Button Wars

Little Trumpy stomped his foot
‘Look what Sloppy Steve has put!’
He said, and spitting out a sweet
Went red, and did another tweet

Little Trumpy’s button glowed
As from his tiny fingers flowed
Such foolish words as children sing
In playgrounds when they’re bullying

Little Trumpy, he’s the boy
Just William crossed with Fauntleroy
And Violet, the spoilt chick
Who thcreamed and thcreamed till she was thick

And Little Kim. What can I say
Like who’d want him to come to play
Imagine games of pass the parcel
‘OK Kim, you win’ (you arsehole)

God save us from these little boys!
Their tantrums, and exploding toys!
‘Say, my Dad’s bigger than your Dad’
‘My button’s bigger, and it’s rad’

Call the Nanny! Raise a shout!
Is Poppins anywhere about?
Or anyone who, without fear
Can clip the fat boys round the ear?

Tell them that it isn’t clever!
Send them to their beds, whatever!
Or maybe make a little chart
To stick gold stars on when they fart!

Adults are in classrooms taught
That wars are in theatres fought
And not by little kids at play
Who trash the nursery each day

I do despair. Damn, what’s to do
They’ve barely learned to hold their poo
But wait for one to chuck his ball
Out of his pram, and fuck us all

© Gail Foster 6th January 2018

 

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Ceres

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A statue of Ceres watches over Devizes from the top of the Corn Exchange…

*

My name is Ceres, Goddess of the Corn

I stand above the Market Place and stare

With stony face, half dressed, and with a horn

Towards the North, the hill, the over there

I’ve lovely hair, but long the days have passed

When men admired the firmness of my rack

I’m old, and to be fair I can’t be arsed

Once had one’s day is never coming back

I’ve sewn my seed, been fertilised, and borne

My little birds and thrown them to the skies

Seen men come to the Market Cross to mourn

Seen marryings, and mayhem in The Vize

I’m old, but oh I see, from up on high

The secret things, the glory of the sky

*

© Gail Foster 5th January 2018

Burning Angels; Winter Solstice, 2017

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for the Druids of Avebury, and my muse

*

So many kings of old have come to me

At midnight, in the winter, at the still

In crowns of holly, clothed with mystery

Come riding proudly down from yonder hill

With torches flaming, salamander eyes

Ablaze with ancient summers full of lust

And I have had them all within my thighs

And I have turned them all to ice and dust

Except for he who keeps my fires alight

When darkness falls too deep to understand

Who lies with me all winter, till the night

Recedes, and spring returns to seed the land

With him I make, beneath the mistletoe

The burning shapes of angels in the snow

*

© Gail Foster 16th December 2017

The Moment

Beware the moment when the mind
Becomes aware that all is well
No fecks, no fears, no fault to find
Just jolly tales of joy to tell
All happiness and all good things
Are here within the now and here!
The fool from on the rooftop sings
As all the angels disappear
And demons gather on the hill
Attracted by his careless cry
To watch him fall, as fall he will
As all things fall that fly too high
And shine too bright, and fly too fast
Enjoy the moment. See, it’s passed…

*

© Gail Foster December 6th 2017

‘Last Night at The Conductor’s Arms’

The Invitation Theatre Company at The Bear, Devizes

 

 

It’s the early 1950s, and time for the very last pint to be pulled at The Conductor’s Arms.  Business ain’t what it used to be, and even the Music Hall next door is closing down.  As Albert the landlord (Ian Diddams) sits supping at the bar, he looks back over the history of his family; his grandparents’ escape from the Irish potato famine and their acquisition of the pub, meeting his wife, the birth of his children, the death of his son in the first World War, and victory in World War Two.  So many memories.  So many faces, come and gone.  So many tunes…

Oh, The Invitation Theatre Company had a good time with this one!  For one night only, sorry, three, the ballroom at The Bear became an informal and intimate old time music hall forward slash East End pub, with dancing girls, banging tunes, Pearly Kings, poignant tear jerkers, and cheese.  Lots of cheese.  A succulent smorgasbord of cheerful cheese, and the kind of sad songs that would have the stoutest customer weeping into their gin before closing time.

Devised and directed by Ally Moore and Liz Schorah, and ably compèred with alliterative acuity by Peter Nelson, ‘Last Night at The Conductor’s Arms’ was simply a good excuse to sing (‘Sing along!’ they said, so we did) all your gran’s favourites from ‘Danny Boy’ to ‘No Business Like Show Business’.

The problem with writing reviews for TITCO is that everyone is good, they get better each time they work together, the music is always spot on, and no one likes a sycophant.  But really, other than the fact that perhaps the performance space was a little small for the lively choreography, it’s hard to pick fault with this show.

So I’ll go with highlights, which, for me, were as follows; Ian Diddams’ acting.  Mel Coombs, Liz Schorah, and Viv Kyte‘s chirpy versions of ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’.  All of the men singing ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’ Paul Morgan singing ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ (the ladies I met in the churchyard today particularly liked that one).  Mari Webster singing anything.  And all of the ensemble pieces.

Moments of brilliance?  The whole cast singing the heart-wrenching ‘Keep The Homes Fires Burning’, with its rich and complex harmonies (I cried, and I wasn’t the only one).  Lottie Diddams producing a couple of notes of unearthly beauty in ‘Secret Love’.  Ian Diddams again, with his heartfelt delivery of ‘Brown Boots’.  And, for which she received the most rousing cheer of the evening, Jemma Brown, hilariously channelling Hyacinth Bucket, in a performance of the musically challenging ‘I Want To Sing In Opera’ that had some of us questioning our continence.

‘Last Night at The Conductor’s Arms’ was an uplifting, moving, and endearing show; no pretence at great art, just a wild ride through the music halls of memory on a pantomime pony, with the odd pitstop for a tear.

And cheese.

And the final verdict from behind the aspidistra?

Hit me with a feather boa, that was fun.

Nine out of ten.

© Gail Foster 19th November 2017

‘If Truth Be Told’; a book of poetry and autobiographical prose

For poetry fans and curious fellows; my book

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It’s available from Devizes Books (01380 725944), as well as through Amazon.  Herewith the blurb; there’s lots in here you won’t have read.

Everything in this book was written between November 2016 and November 2017.
It’s an odd mixture, really.

Serious sonnets and satirical silliness.
Randy pigeons and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Feisty stuff and flirtations with form.
Sainsburys and the Avebury Ring.
Grand themes and little ticklish things.
Sadness and spiritual joy.
….
This is my second anthology and yet again I have had to give thought to the diverse nature of my content.
I have decided to treat my readers like adults, and include all my material.  Everything.  Nearly.  Except for my haiku, senryu, and tanka, which belong in another book, and the private things I have written.  Everything including the sweet story about my god daughter, the mysterious case of the socks on the rocking chair, a poem in which I use the ‘c’ word for a fascist, songs of love for beautiful people, wild poems inspired by the muse, and the seedy tale of what happened to me back in the seventies and early eighties.

So here you go.
Take a deep breath.
Thank you so much for reading my work.
*
Gail Foster ~ Devizes, Wiltshire, November ‘17

 

Iolanthe; the White Horse Opera at Lavington School

a first night review…

*

I was delighted to be asked to review the White Horse Opera’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, Iolanthe, at Lavington School this week.  Delighted, but slightly nervous.  Opera, or operetta, apart from a brief flirtation with The Yeoman of the Guard in my youth, isn’t my cup of tea.  But I’m up for a challenge, and it really was about time I popped my White Horse Opera cherry.

I looked it up online and what I read tickled me.  Fairies and the House of Lords.  Bit of magic and a bit of satire.  Interesting.

First performed in London in 1882, Iolanthe, also known as ‘The Peer And The Peri’, took a mischievous jab at the high society of the time in this bizarre tale of a Fairy who has been banished for wedding a mortal, Strephon her son, a half-man, half-fairy sort of bloke, Phyllis, the mortal object of his (and everyone else’s) affections, various vociferous Fairies; a conflicted Lord Chancellor;  and assorted beery leery Peers.

Phyllis reciprocates Strephon’s love, but the Lord Chancellor, even though he is her legal guardian, also has his eye on her, and forbids Strephon from marrying her.  When Phyllis catches Strephon talking to Iolanthe about the situation and mistakes the ever youthful Fairy for a lover, she rejects him and says that she will marry a Peer.  The Fairy Queen and her crew, unimpressed with the Lord Chancellor and the Peers, put Strephon into Parliament and give him the power to pass any bill he likes…

It’s all a bit tricky really, what with the law about Fairies marrying mortals being punishable by death, the Lord Chancellor’s paradoxical legal dilemma, the state of the political nation, forbidden desires, cosmic compromises, and everyone falling in love with everyone else.  One could get quite deep about it, even (it’s his bottom half that’s mortal, by the way, in case you were wondering), what with all those rampant Fairies and randy Lords, Pagans and the Establishment, intellectual conflicts, ancient energies in tension, and stuff…

Or one could just enjoy a jolly good romp.  So to speak.

Well directed by Graham Billing, with superb musical direction by Roland Melia, the show was visually and aurally gripping from the outset.  The orchestra was tight and melodious throughout.  The acoustics were great (how mellow was that cello!).  The scenery, consisting of a screen backdrop of a flowing stream and a static image of the Houses of Parliament, was simple but effective.  The fairy dresses and butterfly wings were pretty, the Peers looked authentic, and the choreography was energetic.  It was, with the exception of a couple of minor hesitations, pretty slick for a first night.

A few voices stuck out a mile; Phyllis’s (Lisa House) beautiful soaring soprano, Lord Mountarat’s (Matt Dauncey) confident baritone, Iolanthe’s (Paula Boyagis) sweet mezzo-soprano, and Private Willis’s (Charles Leeming) sonorous bass.  Phyllis and Strephon’s (Jon Paget) duet ‘None Shall Part Us From Each Other’, and the Peers’ robust entry with ‘Loudly Let The Trumpet Bray’, got the old goosebumps going good and proper, and I couldn’t fault the whole cast harmonies.

As far as the acting went, good performances all round, but special mention to Matt Dauncey and Jon Paget again, Chrissie Higgs as the feisty Leila and Jessica Phillips as Celia, and Sue Goodman as the scary and imposing Queen of the Fairies.  Oh, and all of the Peers, who were truly amusing, delivered some delicious little cameos, played every moment with gusto, and ripped the Michael out of the aristocracy beautifully.

I’d like to have seen little more evidence of eternal youth and a tad more spring in the step of the Fairy ranks at times.  And a couple of voices took a while to warm up, or sounded better in some songs than others.   Stephen Grimshaw as the Lord Chancellor and Dennis Carter as Lord Tolloller impressed more in the second act, with Grimshaw nailing the complicated patter song ‘Love, Unrequited, Robs Me Of My Rest’, and Carter seeming more comfortable as time went on.

Picky, really, but had to be said.  Small spots of imperfection in an otherwise impeccable show that will doubtless be ironed out by Saturday.

I loved this show.  I spent much of the evening tapping my foot and smiling.  It was lively and engaging from the moment the orchestra struck their first chord.  You know a show’s been good when you haven’t taken your eyes off the stage or thought about domestic trivia for the entire length of it.  The ensemble pieces were well executed and fun to watch, the comic timing was spot on all round, and the sound was full and satisfying.

I enjoyed the surprise of the current political references, and the relevance of the story to the present day.  The visual spectacle.  The rollicking ride.  The glorious flighty flirtiness of it all.  And the stuff about the law and the lore.  What’s in a word, eh?  The lives of men and fairies, according to Gilbert and Sullivan.

(Interesting Iolanthe fact; fairy lights first appeared in the form of the battery operated star shaped lights worn in the hair of Iolanthe’s fairies in the first year of its run).

Iolanthe is an odd, thought-provoking opera about sex and politics that comes heavily disguised as a sparkly frivolous thing.  I reckon the production team and experienced cast of the White Horse Opera did it more than justice.  It exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed popping my opera cherry very much.  How lucky are we to have quality opera like this out in the wilds of Wiltshire?

Therefore, even though I did say once that I never wanted to see Ian Diddams in a onesie and the Muppets were a tad incongruous, I’m giving Iolanthe…

drum roll…

Eight out of ten.

© Gail Foster 13th October 2017