Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wintry Wanderland, Wordplay, country rock, art & blood

On a freezing weekend evening the town's streets in every direction saw friends and families all out and about appreciating Window Wanderland as Frome joined this international project and around two hundred homes and businesses transformed their windows into illuminated showcases for every kind of imaginative tableaux up to & including complex fairytales like Rapunzel - even the Town Hall joined in. Big appreciation to all who took part, and to Lisa Glass for bringing this illuminating & wanderful idea to Frome.

Poetry - another Word Play recording at Visual Radio Arts for your delectation: four poets shared words and chat live on air on Saturday afternoon. Dawn Gorman, Josephine Corcoran, Jennie Gilling and Louise Green can be enjoyed on the archive link here - many thanks to Phil and Mags for their awesome commitment to supporting creativity. And I should also give a quick plug to an Open Mic at Three Swans next Saturday, organised by Edventure.

Music corner: I couldn't resist a break from writing to see the marvellous country-rock band Shootin the Crow at the Grain bar on Wednesday, and Sunday's jazz at the Cornerhouse when the John Law Trio played melodies as arranged by Bill Evans - both really special events, the kind that get people saying, isn't it amazing you can walk around Frome and hear stuff like this every week, for free? (well, there is a hat, but nevertheless!)

Art now, and an art & craft exhibition at Silk Mill all weekend in support of refugees with funds going via RAISE - I loved the big compilation picture created by visitors and stall holders contributing their image of 'home' - some fabulous evocations of family and safety, all a big contrast to the camp at Calais
and a new opening at Black Swan: Here's Kate Cochrane, one of the organisers, with the result - framed free by Mount - which will be auctioned.
And another art display opened at Black Swan on Friday with the spring exhibition of Frome Art Society, as always a huge range of styles and subjects depicted by talented local visual artists. As always also, on the Monday following an opening Words at the Black Swan offered a poetry workshop inspired by the art in the gallery. Dawn Gorman who led this session invited the group to respond to the overall vibrance of the works with a focus on colour, reading Choosing Yellow as further stimulus just as Liam bizarrely arrived with a random yellow rose. One of Frome's little moments... and another inspiring session.

Now, through snow flurries, whirling but light, to Bristol, to see the first Shakespeare at the city's Southville theatre since Andrew Hilton retired from Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, the separate company he founded in 1999 to bring a double drama season to that in-the-round theatre space. His directorial approach was strong but subtle: Lyn Gardner summed it up: "Hilton .... is a plain cook, whose unadorned approach – no concept, the barest stage possible, music used sparingly – pays dividends," and, in another critic's words, "It is tiresome a small, unsubsidised company in the suburbs of Bristol beat the great RSC, but one lesson that it is time to return to basics." Some of the best bard productions I've seen have been there, often with local actors in lead roles.
Perhaps I'm grieving the end of an era, or maybe this Macbeth came too soon after the stunning wordless performance by Mark Bruce Dance Company, but this Blood Means Blood version, without Hilton's sure hand restraining over-embellishments of symbolism and sound, didn't do it for me. Awareness of audience seemed an unresolved issue, with actors circling throughout their speeches, and some casting seemed designed to baffle anyone unfamiliar with the play (the women dressed like Miss Marple's maids for soldiers, priests, and the drunken porter). And who'd have thought the old play to have so much blood in it?  Everyone seemed to be puddling their hands in blood and pawing the next person they saw.  Katy Stephens as Lady Macbeth though was extraordinarily impressive. Perhaps you should go & decide for yourselves what to make of it - on at Tobacco Factory till 7 April.

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