Wednesday, April 06, 2016

All's Well in a busy week

Does the end justify the means? The notion has been debated for centuries by different example but probably none so bizarre as Shakespeare chose for All's Well That Ends Well, currently performed by Bristol's incomparable Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory.
This is considered one of Shakespeare's 'problem' plays – not for anti-semeticism as in Venice or domestic abuse like in Padua, but because the heroine uses tricks to get her man, first winning him like a fairground teddy by curing the king and then, when he runs away to war after the wedding, pulling the 'bed-trick' by switching places with his new amour - initiatives which though successful were not regarded as genteel. A further problem is that the object of her affections is the most unappealing hero the bard ever created -snobbish, chauvinist, and petulant. Caliban had more redeeming features. None of which stops the current SATTF production at the Tobacco Factory from being massively enjoyable.
Theatre-in-the-round is an ideal format for a tale unfolded in cameo moments across different locations, and Andrew Hilton's incisive direction brings clarity to complexity. His team of actors are all superb: Eleanor Yates is totally endearing as feisty Helena and Julia Hills marvellous as the Countess who loves her as a daughter. The other plot strand, the comic buffoon brought low, is wonderfully funny despite (as with the Malvolio story) the bullying involved, as Alan Coveney convinces a blindfolded Paul Currier he has been captured by enemy forces. Chris Bianchi as the king and Marc Geoffrey as the little dancing teacher are brilliant. Production shots show the effective 19th Century costumes but can't convey the energy and humour of this terrific production, on till April 30th, highly recommended. (images Mark Duet)

Meanwhile elsewhere the lowest boughs of the elm tree are in tiny leaf, which would have stirred Robert Browning to homesick excitement, and Frome had a delightful Willow Festival in Rodden Meadow with all ages contentedly practising withy skills beside the river.
The Independent market returned in sunshine from an extended winter break after December's gridlocked event. Happily this Sunday there was more space, especially welcome for the artisan food stalls in Stony Street and the craft on Catherine Hill. Once again great acts on the Busking Stage - here's September Son. And as another reason to spend all weekend in town, the Frome Art Fair across three venues ~ Rook Lane, Silk Mill & the Round House ~ displayed the amazing diversity and talent of so many local artists, like Kate Cochrane who's also had a painting selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Exhibition.
Frome Writers' Collective's monthly meeting in the rather gothic upper room at the Three Swans this week featured a talk from Alison Clink on pitfalls and perils of self-publishing. Based on her own experience with The Man Who Didn't Go To Newcastle, this was informative, entertaining, and also encouraging.  Around half of the 70-strong membership were attracted by this theme and many had experience to share afterwards. FWC, like the artists' groups, is a great example of the value of networking, in my view the main reason Frome is so vibrant and creative a community. I'll end with another example: our local radio station, Frome FM, which is about to launch a season of script readings from productions by Nevertheless - if you scroll down to the player you can listen online here.

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