frome for a small town has extraordinarily enormous creative energy - so many events on each week I've had to miss some great music (like 3Corners) through date clashes. Luckily, I managed to get to Frome Drama Club's Dorian Gray at the Merlin, a stunning adaptation by Geoff Hunt which turns Oscar Wilde's dark novel into a powerful gothic drama with shadows of greek tragedy. Dorian's downward spiral into depravity and ultimate destruction is triggered, almost innocently, from his 'fatal flaw' moment as he gazes at the portrait of himself and impulsively wishes it could grow old and he could stay young forever. Geoff Hunt, who also directed, narrates the story through five 'voices of Oscar', a dark flock of watchers, prophets and voyeurs, while many of the more famous Wildean phrases were allocated to the sophisticated and corrupt Lord Henry Wotton. Movingly plangent with Wilde's own sad self-loathing, this ambitious experimental production featured terrific visuals and music by Mike Witt and Luke Stuart respectively and an overall strong cast in which Laurie Parnell as Lord Henry excelled.
Meanwhile, down by the river the Library has been celebrated its 10th birthday, with a Saturday morning of cakes and face-painting - here's Robin, with an assortment of superheroes and princesses - and an evening of readings for National Short Story Week.
Alison and I had no idea what would transpire when we gaily launched Short Stories Please! but we knew in Frome there would be an interested, articulate, enthusiastic, participative audience. Our 5-minute "taster" readings ranged from classic to contemporary and spanned the world: as Gordon Graft (who read a Steinbeck) said: "The thing about short stories is, a bit like poetry, they can take an incident that shows you the wider picture." From David Lodge's boob obsession to M.R.James's midnight graveyard, short story writers as we discovered can transport you anywhere in moments.
I first saw Midsummer, a play with songs at Soho Theatre last January and was utterly captivated by this gem of a production, now touring and at the Ustinov in Bath last week. It's lost nothing of its freshness and exuberence. The script still feels sharp and contemporary, the story is just as moving and funny and anarchic and deliciously subtly erotic, and the actors - Cora Bissett and Matthew Pidgeon - still utterly captivating.
So instead of rewriting my review I'll just add some of the audience feedback scribbled on the whiteboard in the foyer: Brilliant - clever - touching. VASTLY ENTERTAINING! engaging, humorous. Wicked. Fantastic!!!!! Superbly acted, great script + wonderful design. FIVE STARS!!! It's heading for London next so if you want an evening of contagious midsummer madness that sends you out into the winter night with a luminous smile make a trip to the Tricycle Theatre your midwinter treat.

Movie spot: Mike Leigh is back in Abigail's Party land of social expectations and personal desperation, adding this time loneliness, growing old, and death: Another Year pairs the wonderful Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as a well-adjusted couple (almost complacently so) with needy friends who cling around them. It's sometimes nearly too excruciatingly embarrassing to watch, but there's humour and humanity there too. "You never have a script, you're always refining" says Ruth Sheen, which is perhaps why this film, despite its length and lack of any message or conclusion, is such compelling viewing.

And finally: Compulsory reading tests for 6-year-olds are on the way, I read in the New (mini) Independent, with children "tested on their ability to read simple words beginning in 2012."
Good thing there aren't many words around beginning like that, then...

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