Friday, August 26, 2011

Homecoming often means counting degrees of heat difference on fingers of both hands and toes of both feet and wanting to curl up under my autumnal duvet - but Liv Torc guesting at Words&Ears in Bradford-on-Avon looked like a don't-miss event, so Muriel Lavender and I went along to hear the Wondermentalist poet whose website mission statement pledges Liv Torc seeks the humanity and absurdity within the human condition and when she finds it, she strips it naked and kicks it...
The Asbo bard did not disappoint. Kissing, beards (nastiness thereof), the wet patch (its charm), love generally and Amy Winehouse in particular, Liv is empathetic and enchanting.
To be fair to the English weather, although it's rarely fair to me, we've had some lovely days since my return, one of which occurred for the Writing BootCamp picnic party. This has been the summer inspiration of Alison Clink and Frances Liardet, whose lovely house we've weekly invaded for intensive inspections of work-in-progress.
Around two dozen local writers (I told you Frome was prolific, didn't I?) arrive at these sessions to share current work, pitch projects, and generally expose our vulnerable authorial bellies for the compassion, and passion, of like-minded scribes. Groupings - there are obviously several, with such high numbers of participants - are by lot, but always seem to provide the right mix of diversity and empathy. So here we are, some of us at least, celebrating this amazingly egalitarian and supportive experience, a summer Boot Camp with flip-flop friendliness, marching us all on to further writerly achievements.

The Madness of George III, directed by Christopher Luscombe for the Peter Hall Company at Bath Theatre Royal, is not as much like the Nigel Hawthorne/Helen Mirron movie as you might expect. Alan Bennett's script is clever and dazzling, of course, with intriguing insights into 18th Century attitudes to politics, medicine, and manners, but the focus here is on spectacle. Characters place themselves like playing cards lined up for an elaborate game and there’s no pretence of natural interaction as they deliver their lines. Scenes are static, so static that the production seemed almost like an elaborately costumed play-reading – but hey, hey, as the Farmer King would say, what costumes! Gillray lived and breathed through the Prince Regent and his coterie.
In a big bland theatre with a vast stage to fill this was probably the best strategy, and evoked a sense of Shakespearean drama, from the broad comedy of the kings poo to the tragedy of his downfall into lunacy. George recalls Richard II in his collapse to the ground to tell sad stories of the death of kings, and the parallel is plangent in a late scene as he reads from King Lear.
George III is a fascinating character, sane or mad: grieving for the lost colonies of America in a John of Gaunt-like speech, childlike games of Mr and Mrs King with his unerotic but much-loved wife, and plaintive repetitions of “I am the King!” as sanity spirals out of his grasp and his people slip away from his control. A thought-provoking, splendidly visual, evening with a first class cast – especially the king himself, played due to illness by understudy Simon Markey who was promoted from footman for the occasion and received well-deserved cheers at the final curtain.

And to round off the week: The Merlin Young Company presented their production of Fame, unbelievably well choreographed and performed after an incredible two-week-only intensive workshop. A full auditorium laughed and wept and cheered the huge cast of energetic youngsters who sang and danced their way through this iconic 80s story making it fresh as tomorrow, the hiphop dancers adding especial vibrancy. Ensemble sets fantastic, and especially moving performances from young Dillon Berry, Matt Graham as the shy thespian, and Kara Horler as Carmen. Claudia Pepler, who directed the show, should be proud as well as delighted. (Thanks Mike for the pictures)
And on the way home we called in at The Cornerhouse, Frome's favourite live music pub, where the John Law Trio were making amazing jazz with luschious singer Emma Harris.
This is Frome on a Friday night - nothing bought in, all local produce.
Now I don't mean to be boring but honestly, where else in the world.....

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