Sunday, September 28, 2014

Autumn season specials

It's Open Studios across Somerset for the 2014 Arts Weeks, a fortnight ending October 5th, with several venues in Frome. There are some interesting local-history installations at the back of 15 Sun Street : here's one of the two big murals by Sally-Anne Fraser using 'stitchery and a variety of techniques to bring outside space to life.' Photo montage is by David Goodman.
Over at the Silk Mill, Annemarie Blake has a wonderfully vibrant and exciting exhibition of paintings from a week spent on site at the Glastonbury Festival, mixing lithography, etching, conté and egg tempera "to capture the energy and atmosphere of this annual temporary city." There's also a lovely portrait of Annabelle Macfadyen, accordionist extraordinaire, doyenne of the Frome Street Bandits, Lady Mayoress and a special friend of mine. Upstairs in the workshops, Amanda Bee has sketches and prints from Cornwall and 'Raggedy' has the usual amazing selection of 'wearable art' for anyone sharing her desire that we should all 'dress like nobody's judging.'

Bath's Rondo has been basking in a Brontë bonanza, staging stories from all three of the emo sisters: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and the least-known Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Rosie and I sallied forth on Saturday to do, not quite the Full Brontë, but at least Emily and Anne. Butterfly Psyche and Livewire theatres have combined their talents to produce a set of impressive adaptations, retaining the 19th Century Gothic melodrama of the writers' imaginations and creating scores of richly-varied characters with just two actors. Alison Campbell was simply superb in the complex tragedy of Wuthering Heights, identifying passionately the longing of every obsessive adolescent to find a lover "more myself than I am." In Dougie Blaxland's faithful interpretation, Alison takes on a couple of Cathys and a Nelly, while Jeremy Fowlds has a brace of Lintons, a Lockwood, and several men whose names begin with H, as the drama unfolds in 90 minutes of compelling storytelling. Truly disturbing ~ I really did dream of ghosts ~ though I'd have liked a sound design with more wuthering (and less Greensleeves) but impressive performances directed by Jazz Hazelwood rightly won huge audience praise.  The final play of this traumatic trio, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was more popular in its day than either of the other novels (though, curiously, suppressed by Charlotte after first publication) and has similar themes of dysfunctional male degeneracy, debauchery and domestic violence,  summed up sadly by stoic suffering heroine Helen Graham "If I had known him better at the beginning, perhaps I would not have loved him at all." Alison Farina adapted this one, teasing out a complex storyline for actors Madelaine Ryan and Tom Turner, directed by Shane Morgan. An impressive achievement all round.
So October is nearly on us, with another autumn special: Salisbury Fringe where Rosie and I will premiere Crossed Wires, our new double-bill for Nevertheless Productions, on Sunday 5th at Boston Tea Party. Rosie's been rehearsing Champagne Charlotte in Salisbury while my actors for Muffin Man spent Sunday at the Cornerhouse, where the show will  run on Friday 10th & Saturday 11th. Ross Scott and Fleur Hanby Holmes are so fantastic in their roles my only worry is they may peak too soon... but they're consummate professionals, so that won't happen! For Frome, call 01373 472042, for Salisbury just show up.

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