Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Not-so-dumb blondes and other Word Play

Marilyn Monroe and Ruth Ellis, a movie star and a murderer, with little apparently in common except their dramatic deaths. Writer/performer Joan Ellis researched beyond the media fables into the lives of both these iconic women to create a double-bill of monologues imagining the 'last words' of both women, and the result is poignant and provocative. Died Blondes reveals how the world-famous American glamour girl and the unknown small-town girl from Rhyl both had appalling childhoods, brutal lovers, lost babies, and were victims of an era when women were commodities with only their sexuality to trade. Nevertheless Pub Theatre, mostly known for productions of local writers' work, brought this gem to Frome for two nights and Rosie & I were massively pleased with our audience feedback: "Thought-provoking, sad, funny, and so brave and bold" "Fabulous. Interesting, beautifully constructed. Clever."  ~ 24 such responses on the first night alone while The Fine Times Recorder gave us this superb and astute review, concluding: The two playlets are carefully researched, convincing and beautifully contrasted, subtly observed and never falling into caricature. Another fascinating evening of pub theatre from Nevertheless.

The other literary highlight for me in a particularly brightly-illuminated week was the second edition of Word Play from Visual Radio Arts. Phil and Maggie, the lovely people behind this wonderful studio enterprise to promote musicians & other creative performers, suggested another edition of this poetry showcase, this time featuring B Anne Adriaen, Jake Xjx Hight, Liam Parker, and Jo Butts. I went along to check everyone had located the venue and give a general cheery thumbs-up, and ended up as interviewer for the entire hour-long session... great fun, and a real privilege to be 'audience' to a brilliant session with four distinctly different voices: from reflective to rap, and rhapsodic to rhyming fun.

Visual arts without radio have also been prominent, with a profusion of exhibitions around Frome. There's a double-bill at Silk Mill with Outside Insight, a powerful and enigmatic combination of Rosalind Robinson's paintings inspired by early Flemish portraiture, together with Hans Borgonjon's sculptures transformed from ancient Flemish weaving looms. "We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are." Meanwhile Somerset Arts Weeks, a fortnight of exhibitions in 140 locations around the county, features five venues in Frome: Black Swan Arts host Fiona Campbell and Angela Morley have filled the beautiful Round Tower with an exhibition entitled Ephemeral and Eternal. "We are all nature, from neurons to branches to man-made stuff, Fiona says, and the work uses natural crafts of weaving and binding to impressive effect. Also in the Black Swan complex, and Cameron Scott's wood-carvings and Nick Weaver's woodwork furniture make an elegant combination ~ I'd buy these stunning cabinets in a nanosecond if I had the £££ and a big house ~ and Divas cafe has an exhibition by Ellie Mawbie using handmade paper and ink to explore perception. Archangel is showing Kit Sadgrove's Street Photography b&w candids, and Settlers Stores in Cheap Street has some of Max Milligan's photographs from Ghana and Scotland. All on till 8 October.

And there's been great music, of course: the awesome Back Wood Redeemers put on a brilliant hi-energy show at the Grain Bar Roots Session, while Pete Gage in the club atmosphere of Sam's Kitchen Deli was fabulous as always, but even more impossible to photograph as autumn creeps on and lighting is, well, clubby...

Another month, another Frome Independent Market... less crowded than usual, making a stroll through the stalls very pleasant on a mild autumnal morning. Here's authors Rachel Ward and Julian Hight at Hunting Raven Books, and Owen from Rye Bakery providing pizzas literally fresh from the oven.

This last ten days has been largely a time for family, and immersions in both art and nature, so I'll end this post with an image from each: Rita Ackermann's exhibition in Hauser & Wirth, and a walk in the magical landscape of the Brecon Beacons.

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