23/06:13: Mythsummer Sundae

by Lora Hughes
photographs courtesy Jonathan Parker, Spurious Nonsense Art Photography

Table 1 photographer Spurious Nonsense Jonathan Parker

Table 1
(Jonathan Parker)

Trashed Organ and Live Lab? Now there’s a combination worth committing venial sins over. Just walking into the Midsummer Sundae venue promised magic and mischief. Lights dimmed, the DJ spinning his records, balloons and flowers, bubbles and ice cream, streamers and glow sticks and musical instruments, all in place. Then Adam Donaldson wearing geeky shorts and red shoes, started the fun by admitting, ‘We’re in love.’

When you see either Hannah Costanzo (NUTS) or Adam Donaldson (The Globe, Hebburn) on stage, expect entertainment. If they’re together, relax and be swept along. In Portaloo by John Challis and Melanie Rashbrooke, Hannah and Adam, a couple named for the actors, meet at a Glastonbury portaloo. The chance of them being destined for love are confounded by Adam calculating the average time spent in the ‘loo. His offer of toilet roll improves the mood, which gets re-shattered by a Geordie Haiku. Ah, but the Glastonbury fairies aren’t finished with these two. Well acted, totally believable, incredibly funny.

Hannah Costanza & Adam Donaldson (Jonathan Parker)

Hannah Costanza & Adam Donaldson
(Jonathan Parker)

And so we’re primed for Daniel Hardisty’s love poems. Hardisty’s sensorial, impeccably visual imagery explores the ordinary through the extraordinary. Lovers who cling past love’s exhaustion, become people drowning, their hair floating upward round features unseeing. Grief stays a rotting corpse tended by the mourner until death gains acceptance. When Hardisty introduced his poem, The Rain, as tribute to his ‘continuing ignorance of about everything in the world’ (which is really a beautiful tribute to his wife and to Hardisty’s ability to love), he in effect summarises his narrative perspective – that of an awe-struck spectator. This distances us from what Hardisty observes, but Hardisty faithfully keeps us near him, himself intimately present. As his collection grows, we can anticipate being witness to an extraordinary journey.

We’re back at Glastonbury for Will the Real Courtney Love Please Stand Up? written by Nicola Owen, and directed by Gez Casey. Eva Quinn (Inspector George Gently, Vera, Sleepworking) expertly delivers a lively monologue as Adele, a police officer in need of her loo break who has to deal with an increasingly impatient crowd. The dialogue has Owen’s signature crispness, but as a non-Brit, I don’t get the cultural fascination with toilet humour; it neither disgusts nor delights me. However, the audience (and my husband) disagreed and thoroughly enjoyed the vignette.

Another engaging stage presence, Hannah Lowe came on just before interval to read from her collection, Chick (Bloodaxe). The Chick in question is her Chinese-Jamaican father with a flair for origami and a serious gambling addiction. Through her memories of Chick, Lowe tells stark truths, as easily about her father, her mother and society, as the truths she tells about herself. Although Lowe apologised for veering from the theme of Love, her bloodthirstily honest poems crammed with people she loved are fully Mythsummery.

Eva Quinn (Jonathan Parker)

Eva Quinn
(Jonathan Parker)

The interval released DJ and music aficionado Mr Drayton and his collection of festival songs. Every tune, an old friend who kept us in our seats, gave a needed inspiration while we each composed a line for the Trashed Laureate poem. Mr Drayton, a man who truly loves his vinyl, can be heard on air at BBC Radio Newcastle.

While Trashed Organ judged the festival masks, we slipped out to the ice cream vender, then came back to a set from Holy Moly & The Crackers. Described as circus folk rock, their big sound in the small room obliterated the lyrics. The first two numbers failed to engage me, as they relegated Ruth Patterson’s fiddle to rhythm and Rosie Bristow’s accordion to harmony. Even the brief fiddle solo in Highway Shoes proved a rearticulation of the melody, which had not been treated kindly by Conrad Bird. Bird injured his voice this past year, he thinks while busking in Edinburgh, and the result lets us down. (Listen to their album, First Avenue, to hear how genuinely airborne Bird’s tenor voice can be.)

After the first two numbers, though, Patterson took lead vocals and the mainliner had come to town. Patterson ravaged us with her fiddle and acrobatic vocalisations. Bristow didn’t get nearly enough air time for an accordionist who wears mismatched socks! Ash Etchells-Butlet’s percussion had a nuance not often seen in folk rock while Dave Martin’s double bass was the caramel sauce that held the dessert together. Sadly, Pete Hogan on electric guitar was greatly under used and eventually left the stage.

Here are six fine musicians holding themselves back. With Bird’s damaged voice, it’s time to rethink the formula and get out of the box. In spite of that, they were enthusiastically hauled back for an encore after which no one wanted to leave.

John Challis, Melanie Rashbrooke & Gez Casey (Jonathan Parker)

John Challis, Melanie Rashbrooke & Gez Casey
(Jonathan Parker)

And just as well since it was time to announce the winner of Best Mask. Or winners, for they tied. Kate Stephenson’s beautiful multicoloured sparkler and Gil Kester’s elegantly trimmed yellow won each of their creators tickets to RiverRuns, a night of words and music at Live to celebrate the River Tyne.

The night ended with Trashed Organ and Gez Casey reading lines written by the audience for our Mythsummer Sundae group poem. Accompanied by Rosie Bristow playing ‘ominous music’ on her accordion, the poem brought a sparklingly dark and funny work to close the event. Here Conrad Bird redeemed himself by writing the best line which earned him the honour of 2013 Trashed Laureate, for which he received a large bottle of Pimms and a lovely bouquet of flowers.

If there be fairies behind this mischief called Mythsummer Sundae, they be Trashed Organ and Live Lab. You’ll find Trashed Organ creating the surreal, the unusual and the outcast in Newcastle venues and beyond. Look for them at the Bridge Hotel, 8pm on 30 October. Live Lab along with The Empty Space host the Bursary Scratch Night for new writing. If you’re a company with an idea, contact nataliequerol@theemptyspace.org.uk for more information. Proposals should be received by 12 noon, 11 October, 2013. Trashed Organ and Live Lab join forces again on 18 December, 8pm, for Christmas Noir, a buzzing celebration definitely removed from the norm.

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