Bristol Old Vic and the Grinning Man

1-img_0389-001It’s shameful really, isn’t it? I’ve lived in Clevedon for over four years and I have only just had my first visit to the Bristol Old Vic… well it won’t be the last!

If you live in or near Bristol, I am sure you are very well aware of the beautiful theatre in King Street – close to Harbourside and many wonderful pubs and restaurants. As you can see from the ticket pack above, the theatre is celebrating 250 years this year, and you get a real sense of that history in the street outside and also inside the venue. It’s a gorgeous traditional space, managing to be  intimate and impressive at the same time. The backstage bar area is large, comfortable and modern. Staff members are friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed. Work is underway on improvements to the front of house, but this doesn’t in any way diminish from the pleasure of a visit.

I booked online for the evening performance of The Grinning Man this week and I must say that the booking process was really efficient and a pleasure to use. I chose tickets closer to the top end of the scale than the bottom, to be on the safe side on our first go, but I think next time I’d be more than happy with cheaper options.

The play itself is well worth seeing. It’s a macabre musical, based on the Victor Hugo book L’Homme Qui Rit  – The Laughing Man. Victor Hugo, of course, wrote Les Miserables, and this is from the same stable. So the story has treachery, cruelty and love, brought to the audience through a wonderful production incorporating puppetry, excellent acting, music and singing. The audience loved it and there was a standing ovation and much applause at the end. I’m not going to tell you more however much you ask! I’m sure you’ll easily find detailed reviews online and elsewhere, but I think knowing too much about plots in advance can spoil surprises, so that’s all you are getting from me. If you can get to Bristol before the end of the run on November 13 2016, do so! If the production moves to other theatres near you I hope you manage to see it at a future date!

I’ll leave you with that thought as I’m heading to the website right now to sign up as a Friend of the Bristol Old Vic

 

The colours of Clevedon…

There’s lots going on in Clevedon just now, thanks to The Theatre Orchard and their Theatre Shop.

We got to the pier too late to enjoy the ballet, but I love this shot: slightly misty and nostalgic. It really looks suitably Victorian to me!. You’ll need to imagine the music and the appreciative applause of the crowd…

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It’s fabulous to have so much extra going on locally, and it’s already clear that lots of people are visiting. I’ve seen Living Spit – who will be performing during the theatre season – before, and really enjoy their shows, and there is much more going on besides. So good to have performances in the community, as it really brings people together. Something, as they say, for everyone! Just have to make sure I get my tickets before everything sells out…

And, if there weren’t already enough reasons to grab your camera and mooch around the village and it’s environs, the shows add an extra buzz to the place.

In the sunshine, the colours of Clevedon really stand out. Here’s a small selection of my photographs, which I have just uploaded to my RedBubble shop – and if you really like them you can buy them on cards, prints, posters, phone cases, mugs, and even duvet covers and scarves!  Please feel free to browse!

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A Victorian gem …

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So much to do, so many things to know.

If it’s tough, in our busy world to keep up with all the new stuff going on (and it is), how much harder is it to catch up on all the brilliant writing, ideas and art from the past. But it’s well worth it to make an extra effort now and then to broaden your horizons; hear about other people’s experiences and learn from other points of view.

A few years ago I made the resolution to read some of the great authors who were passing me by. I started by making sure I read the Booker prize winners, and so got to know Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Peter Carey and the like. I also branched back into the past to catch up with Graeme Greene, Doris Lessing, Angela Carter and others. Now I make sure I read the short-listed Booker titles every year and loved this year’s crop, particularly For the time being by Ruth Ozeki, The Luminaries by  Eleanor Catton and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Such great books, full of wonderful ideas. They open new worlds and shine lights on different ways of thinking and being, which I can only be the better for absorbing.

I am learning more about art every day too. I was always poorly educated in art, being of the “I know what  I like” school, and as a result I was only ever aware of the best known old masters and modern artists. That is something I am trying to remedy too, as there is so much excellent artistry that I am only now beginning to appreciate. Lesser known but skilful illustrators and artists from times gone by, as well as innovative and imaginative artists working today.

An example of  a Victorian illustrator with a bit of a cult following is Randolph Caldecott. Born in Chester in 1846 he died at just 40 years of age in Florida, where he was on a holiday for his health, having produced a prodigious amount of art in his short life.

According to Wikipedia, Maurice (Where the Wild Things Are) Sendak said: “Caldecott’s work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book. He devised an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counterpoint that never happened before. Words are left out—but the picture says it. Pictures are left out—but the word says it.” Sendak also appreciated the subtle darkness of Caldecott’s work: “You can’t say it’s a tragedy, but something hurts. Like a shadow passing quickly over. It is this which gives a Caldecott book—however frothy the verses and pictures—its unexpected depth.”

We are auctioning a book of his – the Graphic Pictures, Complete Edition, 1898. This is a reflection of the life and style of the English middle/upper middle classes in the Victorian era. There are eight stories:

  • Mr Chumley’s Holidays
  • Flirtations in France
  • The Rivals
  • Our Haymaking
  • Mr Carylon’s Christmas
  • The Wychdale Steeplechase
  • A Hunting Family
  • A Visit to Venice

All consist of a short story, illustrated with Caldecott’s fine work, and lots to look at and think about. At the end there ia a collection of black and white illustrations and notes.

This is a hefty book, measuring about 15″ by 11″ 1″ thick. The 161 pages are gilt edged and the colour plates are printed on one side of the paper only to give an extremely high quality finish. The book itself has slight damage to the spine, and marks to the cover which you’d expect in a book that is 116 years old.  If you are interested, please do have a look at our ebay auction. Because it is such a heavy book, we are planning to offer it only in the UK, but if you are interested and prepared to pay the considerable overseas postage do get in touch for a quote.

Trunkless heads on a headless trunk ….

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Out walking yesterday in Clevedon we saw this.  Anyone know anything about it?  Intriguing!

Just goes to show how stimulating to mind and body walking can be.  You never know what you’ll see or what new food for thought you will be gifted with.  Plus physical benefits of improved strength and balance, while burning some calories and getting your heart and lungs working.

Really, walking is The Thing!

Television is good …

— provided you are watching the right things.

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This week I have been happy to have a television to be able to watch BBC’s Horizons on whether Fat or Sugar is worst for you, and their documentary on the mysteries of Easter Island.

I won’t go into depth – watch the programmes is my advice – but I will remember these programmes for a long time.

The Fat/Sugar programme was presented by identical twin doctors, Xander and Chris, one working in the US and one in UK.  Being genetically identical, you could put any differences wrought on their bodies by a diet to the diet.  One went on a sugar only diet – processed stuff but also fruit, veg and carbs but no fat or dairy, and the other on fat and protein only.  The end result was that both these diets are bad for you, but that it is really hard to overeat on either.  The combination that is killing us in the West is fat and sugar in a 50:50 mix.  This a combination that you never find in natural foods (apparently – don’t tell me if that’s wrong!) and so humans don’t have on ‘off’ switch for them.  Basically we will gorge on them until we pop.  So stick to natural foods, avoid the processed stuff, and regulating your weight is relatively easy, provided you exercise.

So the mysteries of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it will now be for me.  I watched programs about this as a child and imagined the island to be an uninhabited grassy island in the middle of the Pacific, dotted with the immense statues of their ancestors – the Moai.  The story was that the people on the island had cut down all the trees in the effort of erecting the Moai, and as a result had wreaked an environmental disaster upon themselves.

Not so.

The islanders lived an environmentally balanced life in their isolated home, managing resources and the environment for centuries.  Their downfall was the arrival of Europeans.  As we are realising we are about the last people on Earth to understand how to live in harmony with the environment, so this moment signed disaster for the populace.  First, the visitors brought disease – probably colds and the flu – which the natives had never been exposed to and so were decimated by.  These first visitors were followed 50 years later by more, who captured the Rapa Nui men to go and work in the mines in Chile and people who bought land from them for minimal sums, confining them to the one town on the island, and importing thousands of sheep to graze the land.

As nations rarely dwell on the things they should be ashamed of, all this has been hidden in the distant pass, and the uninhabited land became a genuine mystery. However, a rich English amateur archaeologist wrote a book in Victorian times, when she interviewed at length the Rapa Nui elders who remembered stories of the old days.  Presumably this book has recently been rediscovered, and the truth has been uncovered.

There are people back on the island, beginning to undo the damage as far as they are able.  As one young woman said, in so many words:  just because it will be hard work, that is no reason not to try.  Amazing.

And thank you, BBC, for these great programmes!

(What does the photo have to do with this?  Nothing!)