Thursday, 30 June 2011

'A Corner of the Ocean' at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

‘Thank God!’ was the first statement I made, after the four actors had taken their final bow, ‘I’m normal.’

Because we all have moments of confusion, frustration, despair and clarity – states of mind so imaginatively and comically highlighted by Jammy Voo’s A Corner of the Ocean, a tale of four women’s lives in the aftermath of the disappearance of a diver we never meet.

This hour long piece of theatre is an intense and dark experience that holds your attention throughout. There’s so much going on that it’s impossible to take your eyes off the stage for even a moment: so many cultural references, so much of life given to the audience that, as soon as I finished watching, I wanted to see it all over again.

The use of puppetry is sublime, the writing excellent and the acting first-rate. Although there are four actors on stage, all of whom could easily stand alone, this is a 6-person show – as my theatre companion and friend, Viv, pointed out, the man with the guitar and voice {so much more than a sound guy} is the glue of the piece and it couldn’t have worked without him. And the lighting technician really comes into his own with the spinning, illuminated hand puppetry.

A papier mach̩ newspaper figure that reaches out from the memo board is delightfully threatening and the faux-fur creature who throttles the neck of our Norwegian actor is sinister yet hilarious Рthis woman is a skilled puppeteer, to be sure.

Dance, song and thought provoking words make for a collective work of art that is deserved of a Tobacco Factory Theatre audience, a venue that continues to attract must-see, inspirational theatre.


Watch a little of A Corner of the Ocean here.

Tobacco Factory Theatre website

- by Becky

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Pitch-a-Tent at Puxton Park

We erected our tent at Puxton Park to overcast skies on a thankfully dry evening. We hadn’t brought very much with us: you learn to camp light when you need to and, anyway, we’d only be here for 18 hours – the doors opened at 4pm on Saturday and all tents were packed away by 10 the next morning, plus the burger bar complimented the fruit and biscuits we’d bought from the Farm Shop there, which took the whole cool box and stove carrying out of the equation, though some people did light their own barbeques.

In all, 17 tents were pitched at the circumference of the ‘Main Arena,’ leaving plenty of space for the kids to run and play, if needed. But really, with so much to do here, we only went to the camping area to sleep.

Our first stop {and one we returned to often over the hours that followed} was the jumping pillow and, with so few people at Puxton, I was able to bounce as hard and as high as I could, delighting my daughter. This may have been the best part of spending an evening as a camper – we felt as though we had the place to ourselves. The Play Barn was open till 9:30pm, which is also when the toilets closed. Throughout the evening, three keen young lads strummed their guitars and sang barely audible numbers at the entrance to the building, next to the burger van on the other side of the doors. We slid, bounced, crawled, swung and squealed our way through a couple of hours.

At 8:30pm we passed the cows, goats, sheep, ponies, chickens and alpacas and all trotted down to the Twilight Zone for a highly entertaining owl display, where we learned a few things about these creatures’ habits. Children and adults got to be hand perches for a range of birds and the Owl Guy, who clearly loves his job, had us all taking part in some way, even if only through our laughter and listening.

Then we went back outside for a sheep race. We were giving betting slips, so C decided on Sheep Number 6, who didn’t win but that was fine because everyone got a lollipop prize. Next we were treated to a slightly wild trip around the Park on a cart, pulled along by a big red tractor, The Wurzels playing loudly in our ears. Completely bizarre and very Somerset. We absolutely loved it.

I barely had time to catch my breath when she pulled me over to the wooden fort as the sun went down. Finally it was time for bed with no resistance from a happily exhausted almost 5-year old.

We awoke to full sunshine, had a touch of breakfast in The Meadows restaurant and then made our way to The Barn for some more sliding and twisting – all by 8:30am. We found our way once more to the jumping pillow, where she perfected her gambol, and then we went to say ‘Hello’ to the adorable new-born piglets, snuggled up with Mummy Pig. A quick look in the Falconry Centre and time for one more swing before collapsing the tent and packing the car. Another stop at the Farm Shop for Sunday’s bread and milk to take to our home, just 10 minutes away.

My only problem with this £10 a night Pitch a Tent at Puxton Park is that they don’t do it more often. We would go at every available opportunity. It’s the most relaxed camping trip that we have ever been on. And that’s saying something.

A big thank you to all the staff, who were so friendly and very helpful. And to Clover the Cow :-}

- by Becky

Friday, 10 June 2011

Sunrise Celebration Festival 2011

It’s fair to say that we were both super-excited about our first festival together, though it’s fairer to say that I was the more excited of the two, being the only one who actually knew what a festival entailed. She just thought she was going camping and the experience would be something akin to sitting in a field with a theatre – how do you explain the British weekend festival to a four-year old?

Best to just take her there.

We had everything on our side really: it was half term week, the weather was astoundingly good and Sunrise Celebration is only a short car journey across the beautiful Mendip Hills to Bruton, just this side of Frome. And we’d managed to borrow a wheelbarrow from our neighbour – thanks Tim.

We arrived, got our pass and put everything bar the rucksack into the barrow. I was loathe to traipse miles with our load and a little girl who just wanted to get into the still bagged-up tent, but all the marshalls I asked {about a dozen of them} couldn’t tell me where to camp. They said it was mad-busy, most of the revellers having already arrived and set up.

So, I panicked a bit and found a space wherever I could, squeezed between two tents, thus becoming a guy-rope hazard. It didn’t matter too much, we spent so little time in the tent anyway and I don’t really think we annoyed anyone else. Someone lent me a mallet and another neighbour held the tent up in the wind while I pegged it securely to the dry ground. The friendliness began.

I’ve never been to a festival with a young child before and, in this respect, there’s nowhere else I can compare it to. But I can’t imagine that any festival could be as family friendly as this one. Throughout we felt safe, secure, welcome and at ease.

The Ladybird Tent was awesome, full of helping hands, happy kids and loads of activities. Here, we heard stories about Irish giants, made dreamcatchers and masks, drew pictures and relaxed. Then, in the Forest Area, we listened to an hour’s worth of stories, without a sigh of boredom, whilst enjoying leek and root vegetable soup and stone-baked bread.

Bug catching in the rolling green field that was overlooked by Sunset Boulevard was a highlight, kids everywhere, exploring, running, learning. We caught aphids, parasitic wasps and beetles with a big, white net. In the Tin Village, we sat with a family of travellers and made books and did a little sewing. In the main arena, we sat on the ‘Practise Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty’ bus, where she played very happily in the ball pit upstairs and a very nice woman brought me a free coffee first thing on a Saturday morning.

We rolled on birthing balls in the Green Dome Tent, courtesy of the Holistic Birthing team. We listened to some kind of chanting therapy, Celeste with her mouth wide open again, taking it all in. She was still singing the ‘Red River Roll’ chant ten hours later. On Sunday morning, she played the drum in Floating Lotus Free Jam Tent, as kids on stage performed parts of Smoke on the Water and Cocaine {without lyrics} in a music workshop, over and again.

Musically, we enjoyed funk, reggae and folk in the excellent Chai Wallahs’ Tent – thank you Leigh Coleman, Mankala, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. At the Spit and Sawdust we danced to the Ten O’Clock Horses as the sun went down and, at Floating Lotus, we had great fun with the Red Hot Frilly Knickers burlesque dancers, followed by a spot of English folk. We stared into a fire and gave ourselves ice-cream mouths.

As Celeste tried to get to sleep in her pink and yellow blanketed wheelbarrow, we listening to a poet rant on about lucid dreaming at Rag Tongue, their generator powered by bicycles. I wonder what she imagined that night?

Sunrise Celebration Festival is a true treat, with plenty of places to sit inside and out, hardly any queues and many happy faces. Please, allow me to say a word about the compost toilets, which were, undoubtedly,the best I have ever seen at any festival – clean and well stocked. My daughter was conscientious about pouring wood chippings down the hole everytime she had even a wee.

Oh and I managed most of the challenges – not to get drunk, to chill and go with the flow and to sit in the tortoise and eat grapes with bunny ears on. I didn’t make a penpal but I did have plenty of chats with some very friendly people.

Congratulations, Sunrise, all round. Even when it rained on the Sunday, we loved it and there was plenty to do. And for the first time in my life, I returned home feeling refreshed and ready to face real life.

See you when the sun comes up next year.