Monday, 4 October 2010

The Captain's Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at Seventy

The Captain’s Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at Seventy

JEWELS & BINOCULARS, published by Stride/Westwords in 1993, featured fifty poets who celebrated the life and work of Bob Dylan and his influence on their own. Among them were Wendy Cope, Allen Ginsberg, Sophie Hannah, Lachlan Mackinnon, Glyn Maxwell, Adrian Mitchell, Linda Chase, Geoff Hattersley and Matthew Sweeney.

The book is out of print and has become a collector’s item. A changing revue of poets and musicians played venues from London’s Troubadour to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to promote its publication.

On May 24th 2011 Bob Dylan will reach seventy, after almost fifty years in the music industry. To mark the occasion, SEREN will publish THE CAPTAIN’S TOWER: SEVENTY POETS CELEBRATE BOB DYLAN AT SEVENTY. It will combine the best from the original with new work from established and up-and-coming writers.

Among submissions already received are poems by Roddy Lumsden, Luke Wright, Simon Armitage, Tamar Yoseloff, Mark Ford, Jeremy Reed, Matthew Caley, Tim Dooley, Peter Finch and Roger McGough. Others are arriving daily from all over the world. We’d be delighted to hear from other poets and of other poems. Contact

By the end of the year we hope to have collected seventy poems by seventy writers. An accompanying tour is being scheduled for Spring and Summer 2011.

We are asking all authors to donate their royalties to CRISIS, the charity for the homeless that Bob Dylan chose as the UK beneficiary of the proceeds of his Christmas in the Heart album.

Editorial Policy

· Submissions are welcome and should be sent to

· The deadline for submissions is December 10th 2010.

· Submissions will only be provisionally accepted by unanimity of the editors – Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Woolley.

· Shortlisted submissions won’t be confirmed for publication until early 2011.

· Publication will be in May 2011.

· Any previous publication should be noted and will be credited. Copyright will remain with the author.

· We expect most accepted submissions to come from established writers with one or more collections published by well known publishers. However, exceptional work by less known writers will be considered.

· In the submission email, the poet should state his or her willingness to be published in the first and any future editions of the book, their royalties going to Crisis in perpetuity.

· He or she should also provide a biographical note saying when and how Bob Dylan most deeply touched their lives.

· Contributors will receive a copy of the book and may be invited to participate in performances marking the publication.

· Information on any poems relating to Bob Dylan already in existence would be much appreciated, with contact details of the poet if possible.


Phil Bowen has published four collections of poetry, his first full collection, ‘Variety’s Hammer’ (Stride) being selected for inclusion in The Forward Anthology of 1998. His last collection ‘Starfly’ was also published by Stride in 2004. ‘Nowhere’s Far: New and Collected Poems 1990–2008’ was published by Salt in 2009 and recently reviewed in Poetry Review, to be followed by ‘Cuckoo Rock’, his first collection for children, later in 2010.

He is the editor of two Stride anthologies: ‘Jewels & Binoculars’ (fifty poets celebrate Bob Dylan) and ‘Things We Said Today’ (poetry about the Beatles). He has also written four plays : ‘A Handful of Rain’ – an imagined meeting between Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas, ‘A Case of the Poet’, ‘Parlez Vous Jig Jig’ and ‘Anything but Love’ – in which Dorothy Parker meets the lyricist Dorothy Fields.

Born in Liverpool in 1949 ,where he taught Drama until 1979, he now lives in Newlyn in Cornwall and works all over the country as a freelance writer, performer and teacher.

Damian Furniss is a poet whose first full collection, ‘Chocolate Che’, was published by Shearsman Books earlier in 2010, and recently highly commended in the Forward prize for best first collection. His pamphlet ‘The Duchess of Kalighat’ won the Tears in the Fence competition.

His poetry, prose and reviews have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and he has read at festivals and arts centres around the country and at the Indian High Commission. He is currently working on two novels: Shin Kicking and Life Before Death. He is the co-host of Blah Blah Blah, an arts magazine radio show on Phonic FM.

Conceived on the night England won the Football World Cup, he was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-Upon-Avon (where he was taught in the same room as Shakespeare) and Keble College, Oxford. He lives in the West Country and works in social care.

David Woolley is a poet, performer, writer, tutor, broadcaster and arts consultant. He has published three collections of poetry, the most recent of which, ‘Pursued by a Bear’ (Headland Publications) was launched in June 2010. He edited and published Westwords arts magazine and poetry press for ten years.

He was the inaugural Chair of the National Association for Literature Development, Chair of Festivals of Wales for three years, and has been on the Boards of Dylan Thomas Prize Ltd, Swansea Fringe Festival, and the Advisory Panel for New Welsh Review.

Between 1996 and 2010 he was Literature Adviser for City & County of Swansea and Arts Programmer for the Dylan Thomas Centre where he directed the annual Dylan Thomas Festival. He is currently a regional literature officer for the Arts Council.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Damian Furniss reading from 'Chocolate Che' at the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea on Friday 30th October at 19.30

Damian Furniss will be reading from 'Chocolate Che' at the Dylan Thomas Festival, the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea on October 30th 2010 at 19.30.

He'll be reading with Gwyneth Lewis, National Poet of Wales 2005-6 and published by Bloodaxe.

Damian Furniss reading from 'Chocolate Che' at Exeter Central Library on Sunday October 10th at 14.00

The inaugural Exeter Poetry Festival takes place 7 - 10 October 2010 in Exeter Central Library and other venues round the city.

I'll be reading at 14.00 with Elisabeth Bletsoe and Jaime Robles - a Shersman Showcase.

Immediately before at 12.30 Rachel McCarthy, Rachael Boast and Fiona Benson will be performing - under the Excite banner.

There are too many other readings of note to list but you can find all the details here.

I was also joint winner of the Exeter Poetry Festival postcard competition so look out for the offending item round town publicising the event. 

Finally, this month's The Blah Blah Blah Show, or 106.8FM in the Exeter area, on Sunday 3rd October 12.00 - 14.00 will be an Exeter Poetry Festival featuring Liv Torc and anyone else we can muster. Liv is one of the best performance poets on the circuit, Bard of Exeter and Exeter poetry Festival poet in residence so not to be missed.

Poem from 'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss in the Forward Book of Poetry 2011

'The Duchess of Kalighat' from 'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss is published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2011 which claims to be an anthology of the best poems of the year, gathering together those shortlisted and highly commended in the Forward prizes for best collection, best first collection and best poem.

Given 'The Duchess of Kalighat' was first drafted circa 1992 and published in 1995 I'm not sure if that makes me ahead of my time or everything I've written since lagging behind but it is pleasing to see four poems by Shearsman poets in the book, within spitting distance of Faber and Bloodaxe.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Excite Exeter Poetry Update for September

For your delectation this month:
Liv Torc, wondermentalist, Radio 4 South West Slam winner and poet in residence for the Exeter Poetry Festival, launches her new book, 'Dancing Naked in Banana Land' at Otto Retro, next Thursday, 9th September. Doors open 7.30pm, for 8pm start. £7/6 conc all night, £5 from 9pm. Open mic 8-9pm. Liv performed for us to a packed out house in December and we're glad to have her back. A cracking night is guaranteed. If you've seen Liv perform you know I'm telling the truth, if you haven't you'll believe me next week.

Open mic spaces can be booked by replying to this email address, or on 07854598552. Please forward attached publicity to interested parties.

Budleigh Salterton Literature Festival is back for a second year, with Carol Ann Duffy as the headline guest, the weekend of the 24th of Spetember. A jam-packed Fringe is also planned for the Saturday (25th), including a cafe/bar style evening of poetry. Open mic spaces for this are limited and can be booked by contacting Hilary Ackland at or on 01395 444406. Please see the attached publicity for further information.

Fringes are often the life-blood of festivals, so please show your support.
October sees the first ever Exeter Poetry Festival, see
 for the full line-up. The Otto, funky junk poetry night that month will be an open mic extravaganza! Free! with wine and nibbly things provided. Let's kick the festival off in style! Slots for the ExCite Festival Open Mic can be booked now, contact me on the email address above or on 07854598552. They will go quickly, so get typing.

Finally, some may have spotted our website is currently static. The website is being redeveloped, and should be available soon.

'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss reviewed by John Gimblett in Stride Magazine

A review of 'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss recently published in Stride Magazine and written by John Gimblett writer of an Indian travelogue that covers some of the same ground as '|The Duchess of Kalighat'.
Sparse Soul

In this highly enjoyable volume, Damian Furniss travels the world writing about his experiences and recording observations. There are poems from Cuba in the fiftieth year of the revolution, amongst the dead and dying in India, through the Americas and in Europe 'on the trail of soldiers, artists and monks'.

Furniss's verse is tight throughout, with nothing extraneous, nothing wasted. For example, in the poem 'If Art Was a Car': 'If art was a car, I'd take this line for a spin / ...just because I can - / that would be a day, a day worth living.'

Immediately, I'm seeing a Kerouac moment unfurling before me. Again, this tautness of language is shown in 'Che in Disguise':

Plucked bald as a yam,
Grey streaked in the minge
That remains of his mane.

I can imagine, in my head, the poem being read by William Burroughs in that throaty, Southern drawl of his.

There is an easy, atmospheric sense to the Cuba poems in this volume – slow, lounging, sassy. Look at this from 'See That My Bones Are Kept Clean':

When I'm gone, do not moan
On my long, unbroken bones
But chink your ringed fingers
On tumblers well slung
With slugs of darkest rum..

There's an easy natural pressure (not a force) at rhyme here, and the words slip over the tongue just like that rum must have done.

'Bee Movie' is, again, a close, tight poem full of space and clever rhymes (both end- and mid-line) that masterfully exploit order and form. Got to know the rules to break the rules – ask Picasso.

Edith -
A pigtail-threaded hat,
Face like a shaven cat,
Eyes of charcoal, burning.

Elva -
Lean as a guinea pig,
More skirts than a whirligig,
Scarlet poncho, twirling.

And speaking of the artist himself, in '9 + 1 = Picasso', IV Furniss pulls Wordsworth right into the 21st century: 'Art is the child of a man / And a mountain of men.'

Furniss can be earthy, sexual without pretence of cloakedness, and has the skill and the confidence to carry it off successfully, such as in 'House of the Genius', III:

A rabbit, skinned and stewed,
is a gift, or pigeon, well-plucked;

pets are loved to be killed,
and friends like you to be fucked.

You can imagine sitting around with Furniss, perhaps even sipping a mint tea in the Petit Socco in Tangier, around the corner from Burroughs's old room, and him pulling the glass away from his lips momentarily to pronounce 'You cannot lose a cat / As you can lose a mind - / They just go missing..' ('Found Lost Sign').

Well, I can.

A poem such as 'Old Iron' explores the past: journeys, origins and beginings; exquisite, tailored -

The sunburnt moor of Zennor
The last flag of shore he saw.

On his tod against the waves
To bank the world's last cod

The more one reads this book, the more it divides into its three sections. The middle section is titled My White Ghosts and I think it's the most successful, the most complete, though that isn't a judgment on the rest of the book.

There are some points where Goar's and Furniss's books cross - and one of these is my mention of a zen quality - and subject matter - to some of the language. In this book's 'Darshan with Dalai Lama' Furniss draws on a zen koan; if you meet the buddha on the road, kill him. 'I am here to kill the Dalai Lama.'

The idea is to strip everything down; to begin again from the ground up. Or as the sufis say: Die before you die. As if to demonstrate his zen sensibility, Furniss quotes the explorer, traveller and zen monk Peter Matthiessen at one point.

He explores death sensitively and with great maturity in the poem 'The Great British Cemetery':

Some went to rest with children still eggs inside them, others with
children beside them, ten in a dozen, baptised by fever or dead in

And in 'Holi at Nirmal Hriday' there is this inescapable (well, for Calcutta) meld of death and politics:

For a moment I unlearn my politics,
see a man empty his lungs onto his bed,
kneel beside him and rub his chest.

But a joining of the two with the poet firmly in control and in attendance. And again, I'm going to have to say it, a confidence that can in poets only come from experience and a thorough slog through a lifetime of writing towards... completion. A realisation, almost an awakening.

Furniss understands Calcutta at this essential level, for example (in 'New Life in Hospice') when describing the discovery of a rats' nest. I see this as a metaphor for Calcutta's poor. It's a beautiful poem, redolent of (in my mind) Seamus Heaney's Blackberries through its images; its metaphors. The rats in Furniss's Calcutta are the squashed, vivid fruit in Heaney's: straining, strained.

We found a rats' nest:
stirring balls of pink baldness,
glued eyes still blind as pennies.
even vermin are sacred
to the dying.

It represents a poet in control of his craft, his art. In fact, as does this entire volume, which I enjoyed immensely on so many levels.

(c) John Gimblett

Sunday, 1 August 2010

'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss reviewed by Steve Spence in Stride Magazine

A review of 'Chocolate Che' by Damian Furniss recently published in Stride Magazine and written by Steve Spence, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection of poetry in 2010. Good luck Steve!

More complex stuff
Damian Furniss is a fantastic reader of his poetry and his work translates wonderfully to the page. The three sections relate to periods of travel, mainly in Cuba and in India, and the central selection - My White Ghosts - is comprised of poems inspired in various ways by painters and their work. Of the latter, I was particularly taken by 'Bacon Dust', where we get:

The art connoisseur
Will say 'Vintage stuff!'
As he gets a nose
of this fragrant muff,
Snort it like coke
Or sniff it like snuff,
A line or a pinch -
Pure bacon dust.

These are poems which generally scan and often rhyme in traditional ways and they are very satisfying to read or hear read out. Furniss has a knack of combining a sense of the 'importance' of his subject which an earthy injection of the frailties of the body and the dangers of romanticising. This is most evident in 'Che's Hands', a puzzling, riddling poem where he explores the notion of Che as martyr of the Cuban revolution:

Che's grave is not Che's grave.
And the bones in it are not Che's.
And those photos of the dead Che
as Christ, with the generals playing
Romans, display neither Christ,
nor Che, nor Romans. And his wounds
are not wounds as we know them.
And if you say that Che was a saint,
You either did not meet that Che
or you have never met a saint.

I can remember reading a piece by John Berger, years ago, suggesting the iconic links between the corpse of Che and that of Christ and while Berger in his own way is deeply involved in deconstructing images he comes from a very different place from Furniss. You get the feeling from reading these poems that Furniss is a poet who has seen a fair bit of the dark side of life and of death in his early travels around the world and his take on things has a more spiritual resonance. I admire this poem and what I take to be its 'argument', despite the fact that I still have a soft spot for Noam Chomsky and wish that American foreign policy really could become a force for good in the world.

Poems about paintings often 'miss the mark' but Furniss is an exception to that 'rule'. In particular his pieces on Egon Schiele and Edward Hopper capture something of the backdrop, the mood, the style and milieu of the respective painters:

I can take lines for a wicked walk
with my fingers, nibbed like quills;
smear on swabs of colour with
the pads of idle thumbs. ...

(from 'Nip the Bud')

which manages both an amusing aside to Paul Klee and to express something of the 'disturbing meatiness' of Schiele's work.

He flips the sign
from open to closed, dims
the lights, and dusk comes in
from where the road merges
with a smothering of trees.

(from 'Gas,1940')

Hopper appears as the American equivalent of De Chirico, where the emptiness of the landscape has an ominous quality of its own and where people are marginal and their psychology goes unexplored. Road movies where the subject is the road.

There's a jaunty side to Furniss' work, expressed in taut rhythms and debunking relish:

He wore a marzipan beret,
Its insignia that rarity-
A perfect star-shaped strawberry-
To strip the comandante
Who took the I from industry
Of the badge that gave him dignity.

They gagged him with a Cadbury's flake
Imported by the C.I.A.
And stretched him on a rack of cane
Lashed onto a Chevrolet,
Carved him up at Gitmo Bay
With harvest blunt machetes-

(from 'Chocolate Che')
The excess of the American Dream, a consumer glut inside a horror story like the final act of a Shakespearean tragedy. This is more complex stuff than it first seems and Damian Furniss has put together a collection that demands to be read and re-read. A triumph.
© Steve Spence 2010

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Exeter Fringe at The Bike Shed Theatre: 'Bloody Women' and 'Up the Gary'

Exeter Summer Festival is a curious affair, bringing together events at the city's main venues (the Phoenix, Cornmarket, Northcott, Barnfield etc) that would probably be happening anyway with a handful of set piece events such as the unleashing of Theo Jansen's strandbeest onto Exmouth beach and Princesshay, a craft fair on Cathedray Green and a party on the streets on July 10th.

This year it has its fringe - 65 productions by 20 companies in the 11 days between 23rd June and 3rd July at The Bike Shed Theatre with tickets mainly a fiver a pop and six shows from noon til midnight to choose from. It is a shame that the main festival organisers didn't see fit to give it more publicity in their programme, because it brings together a wide range of productions, many by innovative and multi-cultural touring companies who wouldn't otherwise pass through the city and includes comedy, music and dance as well as drama. 

Circumstances did deny me the opportunity to see most of them but last night I did what fringe goers do: turn up and catch what happesd to be on, knowing no more than the single line synopses that tag the posters that have been pasted up around town. And what I got was two productions that you'd rarely see booked at the same space, let alone back-to-back on the same evening.

'Bloody Women' is described as 'An epic tale populated by sexually depraved goddesses, witches, a dog-boy, warriors, a stoic wife and a lot of blood - Ulster myths dragged kicking and screaming into the present.' It began its life as a one woman show by Emer O'Connor but Kerry Irvine of Scenepool's direction and production has added an extra dimension with Charlie Henry on cello and vocals delivering Irish folk songs that give the dramatically realised folk tales haunting counterpoint.

The Ulster myths that inform the production are made present not so much by political subtext as an examination of the power of women in myth and society using archteypes of the mother, the daughter, the witch, the seductress and the warrior. The interlinking texts are delivered with real physicality and in direct and beautifully pitched language as ceremonies of retelling involving washing and blood and the laying out of circles of grain as an arena in which magic can happen. And it does.

The pitch for 'Up the Gary' - 'from top of the pops to the bottom of the barrel, the rise and fall of an ordinary Gary Glitter tribute artist - would seem to have more popular appeal as the Bike Shed filled to capacity and the glitter beat began to rock the house. Written by Andrew Barron with Jessica Beck this one man show delivers all that you might expect but less than it promised. Setting itself up as a very English comedy of embrarassment, the piece delivered on entertainment of the nostalgia for nostalgia kind, dealing nimbly with the rise, but was a missed opportunity to take-on audience expectations, by being clumsy in playing out the fall. For many in the house, the climax seemed to be karaoke Gary as he blinked wide-eyed into the spotlight. Plenty of pathos then, but not enough bathos to get beyond The Stars in their Eyes and into the private lives of the impersonated and impersonator and how the former brought both opportunity and tragedy to the latter.  

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cinema: Whatever Works

Larry David has been swallowed whole and passed through the bowels of Woody Allen onto a Manhattan street where they both belong. After 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona', which did a creditable impression of a Pedro Almodovar movie and was the auteur's most enjoyable outing in years, the portents weren't good.

For a start, while I love Larry David when he plays Larry David, I seriously doubt whether he can play anyone else. He is a Jewish New Yorker trapped in the body and mind of a Jewish New Yorker. Fortunately, the third most famous man to answer to that description is given his own skin by the first. What doesn't work is his notional day job as a nuclear physicist, but strip the script of the occasional quantum reference and nobody would miss much. Better to have made him a retired comic writer and be done with it.

That aside, Larry David plays Larry David and plays him well. He gets to deliver some Woody Allen lines that are more thought through than his usual Curb Your Enthusiasm improvisations, but they seem no less spontaneous; Larry's sounds like a stand-up even in the most mundane of conversations, and while he doesn't have the genius of a near Nobel prize winning scientist, he does have a knack at gnawing at the bones of a conversation until they miraculously regrow meat.

Woody Allen movies generally feature versions of himself; in recent years, they've put the Woody-Woody-would-like-to-be  rather than the Woody-Woody-has-now-become centre stage, which isn't to say Boris/Larry is the kind of somebody anybody else would aspire to. Infact, he's a misanthropic loner who seems to have given up on his higher calling to spend his days sharing his solipsistic observations and bleak cosmological musings with his cafe cronies and abusing would-be chess prodigies and pretty much anyone else he encounters while patrolling his neighbourhood. Plagued by nervous tics and prone to conversational tropes, he is the stupid genius who doesn't even seem that bright.

Then a southern belle walks into his life; a Briney Spears before she was famous, spouting Mickey Mouse dreams and sweet as a cream filled twinkie. Melody is played by Evan Rachel Wood who at least has to act out a part; as sleight and vapid as her role might be, the girl can act. She is everything Woody wants - young, pretty and cute in a stupid-assed way. Moreover, she's willing to marry a cranky old fuck and feed him crayfish pie and viagra. Her arrival and their year long union is wholly unbelievable, but whoever said comic situations require credibility to be funny. Woody goes just as far as he likes with the scenario, turning her Waco (as in Texas) parents into wacko (as in Manhattan) born-again bohemians, and getting the best out of the supporting cast in the process.

I went into the cinema wondering why I was there. It was the sunniest day of the year outside and the only other member of the audience might have stepped straight out of the New York cafe where Boris hangs out having had too many crispy cremes and cafe lattes. He laughed like a cat choking up a hair ball. All of Woody Allen's films these days seem half-thought through and half-finished, sketches either of greater works or projects his younger self would've discarded. But Woody Allen is Woody Allen. And Larry David is Larry David. If you love either, you will forgive this film its faults and find much to like, the old moment to love if laugh-out-loud moments are your chosen symptoms of comic romance. 'Whatever Works' just about works despite itself and turns feel-bad into feel-good like only a couple of Jewish comic geniuses from New York can.

Book Launch: 'Chocolate Che' and 'On the Governing of Empires'

Book Launch: A Message from our Sponsor

A very sunny evening to you all (sunny for the majority of the week, in fact...)

Firstly, thank you all who came to see Carrie Etter last Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Feedback on the space for future readings is very welcome. You can follow Carrie's adventures here:

Secondly, the next event will be the home-launch of books by two Exeter poets. On July 1st, Damian Furniss will be reading from his first full length collection, Chocolate Che, alongside Alasdair Paterson, reading from his new book On the Governing of Empires at the Devon and Exeter Institution. Publicity attached - please forward to interested parties.

You can read more about their books here:

The event is FREE. No, that wasn't a typo, FREE, wine and nibbles provided.

We've had a good run with guests at ExCite Poetry lately, and I'm jolly well looking forward to this, I hope to see lots of you there.

All the best, as ever,

(Yes. It's free...)

Rachel McCarthy,
Poetry Society Representative for East Devon
email: stanza AT

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Simon Persighetti and Phil Smith invite you to join them for a ‘Tour of Sardine Street’

Since late 2007 Simon Persighetti (poet, playwright and performer) and Phil Smith (author of ‘Mythogeography’) have been regularly walking, researching, exploring and performing on one street: Queen Street in Exeter. Now, after a number of ‘test runs’ with other walkers, they have prepared a ‘mis-guided tour’ of the street and would like to invite interested members of the public to join them for a tour.
Phil Smith (The Crab Man) said: “Allowing ourselves more than two years to prepare, we have built up an awareness not only of many of the unseen or ignored details of Queen Street, but we have also seen how it can change radically in short spaces of time – it has a life cycle and a heart beat!”

The tours all begin at the Dinosaur Café at the northern end of Queen Street (at its junction with the New North Road), next to the Miles Clock Tower.
These tours will last between 90 minutes to 2 hours, but walkers are requested to be free for 3 hours (occasionally the guides have been spontaneously invited to visit certain closed areas of the street and would like to be free to respond to any similar invitations).

The times of the tours are as follows:
9th July (Friday) 10am – 1pm

9th July (Friday) 2pm – 5pm

10th July (Saturday) 10am – 1pm

15th July (Thursday) 10am – 1pm

15th July (Thursday) 2pm – 5pm

16th July (Friday) 10am – 1pm

Numbers are very limited (a maximum of seven people for each walk) – those interested should make a booking by email to perform.smith AT

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Exeter Summer Festival: The Fringe at the Bike Shed

Ladies and gentlemen, Particular Theatre Company Supporters, Bike Shed Theatre afficionados,


65 Performances, 21 Companies, 11 Days, 1 Venue

Following the most eventful six months in our (fairly) young lives, The Bike Shed Theatre is closing this season with 11 days of back to back performances. From dance to theatre, comedy and musicals companies from across the UK will be delighting our stage with entertainment for all.

The Fringe Festival will kick off at 2pm today with An Arrangement of Shoes, a touching one woman show about family life in an Indian Railway colony. This is an award winning new play which will give you an idea of the wonders we have lined up over the next couple of weeks.

Also on my personal list of "must sees" are Up The Gary; a musical performance about the rise and fall of a Gary Glitter Tribute artist which promises to have the audience in stitches, and Stuck in the Throat a play of stories which follows three people who are unsure what should be shared and what should remain a secret. These are topped off by our first stand up comedy at The Bike Shed Theatre, Shazia Mirza and Susan Murray are both national calibre comedians who will be previewing their Edinburgh shows on the Bike Shed Stage. You can find more details of these shows and many more on our website where you will also be able to buy your tickets for the shows.
The festival is bringing companies from far and wide into Exeter, please support these performers, lets show them that this city is still craving for quality entertainment.

This will mark the end of our season at The Bike Shed Theatre, following the festival we will be closing our doors for refurbishments and preparing to come back in the autumn with a whole new program of entertainment. We hope to see you walk through our doors over the course of the next 11 days.
Enjoy the Fringe!
David, Fin and Debs

The Bike Shed Theatre

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Art: Theo Jansen at Exeter Summer Festival

Theo Jansen: Artist's Talk

Friday 2 July, 7pm at Exeter Central Library (Music Room), £6/£4 concessions.

An illustrated talk by Theo Jansen providing an insight into his work over the years with details of the new strandbeest, Ventosa Siamesis.

To book a place please contact Spacex:
t: 01392 431788, e: essential.

Theo Jansen: Public Demonstration

Friday 25 - Sunday 27 June, between 11am - 5pm on Exmouth beach, (Carlton Slipway east of the Pavilion), free.

Exclusive live demonstrations of Theo Jansen's new strandbeest, Ventosa Siamesis. This is the first unveiling of this new work. The strandbeest will be in operation on the beach between 11am - 5pm and Jansen will be present from 3 - 5pm (except Friday, when his assistant will be present).

A smaller strandbeest (four metres long) will be available for audiences to interact with and learn how the beach creatures walk.

Theo Jansen: Public Demonstration

Friday 2 - Sunday 4 July, between 11am - 5pm in Exeter city centre, free.

Following the live demonstrations of Theo Jansen's new strandbeest on Exmouth beach, the beach creature will appear in Exeter city centre in Princesshay Square. The strandbeest will be in operation between 11am - 5pm and Jansen will be present from 3 - 5pm.

A smaller strandbeest (four metres long) will be available for audiences to interact with and learn how the beach creatures walk.

Exhibition at The Spacex Gallery, Exeter

15 May - 3 July 2010

Internationally renowned Dutch artist and engineer Theo Jansen has been developing mechanical, skeletal like sculptures for the last 20 years. Jansen has named these creations strandbeests, which translates as beach animals. The strandbeests are self-propelling engineered creatures which are powered by the wind.

Spacex has co-produced this project for which the artist is creating a major new work, a Siamese twin version of his last work, named Ventosa Siamesis. Each of the twins will be approximately 10 metres long and, under the guidance of the artist, this enormous creature will explore Exmouth beach from 25–27 June, before arriving in Exeter city centre, to coincide with Exeter Summer Festival from 2–4 July.

In addition Spacex is showcasing the first UK exhibition of the artist’s work at the gallery from 15 May–3 July 2010.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Cinema review: The Milk of Sorrow

La Teta Asustada is set in contemporary Peru but looks back to the troubles of the 1980s when the country was at virtual civil war between Sendero Luminoso, a ruthless Maoan revolutionary organisation that also took inspiration from Inca resistance movements to Spanish imperialism, and a military that often acted above the law and in many parts of the country were the law which thet despatched with summary justice.

The literal translation of the title is 'the frightened teat' and the film's central concern is the abuse of women during the conflict by both sides and its long-term effects on them and their offspring, many of whom were born from rape; the belief the title alludes to is that the trauma of a violent conception is transmitted to the child through her mother's milk.

The director, Claudia Llosa, is the niece of Peru's best known novelist Mario Vargas Llosa but she draws on a wider range of material for her script than fiction, although magical realism and folk tale are both woven into the texture of the books, including psychological and sociological studies that exposed mass rape as explicit strategies deployed by both sides.

This suggests a heavy watch but the movie, set in the barrios that extend for miles over the desert hills surrounding Lima, is also a charming evocation of village life transplanted to a more urban and less rooted existence. In particular, weddings and wedding customs parade through the film, bringing families and communities together to celebrate their camaraderie, play out their tensions and seed new romances among the guests.

Magaly Solier's central performance as Fausta, a near mute and painfully shy.young woman whose mission is her mother's dying wish - to bury her back home. On her death bed she sings of the troubles that befell her and her generation in an opening scene that demands attention as it establishes in ballad form the back story that brings us here. In telling the story of mother and daughter and their bond beyond death it becomes the repository of many similar testimonies and does bear the weight of that responsibility. How you react to Solier in the lead role will determine whether you respond emotionally or merely cerebrally. It is her journey to reestablish her life after the death and to overcome her condition that is beyond the medical, although it manifests itself medically, that you'll be preoccupied by.

Ultimately, the film represents the shame of a family and of a nation as both attempt to overcome their past by burying it. That is a theme that can be applied to conflicts across societies and throughout history told as the sun slowly rises in the the beautiful sadness of Solier's eyes. The story is told less through linear plot and more through the occurrence and recurrence of images that suggest the paintings of Frida Kahlo, another Latin American woman who spent her life overcoming a tragic beginning by a strength of will expressed in surreal but rooted visions. 

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Cinema review: 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans' directed by Werner Herzog, starring Nicolas Cage

This good cop/bad cop movie is more reminiscent of David Lynch, whose involvement in the project is unspecified and apparent, down to the jive talking surrealists and their chameleon visions - and than any of his previous work. That said, Nicolas Cage is at his maddest and most affecting in the lead role and one can imagine Cage and Herzog in a creative partnership in the way the latter once enjoyed and endured with his best fiend, Klaus Kinski.

We join Cage as Terence McDonagh just after Hurricane Katrina when despite his worser nature he dives into the bilge to rescue a jailbird, injuring his spine in the process, thus initiating a drug addicted spiral he never really breaks out of but that gives the film its momentum. McDonagh is a man of many vices, addicted to gambling as well as painkillers and consorting with prostitutes and gangsters, playing ball with the law.

Eva Mendes is a great watch as the hooker with a heart, body and brain and Cage visibly enjoys slowly loosening his grip on the role that may well become a cult anti-hero, delivering increasingly crazed lines with brio and following a course dictated by the peculiar logic of his inner and outer circumstance. There's enough bodies strewn in his path to keep the hardboiled amused and although calling this a psychological drama would be claiming too much - or too little - it is a psychodrama of both the highest and lowest order. 

Theatre: Beanfield by Shaun McCarthy directed by David Lockwood at Bike Shed Exeter and Tobacco Factory Bristol


Written by Sean McCarthy
Directed by David Lockwood
Produced by the Particular Theatre Company
The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter: 1st - 19th June 2010
The Tobacco Factory, Bristol: 24th Auigust- 4th September

It is 25 years since the Battle of the Beanfield, a confrontation between the police forces of several counties and a peace convoy of new age travellers on their way to Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice, a fourteenth free festival that would have established the event by right. It occurred at the high watermark of Thatcherism and for many symbolises her government's strategy: to create enemies without or within, demonise them with the assistance of a right-wing press and then defeat them by force of arms. However, unlike the Falklands War and the miners' strike, it seems to have faded in the collective memory, despite being the police operation that led to the largest number of arrests in British history - 1,600 officers took over 500 citizens into custody, filling holding cells all over England with men and women, their children taken into care. Years later, the justice system begrudgingly acknowledged their innocence and police guilt but by then, lives had been ruined and a way of life erased from the landscape.

Why this anniversary has been overlooked when our media is usually hungry for the nostalgia of recent history is partly because of the lack of documentary footage of the event. Photographers on the scene were few and what news footage was filmed was mysteriously deleted or edited. In our age of internet media what has survived has surfaced on youtube, and can be seen by anyone, but back then were were dependent on the news barons of Fleet Street and Broadcasting house. There was something almost medieval about the confrontation as the police systematically destroy the travellers' homes and beat them into submission. What few independent witnesses there were on site still talk of their shock that such force could be deployed at so much cost to deal with what were mainly the refugees of recession, rogues by necessity but hardly potential revolutionaries.

The challenge for writer, cast and director is how to give the event context and reduce it from the widescreen to a small stage, telling human stories to capture a historic event from multiple perspectives. Shaun McCarthy looks to Shakespeare for his inspiration. The prelude to the Battle takes place in the Forest of Arden of a Midummer Night's Dream while the Battle itself draws from the history plays for lessons in how to conjure up largescale confl;ict with a small cast and a few props on a few boards of stage.

Key to success or failure of the endeavour of the venture is Steamer, the narrator and central protagonist played with energy, conviction and insight by Ben Crispin. This is his first major role since qualifying at Exeter's Cygnet Theatre drama school; it won't be his last. It is Crispin's charisma and drive that gives the momentum drama as Steamer steps out of his own tragi-comedy of a love story and into those of others, still seeking to understand what happened years on. Writing this review weeks after seeing the production, Steamer still lives in my dreams while the other characters have faded into the background; give him a chance, he might just find his way into yours.

The first act is one of setup and explication. If you are of that time and place, it may seem laboured, but no doubt necessary to situate characters and audience. The roles established are convenient to the development of several themes of the play. Steamer's girlfriend Annie is herself the daughter of a news editor, taking a break out of what has otherwise been a cosseted life; seeking purpose, flirting with danger. Katie Villa is well cast to walk a sometimes meandering line between innocence and experience and it is her character and gives many in the audience a door from their life into that of a band of vagrants who were more often choosing the convoy over sink estates and urban squats than slumming it for fun, although there was plenty of fun to be had along the way.

Diane is a west country innocent picked up by chance en route and Georgie Rennolds who plays her combines naivety and nous in a persona that becomes more layered as the drama unravels until it his her experience and its telling that you trust more than any other. She also plays the female half of a Midlands couple due to take a trip through the West Country and again gives her character development that becomes insight, however simplified the implied conflict between working and non-working class is represented as being. Again, McCarthy takes from Shakespeare that combination of cartoon characterisation and plotlines that depend on coincidence for credence with a quality of language that enables the actors to transcend and subvert audience expectations. 

The demands of the production mean all of the cast apart from Crispin have to play a variety of roles so the foot soldiers of the battle are in place when the action begins, whether police, council or convoy. Ben Simpson as Benny and as Eli Thorne as Lex are asked to represent the light and dark sides of both convoy and police and while these minor roles are more symbols than characters, they dodeliver their keynote speeches with gusto and bring enough energy to the stage in the battle scene that you feel you are seeing a telephoto view of a wideangle conflict. It is a credit to cast and David Lockwood's direction that the set piece scenes are conjured up by just five actors and a flexible set that is cunningly designed by Phil Wyatt to become any of the many settings the play demands while also saying something of a mobile life off odds and ends, its frammework and props something that could be constructed from the contents of any hardware store.

The second half of the play opens with the battle scene that is necessarily noisy and brutal but then takes us through the immediate aftermath and into the later eighties when bust has turned to boom and there is money to be made even by the more savvy of those like Steamer who were once left behind. In many ways, this is the most interesting part of the play. Leave travellers in their battered buses and you only see a segment of their lives because few except those born to the convoy began their lives on the road and, given the sequence of laws that were passed in the five years after the battle that the play relates like a magna carta of rights taken away, most have long abandoned the lifestyle or fled to southern europe where casual work is more available year round. Steamer has got off the bus but still has the light of life in his eyes while in others from the past he encounters by chance, it already seems to have died.

Veterans of the conflict - for this was just the largest of many battles that ended at Castlemorton in 1990, the last of the great free festivals when new age and rave cultures merged on common land for a week or two of fuck-you paryting - attended rehersals on a number of occasions but in the end it is writer and director who had to find a few stories among the many to make sense of what happened to a modern audience and say something worth saying today. In that, they largely succeed. Back then, I was flirting with the lifestyle myself, a weekend hippie and armchair anarchist hitching my way to free fesivals across southern England. But in just the same way as union laws were rewritten after Orgreave and Wapping, so the trend towards a progressive denial of civil liberties and ever-increasing surveillance began at the Beanfield. However confused resistance was in that movement, it wasn't futile although it was defeated.

As another young generation are dispossessed and see the life opportunities they thought they were born to evaporate, so a new movement will begin and this time it will be better organised, at once less visible and more effective. By looking back to Shakespeare, McCarthy reminds us that the English peasantry have a long history of rebellion. Any history play has to do more than describe a particular set of events if it is to survive. Yes, the play is one of archetypes playing out plot lines we've seen before in familiar ways but that is both its point and purpose. I have seen all of Particular Theatre's productions so far and rate this as the one most likely to have a deserved life of its own beyond the Bike Shed stage.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Poetry: Excite June Newsletter

Firstly, welcome to all new stanza members, and a sunny morning one and all,

Details of poetry events in June follow below, with flyers attached, so please forward to interested parties.

Open mic night at Exeter Cathedral, 4th June, 8.30pm -10.30pm, a fundraiser for a charity which provides emergency accommodation for young people with nowhere else to go. Open mic spots available, contact Katie Moudry at katiemoudry AT

Otto Retro open mic, Exeter, 10th June, 7.30pm, £4/£3 concs on the door - Another night of funky junk with generous helpings of wine and nibbles and yes, poetry. Give me a call or drop me an email to book a slot.

Carrie Etter @ The Paragon Gallery, Exeter, 17th June, 7.30pm, £5 /£3 on the door. We're very lucky to have Carrie come down and visit us. Carrie is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She has been widely published both in the US and UK, (Poetry Review, The New Republic, Stand, TLS, to hardly name a few). She'll be reading from both her pamphlet, The Son, from Oystercatcher Press and her first collection, The Tethers, from Seren, which the TLS hailed as 'one of the most ambitious and accomplished first collections in recent years.'
Not to be missed.

Open mic spaces available, but I warn thee now, they will go quickly...
Other interesting bits of news
Word of Mouth, A wee bit further out, but on the 5th June if you are in the Barnstable area there is a free afternoon of spoken word, poetry, performance and live music at Boston Tea Party, 1pm - 5pm.
The Poetry Society Stanza Competition is open now, the theme is 'Elsewhere', full rules below. If you are on the ExCite Poetry mailing list, i.e. received this email from you are eligible to enter.
I've been wittering in public about various things lately, which are now archived on the website (
A look back over Carol Ann Duffy's first year as laureate:,_going,_gone.html
My Interview in Poetry News about what we do:
That's all for now folks, best

Rachel McCarthy,

Poetry Society Representative for East Dev
email: stanza AT
Uncut Poets
The June event features guest poets
James Bell & Steve Spence
Please join us to say farewell to James who is retiring from his slot as co-host of Uncut, and also has a new collection to promote: Fishing for Beginners, published by Tall Lighthouse. Steve will read from his recently-published first collection, A Curious Shipwreck.

The event takes place on
Thursday 24 June, 7:30 pm, at
The Black Box
Media Centre
Exeter Phoenix
Gandy Street
Box Office: 01392-667080

Tickets: £5 / £3 (concessions & open-mic readers)

Anyone wishing to book an open-mic slot may do so by calling James Bell on 07879-888319.

If you can't get hold of James, try me (Tony Frazer) on 07789-430485.

The next Uncut session will be on Thursday 29 July, our last session before the summer break, and will feature Lee Harwood as guest poet. Guests for the rest of the year are Kelvin Corcoran (September), Alice Kavounas (October) and Lawrence Sail (November).
Another date for your diaries: on 1 July, Uncut regulars Damian Furniss and Alasdair Paterson launch their new collections at the Devon and Exeter Institution, 7 The Close [i.e. on the Cathedral Green], Exeter EX1 1EZ. 7:30 for 8pm. Admission free.
The Language Club
Poetry in performance

7.30 – 10pm

Tickets £5 (£3 concessions)

Saturday 5 June

With guest poet Damian Furniss.Damian will be reading from his forthcoming book Chocolate Che. The poems in Chocolate Che were written in Cuba in the fiftieth year of the revolution; in India working with dying destitutes and recovering from tuberculosis; travelling up and down the spine of the Americas and into the heart of Europe on the trail of soldiers, artists and monks.

Shearsman Readings
Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH. The entrance is through the portico on the right of the building shown above. There is no admission fee. Unless stated otherwise, all readings are hosted by Tony Frazer, publisher of Shearsman Books.
The next reading is as follows:

All events start at 7:30 pm.
Tuesday 7 June 2010

Damian Furniss & Martin Anderson

Exeter Poetry Festival

On Sunday 10 October, 3:00pm, Elisabeth Bletsoe, Damian Furniss and Jaime Robles read in a special Shearsman event at the first Exeter Poetry Festival, Exeter Central Library. Further details tbc, but, apart from the Shearsman reading, Jen Hadfield, Julia Copus and Greta Stoddart are all scheduled to read at the Festival. Follow news about the Festival here

Particular Theatre: June Newsletter

June 2010 – Newsletter 7
Dear Particular Friend,
It’s the 1st of June, the 25th anniversary of the battle of the beanfield and the opening night of Beanfield, Particular Theatre Company’s new play written to commemorate this event.

Also coming up in June is our two week theatrical extravaganza; the Exeter Fringe festival which will bring to the Bike Shed Theatre 20 different performances to keep you busy for two weeks straight.
We hope to see you all at The Bike Shed Theatre enjoying the treats we have lined up for this most exciting of Junes…
David, Fin and Debs

Our cast and crew are ready for the lights to go up on our brand new production of Shaun McCarthy’s Beanfield. Opening tonight the show will be on at The Bike Shed Theatre until the 19th of June.
The battle of the beanfield took place 25 years ago to the day and saw a group of travellers being kept away from Stonehenge through police brutality. Beanfield tells the story of the event through the means of a beautifully scripted love story.

Veterans of the battle have been involved in this production from the start; from the writing of the play to the rehearsal room. This will give you a real and true story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Tickets for Beanfield are £10 (£5 Monday and concessions) and can be bought online


The first ever Exeter Fringe Festival will take place at The Bike Shed Theatre from the 23rd of June to the 3rd of July 2010.
Everyday from midday to midnight The Bike Shed Theatre will be hosting six consecutive shows for a total of 20 shows over the course of the two weeks. It’s going to be busy.
We have dance, we have theatre, musicals and stand up, whatever you fancy there will be something for everyone.
Tickets for all performances are £5 except for stand up which are £10. For further details on each show and performance times visit

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Theatre review: Miss Julie by No Cut Theatre at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

The Bike Shed Theatre is giving Exeter residents a chance to enjoy worthwhile productions and occasional cabaret in an intimate setting. Another Tuesday night, another empty house indicates we're still not taking advantage. I'm in danger of repeating myself, but any night spent in the presence of live actors will be more fulfilling than an evening in front of the TV, and at a tenner a ticket, the recession is no excuse.

The Particular Theatre Company have focused on new writing from the south-west region but The Bike Shed is also enjoying adaptations of modern and classic plays, and Miss Julie is a piece of theatre of historical importance, being August Strindberg's best known work of naturalist tragedy that nevertheless incorporates hints of his more innovative expressionist work.

But does a classic of late nineteenth century drama translate not just to the contemporary stage but a contemporary setting? That was the challenge adaptor and director Isabel Evans took on and that is the question the audience were left with. Yes and no is my answer, perhaps befitting the to and fro power struggle between man and woman, working and upper class that is at the heart of this drama. The themes of the original were prescient and key to the next fifty years of European history. Class struggle isn't over and sexual politics is present in all of our lives, but perhaps not in the upstairs downstairs world of Miss Julie.

There are still great houses with butlers and cooks of course, but the dynamic is different to Strindberg's era and the melodrama doesn't consistently speak to a contemporary audience. Which is not to say that the production, put together by a group of Cygnet Theatre graduates, is without merit. Lizzy Drive as Kristin the cook has a good go at portraying an Irish girl of faith and fatalism. Her suffering stimulates more empathy than the less likeable duo at the centre of the drama. Wesley Magee's performance as Jean  is probably the most consistent of the trio, his accent more assured and his presence more convincingly current. Annette Emery as Miss Julie has charisma and she balances the femme fatale with the tragic little girl lost of the title role. Her Potteries accent seems to come and go but that is perhaps intentional, saying something of a daughter of new money trying on the authority of mistress of the house. Her absent father is a dominant presence despite never being seen on stage.

The fuse of love and lust could have led to more physical explosions on stage and however fitting the final scene may have been in Scandinavia the century before last, it doesn't ring true now but I hope this first night performance grows over its short run, and the audience grows with it. I'm sure we'll see some of the cast on the Exeter stage again and wish No Cut Theatre well in its venture.

Art Review: Anthony Frost and Terry Frosts at The Brook Gallery Budleigh Salterton

Budleigh Salterton, one of Devon's more genteel seaside towns, is an unlikely setting for a gallery specialising in contemporary, quality and usually abstract prints, but The Brook Gallery has been operating for over a decade now, and has built up a clentele of collectors onsite and online.

The late Sir Terry Frost should need no introduction, being one of our country's most celebrated painters and printmakers. His son Anthony has made his own reputation, sharing his father's talent for form and colour, but finding his own palette and motifs. A third generation of Frosts has taken up the family trade, with Anthony's son Danny recently having a room to himself at Tate St Ives.

This back-to-back show of the elder Frosts' work gives us a chance to compare and contrast two innovative printmakers who between them mastered just about every technique available to post-war artists working in the medium. I missed Anthony's show, being in Morocco, but am familiar with his work and its evolution, with the chevrons and slashes in intense blues and oranges beginning to breakup to reflect the development of his work on canvas. He paints to music - The Fall, who he's created cover art for, Captain Beefheart, Dinosaur Junior, PJ Harvey - and the key to what he does is rhythm and vibration. I prefer his paintings on a scale, benefitting from the textures of stitched cloth and netting he applies the paint on, but some of his more recent prints are leaping off the paper with new vigour.

Terry Frost worked mainly in primary colours with distinctive forms - the abstracted semi-circles of rocking boats, an always pulsing sun, stripes of colour that reverberate in each other's company. I particularly like his pieces in red, black and white and have reproductions of several on my wall. Beginning his career as an artist as a prisoner of war working with wood and lino from the huts he was imprisoned in. He ended back in the West Penwith landscape he loved, remarkably productive in his later years, with a joie de vivre that is remembered by all who knew him and more than evident in his last creations.

I was fortunate enough that my visit that coincided with the launch of Dominic Kemp's 'Terry Frost Prints - A Catalogue Raisonne' that compiles Sir Terry's work in the medium chronologically and is both definitive and beautifully produced with an illuminating series of essays. He delivered two talks, the first on the techniques of the printmaker, using examples from the exhibition as illustrations. The second majored on the images he created to accompany a book of eleven poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, the great Andalusian poet and playwright who was executed in the Spanish Civil War.These are darker and more mysterious than his usual images, and as great a set of illustrations as have graced any work of poetry.

Film Review - Cemetery Junction written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

Typical first novels are coming of age tales set where the author grew up with a version of himself taking the lead. Most should never have been written, or else left in the drawer. But given Ricky Gervais has already created 'The Office', one of the greatest comedies ever, together with 'Extras', a clever take on how his life might have played out if the comedy of embarrassment in his masterpiece had been replaced by catchphrases and canned laughter, I had high hopes for his first venture onto celluloid as an auteur rather than bit-part Hollywood player. I've no problem with 'Cemetery Junction' being occasionally comic drama, rather than occasionally dramatic comedy. But I was expecting more than a mediocre Brit-flick buddy movie that is formula without the bang.

It starts with 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' and ends with 'The Graduate' and in between quotes from classic cinema but never really breaks out of the small screen it might have been made for. Sure, the seventies decor has the volume turned up and the soundtrack is well chosen, ending with a sequence choreographed to Led Zeppelin's 'The Rain Song' that almost makes you sit up and notice, but never matches the grandeur of the music, but it lacks characters you care about going on a journey that matters - the essence of drama.

The only truly affecting performances are played by the two most experienced actors on set: Ralph Fiennes as the boss of an insurance company who might have made it out of the terraces but still treats his spouse like a char lady and Emily Watson as that much put upon wife who finally faces up to him and enjoys a moment of quiet triumph that reverberates loudly because of all they have put into the portrayal of a marriage. Some of the other 'grown-up' roles are creditable but it's the roles of the three mates grow up together fighting and farting that the movie and I just didn't care about them individually or collectively. Only Felicity Jones as the sweetheart impressed, but although she had screen time, the characterisation gave her little more than a series of cameos to work with.

Meanwhile, Gervais is another version of himself with added grime and stubble while Merchant looms into shot for a couple of gags that are peripheral to the plot. It's not that this pair don't have a film in them, it's that 'Cemetery Junction' isn't it. It'll get no audience outside of these shores but is worth a Saturday night on the sofa with popcorn if you're nostalgic for 1973 and want an easy night in with tunes you can hum along to. 

Particular Theatre Company @ The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter - May Newsletter

May 2010 – Newsletter 6

Dear Particular Friend,
Spring is bringing with it petals, sun, prime ministerial debates and a thrilling line-up of entertainment at the Bike Shed Theatre.

To add some joy to this Bank Holiday weekend we are having a three-day-wonder special offer which will end on Tuesday 3rd of May, read on for more details.

We hope you have all been enjoying the sunshine and will be as excited as we are about what’s going to be hitting our stage over the coming month.

All the best,

David, Fin and Debs


We have two very exciting theatre companies gracing our stage over the coming month;

No Cut Theatre Company will be performing an adaptation of Miss Julie by August Stringberg. This will be No Cut’s first production; the company formed whilst treading our Bike Shed boards for a short play in February 2010. Their aim is to breathe new life into classical text, making it relevant to today’s world.

The Theatre Alchemists will be are bringing us an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s short novel Clockwork. Formed in 2007 The Theatre Alchemists debuted with a rendition of The Princess Bride and have since created works that focus on story telling which will make both children and adults leave the theatre with a smile.

Miss Julie by August Stringberg at the Bike Shed Theatre from the 4th to the 8th of May, start 7.30pm.
As Midsummer Eve celebrations take place on a country estate, the landowners daughter Julie plays a dangerous game with her fathers manservant Jean. But is it a game she can win?
No Cut Theatre presents a powerful new version of August Strindberg's Miss Julie, which explores the themes of class, equality, power and sex.

 Clockwork by Philip Pullman at the Bike Shed Theatre from the 11th to the 22nd of May, start 7.30pm.
Strange tales are told of the events in a little german town in winter - sinister strangers, devilish knights and clockwork hearts. But it's all just a story isn't it? But just like clockwork, once you've wound up a story and set it going, it will run to it's end, no matter where that leads...
With live music, puppetry projection and storytelling, The Theatre Alchemists bring Philip Pullman's much loved "Clockwork" to the stage. And now it's all wound up, we can begin...


Our next in house production has us all raring to go. Beanfield is a new play by Bristol playwright Shaun McCarthy and will be showing at the Bike Shed Theatre from the 1st of June to the to the 19th of June 2010. It will then be transferring to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol from the 24th of August for a two week run.

Produced to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Beanfield, this beautifully poetic play uses the battle as a backdrop to tell a compelling love story as well as reminding us of the horrific events that took place in the not so distant past.

Starring Ben Crispin, Katie Villa, Eli Thorne, Sam Morris and Georgie Reynolds, Beanfield will once again showcase the work of our top class production team. This is a Particular show that just can’t be missed!


To give you something to look forward to when you get back into the office on Tuesday morning, we are having a half price sale on all our tickets over this Bank Holiday weekend.
Book your tickets before Tuesday for any of our shows and you will be able to plan your next month of theatrical entertainment for a mere £5 a ticket!

Poetry events in Exeter, May 2010

Open Mic spots for Otto Retro on Thursday 13th May are now up for grabs, doors open 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start, £4/£3 conc, wine and nibbly-things available. 

To book a slot call Rachel McCarthy on 07854598552 or reply to this email

Please forward the attached poster to any others who might be interested and...

Friday 7th May: Acoustic Cafe @ Nightchurch 
in Aid of Christian Aid

On Friday May 7th at Exeter Cathedral, Nightchurch will once again host Christian Aid for a special evening of music, art and opportunities to find out more about the challenge to end poverty.

There will be an acoustic cafe so 
if you're a poet, a storyteller, or a musician and would like a 5 minute open mic slot email

Wondermentalist: Taking The Mic

Wed 19 May, 8pm onwards FREE in the cafe bar, Phoenix Arts Centre, Gandy Street, Exeter
The-have-a-go-in-the-bar-show for performing poets, stand-ups, variety acts, singer songwriters and those audiences looking for free entertainment with bar snacks. Hosted by Liv Torc (The Bard of Exeter and winner of the South West Heat of the National Radio 4 Poetry Slam – 2009). With support from Ed Tudor Pole (Tenpole Tudor) 5 min slots available – please book a slot in advance by emailing

Uncut Poets: Richard Berengarten (formerly Richard Burns)

Thu 27 May, 7.30pm, £5 (£3) Black Box at Phoenix Arts Centre, Gandy Street, Exeter
Bring a drink from the bar and an open ear to connect with Exeter’s premier year round poetry platform. Want to read? Call James Bell on 07879 888319.  

Monday, 26 April 2010

Theatre review: 'Still' by Steve Lambert at The Bike Shed Theatre by the Particular Theatre Company 13th April - 1st May 2010

We make it one of our missions on The Blah Blah Blah Show to  support local theatre, especially where it is promoting new writing and/or innovative productions. The Express and Echo has featured several missives in its letter pages the last few days from theatre goers complaining that 'popular' theatre (by which they mean West End musicals, and established but 'safe' classics) is increasingly unavailable in the city, leading them to travel to Torbay, Plymouth or further afield. I put it to them that anyone who is a genuine lover of drama should make an effort to support the more interesting, innovative and intimate productions that are put on in the city, in the Bike Shed and elsewhere. They won't enjoy every aspect of what they find played out to them on stage - I don't either - but there is nothing like a professional show in a small space to provoke as well as entertain and their patronage may be supporting the future writer of a classic or an emerging major actor to develop their talent.

'Still' really is an intimate production, the stage shrunk to a corner of the pop-up auditorium, but designed by Phil Wyatt as a kind of Forest of Arden, the place of midsummer dreams and nightmares. The two acts are separated by a decade but otherwise involve the same couple, if a pair of characters who've only just met when we meet them can be so described. They are also separated by the mystery at the heart of the play - what happened here before, what happened here after, what is happening here now.

The dynamic of the production is wholly dependent on the projected personality of Jo, played by Rose Romain, another product of the E15 Acting School, whose female graduates seem to embody zestful energy. Her humour was a constant provocation. It is her presence that carries what might otherwise be a difficult piece, full of uncertainties I didn't find successfully resolved. It's been a week since I was in the audience and I still find myself thinking out the play which is a good sign. I'm still unsure whether my failure to work it through to resolution is a bad sign, or the its reason for being.

Mark Shorto as David has the more difficult role of an altogether more diffident man - his portrayal of awkwardness might come across as awkward acting. With just two actors on stage for the duration, a degree of empathy is required for both characters and even before the truths of who he is, what he is doing, what he has done are revealed I just couldn't understand what the two were doing together; why he had taken her to his secret place was obvious enough, why she had chosen him and gone along with it less so.

In the end, I'm not sure if there was enough on the page or the stage to deliver a fully satisfying night at the theatre. I left wondering if I'd seen a one-act play over-extended, which isn't to say that serious themes weren't being considered in Steve Lambert's writing or David Lockwood's direction.
Is it better to tell a lie or to live one? Is life about moments of magic or the passages of the ordinary that link them? Is life given away or taken? Why does a story begin and when does it end? I'm not sure if this play has found its way through those questions yet, but at least it is asking them. More rewarding than a night of songs from the West End musicals? I think so.

Exeter Polish Film Festival, Two Stories Exhibition

Two Stories Exhibition 

The Two Stories Exhibition uses photographic art to explore the lost history linking Poland and Britain.

It uncovers details that have been suppressed for years, highlighting the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland during World War2.

It describes events that challenge our beliefs in what we were told took place; events that affect Poland to this day.

It is touring Devon galleries and exhibition spaces over the next twelve months. 

April 19th to May 17th 2010 - Devon Records Office
Mobile form of exhibition
Devon Records Office, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Exeter EX2 7NL
Tel: 01392 384253
Monday to Friday: 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m
The following Saturdays in 2010 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
16 January; 20 February; 6 & 20 March; 17 April; 15 May; 5 & 19 June; 3 & 17 July; 7 & 21 August; 4 & 18 September; 2 & 16 October; 6 & 20 November; 4 & 18 December
Map to site

May 15th to May 29th 2010 - Okehampton Museum
Gallery form of exhibition
Okehampton Museum, 3 West Street Okehampton ,Devon , EX20 1HQ
Tel:01837 52295
Monday 23rd March - until 12th December
Monday - Friday 10.15am to 4.30pm, last admission 4.00pm
Saturdays 10.15am to 3.30pm with last entry 3pm
Museum site

May 22nd to June 19th 2010 - Tavistock library
Mobile form of exhibition
Tavistock Library, The Quay, Plymouth Road, Tavistock, Devon PL19 8AB
Tel: 01822 612218
Monday 9:00 - 7:00
(Closed until 10:30 on the 2nd Monday of each month for staff training)
Tuesday 9:00 - 5:00
Wednesday 9:00 - 5.00
Thursday 9:00 - 5:00
Friday 9:00 - 7:00
Saturday 9:30 - 4:00

June 22nd to July 18th 2010 - Phoenix Centre
Gallery form of exhibition
Phoenix Centre, Gandy Street , Exeter, Devon EX4 3LS
Tel: 01392 667080
OPENING TIMES MON - SAT: 10am-5pm SUN: 11.30am-5pm. Entry is Free.

June 22nd to July 18th 2010 - St Sidwell's Centre
Mobile form of exhibition
St Sidwell's Centre, Sidwell Street, Exeter, Devon EX4 6 NN
Tel: 01392 666222

Exeter Polish Film Festival

The Exeter Polish Film Festiwal, a satellite event of Kinoteka Polish Film Festiwal, the flagship project of the Polish Cultural Institute, is a rare opportunity to see some of the best Polish movies, illuminating documentaries and animations. Discover the ‘Magical Worlds of Polish Animation’ and find inspiration at the Polish Film Festiwal Exhibition, featuring film posters designed by artists of the Polish School of Poster Design. Jazz fans cannot miss ‘Haunting Jazz Scores’ night with the unforgettable movie & jazz duo of Polański and Komeda, while those wanting to learn more about Polish cinema, are welcome to join us at the Exeter Central Library Film Club.

29 April -Mother Joan of the Angels /
Matka Joanna od Aniołów
5 May -Jasminum
5 May -Land of Promise / Ziemia Obiecana
7 May -Sexmission / Seksmisja
12 May -Time to Die / Pora Umierać
12 May -The Reverse / Rewers
14 May -The Debt / Dług