Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mirad the Boy from Bosnia, written 20 years ago but timeless in its aching insight on casualties of conflict, has been revived by Theatre Orchard and came to The Egg in Bath last week. Mirad is a catalyst and unseen hero, a victim in the Bosnia-Hertzegovena hostilities like so many others. His story is brought to us haltingly, apologetically, precisely, and with terrible lucidity by his uncle Djuka and aunt Fazila, who become dragged into the widening gyre of Serb-Croat conflict. Directed by John Retallack ~ also director of The Last Days of Mankind, another production with a powerful anti-war theme ~ this is acted with moving conviction by Dean Rehman and Gehane Strehler against a minimal set used sparingly to maximum effect. Script is by Dutch playwright Ad de Bont and based on actual events and Amnesty reports. The refugee couple end their harrowing story in Holland on a 'Selected Refugee' scheme, but there is no happy ending for those who are have lost livelihood, loved ones, families and homeland: they are, as Djuka told us diffidently at the start, not refugees but people blown by the wind all over the world... This is one of those experiences that makes you look afresh at the world outside when you leave the theatre, its railings and routes and signs, and at the casual confidence of people moving freely around.

And Emily and I are both back in Bath again on Sunday morning for a circular stroll recreating the streets the Regency Detective would have known. After coffee & croissants at wonderful Toppings Bookshop, authors David Lassman and Terence James escort our thirty-strong group around the territory of their hero Jack Swann, blending fascinating social history with tantalising plot-snippets from their crime novel. The story comes to life excitingly literally at several points as we spy as characters from the book sauntering past ~ and on one occasion dashing after a pickpocket down Avon street, in those days a red-light district rife with crime.  Interestingly, those affluent areas named after the rich and the royal look much as they did when Jane Austen tripped these pavements, but the grim homes of the dispossessed sadly have been merely replaced by an ugly soulless area which was mourned by John Betjeman: Goodbye to old Bath. We who loved you are sorry, they've carted you off by developer's lorry.
Our tour ends by the abbey as the clock chimes noon ("Dead on Twelve" says David cheerily, and some of the group look around worriedly in case this heralds another vivid reconstruction) and we troop back to Toppings for more coffee and to avidly claim our signed copies of The Regency Detective.  "Swann will do for Bath what Morse did for Oxford" predicts the Bath Chronicle confidently. Let's hope so ~ it will make a great TV series.

And now as Glastonbury is probably gathering up the last few thousand black bags of debris ~ are many campers going hang around for Mumford and Sons? ~ there's only five more sleeps before Frome bursts into the festival arena. Somerset Standard has done us proud again, with a big round-up of poetry nights ~ that's lovely Sally Jenkinson, Monday's guest at the Garden Cafe, looming large ~ and a nice push for Nevertheless Pub Theatre too. We're putting on an award-winning one-man play in a production that was Pick of Brighton Fringe and scooped 5 stars in Edinburgh from the Love Fringe review: "An excellent performance combined with Vincent Cassar's richly dark and comic script make this a rare treat." What's the Time Mr Wolf? is on from Wednesday to Saturday, quality theatre for just a fiver!
So you know what to do: pick up a brochure if you haven't got one and get booking everything you can ~ Tales from the Tunnels, the site-specific performance created by Frome Scriptwriters, is already fully booked!

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