Daniel Kemish

Daniel KemishNo Country for Old Men
James Weston

Electric Palace 9 April 2016
BR Rating ****
By Alison Lang

And Nashville came to Bridport. The country vibe was strong and good at the Electric Palace. The evening kicked off with Bridport’s No Country for Old Men, a train-track rhythm and tight guitar licks that set the mood.

Headline act Daniel Kemish is a Nashville recording artist hailing from round the corner in Southampton, with Portugal and Devon connections and two members of the band from Sweden. Yet they could be pure-bred Nashville.

Kemish has an extraordinarily beautiful voice that he stifles dramatically. Many catchy original songs and a fabulous band half picked in Nashville. Looking like a hippy version of Bruce Springsteen, he runs through the most gorgeous collection of guitars imaginable.

The show is slick and it’s easy to picture Kemish as the next country-music pin-up.

Their van-driving companion and companion act, James Weston from Chicago via Nashville, had the beautiful raspy voice of the evening. Echoes of Tom Waits. He endeared himself to Bridport with plenty of personality by offering round-the-clock serenading in exchange for a property in town. An offer worth considering.

All in all, a fantastic night for country built around two sensational voices.

By |April 10th, 2016|Alison Lang, The Electric Palace|1 Comment

James Rebanks

James Rebanks1James Rebanks2The Shepherd’s Life

Electric Palace 13 November

BR Rating ****

By Martin Maudsley

More than once during his talk James Rebanks stops to (metaphorically) pinch himself: “I can’t believe I’m here – on a stage, in front of all of you!” It is indeed a remarkable story that a hard-working, humble hill shepherd in the Lake District, doing the one thing that he always wanted to do, has within a year become a best-selling author and fiercely in-demand speaker.

Rebanks’ book has sold 90,000 copies, been short-listed for a literary prize, and now there’s a new one hot off the press. Not that his shepherding life has eased – the sheep come first – and we’re fortunate that the Bridport Literary Festival managed to prise him away from the high hills of Cumbria to the gentle pastures of Dorset.

The illustrated talk that unfolds, organically and easily, scattered with wry rural humour, gives glimpses of his daily life as a shepherd in a part of the world where his roots are deep and his passion is unquestioned. Evocative photos, familiar to the many thousands who follow him on Twitter, reveal a cast of fells and farmers, Herdwick sheep and hustling dogs, each with a tale to tell; either read from the page or improvised on stage.

Throughout his talk James warmly, and genuinely, acknowledges the others intertwined around his own life-story: a boyhood hero grandfather (“who knew his place in the world”) and a fellow shepherding father who recently died and to whom the book is an open letter. Even Auntie Sue who read to him as a boy is suddenly called upon to be revealed within the audience.

As fate would have it, I ended up sitting next to the author’s wife, Helen, who is a surrogate bundle of nerves before James appears and then, sotto voce, provides a delightful running commentary on his performance: “Don’t read that bit… Stop rambling!” At one point, as he fails to find a passage he has in mind to read, Helen surreptitiously slips her own copy onto the stage – open at the right page. Clearly the shepherd’s life is underpinned by the shepherd’s wife.

James Rebanks is an authentic voice telling an authentic story, with real wit and warmth. But despite the heady success he’s recently achieved, there’s not much chance of his feet leaving the Cumbrian ground. Apparently one of his neighbours recently remarked: “You might be a fancy author these days, but you’ve left a bloody gate open and there’s sheep all over the road…”

By |November 19th, 2015|The Electric Palace|0 Comments

Man and Superman


National Theatre Live
Electric Palace 14 May
BR Rating ****

By John Pownall

George Bernard Shaw, like Oscar Wilde, is one of those figures known as much for what he said as what he did. Any book of quotations is likely to be liberally sprinkled with Shavian epigrams. So it’s not surprising that Man and Superman reads like an extended game of verbal tennis. This renders it very hard to stage. Apart from anything else it’s long; very long.

Simon Godwin directs the current NT production starring Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner/Don Juan. It’s been sold out for months (Fiennes is almost Cumberbatch-like in terms of drawing power, and with good reason), and so for stragglers the NT Live broadcasts afford an opportunity of seeing the show from remote locations such as The Electric Palace. It works wonderfully, unless, as happened at some venues on Thursday, the satellite gets messed up by electric storms causing a blackout during the First Act. Perhaps mysterious powers were at work as Shaw’s humanistic masterpiece unfolded.

The production depends hugely on Fiennes. The part is enormous, one of the most challenging in the repertoire, and the newly-bearded one (is he turning into Shaw?) more than matched its demands. The play is immense fun, as well as being philosophically intense, and Fiennes threw himself into the role with gusto. At times his manic patter was reminiscent of Leonard Rossiter as Rigby, at others he strode the stage and roared his cries for intellectual and emotional freedom so passionately that one felt he might have drawn from Shaw’s Life Force philosophy. Fiennes is never anything but committed; the stage ignited at his entrance.

For support, the great man draws on Indira Varma, whose Anne/Ana was a wonderful counterweight to Fiennes. As Tanner’s eventual fiancée, Varma is a match for Fiennes for both volume and presence. It will not be easy to forget Fiennes’s hangdog weariness as he learns at long last that he is to be caught in the marriage net by Varma’s prickly charms. In the midst of their mating game stands the lovesick Octavius or “Tavvy”, played with endearing naivete by Ferdinand Kingsley, providing a young, innocent contrast to Fiennes’s gnarled and sceptical Lothario.

The third ‘dream’ act, set in hell, is often dropped in modern productions; but so doing creates a huge void. The Act is essential, both in terms of linking the modern melodrama with the legend of Don Juan/Giovanni, as well as by providing much of the political and philosophical material that Shaw habitually crammed into his work. That said, at times the audience seemed less responsive to the actors’ Herculean efforts to convey the complex interchanges during this Act than to the more light-hearted dialogues of the family melodrama.

Aside from occasional weaknesses in the support lower down the cast list, the production is brave and fun, and worthy of the standing ovation it received on the South Bank on Thursday night, and proved, if nothing else, that Shaw’s challenging work can still be hilarious.

By |May 15th, 2015|John Pownall, Review, The Electric Palace, Theatre|0 Comments

Stewart Lee

Stewart LeeElectric Palace 27 April 2015
BR Rating ****

By Caitlin Appleton-Scott

“No one is equipped to review me,” said Stewart Lee, when the multi-talented, floppy-haired comedian returned to the Electric Palace having deprived the poor people of Bridport of his presence for 10 whole years.

So here goes.

Having watched Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on countless occasions, with his bit on Paul Nuttall from UKIP and immigration permanently engrained in my mind, I arrived shivering with anticipation.

Those of you who haven’t already seen his series, watch it now.

Lee reminded us of the universally-accepted Samoan conventions. The classic Samoan collar compiled of guttering with potato sculptures of Deborah Winger, John Lithgow, and Jack Nicholson floating in a circulating parsley-sauce moat. Ah yes, and the quintessential Samoan trousers with their penis drawbridge, and the typical Samoan tradition of dancing around a burning puffin-filled bin, on which cumin and children’s mittens are sprinkled. Not to forget the unforgettable Samoan music, making use of an Analog Moog synthesizer, a strimmer on a Vauxhall Astra, and a pig being repetitively poked in the back of its neck with a leek.

He ridiculed the audience, comedy, and himself alike. When we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do, he’d fill in for us, spurring the laughter on, and making it obvious that we were in fact doing exactly as he anticipated. His complete control led us to a forced encore, not that anyone was complaining, which provided an on-the-nose perfect analogy for topical events.

Lee held up a mirror up to the hypocrisy of society, using tentatively chosen words which always fulfil his intentions. He’s a latter-day F. Scott Fitzgerald, only with a more magnificent mop of hair.

Although no laughter-induced tears were shed, I was in a constant state of ab-defining giggles. The audience was dazzled by his ability to get it so right. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 10 years.

By |April 29th, 2015|Caitlin Appleton-Scott, Comedy, The Electric Palace|0 Comments

Far from the Madding Crowd

Electric Palace

Red Carpet at the Palace

Electric Palace 17 April 205
BR Rating ****

By Margery Hookings

When Mapperton House first showed its golden, ham-stone face on the big screen at the Electric Palace, I almost wept. The landscape was an English version of Tuscany glowing in the evening sun.

It was a night full of emotion, as tenants and farmers from the estate gathered in the balcony for the Dorset première of Far from the Madding Crowd.

What an occasion. They’ve probably never all been into town like that together, as one group. And while the luvvies and London PR girls did air kisses and tottered around as if they had been prototypes for Ab Fab, the gang from Mapperton and neighbouring hamlets merely smiled and said “all right?”.

It was a surreal experience, walking into the foyer along a red carpet lined with spring flowers, twinkly lights and security guards.

The film is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, with screenplay by One Day novelist David Nicholls. Doubtless it will be compared with the 1967 film by John Schlesinger starring Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates. It compares well: it is darker and more intimate in places, with more emphasis on character rather than plot, which is what drove Schlesinger’s film.

In a nutshell, beautiful but headstrong woman inherits farm in glorious countryside and is wooed by three suitors – the solid and steady son of the soil, Gabriel Oak, the dashing cad, Sergeant Frank Troy, and the middle-aged, boring but wealthy landowner, William Boldwood.

Who will she choose, and what will she – and they – go through to get there?

Carey Mulligan radiates an assertive luminosity in the lead role but without the vanity Hardy ascribes to her character. Her passion is awakened by Troy, who forsakes Maiden Castle for a dark wood to show her his skills as a swordsman and uses a clinch to touch her up through her dress. This is the point where the pace of the film quickens; the lush landscape takes a secondary role and the characters develop.

Tom Sturridge is a bit of a weasel and seems like a boy in a soldier’s uniform. Michael Sheen, as ever, turns in a great performance although there are shades of Blair in his nervous smile. We end up, though, really feeling sorry for the serious man whose head is turned by the antics of a wilful woman when she’s flirting.

But what of Matthias Schoenaerts in the role of Gabriel Oak – a Belgian taking the part of a Dorset shepherd? Apart from a few words that jar, his accent doesn’t get in the way at all. This Oak was handsome – more handsome than Alan Bates. He was strong, safe and loving and quietly underpinned the whole film.

None of the main characters even bothered with a local accent, let alone a dialect. And the minor ones that did sounded like they came from this part of the world rather than Bristol.
The scenes with local extras were a joy, particularly those in the cornfields at harvesting. Far from the Madding Crowd is beautifully lit and photographed – the Americans will love this slice of English heaven.

And at the end, the little Mapperton family joined with others to clap and cheer during the closing credits, knowing their charabanc would arrive soon to take them back to the glorious hinterland, far from the madding crowd.

Picture: Margery Hookings

By |April 18th, 2015|Margery Hookings, Review, The Electric Palace|2 Comments