Friday, 5 February 2016

Substance & Shadow Theatre Company and the return of "Skin Deep" Cygnet New Theatre Exeter Friday 5 February 2016

The Old Firm
Substance & Shadow Theatre Company
Cygnet New Theatre, Friday 5 February

Nathan Simpson is Alex
Midge Mullin is Jem
Three years after the première of "Skin Deep" at the City Gate Hotel, Substance and Shadow Theatre Company have brought the play back to Exeter for four nights as part of a tour of the South West. (See review of the redux at the Exeter Ignite Festival - Bikeshed Theatre 8 June 2013)

This year, after playing the Barbican in Plymouth, and the Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol, Substance and Shadow returned to Exeter for a four-night run at the Cygnet New Theatre - and their old home, the cellar bar of the City Gate Hotel on Exeter's Iron Bridge.

Once again Nathan Simpson is Alex, the more successful stay-at-home 'brother' of Jem, played by Midge Mullin. The recreation of their close but antagonistic acting relationship is precise - renewed seemlessly after three years - unlike the relationship between the two characters they play, after their three year separation.

Mike Gilpin is Sam
Rosie Mullin is Pearl
Mike Gilpin, as the malleable Sam (or 'Biro' as he is disparagingly called), is still master of the Rubik's Cube, but not of his own life. Brighter than he seems, he is still not bright enough to stay out of trouble.

Rosie Mullin, as the enigmatic outsider Pearl, observes and interacts. Her distance and impartiality lend perspective and depth to this provincial tale of insecurities and prejudice.

This production is as sharp and arresting as ever. The four main players interact with balletic precision. They create a great dramatic tension, even for those who are familiar with the story. Jill Coley was replaced by Tracey Norman as Alex and Sam's Grandmother (originally an off-stage character, but subsequently introduced in the flesh to wind up any loose ends). Nan's concluding monologue stands alone as a homage to the endurance of a single mother in post-war Britain.

The run continues at the Cygnet tomorrow night (Saturday 6 February) at 7.30pm, before moving to the City Gate Hotel on Monday and Tuesday night at the slightly later time of 8pm.

Substance & Shadow Theatre Company
"Skin Deep" 2013
Jill ColeyMichael Gilpin
Rose Mullin
Nathan Simpson
Midge Mullin
1. Cygnet New Theatre
Friday/Saturday 5/6 February 7.30pm
2. City Gate Hotel (Cellar Bar)
Monday/Tuesday  8/9 February 8pm
          "SKIN DEEP"
Jem: Midge Mullin  Pearl: Rose Mullin
Alex Coombes: Nathan Simpson
Samuel Coombes: Michael Gilpin

Mrs Coombes: Tracey Norman
Tickets: Cygnet £8.50 City Gate £7
Online Booking for Cygnet: Fri/Sat
City Gate: tickets on the door
Press Release from Rosie Mullin

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

"Absence and Presence" Print Exhibition Recalling the Bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, Iraq Exeter Central Library Monday 1 February - Wednesday 30 March with a day of events and poetry at Central Library and 'Kaleider' Friday 4 March - A Message from Catherine Cartwright

Iraqi poet Ahmed Abdel Sara recites a poem
in ruins of Al-Mutanabbi Street
(See full article)

Exeter Central Library
1 February - 30 March
An exhibition of original prints
responding to the
Al Mutanabbi Street bombing in 2007.

Exeter Central Library & "Kaleider" in Smythen Street
Friday 4 March
A day of events
including Book- and Bookmark-Making
& a Poetry Marathon
(We welcome readers and listeners. Please contact to book a slot 10-5pm)
Drop-In - Free of Charge

"Absence and Presence" is a collection of original prints made by artists from around the world in response to the bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, Iraq on the 5th March 2007. 260 artists from many parts of the world were invited to make a new original print responding to the bombing on the theme of ‘Absence and Presence’. A selection of these prints will be exhibited at Exeter Central Library from 1st February to 30th March and at Kaleider on 4th March.

Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community and a thriving centre of Baghdad’s bookselling and publishing for many years. The explosion took the lives of thirty people and destroyed a large portion of the neighbourhood. The book sellers, who survived, rebuilt their stores and are once again in business. They sell works by Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Jews, children's books, and progressive publications from around the world.

Through the efforts of Beau Beausoleil, a poet and San Francisco bookseller, a coalition of poets, artists, writers, printers, booksellers, and readers has been created over the years following. Responses in letterpress printing (130 broadsides), artist books (260 artist books), poetry and writing (published anthology by PM Press), activist bookmarks (Marker of Witness), and now original prints under the theme and title of "Absence and Presence". Exhibitions, events and readings, at venues around the world reach communities and stimulate debate and dialogue. Currently there is a city-wide festival in Washington DC dedicated to the Al Mutanabbi Street project.

Catherine Cartwright
will talk about the exhibition and open day
on Phonic FM's "Classical Journey"
Friday 26 February 2pm
Catherine Cartwright & Dr Suedd Genem George
- memories of the 'Al Mutanabbi Street Coalition'
poetry & discussion evening in the "Double Elephant"
print-making studio Monday 5 March 2012
(Classical Journey Tuesday 6 March 2012)

Saturday, 23 January 2016

High Wall Theatre present "The Duchess of Malfi" Clifford Room Barnfield Theatre Thursday 21 - Saturday 23 January 2016

The Duchess of Malfi
James Elston is Ferdinand Duke of Calabria
Sally Naylor is Giovanna d'Aragona Duchess of Amalfi
Chris Harknett is Cardinal Lodovico
Richard Knox is Giovanna's servant, Cariolo

This week's production by High Wall Theatre Company at the Barnfield Theatre presented a new level of sophistication from a company already well known for highly polished performances.

High Wall was formed in 2014 by drama graduates Dan McNiell and Ben Gilbert (who made these pages in 2012 when they participated in a drama project called "Shakespeare, No Copyright" with the post-graduates at the Northcott Theatre - see "End of Term Music and Theatre"). They were joined by Harry Kingscott (who had recently taken on voice and movement direction with Anthos Arts for their community drama project "Wings in the Way" - see "Anthos Arts Final Rehearsal"). For their first production they were joined by Laura Brown, who choreographed an eight-man movement drama project called "The Alpha Effect" - see "RAW: The Alpha Effect". A year later (September last year) Laura choreographed a one man performance by Harry Kingscott of  "Ivan and the Dogs" by Hattie Naylor at the Barnfield Theatre, directed by Dan McNiell and produced by his wife Laura McNiell - see "High Wall Theatre: Ivan & the Dogs".

This week, four months later, they returned to the Barnfield to present the seventeenth century masterpiece by renaissance playwright John Webster, "The Duchess of Malfi". This four hundred year old play is based on real events which happened a century earlier. The Duchess (Giovanna d'Aragona) defied convention and secretly remarried after her husband's death. Not only was her chosen second husband of much lower social status (Giovanna was the grand-daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples, while her new husband, Antonio Beccadelli di Bologna, was merely a steward), but she also proposed the marriage, which was quite unheard-of.

Her two brothers, Ferdinand Duke of Calabria and Cardinal Lodovico, became so beside themselves with rage that they spied on and harassed her, and subsequently conspired to kill her and her entire family (Giovanna and Antonio by this time had three children). The two brothers are assisted in their persecution of their sister by the Cardinal's former servant, and ex-convict, Daniel de Bozzola, who is now in the pay of Ferdinand. Their efforts are opposed, and to some extent foiled by the solicitous care of Giovanna's lady-in-waiting Cariola. (In Italian, 'cariolo' is the name for the kind of truckle-bed on which Cariola would have slept.)

In a return to the gender reversal of the "Shakespeare, No Copyright" project in 2012, Cariola becomes a man-servant called Cariolo, and is played by Richard Knox as a very engaging Irishman. Rather more contentiously Antonio becomes Antonia, and is played by Paige Evans. The conception of the three children of her marriage to Giovanna is left intriguingly unexplained.

In another departure from the original play, Laura Brown added extensive choreography to the dialogue throughout, and additional dance and movement routines to link the acts. The strenuous gymnastics that accompanied the elaborate set-up for murder was fascinating to watch - and helped keep the audience focused on the complex story line that was unfolding.

The play was presented in one act, which saved the whole rigmarole of an interval spent in the bar. However a sudden darkening of the mood made it clear when 'Round Two' had begun. The ensemble dancing of Ortensia Fioravanti, Elena Martin, Samantha Theobald-Roe and Sally Wood, which had been delightfully entertaining, became more sinister, and their rôles altered as they changed from servants to soldiers and arresting officers. Ortensia also doubled up as the doctor who diagnoses Ferdinand's psychosis, while Elena was also Julia, the ill-fated lover of Cardinal Ludovico. Samantha filled the vital rôle of Delia - a feminised version of the original Delio, who was a courtier and confidant of Antonio.

Even before the play began, the Duchess and her two brothers dominated the stage in a frozen tableau involving all the actors. As the lights went down, they came to bizarre and disorganised life - setting the scene for the madness to follow. Sally Naylor, in scarlet gave a rivetting performance, stoutly resisting the aggressive controlling behaviour of James Elston and Chris Harknett, whose crimson waistcoat, red-trimmed mozzetta and scarlet fascia reflected both their family connection and the heated confrontation between them.

The frenzied rage of James Elston's Ferdinand is likewise countered by the icy coldness of Chris Harknett's Cardinal. The Cardinal's grim determination, however, does not help him any more than Ferdinand's extremes. (Ferdinand is eventually diagnosed as suffering from lycanthropia - he has become a werewolf!) Perhaps most impressive is Richard Knox's calmness, honesty and loyalty as Giovanna's servant Cariolo. Antonia, initially non-plussed by Giovanna's proposal of marriage, is also a steadfast rock in the maelstrom created for Giovanna by her brothers.

The violence, when it comes, is overwhelmingly terrifying. No one is safe, and all the main characters meet a very unsavoury end. Few modern horrors can match the ferocity of the brutal conclusion to this play's action. The photographs below give just a taste of the cruelty involved. Here, almost as an aside, the Cardinal has himself been carrying on a love affair with Julia, the wife of a certain Lord Castruchio (the name implying castration - and/or cuckolding). Elena Martin steps up to the plate as Julia, only to be callously murdered by Ludovico.

A fatal kiss
Cardinal Lodovico (Chris Harknett)
forces his lover Julia (Elena Martin)
to kiss a bible

The bible is poisoned

Lodovico's former servant, and Ferdinand's spy,
Daniel de Bozzola (Tobias Cornwell)
is confronted by one of many dead bodies

In the ensuing confusion, Bozzola falls victim to
Ferdinand Duke of Calabria (James Elston)

The carnage briefly abates to allow a soulful reunion between Giovanna and Antonia. (It is not quite clear at this point whether they are already dead.) This touching scene concluded a spectacular, if gory, stage production in the round, which fulfilled all expectations for the latest production of High Wall Theatre Company.

In a final pas de deux, the doomed couple
Giovanna d'Aragona (Sally Naylor) and
Antonia Beccadelli di Bologna (Paige Evans)
contemplate eternity

Congratulations to all the team members - including many new actors, a new Stage Manager (Lucy Corley) and Technical Operator (Jonah Taylor). Dan and Laura McNiell were Director and Producer again. Laura Brown was Choreographer, and - last but not least - Harry Kingscott returned as Artistic Director. A great team and a great show. Well done all.

Everyone returns to life for the curtain-call
Richard Knox
 (offstage right) was Cariolo, Giovanna's servant

Tobias Cornwell (offstage left) was Daniel de Bozzola
Samantha Theobald-Roe was Delia, Antonia's friend
Elena Martin was Julia, wife of Lord Castruchio
Paige Evans was Antonia Beccadelli di Bologna
James Elston was Ferdinand Duke of Calabria
Chris Harknett was Cardinal Lodovico
Ortensia Fioravanti was the doctor
Sally Wood was a servant
Sally Naylor was Giovanna d'Aragona,
Duchess of Amalfi

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Pegasus Trio Spring Concert Romance & Tragedy Three Performances in Exmouth, Exeter & Torquay Friday 12, Sunday 14 & Saturday 20 February 2016

Pegasus Trio

The Pegasus Trio

1. Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Friday 12 February 7.30pm

2. Southernhay Church Exeter
Sunday 14 February 7.30pm

3. St Matthias Church Torquay
Saturday 20 February 7.30pm


Henry Purcell: DIDO & AENEAS
Dido's Lament - "When I am laid in earth" 1869

No 2/3 "Liebesleid" (Love's Sorrow) 1910

Gioachino Rossini: L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI
"Cruda Sorte!" (Cruel fate! [Tyrannical love!]) 1813

No 8/12 "La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin" 1910

"Seit ich ihn Gesehen" (Since I saw him) 1830

Opus 118 No 5/6 "Romance" 1893

Camille Saint-Saëns: "VIOLONS DANS LE SOIR" 1907

Dmitri Shostakovich: THE GADFLY SUITE
Opus 97a No 8/12 "Romance" 1955

Georges Bizet: CARMEN
"Pres des Remparts" (Near the walls [of Seville]) 1875

"Ständchen" (Serenade) 1828

Antonín Dvořák: "ROMANCE IN F MINOR" 1879

"Una Voce Poco Fa" (A voice, recently) 1816

Sergei Prokofiev: ROMEO & JULIET
"Dance of Knights" (Montagues & Capulets) 1938

Ástor Piazzolla: "LIBERTANGO" 1974

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: LE NOZZE DE FIGARO
"Voi che Sapete" (You who know [what love is]) 1786

Giacomo Puccini: GIANNI SCHICCHI
"O Mio Babbino" (O my beloved father) 1918

Tickets: £15 (concession £10)

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"Space is the Place!" Sam Richards' 'Sun Ra Arkestra'-inspired 'Heliocentric Omniversal Travelling Band' "Christmas on Saturn" Royal Seven Stars Hotel Totnes Sunday 13 December 2015

Sam Richards

Sun Ra
(Herman Blount)
Regular listeners to Soundart Radio community broadcasts from Dartington Hall will be familiar with the voice of Sam Richards. Sam is the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Soundart, and also a prolific programme maker and broadcaster. A high point of Soundart's output each month is the "Roots" programme at 7pm on the third Sunday of each month - just an hour after the monthy "Classical Journey Redux" broadcast finishes. The show features the traditional and archive music of a particular region or country each month, often with special guests, and their instruments.

Sam can often be heard on the second Sunday of the month as well, presenting Lona Kozik's contemporary music and jazz programme "The Pulse". Between 3 and 6pm, Sam and Lona explore the music of the most adventurous and avant garde composers of the past century. An artist who regularly features is Sun Ra (formerly Herman Blount from Birmingham Alabama).

Herman (Sonny) Blount
Herman dropped out of agricultural college in 1937, and formed the "Sonny Blount Orchestra". His musical career was interrupted by the entry of the United States into the Second World War at the end of 1941. In 1942 he was drafted and, after failing to attend for alternative service as a conscientious objector, was sentenced to prison in Alabama. On appeal, he was declared unfit and stayed in Birmingham for the rest of the war before joining the 'Second Great Migration' of African Americans to Chicago in 1945.

In Chicago he played piano for many bands, and made some professional recordings. His experience of African American activism in Chicago, and it's many examples of Egyptian influenced architecture, stimulated an interest in the then unacknowledged influence of North African culture on the western world. By 1952 he was a regular member of the "Space Trio", and rejected his given name (which he considered a slave-name) and formally registered the name Le Sony'r Ra.

Sun Ra Arkestra in Chicago
More musicians joined the ensemble (now called 'The Sun Ra Arkestra'), including saxophonist Marshall Allen. They released the albums "Super-Sonic Jazz" and "Jazz in Silhouette" on their own independent 'El Saturn' record label. About this time Sun Ra claimed that he had left agricultural college in 1937 after a visionary experience in which he was 'teleported' to the surface of Saturn where the Saturnians instructed him to warn the people of Earth of impending chaos through the medium of music. The band members adopted the now familiar stage costumes combining ancient Egyptian and futuristic themes to reflect Sun Ra's public persona - and also to reassure audiences that they didn't take themselves too seriously.

Rolling Stone Magazine
April 1969
In the 1960s the 'Arkestra' was based in New York, and very popular. Dizzy Gilespie and Thelonius Monk were very supportive of their work. From the 1970's until Sun Ra's death in 1993 they were based in Philadelphia, but still commuted to New York to play their usual venue (Slug's Saloon).

The Arkestra toured internationally and played at the University of California, Berkely, at lectures given by the Artist-in-Residence - Sun Ra.

In 1972 the Arkestra collaborated with the KQET TV company in Oakland, California, to produce the feature film "Space is the Place". By the end of the 70s the Arkestra was house-band at the Squat Theatre in New York, where Sun Ra conducted "Space is the Place" while playing three synthesizers, and 'Jupiterettes' danced to their music.

In the 1980s, following a decade of collaboration with Egyptian drummer Salah Ragab, Sun Ra and the Arkestra made live recordings with Ragab in Egypt.

Marshall Allen leads the current incarnation of
"The Sun Ra Arkestra"
Sun Ra suffered a debilitating stroke in 1990 and the Arkestra was led by tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, with Sun Ra's supervision. Sun Ra died in 1993 and John Gilmore, who was also very ill (with emphysema) died two years later. Since, then, alto saxophonist Marshall Allen has led the Arkestra, which has been involved in many artistic projects.

In a special week-long event at the 2008 'ZXZW Festival' (now called 'Incubate') at Tilburg in the Netherlands, the Arkestra presented a definitive showcase of Sun Ra's extensive musical legacy.

Sam Richards
"The Heliocentric Omniversal Travelling Band"
The Sun Ra Arkestra regularly visit Britain to perform at major cities - but, sadly, not in the South West. In an effort to raise awareness of Sun Ra, and share his infectious enthusiasm, Sam Richards collected together an 'arkestra' of Devon musicians to play the music of Sun Ra's unique jazz ensemble.

Some artists familiar from their involvement in 'Jazzlab' and 'Nonclassical' events in Totnes were joined by some new faces in an impressive line-up for a festive event at the Royal Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes entitled, very appropriately, "Christmas on Saturn". Somewhere along the way, the group adopted the spectacular title of "The Heliocentric Omniversal Travelling Band".

Conducted improvisation
The show was rapidly sold out, and a large audience assembled in the function room at the top of the hotel's red-carpetted main staircase. In a relaxed atmosphere, the music started almost imperceptibly with an electronic sound-scape created by Lona Kozik and Tim Sayer from lap-tops, and 'Tall' Paul Turner (Soundart Radio's DJ XL) on turn-tables.

The first voice heard was Sam Richards, reciting a poem in honour  of Sun Ra. "Don't play what you know. Play what you don't know . . . " Lewis Riley (keyboards) and David George gently built the rhythm with the help of Steve Crossen on drums.

Otherworldly Voices:
Noelle Rollings & Gaelle Hammond
The two soprano vocalists were Noelle Rollings and Gaelle Hammond. Both appeared at  the microphone in outlandish visors covered in some sort of silvery plastic studs. The visual effect was very futuristic, in true Sun Ra style, and immediately electrifying. Gaelle's bright platinum shock-wig added further to the impact.

In perfect duet they opened the concert with the Sun Ra classic "Moonship Journey". As the music progressed into "Stranger from Outer Space" the outrageous saxophone section let rip with the full force of three tenors (Andy Williamson, Ric White & Mick Green) and baritone (Alex Lloyd). Each had his turn to stand and give an impassioned solo, accompanied by improvised dance, courtesy of Gaelle and Noelle.

Equally impressive was the 'brass section'. Tim Sayer augmented his electronic inventions with his trademark flugelhorn, in addition to virtuoso trumpet and various forms of percussion. Dave Holdsworth played several stellar trumpet solos, and also provided the resonant sustenuoto for many of the pieces on his extremely impressive silver sousaphone.

An outrageous Saxophone Section:
Alto: Andy Williamson

Tenor: Ric White & Mick Green
Baritone: Alex Lloyd
Over a period of two hours the band alternately excited and soothed the audience with the delicious extra-terrestrial sounds of Sun Ra. The band, having entered, playing their instruments, in a regal procession through the audience, sustained the intimate feeling throughout the evening - before filing out in similar fashion at the end.

A high point of the evening was Andy Williamson's invasion of the audience, in full costume and brandishing his diminutive soprano saxophone. The awesome sight of Andy towering over his adoring listeners on top of a table was matched by the exquisitely cool cadenza he was playing.

Tenor Saxophone:
Mick Green
Everyone had a solo spot. David George's occasional 'heavy metal' sound on his bass guitar was unexpected, but fitted the mood perfectly. Alex Lloyd surprised everyone by jumping from baritone saxophone to bass clarinet for a sensational woodwind solo several times. Lewis Riley's solo synthesizer spot was slow and sultry and held everyone's attention in unaccompanied isolation.

Baritone Saxophone:
Alex Lloyd
The contemplative mood continued in "Enlightment is my Tomorrow", a fabulous 'adagio' movement to the smörgåsbord of sound that was "Christmas on Saturn". The first half of the concert ended, after a timely acknowledgement of the many talented performers by Sam Richards, with a 'twisted' version of "Good King Wenceslas". The tune, which was being given the 'omniversal' treatment, is "Tempus Adest Floridum" (The Time Approaches for Flowering), and the swell and crash of sound was suitably portentious - building to a scintillating syncopated wall of sound.

Tenor Saxophone: Ric White
The seasonal theme continued after the break with "White Christmas" in a completely new arrangement, giving way to more poetry as Sam recited "Space is the Place" while Noelle and Gaelle danced seductively.

The pace and energy then built implacably, with the introduction of several percussion instruments - cowbells, bongos, tambourine, maracas and other shakers, not to mention Sam's Mardi Gras whistle. Underpinning the whole sound was Dave Holdsworth's insistent sousaphone marking out the beat, and heralding a series of woodwind and brass solos, each more fevered and unsettling than the last, including Andy Williamson's show-stopping table-top soprano saxophone shenanigans.

Lord of the Dance:
Andy Williamson
As the collective sound died away Lewis Riley slid in on synthesizer to gently work up to another medley of set-pieces, including the powerful saxophone quartet, trumpet solos from Tim and Dave - and the welcome return of Dave Holdsworth's sousaphone and the gentle crooning of Noelle Rollings & Gaelle Hammond.

Bass Clarinet:
Alex Lloyd
As the last sounds were dying away, the audience were enraptured and the general consensus was that the evening had been a great success. Many expressed the hope that "Christmas on Saturn" might become an annual event.

Chris Booth was recording the whole proceedings. The music will be broadcast on Soundart Radio before long, and extracts can be heard on this Sunday's "Classical Journey Redux" (3-6pm 20 December). Meanwhile - a few photos to give an idea of the incredible spectacle that was "Christmas on Saturn".
Brass Section:
Tim Sayer &
Dave Holdsworth
Tim Sayer

Trumpet: Dave Holdsworth
Dave Holdsworth
Turntables: DJXL
("Tall" Paul Turner)
Bass Guitar: David George

Keyboard: Lewis Riley
Drums: Steve Crossen
"Space is the Place"
Sam Richards
Noelle Rollings
Gaelle Hammond
Space Dance:
Noelle Rollings
Gaelle Hammond
Working the Room
Soprano Saxophone: 
Andy Williamson
. . . exhausted     

Gaelle Hammond
Triangle: Tim Sayer
Cowbell: Lewis Riley
Maracas: Gaelle Hammond
Mardi Gras Whistle: Sam Richards
One Shot Shakers:
Tim Sayer
     Diminuendo . . .
. . . diminuendo . . .
An appreciative audience
of space travellers
Space is the Place!