Sunday, May 29, 2022

Fantasy, form, fables, futures - and fun

With June just a breath away, here in the southwest Open Air Theatre season has already begun: Frome hosted the endlessly inventive Illyria company on Sunday as their touring version of Peter Pan arrived on the ECOS amphitheatre in the afternoon to delight a mixed age audience.  The company boasts that this is the first production to include real flying, and while strictly speaking an offstage rig isn't actually quite the same thing as 'real', this complex apparatus contrived several brilliant stage effects - especially Peter's flamboyant fight scene, and the under-water life of the mermaid (with bubbles...) 

Director Oliver Grey, the founder & godfather of Illyria, points out in his programme notes that the entire story of Peter Pan is rooted in psychology of its author - as JM Barry himself observed, later in life. And as much of the book's action is problematic for live representation, his directorial decision has been to focus on, and explore, the author's idea that 'everything in this story is a game played by children...' and their nursery is always present on this set.  'After all, what is an adventure if not a trip into the imagination?'

This show is so much an ensemble production it's difficult to highlight individuals, but Nicholas Lee (Wendy's brother John, & Tootles) and Elizabeth Robin (Mrs Darling, Tinker Bell & Slightly) especially have great stage presence and dramatic energy.  The croc, and Tinkebell, deserve special mention too. Basically, the whole show is a delight. 

Music focus of the week, leading neatly into art spot, goes to simpsonharrisonbenjamin, at the opening of Hauser & Wirth's exhibition on Friday evening. Sharing Form - an impressive collection of works by Henry Moore that could not have opened on a more lovely evening, with blue-sky-sunshine to enhance all the amazing artefacts in the fabulous gardens, while indoors the rooms were full of thought-provoking 'investigative' pieces. You really need to visit if you can: it's superbly curated and this comment from the exhibition guide effectively says it all: "a rich and often surprising visual biography of Moore's relentless interrogation of form and our shared comprehension of it."

Bit of a wild card now: a historical trip to the wilds of Wales, to explore a Roman settlement in Caerleon - well, the amphitheatre and the toilets anyway, though there was probably more going on in 1st Century AD - and, even more excitingly, the discovery in the unpretentious little church of St Cadocs in Llancarfan that beneath centuries of limewash the walls are covered with amazing medieval paintings, not only extraordinary as examples of 15th Century art but also as a record of the moral and emotional thinking of that era. Expert recovery has revealed the seven cardinal sins, the 'dance of death' and, the most strongly narrative story and at the present time best restored, the wondrousness of St George, dragon-slayer and warrior saint.  Incredible, in so many ways, to witness this tribute to the legends that were vivid in the lives of this community more than 500 years ago.

Back in south-west England, Novel Nights meeting at Burdell's Yard in Bath on Wednesday provided a fascinating evening as the theme was 'climate change' and the session featured not only Maggie Gee talking about her new novel on that theme, but also readings from three upcoming novelists - two of whom were Frome writers Nicky Lloyd and Alison Clink - pictured - plus Bath writer Richard Kemp.

 and this week's final note is a booky one too: the poetry collection with the impossible name (What'sItLikeFor You+DanceForThoseWho'dRatherNot) (with pictures by Mel Day) will be launching itself on the world, ready or not, on June 6th at Three Swans, upstairs. Grab a drink & come on up. 

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