Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alice in Wonderland

The arrival of summer in Essex has brought with it the opportunity to take advantage of the long daylight hours and really enjoy being outdoors with friends and family.  On the back of a number of previously successful outdoor events, The Minories Art Gallery in Colchester has created a programme of outdoor theatre and other events over the summer months.  As my daughter (aged 4) is now discovering the joys of reading, we really wanted to take her to see the fantastic production of Alice in Wonderland by the Chameleons Web Theatre Company.

Chameleon's Web is a not for profit theatre company based in Colchester.  The Company prides itself on "creating exciting, professional theatre full of energy and innovation".  After a successful sell-out production of Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters in 2012, the Company turned their artistic expertise to their very own adaptation of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland for summer 2013.

Below is a selection of photographs taken on the Saturday evening performance.  Although we went primarily to give my daughter the sort of experience that remains long in the memory from childhood, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and was truly impressed by the quality of the production and the imagination that went into each scene.

As one would expect from even just a little knowledge of the stories, there is a wide range of fantastical characters to recreate in the play; before the first Act got under-way, Isobel (my daughter) was wondering how they could make the Cheshire Cat appear.  As you can hopefully see from the photographs, a clever use of props ensured this was achieved with room to spare.  The Victorian steampunk style with which the play starts really appeals and lends the right atmosphere to the following story - almost like a nonsense Jules Verne.  Credit to Tammie Lightfoot for the adaptation and equally to Suzanne Bailey as Director.

All the expected characters are there, too many to mention here - Alice of course (Heidi Mussett), the White Rabbit (Joseph Sales), the excellent Mad Hatter (given a very twitchy persona by James Potter)  My daughter's favourite was clearly the Cheshire Cat (played with an equally cheshire-like Scott Sophos).  My personal favourites were Humpty Dumpty (Adam Duarte-Dias), the very deadpan caterpillar (Christopher Baalham) and the cleverly inter-woven narration from Stuart Robinson.

The clever use of simple but effective stage design was also apparent right from the start, especially the representation of Alice's constantly-changing size, but my highlights were the roses that kept changing colour and most of all, the hedgehog balls used in the flamingo croquet....oh and the Cheshire Cat of course.
Often these events are dependant on the weather but whether it was because we were fortunate in that respect or not, this imaginative adaptation was really entertaining, well-acted and and a pleasure to watch.  We will be looking out for more productions by the Chameleons Web Theatre Company, and we will be returning to the Minories to watch Dracula in a few weeks time.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas at The Minories

Colchester is fortunate to have a number of places of interest to visit, from the Norman castle, various museums, the new Firstsite building and of course the Minories Art Gallery.  The gallery is well-known locally as a place to see interesting contemporary art exhibitions, an example of which can be seen at this post by Lesley's Girls Vintage about Alison Stockmarr.

To celebrate the oncoming arrival of yet another Christmas season, the gallery held its annual Christmas art & craft fair, and I was asked to cover the day and capture the fair from set-up through to the end of the event.  Aside from helping out on the Lesley's Girls Vintage stall, I managed to take loads of shots and below are some of the examples from the day.  My preference is to capture reportage-style shots, so if you like these, please contact me to get involved in any events you may want covering.

The day was fantastic, with a great range of products on offer, focusing primarily on art and craft.  The building is an interesting architectural style and was a perfect setting to complement the event, lending a unique feel to the occasion.  The mulled wine was superb by the way.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Blitz, Bombs and Jive Bunnies

Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia and 'blitz' parties have really become popular in recent years, with the really big events held regularly in London.  The chaps at Hanger 39 in Colchester organised one such event last month at the historic Town Hall; it was a fantastic evening, complete with air raid sirens, wartime newsreels and even a guest 'appearance' by Winston Churchill.  I was there with Janine from Lesley's Girls Vintage, armed with only my camera and a dodgy vintage jumper.  Below are a selection of photos from the evening, taken in between air raids and emergency dashes to the bar.

Music was provided by the talented Miss Kitty Collins, which gave the night a really authentic feel, and as you can see, people really got into the mood with some really impressive dancing.

Here's hoping there are more of these events to come as it was a really fun evening in aid of Help for Heroes.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Crowds, Carrots and Dancing Bunnies

The last couple of posts have featured on the Colchester Free Festival 2012.  Although so much effort goes into making the day a success by the hundreds of volunteers and musicians and performers involved, it really is the people who turn up and get into the day that makes the atmosphere happen.  This post pulls together some of the shots of people making up the crowd from this year's festival, in my opinion the best yet.  Have a look through the collection of photos, you might just spot yourself in one of them......

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Slightly Odd Village Fete

Prepare to enter a strange world, one that only appears once a year in the historic grounds of Colchester Castle; a world populated by unknown rosy-faced villagers serving tea and cake, meddling with art cannons and competing in village olympics whilst wearing assorted hats. Yes, this is the slightly odd world of Tankton, one of the feature areas of the Colchester Free Festival.

Colchester Free Festival is rapidly becoming one of the best annual festivals featuring live bands, dance arena, comedy, poetry, family entertainment and now its very own village.  As the name suggests it is free to attend and for any money is amazing value, it is a credit to the town and especially those who put in countless hours to organise the whole event.

As one of the official photography team, I was able to mingle amongst the masses and the unsuspecting villagers to capture the 'unique' atmosphere of Tankton and its inhabitants. This blog features some of the photos that I think portray the atmosphere in this part of the festival.  

The chaps at the Buffalo Tank, an independent arts collective based in the Hythe Colchester led by Johnny Buffalo, created the Tankton experience- and what an experience.  The steampunk, slightly vintage feel of the area added an unexpected but enjoyable twist to the festival, something which they successfully managed to recreate from last year's 'Uncivil Unrest' Mexican space.

Visitors to Tankton could stop for a drink at The Tankton Arms, or take a cup of tea in the bedouin tent, and also pick up a snack at the Toast Office.  There were plenty of competitors taking part in the Tankton Olympics, a timely take on the more widely known version including the pony school led by Fiona Totty-Trottmonger; the highlight for me was the Art Cannon, run by Mosschops and Sidewicket, which basically did as suggested, firing paint at an assortment of canvasses.....from a cannon.

Hats off to the Tankton crowd, they really provided a distinct sense of the odd and ended up somewhere between Camberwick Green and The League of Gentleman.  Even the hit and miss weather couldn't dampen the atmosphere.  It may seem odd, but as I walk around Castle Park now with the family I find myself looking around for ghostly rosy-faced villagers offering reasonably-priced tea with more than a hint of anarchy.  I miss Tankton.