Sunday, May 01, 2016

Beltane: comedy, theatre, bands & dancing - what else d'you want?

It's been a busy week for artsy happenings in Frome but I'll be as quick as I can. On Tuesday Damian Kingsley's Knock Knock Tour came to the Three Swans en route from Land's End to Edinburgh raising money for Shelter - a great night of comedy which also raised over £300 in audience donations. And Edventure 'community enterprise' training course has come up with the excellent idea of a Free Food Fridge in the market square for donations of surplus fresh food. This initiative has been pioneered in Europe but Frome is the first town in the UK, and the fridge was launched in style by the massed marching musicality of Frome Street Bandits.

Another exceptional Roots Session, if that's not a tautology, at the Grain Bar on Wednesday as Phil King entertained with guitar and shruti box ~ a new experience for me. You can sample his style on Youtube: You know where to find me is one of the tracks of his new album.

Art watch: I tried to go to Jim Cauty's talk about his RIOT TOUR in Bruton Art Factory but sadly it was sold out so I missed the significance of the jam jars in the exhibition. But Bruton is a gorgeous place to visit, anyway just for the views and Bean Shot Coffee.
Closer to home (about 500 yards actually) Rook Lane Chapel has an exhibition of workplace drawings by Lucinda Rogers. mostly from around Frome and ranging from landmarks like the old Lamb Brewery to artisan workshops for crafts like glass-blowing, woodcarving, pottery and baking. There's no hierarchy of value, and the artist's statement praises Frome for being a working town and 'not just a pretty face', adding 'I find the wealth of activity in Frome is very inspiring and worth celebrating'. The exhibition was a backdrop for a concert at the chapel on Saturday ~ pictured singer is Bee from Dexters Extra Breakfast ~  and will stay on for the rest of the month so do take a look if you can.

And now for a little nostalgia. Remember a time when milk came round in pails and the bobby on the beat kept a helpful eye on you? No, me neither, because I also didn’t live in Camberwick Green, but Frome Drama Club brought just such a place to the Merlin stage with their production of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer-prize-winning play Our Town. Grover’s Corners, population 2,462, is in a corner of New Hampshire, and a hundred years ago the talk was not of Trump but trivia: the minutiae of daily life, the choir-masters’ drinking, and how to string beans, all woven together by the playwright to show not only the transience of life but also that “there’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Deceptively innocent at first, this poignantly thought-provoking play makes big demands on the actors, not only in terms of mastering the flat drawl and slow delivery of the North-Eastern provinces but also because Wilder wanted the action to be created through mime so the audience has to imagine everything from moonlit gardens to coffee-cups, milk pails and bouncing balls. It’s a difficult task to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, particularly when it’s mostly not there, so all the cast should be massively commended, especially Django Lewis-Clark with Georgina Littlewood in the key roles of youngsters facing life, marriage, and death together. Laurie Parnell as ‘Stage Manager’ gives us a superb reprise of his narrative role in Under Milk Wood but with an American accent. His role here is to constantly break the theatrical ‘fourth wall’, interrupting the action, summoning other contributors, asking for questions, and generally reminding us we are in a theatre and out of real time. And what is that thing we call real time anyway? You know how it is, you’re 21 or 22 and whoosh, you’re 70. How true.

Maybe it was something to do with Beltane or the bluebells (they're out in the woodlands all around) but it's been a great week for dancing. The Fair Frome Fiesta at Silk Mill on Friday featured three excellent local bands ~ the Wochynskis, the Valley, and fabulous Captain Cactus with his gorgeous Screaming Harlots, whose 'hula-swamp western frontier madness' had us all boogieing.
At the Cornerhouse there was dancing in the purple rain till late on Saturday night with Purple Fish, self-styled 'ultimate rock tribute band' and no argument from me.
Finally: Sunday, being May 1st, was Market Day, pleasantly crowded in the sunshine with the usual amazing array of stalls loaded with sensual delights and quirky artefacts. Archangel had music in the courtyard, and after the market there was a Soul Carnival at the Silk Mill but your correspondent was by now getting a little tired and retired home to see if there's anything on the telly.... ooh good, Big Bang Theory 200th birthday on E4...

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