Sunday, June 05, 2011

Summer in the city.... while Bath Festival Fringe does unicycle juggling and clarinets, Bristol dockside does stag parties and thunking drum n' bass.
I'm back there for yet another session of short plays - well, why do just 39 in a week when with a little more effort I can manage 45? The six competition winners of Saturday Shorts 2 were produced at Bristol Folk House as script-in-hand readings, making a lively evening's entertainment. Impressive writing, and brilliant performances from ever-awesome actors like Annette Chown, Alan Coveney and Dan Winter.

Frome joined in the urban celebrations with a Fun Day in Cheap Street, local celebrities contributing to the frolics: that's our mayor looking fetching in turquoise, and the vision in pink below is popular performance poet Muriel Lavender, with children's author Kate Maryon being interviewed for fromeFM by artist David Chandler.

Sadly this was the only wet day of the week, but since the theme was a traditional 'Day at the Beach', rain naturally didn't dampen our spirits although it did soak the market stalls and make the snacks soggy and, even more tragically, compelled Illyria to transfer The Fantastic Mr Fox from the ECOS amphitheatre to inside the Merlin.
The show played to an enthusiastic full house, but to my mind the wonderfully vibrant energy of Illyria thrives best in outdoor theatre, and much as I enjoyed the animal antics and the beastliness of the farmers, I kept imagining how exuberant the production would have been in the open-air. That aside, this multi-talented six-strong team successfully shuffled twenty characters, often in swift succession, to create Roald Dahl's famous Mr Fox story in a way that enchanted the children and even floated a few environmental- and aggression-related thoughts for the adults to ponder. Best prop was the vast mechanical digger that looked a cross between a dinosaur and a kite, funniest moment the hen coop break-in, with every cast member abruptly sprouting chicken-arms and clucking.

And finally... Theatre West has concluded the initial stage of Picture This, with nine playwrights picked to continue the journey, leaving the abandoned thirty to congratulate with gritted teeth and commiserate with gnashed teeth. Disappointed? Well yes, I wouldn't have much commitment to the craft if I wasn't. But as I always remind others in similar situations: the work for a writer is finding a way to be heard - the writing is the just the enjoyable bit. I'm pleased to see some of my favourite entries were picked but not totally surprised several are absent: choices, as we all know, are inevitably and rightly subjective. The judging process could not have been fairer and the weekend of readings was briliantly organised, great fun - and good learning too. Now pass me my teeth, I have gritting and gnashing to do.

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