Monday, April 30, 2012

People Skills is the latest production by Bootleg Theatre and follows their popular formula of four short monologues on a similar theme - in this case, obsession. I went along to the Salisbury venue with Alison Clink, writer of two of the obsessions: one the entertaining tale of passion for a local builder, and other a dark story of baby-snatching which was for me the most successful piece of the night.

Still on a thespian theme, Frome Drama Club's version of The Graduate played to full houses at the Merlin this week.
This glamorous & erotically-charged production recreated the 1960s ethos superbly with a fabulous sound track, evocative costumes, set and back projections, and impressive lighting which turned set-pieces into glossy magazine tableaux. Excellent acting, too, especially from Ben & his two lovers - and his dad (Laurie Parnell), who delivered the best line in the show when he spat out “Don’t talk to me about disillusion.” Claudia Pepler brought gorgeous and fragile lustre to Mrs Robinson, and her offhand admission of once being an art student showed poignantly the personal cost of the conventions of the era.
There's much to find funny in the social & sexual unease of an earlier generation, and this production played very successfully for laughs. But from the comical wetsuit in the opening scene onwards we somehow lose track of Ben's integrity: he becomes a spoiled rich boy and his existential angst is reduced to farce. Admittedly a very funny farce, but a little disappointing with a lead actor (Dan Gaisford) well able to handle a more complex character. And while I'm quibbling... nine scene changes? Great to use a single set to show the uniform culture that Ben's trapped within, but couldn't the actors themselves have turned over the cushions/coverlets as they began the scene? - no less unreal than a shadow army marching on, and easier to retain the essential suspended disbelief of great theatre.

Award-winning ceramic artist Hans Borgonjon decided he was spending too long in his studio and needed come out of his shell to get face to face with other people. So now he makes shells of other peoples' faces, for an amazing project called, erm, Facebook Frome. Fifty of us Fromies will be facing the world, ceramically, at the Silk Mill during Frome Festival.
Having a face cast is a strange process, a mix of sensory deprivation and deep meditation, and Hans was great at explaining what he was doing while I was shrouded behind towels, sightless and motionless. The silicone he uses allows him only 2 minutes, once mixed, before it hardens, and then plaster moulding bandages, to hold the shell, need similar skilled rapidity. After a brief blast from a hairdryer, Hans peeled off each layer and I was freed to marvel at the strange, inverted, truthfulness of my mask, and to wonder what it'll look like in porcelain...

Finally... Sunday night in Frome means the place to be is The Cornerhouse, which happens to be my local, and also the venue for Nevertheless Pub Theatre, where my play Mascara is previewing later this month before its Bristol run... and where on Sunday nights there's great live music, free. This week, it was the fabulous Pete Gage band kicking up a bluesy storm. Fantastic.

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