Sunday, November 07, 2021

Spectrums and celebrations as we move into winter

A spectrum in terms of colour perception, 'blue-orange’ is also a psychological term for a kind of amorality most often found in alien fictions. Such characters are not exactly immoral, but their actions are random and not codified in socially normal ways.  A new production of Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall at Bath's Ustinov Studio revisits the dilemma facing two psychiatrists as they argue over a patient who may be one of these: Chris (Michael Balogun) claims to be a son of Idi Amin, and his main carer Bruce (Ralph Davis) thinks he should remain in psychiatric care, but Bruce's superior, Robert (Giles Terera) insists his detention was based on ethnic prejudice - the topic of his upcoming book, for which he needs another case study. Who is right?  The drama swings painfully between the arguments, and so does Chris. The only thing he seems sure of is that the inside of an orange is blue. Is he mad, or is the playwright evoking the surrealist perception of Paul Eluard that the world est bleue comme un orange?  
A stark, dark, set defined by strip lighting (designer Simon Kenny) holds the three volatile conflicting personalities, each fighting for acceptance of their own reality.  Previous productions have cast both carers as white so it's interesting that director James Dacre has gone another way, perhaps to encourage his audience to disconnect from any preconceptions - in which case, would it have been even more interesting to challenge perceptions even further by swapping roles after the interval? With or without such permutations, this 21-year-old 'best play' winner continues to raise questions about the use of incarceration in society, and whether labels are helpful, and who has the right to decide... much to ponder while waiting at Vino Vino for the last bus home. images: Marc Brenner 

Art now, and lots of it, starting with In Movement from Marian Bruce at the Gallery at the Station, where Thursday's opening was filled with fascinated viewers. Marian has long been widely respected for her representations of the plight of the oppressed and the dispossessed, but these vibrant images show a different aspect of her empathy: the passion and vigour of  Cuban dance, which she experienced while in Havana as the designer for Rooster, Chris Bruce's acclaimed production with Acosta Danza in 2018. The energy in these tiny figures and drawings is incredible - a highly recommended exhibition open Wednesday till Sunday until 27 November, late nights Friday and Saturday. 
The Whittox Gallery is hosting Somerset Printmakers in an exhibition which opened on Friday and has already proved popular: this group formed in 1998 to promote their passion and professionalism and showcase 'the best of printmaking' in the county. Using a range of techniques, eleven of the artists in this group are showing one-off unframed prints and cards for sale. Here's Gail Mason with one of her imagined landscapes, and the splendid gallery - a superb arena for art.
- and also in the in the list of don't-miss shows in Frome, the pandemic work of Frome Wessex photographers, Closing Down and Opening Up, first exhibited in Corsley (& reviewed by this blog in the October 24 posting) has now arrived at the Round Tower Gallery at Black Swan Arts. Intimate and moving, these images are really worth seeing.

Final exhibition piece for this posting is the Sinking House above the weir in Bath - a tourist attraction as well as a message to the leaders at COP26 and a warning to communities throughout the world.   

Words now, as another Frome author from the Hobnob Press stable prepares to launch their debut novel: John Killah, well known in Frome as an erstwhile 'legal bulldog', is now writing fiction and his first book is a biting tale about shenanigans in a lawyers office leading to a crazy chase to catch the culprits...  STRUCK OFF is a comic novel with many elements Frome inhabitants may feel they recognise in the setting, and a plot that is outrageous, clever, and totally gripping.                        
Here's me and John discussing his plans for an exciting launch on publication day - 9th November - now sadly struck off, so to speak, by the possibility of Covid closures, but you can read more about the story here.  Look out for the classy cover - you may see it in the posh paper reviews soon, too!

A musical fanfare to finish the week, as one of Frome's most popular bands took over the Cheese & Grain bar/cafe area on Saturday night. Back of the Bus is brilliant at creating a party atmosphere, and although the line-up was one short (condolences, Mary) their performance was hi-energy from start to finish, with costume melodrama for White Wedding and closing their set with the magnificent menace of Hazel O'Connor's Eighth Day...

And our first-Sunday-of-the-month Independent Market busking stage presented its usual range of talented performers: I'll leave you with Francis Hayden, plus Danny Shorten on bass, singing his brilliant though gruesome tale of The Carpenter Ant, with its ominous final line: "the one who runs the show may be the parasite..."  Horribly apt, as our chaotic year totters towards an infectious end.(You can find the full cordyceps history, and Frances' lyrics here.)

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