Friday, September 30, 2011

Sometimes a community event comes together exactly as you hoped, to create a special & extraordinary shared experience. That's what happened at the Merlin on Thursday night. Hyperbole? Maybe, but that sentiment was buzzing among the audience at our Poetry Platter special, where Elvis McGonagall entertained for over an hour on a stage atmospherically transformed into a bistro.
Elvis was on top form, ricocheting from political passion to outrageous comedy in a single stanza. Cameron, Clegg and Jeremy Clarkson were popular targets with the audience, but the bitingly funny, and biting, assaults are on policies as well as personalities - economic and social injustices, and international war. Operation Undying Conflict, very different in tone from the parodies that had us helpless with laughter, is packed with shocking fact and imagery right through to the angry end.
And now Elvis has left the building.... big thanks to all the marvellous Merlin people, and Nicki for the delicious suppers, and Noah for fantastic lighting effects; to Liv Torc and Chris Redmond for a superb support act, to the King himself of course and to YOU, if you came, for doubling our intended sell-out capacity and having a rip-roaring time.

Writers of Frome have been meeting on Wednesday mornings at Alison's house since the ending of the summer 'Bootcamp'at Frances' house. Now these sessions too are ending, with a closing party of cake and readings in the garden. Happily, plans are already afoot for solstice rendezvous.

So as the promised Indian summer arrives and the southwest sizzles in high-20s temperatures, what better place to be than at the seaside? Coasting at the Bristol Old Vic, set at the end of a pier somewhere in the 80s, is a new play by Natalie McGrath developed over the last two years with support from two producers and a dramaturg/director. It's a tense and turbulent piece set in a dark and sulphurous place more like Hades than Hove, with three damaged characters who dialogue together in a kind of dysfunctional Dada style, as though their thoughts have been chopped up and scattered on the beach before utterance. There's Ocean, who is vulnerable, brutal, and beautifully-played by Tom Wainwright; troubled gay policewoman Falcon, and Pearl who looks great for her hoodie-urchin role and speaks in curious sub-Shakespearean dialect, referring to herself in the third person like Lady Gaga. There was much to enjoy on press night - the foyer tattoo parlour, interval fish'n'chips, & stairway acapella performance of Perfect Day - and it's great to see experimental work being developed, but I found this piece overlong and inaccessible. Others were more appreciative, claiming recognition of both location and dialect (it's apparently a mix of 1950s gay slang, hip-hop & 80's pop): The Guardian' reviewer Lynn Gardner echoes some of my reservations but values the "distinctive timbre of McGrath's voice and a real ability to capture the dead-fly desolation and bruised end-of-season melancholy of a place where survival requires the growth of a disguising skin." It's on till October 15th.

I hadn't heard of Israeli singer Tally Koren until she decided to celebrate her album 72 Names with a competition for poems of 72 words and selected my submission for second prize and a mention in her Youtube - it's quite a long speech, she misquotes my name rather charmingly around 10 minutes in. If you want to read my 72 words, scroll to October's 'poem of the month' on the right hand side.

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