Sunday, October 23, 2016

Anarchic drama, music, dancing ~ and a bit of poetry

Highlight of this week is Bristol Old Vic's stunning new production The Grinning Man. Based on a story by Victor Hugo, re-written by Carl Grose of Dead Dog in a Suitcase (about which I also raved), this 'macabre musical' is immensely effective and affecting. I left the theatre feeling I’d spent three hours at a freaky Tim Burtonesque carnival inside a Terry Gilliam head with Pete Townsend's Tommy ~ but you need to see this for yourself, there are so many strands in this re-envisioning of the original tale and so much topical relevance in the re-conceiving of Bristol as the setting for this extraordinary story of a lost and damaged child who takes on a Messianic role for a lost and damaged society ~ “A story so terrible it could only be true”
Music and lyrics (by Tim Phillips & Mark Teitler) are amazing, not only giving heart to individual characters but also creating a crazy world that darkly mirrors our own ("If you think a change of king -will change the mess you’re living in - learn the rules - you stupid fools")
The cast are all fantastic ~ I was especially impressed with Julian Bleach as the jester and Sean Kingsley as Ursus, the children's adoptive father. And there's more to relish: the skilfully-animated puppets of the children and the wolf, the extraordinary set with its leering grins and snare-like cavities, the wonderland-world costumes, that terrifying grin finally revealed, and the glorious moment when these two beautiful disfigured lovers finally run from the stage, stepping over the heads of the audience as though we were only a part of their dream. Director Tom Morris has made something really great happen here. On till 13 November, drop everything and book right now.

Back in the real world where suffering children don't have such a happy ending, if The Sun newspaper has anything to do with it, RAISE (Refugee Action In Somerset East) put on a gig at Frome's Silk Mill to raise money for refugees in Calais. Popular local band Back Wood Redeemers gave us a great set of their 'songs of misery, debauchery, and religious fervour' and ~ despite demise of Flounder's banjo ~ they did, as promised, get the joint jumping.

Wells Festival of Literature  was on throughout last week and though autumn sunshine made it hard to abandon the Bishops Palace Gardens I did make it to the marquee for Write Up Speak Up. This participatory event was organised by Bee Brook and compered by gorgeous Liv Torc whose brilliant opening set lifted the bar to the roof.
Also unforgettable was near-nonagenarian Jane Williams with a spirited rap 'Getting old is shit' which practically brought the house down, bar and all. I would say I was proud to be in their company, but actually it was a bit humbling. Here's a photo of the full moon that night, anyway.

Terribly sad news in Frome this week was the death of Griff Daniels, initiator of the Roots Grain Bar Sessions and many other events, guitarist and singer with iconic bands like The Critters, The Valley, Dempseys, as well as the popular duo Nicki & Griff. He was a friend to everyone and an all-round wonderful man.

Finally: Take a look at this short (3.59 mins) movie of the amazing Frome Street Bandits created from the darkly anarchic mind of & genius skills of Howard Vause: it's called The Wood The Brass And The Funky and it's brilliant. 

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