Saturday, May 24, 2014

Curious: eager to know ~ arousing interest ~ made with skill & subtlety

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon's best-selling novel, has an 'unreliable narrator' now as famous as Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield. Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone is autistic: his thought processes are by turns simplistic, logical and amazingly complex. All of this made the story sensational to read but an enormous challenge to transfer to stage, as writer Simon Stevens did for the National Theatre. The show won seven Olivier awards last year ~ including Best Actor for Luke Treadaway ~ and is now released as an Encore Live screening. And it came to the Merlin in Frome! An inspired choice and a complete sell-out, with several first-time audience members enticed by the chance to see a big London success in a local venue at local prices. There was a buzz of excitement throughout and applause at the end was as fervent as if the actors were there with us.
Certainly a superb show ~ imaginatively directed, cleverly filmed, brilliantly acted, and immensely moving.... though for me personally, live theatre will always have the edge on pre-recorded, and there's something about close-up shots that rarely comes up to the total immersion of watching whole-stage interaction. Which is why Luke's performance was so remarkable: touchingly credible and totally engrossing. Christopher's autism is a part but not the heart of the story, as director Marianne Elliott understands, finding a hero's journey and a metaphor for life too as he stumbles through messy human frailties while longing for splendid solitude in the stars.

Political shuffling has been in the air this week. Having enjoyed a year with the youngest, tallest, Mayor in the country at the helm, Frome town council has now moved into the stewardship of Sustainable superhero Peter Macfadyen, author of Flatpack Democracy, who admirably maintained his casual attire for the official portrait, though he did change his orange slacks. Here he is eschewing formality of background too, with his lovely Lady Mayoress Annabelle. 

Still on theme of recycling: did you know you can weave on a loom using yarn made from plastic, videotape, rubber inner tubes, paper, wire, and plants?  Just one of the things I learned from a fascinating exhibition of yarns at Frome Museum until July 19th. You can try little bits of weaving for yourself, too ~ I did. Great fun.

I'll end this post with an image from Stourhead, a place so redolent of English culture that even renovation work is screened with literary quotations (One of the most picturesque scenes in the world ~ Horace Walpole in 1762, and many visitors since) and with a quote from Mark Haddon which feels particularly apt for me at the moment: “You can’t drive yourself as a writer unless you have this mix of overwhelming arrogance and toxic anxiety.”

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