Monday, May 18, 2015

The past is another country, but trespassers are welcome

Growing up in the 1960s on the edge of Brixton the notion of segregation completely passed me by, though over in America the Governor of Alabama was calling for continuation forever, Kennedy appealing for an end, and Florida was rioting.  Meanwhile in Baltimore, according to the 1988 musical rom-com Hairspray, a plump teenager named Tracy was doing her bit for racial harmony by bringing 'negro' dancing to a popular TV show. Reflecting era aspirations I do vividly remember, wannabe-worldsaver Tracy longs to escape post-1950s humdrum by rebelling at school and losing herself in yoof-empowering music. I had only Radio Luxembourg on a tranny to transport me, Tracy has 'The Corny Collins Show' on local network TV, and Corny needs a new dancer...  Can Tracy overcome puppy-fat and the producer's prejudice to bring everyone together for a grand finale? It takes a lot of angst and ensemble singing, but of course she can! The Broadway version of Hairspray won 8 Tony Awards, and the 2007 film remake was listed as one of 500 greatest movies of all time, and Frome Musical Theatre has been showing why.
An immense cast of incredibly talented singers were brilliantly choreographed & directed by Vicki Klein to bring out the comedy as well as the moves in this warm-hearted fairy tale ~ I especially loved the duet as Tracy's Dad (Norm Langley) reassures his weight-worrying wife (Jon O'Loughlin) 'You're timeless to me.'  A thoroughly feel-good show deservedly a sell-out ~ I'm glad I saw audience comments on facebook in time to catch a returned ticket on the final night. Now I'm looking forward to their Peter Pan in August.

In slightly tenuous connection via the 1960s, Alison Clink was at Frome Library this afternoon for another Q&A with me about her book The Man Who Didn't Go To NewcastleThe primary focus is the story of her brother's death in 2008 but some of the early sections of this moving memoir recall their shared childhood in South London. With several writers among the audience there was particular interest in how to retrieve distant memories that can seem lost in the past. "The more you go there, the more things come back to you," is Alison's experience and her advice.  And does writing heal?  "Yes - and no. But yes, it can."

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