Monday, March 26, 2012

“Recognise the flotsam and jetsam of your mind- it can be a very useful source” is the first piece of advice from Dan Reballato at his workshop on Writing for Devised Drama in Salisbury on Saturday. Writing for devising is all about blurring the boundaries, he explains, and we spend the warmest day of the year indoors in the Arts Centre exploring constraints & structures, creating storylines & subtexts, and generally immersing ourselves in the somewhat shamblolic processes of such blurring and proving Dan's summative point that "when it works well you end up with something you would never have done on your own - but that's true when it goes badly too."

In the evening to Bath's Rondo, one of my favourite small theatres, to see Gonzo Moose in their new touring comedy I’m an Aristocrat, get me out of here! I'm a big fan of this anarchic trio of performers and there were superb highlights in this absurdist version the turbulence & intrigue following the French Revolution. All of the actors - Mark Conway, Jonathan Peck, & Lauren Silver - have irresistibly hilarious facial expressions, the men especially change personality with their costumes unbelievably. There are bizarre capers (I especially liked the St James Infirmary dance by bored Bastille guards) and eye-boggling sword-fights, and a less-frivolous underlying theme: “The Republic is virtue. Terror protects the republic. Therefore terror is virtue” declares Robespierre, with the deadly logic that destroys every virtuous ideal it touches. The basic plot, like much of the humour, is simple: Louis XVI and the imprisoned aristocrats are being released by counter-revolutionary group called Les Petis Pois, whose red hats are more Little Noddy than bonnets rouge and whose mysterious leader is finally revealed, of course, as the character least likely. There are glancing references to historical actuality like the revolutionary support of portraitist Jacques-Louis David, but accuracy isn't a guiding light and political commentary is deliberately aimed at contemporary grievances - as when the liberated Marie Antoinette tells her penitent husband to spread the word in England in a speech that met with a fervent cheer from the full house audience. Not quite vintage Gonzo, but jolly good fun all the same.

"When you're wasted you can be the man you want to be" says Ted in Wasted by Kate Tempest, at the Merlin on Monday night. I'd seen Kate perform in Bristol & was knocked out by her poetry, and this debut play isn't just clubber clichés, it opens wounds on wasted lives & life choices with deep empathy and lyrical language. The three young actors were all strong, especially Cary Crankson as Ted, and the writing stabs you: apart from the slightly lame Billy-Liar-style finale which would have been better left to inference, the impact never falters in a story which is both ordinary & unique.

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