Monday, February 09, 2015

History in the making

How can you make a comic play from the true story of Stanley's meeting with Dr Livingstone? The answer is, you can’t. According to contemporary accounts, Morton Stanley was a man who shoots Africans like monkeys, and David Livingstone was a hopeless leader; neither seem to have acknowleged the support of their team or their womenfolk, and the famous greeting was probably apocryphal. Miracle Theatre therefore in devising their current show Dr Livingstone I Presume has abandoned history for a series of absurd and very funny sketches involving song and dance, a range of costumes and puppetry, and some farting. The conceit of the show is that events are recreated by a Victorian touring company in an atmosphere of sizzling backstage tension with an increasingly intoxicated MC ~ the marvellous Ben Dyson, always brilliant when apparently about to break leash and bound for the mad hills of non-sequitur and anarchy. The company aims to 'take a swipe at 19th Century imperialism, chauvinsim, and hypocrisy' but it's a small nod really and I wished this talented team had pushed the satire further. As Alexei Sayle immortally said, you can't change the world with a silly song ~ you have to do the silly dance too...

Which segues nicely into Change How?, a one-day event put on by Compass in Islington Metalworks, a venue with the charm and amenities you'd expect from a scrap storage area now a nightclub, but on Sunday for 6 hours it was filled with excitement and coloured balloons as 100 speakers & performers, simultaneously in 6 venues and with a gong at 15 minutes, gave their vision of how to change the world for the better. It was exhausting and brilliant.
Frome's independent mayor was there to talk about the Flatpack Democracy process, with Johannes Mueler, founder of the Frome-based Edventure project helping young people design their own apprenticeships to shape their chosen futures, and our local Guardian journalist John Harris. And I went there just to look and listen. My highlights included, unsurprisingly, poets like Anthony Anaxagorou, Yusra Warsama and Angry Sam (who I hope will come to Frome to feature in the festival) ~ and it was good to end with a blast of stand-up from Chris Coltrane.
As with Glastonbury festival it was sometimes easier to stay put than push through the crowds to another location, which resulted in some great surprises like Jon Alexander, an ex-adman, inspirational about the need for a new moral logic to replace consumerism, and Spiros Rapanakis, Greek documentary-maker and member of Syriza, massively applauded as he told us We are not afraid any more. We know everyone in the world is looking at Greece and that gives us courage. The question is, are you going to join the big revolution?

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