Friday, May 04, 2012

Like the secret wardrobe entrance to Narnia or that elusive platform thirteen-and-a-half, somewhere between the glittering docks and the urban centre of Bristol there’s a sidestreet with a door to a magical world…. The Bierkeller is a fabulous space for theatrical extravagance, and Gentleman Jack Theatre Company has used every cranny to create the most dramatic experience you’ll have this year, possibly ever.
The Revenger’s Tragedy, first performed in 1606, is aptly titled: Vindice, embittered by pre-action murder of his lover, embraces a vigilante role in the corrupt court of Il Duce, and among unscrupulous intrigues and lascivious excesses a murder-fest unfolds… but not before the Duke’s party, where the audience are all guests! We’re talking real party here, ducal family & entourage at the bar with us, live music, poledancing, sweets on the tables, money ~ and notes arranging assignations ~ on the crimson silk cushions... everything creating an uneasy atmosphere of self-indulgence which spills suddenly into the action of the play. As events move around the palace, so do we, moving through the gothic Bierkeller surroundings as silent witnesses to the deathly consequences of rage, envy, ambition, and lust. Lots of lust.
It’s all OTT and zestfully black-comic, but Thomas Middleton's script is delivered for real, apart from the odd ‘Omigod'-style interjection, and this integrity, combined with intense audience involvement in the action (Lussurio's penchant for fondling comes to mind, pleasantly) is what makes this production much more than just a brilliant parody of Jacobean genre. The cast are all simply fabulous: Philip Perry in the title role ranges compellingly from vengeful grief to northern comedy, Jonathan Charles as the Duke’s heir is charismatic, and everyone is mesmeric in their moments. Director Justin Palmer is genius.

Just as installation art can send you home seeing lampposts as sculptures, a great evening of site-specific drama makes walking through Bristol at night feel like being part of street theatre ~ especially in Queen's Square, this week a scene of tented splendour as champagne flows at the Pop Up Tapas Bar.

Finally, a quick look towards warmer days: Happiness was the theme of Skyros story competition with first prize a free holiday on this beautiful Greek island. I had the privilege of judging the entries, so well done to all who entered and congratulations to winner Peter Wakefield ~ and special appreciation for entitling his story Happiness Is A Wardrobe Slowly Rising In The Air, thus enabling me somewhat bizarrely to both open and end this posting with a sentence containing the word wardrobe.

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