‘The life cycle’ at Coppid Hall, November 2015

This review by Joyce Reed was printed in the Issue 46 of The Bridge, newsletter of the Sonning & Sonning Eye Society.

Held at Coppid Hall, Binfield Heath, with the generous support of Lord & Lady Phillimore, and presented by the Dunsden Owen Association, this inventive evening was admirably introduced by Jennifer Leach, to whose notes this article is deeply indebted.

A welcome by John Bodman, co-chair of the Association, was followed by Benoît Mission’s humorous rendition of one of Owen’s letters to his mother, bewailing his subjection to the interminable perusal of sepia-tinted photograph albums in Dunsden vicarage drawing room.

The audience was promised an evening that broke the ‘mould’. An Outriders Anthem film by Jennifer Leach took inspiration from ‘Deep Under Turfy Grass’, Owen’s response to the tragic loss of a mother and child on Dunsden Hill. Ghostlike, childish faces, footage of ‘idyllic’ rural life, landscape, people and pursuits were revamped ironically from old film, making a haunting prelude to Professor Pearson’s reading of the poem.

Anne Latto, a mesmeric story teller, recounted an Arab folk story, ‘The Girl who spoke Jasmine and Lilies’. Here, despite being targeted by destructive jealousy, creativity blossomed triumphantly.

An excerpt from Daniel Adams’ film ‘Disappearing’ challenged the audience to create a personal, emotional and imaginative response to apparently disparate images of candle flame, script and fragments of charred paper. No single response in the room could have been predicted nor the same.

‘The Thameside Cycle’ libretto created by Patricia Beall-Gavigan and composed by Chris Mitchell struck a light-hearted and witty note, reflecting our local riverine setting.

Post interval, regaled with canapés and champagne, an animated film based on Wilde’s ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, shown at the 2015 Berlin & London Film festivals, focused on love, fickle feeling and suffering. Created by Del Kathryn Barton and Brendan Fletcher, this extraordinary dramatisation prompted reflection on Wilde’s suffering in Reading jail. The counterpoint of black and white graphics and Tiffanyesque colour, accompanied by music and speech, imbued the willing self-sacrifice of the nightingale with huge poignancy – Owen’s ‘pity’.

‘Checkmate’, written by Frances Hall, was read with sensitivity, humour and immaculate comic timing by Anne Latto, then Wagner’s ‘Isolde’s Liebestod’ was arranged and performed by Edward Chilvers, a renowned pianist and composer. It was forceful , moving and a dramatic finale to the ‘creative’ events.

Lord Phillimore concluded the evening with a penetrative appraisal and a justly deserved accolade to the ‘creativity’ of those involved. The evening enabled us to view with Owen ‘The untravelled world over the hedges of Dunsden Garden’. It was as if the perusal of the sepia tinted photographs had been hi-jacked by Brian Cox; instead our agenda was the catalytic creativity of an exploding supernova.

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