Trading Local for Bedminster Town Team

25 11 2012

There was nothing different about East Street in Bedminster yesterday. Shoppers were going about their business as usual, wrapped up against the wind and the rain and greeting old friends huddled under umbrellas. Look through a few of the shop windows, however, and you would see that this wasn’t exactly a typical Saturday morning.

There was a woman wearing just a towel in Salon ID, a man barking like a dog in Wilkinson’s and a shop worker in Baguette Express spending rather more time talking to a gaggle of customers than making sandwiches.

The return of the Show of Strength Theatre Company’s Trading Local to the boulevards of Bedminster has been made possible thanks to the area winning money from the Mary Portas pilot scheme, with the aim to “exploit and eventually explode the gap between art, advertising and entertainment, high street retailing and real estate development”.

Six new Trading Local shows were performed yesterday in East Street in the morning and North Street in the afternoon at half-hourly intervals. There will be more shop shows on December 8 and 15, and the last Saturdays of January, February and March.

Love in a Mirror by Annie Warburton took place in hairdressers Salon ID. In the performance I saw, a little old lady was having her hair cut, looking blissfully ignorant of what was happening around her. A woman (Kim Hicks), dressed in just a towel, talks about her and her husband, how she plays second fiddle to the Six Nations rugby and how her husband is still bitter after Italy were allowed to join (“It ruined his millennium”). But their passion is reignited thanks to three words written on a bathroom mirror.

Lurking by the toiletries in Wilkinsons, I was wondering where in the large shop Shaggy Dog Story by Brendagh O’Sullivan was going to be performed, before an announcement over the tannoy pointed us in the direction of the steps in the home living section. Here, a smartly dressed man was sat down, recounting a tale of a friend who had left him. This was an engaging performance by Oliver Millingham as his human nature became mixed up with more feline feelings.

At the allotted hour in Baguette Express, what looked like just a member of staff took us all by surprise when she launched into Sandwich Filling, a story about her daughter and some troubles at school, while also evangelising about her work in the one performance of the morning which I saw that was firmly rooted in its location. “I play that coffee machine like a Hammond organ”, said the fabulous Angie Belcher with a glint in her eye. This felt like being told a brilliant story by a friend, or a chatty member of staff in your regular cafe that knows your order off by heart. Writer Tony Rowland’s ear for language and dialogue was a joy.

Three more plays are also being performed in this latest iteration of Trading Local: Rose’s Last Laugh by Tom Phillips in St Catherine’s Place and AV Bristol, Ad Busted by Laura Dixon in Smiley’s Plaice and Compuwave, and Bernard the Table by Matthew Ovens in Ciao Italia and the Hen & Chicken.

For more information about future performances, visit www.showofstrength.org.uk.


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