Clare Howard



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Love 'n Stuff: Love ... Lust ... Loss and Laughter

Sunday 27 June at 7.30pm


After two successful shows,’William Blake’, and  ‘No Rhyme …No Reason – The Poetry of War’ (recently premiered in London), performance poetry and prose group Voices in Performance, brought their third show ‘Love 'n Stuff… Love, Lust, Loss, and Laughter’ to the Oxmarket as part of the Chichester Festivities, at 7.30pm on Sunday 27 June. 

Directed by Julia Goodman - and with a guest appearance by local singing legend Pearl Goodman!  

Rod Beacham, Christine West, Julia Goodman, Clare Howard, Patrick Hastings, Mark Mason-Jones, 


I was seduced. Though I knew Voices In Performance was a company who had already achieved fine things with their evenings of poetry centred on William Blake and on the Poetry of War, the title of their third offering threw me. Was it going to be ‘Kissy Kissy Aw Shucksy’ stuff from people who were past it? Then, at a magical June evening of poetry in a local garden beneath a deepening blue sky touched with wisps of cirrus I met some of the people who were going to be involved, so I went. Good decision.

Julia Goodman had the direction of five other accomplished actors: Rod Beacham, Patrick Hastings, Clare Howard, Mark Mason-Jones and including Christine West, the programme compiler, who had used them all to search out material. They made an extraordinarily effective team. For an art gallery, the Oxmarket has fine acoustics, but it was the clarity of all the voices, their distinctness and their modulation that ensured I didn’t miss a word of the whole evening. It began with a vigour I hadn’t met before at such a reading: six actors striding on stage in turn each answering Philip Sidney’s question ‘What is love?’ with a couplet from Adrian Henry’s “Love is”. What followed was a fascinating selection of poets and poems that achieved a happy mix of old favourites and startling newcomers. Roger McGough, Dorothy Parker, Fleur Adcock and Wendy Cope can produce last lines that make you chuckle out loud, and I found out that even A.E.Housman can do as much in “Oh, when I was in love with you”. (Do you know Cope’s immortal put-down on all young women with a taste for romantic poetry? “I think I am in love with A.E. Housman/Which puts me in a worse-than-usual fix/No woman ever stood a chance with Housman/ And he’s been dead since 1936”!)

This selection though was not limited to chuckles. It explored a great range of emotion and experience. Though the company had avoided cutting their material into themed chunks and were skilled at leading fluently from one piece to the next, the second part of the evening dealt with Old -  no, Julia insisted, Mature  -  Love, and was naturally rather more sober. It’s difficult to be sober when contemplating Adrian Mitchell’s Puppy called Puberty and even Marvell’s desperately earnest attempt to seduce His Coy Mistress is full of a young Man’s sense of fun. But when Pearl Goodman at the age of 92, with silver hair and a silver voice sang “Cold Blows The Wind On My True Love” there were tears in the air. The same power came from Julia, Clare and Christine perfectly together in Burns’ “John Anderson, my Jo, John”. I’m not so sure that other choral versions were a good idea. Did Betjeman’s  Joan Hunter Dunne really benefit from being courted by three Aldershot subalterns? Jay Deeble who enriched much of the evening with unobtrusive keyboard music sang “Barbara Allan” so sweetly that I think putting some verses into the mouth of her dead lover was perhaps unnecessary. But this company had plainly worked their socks off to give us a professional performance. We in the audience loved it.

Colin Crouch, 27th June, 2010