Saturday, 24 January 2015

Stardust

A little before Christmas, I learned that 'Stardust' has been adapted for the stage, (by Russ Tunney (@1piratesmall) for the Forest Forge Theatre Company.  A little after that, I learned that the one performance which was within a reasonable distance of my home was sold out.


And then, more recently, I saw that one of the performances which was not within a reasonable distance was, nevertheless, a matinee, so it became possible to drive there and not end up getting home at midnight...

So today, together with my friend Tamzin, I set off on a magical mystery tour of 3 counties, t see the play.  We'd planned to go early and have time for a pub lunch before the play, but between my over-confidence about knowing the way for the first part of the trip, an unexpected road closure resulting in a rather long detour, and a couple of unfortunate sat-nav blindspots, we ended up with no time for lunch, but fortunately we'd both come prepared, so didn't starve!

And we were  in plenty of time for the play.

The stage was small, and there were no scene changes, the different scenes and moods were shown purely by differences in lighting, and the addition and removal of small boxes used as seats, steps, a coach seat, or whatever else was necessary.

The cast was also small: just 4 actors, who between them play around 20 characters (plus the Unicorn). 


I very much enjoyed the play. It was very faithful to the book, albeit with some cuts (no flying ship, alas) and wonderfully light-hearted (there were fewer deaths, and less blood, than the book), lots of hats, and one Perfectly SPLENDID false moustache. And of course, a delightful dormouse.

The performance we saw was a matinee at a school, and there were lots of children in the audience, all of whim seemed to be gripped by the show,(if occasionally confused by the fact that that the actors were performing multiple roles - there were some suggestions from the children sitting behind us that the Lady Una, and/or Victoria Forrester, was Yvaine in disguise, for example, but this did not seem to reduce anyone's enjoyment.) 


The production has clearly been created to make Gaiman's fairy tale for grown-ups into one suitable for all. I enjoyed the nods to Neil's Sandman books, in the titles for each scene, and suspect that the Unicorn ws inspired, at least in part, by the wonderful 'War Horse' puppets.

I admit that I was worried, before I saw the production,  that no stage show could do justice to the original, and it it would be particularly difficult with so small a cast and such minimal set. I shouldn't have been. It's clear that the production has been staged on a show string, but it is very professional, and I think that if Neil Gaiman were to see what has been done with his story, he'd be likely to approve. I think there are one or two points where the story might be a little confusing, for those not already familiar with the plot, but over all I was very impressed indeed.

The cast were   Michael Cole, Stacey Evans, Zachary Powell, Alana Armstrong. I shall be looking out for their names in future.

The show is still touring, mostly in Hampshire, and if you are within striking distance of any of the performances I encourage you to go. http://www.forestforge.co.uk/shows/stardust 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

On Friday evening (which was a very cold evening!) I went into Bath to the theatre to see a new production of To Kill a Mockingbird. 
Daniel Betts and Jemima Bennet
It's a touring production by the Regents Park Open Air Theatre company, and was very good.

The book itself remains a part of the action, with the (adult) actors reading extracts from the book by way of narration, to move the action along.

I was surprised, to start with, as it's an unusual technique for a stage play, but it worked really well, allowing Scout's memories and views to be expressed without having to resort to extra conversations between characters, which can, of course, be a little contrived in adaptations of novels.
Zackary Momoh
The set is minimal - the cast draw a plan of the town with chalk, on the stage, at the outset. Other than a tree, with a tyre swing hanging from it, and various chairs,there is very little in way of set.

Daniel Betts was superb as Atticus Finch, (although he appeared a little too young), and Zarkary Momohas as Tom Robinson was very impressive, managing to convey both his fear and vulnerability, and his  integrity. 

The trial scenes were entirely acted, not narrate, and, even knowing the outcome, was utterly gripping.

I thought it was an excellent production. The play is now touring, finishing up at the Barbican this summer, and if it comes near you, I'd recommend it - well worth seeing!

I came out of the theatre to discover it was very cold indeed - I had to scrape ice off my car to drive home.

(Photos from the production website)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Snow

We were told, yesterday, that we would get snow today. Possibly quite a lot of snow. They were partly right. We got a light  dusting of snow. 



(and I got to see that my loft insulation is, it appears, pretty effective, and that my water feature may be a land-shark in its spare time.)


Loki, unimpressed
Judging by the paw-prints, the cats had been outside before I came downstairs, and judging by their expressions, they were not impressed. 

It started snowing again quite heavily as I set out for work, but then stopped almost immediately and the snow was all gone by mid-morning, although we've had the pleasure of sleet and wind since, too!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Back to Work

I went back to work last Friday, which was probably a good thing - having a one day working week to ease back into the working routine lessens the shock! 

I have now written all my christmas thank you letters, and paid my December credit card bill, and taken down all the decorations, and the tree (which naturally shed needles in a thick layer on the floor through the house to the back door!) The tree is now waiting in the garden to be put out with the rest of the recycling, on Tuesday morning.

It's actually been having adventures since then - last night was very wild and windy - nothing like the 100 mph gales they have had in Scotland, but never the less very energetic. This morning I found that the tree had migrated half way down the garden (and that the recycling boxes were all the way down to the end, so I spent some time picking up all the recycling!) 

And of course, the cats decided to make today the day that they played tag along the top of the fences and walls, and up onto the roofs of the sheds and the kitchen. 

I don't know that this is the first time they have been up there (I know Loki, at least, has been up on the fences before) but it is the first time I've *seen* either of them on the shed roof, and the first time I have seen Coraline (who is smaller, and generally less adventurous, than Loki) on the fence or the wall (both about 6' high).

As you can tell from all this, I am having a quiet weekend at home. I do have some fun things planned - next week I am going to see 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in Bath, then the weekend after I am planning to see an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust'. Then at the end of the month I'm hoping to have a visit from my cousin and her husband and little boy, and at the beginning of February I shall be going to London, to meet up with my parents, and to see the Magna Carta at the British Library. 

And I am still making plans to have some work done on the house. I had someone come round just before christmas, and have just had their quote, which is not as horror-inspiring as I had feared. I have asked them for clarification on some points but it looks as though I should be able to get most of what I want doing, done, at least indoors. (I shall have to wait for the outside work, I think)

So all in all, I am cautiously optimistic about 2015 so far!

(Now, if I can only shake off this cold . . .)