Sunday, March 02, 2014

Bliss is... elusive

Bath Literature Festival is currently bringing ten days on the theme of 'bliss' to the city, citing the feeling of pure joy and inspiration we get from the written and spoken word... something to cling to in times of uncertainty.  Bath Poetry Café may or may not have had this in mind when they jointly composed The Death of Actaeon, a play for voices performed in the Central Library on Saturday. I arrived during preliminary readings, just as guiding light Sue Boyle was calling to the assembled poets "Can I suggest we do the naughty nymph next?" I couldn't stay for the actual show but courtesy of Sue I did have the chance to read third nymph. A remarkable project, and I'm sure it was suitably well received - it certainly seemed huge fun.
Heading onward at noon I hoped to see some of the advertised Random Acts of Shakespeare in the city centre but though I found buskers, jugglers, and a cleverly poised golden fountain-man, this salon:collective initiative was sadly elusive. At risk of sounding pathetically old school, maybe some specific names rather than 'the streets of Bath' in the programme next time?
And then on to see the Soho Theatre production BLINK in Bristol Old Vic studio, a two-hander tautly directed by Joe Murphy. This play is billed as "a love story ~ a dysfunctional, voyeuristic and darkly funny love story, but a love story all the same." The narration is at first intriguing as Sophie, superbly acted by Lizzie Watts, deliberately prompts her Forest-Gumpy tenant into an obsession of extreme stalking which could have led to some fascinating social questioning about longing and loneliness, guilt and collusion, reality and fantasy, and how they can become blurred, but the plot abruptly took a While-I-lay-Sleeping swerve as Sophie's road accident puts her in a coma and Jonah's co-dependency takes a more clichéd turn. Writer Phil Porter credits Stewart Lee for his direct-to-audience style and aims to emulate his 'ability to make an audience laugh at him for sneering at them for laughing at themselves for laughing at a joke that isn't even supposed to be funny'.  The jokes get the laughter, but despite some sentimental moments, there's not enough compassion for the story to become deeply touching. 

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