Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
The show must go on! That's what Dónall Dempsey, my partner, decided this week - our monthly poetry performance night was on Tuesday 17th June but on Sunday15th, Dónall was laid low very suddenly and very violently. When he went to the doctor's surgery on Monday morning, doubled up with pains in his abdomen, our doctor was stumped as to what's causing the pain, and tests have so far given no clue. It remains there, "like a little animal gnawing him away from inside his belly-button" as Dónall graphically describes it.
Yesterday, Saturday 14th June, we went to a great production of Twelfth Night by the Guildford Shakespeare Company, in Guildford Castle Gardens. It was a fine night - a bit windy and cool - and it was a sold-out performance. It was an absolute delight.
The company wrung from the play every moment of comedy, verbal and non-verbal. They brought it up to date as any good director of Shakespeare does, without losing any of the original script. We were not allowed to take any photos while the play was on but we snapped the cast strolling about in role before it began, Maria and Sir Andrew Aguecheek playing skittles with the children in the audience, Maria and Sir Toby Belch offering insults ("What a shabby lot!" wisecracked Maria, in character) and what looked like liquor, with an equal hand, to the adults in the front row. Duke Orsino, evidently something of a poseur, had set up a table as Poet In Residence and was signing programmes.
Emily Tucker, as Viola, was as feisty and dynamic as ever a Viola could be, and her accidental ensnaring of the heart of Olivia was quite understandable. The conversion of Rhiannon Sommers' black-veiled angry mourning virago (Olivia) into a flirtatious smitten noblewoman was accomplished with convincing ease on both parts. Sarah Gobran's perfomance was a triumph as the knowing, sexy, cleverly conniving waiting woman, Maria.
Toby Belch was played for all his drunken, rascally, worthless worth by Chris Porter, and the foolery between Maria and Sir Toby was masterfully embued with inventive stage business, both subtle and outright slapstick. Sir Andrew, played by Richard Galazka, was suitably bumbling. He could have been more lanky and yellow-haired, but his dancing had the audience roaring.
And the supernovae among all these stars were Malvolio and Feste the Fool, the enemies around which the sub-plot is built. Morgan Philpott was a Fool with a light, dry wit that almost hid his vengeful malevolence towards Malvolio until the success of the rascals' humiliating trick. His lovely tenor voice and tuneful accoustic guitar were spell-binding.
Matt Pinches as Malvolio played the part as an extraordinary persona of pomposity, obsessiveness and self-love, expressed through a piercing Edinburgh accent and a posture that suggested a sharp object had been lodged in his rectum, as he thrust out his small chest and glared stiffly at his tormentors. His costume in the well-known "cross-gartering" scene was a stroke of brilliance (I won't spoil the surprise).
This was a thoroughly entertaining evening and a memorable production of a familiar and much loved play by this talented professional Guildford-based company.
"Twelfth Night" is at the Castle Gardens, Guildford, until 28th June.
"HenryV" is to be staged in Guildford Cathedral Grounds 14th - 26th July
More info at:
We were not allowed to take any photos while the play was being performed but we snapped the cast strolling about in role before it began: above left: The Duke of Orsino (Richard Keightley) as "Poet in Residence" (with his assistant on the right in the picture); Above right: Feste (Morgan Philpott) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard Galazka). Below left: The Duke at the "Cemetery", clearly about to declaim a poem; below right: part of the set.
© Janice Windle 15th June 2014
We thoroughly enjoyed dressing up and in the personae of "Poetry Courtesans" reading to groups of "punters", at the Water Poet in Folgate Street, London E1, on 8th June. The Madam, Holly, had arranged free Prosecco and nibbles for this launch of the series. Karen McCarthy Wolf read from her book "An Aviary of Small Birds" and there was music at the end of the night. I really enjoyed reading to a small group of lovely "clients", from my collection of humorous poems, "Sticky Ends and Squiggles" and I was very gratified when they asked to buy the copy I read from!
Dónall loved the fishnet tights and eventually learned to walk in those shoes!
I'm ready for my table at the arts and crafts market in Godalming Borough Hall, where I'll be selling my work (I hope) all day on Saturday 7th June. As well as my small box canvases and prints, I have some cards based on my paintings, and some of the books we publish. I haven't done this kind of sale for a while now and I'm quite excited at the prospect. The Borough Hall in Godalming is next to Waitrose, in the centre of the town, so it should be quite busy.
Though Godalming is only about six miles from my home in Guildford, I hadn't had a good look round it before this week. We went to see the hall and then walked up the High Street exclaiming at the beautiful old buildings that line it. We'd left the camera at home, unfortunately, but on Saturday we'll take it in turns to go out and photograph what we found and more.
We did find six different charity shops in the High Street and bought ourselves some finery to wear on Sunday 8th June at the Poetry Brothel in the Water Poet, East London, which a friend of ours has organised. It's the launch of a series and we don't quite know what to expect - but dressing up and one-to-one poetry sessions seem to be features of the evening's schedule! Dónall and I have each acquired a fascinator to wear to it - his is red - so we can't really go wrong, I guess. On Monday all will have been revealed and I shall report back here.
Last week we had the pleasure of not one but two brilliant poetry nights in the most poetic city south of London - I'm talking about Paris, of course. Both cost us almost nothing on the night (just the Eurostar ticket and the Aparthotel booking!) and both were entirely enjoyable. I've spoken in a previous post about Au Chat Noir, and the other venue is Paris Lit Up, at the bar called Culture Rapide, hosted on Thursdays by Jason Francis Mc Gimsey, Kate Noakes and Emily Ruck Keene.
The very redness of the place is enough to warm the poetic cockles of your heart and we felt totally welcomed. We had spent most of the day admiring and photographing the acres of street art (some of it simple graffiti, a lot of it unarguably true art) and the thickly collaged walls of Le Culture Rapide seemed like more of the same, but with sound. As when we visited in September last year, we met a lot of very friendly poets and writers and felt very much at home by the time we came to read.
Paris Lit Up do a lot of other things as well as running open mic nights in English. Here's a link to their site where you can read more about them (http://parislitup.com/open-mic-poetry).
Today I had brilliant news - several short poems and paintings of mine, on the topic of southern Italy, have been published on a lovely website called Mediterranean Poetry. You can see them here. Anders, the editor, has made a beautiful display of them and there are lots of amazing pieces of work from other contributors to read and enjoy, too. Dónall Dempsey's "Come Viene ... Viene" was Poem of the Month in May.
When we went over to Paris last autumn we met up with two excellent poetry groups who each run weekly performance nights. We went back to Paris from Monday to Friday last week so that we could go to both again. Having arrived on Eurostar at the Gare du Nord in Monday afternoon, at 8pm we were signing up to read at the Chat Noir (76 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, near the Parmentier and Couronnes metro stations). We were pleased that David, the organiser, recognised us - or at least he recognised Dónall who is hard to forget! We also met Hanni, who was hosting that night and did a brilliant job of it. Both they and the rest of the audience made us feel very welcome.
Au Chat Noir is a café bar with an extensive basement where poetry events are held. It's very atmospheric, very warm, friendly and inclusive. There's always a big crowd of people of all ages, both performing and listening. It's a strangely muted evening, aurally, because there's no clapping - applause is by finger-snapping, to avoid disturbing the bar's neighbours through the thin old walls, especially when the evening is warm and the doors are left ajar. That doesn't prevent impassioned poetry, however. There's usually a theme - on 26th May it was Ghosts, which Dónall easily accommodated. Not everyone stuck to the theme, for which I was grateful. We particularly enjoyed the poems of John Evans, a Canadian poet whose poem about "Beige" was very vivid and performed immaculately.
Here are the videos of our own readings.