Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bristol is positively bristling with new theatrical initiatives: two new mini-venues (The Wardrobe and Little Black Box) and Lunchtime Theatre at The Brewery, launched this week with a short play by Tamsin Walker and yummy pizza from Mark's Bread next door. Digits, developed from Tobacco Factory’s Script Space new writing competition, was well acted with pacey direction and clever 2-D props, but the basic idea - unreliable narrator blames duped friend after failed scam - needed a less unwavering trajectory in the storyline to maintain curiosity, and the dim/devious Likely Lads duo came over as dole-queue cliches rather than credible characters.
Still in Bristol, the Old Vic hosted a new production from Sound&Fury who last year transformed the studio into a submarine for the unforgettable experience of Kursk, a play I reviewed as amazingly poignant and a brilliant a piece of theatre... unforgettable. So I had high expectations of Going Dark, and wasn't disappointed by the fabulous theatricality and sensitive solo performance by John Mackay as Max, the astrophysicist whose galactic knowledge and cosmic understanding can't help him when he begins to lose his sight. "We are all scattered stardust... we exist in our heads" Max tells us as the darkened auditorium becomes the planetarium where he lectures on the wonders of the universe below a vast night sky. Max's talks are fascinating and contrast touchingly with the dialogue with his unseen child, though the inherent poignancy does get a bit sentimentalised (the little boy is called Leo, to further point the pathos of Max losing both his sun and his son...) Some surprisingly clunky sections too – the “what’s that you say?” repeated-phone-conversation device, and unexplained references to hallucinations - apparently common during visual loss - dropped confusingly into the story. But despite any reservations about Hattie Naylor's script, being huddled the dark, knowing our galaxy is hurtling away from the light... that was goosebumps stuff. Great direction by Tom Espiner and Dan Jones.

Plutarch called painting 'silent poetry' and Leonardo said "Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen." Though presumably in Italian. That near-symbiotic relationship was wonderfully evident on Monday night when twenty poets joined guests Rose Flint and David Davies at one of the best nights we've ever seen at the Frome Poetry Cafe. "Inspired by Art" proved a rich theme, as the room filled with intensely perceived visual experiences and deeply felt emotions. Eight of the 'Angels in Art' workshop participants read great pieces from that experience, several people brought paintings to show, and poems ranged from intense observation of a single piece to reflections on art and artists in general. We heard anger as well as awe - and refreshing humour too from Alison, and Phyllis who confessed One dictum I use - not yours, mine/ if it looks like a photo, fine. More serious thoughts particularly appreciated came from regular contributors Rosie Jackson (Stanley Spencer) & Helen Moore (Duchamp's urinal), and first time visitor Stephen Boyce (Barbara Hepworth's Configuration). I could go on and on, it was just one of those great nights that Frome's Garden Cafe hosts so well. And there'll be another soon - the annual spangly Merlin Theatre tie-in, this time going Into The Wardrobe possibly with lions and witches and hopefully with a strong spell of irreligious fantasy. Nick White, Frome Mayor and famed local thespian, will be there to reward the most popular pieces with tickets for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Magic....

No comments: