Theatre first this week, as a stunning new show jumps on stage at Bristol Old Vic
: Wonder Boy,
the product of a new concept in collaboration between city's theatre and its schools, also brings new concept to performance by literally visualising the spoken words in a way that's hugely entertaining.
Written by Ross Willis and directed by Sally Cookson, this is a feel-good tale with a familiar scenario - damaged child, wounded healer - but the edgy, entertaining, script is projected behind the action as well as spoken, a brilliant device that as well as enhancing the show also subtly making visible the point that what we try to say matters and those who can't vocalise are just as vital to society as the articulate. The cast are all superb: Raphel Famotibe plays the chronic stammerer, here with his less-than-helpful superhero alter-ego (Ramesh Meyyappan) and his more sympathetic tutor Miss Wainwright (Amanda Lawrence) There's also a bitchy headteacher, and all are great but best of all is his marvellous friend Roshi (Juliet Agnes), pictured above, with an example of the effective & entertaining script projections which kept up with the action even at the noisiest of moments. At the end of the 90-minute straight-through show on Thursday's press night the entire audience rose to applaud, and quite right too. It's on till 26 March, hugely recommended - or watch the livestream! photos: Steve Tanner
Running concurrently, on the Weston stage, Bristol Old Vic
has another excellent production with a very different mood. What Remains of Us
is an imagined reunion between an elderly ex-soldier who has made a life in the North Korea since the end of the war and his daughter who remained with rest of his family in the South. This largely-forgotten war, formally ended in 1952 but never resolved, separated thousands of families and there were a few state-organised & supervised reunions arranged. This is one: Seung-Ki re-meets her father, Kwan-Suk after 50 years. This is no rejoining of twin souls: after the initial emotional reconnection, they can barely communicate so rigid is each in the conviction their society is the 'right' one. For nearly 90 minutes, political disagreement seems their only shared language. Much of their struggle to connect is shown in dance and imagined fight sequences (choreographed by Dan Canham) which, with the dislocated fragments of their dialogue, combine to create an extraordinary and powerful performance. Kwong Loke as the initially intransigent father, remeeting his child only because it is his duty, brings an extraordinary emotion to his stilted speech, and Jung Sunn den Hollander as the daughter of his first marriage shares her backstory with poignant passion. Written by David Lane, Sita Calvert-Ennals' direction ensures that unspoken emotions are the strongest. My only reservation is that it wasn't clear to me whether military personnel were observing them at some times but not always, and whether they were aware of that difference, which would have been an important factor. But it's a moving production and a reminder that politics like puppies stay with you for life. (My full reviews for both these plays published in Plays International here.)
While we're still in Bristol, there's an impressive Paula Rego
exhibition -free - at the Arnolfini
, where three galleries are filled with the artist's prints and commentaries on her themes & techniques. Like Angela Carter this artist is fascinated by feminist themes, and the etchings & paintings in this collection explore psychological narratives & human dramas. There's more info & an audio link here: "Subversive Stories
Music now, and Rosco Shakes were again at Bar Lotte on Wednesday evening to entertain a crowded room with their "high-energy jump blues and rock & roll" style of music-making, joined for a couple of numbers by Pete Gage. This event is so popular now that there's barely room for dancing, though we still manage to...
Dancing featured in a big way too at the Red Brick Building
in Glastonbury for Friday Night Blues with the Brue River Band
, an exciting six-piece band playing electric blues Chicago style, which seems to be more upbeat & funky than Mississippi blues - there's a sample of their style here.
And more music on Sunday, too, with the welcome return of live music in Nunney
at the Cafe that puts the electronics in Acoustic, and a brilliant afternoon session with a superb young band as main guest: Afraid of the Dark
play alternative indie with fluency & style and a wonderful singer, Gwen Sutterby. Gwen's father Carl, a popular punk/uke player, ended the session.
After all which excitement, let's finish the week with a glimpse of the river path at Nunney, brimming with snowdrops. Yes, folks, spring is definitely coming...