Friday, October 26, 2012

5 Reviews....Blimey!!

WOW! 5 Reviews written in 1 day!!  This is a 1st....and probably a Last!

" The First Time Ever I Saw Doc Faustus...."

Summer 1968.

One weekend, I went with my parents to the gentle spa town of Malvern in Worcestershire. We stayed in a rambling old house on a hill in the roomy top floor apartment of a distant relation ( his CV: son of an aunt-in-law's sister/ Maths master at Malvern college/dignified academic/voice deeply rich  as cocoa)
His home was full of books, papers, photographs, dark furniture, velvet sofas...he was away but we were there, principally for a swift break and for a visit to see Eric Porter ( of " The Forsyth Saga")  star in the RSC's stunning production of " Dr Faustus". ( see 1968 programme here)

I hadn't seen a production since until Wednesday afternoon this week. BUT I've sometimes remembered that 1968 treat. I've remembered driving home from Stratford in summer dark, my folks chattily murmuring in the front of the car ( Sunbeam Raper, was it??)..... me, shivering still at the magical language of the play while trees flashed by as we travelled, me curled on the backseat, still  marvelling at the monstrosity of The Seven Deadly Sins.....
ANYHOW, on Wednesday, a friend and I treated ourselves to a film showing of The Globe Theatre's production of "Dr Faustus". This one starred Paul Hilton as Dr and Matthew Dunster was Creatives Director. 
IT was a DELIGHT. It was a delight, particularly visually and audibly ( great clashing music to scream by/shiver by....BUT yes, I know, "Delight" seems totally the wrong word!!) ........BECAUSE this production was grotesque, blatant with evil.....darkly sinister, gut wrenching. The set ( in the superb Globe) was fabulous....costumes varied and scaring......ugly, horrific, gorgeous, comic. In fact, there was lots of roaring comedy in this production...almost pantomime, linking in crazily with the terror and magic. I was totally gripped..... to the very last view of this vivid and memorable treat. ......Sheer Delight!

****ALSO this week went to M/Chester Opera House for a production of Agatha Christie's " Mouse Trap" It's touring to celebrate its 60th Birthday. We guessed The Killer pretty fast.....BUT as commanded by one of the ators as the curtain fell, we won't divulge the truth to anyone who has yet to see it....! .Posted by Picasa

"Once Upon A Time, When People Sent Postcards......"

There's a distinct lack of postcards arriving at my house these days. No jolly or exotic, funny or arty ones land on my doormat anymore.

In the past, we'd pick them up, read them, stick them on our kitchen cupboards.....where they'd ( colourfully//gaudily) remain........YES, OK, they'd collect dust and grease and nosy folk's finger marks.....but they brightened up our kitchen no end...reminding me of family and friends whenever I cast a glance upwards....BUT OH DEAR! rarely do we receive any postcards now....

BUT YES, when I've had the sad bewildering ( sometimes surprising?) task of clearing out the cupboards and drawers belonging to deceased family, I've found countless postcards...some dating back to the start of the last century...and these postcards have been a wonderful chronicle of the lives of my " ancestors"....

But alas no more. Blame emails, mobiles, texts, exhorbitant costs?? ....Oh dear!

Writer Angela Carter ( 1940 -1992) sent postcards. She certainly did. She sent lots to her friend Susannah Clapp**  and Clapp has sorted them together to feature in her slender little book called : " A card from Angela Carter".... which clearly shows Carter's unique and fetching use of well as her quirky brilliant  imagination....
SO last Sunday, Susannah Clapp talked with us as part of Chester Lit Fest. We learned lots about Angela Carter as both writer and woman. Much was revealed through her postcards, as well as through Susannah Clapp's affectionate tribute as a close friend...

** Susannah Clapp has been publisher, editor, radio critic of Sunday Times, theatre critic of New Statesman, book reviewer, contributor radio and theatre critic of Observer since 1997.**

*******AND MORE WOMEN WRITERS seen at Chester Lit Fest this week:
2 poets from our NW region came yesterday: Rebecca Goss and Mary Robinson, who " duetted" their work to acclaim in the Court Room at the Town Hall yesterday lunchtime. They read from their collections: Rebecca's ( " The Anatomy of structures")  and Mary's ( " The Art of Gardening")
Says it all that I bought both books, one as a pressy for someone who m knows Mary's part of the world like the back of 'er 'and.....

Pat Barker: "Toby's Room"

 A QUESTION: HAVE you ever been to wonderful Llanhydrock ( House) in Cornwall? There, you can marvel at its grounds, its stately rooms, its beauty...
BUT, to me, the most memorable part of MYy visit ( some years ago) was seeing the bedroom of a long-ago son of the household...the son who left to fight in the 1st World War...the son who never came home.

AND here's the cover of Pat Barker's intriguing book, her latest: " Toby's room". And this cover is so touchingly reminiscent of what we saw at Llanhydrock, what we saw of a soldier son's room........

"Toby' Room" is Barker's 1st novel for 5 years.... and judging from the reactions of the LitFest  audience last Saturday at The University, it's welcomed warmly.
It's a story of war, its aftermaths, of love, grief and friendship, of secrets,...of incredible injury, of superb doctors, incredible pioneers in a field of medecine we gasp at with stark admiration...

AND Pat Barker talked vividly about writing her book, her characters, some of whom we met in her Regeneration Trilogy...she discussed her research..... and she answered many intriguing queries forming in our minds along the way. AND as Barker says, " Toby's room" can be enjoyed on its own OR as sequel...

Certainly hope we don't wait ANOTHER 5 years for such a treat...........
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Simon Armitage's Workshop

Last Friday, an excellent poetry workshop in Chester Town Hall , led by Simon Armitage. A mere hour long...but there was so much to think about, write about, learn about...a very valuable experience which all attending much appreciated.                                                          
Simon had us working very hard on our it so briefly...and at the end, we saw glimpse and flashes and sparks that ( hopefully) would blaze into poems....perhaps they have by now!! Altogether a precious hour....SO fingers X Simon Armitage will lead a longer workshop here in Chester ASAP!
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"GObbleDEEbook....Gallops into Chester"

Posted by PicasaGobbleDEEbook is Chester LitFest's highly successful children's festival. AND it runs the length of Halfterm....a VERY good move for parents/grandparents, believe me!!
On Monday we took 2 of our grandchildren along: see grandson G performing magic with writer Tracey Corderoy.We enjoyed 2 excellent events: 1st. Tracey, with her book about Monty and Milli Mouse....followed by crime writer ( in her other life) Val McDermid ( I'm hooked on her accent!) with her book " My Granny is a pirate". AND in both events, the children listened, watched, made crafty stuff, drew pictures...talked about it....hopefully such a super festival will go on and on and on.......

Saturday, October 20, 2012

" A Beaming Smile From Patrick Gale...."

Here's writer Patrick Gale in St Mary's Centre, Chester.
He's signing copies of his latest book, entitled: "A Perfectly Good Man".

Patrick guested at Chester Literature Festival ( on Thursday, reading from his book and talking with us about his approaches to writing.

I've already enjoyed the book and I guess it'll appeal hugely. If you've not read it, Patrick's latest is a masterpiece in story telling.... it's the tale of a Cornish parish priest ( but there's SO much more)....and having heard Patrick's words, it's good to know HOW it was written.....
BUT  my favourite of Patrick's is his partly autobiographical novel:" Rough Music".
Both totally involving Reads......

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

" On Stage At The Grosvenor Museum..."

 Aled Lewis Evans is a Welsh poet who lives locally. He's currently working with Sue Hughes, Director of Chester's Grosvenor Museum, on their forthcoming exhibition on Medieval Chester ( see my post last week)

SO on Monday, on the stage of the Museum's lecture theatre.... and beneath a mass of glorious paintings, Aled led a workshop for my writing class on the topic of " Borders". Chester is on the border of England and Wales and much of her development (past and present)  reflects this. Clearly this ties up with our thoughts on writing about a medieval city.....

SO we brainstormed a host of ideas...countless examples of "borders" emerged....geographical, historical, religious....abstract tangible, imaginary, social ones...also those borders of the mind, of relationships, of understanding....the topic is immense and the ideas of the group ranged wide.

SO hopefully there'll be plenty of writing emerging for the exhibition next May...
** Snap shows us at table with Aled ( leading our workshop at table's head) .
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Friday, October 12, 2012

" Wonderful Woman Writer Wows Whitworth..."

One of my favourite short story collections has always been Penelope Lively's " Pack of Cards"....

AND once I read somewhere that Lively describes a short story as " a concentrated beam of light"....that the novel is " a more expansive and dispersed reflection"...
Brilliant distinction.

On Wednesday, Penelope Lively was guesting at M/Chester Lit Fest (  talking with us, her rapt audience....mainly women ( but lots of decades covered!) the Whitworth Art Gallery.

And on Wednesday, I learned that 3 important books in the life of Lively are : "The Inheritors" by William Golding...."The Good Soldier" by Ford Maddox Ford... and "What Maisie knew" by Henry James.
AND I must admit I've only read one of 'em!

Great to meet her... hear her wonderful views on both reading and writing.
** And in the snap, her most recent and elegantly written novel " How It All Began"...

"The Last Of The Haussmanns..."

Yesterday, in a local cinema, we enjoyed a National Live Theatre broadcast.
This was Stephen Beresford's first play " The last of the Haussmanns", where the protagonist is hippy/60's drop-out Judy Haussmann, a feisty elderly rebel from high society background...superbly played by Julie Walters ....back in theatre after a 12 year abscence.
The story tells of a loopily... ( BUT I suppose this depends where you're coming from!!)....  beguiling family, who live ( on/off) in a scruffy beautiful Art Deco seaside house. They come together at the end of an era...or probably more correctly, at the end of their several eras...........
AND the play brims overflow with what seems like everything any family could experience ( be it more crazily than your average!).......there's love, hatred, sex, booze, drugs, death, affairs, misunderstandings, reconciliations....
It has got THE LOT! .
Helen McCrory is compelling as daughter Libby, Rory Kinnear perfect as son Nick ...and there's great performances from Matthew Marsh, Taron Egerton and Isabella Laughland.
AND certainly looking forward to more of Stephen Beresford....

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

"Grosvenor Museum Comes To Hoole...."

Today the Hooleigans ( my writing group) were invited to take part in Chester Grosvenor Museum's major Exhibiton called "Discover A Medieval City: Places, Voices, Journeys".

This takes place at the Museum from May until September we have lots of time to provide prose and poetry...!

Sue Hughes, Director of  Museum, and Curator Elizabeth, a previous visitor to my class ( see my post dated 29:7:10 re. her Vikings Exhibition ) came to class today... and gave a great presentation which has left us with thoughts, images, and ideas...which we hope to weave into words by Christmas!!

" Writer, Reading From The Hearth: A Visitor From Afar..."

Here in *Bishop Lloyds Palace*, Watergate St, is playwright Esther Wilson. She's not exactly from Afar....Liverpool is a mere 18 miles distant from Chester.
Yesterday, Esther visited LitFest Friends to talk with us about her writing life.
Esther is an **award winning writer** who was mentored by Jimmy McGovern. This led to her writing gripping episodes for his superb successes: " The Street", " Accused" and " Moving on".

Esther has also written plays for Radio 4, including 15 miniute dramas on R4 in the shape of " The Pursuits Of Doreen Fyles" ..( great  title!) ..which tells of a girl with learning difficulties who is obsessed by the emergency services!
And recently, we watched BBC Period Drama ( the '50's) .." Call The Midwife"...featuring Vanessa Redgave, Jenny Agutter.. and Miranda Hart in her 1st " serious"(?!) role. Esther scripted the heart pounder episode" The Baby Snatcher" .
Good to meet Esther ( and ask her lots of questions!) and we hope she'll keep in touch.

* B.L. Palace: Bet you noticed the fabulous fireplace! BLP was built for a Bishop of Chester from 1604-1615. The fireplace, it's rumopured, was moved from another building during the Civil War.See:
** Esther's awards include: a BBC Northern Exposure Award for a very short film, an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for her play " Unprotected" and a Mental Health in Media Award for Best Drama.