Thursday, February 09, 2012

Theatre Ad Infinitum brought Translunar Paradise to Bristol on its sell-out tour since their award-winning run at Edinburgh last year. Two delightful performers charmed the audience with a tender & poignant story... sorry if this sounds like Peoples' Friend writers' guidelines, but production values aside this is very much what it is like. The masks are cleverly expressive, the accordion soundtrack by Kim Heron is movingly evocative, and the two young actors are skillful and endearing. It's just that the storyline seems to forget another important magazine-writers' guideline: avoid being totally predictable. This tale of bereavement, while affecting in small moments and undeniably beautifully performed, is a memory-rummage through all the usual suspects - first date, worst row, miscarriage, returning from war shellshocked... Simple storylines are often the best, but I found myself becoming increasingly emotionally resistant as I mentally ticked off the events. "It is a little old-fashioned, a mite obvious in the life events that it covers" the Guardian noted tactfully, but a full house in the Old Vic Studio theatre clearly loved it, and delighting the audience is one of the functions of theatre. Another, of course, is to disturb, and to connect with what is difficult. As Jez (Jerusalem) Butterworth says, theatres are "places where you come along, and you evoke anxieties - and you deal with them together. That's what they're for"

"I danced with queens - I danced with five of them" boasts Jane Parker in the closing moments of Henry VIII and the Royal Wedding Planner, and she did: she counted them in & she counted them out, and she counted herself lucky to be a lady-in-waiting at court - on & off - for 21 years, from the age of 15 until her execution for treason. Jane was a real player in the hot-house scene of the Tudor king's matrimonial scandals, you can check her dates & fate in Wiki, though her motivations are disputed and will never now be known. In this 70-minute monologue, superbly performed by Julia Gwynne and directed by Andy Burden, we watch her grow from gushing naivety through increasingly devious ambition to deluded obsession. Both extremes are the wobbliest bits but overall this is brilliantly executed, with multiple voices adding variety and absurdity to this stylish, provocative, tragi-comedy. More than a witty historical drama, a successful piece of theatre on the Butterworth scale: we left the Merlin buzzing, and musing on the innate tyranny of monarchy and its trail of personal tragedies.

Media Arts Facilitator & animator Howard Vause was speaker on Wednesday when Frome Creative Network had one of their innovative 'brown bag' (ie bring your own) lunchtime talks. With an image for every point - here's how to dip your toe into visual media - his presentation was informative, reassuring, and hugely practical, fulfilling his own criteria of using media for 'fun, creativity, and truth.' Top tip: "Techi-stuff is just a tool - if you don't know, find someone who does and can explain."

A lyrical footnote to this posting: Next Frome Poetry Cafe on Monday 13th is the Lurve one, with some cracking guests expected: Muriel Lavender, Liv Tork, Bluegate poets from Swindon, Stephen Boyce from Winchester, and maybe more... with open-mic too!
And our angels-in-art poems are still being added to the Rook Lane website - mine is here: Jacob meets the Angel

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