Wednesday, September 30, 2015

russet moon, golden sun

A Prism for the Sun was the theme for Frome's autumn Poetry Cafe as Rose Flint's new collection has that title,  happily appropriate too in this week's Indian summer. Rose's poems celebrate the natural world, its remorseless power as well as consoling beauty, 'piercingly alive': osprey, swifts, hounds, hares, sparrow hawk shadow and scythe / setting each moment of wild light flying in glory.  Our other superb guest was Mark de'Lisser from Bath, sharing personal spiritual insights ~ two very different poetic voices which worked extraordinarily well together. It was an extraordinary night throughout, full in every way, with fifteen open-mic poets and some amazing readings and performances, endless variety and a fantastic atmosphere. This was a prism indeed, with lucent love poems like Rosie Jackson's First Breakfast and Helen Frame's reflections on our shimmering unknowable future, tender thoughts of family, glimpses of local life, reflections inspired by art, and great evocation of Morpeth by Kevin Ross. As well as readings we had performances of spicy comedy from Muriel Lavender, a strong debut from Liam Parker, and witty bitterness from Hannah Teasdale... so much to entertain, charm, and delight, with too many special moments to list all. Many thanks to everyone who crammed into the Garden Cafe to read, perform, or listen.

Samuel Beckett was notoriously specific about directions for  performance of his plays and his estate has maintained that scrupulous monitoring, which is probably why Waiting For Godot nearly always works superbly ~ as it did in the LCT production at Frome's Merlin Theatre last week.
There are various esoteric interpretations of this play and one obvious one: existentialist despair at the incomprehensibility of life, expressed with a deep and dreary rage that would blend neatly into Dismaland.  Godot isn't God, if you were wondering, Beckett took the name from the French slang for boot and said he wished he hadn't when he realised all theorising thus caused. He isn't Pozzo either, and the two men are not identified as tramps although usually played that way, sometimes in Laurel-and-Hardyish comic style. Director Michael Cabot never ignores the pathos to play just for laughs, which paradoxically makes it funnier as well as more moving: Richard Heap as Estragon and Peter Cadden as Vladimir are both excellent, bickering and hugging with neither rancour nor comfort enduring for more than a moment. Michael Keane is a diminutive but brilliant Lucky, the slave of Pozzo, and his 'thinking' speech ~ a long nonsensical monologue ~ brought spontaneous applause from the audience when he was finally wrestled into silence.
Beckett identified the set laconically (A country road, a tree) and said the action needs 'a very closed box', even suggesting 'a faint shadow of bars on stage floor'. Designer Bek Palmer has added instead a continual series of bubbles rising through dense liquid ~ I quote this from the programme notes as I took it for a mangrove swamp with driftwood lilypads, imposing constraints on movement which for me didn't work. (Bek however also designed their unforgettably amazing set for Betrayal two years ago, which shows something about creative risk-taking not pleasing all the people all the time...) Anyway that didn't significantly detract from a fine production with a strong cast and a some memorable highlights. And in the week the media sizzled with piggery-pokery it was especially entertaining to hear Pozzo rant  Up pig… as though I were short of slaves!   There's more political analogy too: I’ve given them bones, I’ve explained the twilight to them – but is it enough?

A dubious segueway to end this post via the pig mask (which nobody accepted) offered  by Captain Cactus and the Screaming Harlots at the Grain Bar Roots Session ~ a stupendous double set by a brilliant band. The harlots rendition of Fat Bottom Girls was simply superb ~ it's not on Youtube, but this one is. Enjoy!

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