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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Death or truth, play centre or placenta, cannibals or animals?

Nell Dunn sat in the front row and watched Liz Rothschild’s Think Aloud Theatre perform a reading of her play Home Death, introduced as ‘Home Truths’ by one fatigued Freudian-slipping Festival organiser.

Thankfully, the actors did not mess up their words, and nor did Nell’s text mince them, as it told of different ways of dying, at home, or elsewhere. East, west, home was best.

After the actors and author took a bow, they returned for a good chat with a good proportion of the lunchtime audience. Wherever possible, it was agreed, our extraordinary lives merit a good death.

The evening’s guest author and performer Alistair McGowan came early to town in order to play the undersigned at tennis. We hit some sweet balls on court and made our endorphins happy in time for the evening’s action on stage.

McGowan was on form in both settings, taking the first set in tennis and then the stage by storm. Well, he certainly made more than one good impression, especially of the Prince of Wales with a Welsh accent. On more than one occasion, he turned, unexpectedly, into Eddie Izzard or Andy Parsons, and was terrific at both.

He was not half bad at word play either, suggesting that (E)epsom might be something between epic and awesome; and there was hilarious punning unclarity between placenta and play centre.

And then, only minutes after his brilliant Shakespearean encore, he slipped into another role, as Think Slam judge. He was called upon to give marks for three-minute talks on, among other things, what it takes to become a cannibal, whether women are animals, and an all-female Houses of Parliament. He, and his fellow judges, rewarded the man with the ponytail who explained what he thought the opposite sex needed to do in order to become proper feminists. Not everyone agreed, with the judging or the winner’s advice to women but it was still an exciting night.

Away from all this, a calmer mood prevailed in the Studio downstairs, where poet Fiona Samson read from her new collection Coleshill, exploring human experience and both the natural and the man-made world that surrounds her eponymous book.

And after that, it was goodbye to the Arts Centre as we took down flags and banners and prepared to decamp for our final day at Lower Shaw Farm, a Yoga Centre, the Central Library, and the Town Hall, for the Festival Finale!

Matt Holland
Photo credits: Richard Wintle – Calyx Multimedia