Saturday, December 10, 2016

Winter words ~ poetry and performance

Let's begin with the poetry. I had high expectations of Monday's Frome Festive Poetry Café: dry humour from guest John Christopher Wood plus eclectic variety on the open mic promised a great evening and a supportive forum for unveiling my collection Crumbs from a Spinning World. It was indeed a wonderful event, with full-house audience and a great buzz,  twenty open-mic poets, and John's droll wit immensely popular. From quickies like 'What do you call vicars with no underwear? Nicholas Parsons!! to his reflections on temporal inexactitude and the plasticity of time, there was much word-play to ponder. Audience readings were excellent, ranging from seasonal humour to moving profundity, and I was chuffed with responses to my 'crone' poems ~ thanks David Goodman for the image. Burning Eye Books have now posted the podcast recorded in my kitchen last week ~ link here. If you haven't got 30 minutes (who has?) you could slide to 24.30 for the 'predictive poetry' bit (fun for all) or 27.50 to hear a 'crone' poem.  And despite the drizzle I had some interest for my 'Pop-up Poetry' session on Saturday at the Library ~ thanks Sara Vian for this 40-second video clip!

Festive showtime has arrived, with a double splurge of Bristol's best: Cinderella: A Fairytale at the Tobacco Factory is a revival of the Travelling Light show originally directed by Sally Cookson which I saw & loved five years ago, with several of the same performers as well as the same musical magic. The concept is to retain that Grimm psychological horror at wicked parenting and damaged children, with domestic bullying and bleeding severed toes (they bounce as well, which is particularly awesome) but with beautiful storytelling, tenderness, and humour throughout. Every scene, from the forest of birds to the palace gala, is created by five extraordinary actors and two brilliant musicians. Isabella Marshall as Ella is a delight but her appalling family are even more riveting: Lucy Tuck is mesmeric both as spiteful sister and head-scarfed Queen, and Craig Edwards' metamorphosis from tender father to incandescently evil stepmother will probably haunt me forever. The in-the-round format of Tobacco Factory's main house is perfect for this production, creating an imaginary world through inspired lighting with clever direction ensuring varied viewpoints from all angles throughout. A fabulous show for every age, running till January 22nd but may sell out ~ book while you can! Images Farrows Creative

In contrast to Cinderella's traditional tale, The Snow Queen at Bristol Old Vic adds an elaborate plot involving goblins, robbers, reindeer, radical animal rebels and a psychedelic flower-witch. The acting team and musicians are great but the complexity of storytelling make the hero's journey hard to follow, and re-envisioning that profound shard of ice in the child's heart as a 'mirror of opposites' loses the poignancy and impact of the original Hans Anderson tale.
However there's much to charm: dramatic lighting, lively musicality and spectacular puppetry, as well as superb performances, especially from Gerda and Kai (Emily Burnett & Steven Roberts). I had a soft spot too for the dysmorphic reindeer (Dylan Wood) though his role is bewilderingly extraneous. Written by Vivienne Franzmann, director Lee Lyford and Tom Rogers designer, this runs till 15 January. Images Mark Douet.
And with seasonal shows all around, as someone (probably not Scrooge) must have observed, why stop at two? So on Friday I was back in Frome watching a musical interpretation of Peter Pan by Merlin Theatre Productions, directed by James Moore with a lively cast of 34 plus singers, musicians, and a 7-piece band. With Edwardian London evoked by the ensemble from the start and a story-teller to keep the narrative close to Barrie's style and child-like imagination, the production stayed satisfyingly close to the familiar story, creating 'suspension of disbelief' with minimal props & set. I expected to be annoyed that Captain Hook had been transposed from his alter-ego paternal role to be played by a woman, but Daisy Mercedes won me over with her psychotic dominatrix/Teresa May combo. The lead roles were all well taken, with Ryan Hughes and Tabitha Cox superb as the waiting parents, and the steampunk pirates almost as endearing as the lost boys. I really liked the way the central vision of a boy refusing to grow up was maintained right to the end, so the final song is from Oliver Edward's Pan as courageous anti-hero still rejecting the treadmill life. Impressive show, well done all. Image Ken Abbott

Ending with written word again: Frome Writers' Collective monthly social at Three Swans this week featured a fascinating and informative talk on writing & publishing a personal memoir. Rosie Jackson, whose own memoir The Glass Mother has been much praised, shared her experience of the process. Memoir, Rosie showed, can weave strands of political and social history into personal memory, and can be therapeutic too: "You put the narrative of your life in a container and find the meaning of an experience from your current perspective." As a sample of the genre, Rosie read the start of her book, as did two other local memoirists, all three demonstrating that writerly adage 'An opening should grab you by the throat and compel you to read on.'  Des Harris and Steve Small are previous students of Rosie, who is a highly-rated tutor as well as an elegant writer ~ you can find course details on her new website, which has this lovely image of writing in a summer garden so we can look ahead to better days.

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