Monday, October 29, 2018

Candid Shakespeare, fine art, and spectacular music

Pip Utton, Frome's favourite one-man-showman, has re-presented himself in iconic roles from Hitler and Churchill to Charles Dickens and Charlie Chapman and is now offering another intimate insight in At Home With Shakespeare. In role as the Stratford theatre-manager/playwright, he makes masterly use of that you-do-but-dream  conceit much favoured by the bard himself: this is Shakespeare in 2018, as amused by our misconceptions as delighted by our awe at his words, dreaming his past loves and jealousies even as we dream his presence in our theatre. He teases the audience with quotes, some not even his own, and the intriguing suggestion that his plays were all workshopped with the cast and their impro words then combined, he takes us vividly into the noisy, bawdy, noisy, world of Elizabethan theatre. It's a hugely entertaining performance as well as intriguingly informative, although not all the theories propounded are incontestable, and, to be picky, Shakespeare's neologisms are nowhere near so numerous, and there were chiming clocks in Italy from 14th Century, so impatient Juliet could well have heard one strike nine... But hey, who's counting?

The Black Arts Open Exhibition is now in the Long Gallery, and this year the selection has been well received: it's varied and thought-provoking but every piece has some interest or appeal - in fact doing what a gallery for the community does best. From the precise beauty of small things meticulously painted by Dan Morley to Marian Bruce's dangling mobile of wild wailing faces, there's much to intrigue and ponder on, with several figurative pieces too, like this portrait of her daughter by Kay Lewis Bell.I'd seen this at Shave Farm during last year's Somerset Arts Week, and it was great see it again with the red 'winner' label -among other accessible choices by the judges, one of whom this year was Michael Eavis.
Our Words at the Black Swan workshop on Monday was led by Mike Grenville who encouraged us to consider the entire exhibition as if deciphering its messages from a time in the future... (you can see some of the outcomes here.)

As temperatures plummet and clocks are set to winter, Frome appeared to treat itself to a little music festival. We enjoyed several international visitors: South African Nibs Van Der Spuy at the Grain Bar Roots Session with an excellent set including a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela, and delightful duo Hope Country along with Luke Philbrick and Hannah Scott guested at the Sofar session (Hope is in Wisconsin, where they aren't big on geography, apparently, as the lads' tour was mapped on a tee-shirt image of the UK with Scotland shrivelled and N. Ireland vaporised, which might help Brexit negotiations but would pose issues for the 1.9 million population.) Our Sunday Jazz Club this week featured Bosonova rhythms with the gypsy violin and sultry voice of Azhaar Saffar. Paul Kirtley gathered a posse of local musicians together on Thursday as  'Bare to the Bones' charity event at The Artisan,for a lively jam session of folk/rock/ blues favourites plus some original songs - including Paul's Crones of Avalon with me performing the poem that inspired it. Popular Three Corners were the Saturday night band at The Cornerhouse, another big line-up with a large following, and next afternoon when two favourite Frome bands played at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, most of Frome seemed to follow them. The awesome Raggedy Men gave us a stonking set of classic punk tracks, followed by The Back Wood Redeemers' dark revivalists songs of pioneering America, in the Stygian gloom of a cavern-like room where swirling dust glinted gold in the sunlight every time the door opened - wonderful atmosphere and terrific music. So that's four solo performers, a duo, a quartet, a sextet, an octet, and a jam session varying from three to a dozen - all in six days...  Keep it up, Frome, it's fabulous.

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