Sunday, May 21, 2017

A week that wasn't, ending with drama and a Big Bash

I'll begin at the end of the week, because that was the best bit: The Merlin Short Play Competition had its superb finale on stage, with rehearsed readings by Frome Drama Club of the six winning plays. Here's the final line-up, chosen from seventy-seven submissions and a very strong long-list, and here's Claudia Pepler who initiated and master-minded this brilliant celebration of new drama, in role with Philip de Glanville in the gentle mystery Meet me at the Nightingale. 
Allison Herbert and Dan Gaisford here are in the dystopian satire Post Truth, and Tracy Ashford is looking askance at Nick White in Plan B, a comedy with an unexpected twist.
These versatile actors also took on Hot Tub Blues, a comedy of bickering with a happy ending, and Not Dead Yet, a very unusual vampire story. Mhairi Milligan's reading of Just of the Boat, a moving monologue of our times ended the performances, and a short Q&A afterwards confirmed audience appreciation of this varied & entertaining selection of winning plays. Congratulations to all the writers, who can list this success on their CV in future submissions, and hopefully the two able to come and see their scripts 'go live' found the experience a valuable part of the process of play-writing. Win-win all.
Friday night was also the Mayor's Charity Bash, an important night in Frome when the outgoing mayor organises a public entertainment with all proceeds to local organisations, and this year Mayor Toby Eliot had a new Town Hall to do it in.  So after the show at the Merlin we scooted across town to join the celebrations organised, too late to hear the excellent set by Deputy Mayor Al O'Kane but in time for the excellent set by Mayor Toby's fabulous band Back Wood Redeemers. As well as mandolin, those chains in no way impede his harmonica skills either!  We were in time too to see Des Harris win the hat competition, here he is with Stina Harris, and here's the one he took of me in my hat, looking like I think I'm still holding a glass of prosecco... After the band there was disco & dancing till midnight ~ a great way to finish a week that had up till then been pretty rubbish.

My persistent cold-&-throat thing had become unignorable, revealing its true colours (lurid) and literally silencing me. Most of this week has therefore been about cancelling: a meeting about a play, a meeting about a performance, a writers' group meeting, a theatre visit for review, the Last Tree Dreaming commemoration plaque unveiling, and an open-mic night of 'perilous reading' to celebrate Dracula's 120th publication-birth, and the Roots Session at the Grain Bar, where I really wanted to hear the Fos Brothers who grew up in Belfast in the troubled '70s not far from where I lived at the start of that era.
So here's two snippets from the week before - plans for future events - when my lurgy was gripping but my voice hadn't gone completely awol: I had a useful meeting with Phil Moakes, founder and organiser of Visual Radio Arts in his revamped home in the Old Fire Station, to discuss a future live on-air performance poetry session with four local poets.
And I was privileged to stand in for Stephanie Cole in a read-through of John Payne's script for the Life and Work of Edward Thomas event in Frome Festival, here's me with James Laurenson and Martin Bax.

Footnote to this ravaged week: I did manage a quick dip into the Museums at Night national project supported by Frome's Black Swan Arts, involving evening events at several galleries including The Good Gallery where Kate Cochrane is showing her splendid paintings of Tasmania. I'll leave you two images from the Cornerhouse, always a friend to live music: Graham Dent's new jazz line-up, and marvellous Blue Midnight, extraordinary ska/dub rhythms blended with a touch of scottish and turkish... Here's hoping for more happenings to report on next week.

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