Thursday, June 06, 2013

Writers take heart from the history of The Seagull, a play so catastrophically badly received at its premier that Chekhov vowed he would never put another on stage if he lived for 700 years. Two years later, in 1896, the next production met with a response described by director Stanislavski as "colossal, like a second Easter. Many people, myself among them, danced a wild dance for joy and excitement."
The new adaption by John Donnelly directed by Blanche McIntyre for Headlong deserved similar rapture in the streets outside Theatre Royal Bath. The dialogue dazzles, pain and poetry mixing with precision, authentically personal without ever becoming prosaic or predictable, and is often spotlit suddenly by quirky humour. Cast ~ especially Alexander Cobb as conflicted playwright Konstantin and Abigail Cruttenden as his self-absorbed, insecure, mother ~ are individually riveting in their private passions and in the tableau scenes Chekhov loves to create. Intimate moments are offered directly to audience, houselights rising to remind us of our complicity in these dilemmas of life and art, a device that enhances the meta-theatrical theme at the heart of the play. You have to write what's inside, even if everyone says you're wrong, Konstantin declares, like everyone in this story fearing to 'sleepwalk through life': he alone keep to his pledge I'd rather have nothing than a lie. Laura Hopkins' set supports this integrity: no attempt at lakeside landscape but a strangely blank backdrop daubed with images and scrawl throughout the action, with a plank that morphs with striking simplicity from garden seesaw to supper table. It's all simply brilliant ~ 5 stars, read more here.

The Dug Out at the Tobacco Factory is a kind-of proxy site-specific performance combining two tales in one location: the 1970s 'Dug Out' nightclub, convincingly recreated by Halla Groves, also represents a refuge from rioting in 1944. The war story is a romantic encounter but 30 years on, city life is more complex. Black American soldiers stationed in Bristol during WW2 met no racism from local people but their white colleagues found it unacceptable to see them with English girls, so there's innocence as well as ignorance in the encounter between Rita and GI Curtis. By 1974 the clubbers have more conflicts and concerns than racism to cope with: there's drugs, pregnancy, transgenderism, prawn cocktails, Germaine Greer and the IRA to name a few. Writer Amanda Whittington has researched both eras in detail, as evidenced ~ perhaps too clearly ~ in her characters' dialogue. But there's much that's thought-provoking, some excellent individual performances and a soundtrack to totally relish. (image: Farrows Creative)

Still on the subject of exploring one's own locality, photographer Edward Johnson is creating a story in images about the artistic life of Frome, and I feel very pleased and privileged to have been invited to sit for his gallery. We went to the gardens of the Blue House, abundant with indigo aquilegia aptly, for the shoot. Edward kindly took a snap on my camera so I had a preview of his pose and here it is. Here too, just because I love this place, is an evening view over the lake at Stourhead...

No comments: