Poetry 2017

Working on poems

Sunday 24th September 2017

Back in March this year I had my first poetry week – seven days during which I did no other work than editing and transcribing my poetry. It was a successful project and so I marked up another week –  from 18th September to 24th September. As with my last project, much of the work was about transcribing hand-written poems into word processing documents and printing them out for the Poetry folder. During the week I worked on 80 of my poems, transcribing them into the current anthology.

The project allowed me to become reacquainted with my early poems, just as it did last time. As before, I was impressed by the quality of some of pieces I composed in the 1960s through to the 70s; others I just left in place as a record and archive – having looked at them and judged them to be too poor to justify even the work of typing them. In those early days, my approach to writing was spontaneous; there was no planning, no premeditation. I just sat down with some paper and wrote. Whatever came into my brain I committed to paper. That is not something I can do these days. During the 60s I was very given to writing in decametres – lines with ten syllables. I loved the way the thing flows and its rhythms and I still do. It is, however, an outmoded style of poetry – a bit like a contemporary composer writing a piece of music that sounds like Mozart.

Reading through my teenage poems put me in touch with myself, the self I had some fifty years ago. Having edited a large number of pieces, I began to think like my teenage alter ego. A couple of pieces were turned into metrical versions just so they would fit more into the flow of the work of that period. In doing this I had to be careful not to alter what the piece was about or to add new material that was not in some way or other present in the original. An example of this is The ever dying men, 1968, where I gave each line ten syllables but took great care not to doctor the content. It is still the same poem; it is just presented differently.

Some pieces I looked at and thought it was not worth the effort of typing them; they were just so bad. A few poems were transferred to my Journals – these were written like pieces of prose and lacked either poetic form or content. Now much of the Poetry folder has been committed to type and only a small number of pieces remain in their hand written format. When I was working on some of the poems, I thought they were worthy of a complete re-edit and that I might one day compose them again, afresh. Several of my early works went though a number of versions before being placed in one of the anthologies.

Reserving time for a project – setting aside days for working on something specific – has been, I think, useful and beneficial. These two weeks of poetry time have seen a lot done that would otherwise not have been done. It is an approach I might use for other aspects of my work.

It might be some time before I work on poetry again. In a life spent doing many other things, there are few opportunities for making poems; there is little now that inspires me and rouses my passions. Too little in today’s life to be passionate about. I rarely write poetry these days because I cannot seem to find subjects, as once I could. I would not sit down and write poetry for the sake of writing poetry – I must have something to be poetic about. My youth was full of poetry; not something that one finds in old age, quite so much. I have one work in progress – The age of starlight – a poem that contemplates the history of the cosmos from its birth through to its final end and all that means for humanity and the world we cherish so much. It is the the last of my ‘cosmological poems.’

 

Reviews – drama

Lord Of The Flies – review

[Originally published in Arts in Leicester  magazine, 10th February 2016. Re-published here.]

Curve, main theatre
Lord of The Flies runs from 8th February to 13th February

A play adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams from the novel by William Golding.
Directed by Timothy Sheader
Our rating: ****

Reviewed by Trevor Locke

A gripping and imaginative production.

Lord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy. Photo: Johan Persson.
Lord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy.
Photo: Johan Persson.

Reading the programme notes for tonight’s play was almost as entertaining as the show itself. In The nature of being human, Professor Tanya Byron takes ‘a deeper look at what this story tells us about the nature of being human.’ The said academic is a consultant in child and adolescent mental health, writer and presenter on TV shows. Her piece, in the programme, was absorbing. It got me thinking about the plays, books and films that have portrayed teenage violence since William Golding’s novel was published in 1954 and Peter Brook’s film of the book came out in 1963. I would not want to suggest that this play is about teenage violence – it portrays much more than that – but several films came to mind as I read Byron’s contribution. I remembered attending a conference of youth justice workers at which SCUM was screened. Alan Clarke’s dark portrayal of life in a British borstal, released in 1983, was a seminal moment for me, at that time, as well as for the 200 or so social workers and probation officers with whom I watched the film. What stuck in my mind was the scene in which the Borstal inmates riot in the dining hall breaking up the furniture in a collective frenzy of teenage violence. Bear in mind that the old Borstals were based on English public schools and their regimes of character-building and devotion to rules and discipline.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

As I continued to read, other films came into my mind: Lindsay Anderson’s IF which satirised the life of English public schools, Brighton Rock by Graham Green, a story of teenage sociopaths, hoodlums and the battles brought by Rockers against Mods, The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 classic about tough working class teens and their rivals from the wealthier side of town. In fact, I even saw parallels with West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet and Rebel Without a Cause.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

Many art forms since the 50s and 60s have dwelt on the nature of young male behaviour and seen it in dark terms of violence and aggression. To Professor Byron, tonight’s play is about ‘human nature’ despite the fact that the characters are all male and all young (in the book they are preadolescent, 6 to 12) and there are no female characters in the play. Tonight’s cast was made up of actors who looked to be in their late teens or early 20s with the exception of Perceval ( a role played tonight by David Evans). Ever since the Brixton Riots of the 1980s, teenagers and young adults have been demonised in the news and popular culture, which might explain why Golding’s 1954 novel has such an enduring appeal.

Ralph in Lord of The Flies. Photo: Johan Persson.
Ralph in Lord of The Flies.
Photo: Johan Persson.

Like a lot of very successful books and dramas, Lord of the Flies can be interpreted in a number of ways and certainly its plot operates on many levels. It is ostensibly about a group of English public school boys who are marooned on a desert island after their air-plane crashes. It shows how the thin veneer of their upper class upbringing and civilisation is destroyed as they resort to savagery, tribalism, murder and bloodsports. In and beneath that, the plot is about leadership, morality and power, portraying the tense dialectic of group dynamics with individuality. You might see the plot as a struggle for survival, and yes it does show that, or what happens to well brought-up boys when the reins of adult supervision are removed.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson

Tonight’s production at Curve was dominated by the set design of Jon Bausor. The plot takes place on a desert island sometimes on the beach (near to the remains of the crashed aircraft), sometimes on the top of a hill (Castle Rock) and at times in a forest. Putting all that on to a small stage was bound to be a challenge. As with many recent productions, the same set remains in place throughout the two acts. The action – of which there is plenty – takes place around, in and on the various parts of the fuselage of the tail of the crashed plane. It is a set which requires the audience to use its imagination.

The cast of young male actors imbued the production with plenty of energy and when not acting their roles were choreographed into a series of dance-like moves, moments when some of them were frozen while the dialogue took place elsewhere and the kind of running, jumping, climbing and leaping about that only a young athletic ensemble could achieve. Nigel Williams’s adaptation of the Golding novel tells the story and unravels the plot (however you want to interpret it) whilst grappling with the logistics of life in a forested desert island with a beach and a hill. Reading Nick Smurthwaite’s programme note ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I particularly valued his paragraph:

My experience showed me that the only falsification in Golding’s fable is the length of time the descent into savagery takes. His action takes about three months. I believe that if the cork of continued adult presence were removed from the bottle, complete catastrophe could occur within one long weekend.

He is quoting the words of Peter Brook, the director or the 1963 film, in which he took a group of untrained young actors to make the film on an island in Puerto Rico. When Golding sent his book to the publishers, the plot began with an atomic explosion which brought down the boys’ plane and led to the long the long delay to their rescue.

In that respect, Lord of the Flies is an allegory of the shallowness of civilisation generally and of mankind’s descent into savagery when law and order are removed; if that is how you want to see it, then both the book, the film and the play deserve a place alongside Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story.

A production from Regent’s Park Theatre Ltd.

Closure

Editorial

by Trevor Locke

[Announcement that I will close Arts in Leicester magazine]

5th September 2016

Arts in Leicestershire to close

After eleven years, Arts in Leicester is to close. The website will cease  at the end of this year (2016). The main reason for this is that I want to concentrate my efforts on Music in Leicester magazine. I have enjoyed running the Arts magazine very much but it clashes with other things I want to do – such as writing books. Recruiting writers and people to help run the Arts magazine has not been successful. The music magazine has attracted more interest from volunteers. Now that Leicester has an alternative out let – in the shape of Great Central – the new magazine about culture and the arts – there is less need for what we do.

I will continue to publish Arts in Leicester up to December but I will pull then the plug and our website will be no more. Some of the articles current on the site will be transferred to other outlets and the whole thing will be archived off and stored away.

Leicester has always been a great city for the arts and culture and over the years I have been writing about it, the city has never failed to produce an endless supply of events, shows, festivals and new things of interest.

Editor

LordofTheFlies at Curve

Lord Of The Flies – review

Curve, main theatre
Lord of The Flies runs from 8th February to 13th February

A play adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams from the novel by William Golding.
Directed by Timothy Sheader
Our rating: ****

Reviewed by Trevor Locke

A gripping and imaginative production.

Lord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy. Photo: Johan Persson.
Lord of the Flies. Ralph and Piggy.
Photo: Johan Persson.

Reading the programme notes for tonight’s play was almost as entertaining as the show itself. In The nature of being human, Professor Tanya Byron takes ‘a deeper look at what this story tells us us about the nature of being human.’ The said academic is a consultant in child and adolescent mental health, writer and presenter on TV shows. Her piece, in the programme, was absorbing. It got me thinking about the plays, books and films that have portrayed teenage violence since William Golding’s novel was published in 1954 and Peter Brook’s film of the book came out in 1963. I would not want to suggest that this play is about teenage violence – it portrays much more than that – but several films came to mind as I read Byron’s contribution. I remembered attending a conference of youth justice workers at which SCUM was screened. Alan Clarke’s dark portrayal of life in a British borstal, released in 1983, was a seminal moment for me, at that time, as well as for the 200 or so social workers and probation officers with whom I watched the film. What stuck in my mind was the scene in which the Borstal inmates riot in the dining hall breaking up the furniture in a collective frenzy of teenage violence. Bear in mind that the old Borstals were based on English public schools and their regimes of character-building and devotion to rules and discipline.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

As I continued to read, other films came into my mind: Lindsay Anderson’s IF which satirised the life of English public schools, Brighton Rock by Graham Green, a story of teenage sociopaths, hoodlums and the battles brought by Rockers against Mods, The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 classic about tough working class teens and their rivals from the wealthier side of town. In fact, I even saw parallels with West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet and Rebel Without a Cause.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

Many art forms since the 50s and 60s have dwelt on the nature of young male behaviour and seen it in dark terms of violence and aggression. To Professor Byron, tonight’s play is about ‘human nature’ despite the fact that the characters are all male and all young (in the book they are preadolescent, 6 to 12) and there are no female characters in the play. Tonight’s cast was made up of actors who looked to be in their late teens or early 20s with the exception of Perceval ( a role played tonight by David Evans). Ever since the Brixton Riots of the 1980s, teenagers and young adults have been demonised in the news and popular culture, which might explain why Golding’s 1954 novel has such an enduring appeal.

Ralph in Lord of The Flies. Photo: Johan Persson.
Ralph in Lord of The Flies.
Photo: Johan Persson.

Like a lot of very successful books and dramas, Lord of the Flies can be interpreted in a number of ways and certainly its plot operates on many levels. It is ostensibly about a group of English public school boys who are marooned on a desert island after their air-plane crashes. It shows how the thin veneer of their upper class upbringing and civilisation is destroyed as they resort to savagery, tribalism, murder and bloodsports. In and beneath that, the plot is about leadership, morality and power, portraying the tense dialectic of group dynamics with individuality. You might see the plot as a struggle for survival, and yes it does show that, or what happens to well brought-up boys when the reins of adult supervision are removed.

LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author - William Golding, Director - Timothy Sheader, Co-Director - Liam Steel, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/
LORD OF THE FLIES by Golding, , Author – William Golding, Director – Timothy Sheader, Co-Director – Liam Steel, Designer – Jon Bausor, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

Tonight’s production at Curve was dominated by the set design of Jon Bausor. The plot takes place on a desert island sometimes on the beach (near to the remains of the crashed aircraft), sometimes on the top of a hill (Castle Rock) and at times in a forest. Putting all that on to a small stage was bound to be a challenge. As with many recent productions, the same set remains in place throughout the two acts. The action – of which there is plenty – takes place around, in and on the various parts of the fuselage of the tail of the crashed plane. It is a set which requires the audience to use its imagination.

The cast of young male actors imbued the production with plenty of energy and when not acting their roles were choreographed into a series of dance-like moves, moments when some of them were frozen while the dialogue took place elsewhere and the kind of running, jumping, climbing and leaping about that only a young athletic ensemble could achieve. Nigel Williams’s adaptation of the Golding novel tells the story and unravels the plot (however you want to interpret it) whilst grappling with the logistics of life in a forested desert island with a beach and a hill. Reading Nick Smurthwaite’s programme note ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I particularly valued his paragraph:

My experience showed me that the only falsification in Golding’s fable is the length of time the descent into savagery takes. His action takes about three months. I believe that if the cork of continued adult presence were removed from the bottle, complete catastrophe could occur within one long weekend.

He is quoting the words of Peter Brook, the director or the 1963 film, in which he took a group of untrained young actors to make the film on an island in Puerto Rico. When Golding sent his book to the publishers, the plot began with an atomic explosion which brought down the boys’ plane and led to the long the long delay to their rescue.

In that respect, Lord of the Flies is an allegory of the shallowness of civilisation generally and of mankind’s descent into savagery when law and order are removed; if that is how you want to see it, then both the book, the film and the play deserve a place alongside Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story.

A production from Regent’s Park Theatre Ltd.

See also:

Our review of King Charles III.

Feature: Food in the twentyfirst century.

Tetrad’s Us and Them#4

Sunday 22nd November 2015

Us and Them

Us and Them is a series of shows that take place at the Attenborough centre, produced by the Tetrad Company.

Tonight’s show was Us and Them #4.

tetrad image

As the invitation notice stated: ‘Us and Them brings together people who are excited and inspired by innovative, bold and thought-provoking experiences of performance. Watch performances by Tetrad collective members, alongside developing work from guest artists within the fields of comedy, dance, theatre, live art and multimedia performance. This event will engage people in dialogue about contemporary performance, providing opportunities to network and foster prospective performance makers.’

Performance Line-Up:

Robert Hardaker, ‘CHANT (cleanse)’
Sam Metz, ‘Got something to say – but no joy’
Katherine Hall, ‘Buoy Up’
Sophie Swoffer, ‘Take the Shot’

Tetrad is a collective of De Montfort University MA Performance Graduates who are dedicated to building upon the network of young performance makers in Leicester by offering performance and professional development opportunities. Founded in 2014, Tetrad has brought together local artists, thinkers and citizens. In partnership with Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester Tetrad have designed Us and Them, a platform of new performance work by local young artists which creates a great opportunity to experience the exciting innovative performance work by the next generation of East Midlands based artists.

Tonight’s performances

Robert Hardaker is a contemporary performance maker and live artist, based in Leicester, England. Hardaker’s practice aims to recollect a supposed co-existing consciousness and memory aided by the curation of a space and the highlighting of the senses. Through bodily action he forms his own likeness, memories and emotions around himself; the audience is a malleable entity who can choose to become part of this dialogue. They are not forced into experiencing a set of emotions, yet are guided by the artist into singular, fleeting moments of involvement. The body becomes a vessel for intimacy and reaction, works are impossible but necessary tasks, full of supposed contradictions.

Hardaker graduated from De Montfort University in 2012 with a first class Ba (Hons) degree in Fine art. In the same year he was awarded the Embrace Arts Award for dedication to arts practice and worked with Leeds art gallery to produce work for Grassington Festival Art Trail in response to Richard Hamilton’s Kent State – this work is now part of Leeds Art Gallery’s permanent collection and lending library. In 2013 he performed as part of Roger Horns’ “Youth” at the Hepworth Gallery (Wakefield). Hardaker co-ran the Attic Arts Collective and Studios (Leicester) curating various exhibitions and organising the art at Handmade festival 2013-2014. Since 2012 he has been a studio holder at Two Queens (Leicester).

Hardaker’s performance took place in one of the upstairs studios. I dropped in during the interval. The artist was completely naked and squatted on a mound of material in the middle of the room; the mound resembled the nest of a bird; his wordless activity involved tending the nesting material, digging a hole in the middle of it into he vomited. The impact of the performance was to evoke something that felt primeval, was enigmatic and at times disturbing. In the later Q&A session we learned that this was a shortened version of a long piece. Someone said it was about vulnerability and power. As he said “I put myself in this situation.”

(Cleanse) is a coming of age, it is the ridding of youth, It is a love letter to the past and an embrace of the future. Performed as a nocturne, it happens in the background, It is messy and uninvited. The performer forms his likeness around himself, before washing; the audience is a malleable entity, the programme notes explained.

Sophie Swoffer, ‘Take the Shot’

In Sophie Swoffer’s performance, Take the Shot, the audience stood in a marked square in the middle of the hall. Around them, she performed her haunting journey along the rain-stained pavements of film noir, against a backcloth of rain sound effects. Video cameras and screen and projects stood at various positions around the room, displaying Sophie’s image and performance when she in the vicinity of the camera. Scenes in her performance conjured up images we would associate with film noir, evoking feelings of danger and grotesqueness whilst playing the role of a femme fatale.

Katherine Hall, ‘Buoy Up’

Katherine Hall’s, ‘Buoy Up’, saw her enter the stage carrying the kind of buoy that small boats would tie up to. Part dance, part mime, the performance she created images through her movements against a sound background of water splashing.

The cast put on a game show in which they placed a variety of objects in the performance area and asked members of the audience what each of the actors should do with specific items. Whilst the actor was out of the room, suggestions were decided and the audience could encourage or discourage only by applauding, as the actor got ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ when near to or handling an object. It was amusing and entertaining.

Sam Metz,Got something to say – but no joy‘ Used the irregular and awkward shapes created by the elongated limbs of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, as a trigger to give a sense of celebrity, disenchantment, ritual, gender and conformity.

After the performance the artists gathered in the main hall for a question and answer session. The gave the audience a chance to explore aspects of the various performances and ask question about what inspired them. Because several of the acts involved interaction with members of the audience, the question was posed ‘what is the role of the audience?’ In the cafe area outside a board invited people to comment on another question: ‘Are we here to perform or entertain.’

That question reminded of what I had written in my forthcoming novel The Trench, a story about a live music venue and the bands that play there. I wrote:

Jennifer, said: “Making music… is a performance. You have to get up and entertain people who you have not met, in a room you have never been in before.”

“Yes. You have hit the nail right on the head”, David said. “It’s a performance. Music is about entertaining people. It’s not that different from acting in a play, or being part of a dance troupe. It’s all about the art of performance – whether you do it alone or as part of a group. People go to see bands, singers, dance groups because they want to listen to music and be entertained.”

Some of the students looked confused when they heard this. They could relate to the word ‘performance’ but ‘entertained’ – that was not a word they had associated with music before. One young man put his hand in the air and said: “Why is music about entertainment? Surely music offers much more than that? There is much more to music than just being entertained!”

The next Tetrad Us and Them show is scheduled for 13th March.

see also:

Our article about the Us and Them that took place on 3rd May 2015

Visit the Tetrad website.

Tennesse Williams

9th October 2015

A Streetcar Named Desire

 

 

Archive article

New! A Streetcar Named Desire will be screened on 25th November at Phoenix.

Screening in association with the University of the Third Age. Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.

USA 1951, 120mins

This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama was one of the most influential plays of the twentieth century. Exploring the beauty, fragility and loneliness of the human experience, this production is set to be a highlight of our Autumn season.

The production will be at Curve from Friday 16th October to Saturday 7th November. Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece is brought to life in a new production directed by Curve Artistic Director, Nikolai Foster.

Tennessee Williams (1911 – 1983) was an American playwright and author who was among the most celebrated dramatists of the 20th century. His play A Street Car Named desire is regarded as one of the most acclaimed plays of the last century. Published in 1947, the play was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1948. In 1951 a film version was released starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh alongside Kim Hunter and Karl Malden from the original Broadway production. This film adaptation of the play, directed by Elia Kazan,has been broadcast on UK television. It launched Brando’s career as a major film actor. Brando played the lead male role of Stanley Kowalski in a performance that has been hailed as one of the most influential of all time, for its gripping realism; he was nominated for an Academy Award for it.

The plot

New Orleans. 1930s. Blanche DuBois arrives at her sister’s tiny apartment in the lively French Quarter of New Orleans, her world falling apart and haunted by the loss of the family’s luxurious Southern mansion in Laurel, Mississippi. With broken dreams and a desperate desire to cling on to her freedom, Blanche seeks comfort from her younger, married, sister, Stella. But as tensions – and passions – rise, Blanche finds herself thrown into a catastrophic confrontation with Stella’s husband Stanley Kowalski. The penniless Blanche is trapped – she has nowhere else to go. Blanche suffers from nerves but continued to affect the airs and graces of her Southern upbringing, much to the dislike of the rough and common Stanley.

When Blanche was very young she married but her husband died, something that continues to distress her. Stanley is troubled by the family’s past history, believing that he and Stella might have been cheated out of their inheritance. Stanley demands that Blanche reveals what really happened to the house at Laurel and its large plantation. Blanche hands over a collection of documents, in which Stanley finds a bundle of love letters.

The night after Blanche arrives at her sister’s flat, Stanley holds a poker party. It is at this that Blanche meets Mitch, one of the poker players. Blanche finds him courteous and friendly and begins to flirt with him as he falls under her charms. The brutal and drunken Stanley becomes enraged at Blanche’s constant interruptions and strikes her. Blanche and Stella take refuge upstairs in the apartment of Eunice. Stanley sobers up somewhat, realising what he has done, and stands in the courtyard below calling for Stella to come down – in a scene that has become one of the most cited performances of the newly emergent method school of acting.

Despite having carried Blanche off to bed, Stanley continues to treat her appallingly and the tensions begin to rise between them. Stanley has been studying the documents Blanche gave him and discovers a history of mental instability and sexual promiscuity. Stanley’s harsh and bullying treatment of Stella ends with him raping her. Having a complete mental breakdown, Blanche is committed to a mental asylum. When a doctor and nurse arrive to take Blanche away, she fails to recognise them for who they really are; she takes the doctors arm and says her famous line: “Whoever you are — I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” With Blanche’s departure, Stella retreats to Eunice’s flat upstairs and says she is never coming back.

The film adaptation of then Tennessee Williams play is regarded as one of the finest productions in the history of cinema.

The Curve production

Directed by Nikolai Foster with stage designs by Michael Taylor, the company comprises Charlie Brooks as Blanche DuBois, Stewart Clarke as Stanley Kowalski, Dakota Blue Richards as Stella Kowalski, Sandy Foster as Eunice Hubbel, Mark Peachey as Steve Hubbel, Patrick Knowles as Mitch, Charlie De Melo as Pablo Gonzales, Nicholas Alexander as the Young Collector/Doctor and Natasha Magigi as the Nurse/Neighbour.

Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama was one of the most influential plays of the twentieth century. Exploring the beauty, fragility and loneliness of the human experience, this production is set to be a highlight of our Autumn season. Suitable for ages 12+.

There is also a theatre day for the play, on Wed 28 Oct 10.30am – 1pm. This provides a chance to meet the cast and creatives over a cup of tea, and participate in a backstage tour and on-stage workshop before seeing the show.

See also:

Our review of the Ridley Scott film The Martian.

Black History in 2015.

Young actors in Leicester drama.

Michael Barker

Michael Baker

Retrospective

Archive article

First published in Arts in Leicester magazine on July 2012. (The magazine has now closed down.)

We discovered Michael Barker, a local artist who has produced a phenomenal output of work. We went to see his studio and saw a tiny fraction of the thousands of items that he produced over the years.

An exhibition of the work of Michael Barker can be seen at The West End Gallery from 11th March to 9th April 2016

More from the Gallery website.

Scroll down for a biography of the artist

Here is a selection of the works of Michael Barker (reproduced with his kind permission)

Train Ride by Michael Barker
Tomato by Michael Barker
Thrush by Michael Barker
Sweet Love by Michael Barker
Speed by Michael Barker
Solitude by Michael Barker
Singer Not The Song by Michael Barker
Rebbecca by Michael Barker
Pub Scene by Michael Barker
Nude by Michael Barker
Goths by Michael Barker
Wizard by Michael Barker
Gorilla by Michael Barker
Dream by Michael Barker
Clown by Michael Barker
Boulder by Michael Barker
Black Beard’s Treasure by Michael Barker

The Artist

Michael Barker was born in Leicester and studied art at Leicester College of Art where he obtained the National Diploma in Design.

He has been classed as one of the country’s top showman’s artists, being fully experienced in lettering, calligraphy and design.

It has been said that Michael Barker involves himself in too many artistic styles and that he should put all his energies into one way of painting. Through the years, Michael has always been very much against this idea and believes that he should use, to the fullest extent, all his large array of talents as an artist.

His abilities range from design work and ceramics to fine, modern and traditional styles. We do not know of another artist who has ever been able to put his own personal mark on such a variety of subjects.

This makes his work able to please most tastes. Far from being a bad thing, we firmly believe that it is just the opposite, showing just what being an artist is all about.

His works are art – full of human feeling – they are living pieces. Not, as so much art is doing these days, being slick and doing no more than what a good photographer would do.

Michael Barker’s paintings grow on you as you enjoy them more and more. Decoration, graphics, calligraphy, furniture painting, ceramics, drawings and paintings – all these subjects having unmistakably his own personality stamped on them.

We believe that Michael Barker’s work will become highly prized in years to come.

Fairground painting

An important part of Michael Barker’s art is his pictures of Fairground scenes. Fairs were, and indeed still are, an exciting and colourful aspect of English life. There are have been a few painters working on this subject matter. Michael has made this his specialty, bringing out the movement and atmosphere associated with fairgrounds. He brings to life the work of the showman and the fun of the fair.

Modern Paintings

Michael Barker’s modern pictures are an evolution of his work in the early 1960s. His ideas started with an effect of light and shadows and the play of reflections on various surfaces. Sometimes these turned into complete abstractions; into which he introduces a dream like effect; an extraordinary combination of traditionalism and modernism to create pleasing and interesting pictures. The viewer is transported from the worries of everyday life and is able to reflect on them to develop a feeling of discovery and relaxation.

Ceramics

Michael’s large artistic output includes Ceramics, whether he is making models, decorated vases or plates, his pieces display originality and creativity.

“A more interesting way”

Michael Barker told us: “I don’t want to be someone who changes art. My interests are to produce pictures that are painted in a more interesting way than those that we usually see.

“I am able to produce art works without models. I use my memory and my imagination to show subjects in a different way.

“As an artist, I enjoy paintings that are meof me. I believe that, throughout all my subjects, whether modern or traditional, my work will satisfy and be appreciated by people of all tastes. In my work there is something for everyone to enjoy.

“I just look and leave the rest to my imagination.”

The future

Michael is keen to find someone to promote his work, both his original works, his prints, greetings cards and other productions.

He is particularly interested in helping charities to raise money through reproducing his pictures in a variety of formats.

Enquiries about this can be made to the editor of this magazine.

See more work by Michael Barker at The West End Gallery

The Martian

Monday 5th October 2015

The Martian

a film by Ridley Scott

screenplay by Drew Goddard
staring Matt Damon

I read the book The Martian by Andy Weir, in April 2015, when I gave away 25 free copies of it for World Book Night. It was a good read and thumping story. Tonight’s film (at Leicester’s Cinema de Lux) followed the story presented in the book but it was the cinematography which really stole the show. Watching it in 3D was an amazing experience and for me represented a milestone in my cinema experience.  I cannot remember seeing anything quite so remarkable at the cinema since I went to the first showing of a film in Cinerama.

Mark Watney stranded on Mars

If you haven’t come across The Martian yet, the story is straightforward: an astronaut called Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets left behind on the planet Mars following an emergency take-off during a violent storm. The bulk of the story is about Botanist Mark’s struggle to stay alive on the red planet until he is finally rescued and brought back to Earth. It sounds like a simple plot and in many ways it is. But what makes this film so outstanding, as a piece of cinema, it how it was made.

What you notice about the camera work is the innovation in perspective. Various shots show the focus in a scale which had never been done before. One of the early sequences shows the vehicle in which Watney is traveling as being very small relative to its surroundings. Later in the film, there is a shot of Watney, in his space suit, sitting on the top of a rocky promontory: the long shot shots makes him appear very small but as the camera circles round to the front of him, he grows larger until we see him life-size so to speak. The photography was breathtaking and 3D brought out the impact of many scenes in a way that only it could achieve. If you think that 3D is just a gimmick, see this film – it will change your point of view.  Gone are the old cardboard glass with their red and green lenses. Today’s 3D glasses a step forward in the technology. I wore mine over my normal spectacles and that worked well. You have to wear them to watch the film because the 3D images would looked blurred (a kind of double vision) without them. These new glasses work on polarised light, rather than on the more traditional method of having two separate colours. If you miss The Martin you can always go to see the 3D version of Moby Dick when it comes out. The camera work also made a lot of use of GoPro cameras mounted on the astronaut’s spacesuit as well as being used for several other scenes ably bringing out the realism of what we saw; a bit like seeing footage from security cameras. It was all very credible and was a step forward in the construction and realisation of space travel.

The film stays true to the science and the engineering and largely avoids the pitfalls of licence for dramatic effect. Knowing book can help you keep up with the fast-moving storyline but it is not a prerequisite.  The plot is easy enough to follow and the pace is nail-biting and one that keeps you on the edge of the seat throughout.

I loved seeing Matt Damon in the leading role. His work has always impressed me through a succession of many of my best-loved films: Good Will Hunting (with Robin William, his performance won him an Oscar), The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Bourne Identity and more. A strong supporting cast saw Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis (one of his mission crew members) Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders and Michael Peñaas Rick Martinez among others.

The Martian is a film that has no shortage of human interest; if it has a moral or ethical slant then it is that human life – even the life of a single man – is worth saving. Millions of dollars are marshaled to save the stranded astronaut not to mention international collaboration; crowds gathered in New York, London, Tokyo and other cities to watch the live coverage of his rescue. This might seem far-fetched but you know what the media is like and the film presents several press conferences where NASA is forced to explain what is going on.

Ridley Scott is an acclaimed director who scored a hit with Gravity, the sci-fi drama that won seven Oscars, and had already made his name with Alien and Blade Runner. His Prometheus also earned considerable acclaim for the space genre.

Mark Watney stranded on Mars
Mark Watney stranded on Mars

Was the film like the book?  Yes.  It followed the story line and plot of the Andy Weir novel.  Whilst I enjoyed the story, I found the book often got bogged down in too many technical details, as Watney explains the science behind his plans to stay alive; this for me made it hard going, even though I would salute the scientific details that were presented. The details got in the way of the story. As one review put it ‘it was written for nerds – by a nerd.’ [Slashdot] The film-makers had done their homework well:  if you have seen the pictures of the Martian surface from NASA’s Curiosity Rovers, you will see how faithfully the surface has been represented in the film. The shots of Mars were very convincing. The recent news that water has been found on the red planet has fueled speculation that a manned mission might be possible, making it probable that humans living on Mars will one day move from science fiction to fact.

“smart, thrilling and surprisingly funny” – Rotten Tomatoes

See also

Our review of the film The Black Swan (2011)

Character profiling for film scripts (2017)

Shakespeare for the Facebook Generation

13th October 2014

I have included this review of Romeo and Juliette because I am planning an article about the impact of Facebook on young people.

The article was originally published in Arts in Leicester magazine in 2011.

For the moment here is the link to the PDF extract of the review (requires a PDF reader and will open in a new browser window.)

Romeo and Juliette review 2011

 

Local music: does it matter?

Trevor Locke asks if local music really matters

If you watch the television you might choose to watch a programme about rock music in the 70s or 80s. If music is your thing, there is no shortage of programmes in which famous musicians are interviewed and clips of bands and singers playing songs of the time are shown. These programmes are very interesting and informative but they are all about the big bands that made it into the charts.

What is largely neglected by both the media and by historians is music at the local level. It is assumed, most probably, that anything about live music in one town or city will be of interest only those who live there. Unless of course it is about Liverpool and the Beatles or possibly even Sheffield and the Arctic Monkeys or Manchester during the days of the Hacienda. These are subjects worthy of programmes or books because, in the opinion of their producers and authors, they have had an impact and influence on the national music scene.

I want to argue that music at the local level is both fascinating and important, in its own right. I would say that, wouldn’t I? After all, I have spent over ten years of my life writing about the music of Leicester for the magazine I created and now am compiling all that work into one enormous book on the subject.

Given that I am engaged in writing about local history, why is it that historians largely ignore music when they analyse and discuss the life of local communities? Local history has established itself as being an area of study that is credible and interesting, as much as the history of the nation as a whole. Local history of any kind is not just of interest to people who live in the area; those who research and write about local history like to consult works by others who are engaged in similar projects. Local history is a legitimate branch of learning in its own right. The life of any nation is not just about kings, politicians and battles. No understanding of a nation is possible without an awareness of the culture and life of people whose daily lives creates that nation. We cannot understand England without understanding the ordinary common folk who comprise it.

People who write about local history often focus on the areas of human activity that have been established in the accounts of the nation as a whole: commerce, industry and economics, politics, transport (trains and roads), women, race, battles and armies, etc. You do sometimes get studies of art or culture at the local level and that, by and large, concerns itself with pictorial art and sculpture. That stance on local history is often bolstered by the view that something at local level is of national importance. That take on history pivots around the assumption that something must have that magical national significance to justify it and give it credibility. Who arbitrates what is of national significance?

My interest is in music; my two great passions in life are music and history. So, writing about the history of music would be completely natural for me. The shelves of libraries are well stocked with books about periods of musical history, accounts of specific bands, studies of specific genres and so on. If, like me, you want to read about music in a town or city, you will have to search extensively to find anything. The shibboleth about local needing to be national haunts music and art history as much as anything other aspect of life at the level of street and town.

This situation needs to change. Historians and musicologists alike need to recognise that music has always been an important part of the life of any local community. If you want to understand what daily life was like in the past, as now, you have to look at the music that the people in a community were listening to. Art is about painting and statues, but it is also about music – and not just classical music. There are endless books about the great classical composers but almost nothing about the work of the countless men and women who have made music, composed and invented it throughout the ages at the local level. History is organised around notoriety. It is the legacy of how academia has been organised since Greek and Roman times that only the great artists and composers are worthy of study because they have defined the cultural landscape of The West, Europe, England … well of course that is true but I want to see credibility given to the study of the art and culture of common people, everyday country folk, the people, the masses, what ever you want to call them – the people whose lives come and go but leave little behind them. Historians tend to work with what is stored on library shelves. What gets on to library shelves is arbitrated by the shibboleth of national significance.

Archaeologists however are much more likely to unearth the remains of everyday life. Modern approaches to history are becoming increasingly concerned to reveal what life was like in the streets of a village, town or city. We can have a fairly detailed view of what happened in the streets of a Roman town, how food was produced and distributed, how people were housed, the tools they worked with, what people ate, how they dressed and cooked, how they were entertained and, to my mind, what music they listened to.

Delving into the history of music can be very difficult; the further back we go the harder it becomes to find remains because music just happens and unless people at the time wrote about it, nothing survives from music-making, apart from a few instruments or fragments of them that happened to be preserved in the earth. Such investigations become easier in recorded history when we can find manuscripts, writings, music scores, accounts of concerts or festivals to give us an idea of what people listened to. With the advent of film, recordings and the Internet, there is now a huge amount of material to work with if we want to write accounts of the musical culture of today or recent times.

At the local level however material about music is ephemeral and volatile. Vast quantities of videos, tracks and gig flyers flood through the pages of social media but few people see all this as being grist to the mill of historical research. Like many with an interest in music, I spend many hours of every day on Facebook, Twitter or websites watching what is going on, mainly in my own locality but also at national level. As a music journalist, my task is to watch, record and annotate musical culture in my local area.

The present is what is happening now. What happened yesterday is history.

Music, in my view, is an integral part of local history, just as much as food, buildings, clothing, work, politics, trade or anything else that forms an understanding of the life and experience of a community. This is not a perspective that I see in the output of the majority of local historians. Local history, I would argue, is the poorer for its lack of recognition of the significance of music to accounts of what happened at the local level in the lives of everyday people.

Anthropologists, who went out to study and research the life of tribes, cultures and peoples in foreign countries often recorded and noted the music that they made. They, like archaeologists, got down to the nitty gritty of everyday life and they found music in every social group they visited. Anywhere in the world. Whether it was part of religion or ritual, part of social gatherings or the transmission of culture and collective memory, or the expression of collective identity, musical activity was found everywhere that anthropologists went. From the Trobriand Islands to the high mountains of the Incas, anthropologists went to see people living their ordinary everyday lives and to record what they saw, whatever it was, and they all saw music being made.

Academically, local history shares many interests and sources with anthropology and archaeology. It is therefore somewhat odd that local historians have neglected music as much as they have in their understandings of the life of local peoples. Researching the history of music in an area can be challenging and difficult because of the dearth of source material with which to work. The further back in time that one wishes to go the less there is to work with and the harder it is to unearth. Yet, the more fascinating and informative it becomes. Music is an activity that tells us a lot about the people who make it and those that listened to it or took part in it, through religion, ritual, dance, social gatherings or just plain old entertainment. Music is a key definer of social identity; what music you like marks you out as a person. The gigs you go to are part of your social identity. The kind of music that is found in a community defines much about its culture, belief systems and cohesive tissues. The lyrics of songs are capsules of what people believe, celebrate and remember. The status given to music makers tell us something about the way a community is organised. This is as true at the local level as it is at that of the nation state.

Even when not focussing specifically on music, local history is incomplete unless it has tried to account for the everyday life of a community and that must, I argue, include how people were entertained, fed, clothed, educated and how they socialised. Music should be a topic that is always included in accounts of life at the local level. Without an account of a people’s music, the picture is inherently incomplete.

Trevor Locke

9th August 2014.

 

About this article

It might appear that I have assumed that no one has ever written about local music. I know that not to be the case because I have found studies in my own area of Leicester and have searched for and read material relating to other towns and cities in the UK, both in the form of books and articles on the Internet. The present article forms a précis for a more substantial article that I have planned. I offer it at this stage to see if I can evoke some comments or even make contact with like-minded individuals who share both my agenda and my interest in this topic.