Old Hall Hotel, 22 July
Wyn Hobson returned to the Fringe with a fresh selection of poems about love. The room in the Old Hall Hotel (rather than downstairs in the Pauper's Pit) was a much more appropriate setting, despite the odd noise from outside.
The recital was clearly rehearsed thoroughly, and the introductions and poems flow effortlessly throughout. His delivery is excellent: perfectly timed, clear, and never over-exaggerated. He allows the works to speak for themselves, but subtly emphasises the defining moments and lines that may not fully come alive when read on the page.
The real skill and value in this is the outstanding judgement and effort put into the selection. Older classics like Shakespeare, John Donne and Ben Jonson are intermingled with current writers including Kate Clanchy, James Fenton and Sheenagh Pugh. There are some very serious, moving works. 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' by WB Yeats was a definite highlight. There are some rather lighter and more frivolous pieces. Kate Clanchy's 'Guenever' was very entertaining and is well worth looking up, as is 'Disappointed and Happy' by Anna Swir (translated from Polish by G. Baran and M. Marchment - I was a little surprised to see a work in translation on the programme, but even if it had lost some subtlety on the way it was still very clever).
While it may not be everyone's thing to sit and listen to poetry, it's a pity there weren't more people there. It's a great chance to be introduced to a huge range of excellent poets, and hear them read as well as this.
The Shrewsbury Room, Old Hall Hotel
Ian Newton tells a story, a story of one man's role in the art market in the latter years of the 19th and the early 20th centuries. That man was Joseph Duveen.
Now, like me you make be wondering who this man was. Well, it seems he was a large cog in the wheelings and dealings in the trade in major art works in Europe and America. It is essentially a tale of rising from relatively humble beginnings to become one of, if not the most, famous art dealer of his generation.
There are tales of deals, misdeeds, sharp practice and a genuine eye for a market. It seems that this chap would not be too out of place in today's competitive art world.
Now, like me, you may well of heard of some of his clients; Andrew Mellon and the Duke of Westminster for example. However, the name of Joseph Duveen was a new to me. But one, that after this informative show, I may well go out and research further.
Old Hall Hotel 17-19, 24-25 July, 2pm and 3pm
Fringe Readings are an age old tradition at Buxton. Despite having lived here forever, and attending huge numbers of Fringe events for more than a decade, I have never been to one. This is the 30th anniversary though, and certainly about time to celebrate all the quirky events that go on as part of the festivities.
It's a simple concept: one performer reading to an avid audience in the quiet comfort of the Old Hall Hotel's bar. More Tam Lin than Tam Hinton. At most you get a hint of a foreign accent.
Today's pieces were all written by Alan Coren, very wittily written and entertaining, and a diverse selection chosen and read by Peter Low. The first passage described various attempts to call world leaders (the Pope, Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro etc.) to wish them well and have a pleasant conversation. The second was a scene inspired by the discovery of a Roman tax collection depot in the upper Thames. Glutinous Sinus and Miscellaneous Onus interviewed an occasionally Cockney "Mr Cooper" (diversifying into flour production, and considering a name change to "Cooper-Miller" on the grounds the wife might like it). The final selection was a gentle swipe at Health and Safety, with three grumpy old men trying to avoid being assaulted by poppy sellers. All good stuff, but take heart if you don't like the sound of this: all the readings will be different each day, so there's bound to be something for everyone.
Various pleasantries have no doubt been written about all this in the past and I'm loathe to replicate them. It certainly is a pleasant and relaxing way to spend an afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Fringe. It's tempting to criticise, of course, but there is nothing to really dislike. The only thing that irritated me was the rude young couple who came in late and made lots of noise, and the deep thrumming of the fridge in the background.
18 July (Saturday) is aimed specially at children.
Grove Hotel, Tuesday 21 July, 7.30pm
The Word Wizards were welcomed back again this year, and again provided a delightful and varied programme for an enthusiastic audience. I know I was a little bit sceptical last year, but this year I went fully embracing my 'inner squirrel' as requested. I didn't read anything, but willingly took part as a judge. Judges sit in the audience anonymously awarding points to the performers, and can choose to either go their own way or listen to the rapturous applause and shrieks of delight around the room.
Knowing what to expect this time around perhaps made it a little easier for me to concentrate on the poetry. There were plenty of familiar faces from last year, and hearing individual poems again gave me chance to appreciate some subtleties I'd missed the first time. But there were new performers with a full range of experience on show as well, and the standard overall was very high. Again, the local area is the inspiration behind much of the material (a couple of very striking works about significant events in particular) as well as the running themes of human life: ageing, relationships, shoes, and animals. All the performers were very good, and the range and variety is certainly a real strength from the point of view of the audience and budding performers: there's something for every taste, and a real feeling that any style or standard would be welcomed. It would be nice to see a few younger people in the group, and young poets (certainly a few that I've come across) would benefit from interacting with a more mature and ingenuous community.
The evening's host and presenter Rob Stevens didn't compete this time, having to step in to the role of judge for the first time. It was reassuring to hear him conceding how difficult it was. You're comparing soulful, introspective pieces with storytelling and outright comedy. The main factor in deciding, we were told, was "what you like". I expect this does produce very different results from week, meaning that different styles aren't overlooked on a consistent basis. And although it's a competition, everything is good-natured. There wasn't a 'final' this year so aside from the superb prize (a Fringe edition Word Wizards mug), the main reward is simply a bit more time to read. Jack Reagan won again this year; his fellow performers graciously urged him to utilise his winnings hosting a tea party.
This really is exactly what the Fringe is about. It's inclusive, it encourages people who are just starting or who have been performing for years, and is all done with real spirit and commitment.
For those of you who haven't come across them, the Word Wizards do this on the last Tuesday of every month (do email firstname.lastname@example.org for details) and again, I thoroughly recommend that you join them. And take your kids. It'll be educational.
Philip Holland delivered, with feeling and gusto, a rich variety of poetry in differing styles, structure and content; in his own words from the serious to the silly. There was something to please everyone, whether it be to provoke a smile or make you ponder, interspersed with appropriate snippets of well played piano pieces. There was love, tragedy, dialect, animals and the weather drawn from life's experiences, which I was able to immediately relate to. Simple titles belied the depth of observation of their author.
Recommended whether you know Philip's poetry or not. You simply must hear a disappearing poem and what happens on the wedding night of a sloth.
Charles Christian is a story teller. He trawls his own childhood and adolescence for amusing stories. Imaginary summer holidays in northern seaside town Scarborough avoiding deadly conger eels, hanging around toilets, and scavenging lead to the circumstances in the headline title.
He has a host of clear memories of being a teenager in the sixties which he blames on growing up north of Watford. No van, a man with a hollow leg, and a very small car all played a part in Charles coming of age.
His material is good, but the delivery by a nervous performer on his first night lacked engagement. Charles needs to be proud of what he does and look his audience in the eye. The subsequent performances on 13th & 14thJuly at 2:15pm will be worth catching.
The Slopes Café Bar, 19th July 2009
Billed as an "evening of raw and gritty social commentary", The Glasshouse didn't disappoint. Organised by poet Ali Shaw from Chesterfield and sound technician Dan Lafferty from Buxton, it was an entertaining and challenging event of music and spoken word.
The gig began with The Rays a rock band from Buxton performing original numbers.
The Glasshouse was a late entry to the Fringe and didn't make it into the printed programme. The bands and poets each brought their supporters with them so there was a good crowd, but with earlier and greater publicity next time (and I hope there is a next time) they would reach a wider Fringe audience.
As a newcomer to the Buxton Fringe experience, I was on the lookout for a show which might capture the essence of a mature and self-confident fringe in its prime. "The Spoken World of Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbread" caught my eye, but I wondered whether the world I was about to be sucked into would leave me queasy or uncomfortable. But the show was mesmerizing and thought-provoking and the audience captivated - I need not have worried.
Mark's world view deconstructs our everyday lives, examining our suppressed urges, materialist tendencies and packaged lives. His theatrical delivery and poetic word-play occasionally hints at Dylan Thomas, Roger McGough and at time Edgar Allen Poe, but in the end, is all his own.
Billed as Spoken Word, this underplays the complexity of Mark's unique genre. His stories are imaginatively enhanced by an evocative sound-track created by music, percussion, and vocals of Psychicbread and the effect is spell-binding. Mark plays the flute, Nick the Hat delivers Kora, Guitars and Kalimba. Louise Swain plays keyboard, groove box, an array of percussion and adds atmospheric vocals and John Thorn is on drums. All these sounds cleverly interweave with each other in the skillful hands of sound engineer, John McGrother.
Overall, this was a very rewarding exotic fringe experience, not to be missed. Unfortunately, Mark's show was a one-off evening experience at the fringe this year, but no doubt he will be back - watch out for the Psychicbread and book tickets early next year!
Paupers' Pit, Old Hall Hotel - Remaining Show: 22 July (10pm)
DON'T CALL ME DR CORNELIUS - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Tucked away in the 'Spoken Word' category and featuring a hairy self-titled poet may suggest an hour of genteel eco-friendly stanzas on the terrors of global capitalization and the usual suspects - far from it!
Matt Panesh does give us verse, but it's seamlessly integrated into an hour of full blown comedy which slow burns nicely into a an 'Adult Only' roasting session...best enjoyed with a broad mind (and broader anal cavities). Fear not though if you're a tad sensitive as partway Matt does 'ask the audience' whether they prefer the remainder of the show to be clean cut or the uncensored version...
Matt starts by welcoming himself to the UK by providing an amusing potted distillation of his lineage which crosses many foreign borders. Themes of integration and economics mingle with the Romantic Poets and join forces to render a hilarious, non pc portrayal of life today...as we know it!?!
Then comes the aforementioned sex part - it's hardcore but pretty-in-pink rather dripping with bodily excretions (though they do feature). Walking such a taboo high wire is risky but Monkey P gets by on warmth of delivery and personality - there's no ranting or calculated shock factor - just the honest musings of a likeable down n out with a hint of vintage Billy Connolly's mannerisms. Once engaged it's hard to take offence - apparently four people did walk out on the first night at The 2007 Indianapolis Fringe - I'm sure Matt apologized to them afterwards, as he did post-show to the lady who exited early during this show.
This is a gem of a show featuring a memorably engaging performer who's naughty but nice with it - it deserves success next month in Edinburgh where it's being re-titled 'Stand Up Monkey Poet'.
On a personal note, it's great to see a performer drink their alcohol with such relish.
At the start of the performance the stage was empty. A relaxing acoustic guitar blended with a charcoal graphic which grew as we watched in the centre of the white, brightly lit video screen. A quite hidden voice then described the factory town which would become the background of the story of Owen and Sarah.
This is a beautiful mystery tale which holds you to the end. Its characters are simple working folk described with common language, including clichés and humour, depicting their day to day lives. But as soon as the enigmatic brass key surfaced it quickly became the object of our focus, but, this was also a story of people, loss and acceptance.
Sophie Tilley has a lovely voice with changes in accent and timbre to reflect the different characters themselves and the changes in the mood of the story. However, these changes were slight enough to be effective but did not spoil the flow and mood of the tale. The occasional accompanying music blended well with the narration providing variation and atmosphere.
Despite the hook in the story and the variety provided by occasional pauses and accompanying music, I did wonder whether 45 minutes was a little too long for this format, but then I wouldn't want to remove anything from the prose. It was a beautiful story which I know I will retell to friends, probably over a campfire, or something similar, late on a summer evening.
I enjoyed both the graphics and the music and if you ever decide to publish the story, I will buy the first copy.