Sunday, February 16, 2020

Realism and lyricism and rain

Writer Will Eno has called all his characters 'Jones' which might seems to suggest they’re ordinary folks, just like you & me - but who else in the world could be like these couples - needy, evasive, self-contradictory, incoherent then exquisitely lucid? Well, perhaps all of us in our different ways. The Realistic Joneses, at Theatre Royal Bath's Ustinov Studio takes under two hours to remind us that everyone has secret sorrows and joys and if this sounds like a long play about nothing, you should know that it’s a superb script, beautifully written and acted - an absolute delight of a production, laugh-aloud one moment, poignant the next.  Bob Jones (Corey Johnson) is recuperating though it’s unclear from what (he won't say, except that his syndrome's name sounded like a jazz quartet) with support from his wife Jennifer (Sharon Small): their neighbours, John Jones (Jack Laskey) and Pony (Clare Foster), have problems too, though the owner/holder relationship here is less clear.  There is no incisive moment of conflict and no carnage, only the story of something unknowable, and it seems over too soon when it ends. Great direction by Simon Evans intensifies the sense of quest for connection of both couples, and designer Peter McKintosh has created an evocative set, with glass doors enhancing and sometimes mirroring the precarious vulnerability of all the characters, neutral removal boxes as seating, an astral void above and emptiness beyond. Written in 2012, timeless in a modern world and will probably remain my 'best drama' for 2020 right to the end of the year: it's simply superb on till 7th March, see it if you can. Images: Simon Annand.

A delightful Frome Poetry Cafe too, with Deborah Harvey and Dominic Fisher, two of the Bristol-based IsamBard poets, guesting at our spring session. 'Green Shoots & New Beginnings' was our theme, selected hopefully although in current global conditions it might have seemed sardonic. However we had a really lovely evening: as well as some even more recent work, Deborah read from her new collection The Shadow Factory and Dominic shared from Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead. Both poets have the ability to distill the extraordinary from the commonplace, combining visceral imagery with tender memory, with form stripped down to its essence. Fourteen 'Open Mic' poets shared impressive and entertaining words too - some moving, some funny, and all much enjoyed. Here's Jo Butts, current Frome Festival Poet Laureate, reading her witty history of Saint Valentine. 

Words with music now, starting with Roots Session at the Grain Bar on Wednesday.   Jon Amor denies that he has the longest fingers in the world but it's hard to believe him: they must certainly be among the fastest strumming ones. He leads the Jon Amor Blues Group as well as performing solo with his mainly-original songs - the scorching 'Stitch in her party dress' was my ear-worm all week. A brilliant session: great rock-bluesy music and sharp lyrics.

Paul Kirtley, indefatigable organiser of local music gigs, excelled himself this week with not only a late night charity event but an afternoon acoustic session next day. The White Hart at Corsley was the venue for Saturday evening and as storm Dennis kicked off outside, the small friendly group in the bar proffered song requests and shots and turned this event into something of a party.
Next day's session in The Three Swans,  by contrast, was completely full, with most of the audience also performing. Lovely informal atmosphere and great range of styles and instruments, plus performers of every age, all crammed into the baroque-style decor of the upper room there. These three images may give some idea of the range of performers: Paul's house band (not all, just as many as fitted in to one frame) playing rock classics - probably Wagon Wheel, the Callums, (Sarah, Vin, and Annie) with Dakota by Stereophonics, and me doing some semi-scurrilous wordage of my own. (thanks David for the snap) A rich event indeed.

No comments: