Friday, March 17, 2017

Future focus in art & drama, with music & poetry too

To kick of with music: this week we had Captain Cactus and the Screaming Harlots kicking up a tornedo in the Grain Bar, a Ceilidh on Paddy's night so wildly popular the Cornerhouse ran out of Guinness though they found some cans in time for the Sunday afternoon jazz session. The nine-strong Cactus gang always give a fantastic performance ~ costumed like they've beamed in from a saloon-bar in a movie, they have massive audience rapport and bring theatricality as well as great sound to every song.
 The Celtic night was an amazing hi-energy event too, with a dozen or so guitars & fiddles, and spoons everywhere. Here's a random visitor caught up in the party (glad you enjoyed your stay in Frome Darren Vader) and the same room looking calmer on Sunday with the Graham Dent Trio and guest Nick Sorensen.

You might think that was quite enough excitement for a small town with no Primark (according to a response to Sunday Times naming Frome as one of the 'top towns' in the UK, that's a significant omission for such a status) but adding to the buzz we had an exhibition opening at Black Swan gallery and performance poetry at Merlin Theatre on Thursday. Art first: The Future Can't Wait is the outcome of a collaboration with Bath Spa University, showing work from 30 MA postgraduates from Ceramics, Fine Art, Fashion & Textiles, and Visual Communication. The dust of the past hinders innovation, clogging up the windows with grime as it pollutes creativity penned one student in an submission which charmingly if somewhat ironically reminded me of a Victorian sampler.  There's an interesting diversity of styles, mostly personal rather than futuristic, and the theme will be explored in workshops and conceptual activities in town till April 15th.
The Poetry Platter event onstage at the Merlin was a personal highlight for me ~ not only, as the theatre's Spoken Word coordinator, to be bringing rock-star-status poets to our audience but to be doing a set myself...  home turf is always scary, but I knew the other five performers would deliver the totally-brilliant goods, and they did.  Rapper XJX, Hannah Teasdale, Chris Redmond, Liv Torc and Buddy Carson were a fantastic line-up, the tapas was tasty ~ thanks Jo's Tender Loving Kitchen ~ the team at the theatre superb and the audience was absolutely lovely. Feedback has been great, let's do it again next year! Here's XJX, thanks David Goodman... more pictures soon.

Over to Salisbury to end the week's roundup with Eat the Poor from Jonny & the Baptists. Edinburgh smash-hit... riotously funny musical comedy of our times - an epic tale of inequality and revolution in modern Britain promised the flyer, what's not to like?
Ensconced in the Salberg studio theatre, I had a Living Spittish deja vue moment when Jonny & Paddy strode out with guitars. Paddy is blond & gangly like a hippy version of Spit's Stu McCloughlin, and Jonny looks disconcertingly like Stu's oppo Howard Coggins especially when stripped to gold lamé underpants (although Howard’s never clambered on top of me while fleeing from a swan revolution, so that marks a difference.) Jonny is the main voice, which he uses for the first half hour to tease the audience who he assumes are all tories or neo-liberals, and make self-deprecating gags about performing in half-empty Arts venues. This, he explains, is all extra impro, like the free ice-cream you get with a tonsillectomy, ‘we’ll come back after the interval and do the play, and then later on bed, and then death.' He seems genuinely surprised when most of us return from the bar for the second half.
The material is sharp, relentlessly political, and very funny, seeming all the more off-the-cuff because of Paddy’s surprised-sounding sudden bursts of laughter. The sudden bursts of song however are clearly cleverly planned: Paddy is great on guitar and the lyrics are as wickedly witty and political as the banter ~ I specially liked the ballad Only the Queen can kill Donald Trump. The actual play, such as it is, comprises a glimpse into a future in which the friends' fortunes have divided as Jonny has sold out to collaborate with Andrew Lloyd-Webber (btw Spit fans, isn't that just the sort of thing Coggins would do?) while Paddy, despite talent and visual appeal that make this unlikely, is reduced to sleeping on the street. There's a purpose in the parable of course: this kind of social disparity, they explain, is inevitable since the legalising of loopholes allowing inheritance tax avoidance so the rich grow richer and the poor poorer.
Eat the Poor is an economics lecture plus political broadcast on behalf of that rare species, the genuine Left, but is it also a riotously funny musical comedy?  Reader, I bought the CD and signed up for the mailing list. 

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