Sunday, January 26, 2020

Romance, carnage, stillness & sounds

If you adored Amélie and love chocolate, you will be completely besotted by Wise Children and Plush Theatricals' Romantics Anonymous, the delightful musical love story of a shy chocolate creator and her gauche chocolatier boss, now playing to enraptured audiences at Bristol Old Vic. It's an Emma Rice production so there's copious electric lighting to designate scene changes throughout this sweet story, wittily narrated by a brilliant ensemble cast featuring Carly Bawden and Marc Antolin. Highly recommended if you can get a ticket before February1st - there was a full house standing ovation when I saw it, so you may have to kill. Image: Steve Tanner

Marital discord and middle-class mores have always been considered fair targets for drama, and Yasmina Reza goes for the jugular in The God of Carnage, a play about the savage antagonisms simmering below the civilised veneer of two married couples who meet to discuss a playground fight between their respective sons. If that doesn't sound much like a comedy, it's because it isn't really one, although we are invited to laugh at the bourgeois-style assaults: Christopher Hampton, who translated the script from French for this production at Theatre Royal Bath, reports that the playwright fears humour will make her work too entertaining to be taken seriously. Yet there is humour, of a very bitter kind, in this tale of escalating friction as both mismatched couples are confronted with their own unresolved differences as well as the antagonism of their opponents. It's very well acted, especially by the men, Nigel Lindsay and Alan Paisley Day, whose roles give them more light and shade to work with than do the women's (Elizabeth McGovern and Samantha Spiro, who's impressive at projectile vomiting). Lindsay Posner directed and the set, featuring a symbolic spear-ball above blank walls, was designed by Peter McKintosh. Image: Nobby Clark

Moving on to art: Hauser & Wirth do openings in style, on Thursday celebrating Don McCullin's superb exhibition in a party atmosphere with live music and fires in their lavish garden. The stillness of life comprises mainly Somerset scenes: the photographer himself, who lives locally, was at the gallery with friends. He was known at one time for  images conflict, and these stark landscapes seem to me to have a resonance of restless energy, even when unpeopled. His work is brilliant.

Keith James at this week's Grain Bar Roots Session brought a small team of guitars to supplement his solo performance, playing profound songs for deep winter days: existential reflection from Leonard Cohn, protest from Bob Dylan, poignancy from Joan Baez some of Lorca's dark poetic words and, more than ever a song for our times, Joni Mitchell's 1970 anthem for Woodstock: We are stardust - we are golden - and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...
Frome's lavish habit of providing an embarrassment of riches most weekends sadly meant passing on the The MellowTones, a new band already with a hot reputation, to join in with the dancing at the Cornerhouse where Tempting Providence provided a lively selection of classic rock, including a fabulous mash-up of Wicked Game with White Wedding and a breath-taking version of Wagon Wheel that raised cheers. Here's the team: Paul Kirtley, David Goodman, and Colin Ashley, with Peter Barnes and Nicki Mascall- icing on the cake provided by popular bar managers Tom and Amy's classy jive!

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