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.