flowers, soft petals
the provocation of bees –
© Gail Foster 22nd May 2018
flowers, soft petals
the provocation of bees –
© Gail Foster 22nd May 2018
The vegetable shop man and I are looking at the window of the second-hand shop across the road, in which someone has been mildly satirical about the Royal Wedding.
You’ve got to love a mildly satirical window dresser.
At least I think they’ve been satirical.
Cardboard masks of the Royal family grin wonkily from assorted mannequins dressed in second hand wedding outfits.
William looks alright, but The Queen looks minging.
‘Posh and Becks’ he says, despairingly.
‘Fake celebrities’ says I.
‘They’re no more celebrities than we are’ he says.
‘All a distraction from what’s really going on’ says I.
We look at the mannequins again.
‘I don’t want to hear about it’ he says.
‘What about Gaza, and Israel?’
‘Indeed’ says I.
A short silence ensues, within which develops a mutual understanding that all we can do about it is just crack on.
‘Bye then’ I say.
‘Bye’ he says.
‘Hope you sell a lot of strawberries!’
The vegetable shop man smiles.
© Gail Foster 18th May 2018
© Gail Foster 10th May 2018
Two sonnets for May, and my muse
The fires are lit, my lover, and the hills
are flickering with little points of light
The sun is set, and deep within the rills
the seeds of stars are littering the night
The smoke is rising, lover, rising high
in winding spires of ribbons in the air
and in the rivers where the willows cry
and on the leys the ancient druids dare
to walk, the chalk is glowing. I know you
will never leap the Beltane fires with me
or rise on one May morning in the dew
beside me, spellbound by my poetry
Or so it seems. But oh, my lover, how
the blossom burns, so brightly on the bough
The maypole’s up, my lover, on the green
its willow ribbons flutter in the breeze
I would you be my king, and I your queen
for one night only, here beneath the trees
The hawthorn froths, my lover, in the hedge
the buds are bursting, birds are nesting high
yet still you fly, my hawk, above the edge
of some cold mountain way up in the sky
Come down, or are you wary that a flame
might fall within your feathers, or a spark
ignite your heart, or god forbid, you came
to want to stay beside me in the dark
It’s so, it seems. But see, my lover, now
the blossom burning, brighter on the bough
© Gail Foster 1st May 2018
A Beltane Rhyme…
© Gail Foster April 28th 2018
Seriously, though…The Wharf’s production of Sondheim’s first musical, directed by Liz Sharman, is hilarious. Based on the farces of the Roman playwright, Plautus, it first hit Broadway in 1962. Don’t expect high art or political correctness. From the first number, ‘Comedy Tonight’ (‘Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone: a comedy tonight’), it’s clear that this is nothing but a fast-moving, light-hearted, old-fashioned, slightly dodgy, slapstick, pun-filled, fun-fest.
The set is beautifully painted, in authentic colours, with quirky touches. Three doors, as is traditional with this play. Not much space for the action, but perfect for the running about, in and out of dusty Roman windows, requirements of the show
It’s the story of how Pseudolus (Jonathon West), a slave of Rome in 200BC, buys his freedom using his knowledge of human nature, the help of hapless fellow slave Hysterium (Chris Underwood), and all other devious means at his disposal. He lives in the house of Senex (Chris Smith) and Domina (Lesley Scholes), and their son, Hero (Tyler Bartlett), in the same hood as Erronius (John Craig), a befuddled ancient, and Lycus (John Winterton), a lascivious brothel-keeper. The young Hero has his eye on Philia (Hayley Baxter), a young and as yet unbesmirched courtesan, and agrees that Pseudolus will have his freedom if he can get the twee couple together. Other characters are the imperious soldier Milos Gloriosus (Nick Swift), various smiley Proteans, and (Good God, is that Miss Whiplash (Jemma Gingell)?) a trio of silent, but enthusiastic, fan wielding prostitutes.
The action gets sillier as the play progresses, and the web of lies that Pseudolus has woven begins to fall apart. Just a bit of mare’s sweat, and it will all work out. Maybe if we pretend she’s dead it will be fine. Maybe if we all dress up as other people that will do the trick. Not. Quick song? Go on, then.
This is a high energy show, with a lot of quick changes and movements. I can’t fault the choreography, or the superb comic timing, but Sondheim only gets a B for the songs. ‘Comedy Tonight’ is pretty catchy, and ‘Lovely’ is memorable, although that is partly due to Hayley Baxter (sweet voice, well-played coyness) and Chris Underwood’s interpretations. Victoria Warren, Musical Director, played the score. Lot of sharps and flats, apparently. Difficult keys.
Acting awards? Lesley Scholes (of course) as the bossy (‘carry my bust with pride’) Roman matron, Hayley Baxter and Tyler Bartlett for doing impossibly cute with straight faces, Jemma Gingell for bravery, Jonathon West for holding it all together, and the entire cast for being on it like a car bonnet whilst appearing to be having the most fun ever.
But it’s the performances of Chris Underwood, John Craig, and Nick Swift, that have me absolutely kissing myself. The part of the camp and nervous slave Hysterium is the most challenging in the play, and Chris is awesome in the role. His renditions of the anxiety song ‘I’m Calm’, and ‘Lovely’, are a triumph, and his drag shenanigans are a wonder to behold (clearly a career in modelling beckons).
John Craig plays the part of the doddery, partially sighted Erronius to perfection (John Craig, John Craig, he was witty, he was vague), and Nick Swift, as the arrogant soldier, dominates the stage (in a good way) with his enormous presence, booming voice, and massive wrath.
I haven’t laughed so much or so loudly in public since, well we won’t talk about that. It was the dress rehearsal, so there was only a small audience, but everyone was in stitches from the outset, and by the end a few of us were incandescent with mirth. ‘One of the funniest things I have ever seen at The Wharf’ (and he’s seen and been in a few) said Lewis Cowen. ‘The funniest show I’ve ever been a part of’ (and he’s seen and been in a few too) said Chris Underwood. I laughed till my stomach hurt, and I’m still laughing now.
When I’d recovered from the wild exhilaration of it all, and had enthused sufficiently, I had a word with Liz Sharman (well done, that woman!) about political correctness. Liz said that she dealt with the whole prostitute thing by making the male characters seem silly in their dealings with them, and that she didn’t cut anything from the script. I’d expected the show to be much ruder, and camper, and more along the lines of the (Ooh Matron!) Carry On films. Undoubtedly some might find the very fact of prostitutes offensive, but apart from a bust, a whip, a fart joke and a few tacky comments, I found the humour quite polite, and the general feel of the whole thing quite…innocent. Not much to upset your average four-year old, or your Gran. But then it’s an American show, and I am hardly Mary Whitehouse.
And after all, these things were acceptable in the 60s. And 70s. And 200BCs…
I enjoyed this show so much that I’m giving it ten out of ten.
© Gail Foster 28th April 2018
What do we expect from a Town Band? Seasonal Oompahs, buckets of enthusiasm, Jerusalem, and the odd dropped note, perhaps? Not a full on professional sounding wind orchestra, surely. After all, town bands are an amateur thing, aren’t they?
I went to see Devizes Town Band’s ‘Heroes and Villains’ show at the Corn Exchange on Monday. Their current Musical Director is Sharon Lindo, a professional violinist and multi-instrumentalist, who came out of the trombone section to take up the baton in 2012. The night was compered by Ian Pugh, chirpy toastmaster and Fantasy Radio personality, and on this occasion there were forty-four musicians, amateur and professional, wind and percussion, in the band. Proceeds from the event went to local charity Altzheimer’s Support.
The programme consisted of classic film themes, all introduced with a paragraph about plot, and illustrated with images on a big screen behind the band. The night started with Superman, then we had The Godfather, Chicago, Les Mis, Gladiator, Bonnie and Clyde, The Magnificent Seven, Schindler’s List, and a bit of Aida. In the interval we heard about Altzheimer’s Support from Laura Fenson, Community Fundraiser, and in the second half we had The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Mack the Knife, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Over The Rainbow, Chicken Run, Skyfall, and Oliver.
What is it about these songs that stirs us so? The triumphant and melancholic cadences, the nostalgia? We’ve heard them so often they could be deemed to be corny, but the reason they have endured is because people love them, and most have memories associated with them. Fun, sorrow, victory, mischief, romance, nights at the movies, Sundays by the television, days gone by… whatever it is that appeals, it brought people out in droves, and on a school night, and not all of them over fifty.
Solo performers were Alan Evans on French horn, playing the poignant ‘Bring Him Home’, Jenni Scott, flautist and vocalist, singing ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to the tune of gunfire, Sharon Lindo’s sensitive rendition of the Schindler theme on violin, Bruce MacDonald on tenor sax playing ‘Over The Rainbow’ and, my favourite moment of the night (sniff, something in my eye, etc.) Richard Tannasee on trumpet, playing ‘Il Triello’, oh so beautifully, in front of screen images from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
Dropped notes? Maybe a barely perceptible hiccup somewhere in the first half, but that really is nit-picking. The band had been rehearsing since January, and it showed. The quality of sound was great, the energy levels were high, the conductor was a joy to watch, the kazoos were on point (!), and the tunes were well chosen. With the exception of one elderly lady, who said that rock bands were more her cup of tea, everyone I spoke to loved it. ‘Very good’, seemed to be the consensus. ‘Very enjoyable’ said the man who had come all the way from Bedfordshire to see his daughter play the clarinet.
I must be getting old. I liked it a lot.
And I got to play with Ian Pugh’s gavel afterwards.
© Gail Foster 24th April 2018
PS What is it about Ennio Morricone?
You can catch the really rather wonderful Devizes Town Band at Poulshot Church in June, at the Beer Festival in July, and at Hillworth Park in September. And if you’re interested in finding out more about the work of Altzheimer’s Support (let’s face it, we all might need them one day), you can contact their Devizes office in Sidmouth Street.