NORMA Bellini

Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness

NORMA by Vincenzo Bellini is this year’s BIG EIF production.

Written by Vincenzo Bellini in the early nineteenth century, NORMA was set in Gaul where Druid resistance to the occupying Roman army was led and dictated by the High Priestess, Norma. Cue 2016 and we’re morphed into the second world war and German occupation of France. I didn’t really take to this.

Much of the human drama of Bellini’s NORMA is universal and timeless. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Gaul or France because a wronged woman is a lethal enemy to make in either time-frame. However, there were issues. The scene where NORMA collects all the mistletoe her followers have secreted about their persons would work so much better if the actors were in robes than in 1940s dress. The dramatic climax where her betrayed followers set alight a pyre made of school classroom furniture is saved only by the chorus member who is determinedly snipping off NORMA’s hair. It was a chilling reminder of they way the French treated women identified as collaborators.

All of these issues apart, what of the music – the singers, the period instruments and the chorus?

I enjoyed all of the soloists and don’t have enough technical knowledge to get involved in the arguments about whether a mezzo-soprano should sing a soprano role and so on. I also enjoyed the chorus. Some critics have found them understated. I thought they sounded really good and they were also acting a community under oppression. Would they be loud and joyful – it’s not as if the audience couldn’t hear them.

The I Barrochisti period instrument ensemble’s regular conductor was indisposed and the chorus master, Gianluca Capuano, stepped in to conduct. An excellent job in the circumstances.

Tonight’s off-stage entertainment was provided by the huge number of people we knew in and around our seats. Congrats to the 4 chaps who arrived last and departed first. Hope you made the 10.30 show, wherever it was.

Supposing you’ve read one of my historical romances, I’d love a review. August is ‘leave an author a review’ month. Did you know/ Here’s my collection.

EIF 16 The Destroyed Room

THE DESTROYED ROOM by Matthew Lenton and Vanishing Point is a much less comfortable evening in the theatre. Three folk left from seats around us when the male character, played by Barnaby Power, described the video showing the death of the Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS, frame by frame. Those who conscientiously avoid such graphic material on the web have every right to feel cheated.

The play’s point at that moment was to show how clever such manipulation is.

The script is naturalistic, the behaviours of three folk coming together and falling into one of those conversations – this one started “If you had to destroy one thing in your house, what would it be? – and led on, as scripts must, into deeper and darker territory than might have been expected.

THE DESTROYED ROOM is a play for our times full of the big questions and its performance by three talented actors – Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith joined Power – is incomparable.

Also on stage are two cameras and their operatives sending close-ups of the performers onto big screens. Does it remind us how everything we do today is recorded – or do they just get between the audience and the play? I began to watch for the close-up when any of the three performers held sway, my companion was simple irritated. He’s not on FB and has only ever appeared in one selfie.

I was able to open the sweeties for our neighbour.

Run continues and tickets are here

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL2016 – Interiors

And we have lift-off…

In-flight entertainment was provided by ‘Wee Hughie”s antics trying to get to Edinburgh for the Preview of Matthew Lenton’s Interiors presented by Vanishing Point.

He’d messed up, ‘Wee Hughie’ had  and the lady  whose telephone conversation with his mum/girlfriend/sister was broadcast on speaker phone to the whole Grand Circle was not pleased. The rest of us were much entertained, although very happy that it was all switched off in response to the authoritative voice from the outer darkness, ‘Switch it off now, Love, switch it off.

So following this, Lenton and Vanishing Point had ground to recover. And recover it they did with a warm, affectionate look at the frailties of both the human condition and a community living on the edge. The polar bears, the narrator informs us, are very hungry at this time of year. Where society is small, the individuals making it up have to get on, compromise and respect one another.

They might also entertain one another and there is a dance routine you should try not to miss.

Interiors is in rep with Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room at the Royal Lyceum theatre till Monday 8th August. Tickets from the EIF Ticketing Hub

Do you have my historical romance on your e-reader? Buy for kindle here

Starter’s Orders Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2016 season opened for us with the towering production of CAROUSEL. Musicals often have a dark underbelly camouflaged by sparkling songs, energetic dances and a sharp book. CAROUSEL scores on all levels.

Ferenc Molnar was Hungarian and he wrote the original play, Liliom. According to the programme notes he had already turned down approaches from Puccini and Kurt Weill before agreeing to let Rodgers and Hammerstein have the right to adapt and set it in America.

The Pitlochry production opens with a dance routine and the setting up of the carousel where Billy Bigelow is the barker. Apparently having a young and attractive male barker was the key to running a successful carousel as it drew in the girls. Of course being young and attractive can go to a guy’s head and it’s not long before the conflicted Billy is breaking hearts and breaking his own ties with a job and his self-esteem.

George Arvidson delivers a memorable performance as Billy shining as both actor and singer. He’s from Denver and has already been heard as Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro. He’s well supported by the ensemble cast.

The techies and stage designers have had a great time with this production and bring some wonderfully humorous touches to it just when the audience might be feeling the emotional strain of the domestic violence theme. I won’t spoil that because you’ll want to be surprised in your turn.

Our performance was a sell-out.

Run in repertory with matinées at 2pm and evening performances at 8pm until Saturday 15th October 2016.

tickets here Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Anne Stenhouse’s historical romance is here

Prelude and Fugue by Clifford Bax – Theatre Broad for Forth Valley Art Beat Venue 45

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Rebecca Fergus

Prelude and Fugue by Clifford Bax is being produced by Theatre Broad of Stirling for the Forth Valley Art Beat.

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Carol Metcalf

Prelude and Fugue

The play, written in 1918 as one of twelve short verse plays, for this production is set in the 1930s. The company have used the musical interlude ‘Prelude and Fugue’ by Johann Sebastian Bach to allow reflection between the verses of conversation and interior monologue. It tells the story of Rosemary, who a week before her wedding, is having her likeness drawn in Charcoal by Joan. As Joan sketches, the two women discover a dark secret shared by both of them.To save Joan, Rosemary must decide whether or not to reveal all. Will she do the right thing and save the younger woman?

Prelude and Fugue is an excellent choice for an Art Festival and in Rebecca Fergus the company have found the perfect choice to play Joan as she is doubly trained in both Art and Acting. Indeed some of Rebecca’s intriguing pieces adorn the stage. Together with Theatre Broad’s founder member, Carol Metcalf, the women tease out the agonising steps of deciding whether to share a dark secret or not.

Often the revelation of bad news depends as much on whether the hearer can face hearing it as on whether the teller can expose themselves by telling. Perhaps the social repercussions would be greater in 1918/1930 than today, but the effect on trust between friends and lovers certainly wouldn’t.

As apposite for today as for the time it was written, this delightful production of Prelude and Fugue, takes one out of the world of petty concerns to reflect more deeply on a fundamental.

Theatre Broad was founded in 2003 and aims to provide regular, affordable, quality theatre in Stirling, the surrounding area and on tour throughout Scotland and Northern England. Directors, Carol Metcalf and Tangee Lenton have a team of regular actors, associate actors and associate playwrights.

Forth Valley Art Beat is an annual event of Performance, installations, exhibitions, open studios and pop-up studios. It’s situated across the Forth valley and if you visit their 2016 facebook page (link highlighted above) you’ll find out a lot more.

Run continues – take a moment out of your busy day for this lovely dramatized poem with its haunting music.

Venue 45 Cowane Centre, Stirling in the Studio Theatre Mon 13/Tues 14 June at 2.30 and Fri 17/Sat18 at 7.30 Ticket from the Albert Hall, Tolbooth £5. From the venue before performances.

ESCAPED ALONE by CARYL CHURCHILL

ESCAPED ALONE by Caryl Churchill is the first production I’ve seen in The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London.

In London for a committee meeting of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I was able to find a free evening and what a great experience it was. The Royal Court are trying out a short menu of ‘Boards’ for after the performance, so when it’s short or you were short of time getting to the theatre, then there’s a ‘board’ of cheese, charcuterie, smoked fish, or humus to calm that rumbling tum. My companion and I shared a cheese and smoked fish selection.

But you’re wanting to know about ESCAPED ALONE, not what I had for my tea.

The play by veteran writer Caryl Churchill is directed by James Macdonald and features four actresses with impeccable cvs. Linda Bassett, Kika Markham, June Watson and Deborah Findlay. Three of them are drinking tea in a garden when the fourth peeks in and is invited in. Four tales of life in its diverse experiences unfold for around fifty minutes.

So, I’m a little conflicted. Was the play so subtle, I won’t get it until it wakens me in the night some time later, or is it simply a homage to the achievement of survival? The performances were superb. The set great, although I could have done without the flashing light border. The fourth woman also acts a narrator and steps away from the garden to perform long speeches full of apocalyptic horrors – also at times very funny. These out-takes are when the stage is kept black but a surround of flashing red light created.

ESCAPED ALONE (the quote is attributed to the Book of Job and Moby Dick) does, however, stay with you and perhaps that’s its strength. Has the woman across there murdered her husband? Does the woman behind the curtains have agoraphobia? Why are cats terrifying? What caused the terrible rage? It makes you look again at those around – and wonder.

Run continues, Royal Court  Jerwood Theatre downstairs till 12th March

Traverse competition

Edinburgh’s wonderful new writing theatre, the Traverse, is looking for scripts to workshop. I received this in my E-news letter.

 

This Week’s News:

Words, Words, Words
Submissions call

Submissions are now being invited for the latest round of Words, Words, Words, the Traverse Theatre’s extravaganza of imagination and creativity. Writers are asked to submit their work-in-progress, and the most interesting, engaging and challenging will be read by actors following a day’s rehearsal.

The work can be the seed of an idea that may grow in the future, but the emphasis is on developing work-in-progress by bringing a script to life with a company of Traverse actors and directors. Let your imagination take you where it will, but make sure to submit your work to the Traverse by Thurs 22 October via our submissions page.

There are terms and conditions, folks, so read the rules carefully and don’t find yourself on the wrong side of a date…

Street Theatre

Street theatre. Three toddlers just released from keeping the mummies company at coffee find Sainsbury’s Christmas tree. Shake bottom branches and baubles drop. Kick baubles/chase baubles/kick baubles/go back to get more baubles. Mummies arrive. Mortification sets in and baubles are rescued.
Been there, ladies. Thanks for brightening my morning.

Also La Cenerentola at Edinburgh Festival theatre. Rossini’s great comic opera was a delight. Russian mezzo-soprano Victoria Yarovaya, winner of the 2013 Mercedes Viñas Prize sang the title role, Cinderella.

Loved the stage set with its many doors for opening and closing.

 

Sad News Indeed:Kenny Ireland dies

Kenny Ireland, a talented actor and director, has died. Aged 68, Mr Ireland had been battling cancer.

Kenny Ireland was based at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh between 1992 and 2003 as its director. More recently he’s been known for his role as a swinger to an appreciative television audience of the sitcom, Benidorm.