Saturday, 30 May 2015

Tribes And Tribulations - Substance & Shadow Theatre


Substance And Shadow Theatre are testament to what can be achieved if you have the will. Based in Exeter, they're a non-profit making minimalist theatre group and their latest production, Tribes And Tribulations was recently staged for two nights at the world famous Blackmore Theatre in Exmouth, as part of the Exmouth Festival.

Featuring just four players; with the help of light, sound and a change of hats they manage to successfully recreate on a small, bare stage a free festival of 4,000 people. Which is no mean feat. Just try it yourself and see how you get on. The four main characters each have a separate tale to tell and against the background chaos of the festival they unfold.
There's Sammy and his younger sister Georgie who having been deserted by their parents are facing eviction from their home due to unpaid rent. According to Georgie, Sammy is a prick who idolises Bruce Lee and spends all his time dreaming and smoking spliffs in the woods. Georgie is basically a teenage upstart but at the same time an innocent abroad who needs protecting though her elder brother is failing in this. Then there's Crumb, an unemployed, Scottish docker who having seen his community smashed by Thatcherism has taken to the road as a traveller where he is now a member of the Peace Convoy, travelling from festival to festival. And finally there's Cara, girlfriend of the leader of a chapter of Hell's Angels whose faith in Mary, mother of Jesus has been shattered following the disappearance of her younger sister years before, leaving Cara adrift in what she perceives to be a cruel world, not knowing whether her sister is still alive somewhere or dead. Cara, it also turns out, is pregnant.

Having stolen a stash of LSD that's been buried by the Hell's Angels in the woods he hangs out in, Sammy sees it as the answer to his and Georgie's money problems so heads off to a free festival to do some selling. Unbeknownst to him, however, he's being trailed by Georgie and when he's offered a lift by Crumb in his converted ambulance she jumps in also and for her it's the start of a very strange trip indeed. Particularly after innocently taking some of Sammy's new found LSD.

Tribes And Tribulations doesn't centre around any one theme at all but instead weaves the stories (both inner and outer) of the main characters into one tapestry. In fact if anything, the dominating theme of the play is the festival itself and the culture of free festival life. It should be pointed out that the play is set in 1984, a time when festivals were nothing like the corporate affairs that they are these days. This also means that it's set just a year before the demonisation of the Peace Convoy, the Battle of the Beanfield, and the smashing of the Stonehenge free festival in some of the most sickening scenes of police hate and violence I've ever witnessed - and after all these years something I'd still like to see avenged.

Being such a cultured and intelligent theatre-goer I was fully au fait with all the references within the play such as when Crumb refers to Culture Shock a few times as opposed to culture shock. Overly so sometimes however, because as an example I happen to know Culture Shock weren't actually around in 1984. Also, the (fictional) name given to the festival they all gather at is Golden Dawn which is fine except that I and my fellow cultured and intelligent theatre-going audience members immediately associate Golden Dawn with the Far Right political Party of Greece. So the name has (unintentional) connotations.
Not that any of these things matter as they do nothing to take away any enjoyment of the play but as a cultured and intelligent theatre critic I'm just doing my job in pointing them out, m'am...
And tieing in with things not mattering, the best part of the play for me was when the sun comes up (the golden dawn) and Crumb ruminates over the meaning of it all. There's the sun blazing away in all it's glory and here we all are underneath it, running around worrying about our mortgages and what our neighbours are thinking and so on. Deadpan and straight to the audience, Crumb accentuates the fact that these things don't actually matter. None of it matters.

I understand Substance And Shadow Theatre are touring Tribes And Tribulations around the country over the coming months, playing at various theatres. Go and see them, I would say. They're great, basically, and destined for greater things. Their next production, in fact, to be debuted in the autumn is going to be called Skin Deep and will centre upon skinheads in the early 1980s, the Ska/Two-Tone music of that period, and working class ethics. I'll see you all there down at the Blackmore again, hopefully. Dressed appropriately.

John Serpico

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Guilty Pleasures (Part 7)


Questions? I've got questions.

What did Showaddywaddy think of Punk Rock? Did they ever go to any Punk gigs in the Seventies? Did the the battles between Punks and Teds on the King's Road in the Seventies ever encroach upon them? Did they ever have any contact with Malcolm McLaren when he was supplying Teddy Boy drape outfits from his Let It Rock shop? What did they think of the Ramones? Were they ever fans of The Cramps? What did Americans make of Showaddywaddy? Did they ever get to meet Elvis? Johnny Cash? The Clash? Einsturzende Neubauten? Fidel Castro? Did they ever get groupies? Did they ever party with Queen? The Sweet? Ozzy Osbourne? Dave Lee Travis? Did they ever go in for dwarf throwing at any of their parties? Were there ever fights at their gigs? Were there ever any full-scale riots at their gigs? Did they hate Thatcher? Showaddywaddy are from Leicester, have they ever heard of Gaye Bykers On Acid who were also from there? Or even the Lesbian Dopeheads On Mopeds? Do they know who Ted Chippington is? Who killed Kennedy? Who killed Bambi? If Mickey's a mouse and Donald's a duck and Pluto's a dog - what the fuck is Goofy? Hey hey, my my, will Rock'n'Roll never die? Is it better to burn out than to fade to grey? Are Showaddywaddy the Kings of the Bop? Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop? Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip? Who was that man? Are Showaddywaddy the greatest Rock'n'Roll band in the world?

Showaddywaddy are playing at the Exmouth Pavilion on 22nd May and I shall be demanding some answers.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Under Exmouth Skies (Part 22)


"Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home.
... Wasting time."

Monday, 4 May 2015

Street Art Exmouth Style (Part 13)


I don't know what they put in the cider down here in Exmouth but I can guarantee you can enter any local pub on a Saturday night and be met by some bloke standing on a table with his wife's knickers on his head singing "Zider I up, landlord! Zider I up, landlord! Put more zider in my jug, I just can't get enough! Zider-I-up-landlord!" Over and over again. The more reasonable customers in the meantime are usually sat around urging each other to "Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff up thy snuff"; whilst over pints of Pernod and black (and cider chasers) their lady friends discuss the size of their husband's and boyfriend's nether regions.
Its an emotional experience, I can tell you.

Down at The Grove on the seafront things can sometimes take a turn for the weirder and there's been a few occasions when I've left that particular drinking den soaring ten miles high above the earth as life below turned into a Walt Disney cartoon. I've left there being able to touch sound and hear colours. It's really quite strange.

With this in mind, the pub sign for The Grove is a very apt work of art that serves not only as a warning but as a preview of how the world might look when you leave. I particularly like the little park bench at the centre of the painting, suggesting this is where you're going to end up sleeping that night.
It's probably one of the best pub signs in Exmouth.