Sunday, October 02, 2016

Brilliant bonkers ~ from blue to purple

Over to Bristol first, where Tobacco Factory Theatres have combined with Orange Tree Theatre for the first revival of Blue Heart, Carol Churchill's duo originally produced in 1997.  It's a bit of a Marmite play. It could be said to explore the essential incoherence of human interaction or it could be called simply bonkers. Either way, for anyone with an interest in theatre, this is one to see: it's the first revival of a key work by a major playwright, and the superlative cast combine great comic timing with sharp emotional impact.
In Heart’s Desire the action moves stutteringly towards a daughter's return from Australia, in Blue Kettle a man deludes needy women into believing he is their son, but both plays put sharp focus on the challenges of communication. In the first, none of the waiting family can explain their thoughts, and the action constantly repeats, often with comical truncation, as if to give them another chance. In the second play, irrelevant words increasingly intrude making unacknowledged nonsense of everyone’s attempts to explain their feelings. As audience we become voyeurs unable to help these floundering people in situations sometimes moving and sometimes very funny.
Director David Mercatali uses the challenge of the in-the-round venue, where faces are always unreadable from some angles, to enhance this mood, and the lighting design (Chris Swain) is literally brilliant, giving brittle edge to the action. The ten actors are all great, extreme and absurd but somehow creating inherent realism from these perversely unreal situations. In Bristol until 1st October, then at Orange Tree Theatre from 13th until November 11th.
Images The Other Richard. 

Somerset Open Studios is now ending its second & final week ~ 210 venues across the county, offering free access to an amazing range of contemporary artists' work. I'd like to say I viewed at least half, but in fact I only got to see 1/26th... a fascinating range, even in this sample. My personal picks would be Amanda Bee and Sarah Hitchens in Frome, Paul Newman in Castle Cary, and Richard Pomeroy in Bruton, who creates wall-sized acrylic paintings using his own body-print.
This fantastic one, foetal but somehow fearful, was made on White Sheet Hill, the Klimt-like flowering surroundings created later in his studio. "Shockingly, I paint them all individually."  Of everything I saw, and I saw some skilled and exciting work, these massive enigmatic paintings are the most impressive - it would be fantastic if they could come to Frome... They've already been to Russia, so why not?

Also in Bruton, the quirkily bohemian Art Factory celebrated the last weekend of Open Studios with an Open Mic event ~ poems, readings, and story-telling, with sultry sax 'to give it a beatnik flavour'. Carl Sutterby from Frome's Wochynskis played punk classics on the ukulele, and flying the flag for Frome performance poets were brilliant rapper Jake Hight, and me...  Congratulations organiser Bee Brooks ~ a fun event with a party feeling, hope there are more.

And now for something completely different: an author's talk at Spike Island from debut novelist Nadim Safdar with readings from his book Akram's War. It's based on his own experience of growing up in the 'Black Country' and although the radicalisation of disaffected muslims is a key theme, Nadim says 'I didn't set out to write a story about a suicide bomber - it was about love, I thought.' Interesting insights, well steered by director Helen Legg.
Back to Frome to conclude this post with that familiar comment: it's been a great week for music... Roots Sessions at the Grain Bar featured Mark Abis and his Three Pilgrims, an amazing blues trio with a particularly excellent version of St James Infirmary Blues.
And fabulous Purple Fish ~ 'the ultimate classic rock band' came back to the Cornerhouse! And there was dancing...

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