Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chippenham Drama Fest last week featured Rosie Finnegan's short play The Girl with Blue Hair, revived by Bootleg Theatre Company for this inaugural event at the Neeld Hall with the original cast: Sara Taylor and Joe Bossano, here with Rosie. Also that night, a performance of The Decision, the monologue double-bill which earned writer/performer Annie Cooper a nomination as Best Female Actor in the recent Solo Festival in London.  Annie's deeply-felt depiction of two very different women wrestling with a life-change scenario certainly deserved the accolade: her performance is riveting, though perhaps less emotive detail in the storylines might have allowed a more subtle poignancy. But a great evening with two very moving productions, and a credit to the initiative of this new festival. As organiser Duncan Ellis says, Watch it grow!
Myrtle Theatre Company 'creates ambitious original performances' and 'articulates voices often unheard': a play about Bristol's Balloon Fiesta using verbatim script taken from interviews with participants and onlookers ~sung in chorus~ fulfills both aims, but is a dim-lit ex-factory the right venue to inspire that it's just fabulous! air-born feeling?  I was wondering that as I sat in the Tobacco Factory waiting for the start of Hot Air, but by  the end I was longing to take a balloon trip myself, to experience the sensations and emotions so effectively evoked by this show.
It doesn’t feel like rising, it’s as if the earth drops away below and you simply drift into space...
Eight versatile actors in varied roles as personnel and punters provide the main focus, a storyline constructed from a series of cameo moments ~ touching, troubled, optimistic, often very funny, while the atmosphere both on- and off- the ground is created through music, lighting, dance, models, mime, puppets, community opera, and above all the authentic voices of Bristolians. Kieran Buckeridge takes lines like ‘One thing that drives us mad is the Health and Safety stuff’ and combines them musically with the dreamy notion Once you have flown, you will forever walk the earth with eyes turned skywards
We become flaneurs at the Fiesta from first light to 'Nightglow', with the cast in one witty sequence miming all the attractions from the Red Arrows to the portaloo queue,  and sequences are linked by a kind of Milk-Wood 'first voice'.  There's no hero's journey, dramatic crisis, twist ending ~ this is a celebration of the ordinary possibility of transcending the humdrum through the magic of ballooning. It's charming without being sentimental, and though just a bit overlong deserves to be seen by everyone who believes theatre belongs to the community. And it really is collaborative, as I know because I met a guy from Bailey Balloons having breakfast by the docks next day and he said: ‘Did they say the balloons look like a string of pearls across the sky? That’s my line. I told them that.’ (Hot Air images by Graham Burke)

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