Monthly Archives: April 2009

Trio of Sussex poets produce first collection

Trio of Sussex poets produce first collection

Three Worthing writers and poets have joined forces to produce their first poetry collection.

Three Sussex Poets, published by White Door Press, features Russ Bravo,

Our moody publicty shot on Worthing beach. From left: Russ, Steve and Martin

Our moody publicty shot on Worthing beach. From left: Russ, Steve and Martin

Steve Carroll and Martin Collins, with each contributing a range of poems from their repertoire.

With styles ranging from passionate, political and polemical via spiritual, thoughtful and emotionally charged, through to surreal, witty and traditional British nonsense, there is something for everyone.

“We’d been friends for a number of years, performing here and there in pubs, clubs and festivals, and so the idea of Three Sussex Poets was a natural progression for us,” explains Russ Bravo, who is a journalist working for publishers CPO, and also runs Matt’s Comedy Club, which runs regular nights at The Dome’s Function Suite.

Steve Carroll, who designed the book, runs his own graphic design business and is the author of the Riddler’s Fayre fantasy graphic novel series, while Martin Collins, a former photographer with the Worthing Herald, also works for CPO and has poems published in range of collections over the years.

The collection is officially launched on Saturday 23 May with a live performance event at Waterstone’s, Worthing at 2.30pm. Admission is free, everyone’s welcome and signed books will be available.

Three Sussex Poets is available, cost £5 from Waterstones, Worthing, UK or from this blog. Comment to order one – and leave your email address!

Russ and Steve will also be appearing at Roundabout Poetry at Worthing Library on Friday 5 June at 12 noon.

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C list pop star goes to the airport

Gotta go to Gatwick
I dunno which hat to pick
I don’t wanna look too slick
My public image is elastic
My face is mostly plastic
My attitude bombastic
If the paparazzi pop around me
I’ll look fantastic
Until I lose it trying to cruise it
Easy to excuse it, come too close
and I’ll bruise ya
Or sue ya

I wanna be recognised
But not categorised
I extemporise, I’m not pasteurised
I might sign your luggage
But I won’t engage in huggage
It’s not my style
My style is unique and casually
oblique
I wear trousers that creak
I buy two pairs a week
And my boots are so sleek
you can see my face in them

I’ve gotta keep travellin’
Although my life is unravellin’
You might hear me complainin’
That my star is wanin’
And I wish you’d scream at me
Instead of saying
‘Who did he used to be?’

Maybe I’ll go into TV
Find some show with reality
Where I can pretend to be
The me I have been manufactured
to be
I may be able to strike a pose
And hope that my humanity shows
but not my waistline

I could lend my name to a cause
If they’re clutchin’ at straws
‘Cos you can’t be a rebel without applause
It’s been so long since I did an encore
As only my mum is askin’ for more
Like the baggage carousel, I will keep
going round until
someone
claims
me

28 April 2009 (on a train from Gatwick Airport)

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Review: Hay Fever – Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre: Hay Fever by Noel Coward

If you’re in need of a lift, make sure you catch Hay Fever at Chichester – it’s a hayfever1delight.

First of all, there’s the script. It doesn’t matter a jot that there isn’t really any plot to speak of in this Twenties romp, when you have Coward’s elegant, witty dialogue to entertain you.

Second, and very close behind, there’s the cast. It’s quality from start to finish with Diana Rigg (as ageing actress and flirt Judith Bliss) and Simon Williams (grumpy writer David Bliss) leading the way, and receiving sterling support from experienced performers Guy Henry (stiff and awkward diplomat Richard Greatham, who daughter Sorel admires), Sue Wallace (put-upon housemaid Clara) and Caroline Langrishe (socialite Myra Arundel, mooned after by son Sam), alongside newer faces Laura Rogers (daughter Sorel Bliss), Sam Alexander (aspiring artist Simon Bliss), Edward Bennett (hopeless goof Sandy Tyrell, yearning for Judith) and Natalie Walter (flapper Jackie Coryton, who David plans to ‘study’).

The interplay between the characters provides much of the entertainment, as a quiet weekend at the Bliss household’s country home turns into a manic relationship mix-up as each has an uninvited guest coming to stay. Whatever the hopes and dreams each had for the stay, they are soon turned on their heads by the determined eccentricities of the Bliss family, at times almost oblivious to their guests.

They row, they argue and show appalling manners all round. Yet they are as quick to make up as a family as to fall out, and the family unit’s strength is clear by the end – despite the effect they have on their guests.

Coward’s writing touches on a number of deeper questions, from class to the search for truth, and while the brilliance of the dialogue and the relationships between the different characters at times disguises this, there is much to be savoured in a production that lifts the spirits – and give you plenty to think on.

Nikolai Foster’s direction is high quality, as you’d expect, and the production features a superb set by Robert Jones.

The production runs until 2 May and you can book tickets online at www.cft.org.uk or by calling  01243 781312.

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Review: Brief Encounter – Brighton Theatre Royal

Brighton Theatre Royal: Brief Encounter

I’d love to know what audiences make of this imaginative, entertaining production of a romantic classic.

There was a huge amount to enjoy: high quality performances from a versatile, talented cast; imaginative staging that saw performers step into and out of backdrop film projection; jaunty and sometimes unexpected arrangements of classic Noel Coward songs; and much more comedy than I was expecting.

We felt thoroughly entertained by a Kneehigh Theatre production it was very hard not to feel charmed and captivated by. The staging and sets effectively took us back into wartime Britain, and excellent musicianship and harmonies on display made it a musical treat as well.

However, I do wonder whether the romantics in the audience drawn along because of the classic David Lean film with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson will feel slightly hard done by. The comic tone of many of the cast performances – which were hugely entertaining – at times threatened to pull the rug from under the tender, yearning scenes between principal characters Laura (Hannah Yelland, complete with terribly cut glass English accent) and Alec (Milo Twomey, all flapping raincoat and doctorly charm).

brief-encounter-51Because of this the choreographed moves of the ensemble complete with film backdrop of crashing waves became almost parody-like due to being repeated just a little too often.

Maybe I’m nitpicking though, because it was overall a thoroughly entertaining show – with standout performances from the whole cast, particularly Joseph Alessi, as both cheeky chappy Albert and dull-but-kind husband Fred, and Beverley Rudd as teabar giggler Beryl.

With the musicians mingling with the audience before the start and setting the tone with some jazz-lite Coward songs, the ambience was excellent throughout, mixing vaudeville and music hall with fast-moving storytelling.

I do wonder, though, whether the romantics would have liked to have laughed rather less and cried rather more.

Book until Saturday (25 April) on 08700 606 650 or online at www.theambassadors.com/theatreroyal

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The Tweets of Brandon Cummerbund Pt 2

Pocket handkerchief crisis. Government step in. World leaders confer. Cook finds it in saucepan. Today’s biscuit: Bourbon. Breakfast: banana

Scrimshaw, beard crimper and toast buffer Brandon Cummerbund

Scrimshaw, beard crimper and toast buffer Brandon Cummerbund

Some days I mourn the decreasing use of tongs. Pulled a muscle attempting to fold the Telegraph. Cheese of the day: Gouda. Learning to yodel

Guildhall function last night. Bassoon playing gave me a headache. Or might have been the spritzers. Beverage: soda. Breakfast: parsley

And why should quoits should not be an Olympic sport? Mongoose snaffles chops. Mildew is as mildew does. Dog of the day: boxer. Pong: sewer

Today’s lesson: Tumble-drying is best done by a machine. Think the hip will recover. Chum of mine: Tolly Snitchplunger. Breakfast: quail.

A study of knots has much to commend it. If fell walking is a description rather than a pursuit, stick to taxis. Wind: SE. Breakfast: scones

Chum of mine: Ticktock Strangely – surrealist watch repairer. Never give a croissant an even break. Paint of the day: country meadow. Hoorah

Gad! Birthday imminent. Dinner party planned: pheasant, rosti, wobbly jelly, gin fizz. Assorted loons descending for carousing. Aunt banned.

Swift daquiri to mark the splendid day. Cook making an architrave of blancmange. Mrs C fussing over embroidery. Luncheon with poetical chums

Precipitation appears to be ongoing. Twanged nerve in right shoulder blade. Hot Cross Bun imminent. Breakfast: archipelago of swan, toast

A gentleman foregoes fish gutting in the presence of a lady. Chum of mine: Bishop Rev Dr Waltzing Mebuilder. Tea: cod. Brolly weather. Parp!

Hair oil goes missing. Cod liver oil sandwiches. Suspicious. Cook looks sanguine. Mongoose avoids my gaze. No breakfast. Gargling ticketyboo

Creaky knees. Twingey back. Cheesy buns. Dew on grass. Bicycle in shed. Mongoose in disgrace. Cook on a roll. Sausage roll. Brandon on banjo

Joyous Easter shennigans. Chocolatier excels himself. Cook beside herself. Mongoose reprieved. Boot boy sticky. Church: I should cocoa. Yip!

Malingering Monday. Leftovers to eat. Cook day off. Mongoose to have bath. Hatches battened down. Pig in aviary. Mrs C after it with broom.

Toaster back off holidays. Plan to get my spats ironed. Chum of mine: Voluminous Twig, freelance aborealist. Breakfast: kippers, plum torte

Overslept. Or underwoke. Must have been the tonic. Mrs C beating carpets. Cook beating egg. Mongoose beating next door’s cat. Happy days

Eeni, meeni, mynee, mo. Except on Thursdays, when a large spatchcock will suffice. I sense a marmalade on toast moment. Socks inside out.

Taking Mrs C to the theatre. Mongoose left in charge with strict orders to repel all callers, particularly mad aunts. Cravat: Old Yeoman.

Splendid night at theatre. Mongoose strangely quiet on our return. Something’s afoot. 1.30 at Fontwell: Jagger’s Mangle. Hat of day: trilby

Perambulation is the mother-in-law of bus strikes. Note it well. Chum of mine: Timbuktalulah Boomdeyay, society golddigger. Breakfast: toast

No milk. Cow sacked. Chicken worried. Cook beside herself. Good trick if you can do it. Chum of mine: Len ‘Thwack’ Bungeeclamp. Food: yams.

Ironmongery can delight the soul. A specially curved fork is wonder to behold. Chum of mine: somnambulent twitcher Snooze the Tickwarbler

Splendid day for a tootle round the local park on the wheeled steed. Mrs C heading to shops. Cook off to medicine cabinet. Breakfast: pawpaw

No shoes in house. Boot boy has sold them. Boot boy sacked. Mrs C recommends thick socks. Game of the day: hopscotch. Breakfast: spiced ham

Beware the toffee hammer. It may be small, but foolish is the man who underestimates it. Go placidly amidst the stuff and things. Tally-ho!

I used to think stubble-burning a kind of extreme sport version of shaving. Some days I mourn the decreasing use of inkwells. Jam: kumquat

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Gethsemane: power, politics and piety pack a punch

Brighton Theatre Royal: Gethsemane by David Hare

Trenchant, clever writing with lines to relish, powerhouse performances from a quality cast, a striking and creative set – there was so much to enjoy about David Hare’s Gethsemane last night. And yet …

It was hard to put my finger on exactly what it was about Gethsemane that left me less  thoughtful than I expected. Hare’s insightful, at times scathing writing exposes the seamy underbelly of politics in today’s Britain – spin, management, damage limitation, hypocrisy and media manipulation.

Tamsin Greig is superb as the harrassed Home Secretary Meredith Guest – a mother who loves her wayward daughter Suzette (well portrayed by newcomer Jessica Raine) but is married to her job; agonising over her entry into politics to “make a difference” and despairing that “they hate us whatever we do”. Micro-managed by civil servant fixer Monique Toussaint (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), she is pulled deeper into trouble by her rebellious daughter’s attempts to get herself noticed.

Shady money man Otto Fallon (Stanley Townsend) is the cheeky chappy sifting everyone’s motives and finding them wanting, recruiting naive Whitehall greasy pole climber Mike Drysdale to his “fund-raising” operation, but failing to convince his pricipled wife Lori (Nicola Walker). Supported by suave assistant Frank Pegg (Pip Carter), he calls the tune that all but Lori must dance to.

Anthony Calf is Prime Minister Alec Beasley, sketched very strongly as Tony Blair with just a few details changed (he bashes away at a drum kit instead of the Blair Stratocaster) and talks firmly if vaguely about his religious faith.

Adam James revels in his role as Geoff Benzine, the Fleet Street hack preparing to break the story of the Home Secretary’s daughter’s shameful secret. When Meredith calls in Lori – Suzette’s former teacher and mentor – to try to straighten her out, the emotional depth of Hare’s writing starts to tell.

At times, it’s very funny, and there are some great lines:
“There’s only one safe place for a politician to live and that’s in ignorance …”
“It’s an organised hypocrisy and it’s called democracy …”
“The more sceptical the people become, the more devout are their leaders.”
“When journalists write about themselves, they finally write about someone they admire.”

Tamsin Greig’s opening to the second half, where she addresses the audience on the terrorist threat, outlining everything that she can’t tell us, and concluding “Sorry, but you’ll just have to trust us” is priceless. And the scene between her and the PM soon after is superbly played.

As for Gethsemane, referred to on a couple of occasions as “the dark night of the soul” – with many of the characters having wrestled with their callings and plans, is finally pinpointed as Suzette admonishes Lori “Jesus didn’t give up – you’ve missed the whole point of the story”.

Maybe the slight lack of engagement I felt at the end was down to the fact that none of the characters really attracted my sympathies – all were flawed but seemed trapped by the system. I won’t spoilt it by revealing the final scene, but a larger dose of hope would have helped. Human beings may be flawed, but not all are doomed to corruption and compromise – the redemption that lay beyond Gethsemane was only hinted at.

And these days, we can really do with being reminded of Easter too.

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The Tweets of Brandon Cummerbund

Cummerbundery – or the first month’s witterings from CummerbundEsq

Good morrow gentlemen and ladies, it is my delight to join you in this brave

Brandon Cummerbund: sage, gargler, wit and gastronome

Brandon Cummerbund: sage, gargler, wit and gastronome

odyssey. I shall be furnishing you with Cummerbundery daily …

Toast has its uses in hand to hand combat. Chum of mine: Mangrove van Flagbutterer – well meaning Dutch philanthropist. Breakfast: kedgeree

Just stalked some asparagus with me blunderbuss. Winged the blighter. The old rugger injury playing up. Mrs Cummerbund promises fig poultice

Bats in the cellar again. Sent Little Shitzu in. Chum of mine: Nodulous Quango-Chainsaw, mad as a tweed sandwich. Breakfast: anchovy mash

Shaver caught me beard this morning. Sacked the blighter, y’just can’t get the staff. Chum of mine: Leggy Tonguebuttress. Breakfast: kidneys

Gad, the shrapnel’s giving me gip. Could be the turbot from lunch, mind. Must grill the cook. Try Silly Me in the 2.30 at Kempton Park.

Locked in the scullery again by Mrs C. Dashed if I can work her out. Chum of mine: Tingling Parp, trombone for hire. Breakfast: poached egg

Discovered fishing rod and large brandy uneasy companions. Suffice to say no charges being pressed. Took mashie niblick to get slice repair

Practiced me gargling this morning. Improving. Chum of mine: toff conman Lord Quicksand Stuntly. Breakfast: porridge and glazed walnuts

Discovered butterscotch has little to do with a slab of Irish best and a bottle of Glenfiddich. Pity. Flutter: Arbroath 4 Forfar 5. Tea: cod

Cummerbund’s patent sleep recipe: two olives, a pickle, oats and a ding on the back of the head with a bedpan. Sheep counted: 97. Baah!

Soup of the day: Mulligatawney. Today’s limerick: There was a young fella called Bob. In the laundry: spats. Chum of mine: Wokwok Tahoomey

Fell asleep in stamp collection last night. Woke in small hours with Penny Red stuck to nose. Today’s poet: Milton. Breakfast: liver & bacon

Lost shirt on a horse today. Bally thing had hidden in the wardrobe. Considering buying tandem. Or a mongoose. Lucky cravat: paisley, silk

Constitutional amidst wheeling seagulls post-lunch. Kiteflyers on greensward have wheels attached. Most peculiar. Hat: straw. Shoes: brogues

Coal scuttle full of owls this morning. Must reprimand coal man. Fog outside, possible pea-souper. Today’s socks: Wolseley. Breakfast: bran

Jalope behaves itself as soon as stout mechanic looks at it. Typical. Can’t find cigar cutter. Must be his day off. Potato: Maris Piper

Aged aunt coming to stay. Attempts to book holiday in Folkestone have failed. Mongoose acquired, named Wilf. Cheese: Red Leicester. Tea: hot

Boots back from menders. Mrs C back from Boots. Valet gone to sea. Everything else tickety boo. Chum of mine: Abstemious Grout. Tea: saveloy

Practiced with Indian clubs in the conservatory. Hodgson says glazier can fix panes tomorrow. First rabbit of spring delicious in stew m’lud

The reviving qualities of cucumber dare not be underestimated. Chum of mine: Muggely Pooterstick, itinerant sweep. Breakfast: fruit compost

Quail in the attic or cower in the cellar? Hard choice. In for the laundry: garters. Chum of mine: seaside gangster Arividerci Clacton. Pah!

Need to get gardener in to trim the hollyhocks. Horse left compost in wrong place (still steaming). Lost fiver. Practiced tenor. Sneezed x 3

Taking aunt to Hampton Court. Plan to lose ‘er in maze. Need to stalk deer but have lost deerstalker. Coffee: Camp. Breakfast: bubble n sqwk

Hampton Court called to say have located aunt. Had to send chum with tranquiliser gun. Where can you buy decent tongs these days? Supper:egg

Mrs C birthday. Children constructing wobbly jelly for the entertainment later. Polished me blunderbuss. Fed the aunt. Breakfast: pancakes

Splendid day of sterling hymns, Far Eastern nourishment and seaside perambulation. Chum of mine: Glazeme Senseless. Cake of day: Battenberg

MPs’ expenses brouhaha. Have to get mine past Mrs C. Not easy. Aunt escapes via catflap, recaptured by paperboy. Breakfast: lobster fritters

Time waits for no man. The No 37 sometimes does. Aunt escapes in flat cap. Next door’s sheepdog brings her in. Dessert song: Eton trifles

O sole mio!! Except in Grimsby. Bats in the wardrobe this morning. Cricket bats. Linseed oil on order. Chum of mine: Moo Flip. Brekkie: Pate

Shooting stick went off in the pantry. Cook needed smelling salts. Played water polo at the baths. Damn mints hard to catch. Breakfast: bran

Dog escaped with leg of lamb. Aunt escaped with wobbly jelly. Mrs C wrote sonnet. Arividerci left contraband cornets. Late supper: chops

Discovered unusual crease in plus fours. Son says I’m losing my edge. Cheeky scamp. Off to polish cufflinks. Spread: gentlemen’s relish

Aunt sent back to Little Wotherington, guarded by gardener with toasting fork. Toaster back off holiday now using gardening fork. Tea: Egray

Terrible wind yesterday. Pedestrians walking sideways. Definitely better in than out. Marmalade of the day: Chivers Olde English. Muffins.

Fusty Montgomery borrowed putter. Twigs in the marmalade. Mrs C went shopping. Staff nervous. Eggs overcooked. Monkey of the day: gibbon.

I left my heart at Clapham Junction. It was in a small paper bag, along with a sausage roll. Kindly return it if you find it. Breakfast: egg

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