No running, no bombing

Those of you familiar with the “drill”, will perhaps have guessed that I have recently visited Poole.  For the avoidance of doubt, I also resisted the urge to indulge in any petting: heavy or otherwise.  I suppose the whole “no bombing” thing might be a slightly sore point with the denizens of Poole, given the unprovoked attack on their harbour by Imperial Japanese Forces back in 1941.  Still, they do say that tragedy plus time equals comedy: so one day this blog may be re-discovered and it will be a source of hilarity to future generations!

You will pleased to know that I was not in Poole merely for the opportunity to recycle some very old jokes in a mildly novel form – though I’ve done worse for even weaker punchlines.  I should also mention that I have been to Poole before – perhaps as a child, but a couple of times earlier this year to visit the Lighthouse.  I should clarify that this is an Arts Centre and would be entirely without utility in keeping vessels from any rocks, sandbars or shallows that might threaten them in nearby bodies of water.  On those occasions, I was there to enjoy some circus – as Poole seems to be on the UK circus circuit (or one of them).

My visit on Saturday was also linked to the Lighthouse, but the building itself is covered in hoarding and scaffolding – perhaps to install the long-awaited “light” and finally bring some succour to sailors off the Dorset coast.  While it is being rebuilt, the arts in Poole must seek  an alternate berth and over this last weekend this was provided by the Roundabout.  This is a rather superior “theatre-in-the-round-in-a-tent” – which I usually visit in the slightly down-at-heel surroundings of a courtyard at Summerhall in Edinburgh (just across from the Royal Dick).  It is currently touring the UK bringing the theatre of Paines Plough to a (hopefully – of which more later) wider audience.  This gave me an opportunity to catch a couple of plays I deliberately missed in Edinburgh in order so support the (fairly) local arts scene.

I saw two plays, with a perfectly designed slot for the theatre-goer to take an early dinner (the best kind!)  in between.  The two plays Love, Lies and Taxidermy and Growth were both excellent and shared the same cast of three.  They were both funny, moving and interesting new writing – and made very different use of the limited cast.  Perhaps thanks to my Welsh routes, LL&T was my favourite of the two – but I can heartily recommend both.

One of the cast, Andy Rush, seemed somewhat familiar.  Perusing the free(!) programme, I realised that he is now the actor I have seen most often on stage.  He also seems to have very good taste in theatre, as all four plays I have seen him in – the two on Saturday plus Hello/Goodbye and Jumpers for Goalposts – have been among my favourites from my recent years of theatre-going.  In both of Saturday’s plays, written by different people, the poor chap’s looks are referenced in a disparaging way.  The lad is liable to get an entirely unwarranted complex: for the record, he is a perfectly handsome young man and should not be investing in a veil (or sack) to cover his face.

Anyway, a very enoyable afternoon and evening of theatre: with the added joy that as I left Growth there was the glorious sight of the full moon shining on the waters that lie to the south of Poole Park like something out of a movie.  While visiting, I also discovered that Poole offers regular bus services to the Isle of Purbeck – a place I’ve been meaning ot revisit for years (my last visit wa spart of my geography field trip in 1982).

My only gripe lies with the residents of Poole and its surrounding area.  Here were two very well-reviewed plays (and not just by me) on their doorstep for the very modest price of £12 a pop and with the rest of the evening to yourself come 20:30, yet the Roundabout was barely 20% full for either.  I worry that such productions will struggle to make the financial case for visiting the south coast in future given the poor turnout.  As a result, I shall find myself forced to flee to a more cultured region – which would be annoying and probably expensive. Poole needs to buck its ideas up, or it won’t just be the Japanese bombing their harbour!

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Bifocal

Last weekend, I snuck back up to Edinburgh to take in the very end of the Fringe.  Well, it was sort of on my way to Belfast so I saved the cost of a return journey.  Usually, when in Edinburgh, I stay with friends who live a little distance from the city centre – but as this was a last minute decision, and given that buses are a little scant over the bank hoiiday weekend, I stayed in the city itself.  As is becoming a tradition when away from home, I stayed in student accomodation: which appeals to my desire for both thrift and nostalgia.  This was almost ideally placed – overlooking the Meadows and less than 10 minutes walk from all the main Fringe venues.  It was rather nice being able to pop-back between gigs and stay out after the last bus had departed (for the great garage in the sky) without having to worry about finding a cab and the cost of paying for one!  It was also very civilised strolling across the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links on Sunday morning to have brunch at Konditorei Falko: which provides a very acceptable and unhurried offering.

My little student flat was next door to the “prestigious” Quartermile development – and I worked out I could have stayed there for more than 16 years at the nightly rate for less than the smallest and cheapest apartment in that development (and that lacked my view across the Meadows or the free utilities).  It is always pleasing to lead some part of the life of the wealthy on a vastly lower budget.

Over a little less than 48 hours, I managed to take in 14 shows – a new personal best!  These were mostly quite hard to pigeonhole into a simple category, but most were really very good indeed.  They really made me appreciate the incredible variety of culture and human creativity on offer at the Fringe.  It made me realise the relatively narrow range of offerings that one can obtain via the haunted fish tank: though I rather fear that many of the things I saw would translate only poorly to that most stay-at-home of cultural media.

I shall attempt, with my hopelessly inadequate descriptive pose, to give you a flavour of a few of my favourites…

Spool: was a dance/theatre piece with two young chaps (called Murmurations) representing the mind and body of a single person.  This had some really interesting ideas and very clever use of props and I really enjoyed it.  I hope they take it further as I think there is more in it.

Folie à deux: comprised Andrew Hunter-Murray (who resisted the utge to hug me this time) and Charlotte Gittins improvising comedy for a full hour from a single word supplied by the audience.  This was some of the most enjoyable improv I have ever seen – who knew so much fun could be obtained from the word “pineapple”?  It was so good that I heard one erstwhile audience member saying he would have to re-evaluate his previous dislike of the form!

Letters from Windsor House: this was an amazingly fun theatre piece about housing in London (among many other themes) by a company called Sh!t Theatre (if it’s OK on Radio 4 at teatime, it is fine for GofaDM).  It was so good that I wish I could travel back in time and see their previous work (obviously, if I could travel back in time, there would be further potential benefits – and perhaps some risks).

Sci Fi: was a trio of actors called Singing Trees performing a comedy, sci-fi parody.  They played all the many roles and it was packed with gags and physical comedy.  It can proudly boast that it offered the best pun I have heard in a good long while.

Houdini: was a comedy/musical/magic extravaganza featuring Nick Mohammed’s character Mr Swallow with support from three others.  This somehow succeeded at being good at all three of its elements – often at the same time.  I saw the last performance and I’m fairly sure Nick was going off-script given the difficulty the rest of the cast had keeping a straight face.

Foxdog Studios: this is basically indescribable, but was the most fun I had at any show in Edinburgh this year.  There were hints of Kraftwerk, 8-bit gaming, scrap metal and a whole load more besides.  How anyone thought up the ideas and then decided to make a show out of them I do not know, but I am so glad they did.  The show used what I assume were more arduinos (arduini?), Raspberry pis, tablets, HD cameras, and other IT tech than would be contained several branches of Maplin combined (oh, and a cardboard box).  The show was part of the Free Fringe and, as an incentive to the audience to put a decent contribution into the bucket, offered veggie pasties made by one of the cast.  These were absolutely delicious – if I hadn’t been to the last performance, I would have returned to the show just to get another!  I also think that shows providing food is a very good idea and one that I wish to encourage.

Labels: was a relatively normal, one-man theatre piece by a company called Worklight.  I had missed out on seeing it in 2015 and on my earlier visit to Auld Reekie, but final caught the last show of this Fringe on bank holiday Monday.  I am so glad I finally made it as it was a really clever piece of theatre: both funny and at times shocking.  It was also oddly relevant given that I had just been reading about Pierre Bourdieu and anthropology.  Worklight have some new work in development which I shall definitely being seeking out.

All these show used five people (or fewer) and most took place in only a very modest space with no or fairly modest equipment.  It seems a pity that there isn’t a circuit for such interesting work to be a part of, and hopefully thrive on.  Much as I love going to Edinburgh, it would be nice if this kind of stuff could happen a little closer to home – and provide its performers with a year-round income.  Maybe it’s time for me to become some sort of entrepreneur and find a space and try and bring interesting productions to the south coast?  I quite like the idea, but don’t fancy the whole hassle of having to market the thing at the general public: then again, I do know a rather good salesman…

Ah, the title.  Yes, I probably ought to explain that.  While at the Foxdog Studios gig, I found that I had to be able to respond to things on a distant screen whilst controlling an avatar using the much closer screen of my mobile phone.  This did not prove straightfoward using a single pair of glasses and I fear my performance suffered as a result.  In consequence, I finally came to realise the potential benefit of bifocals – it would seem they are a must-have for the middle-aged gamer.