Saturday, July 16, 2011

ABC Day brought eleven Authors of Books for Children for a series of events around the town, including a Library session of Teatime Treats: that popular ABC of activities, books, and cakes. Rachel Ward and Kate Maryon both have new novels out to complete their respective trilogies, and plans for more stories to keep their avid 9-13 year-old readers happy.

Edward Albee's one-act play The Zoo Story is the festival choice of Frome Drama Club, with performances in various venues including, appropriately for a story set on a bench in Central Park, Frome's Victoria Park. Written in the late fifties, this brilliant script, like the best of Raymond Carver's stories, both evokes its era and reaches beyond to existential humanity. Intriguingly, Albee later put a ban on all professional productions of this play and it's now available only to students and amateur companies. Actors Aynsley Minty and Dan Gaisford deserve full marks for engagingly illuminating the loneliness of the human heart.

Scene change to a rainy night in the garden auditorium of Blaise Castle: Oddsocks Productions version of Macbeth promises "something funny this way comes", grabbing gags and giggles from the audience at every available moment - a latecomer greeted by friends is cue for all five actors to dash over demanding a group hug; the obligatory unsilenced mobile and even the persistent downpour become opportunities to heckle the audience in scots accents. The actors dredge the bard's words for humour too, finding knockabout farce in the famous tragedy by fair means or foul. Devices like giving Duncan a lisp and Lady Macbeth arriving apparently via The Only Way Is Essex got the kids laughing but did little for the characters' emotional depth, leaving the show reliant on charisma and clowning through a long, wet, two hours. Luckily the players have plenty of both qualities: Oddsocks Macbeth - like their version of the witches' cauldron - is a trifle, but an honest trifle.

Back now to Frome Festival and the art trail - twentyone venues, more if you include the fringe, as Open Studios. All were differently fascinating, so I'll mention just three for their connection with words: Box Art by Robert Lee on the theme of Novel Images was intriguing - this one's called Tangos Telegrams and Tolstoy ,inspired by The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson. Then a wonderful collection of work in different media at Inside Out where our new local laureate David Davies has been writing alongside the artists ...we are getting smaller / somewhere drifting, somewhere / long, into ever-reaching forward. Beautiful.

Amazing work too at the studio of Ellen Tovey whose 'artist statement' concludes: Inspired by the innumerable elements of the self, my paintings become an exploration of and surrender to the unknown. What better summary of creativity, including writing, could there be?

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