Sunday, August 23, 2015

As blackberries ripen and August ends...

It's that heavy end of summer now, fields stripped down to cornrow ridges and the verges decorated with silver thistledown & bright red hips. Autumnal, in short, but a pleasant aftertaste of  the summer festival this week: readings from the Writers in Residence event revealed the impressive inventiveness mustered on sight by the phrase 'It was a chance meeting that changed everything". Impromptu tales penned in shops and cafes, romantic, historical, poignant, quirky and very funny, were all shared at the Bell in Buckland Dinham on Thursday night in a delightfully laid-back event hosted by Sue Watts for Frome Writers Collective. Here's Nikki Lloyd reading her winning story, about the relationship between two women revealed with beautiful delicacy and an unexpected ending.

And what can I say about the Tri-Art Summer School production of West Side Story at Merlin Theatre except that it was a spectacular triumph, thoroughly deserving the standing-ovation applause of each full-house audience: a vibrant ensemble show that dazzled from the opening chords of  the overture to the moving final moment, with funky dance routines, superb voices, fabulous costumes, great filmic visuals, and a stark set that cleverly utilised mirror effects to increase impact.  The boys' gang set pieces were terrific but even more impressive were the girls: I like to be in America and I feel pretty were absolute highlights, as was the poignant duet between Maria (Tabitha Cox) and Anita (Marie-Claire Wood) after the street killings. Strong support from Ryan Hughes as Riff and Aynsley Minty, Nick White and Steve Scammell as the grownups, but the night belonged to the youngsters. There was a ban on cameras but I do hope someone managed to video the lads' unforgettable Officer Krupke routine with Ben Hardy-Phillips as Action leapfrogging his gang across the stage and 'Baby John' Dillon Berry's incredible trilling social-worker pastiche ~ posted on Youtube it would get about a zillion views.  Creative Team Leader Claudia Berry must be very happy ~ and brochures are out now so you don't miss out on the next big Merlin production, Little Mermaid.  

There's art stirring in wild places too, with the Step in Stone project in the disused rock quarries of East Mendip.  Six different venues throughout the summer till 18th October are featuring site-specific artworks in various media, and on Sunday the Westdown/Asham Quarry featured a call-and-response trumpet duet by Frome composer Helen Ottaway, together with birdsong and shadow sounds from long-gone industrial processes.
The art trail is intriguing but the whole place is enchanting now, reclaimed by trees and buddlia bushes and reedy marsh pools where dragonflies flit, reminding me of the temples of Cambodia reclaimed into jungle by determined Ficus Strangulosa trees.  The trail route is a walkers' right of way now, definitely a place to return and explore, when I'm home again in a few weeks.
I'm off to California now, to walk the coast and write and spend time with good friends. As always, there's much over here I'll miss ~ Merlin's 40th birthday celebrations for one, and all the excellent live music around in pubs & bars ~ here's Chic Mystique at the Artisan this afternoon.
Also happening while I'm away is the Festival of Puppetry in Bristol which looks awesome, various stage shows, and the Great British Bakeoff (only joking) but I did at least get to see the extraordinary and brilliant Grayson Perry self-portrait in Bath's adventurous little Victoria Gallery. It's a map of his life, half-chronicle half-citadel and totally engrossing.

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