Quality, variety, participation and mind blowing stuff – a week in the East

It wasn’t so long back, at the launch of the Arts Index (December 2011) * , the East was shown to be the region bottom of the table for culture. … (At least in terms of arts investment)

..But on the ground the story can feel very, very different.

The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo performed at the Mercury Theatre, ColchesterTake last week for instance. On Saturday I found myself watching Colchester Mercury’s production of The Butterfly Lion which is receiving rave reviews (I particularly enjoyed the central performance by Adam Buchanen) and is about to head off on a major national tour.

Then on Wednesday I dropped into the beautiful Georgian playhouse at Bury St Edmunds to catch the Globe Theatre’s youthful and exuberant Taming of the Shrew.  Though there was much to laugh at, that final scene – where Kate gets her comeuppance- leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Not surprising, then, to find the Globe doing a seminar on that very same subject – and whilst I’m here good luck to incoming Bury St Edmunds artistic director, Karen Simpson.

blank canvas 1Thursday found me in London for Will Dutta’s Blank Canvas – an extraordinary gig which pretty much blew my mind, especially the final set which paired DJ Tim Exile and the Heritage Orchestra.  I suspect I was responsible for quite a few of the involuntary whoops and screams head that night. Now London is hardly in the East but I’ll make a plea on the basis that tonight the Heritage Orchestra featured the brilliant and ‘insanely talented British percussionist’  Joby Burgess who is just one of the many talented artists in the region!

lantern paradeFriday I’m back in the region proper and over in Peterborough for the start of the final week of Peterborough Festival and especially for the spectacular lantern parade ‘Upon the Rock’.  Produced by Metal (Eastern Angles neighbours in Peterborough) the show featured over 450 local performers, 200 lanterns and a rousing score by Jon Baker whose work with the Voice Project at Norwich and Norfolk festival I’d so loved last year. You can watch a video about the making of Upon the Rock here

I’d actually been in and out of Peterborough all week as our own production of Dark Earth was going on site at the beautiful Flag Fen (you can read about progress here, here and here).  The show – which like the lantern parade features community performers working with a professional creative team – opened last night and runs until 22 September.  Of course I am biased but from a first viewing I’mm happy to say it certainly lives up to its tag line of ‘unmissable theatre at Flag fen’.

hockneySaturday saw me head over to First Site for the launch of their new exhibition celebrating 75 years of the photocopier, an intriguing concept to say the least and a very definite first for the Colchester gallery.  From there we hot footed it over to Colchester Arts Centre for a gig by Roger Eno (who composed the score for Eastern Angles Bentwaters Roads) – chilled, atmospheric, almost haunting soundscapes being a perfect way to end the week.  But what was that suit about (and why didn’t I take a photographic record of it!).

Suits aside that was just one week in the East – a week that surely proved the stats never tell all of the story!

Quality, variety, participation and ultimately mind blowing stuff.

(*an updated arts index is due out soon)

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