Broadchurch Episode 4

26 January 2015
BR Rating ***

By John Pownall

This episode was a game of two halves – as they say. As with episode three, the chapter closed on yet another courtroom cliff-hanger, and spent much slightly tedious time among the wigs and gowns. The cliff-top mystery seems close to resolution, however, with the arrival of Pauline Quirke on the scene; one bald-headed suspect appears likely to give way to another which, with any luck, will allow greater focus on the semi-detached mystery which is all much more compelling and Twin-Peaky.

The courtroom scenes diminished in length and frequency and we spent longer with D.I.Hardy’s story, the death of the schoolgirls, and the re-appearance of the tall, broody one who loves knocking timbers into the earth in a rather menacing fashion. The camera, meanwhile, seems to like his naked torso rather a lot. Laced liberally with sexual references (pushing it beyond the watershed no doubt), one scene closed rather surprisingly with the Kate Bush-like one asking her maligned (but possibly innocent) lover to “tie [her] up this time”. I half expected Frankie Howard to make an appearance at that stage. Carry on Broadchurch would have been a fun spin-off if this series had been anywhere near thinkable back in 1970.

David Tennant as Hardy (geddit?) is perhaps the most interesting thing to watch about the series, though Olivia Colman is, as ever, wonderful, and Charlotte Rampling does a grand job of reminding one of Kate Adie whenever she opens her mouth. No bad thing. Hopefully, at some stage, there will be some respite for the haunted Scot who really could use a sense of humour. If only he’d smile occasionally, one imagines, he might not need phone calls from his GP in the early hours of the morning. It’s all too much.

By |January 27th, 2015|Broadchurch, John Pownall|0 Comments

Blind Buffalo Quartet

Blind Buffalo QuartetMoens Farm House
24 January 2015
BR Rating **

By Jonah Corren

As you’d expect at an event organised by Fanny Hatstand, the main act did not appear until around 10pm, at which point the event had officially been running for two and a half hours. The Blind Buffalo Quartet consisted of drums, electric guitar, saxophone and double bass. The double-bass player had played earlier with Son of Richard, who manfully holds the support spot at so many Fanny Hatstand gigs.

The first half of the band’s set was designed largely to ease the audience in, with slow songs which you could bop your head to at times. Smoke Rings, the concluding piece from this section was an atmospheric mixture of simple but effective lyrics delivered with a soft vocal and saxophone trills between lines.

In the last hour, the Blind Buffalo Quartet showed us what we’d been waiting for. The tempo was increased tenfold, and all but one of the tables were cleared to allow for dancing. The songs now were jazzy, with regular saxophone solos and the stylish addition of scat singing (using the voice to imitate the instruments) which was well performed by the lead singer.

The venue was rustic and cosy, essentially a converted barn, nicely decorated with light-coloured Asian-style tapestries draped across wooden beams. It made for a lovely atmosphere.

Even if the night was slow to start, it finished with a bang as the Blind Buffalo Quartet proved in the last hour that they were worth the wait. Events such as these aren’t widely publicised due to the limited space for punters, but they are worth checking out for those who enjoy a cool, quirky atmosphere, as long as they don’t get impatient too easily. Well, you know what they say: good things come to those who wait.

By |January 26th, 2015|Jonah Corren, Music|0 Comments

T.S. Eliot, Life and Work

Graham Fawcett

Graham Fawcett

Talk by Graham Fawcett
Sladers Yard

22 January 2015
BR rating ****

By Elaine Beckett

When the young Graham Fawcett first found out that ‘April is the cruellest month’ he was quite be-fuddled and didn’t appreciate Chaucer’s favourite time of year being kicked about like a soggy softball in a St Louis backyard. But soon he couldn’t put The Waste Land down. As Dante was to Eliot, Eliot has become to Fawcett simply the best poet there ever was.

And it turns out Fawcett is on our side; his purpose being to widen the gaps in our knowledge, then fill them in with kaleidoscopic facts. For example, Fawcett explained that after the First World War, the poet was full of doubts, wracked with uncertainty. “I do not know if it will work,” he said of the first version of The Waste Land. His friend Ezra Pound took it away and reduced it from over 1000 lines to 433, cutting the ridiculous opening, ‘First we had a couple of feelers down at Tom’s place,’ ripping out the next 55 lines and starting it at the 57th, whereby Eliot agreed: ‘April is the cruellest month’ is where it should start.

Fawcett offered expressively clear readings of several of Eliot’s poems, starting with The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915) ’In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo’; through Ash Wednesday (1930); ’because I do not hope to turn again / because I do not hope / because I do not hope to turn’; to the last of the Four Quartets, Little Gidding (1941). Explaining the historical and personal contexts to each of these poems, Fawcett offered his analyses.

As it was challenging, at times, to know where the end of a poem stopped and the beginning of a criticism started, I wondered how far the organisation of Fawcett’s talk had been influenced by Eliot’s stated desire to ‘attack the public’?

TS Eliot

TS Eliot

“I am a collagist, a mosaicist,” Fawcett said. “This talk has been evolving for years; I’ve been mulling it over and over, trying to marshal the hot zones in Eliot and balance them with the bits of Eliot I would grieve to lose offering both the spine and vertebrae of his writing.”

And what of us, the time-travelling audience? Were we prepared to sit still and listen? Apart from two exhausted English teachers who left at half-time, yes. We were more than happy to stay the course, stunned and astonished in equal measure stunned by the breadth and depth of Fawcett’s criticism, astonished at our luck to be living miles from a university yet participating in what, to all intents and purposes, was a post-graduate lecture, presented with immaculate complexity by a master of ceremonies par-excellence.

By |January 23rd, 2015|Elaine Beckett, Review|0 Comments

Bloodied but unbowed, home from Waterloo

Sideways GlanceBy Sam Barker

If you live in Bridport, it’s not the thing to confess that you rely on London for your lucre. That instead of being locally grounded, you are tied to one of the tendrils of the metropolis – that you are one of the tendrils of the metropolis. And that, by inference, you are partly to blame for rising house prices, gentrification, Farrow and Ball on the Dreadnought Estate.

The metropolitan migrants, therefore, bear their burden lightly. Burden? The 4.30am starts, the 10pm returns, the dark and icy badger-strewn drive to Crewkerne station. And the hours of life lost to South West Trains.

My first peregrination of 2015 was not auspicious. From Bridport to Crewkerne, to a succession of incidental places (Tisbury), to Salisbury, to Waterloo, to Old Street. And then back. Except the return journey was cut short by an inexplicable signal-apocalypse for all stations west of Salisbury. “We don’t know what caused it,” explained the customer relations manager on Salisbury station, “It’s not the snow.” Not that there was any.

By a quirk of fate, there were a lot of people travelling from Waterloo to Crewkerne that evening. None fitted the suit-wearing commuting archetype. Most were women. Some were drunk. Some were drunk women, brandishing an open bottle of Prosecco.

To South West Trains’ credit, they coped. There’s nothing like a public transport failure, miles from home, on a biting winter’s night, to dispel the illusion of self-determinism. On a hot summer’s evening several years ago, the trains malfunctioned outside Woking, leaving thousands of incarcerated commuters to dehydrate until the system resumed – the drinks trolleys denuded of everything but vodka. But last Tuesday, SWT was organised. A fleet of taxis was waiting at Salisbury. The stranded were segregated into groups and sent on by destination.

The Crewkerne taxi was more of a minibus. The camaraderie fizzed and faded as phones came out and the dislocated journey was dissipated across friends and family. The taxi driver went fast, maybe even too fast, and we were back in Crewkerne by 10pm, in Bridport by 10.30pm, ready for work the next morning. The secret commuters of DT6.

By |January 22nd, 2015|Sam Barker, Sideways Glance|3 Comments

Three Cane Whale, Annie Freud, Barbara Marsh, Tim Cumming

Sladers Yard, West Bay
17 January 2015
BR rating ****

By Elaine Beckett

Six very special artists – three poets, three musicians (and an inspired chef) ensured that Saturday evening at Sladers Yard was full of delicious treats.

Annie Freud invited us to listen as an act of friendship; the space fell dutifully quiet, so that each reader’s voice could be enjoyed for its tone and rhythmic range.

Offering humour as well as poignant reflection, Freud tempted us with a sensitive mix of material from her existing collections and new poems due to be published in June. “This looks like the sort of audience in which one or two of you may have been away for a weekend retreat,” she announced, and launched into A Retreat in an Edwardian Manor House, a deconstruction of such wit that the well-heeled audience couldn’t help but relax.

In Moths on a Blue Path, Freud carefully evoked ‘the hush of a Sussex summer day.’ In Lankham Bottom she exquisitely detailed ‘the lisp’ of her brush as she paints a landscape, her hands ‘in a rush against time.’

Barbara Marsh read poems from her dazzling 2013 collection To the Boneyard, rocking back and forth from her American childhood through early adulthood, to middle age, from cold winter streets to the Pacific Ocean. Her poetry, like Freud’s, takes care of the tiniest detail. In Manhattan Interlude she took us right into a Forty-fifth Street apartment ‘where in windy nights you could feel the building sway, ever so slightly.’

Tim Cummings took us vividly into London with poems written over many a bus journey to and from work. Using his rich bass register to command the audience, his poems were voiced like a series of prophecies that we had better take note of or else it all might be too late. In Revellers, an evocation of Budapest, he joined with Three Cane Whale to conjure up a delicious sense of the foreign. ‘I am half in love with the sound of the fifty-one bus,’ he reflected as improvised music transported us on our own private escapades.

Three Cane Whale took over, with Alex Vann on mandolin and bowed psaltery, Pete Judge on trumpet, harmonium, lyre and dulcitone, and Paul Bradley on acoustic guitar and miniature harp. Their silvery patterns were beautifully expressed in the opening number,The Bird Flies into the Forest to Rest. As if casting a spell, this allowed us to continue our reveries, extending our responses to the words we had just heard. They decided to stop and start again at one point. Once you’ve lost the pattern you are supposed to repeat, far better to start again. Good for them to have felt so relaxed about it.

The high point was Three Cane Whale’s improvisation as a background to Annie Freud’s reading of Lankham Bottom – a series of gently descending scale passages which perfectly evoked the Dorset views she was describing.

What a brilliant evening.

By |January 18th, 2015|Elaine Beckett, Music, Poetry|0 Comments