Friday, July 07, 2017

Onward lies the way... mythical Cornwall, legendary Frome...

 It's been one of those weeks... when the sun remembers its attendance throughout June was pretty poor and determines not to lose out on gold stars... when being in Frome is so delightful the tag 'twinned with Eden' seems inadequate... when, to quote the Independent Market slogan, Something Wonderful Happens, every day. I haven't got room for them all so here's a smattering:
Sunday's monthly street market was slightly less busy than usual, possibly because the sunshine had seduced people to sit in their gardens (or for me, to battle with encroaching floral profusion) so stall-holders reported that crowds were more ready to linger and buy. As always, great music on the busking stage and in the Archangel courtyard from Partners in Crime, where Paul Kirtley introduced the audience to the concept of (my) crone poetry via his clever, funny, song Young Crones of Avalon inspired by Bungee Jumping Crumblies ~ he plans to convert more of my poems, so we may end up touring in combo.... !
Rushing on now, as I did then, to the Grain Bar where Friends of the Frome Festival were delightfully entertained by a sampler of some of shows on offer next week, with music, words, and comedy for all tastes and ages. Here's the lovely duo from La Zingerella, presenting a clip from their one-act opera, with superb live lutenist, at Trinity Church on the final Sunday.
This early-evening smörgåsbord happily finished in time for a scamper up the hill to Wheatsheaves for a gig organised by the Momentum powerhouse called Dave Clark. His band Dexter's Extra Breakfast provided support, and Canary's Kerry-anne Mendoza described how & why she set up her journalistic team to counter the manipulation of mainstream media.  Grace Petrie was the stunning headline act: a candid 'protest singer', massively talented and effortlessly charismatic, her final message was "The politics of fear is all we've had. It's time we gave the politics of hope a chance."
And as the spirit-lifting sunshine continues to sizzle, my Wednesday concluded at Bristol Old Vic watching Tristan & Yseult as re-envisioned fourteen years after Kneehigh's original production. It's become their most renowned show, touring the world for five years and then revived in 2013 for another international tour. Several of the original team have reconvened for this latest tour, and expectations at Bristol Old Vic this week were sky-high. Mine were anyway. Director Emma Rice recalls her original reluctance to tell this Cornish legend of a medieval love triangle, until she found its 'personal profound, and deeply relevant collective heart.'  This aspect is emphasised throughout: all the action is watched by the lonely Lovespotters who peer through binoculars like twitchers, witnessing passion and betrayal with envious longing and bopper head-bands. There's a bit of everything here, not just musically ~ several subplots and the denoument are straight from Shakespeare, but the story isn't really important: it's the ensemble effect, the wild dancing, circus-style fights, the sense of everyone playing in a giant invisible bouncy-castle as stand-up comedy mingles with tingling erotica, blood-soaked violence with sheer pantomime. Two contrasting moments I'll remember: the auditorium filled with floating balloons (obediently inflated by the audience), and the poignant post-coital speech of the maid, Brangian, abused not by her master but her mistress's terrible command. Nial Ashdown, who plays this role as well as Ysault's swiftly murdered brother,  has astonishing stage presence throughout. Dominic Marsh and Hannah Vassallo are sensational in the title roles, and Kyle Lima's dancing is amazing. The set looks a bit like a Cornish tin mine or abandoned playground, and also supports their aerial gymnastics. It's on till 15 July, get a ticket if you can. Images Steve Tanner

A visual art trio to conclude this post:
Pete Gage, best known around town as lead musician in a crowd-pulling band, was a friend to many legends of the 1960s & 70s. One who deserves to be better known is David Evans, a prolific watercolourist who died sadly young, and whose extraordinary paintings of places & the 'human spectacle' are now published together in collection launched at Hunting Raven Books on Tuesday. Pete, who knew the artist well and has a chapter in the book, showed us his own extensive personal collection of David's work, sharing a moving intimate picture of the artist which felt genuinely a privilege. You can see more about the book here.
Frome Festival art exhibitions are now, wisely, anticipating tomorrow's formal start.
At Silk Mill there's a stunning exhibition of 'The Amahuaca of the Amazon' by Katherine Needles, who followed in the footsteps of Magnum's Cornell Capa to show how this community still lives and thrives. The pictures all have accessible captions: here the photographer stands between 'a feisty three year old with a stick' and a woman decorated with 'ouita', a fruit-based dye to ward off evil spirits.
Over at the Grain Bar, Ann Harrison-Broninski launched her sketches with a delightfully friendly 'Meet the Artist' evening.
So now we're on the brink of the 2017 Frome Festival, an event so massive, varied, wide-ranging &  generally inconceivably superb that my reportage will inevitably be inadequate. Enjoy whatever you choose, festival pickers! Here's a non-advertised addition for anyone who enjoys walking, countryside, rivers, wild swimming, poetry, or just intrigued by a slightly strange summer picnic...

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