Monday, January 21, 2019

Myths, legends, and modern heroes -

An effective antidote to the national news arrived last week at Bristol Old Vic's Weston Studio which swarmed with vibrant and talented youngsters recreating heroic Greek mythology when the BOV Young Company - with extra fizz from the Wardrobe Ensemble - took on the story of Hercules in a ping pong parlour. Here all of humanity is the helpless plaything of wilful gods, as psychotic Zeus and vengeful Hera struggle for power over the young men of Thebes, and Hercules' physical power can't help him cope with his suppressed emotions. It's a morality tale for modern times, and it's funny, fast-moving and inventive as well as raising serious questions about the need for more articulation of the pressures on young men in our society. Rehearsal pictures rarely show anything of the quality of the final production but that's all I've got - at least you can see the age range of this terrific group of talented young people. Superbly directed by Helena Middleton, though sadly it was only on for three nights.

Three years on and Frome's David Bowie night continues, moving this time to the Cornerhouse for our celebration-memorial: brilliant deejaying from The Fat White Duke wearing the iconic red lightning-strike, and a big screen to show images of interviews and concerts throughout: a fabulous evening of singalong and dance ended with - of course - Heroes.

Another great music night at the Wednesday Roots Session, which featured Reg Meuross. Reg is a mesmerising singer/songwriter and also a charismatic raconteur who held the crowded Grain Bar rapt with songs about the Hull triple trawler disaster of 1968 and its consequences, and personal and fantastic tales from his US tours - like how Billy the Kid actually survived to age 95, with songs about seeing Phil Ochs & Elvis eating lunch in Morrison's Cafe in Texas, and Dylan Thomas meeting Hank Williams in a bar before Leaving Alabama... Another change of mood then, with And Jesus Wept, a lament for the 306 young soldiers suffering shell-shock in the war and subsequently shot for desertion, and concludes a superb evening of thought-provoking entertainment with the anthemic England Green and England Grey.

The Artisan on Friday hosted another of Paul Kirtley's Bare to the Bones charity gigs featuring mainly rock classics, played by a lively ensemble - with me making a brief appearance as the 'cerebral' spot. Thanks Steve!

Still on the subject of fundraising entertainment, after a recent break-in at The River House cafe and theft of their charity collection-pots, staff responded by working for an entire day in without speaking to anyone, serving customers in the guise and costume of mime artists, to raise donations replacing the stolen cash. Thumbs up, indeed!

Frome's community spirit became a bit of a theme this week, with requests to talk about Frome Unzipped on Monday to group of trainee tour guides at the Town Hall, and then on Saturday morning the privilege of joining an annual walk in memory of campaigning journalist Crispin Aubrey, organised by his daughter Meg for the legacy fund in his name. Around 40 people gathered for the start of the tour at the HUBnub where co-owner Io Fox told us about its amazing restoration, then onto Catherine Hill to hear the quirky history of Reg Ling & the Valentine Lamp, next to the cobbles of Poldark's Passage - sorry, Gentle Street, then via a look at the Silk Mill to the bridge for my short spiel about the origins of the town, and where Sarah Scholefield (pictured, with Meg) spoke of Willow Vale and her novel Redferne Lane.  By then the weather, previously uncertain, had made a definite decision on rain, so we scurried up Cheap Street to huddle into Hunting Raven Books where an encouraging number of those who hadn't told me that they'd bought my book already now did so.

Still on the subject of books, Bath Flash Fiction Awards on Saturday provided a great evening of entertainment and an amazing variety of winning tales, read by their writers, as organiser Jude Higgins launched both Flash Fiction Festival 2 and Bath Flash Fiction 3 in a party atmosphere at St James Vaults - I didn't get a group picture so this is from their website (credit Christopher Fieldon). Both these lively collections are published by Ad Hoc Fiction.

And now a rare movie-spot to conclude this post: having recently been lured by Steve Coogan's name in the cast list to watch Holmes and Watson, which turned out to be the official Christmas turkey, I was cautious about a visit to Frome's lovely little independent Westway cinema for Stan and Ollie, but it deserves every accolade reviewers and audiences have given it. Tender, beautifully written and superbly acted, this feel-good-then-bereft-then-better movie has to be the best friendship movie since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Full houses all three showings on Sunday, so book when you're passing for whenever you can!

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