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Monday 23 July 2012

A Patch of Blue under the gray summer skies

This July the Patch of Blue theatre company have been on tour with a production of last year's five star Edinburgh Fringe Festival production of Godspell by Steven Schwartzs.

For those of you who don't know the show, the plot line is essentially that of the gospels but Schwartzs takes the parables told in the Bible and creates a universal message; people who are lost and distressed coming together through love and community, and of course some cracking show tunes. It is a musical that seems to have to been intended for this company's vision for interactive and intimate theatre and these ideals are expertly brought to life by St Andrews based directors Alex Howarth and Caroline McCaffrey.

The performance I saw was on the 19th of July in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, a small village, proud of its 'best kept' status, yet we were transported in the opening scenes to a disordered junk yard. Despite the curtained stage available this production was set on the floor, with cushions and settees for the front audience rows, blurring the divide between actor and spectator. Twinkling fairy lights lit the enigmatic scene, where bunting met rusty fridges and broken doors. As the cast gradually entered, alone and seemingly desolate, alongside the audience, a hush descended. Amidst our silent anticipation Jesus flicked on a lighter and began.

Emily Thompson, playing Jesus, spoke quietly into a pregnant crowd. A female Jesus. The feminine touch was ideal, she became like a mother encouraging and calming her boisterous children, as though from ignorant toddlers to enlightened adults. Thompson was subtle with her words, always speaking as though imploring so that rather than raising her voice she made herself worthy of silence. From this, and the less formal setting, the production had a raw and sensitive quality throughout; intimate and enchanting.

Technically it was astounding. The choreography, could not be faulted. From slow and sensuous waltzes to unimaginably speedy ensembles they blew me away. Musically they were unanimously impressive. The vocals were pitch perfect and the use of so many instruments by so many actors was more than inspiring. My performance highlight was in the song All Good Gifts where three guys played one guitar, one using it as a drum, another making the chord shapes and the third playing the strings. This couldn't have been achieved without technical ability, absolute trust, unity and sensitivity. This image epitomised the production for me.

The Patch of Blue theatre company will be showing their talent once more at the Fringe this August in what promises to be an extraordinary production of The 25th Putnam Annual Country Spelling Bee,which has already graced a West End Stage at the Twitter Theatre Awards. We wish them well.
                                                                Emily Hill, former cast member.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Confirmation Thoughts

On June 10th we had a wonderful celebration in Chearsley. Just as we might have thought that the Jubilee had left us all celebrated out, along came another one.  But this was different, this was much more local and for 5 of our regular congregation at St Nicholas in Chearsley, and one from St Mary's, it was much more personal.

I believe that coming to a decision to confirm our baptismal vows [for that is what the Confirmation service is] having worshipped as an adult and having thought about it over many months or years, makes it a much more resonant occasion.  It is true and meaningful choice, and it is generally one that has been thought hard about.  It can open a person's mind to go further and explore more, which is always a good thing and to be encouraged.

I know that our new members from Chearsley and Long Crendon churches have been given a superb book to read, Living Jesus, by Bishop John Pritchard.  If you have not read it you should, it will hopefully open your mind and make you think.

I hope that all who attended the service, led by Bishop Alan, will have got something deeply special out of it, not just those being confirmed, but all of us sitting watching, and hopefully remembering.

So as we go out in peace to love and serve the Lord, may we all do so in the remembered joy of our own Confirmation, however long ago.
In the love of Jesus Christ,   John Scholefield LLM