Each day throughout July 2020, Stan’s Cafe present a daily dose from Robert Burton’s pioneering self-help manual ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’.

Filmed in 35 episodes over the lockdown period under the direction of James Yarker, the screen is divided into quadrants – with the four cast members of the touring version of the show (Gerard Bell, Rochi Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens) voicing from the vantage of the four humours. In the words of Burton, “If any man ask… I perform Melancholy by being busy to avoid Melancholy.

Trailer for Stan’s Cafe’s ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ (2013)


Creation Theatre’s ‘The Time Machine’ re-opens tonight – on a virtual platform.
Performing twice nightly, Wednesdays – Sundays, 27th May – 21st June 2020
For further information and to book tickets click here

Researched in collaboration with the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, Creation Theatre first premiered Jonathan Holloway’s adaptation of H.G.Wells classic on the 29th February, in The London Library, where H.G.Wells himself was a member. By mid-March, however, it was clear that the social-distancing restrictions around Covid-19 would make public performances impossible. Initially the content of the show – with predictions of global pandemic and started out as alarming and prophetic, and by the time of the lockdown almost too real to be considered dystopian.

The team have adapted the work for the online meeting platform of Zoom, and following the huge success of Creation’s adaptation of The Tempest in April, are now helping to redefine what theatre can offer in these testing times.




Street Party

07May20

On the 7th June 1977, in an event commonly seen across the UK, the residents of Naunton Close & Clover Road, (together with the Swarthmore residents who lived ‘down the passage’) gathered for a Street Party to celebrate 25 years since the Queen’s accession to the throne.

I’m posting this because the current residents of Naunton are hosting a VE 75th Anniversary Street Party – under the strained conditions of the Covid-19 lockdown, and I believe it will be the first such gathering  since that Silver Jubilee party, 43 years ago, although my sis’ claims there was a Charles & Diana wedding party in 1981, with DJ too. I was too cool by this time to attend (probably on a Scout Camp).

Adversity brings people together, and I’m thrilled to see a thriving community spirit in the old street. Although I’m now just an occasional visitor, Naunton Close has always been ‘home’. My parents were amongst the first to move in to the street as it was being built. 25th May 1963 was the date mom and dad took possession of the house.

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Their first neighbours included the Greens (left corner of Clover), the Knight family (No.5), Kirkham (No.7), Wood (No.11), Moles (No.15), Margaret and Norman (No.17), Yates (No.32), Hill (No.30), Edwards (No.24), Don Lee (No.22), Roses (No.20), Officers (No.18), John and Val Lee (No.16), Lal & Tom (No.14), Bates (No.12), Phelps (No.8), Ashworths (No.6), Amanns (No.4) and Mrs George & son at No.2., to be later joined by the Moppets (No.9), the Borges family from Venezuela (No.11), Rymills (No.22) and Morrisons (No.18).

As so many of the families settled into their first homes, it was inevitable that by the early and mid-70’s the place was teeming with kids. In my estimation, at it’s chaotic height, there were 48 kids under the age of 16, living as part of the Close, and playing out in the street.

We were always having to retrieve our football from Margaret and Norman’s garden. I hope Margaret forgives us…

I will try to keep adding to this as the collective memory contributes more detail. Meanwhile, hoping the current residents have a smashing get-together to not only mark the passing of what was a terrible time for our forebears, but also to celebrate togetherness in these similarly difficult times.


Today is the 23rd April 2020, and it would have been Fred Jeffs’s 101st Birthday.

Episode 4 of Fred Jeffs: The Sweetshop Murder is now released to coincide with this anniversary.

I started working with the team on this Episode in the summer of 2019, and I am sad to report that in the time since the recordings were originally made, we have lost two family members whose recollections of Fred and the shop inspired so much of my fascination for this story, and fuelled my desire to render it for posterity.

Therefore, it seems fitting to dedicate this Episode to my Aunty Mary Patricia Lord – (née Rose, 1931-2018) and her younger brother, my dad, Michael John Rose, (1937-2020)

The Family portrait for a POW c.1942

The above picture of the two of them with my Nan, Alice, accompanied my grandad, Douglas Rose (Fred’s brother) throughout his war years as a POW. Fred had been captured at Dunkirk, in 1940, and Doug captured in Crete, in 1941. After several years in their respective camps in Poland (Poznan & Bleckammer), the brothers found themselves together in confinement in Stalag VII, (Moosburg) following notorious Death marches endured as the Germans retreated from the advancing Red Army.

 


Last summer, Alicia Taylor got in touch. She’d been talking to her grandad about his childhood and he revealed an extraordinary story of stumbling across a body whilst birds-nesting with teenage pals. A quick internet-search led her to me and the Fred Jeffs project. Just as with Alan Warr’s story, the impact of that day’s experience have left David Jones with very vivid memories, and a wish to reconcile himself to unanswered questions arising from that day.

David is the last surviving member of that group of boys, which included John Gough, Alan Jeffrey and Cyril Blakemore, who – seemingly less affected by their dreadfulness of their discovery – and, at the slightly older age of 15, was interviewed and photographed at Wasson by reporters from the Smethwick Telephone.

Cyril on Smethwick Telephone 1

 


Michael John Rose

9th September 1937 – 19th February 2020

This Monday past, the 23rd March 2020, we said our goodbyes to dad at a Service at Lodge Hill Crematorium.

The ‘Social Distancing’ in place at the time meant that all members of the congregation were sat 2 metres from one another, the Funeral Directors banned the use of a limo and we were in the strange position of trying to dissuade vulnerable, or elderly friends and family from attending the Service. It was Live-Streamed on Facebook by my niece, Anja.

Hours later Prime Minister Johnson outlined a House Lockdown, in light of the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis which is impacting across the world.

With the shadow of this affecting everyone, we gathered at Lodge Hill in truly beautiful weather. A cloudless sky, birds singing, and colour everywhere. Through the trees to the East is where dad first came into, and finally departed this world (Selly Oak Hospital / Elizabeth Court, at either end of Oak Tree Lane). To the North-West are the hills at Warley / Ridgacre, where dad grew up, and to the South, Naunton Close – the family home for nearly 60 years.

***

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Eulogy for Dad            23rdMarch 2020

This moment, it’s fair to say, has been on my mind for a long time.

Longer than a month. Reflecting on all the things you mean to us, and the impossibility of ‘summing up’. Because, truth be told that you, Dad, resisted the idea of something being ‘completed’. For you, the interest was in the process rather than the end-product;and in the journey more than the destination.

Today, of course, is very much about our acceptance of something Final, and, painful though it is, there is a need for us to come together to say farewell to you, and to give our thanks for a life that was long, but somehow also gone in a blink.

***

Dad left us peacefully in the small hours of 19thFebruary.

Even if he had preferred a quiet slipping away from this world, how could any of us imagined ourselves a situation where we recommend people stay at home for their own safety? It’s as if a crack appeared in the universe, because whilst we have been mourning, this world seems changed irrevocably. The future seems suddenly uncertain, (and from what I gather from what friends have said over the years, our family always represented something certain, something stable.)

Michael John Rose brought sparkle, a wit, and unmistakable presence; He has cast a tall shadow but was quietly unassuming, and gentle. Attentive, happy to help, but independent, sometimes stubbornly so…

Self-sufficiency came early – 6 years younger than big sister Mary, and 12 years older than baby sister Elizabeth. With the War defining those early years, Michael grew happy with his own company, and with his own thoughts.

Dad’s earliest distinct memory was of “hearing the Moon singing.” How better to recall the strangeness of being woken in the night, and taken down the garden to the bomb shelter, while air-raid sirens filled the clear night skies over Quinton, and the factories of nearby Smethwick. In 1946, After a knock on the door of 114 Ridgacre Rd. he piped up, “Mom, there’s a Man here”. It was his own dad, unrecognised after 5 years as a POW. Little Michael was usurped as the Man of the house, at the age of 8, having to adjust to the tough times of post-war rehabilitation and the relative freedom that being a teen in the 1950’s offered.

Little sister Elizabeth recalls, of her younger years:

“Michael made the tallest of snowmen and the best igloos! He played endless Lonnie Donegan records in his bedroom and played the harmonica in the bath (and on the toilet!). He would cycle all the way from Quinton to Abererch, stopping at YHA hostels overnight. Dolgellau was his favourite…  A few days would be spent at our tent, most of the daytime he would sit in the sand dunes for hours at a time, just gazing out to sea and watching the wildlife. He hated going in the sea! He was always known as “the smasher’ by the guard at Abererch halt as he once broke the glass in a train carriage door. And then he would cycle back to Ridgacre Road again. His birthday presents to me were always the best, especially the roller skates on a snowy Christmas day!! He bought me a beautiful doll. A string puppet, Pinnochio, that he was forever having to untangle.”

Dad was a product of a Time and a Place that we thought would last forever;  James Watt Technical College; doing his apprenticeship at Chance’s Glassworks (in the Lighthouse division); then moving to Belliss & Morcom – the giant engine factory at Icknield Port Loop; becoming a lift engineer at Cadbury’s; a Field service Engineer with Lansing Bagnall, and later on working for Sears group.

Lansing was probably the job that perhaps suited him best. When we kids weren’t all rolling around in the back of his red van, he had the road before him, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the manufactories in the Midlands – which he would visit to maintain and service the fork lift trucks.

As Mom recalls of their first meeting:

“I remember I’d been out and was at the bus stop. Along comes (my brother) Rob with this guy, who turned out to be Michael. He gets on the bus with his legs in the aisle talking about this banjo. He was obsessed that day with a banjo he’d seen in a junk shop in Harborne, we were on the bus on the way home and at Prince’s Corner he gets off the bus to look at it, and then walk all the way back to Quinton.

 Next time, I went to the Jazz club with my friend, and I sat with Rob and other lads (including Mike, Clive and the Fradgleys) while the girls jived, and I had a red skirt on with white stars and Mike spent half the evening counting these stars.

 I wasn’t good at dancing, but I took him to a class and he agreed, but he absolutely hated it because when he was listening to music he like to listen to every note. Concentrating. That’s how he was.”

 Mom and dad’s courting days were interrupted by his National Service, with dad joining a radar team at Holbeach, on the Wash in Lincolnshire. It may not have been the most glamorous of postings, but dad could easily while away the days on his lonesome. Having said that he was equally happy in the company of friends, or strangers – and would strike up a conversation with anyone; especially when the conversation turned to motors, mechanics, or music – and more especially if you had an instrument in your hand.

He would often start to learn a musical instrument, but the urge to improvise was always too great, the urge to play in the words of Ken Colyer, ‘hot horn’. This was dad; wanting to do things on his terms and in his own timescale. When the mainstream was starting to jive, dad was heading to the skiffle and the folk clubs, the trad. jazz clubs. And he was still going to the Perry Hill Tavern until illness prevented him, relatively recently.

To read about his musical hero is to learn something about dad. Ken Colyer had sailed around the world with the merchant fleet and jumped ship in America. He made his way to New Orleans with his trumpet, to become the ‘real deal’ – defying the segregation laws by playing onstage with the black musicians. For this transgression he ended up in the state gaol. He made his own pact, never to sell ‘the idea’ short.  That streak of purism never left Ken, nor dad.

Although dad, and mom travelled in later years – to visit Al in Australia, or Elaine & Arne’s wedding in Germany/Denmark, for example, the adventuring was more for the mind. Dad would say, “Why travel abroad when everything you might ever want can be found in North Wales?”

He was, in some ways more of a Dodd, rather than a Rose – in the image of his maternal, Staffordshire granddad. Tall and handsome, the Clint Eastwood of Naunton Close; choosing his words sparingly and carefully; the Lone Adventurer; the Quiet Man.

He was Bicycle Repair Man – the person everyone in the Close turned to for mechanical advice. The ‘trailer-builder’ for neighbours John Lee and Weoley Hill scout group, always with an offer or suggestions of car DIY, as Jasmine at No.22 will testify.

At Lansing he was referred to by pals as ‘The Crowman’: Wild-haired, with hands thick; ingrained with engine oil. The Smell of Swarfega. I don’t think I saw the true skin tone of his hands until the late 80’s. There were always cars, and car parts, in various stages of acquisition, repair, or abandonment. They filled the garage, in sheds, over the lawn, on the kitchen table. He collected car-parts like he collected musical instruments, or his fancy pipes.

He loved technical talk. He would recall Laws of Physics at random opportunities, just as he would readily recall excerpts of Shakespeare or Victor Hugo, that he’d last read 60 years previously. And he interpreted the world, as he would his own bodily apparatus, as if through the pages of Haynes Manual. Unsentimentally.

Dads, like it or not, are such a powerful influence. They are the template, the model, the spur to action, to change. They are your DNA, and yet perhaps a mystery too. They force us to question who we are, why we act and breathe and think like we do. They are the secret of your past, but also a glimpse into the future. A future you.

Of course, he was not only a Dad but a Son; a grandson, a younger brother, older brother, uncle, cousin, a grandad. And a husband of 57 years. He was a neighbour, and a friend. He was Michael, Mike. All these, and more.

We must remind ourselves how lucky we are to have had so many opportunities to spend time together as a family over the years. Family occasions, birthdays, and holidays. For all its desperate sadness of this day, and the strangeness of it, this is also about celebrating that togetherness.

With his passing is the end of an era. The end of something that is all many of us have ever known. The journey feels like it has come to an end, but is merely the start of another, “a herald to the gaudy spring”, as Shakespeare’s Sonnet I says, because Michael John Rose will never really leave us. He’ll always be sitting in that familiar way, in a chair in the corner, snoozing. He’ll always be tinkering in a shed somewhere with a new engine part for the kit car; he’ll always be sitting there, with a pipe, musing, with the engine on, with the syncopated rhythms of the stompers, the ‘trad men’, playing in his head. And with the neighbours’ house lights going out, one by one.

 When dreams of better days to come, Are in the dust and another day is done. (Ken Colyer)

Sleep well, dad. And Dream well.

Music plays:           “Goin’ Home” – Ken Colyer and his Jazzmen.

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A Winter treat this month, working with Coventry’s own Talking Birds on a site-based performance in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The piece, a spurious Festival re-imagining the rained-off, final day’s parade organised 250 years ago by David Garrick. At that Festival in 1769, Garrick – the pre-eminent actor of his generation – unveiled a commissioned statue of the town’s famous son and created a Festival which would evolve through time, demanding a venue and permanent company whose reputation and legacy more than any other defines the dramatic culture of our land and language. The atmospheric, soggy and chilled environs of New Place played host to these shenanigans.


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A review of last week’s performance of The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, directed by Calixto Bieito. A Birmingham REP production with Festival d’Automne, presented at Theatre de la Ville, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris.

https://bachtrack.com/critique-the-string-quartets-guide-to-sex-and-anxiety-bieito-heath-quartet-espace-pierre-cardin-paris-novembre-2019

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HUMANISTAN

15Oct19

C'mon! Humanity

HUMANISTAN is a programme of work, to be nurtured, curated, presented through the vision of Chris O’ Connell and Julia Negus at Theatre Absolute. As opener to the programme, and at the same time marking 10 years of the wonderful Shop Front Theatre, are two pieces created through the ‘Live Briefs’ professional practice module at Coventry University. Stephanie Ridings and myself have been working with groups of 3rd year performance practice students at the University, and the fruits of these collaborations will be presented in the Shop Front this week, 16th – 18th October 2019.

Both pieces are discursive responses to a written provocation from Chris. An invitation to reassess what it is to be human and to connect with each other as responsible citizens.   C’mon! is the piece I have been developing. It takes its cue from the idea of the Commons, and the ‘tragedy of the Commons’ which threatens to undermine our rights of access to shared resources.

 


Don Quixote

31Aug19

Creation Theatre’s ‘Don Quixote’ opened last weekend in Oxford’s vibrant Covered Market. Jonathan Holloway has written, in characteristic style, a loose adaptation of Cervantes’s novel, in which two ageing friends, and hoarders, Dom and Sam, (performed by Eric MacLennan and myself) plot an adventure westwards along the A40.

Here’s a first review from Catherine Flutsch, with some excellent images by Richard Budd:

Don Quixote pic 1

 




Flickr Photos