Sophia is Backstage! at the Vintage and Handmade Fair

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Words and Image by Sophia Moseley

I met a retired prison officer, a therapist who works with brain injuries and an ME sufferer.

Such was the fascinating background of the stallholders who fashioned the Marine Theatre Vintage & Handmade Fair on Sunday.

Trudi Colley lives nearby and works with brain injury clients in Honiton and Axminster, but she has a lifetime of crafting interest,

“I worked at the Milton Keynes Bowl organising craft fairs so have a pretty good idea how it all comes together”.

With a collection of leather accessories, jewellery and children’s name plaques, Trudi has been creating her range for many years and is always looking to add a new skill to her portfolio,

“I don’t go on holidays, whilst everyone else goes to sunny Spain, I go on craft courses and my next one is on bronze casting and mould making.”

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 Which is when I met her colleague and friend Gillian Beckman-Findlay from Budleigh Salterton who has been crafting for six years,

“I developed ME and was feeling pretty depressed but Trudi bullied me into going to a craft hotel where we made wood plaques. I absolutely loved it and never looked back.”

Having worked as a payroll and accounts manager, Gillian crafts part-time and encourages anyone else to take it up,

“If anyone says they don’t know what to make, I can give them a long list. It’s very therapeutic and Trudi and I are going to craft all day tomorrow!”

And talking of therapy, how about ‘Get Felt’? No, not a Freudian slip but the saucily named business set up by Barbara Stanley and Nick Gomer from Weymouth.

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Barbara and Nick are also musicians playing in the ‘Skint Imperials’ and after her retirement from the prison service, Barbara wanted to do something new,

“I teach crochet and really enjoy creating things”

With her warm waterproof felt hats and crocheted light jar covers I wondered where she gets her inspiration,

“God knows, the ideas just come. My hats evolve, this one started off as a bowler but it became a vintage hat with a brim”

With that philosophy being echoed by everyone; when it comes to vintage and crafting, there’s a passion for the profession and every piece is sold with that personal guarantee of TLC.

Sophia is Backstage! with Atomic Blondie

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words and image by Sophia Moseley

 

I went to a Shakatak concert sometime in the late 1980s in a Bedfordshire village hall; I know, right, the cutting edge of pop music. So when I saw the tribute band Atomic Blondie were performing at the Marine Theatre, I dug out my American punk gear (jeans & T-shirt) to relive those heady disco days.

With an average age of 55 (with a few much younger exceptions) and everyone seated bar one couple and three men who stood in the dance area at the back, I knew I was in for a wild night!

The band kicked off with Losing my Mind, the wife of the standing couple immediately gets into the spirit of things and launches into an energetic dance whilst her husband stands by. The rest of the audience sits obediently.

With Sunday Girl the three men at the back start a few knee bends and gentle bouncing,

“Who remembers the 1980s?” shouts A B. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t.

But with Call Me the husband’s head starts nodding and his right knee bending.

The Tide is High saw a surge of girls and grannies getting up to dance but where were the handbags in the middle of the dance circle (remember that?) and just what is it about men dancing or should that be knee bending and arm swinging?

 

“If you’re not dancing then how about some clapping?” shouts A B. Some of those seated manage it for a few seconds but then it all gets too much and they stop.

Meanwhile the husband has progressed to some toe tapping.

There are a few dance moves I recognise and some lyrics to ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ come back to me so I do that thing of mouthing the ones I know.

My memory of Blondie aka Debbie Harry is of a thin almost gaunt woman with straw like dyed blond hair who hardly moved and that included her mouth; and her eyes had that slightly spaced-out look. So when the voluptuous and vivacious tributee came on stage, who I suspect was at best a baby in the 80s, it somehow didn’t quite gel for me.

I wonder if there’s a Shakatak tribute band, at least I know the words to their songs.

Backstage! with Magnificent Three

image on the way!

words and image by Sophia Moseley

“There will be loud bangs and pyrotechnics”

I had agreed with the Miracle Theatre that it would be wise to announce this before the show started, after all it would never do to have members of the audience having a panic attack or worse; the theatre is to thrill not kill!

There was a bit of a chilly wind blowing in off the sea but at least it wasn’t raining and fortunately most people had sensibly brought blankets and warm jackets.

Now when it comes to the Magnificent Three think Calamity Jane meets Yul Brynner from that famous western and the show’s alter ego, The Magnificent Seven with the same sleepy town where the entertainment is…limited;

“I’m a cocking”

“I’m a running”

“See ya later, come round and throw some stones at some chickens”

“Can’t you see I’m busy” says the sheriff when someone interrupts him throwing peanuts into a glass.

Of course you can’t have a western without a fight so when someone was found cheating at cards, it soon turned into a bar room brawl with slow-mo punches, people catapulting over the bar and chairs being snapped in two.

And when the deputy arrives dragging a metal step ladder across the stage that turns out to be his trusty mule, a member of the audience is soon hauled up to help him mount it!

I have to admit I was waiting for the loud bangs and fire we had been promised and I began to wonder if they’d had second thoughts but when another fight broke out the gunshot rang out and someone threw a grenade of fire that landed in a pot at the edge of the stage. Lucky for those people sitting at the front the actor had a good aim!

Now that would be a calamity!

 

Sophia is Backstage! with The Great Train Robbery

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blog by Sophia Moseley

Expect the unexpected; probably the best advice you could give anyone who books tickets to watch Scratchworks Theatre Company production of The Great Train Robbery,

“We weren’t expecting you to be here” says Co-Artistic Director Alice Higginson to the waiting audience.

Using the greatest train heist in history as the basis of their story, you couldn’t possibly predict what connection the four woman cleaning team that is Sparkles Shine Soap & Sponge can have with Ronnie Biggs and his team of train robbers, but you soon find out,

“I looked for cleaners in the Yellow Pages but it seems there aren’t any men” says the robber who was tasked with finding someone to clean their hideout, Leatherslade Farm in Buckinghamshire.

In their blue boiler suits and white T-shirts, Hanora Kamen, Alice Higginson, Laura Doble and Sian Keen morph from cleaners armed with Marigolds to train robbers armed with balaclavas, to crack shot (or should that be crack pot?!) officers of the Flying Squad armed with kazoos and 1963 bravado,

“Right chaps let’s crack on like a builder’s backside”

And yes, you did read that right – kazoos played an important role in this performance, quite literally and they’re not as easy to play as you think, especially when you’ve been hauled up out of the audience (front row seats come at a price!)

Buzzing the theme tune to Mission Impossible with the youngest member, Alfie who was around 13, kazooing solo while the rest of the audience wiggled their fingers, I think it’s fair to say there was not one person who didn’t have their waving hands in the air.

“Let’s get down to business” say the four Flying Squad officers as they turn their back on the audience to relieve themselves much to the uproarious amusement of the audience, the men probably laughing the loudest.

With miming and rapid role changing they soon have everyone in a chain gang passing the imaginary wads of money to the back of the auditorium.

Runaway trains, cops and robbers and finally escaping with the local W.I it was a non-stop caper of madness and mayhem.

In the meantime I’m off to practice my kazoo skills just in case!

Sophia is Backstage! at Tempest of Lyme

Tempest of Lyme

Words and image by Sophia Moseley

 

Have you ever been an unwitting onlooker to an argument? That moment of discomfort when someone nearby suddenly shouts at another who in turn retorts with equal vigour? Cut to the opening scene of the acclaimed The Tempest of Lyme and if you were there, you’ll know just what I mean!

The opening scene was staged in the auditorium and the audience were gripped by the verbal jousting as the cast seamlessly cut from current day rehearsal dialogue to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, delivering a fast moving quick witted performance as the cast stowed away behind the audience providing plenty of ‘music hall’ jeering and taunts to complement the spat that was taking place,

“Rule number one, grab your audience from the off”

The animal noises made by some of the cast who encircled the audience along with the lighting soon had everyone convinced we had landed on some mysterious hot tropical island, the Island of Devils.

Then with seagulls screeching overhead and the sound of waves rolling into shore and a strong westerly breeze blowing the sail sized flags, the cast, musicians and audience flowed outside where the rest of the story unfurled.

Including one scene that took the audience completely by surprise when drunken Stephano fell out of the Marine Bar doors onto the balcony,

“How dare you throw me out of your bar! A pox on your Palmer’s Ale”

And as he comes swaggering down the stairs the audience are left wondering ‘is he really drunk?’

The music ensemble completed the atmosphere with a mixture of instruments including whirly tubes and rainmakers.

Probably one of my favourite moments was on board the Sea Venture when it was all hands on deck as the ship was tossed about in the storm but the frenzied activity was suddenly freeze-framed as Sylvester Jourdain gave a short narration; then just as quickly everyone returned to their hauling or bailing.

But one thing’s for sure, with the near perfect weather enjoyed every night during this mammoth production, no one can argue it was anything other than superb!

Sophia is Backstage! at Tempest of Lyme

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Behind the scenes with the Tempest’s tech

I’ve always been a little in awe of a Master Chef; their ability to create a culinary masterpiece by pulling together a variety of ingredients leaves me spellbound; and that’s just how I felt when I went along to the technical rehearsal of The Tempest of Lyme.

But instead of Greg Wallace and his team, the Marine Theatre has Clemmie Reynolds who has drawn on the best of local talent including theatre patron and playwright Andrew Rattenbury and a host of singers, dancers, performers and musicians; each of them bringing a vital ingredient to the mix.

I arrived to see the voice coach employing some rather unusual techniques to ensure voices and diaphragms were working hard,

“Bear with me, it’s a bit spontaneous. Put your hands on your belly or better still on your neighbour’s belly; it’s going to pop like a balloon”

There was arm stretching, finger pointing and plenty of curious noises as the performers practiced ‘pop a cat a petal’ much to the bewilderment of Lyme’s Sunday evening strollers.

As I made my way into the theatre, the hive of activity continued. Costumes hanging in rows and makeup experiments as they tried to achieve the best mermaid look using blue eye shadow and netting.

Then there are some who go one step further like Fred Humphrey aka George Somers who has grown a beard for his character, although it hasn’t been easy, he tells me

“I can’t wait to shave it off next week!”

The music ensemble includes Brian Young on guitar,

“I was roped into playing by Wendy”

That’s Wendy Knee who is also playing alongside Marian Gumbrell and the three of them are part of local musical group Saxminster.

As I stand there with the chairs being set out and the stage lighting being synced, there’s a scene being enacted in the middle of the auditorium.

Sylvester Jordan announces,

“Without me there’d be no Shakespeare play, The Tempest”

And I think without Clemmie Reynolds there’d be no Tempest of Lyme!

Sophia Backstage! with The Little Mermaid R&D

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The oft repeated sentiment expressed by our R & D (research & development) guests is how indispensable our programme is to the progress of their production; it is the process of exploration and cultivating ideas that is so essential to maintaining a healthy and vibrant theatrical environment for which the UK has and always will be famed.

And even though our latest guests, Pins and Needles Productions, did not have an end of week show, they not only enjoyed the unrivalled time and space the Marine Theatre has to offer but were lucky enough to be here during the one week we didn’t have day after day of rain, so they were able to make the best of our seashore.

Which given they were working on an adaption of The Little Mermaid, gave them exactly what they needed including reproducing the sensation of a mermaid walking for the first time and what better for the six actors than walking bare foot on the shingle shores of Lyme Regis beach!

They listened to Audrey Hepburn’s narration in the 1954 hit Sabrina and spent hours discussing how the story might unfold with the actors throwing in their ideas based on personal experience including the Phantom of the Opera,

“That’s the point of the R&D session it may not work; we want to work on the grammar of how the story is told” said Director Emma Earle.

Emma worked with Designer Zoe Squire and Writer Bea Roberts on their unusual adaption of this Hans Christian Andersen classic tale that was Disneyfied in 1990; Emma’s version uses the extreme contrast of life for women in the 1950s (represented by life under the sea where it is dark and oppressive) compared with that of the 1980s (represented by life above the sea where it is bright and colourful).

“We wanted to give Morgan more guts rather than falling for the Prince Charming character”

What with the Phantom meeting Audrey Hepburn I can quite see this Little Mermaid making a big splash!

 

Backstage! at Big Mix

 

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photo and words by Sophia Moseley

 

I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last decent summer we had but being the stoics we are, we don’t let our inclement weather stop us and on Saturday we were richly rewarded with the Big Mix.

Entertained by the very talented young stars that are B Sharp who performed a number of hits whilst the ambling audience could enjoy a relaxing swing in the enormous hammocks or take a seat in a deckchair. With a bar-b-q thanks to the Galley Café, some cake stalls and various other stands, the Marine Theatre Square was definitely the place to be.

After a full afternoon of musical performances, the audience, perhaps gratefully, continued their musical pilgrimage inside the theatre with the Hub Jammers kicking off a full night of excellent song and dance.

There was a wide range of songs, style and age groups including cornet and drum player Will, who I guess is perhaps in Year 7 but who evidently has an enormous talent. The auditorium was full of supportive family and friends of these young performers who may not have had band names but they certainly had oodles of confidence.

Jacques Verhaeren, part of the B Sharp team, compered the evening,

“We don’t have a band name, we just have some great music”

With a touch of Glastonbury but without the mud, tents or wellington boots, the audience meandered and strolled, chatting and laughing, glad to be there not just for the music but the relaxed atmosphere with drinks being served in the famous Marine Bar along with a selection of real ale.

As the evening progressed the professional groups took to the stage including Indie-Americana trio Wildwood Kin who were a big hit despite Meghann Loney facing a slight challenge with the “wig” on one of her drumsticks!

With Papa Le Gal and Cris de Lin, this musical festival really was a great Big Mix of music for everyone!