Monday, May 30, 2011

"Welcome to Theatre West Bank Holiday Extravaganza" Alison Comley says cheerily to the crowded Alma Tavern auditorium on Sunday morning. I've never watched 39 plays in 2 days before, and extravaganza sounds like the mot juste. Packaged in eight batches over two days, these ten-minute salami-slices of drama all represented, as co-director Anne Stiddard put it, the seeds of their theatre company's 2011 autumn season. Only eight will be pricked out and encouraged to grow, and of these only five will be ultimately shown at the Theatre West equivalent of Chelsea Flower Show. The term for a collection of competing writers must be 'a tremble'.
We'd all been given a photograph as starter-fertiliser - hence the project name: Picture This - and most of the writers kept impressively close to their images. All the 'starts' had points of interest, many were really good and some were brilliant; some were successful as short pieces but hard to envisage extended, others clearly had potential to intrigue and entertain as a full-length play. (Marietta Kirkbride's Semiprecious Eggs I just wanted to watch for the rest of the night.) And the acting, throughout the entire two days and nights, was brilliant: a terrific team showing how to pick up a script and breathe life into a character - 115 characters, to be precise.
My entry, Fairytale Ending, was in the first set of the second day, and I was lucky to have Natasha Pring cast as my protagonist - she pulled the part off the page like she'd not just rehearsed it but lived it. Once that was out of the way it was easier to relax and enjoy all the others, and to spend our breaks discussing faves and noting zeitgeist trends: hauntings from the past and matrimonial discord featuring significantly. An exhilarating two days, not least because I've now got four new friends - Elaine, Natalie, Ionnis, and Martin, don't forget to write!
And finally: I never thought I'd blog-link a church, but for All Saints with St John, Clifton I'll make an exception. Emily, who deserves brownie points and actual brownies too for driving into Bristol to support me, alerted me to the vast and utterly amazing stained glass windows here, designed by John Piper. Another highlight from an unforgettable Bank Holiday weekend.

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