Petersfield Write Angle poetry & music cabaret
With November guests, ‘Project Adorno’ (Russell Thompson & Praveen Manghani)
The Townhouse, Petersfield
Tuesday, November 15
Project Adorno appeared in sparkling gold jackets. With lights dimmed, and the use of video and sound, they brought to life the humble beginnings of TV screen and song writer, Dennis Potter, starting with the Forest of Dean, where he spent his childhood, to celebrity status with plays such as ‘Pennies from Heaven’, ‘The Singing Detective’ and ‘Lipstick on Your Collar’.
The show charted Potter’s course with interviews, mostly with his daughter, Jane Chowns, his long-time producer, Kenith Trodd, several academics and John Belcher, the keeper of the flame in Potter’s native village. Potter was the son of a miner. Many scenes of Hammersmith Bridge, symbolising his mother’s birthplace, were used in two of his plays. His daughter Jane summed up Potter’s character, as the other interviewees discussed their first impressions and lasting memories of Potter’s sublime work.
All this was done through song and guitar, lending a subdued atmosphere to the room as the duo went from song to song – at times stopping for audio comments from Jane, his producer and the academics. Songs such as ‘Seeing the Present’, celebrating one of Potter’s best-known interviews, in which he spoke of “the nowness of now”; ‘The Church of the Mixed Metaphor’, alluding to his upbringing as a churchgoer and the imagery in Sankey & Moody’s famous book of hymns.
Also included was ‘Blue Remembered Hills’, a wonderful film in which adult actors perform as children. Potter wasn’t only loved but also criticised for songs such as ‘Blackeyes’, his most controversial novel/screenplay – was he being misogynist or just writing about misogyny?
In one song, (1993), Praveen connected his own experience of working in the civil service with watching the similarly-themed ‘Lipstick on Your Collar’. Another, ‘Rozoxane’, a reggae, told of a miracle drug that came close to curing Potter’s debilitating psoriasis. The song, ‘Hide and Seek’, from the novel of the same name, is the key to Potter, himself. Jane ended after the song, ‘Famous Last Words’, with a summing up of the man no one really knew but who fascinated so many.
It was an interesting and challenging programme that definitely held attention and raised questions. At times, the sound was a bit muffled and we hope this helps clarify, somewhat. Alternatively, the sound lent a surrealistic ‘feel’ and was almost hypnotic. The audience was attentive throughout.
Meantime, our Open Mic brought Colin Eveleigh, poet, potter and tutor of mindfulness. His poem, ‘Somme Total’, is a tribute to Armistice Day, about the soldiers of the Great War, in which he told of his wife’s great uncle who died age 20. “Where there was carnage in 1916, it is now serene… The allure of war never fails”. One must “gather each falling tribute lovingly in one’s arms”. A very strong poem.
Well-known author Michelle Magorian, newcomer to Write Angle, followed with a poem about her mother: ‘Miss Invisible’ – “shorthand for I am old” – she heard bombs fall…danced all night…was married in Bombay…where is she now? Well, she has friends in France, Tel Aviv and Idaho. She’s always visible. So cheer up! Signed…Yours-dot-com! Humour with a lovely twist.
David Roberts chose to overlook the problems in the US and go for his love of ‘Manhattan’. “She may be young enough to be your daughter” ..”it’s the most romantic place…where intellectuals hang out. The land of the rich and free”. (this New Yorker agrees) ‘A View from my Conservatory’ followed, where “clouds fly by at the speed of night”. There’s “so much more life in his garden…thrushes, robins and blackbirds…flowers…where I can see the world, and no one can hurt me”. A good poem.
Bruce Parry had two new poems; ‘Going Home’ about Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, with its “rusty fire escapes, fishermen, they come from in-land and far” – a lovely description. Then, an ‘early’ Christmas with ‘Sofas’ about ‘Mr and MrsTotally Self-Centred’, “out to buy a sofa, made of reindeer skin (only £4000) they don’t need with their unlimited credit card”. “Something to bounce on like they do on the telly – then slide and bounce and eat chocolate cake – but that’s too much work. ‘We don’t sell sofas. We sell dreams’ says the salesman. But they must get home. They’re missing the telly. Just as long as the delivery is before Christmas..” (a bit of fun and lots of cynicism) – lots of laughs!
Michelle then returned to the mic with two poems based on two different kinds of women; one who wants to go away for the weekend, ‘Pack of Three’ – but must think first of her two children who’ll be left behind. “Please don’t ask me to go away. If you want me, you have to remember there are three”. Then ‘On And On’ about a woman who broke off with someone – he went on and on and on and on…talking, never stopping…Then he went on and on..when all she wanted was a man who’d use his mouth in a different way….not go on and on, but ‘turn her on’. Finally, a sad ‘goodbye’. It was very well read and true to the bone!
Jilly Funnell got up with guitar and sang a very clever, funny Christmas song, ‘Principle Boy’ – the one who plays in panto. When you get him home, that’s when you find what’s really inside his tights….
Jake read two poems, ‘My Brother’ about his late brother who became a great talker but early onset Alzheimer’s took his words away; then ‘What’s a Girl to Do?’ about the challenges facing a woman in the old West.
Yours truly did a poem about a birthday party followed by a short script, ‘Strange Bedfellows’, a love scene between Clinton and Trump (before his triumph) and ‘sadly – badly’ acted by Leah and Jake.
Speech Painter and Philip Jeays had come along and we wished they’d perform but it was their night to prefer just watching ‘Project Adorno’.
It was, in all, a very warm and good evening with lots of laughs and a very special BIG thanks to our special guests – not to forget our ever fabulous open mikers!
The next Write Angle is on December 20, when we have a very special guest, Richard Digance! Entry fee is £15 as this will be a very special evening – Richard Digance is a legend!
Write Angle doesn’t make money from these evenings but the special guests do get paid! And there’ll be a raffle for two free meals, as usual.