Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Happy new year.... though one week on 21014 is already not quite box-fresh. Jingoistic shots have been fired in an ominous preliminary to the centenary commemoration of WW1, as Michael Gove blithely reinvents history to eliminate the public protests and the records of thousands court-martialled, apparently under the impression that until Ben Elton wrote Blackadder Goes Forth, the Battle of the Somme was a moral triumph and every soldier slavishly supported "the old lie, Dulce et decorum est / pro patria mori."  He should have read Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That: "Patriotism, in the trenches, was too remote a sentiment, rejected as fit only for civilians, or prisoners. A new arrival who talked patriotism would soon be told to cut it out." Or at least listened to Harry Patch, last veteran of that war, who unflinchingly insisted: "The politicians who took us to war should have been given guns and told to settle their differences themselves."  But then education isn't really Mr Gove's thing, is it. 

And as lashing rain with winds of up to 90mph transform roads into rivers, fields into lagoons, and generally turn the land into a vast puddle, maybe Bristol theatrical productions should stop conjuring up dramatic storms as a major plot line.  The weather has never quite been the same since Tom Phillips' play 100 Miles North of Timbuktu last autumn, in which an invention to control the weather by computer got out of control and brought catastrophic tidal waves up the Bristol Channel ~ and now Tobacco Factory is staging The Last Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, a story about a series of violent ship-wrecking storms.  It's a high-spirited and high-energy show, and demonstrates the superior power of imagination over complex sets and costumes as five charismatic performers do battle with ogres, sprites, and whales as well as high waves.  Saikat Ahamed, Vic Llewellyn, Zara Ramm, Lucy Tuck and the ever-excellent Chris Bianchi share the roles around between them on a kind of rota basis but the clarity of story-telling ensures there's no confusion, and there's enough variety in each sequence, including live music and clever puppetry, to ensure the saga never flags.

Despite this double-dose of spells aimed at submerging all routes between Frome and Bristol underwater, Rosie and I made it to Hen & Chickens in Bedminster for the first rehearsal of our double-bill  Media Monsters with director Marc Geoffrey and our dream-team cast. Day one was for read-through, discussions, and script-tweaks.
It's indescribably exciting to hear words that came out of your head becoming first voices and then people,  who begin to have opinions, and intentions, not all of which you knew about...  Ann shows the set design, which is fabulous, and there's first thoughts about music. Two days on, Sarah arrives to talk costumes and there's excited talk of make-up and hair-curling sessions. Marc is blocking my play Fixing It and devising links between the two different decades, and when, after 8 hours of rehearsal, we reach the end of the first full run-through and he says 'That was a good day's work' I feel as proud as if I'd actually contributed anything more than a besotted and slightly inane smile all day.  So there'll probably be more in a similar vein for the next few postings too... enjoy your January, I know I will.

No comments: