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Inexpensive Entertainment

I know it’s something I’ve banged-on about before, and maybe it’s just me being a mean, cranky, tight-fisted old chap, but let’s not be coy; going-out nowadays is an expensive business. Even if you’re a student of your town’s happy hours, simply going for a drink is expensive enough, but if your plans include a gig, show or even a film, then the evening can lighten the wallet to head-spinning levels. But bargains are to be found if you look around and in truth one need look no further than the Colchester Arts Centre’s “Pay What You Can Afford” Wednesday shows to find something which fits the pocket very well.

I’ve mentioned this strand of shows before in Stagestruck as it is as dynamic in its programming as it is genuine in its philanthropy. The good folk at the AC are at pains to reassure that they do mean pay what you can afford, which I, although probably not they, would also like to point out, does not mean pay what you like. Their genuine offer does however mean that unemployment, rehabilitation, prolonged periods of study or pure bad luck does not in-itself prevent anyone from getting to see a show, should the fancy take them. And this month, I’m of the strong opinion that you’d do well to do just that as this month the line-up is the best I can remember.

Topping and tailing the month are two performers of whom Essex should be genuinely proud. Chris Dobrowolski is a visual artist whose work naturally incorporates a great deal of humour, which if you’ve ever strolled into Colchester’s Minories and been assaulted by the machine demanding “gimme the money”, you’ll have experienced. He’s made tanks and aeroplanes large enough to carry human passengers and, in the case of the plane, actually fly – well leave the ground for a short distance, but hey, if that was good enough for the Wright brothers… Chris has also turned his artistic investigations into performances and it is his show Antarctica which he brings to the Arts Centre on November 2nd.

Back in 2008 Chris was selected to be the Artist-in-Residence with the British Antarctic Survey. He spent three and a half months in the southern reaches of the planet where he constructed a dog sled from picture frames and played with perspective and perception by juxtaposing objects which he had brought with him – toy penguins and the Antarctic Explorer Action Man being amongst them – into the Antarctic landscape. The show which Chris has created from this experience is brilliantly self-effacing and genuinely, side-splittingly funny. I don’t generally rush back to shows which I’ve seen but having caught this last year at the New Wolsey Studio I am delighted to be getting another chance to see it.

At the other end of the month Luke Wright will be performing his poetic monologue, What I Learned from Johnny Bevan, an excoriating, modern fable of British politics and shattered friendships. Yes, politics and poetry may not be what many people demand as entertainment on a night out, but Luke Wright’s take on it is funny, insightful and pin-sharp. For my shekels, he’s one of the funniest and most original performers about today and the universal praise which Johnny Bevan received on its Edinburgh debut suggests I may not be alone in that. In fact, so eloquent, evocative and resonant is Luke’s performance, that he was invited to perform the show at the House of Commons – presumably not by Theresa May. November 23rd is the date to have your preconceptions and prejudices about poetry and political theatre given a well-deserved stomping – and you’ll not have to pay a hefty price for the privilege.

On the two Wednesdays between Chris and Luke’s shows are performances which also warrant your consideration. On the 9th the snappily titled FK Alexander with Okishima Island Tourist Association: (I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow is on the bill. What the title lacks in brevity it gains in explicitness as it features Glasgow based noise band Okishima Island and vocalist FK Alexander playing along to the last recording of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow, which was made just four months before her death. They play and sing the song repetitively, over and over, in what is, by all accounts, a powerful and intimate performance of astonishing emotional impact. The performance is for a limited audience so if you fancy that you had best get your tickets now.

On the 16th award winning theatre company Two Destination Language stage their new show, Manpower. TDL’s performances are invariably thoughtful and thought provoking and this celebration of everyday maleness should be no exception.

Now, if we can just persuade landlords to take similar approach to pricing as the Arts Centre, England will be a happy land once more. But whilst we wait for that, I suggest you take a pick of one of those shows and go and have a good, and affordable, night out.