Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Missed It? Missed Out!

Brighton Festival is done and dusted for another year, leaving some of us with the faintly smug sensation that follows protracted cultural indulgence, while others (most of my friends included, it transpires) kick themselves for having let the entire thing pass them by for yet another year. We always try to sample offerings from all across the cultural board during the festival, and the 'drama' box was ticked on Friday evening, when we squeezed into the upstairs function room at the Open House pub for the excellent Power Lunch - a twisted sexual comedy by the writer of American Beauty.

The Sunday before, we'd popped to the Charleston Festival for a literary event with one of my favourite writers, Jonathan Coe - who joined the founder of Virago Press, Carmen Calill, to celebrate 30 years of that esteemed publisher of women's writing. I had lugged along my well-read copy of What a Carve Up! to be signed, only to become stupidly star-struck upon meeting its author, forgetting to take it out of my bag. I did buy two new books at the event though - a Rosamond Lehmann novel with an introduction by Coe, and his own most recent fiction offering, The Closed Circle, both of which he did sign.

No festival is complete without a good old nose round your neighbours' houses under the pretence of looking at art - so in between planning, enjoying and recovering from Saturday night's party; a sociable Sunday lunch at The Dover; and a doomed comedy show (which I shall shortly come onto); we also managed to squeeze in some Artists Open Houses at the weekend. The highlight of these was 'Preparing for Emergencies' on Bentham Road - a slightly tongue-in-cheek response by a group of artists to an arguably paranoid government initiative.

Sadly, our final official festival outing yesterday was something of a let-down - quite literally in fact - when we found ourselves being hurried out of a suddenly deflating venue. The 'Udder Place', an inflatable dome next to the soul-less Udderbelly, is possibly the worst performance venue I have ever come across. Basically an upside down bouncy castle, it requires continuous air compression, a noisy process over which the performers struggle to be heard. Someone apparently described the experience of seeing a show there as "like trying to watch Doctor Who while your Mum's hoovering", which is pretty accurate. As if this wasn't enough to contend with, The cast of The Ornate Johnsons were also cursed with technical problems and failing radio mics from the start of their Sunday night show. The dramatic collapse and resulting evacuation of the venue only ten minutes into their set was the nail in the coffin of an already uncomfortably painful show.

Thankfully, we still have one event left this Friday, which I hope will serve as a more positive festival finale, despite falling outside its formal schedule. Bom Bane's the Musical takes place in the intimate surroundings of Bom Bane's restaurant, and consists of a three course meal interspersed with songs from 2007 Festival Award winners. The best things is that we've already paid up front for the meal, so it will seem like a fabulous free treat on the night!

For the benefit of the disorganised masses who missed out on this year's Brighton Festival, here are my personal highlights, so that they can see/hear/read what they missed, from the comfort of their own homes:

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