Monday, August 30, 2021
A bookish week, mostly, with celebrations too.
Monday, August 23, 2021
Days of wine and rambles...
Big thanks to my friends Eleanor and Gordon for this delightfully varied jaunt, which began with cakes at the Lavender Farm, where sunflowers add golden glamour to the bee-filled purple haze awaiting harvest, and concluded with wine & snacks at The George Inn beside the canal at Bathampton - & thanks also to Ellie for the sunflower field snap, and Gordon for the one of me and Ellie on our circumnavigation of Prior Park.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
A cornucopia of a week: drama, bands, ramblings, art - & my new book now on sale!
This week's bulletin once again begins with a performance in Frome's Merlin amphitheatre: HMS Pinafore, Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera of class pretensions, as interpreted and presented by another of the illustrious casts of Illyria Outdoor Theatre. (There's also a childrens' show or two from this stable going round this summer, so hopefully this wonderful company will survive the dramatic hiatus caused by plague.)in spite of all temptations, to belong to other nations, he remains an Englishman, for example - but a great set, tight direction, and the talented cast all combine to create an entertaining evening: "Pantomime for grownups!" as one delighted audience member summed up.Nesta Yurt Camping, unknown to me until quite recently although it's only a 20 minute walk down the lanes from my house, for various reasons last week became almost a second home. The food here is amazing - vegan menu with delicacies like banana-blossom 'fish' and chips - there's a friendly, casual but well-equipped, tent site and visitors from town are welcomed at the undercover evening entertainment. On Wednesday the band stage featured Rosco Shakes, a fantastic funky local trio comprising Dom on guitar, Ned on drums & vocals, and Tim on crazy honky-tonking piano.
Déjà Lu is a collection of 37 short stories, most of which have been previously published in journals & anthologies or broadcast on BBC4, and now for the first time readable together in all their strange diversity. Suzy Howlett, author, thespian, and reviewer, has summed up delightfully: "This collection, stylishly presented with cover artwork by David Moss, is a delight in the same way that a selection box of hand-made chocolates is: you can select and taste the soft-centres, the nutty, the rich and dark, the hard-boiled, the sweet, the fruity and the plain gorgeous. They are all delicious!" My first delivery is already all sold or committed, but please contact me if you'd like a copy from the second box, due next week! Thanks Patrick Dunn for the - genuinely spontaneous - picture!
Ending this week's bulletin with an image from the fields around Frome, where autumn is already arriving...
Sunday, August 08, 2021
Illyrian romps, a posse of bibliophiles, & a splash of music
Outdoor theatre is again the feature of the week: Illyria, active again after a difficult summer last year, has several productions on tour and on Thursday a multi-tasking quintet arrived at Frome's ECOS venue to take on Much Ado About Nothing. The amphitheatre was virtually full for this production, impressively set and lit, with all 20 of the play's characters vividly created by three men and two women. As Elizabethan productions were single-sex, Chris Wills as a hirsute lady's maid sort-of followed tradition, but Nicola Foxfield taking on jilted Claudio as well as feisty Beatrice was impressive. Rachel O'Hare as Hero, the insulted bride, also portrayed her elderly uncle, and Chris Laishley enacted evil Don John as well as the benign Governor of Messina, where the action occurs in a party atmosphere following a successful campaign.
Nobody could call Shakespeare's comedies anodyne. The seventeen plays placed in that category include themes of antisemitism, domestic abuse, assault, abandonment, betrayal and murder, so in this drama Claudio's savage rejection of Hero on their wedding day is fairly mild, although his initial indifference to her demise does suggest some lack of empathy. Fortunately there's no time to worry about that as the action moves on to another popular theme of the bard's: the looney-tune lower-classes, and Illyria delivers their antics with extra relish. The focus is on laughter: David Sayers relishes the affectations of Benedick as much as the antics of the Watch who chaotically foil the dastardly plot. Oliver Gray's production cleverly established a convention of imaginary directional space in the opening moments of the play, and made the most of the absurdity of the garden scene where the match-making plot to bring Beatrice and Benedict together is hatched. Basically, there's much to enjoy whether or not the plotline always emerges, and the company's excellent programme gives a clear synopsis. Much Ado has been claimed by Hollywood as the original screwball romantic comedy, and it's always a pleasure to see different emphases in a stage production.
As a personal postcript: In the days when a 'standing seat' bought on the door for 2/- at London's Old Vic meant you could take any seat still vacant at curtain up, in 1965 I saw Franco Zeffirelli's production of this play with a cast including Ian McKellen, Albert Finney, Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith and Lynn Redgrave... the garden scene, when even the ornamental sculptures shimmered forward to eavesdrop on the love-plot, is probably one of the reasons for my enduring passion for live theatre.Critchill Manor Estate, a fairly new camping site on the southern outskirts offering a tented bar with a band open to drop-ins, and on Sunday the heavens opened again for the Frome Lions Summer Fete in Victoria Park: the big chutes and and bouncy apparatus continued to be splashily popular with the saturated children while their elders clustered under trees with hot drinks.Silent Earth by Dave Goulson, a warning of imminent insect apocalypse, was our pick of the night.
Ending with thanks to etymologist Susie Dent for providing a word that explains and excuses my morning indolence in a week of disappointingly non-seasonal weather: Hurkle-durkling: 19th-century Scots for lounging in bed long after it’s time to get up.
Sunday, August 01, 2021
Outlook unsettled but magic still around
Let's start with a storm: the torrents sprayed wildly on the audience by wonderful Folksy Theatre in Merlin's ECOS amphitheatre to get us all into the spirit of The Tempest on Wednesday evening. Musicians as well as actors, this endearing quintet held their audience rapt as they morphed between characters with speedy costume changes, from ethereal sprite & romantic lover to a couple of drunks, in the most impressively extreme case.