Who said February was a dull month? This week has been crammed with performance and creativity. Let's start with live theatre:The Late-ivity. Yes, it is the nativity story from the bible, Jim, but not as we know it. Living Spit, unabashed that January is trudging onward, has brought their version of the arrival on earth of the Son of God to Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre at the end of its short revival tour - revived from December’s performances when it was called The Nativity, that is.
The Wardrobe has fantastic audience atmosphere, especially for comedy, and Howard Coggins & Stu McCloughlin are absolutely on top form here - I speak as one who has followed them for over a decade of fantasies and histories, always steeped in absurdity. Here, Howard’s bored God picks a random woman (Howard) to impregnate, so Stu dashes around as an exasperated Gabriel, and both of them morph into shepherds and kings, skimming hilariously through the familiar tale to their own undoubted highlight: Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, recreated by audience participation as scores of dolls were chucked at us to dismember and hurtle back. The stage by the end looked like party leftovers from a cannibal feast. Sadly next week is the end of the run for this show: if you can’t get tickets, keep your fingers crossed for The Later-ivity - this one could run & run.
The recent remake of West Side Story, which has been popular with both reviewers and the public, has been showing at the Westway, Frome's charming little independent cinema: the combination of Spielberg and Sondheim, plus wild passion and hot nights, is clearly unmissable in a chill January, and the Westway has added attractions like icecreams on offer from a tray during the intermission, and a foyer bar. Adding to these small delights, this movie has been very well reviewed by both critics and audiences - and rightly so. This version is, as you'd expect, careful to get ethnicity correct, and also to establish a credible social context for the aggressions of the deprived teens. Choreography & agility in the dances is as brilliant as you'd expect, and that clever, funny, song Gee Officer Krupke works particularly well as a private ensemble number rather than an unlikely challenge to real authority. It's great, altogether.
Still with drama: a chat in The River House with Frome's writer/performer Hannah Kumari
whose one-person show ENG-ER-LAND
will be touring the UK from February. As well as celebrating her own passion for football, Hannah says it's an exploration of her own mixed race identity, and what it means to be English. "I wanted to write a play that was fun and uplifting, whilst also confronting big issues," Hannah says. The play is coming to Frome in March, with a showing at the Football Club as well as the Merlin theatre.
This was a rich week for poetry too: Words at the Black Swan ekphrastic poetry group met on Monday to respond to the extraordinary Slow Time exhibition in the Long Gallery which opened last weekend. This fascinating project proved really stimulating to all ten workshop participants- do take a look at the website in the link, there are some extraordinary and beautiful responses to these pinhole landscapes extending Cartier Bresson's concept of a 'decisive moment' into an infinity of time. One of the group, Mike Grenville, also made a film you can view here.
Then Thursday evening Rainbow Fish Speakeasy
session on Zoom led by by Frome's wonder-girl Liv Torc
included some wonderful words, mostly crafted from heart-felt personal experience, with brilliant guest Rebecca Tantony also movingly personal in her poems: there's a sample of her work here.
And after a couple missed Wednesdays, here's your musical blast from wonderful Bar Lotte! Saxophonist Iain Bellamy was with Nick Pini on bass, guest guitarist Denny Ilett, and drums this time from Marc Whitlock. I know nothing about jazz, but I do know that these sessions are fabulous.
And your final footnote this week is a recommendation for all those who for various reasons don't get up to the talks at the National Gallery in London: this is another of their short free-to-view exhibition promo films, this time Albrecht Dürer. It's a fascinating revelation of Dürer's huge impact on artists ever since.