The DCH Blog
Spinning Wheel Theatre production of Mindgame - a review - Monday 20th October 2014
Spinning Wheel Theatre came to the Corn Hall in April of last year, with Jim Cartwright’s Two. On that occasion, I recall being hugely impressed by great acting and excellent stagecraft, and looked forward to seeing the company perform in a play that really showcased their skills.
Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame proved to be exactly that - a preposterous twisty turny puzzle in the spirit of Death Trap or Sleuth. For the most part a two-hander, Joe Leat was particularly good as the curious author with dark secrets, ably complemented by Tom Leeper, playing a man with secrets that were blacker still. Setting aside a couple of early run hiccoughs, both of them had a sureness, and lightness, of touch notwithstanding the grim subject matter. Without turning the play into an outright farce, they’ve worked with director Amy Wyllie to draw humour out of what is, after all, a ludicrous scenario, enabling the audience to laugh with the play, not at it.
This was a fast-paced, rollicking rollercoaster of a play, a great example of what touring theatre can do, and quite simply the best night at the theatre I can recall in a long time.
By David Vass
Mark Cocker: the wildlife of a Norfolk village - a review - Friday 17th October 2014
Claxton, a small village eight miles from Norwich, is Mark Cocker’s home. It’s also the focal point of his eponymous book, which examines the wildlife of what he likes to call a small planet. It’s a description in marked and deliberate contrast to the huge projects he’s recently undertaken, and a reminder that nature’s diversity is in the gardens and woods and fields all around us.
Culled from 10 years of Guardian columns, Cocker’s book flits from year to year, but otherwise follows the cycle of the seasons, artfully showing how everything changes, yet also stays the same. The book was a springboard for a considered, thought-provoking talk by Cocker, a man utterly absorbed by the flora and fauna of his home. With good humour and an infectious enthusiasm, his delight at identifying and recording a new species of moth, or category of fungus right on his doorstep, seemed the equal to anything he had previously seen on his worldwide travels.
Notwithstanding the self-depreciating anecdotes about hoverfly weekends, the musings over prose style, and a good natured moan that people now think he only does birds, here was a heartfelt plea to treasure and protect the diversity and richness of our indigenous wildlife.
By David Vass
Frank - a pre-screening review - Friday 10th October 2014
To those of us who remember Chris Sievey’s alter ego Frank Sidebottom, Lenny Abrahamson’s film is a little disorientating. The papier-mâché head has survived, but not much else. Instead, Jon Ronson has used his time with Sidebottom’s band as a springboard for a script that owes as much to Captain Beefheart as it does the front man from the Freshies.
The man behind the mask is Michael Fassbinder, playing it dead straight as an inexplicably charismatic but hugely troubled soul that cannot face the world without wearing a false head. He is surrounded by acolytes, trying to make their idea of music, but it is his relationship with Jon Burroughs, their co-opted keyboard player, that is at the heart of the film. Fans of Ronson’s non-fiction will immediately recognise the inspiration for Burroughs, an interloper that presents himself as everyman, but whose vanity proves to be a destructive force.
It carefully avoids the usual rock-biz tropes and is unusually beautiful for a comedy. It’s also well played by its ensemble cast, and has interesting, if challenging, musical interludes. While the transition from comedy to tragedy is not always entirely successful, it is a quiet and compassionate celebration of eccentricity, and for that it should be applauded.
By David Vass