Monday, November 19, 2018

Wild wuthering, wanton women, & war's shadow

Dramatic highlight this week from Publick Transport at Bristol's Wardrobe Theatre with We Are Brontë, and Sarah Corbett and Angus Barr keeping the promise of their promo: 'anarchic comedy, deconstructing not only gothic themes of love, madness and revenge' in their portrayal of the real and imagined world of Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Bronwin. I did literally ache with laughter, a rare experience in these troubled times - trailer here.  The duo's impressive physical theatre skills overlay a subtext of confusion over stories, plots, and characters, in which the audience are invited to collude - some of the funniest moments came in the impro interruptions when Angus anxiously checks whether we're following while Sarah rolls her expressive eyes whispering hopefully 'we don't want to spell it out...'  Have they read any the books? 'You can find a lot on Youtube' Angus counters defensively.

Frolicking fantasies in Frome too, as Hat Tricks brought a pick'n'mix of wild imaginings to the Three Swans: words - including comedy, poetry, dramatic monologue & story-telling - and music - including songs traditional & original, acapella or accompanied, synthesised, or with haunting harp: an evening of amazing diversity and quality, compered and curated by Jane Flood and David Tanner, who have promised they will do it again next year, so look out for that! Here's Jane & David, and me doing one of me crone poems to a delightfully supportive audience. Thanks Mark Brookes for the snap.
Further literary frolics on Saturday, and the longest meal you can imagine - of 18th century duration in fact. It's 300 years since the alleged birth of Tristram Shandy, the garrulously rambling raconteur conceived by Laurence Sterne, and possibly-his-biggest fan lives in Frome: hence an extraordinary lunch party at 'Shandy Hall' - authentic courses, all punctuated with dramatic reenactions of crucial moments in the narrative.
Most of us managed to find our inner Georgian - in my case something of a strumpet, I fear - this is me, with Suzy Howlett as Mrs Shandy with her forceps-damaged babe about to start his journey in the unsuspecting world. (thanks Neil Howlett) Such was the attention to detail in the immaculate preparations of our host that as well as costumed musicians, we were also treated to short lectures on the historical context from experts in their field - the brutal unreliability of early forceps deconstructed prior to potted shrimps, neurological trauma in the homunculus just before the syllabubs, and the fascinating story of Joshua Reyold's portrait of Sterne, the only one known, mysteriously never sold. My personal contribution was a spurious connection between Frome and the novel, undertaken in appropriately picaresque manner and I'm most appreciative of the attention generously given to this footnote on our long journey through time & times.
Sunday started on a similarly luxurious note with Frome Chocolate Festival, filling Cheese & Grain with sensuous aromas and delicious samples of products carefully sourced by organiser Jo Harrington, all fairly traded and top quality as well as and irresistible.
It's a real family event, with activities for children and a party atmosphere. Here's Kisihi on the Pure Raw Chocolate stall - their rose flavour tastes like turkish delight - and Chocolate Arthouse even sold chocolate shoes...
A very different mood in the afternoon for a Poetry in Motion event led by author Ed Green in memory of his great-uncle Allen, who a hundred years ago was conscripted to leave his farm in Chesterblade to join the fight in France. Ed recently published It Leaves Me The Same, which was the sign-off, hopeful of good health, used by his great-uncle on his letters home, and Ed read from these letters as we walked around the landscape his great uncle never saw again, supplemented by WWI poems selected by John Payne, with Martin Bax & I as readers. Superb landscape made this walk even more unforgettable: from the highest point, the iron age fort believed to part of the St Michaels leyline from Glastonbury to Frome, you can look down at the little village of Chesterblade where our walk begins and ends, and then gaze around an awesome 360º, identifying outlines of Cley Hill, King Alfred's Tower, Glastonbury Tor,  Priddy mast, and Cranmore Tower. 

Our group of around 18 concluded the walk in Chesterblade's little chapel, crouched under massive yew trees painted orange by the setting sun, and all went up to the farm house for tea and chocolate biscuits.

Musical finale this week: here's Scots folk singer Siobhan Miller at Cooper Hall, with ballads ranging from traditional to original, and Canadian saxophonist Terry Quinney
guesting with Graham Dent Trio at the Cornerhouse on Sunday - really enjoyed their take on Charlie Parker's Ornithology...
 And as these lovely mild days fade in a flurry of cold weather warnings, here's Stourhead lake in the mist on Thursday.

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