(an article that I wrote for an online competition)
From Forsythe Noblesse, Arts Correspondent of the Brinmouth Recorder
Last Saturday saw the grand final of ‘Brinmouth-over-Weblington’s Got X-Factor’. For once, the title didn’t lie, and the students of Weblington’s schools vied for the audience vote and the approval of the town’s own Simon Cowell, the recently disgraced local MP Sir Peter Flydde.
Last year’s final had been sadly marred by ugly scenes leading to a mass picket of the Brinmouthberg cake factory and the awarding of a significant numbers of ASBOs, but nothing could take away the delight of seeing St Hessian’s church hall decked out in hand made doilies provided by the Women’s Institute. The array of ‘lingerie through the ages’ also certainly caught the eye.
Sir Peter arrived his customary 15 minutes late, and appeared a little unsteady on his feet. His merry cry of ‘I know where my bloody seat is’ was greeted with good humour by a packed audience.
First to perform was 7 year old Hortense Plinth-Noblesse (co-incidentally, my niece), reading her own poem ‘My Kitten’s First Snowflake’. Ostensibly a simple tale of her pet’s first Christmas, it was surely clear to all that this masterpiece was a perceptive deconstruction of proto-existentialism. Who can doubt that in Hortense’s ‘Kitty sees a snowflake / falling from the sky’ that there are echoes of Kierkegaard’s ‘The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings’? In her short disquisition, hyperbole and litotes were carefully balanced and words chosen with Flaubertian care. Unfortunately, the excitement seemed a little to much for the young artist during the final climactic stanza.
After the stage had been mopped dry, we were ready for brother and sister act Phil and Daisy Glange. Their moving performance of ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, sensitively arranged for ukulele and kazoo, was not enhanced by a rap break. Journalistic sensitivities preclude me directly quoting much of it, but Phil seemed keen to let us know that he was ‘the Lord’s biatch’ (whatever that is) and that we should all ‘get your asses and your hoes down to his mother (expletive deleted) green fields’.
I will draw a veil over the Weblington Secondary School dance troupe, B-o-WelMove, whose enthusiastic but frankly pornographic choreography was too much for some of the Women’s Institute members. However, Sir Peter did appear to be genuinely moved by some of the more gymnastic routines of the sixth form girls.
The first half was completed by a 15 minute expressive dance with improvised chanting from home-educated Apache River. No-one could doubt the ambition of Apache’s artistic vision, including 7 minutes during which she disappeared to dance invisibly behind a screen, with only muffled yelps and grunts in her own invented quasi-aboriginal language.
The end of her performance was disrupted by scuffles in the bar, in which most of the audience could now be found. A riot was averted once Ms Nigella Clutterbuck, primary school teacher, started to model some of the lingerie from the display. However, this did lead to some rather unsavoury comments which perhaps did not belong in a family environment.
The audience were back in their seats long before Sir Peter was found, offering internships to some of the female dancers of B-o-WelMove.
The St Hessian grand piano, purchased by an endowment from the Brinmouthberg Cake Trust in 1875, had been moved into position during the interval, and had unfortunately suffered a reduction in the number of legs in the process. It now sat, one corner supported by a bar stool, the keyboard sloping at a jaunty but unhelpful angle, with the pedals swinging several inches above the ground, at a slow pendulum speed that defied the rhythm of the music and the flailing feet of the pianist.
Perhaps the growing unease disturbed Jonathan Plinth-Noblesse as he attempted to breathe magic into his personal arrangement of Für Elise in dubstep style. The achingly plangent rediscovery of rhythm as a flexible journey of exploration appeared to be lost on the majority of the audience, as did the witty headbutt into the piano keys, a devastating riposte to Beethoven’s simplicity, and the Brechtian monologue that accompanied the performance. To be able to give the impression of playing the wrong notes whilst re-inventing a tired cliché showed a burgeoning artistic maturity that perhaps only the more musically enlightened listener might appreciate. Sir Peter’s comment of ‘what the ballots is this?’ was possibly not intended to be overheard.
It was a pity then, that at this point the promising young soprano, Gertrude Methells, looked round the stage curtain, viewed the increasing mayhem, and burst into tears. In spite of the coaxing of the committee, her mother, and the cries of ‘let’s be having you, darling’ from Sir Peter, she could not be persuaded to sing her lovely rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
Young local poet David Grabtitz had won his qualifying heat with the subtle and characterful sonnet ‘Who knows wherefrom the unheard wind did break?’, so it was a bold move to change his presentation for the final. Perhaps his subject matter, ‘My Girlfriend’s Periods’ was an ill-advised choice for free-form improvisation, and some of the more graphic details were not delivered in a manner designed to win the audience vote. That said, whoever threw a chair at the young poet clearly over-stepped the appropriate level of critical response.
The evening came to life, though, when 18 year old Sasha Crumpet appeared on stage. Her suggestion of a dress owed more to optimistic fabric distribution than to secure needlework, and it was distracting to the audience that her visible underwear appeared to offer little warmth or support. However, her operatic take on ‘I’m just a girl who can’t say no’ was delivered with coy eroticism, and her dance during the piano solo, sucking on a lollipop and blowing kisses into the audience, elicited an enthusiastic ‘hubba hubba’ from Sir Peter.
During the lead up to the final high G, increasingly deep breaths led to considerable conflict between her swelling bosom and the stitching of her dress. The audience were agog and Sir Peter began visibly to tremble. As she bowed for the rapturous applause, many of those present felt as if they had been gifted a glimpse into heaven. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the quality of the singing as my notes at this point became unintelligible.
Last year’s unfortunate ruckus following the announcement was forgotten, as Sasha’s victory was virtually unanimous. Following the presentation of the trophy made entirely out of Brinmouthberg cake, the celebrations continued in the bar, and once more Ms Clutterbuck was called on to assist with the entertainment.
I attempted to find Ms Crumpet for an interview, and I was fortunate to see the apparently publicity-shy winner discretely disappearing through a fire exit with Sir Peter Flydde. Following as swiftly as I could, I eventually found them in a dark corner of the car park.
I was obviously interrupting a deep conversation. Ms Crumpet informed me that she was only on her knees because she was looking for a contact lens, before bursting into tears and running back into the hall. Sir Peter, rarely a man lost for words, needed only two of them in declining my request for an interview.
By the time I returned to the bar, the police had cordoned off the bar and were attempting to establish a peace-keeping bridgehead between the Rotary Club and the Freemasons. Your reporter understands that the discovery of a case of Mr Flange’s famed Nettle & Gorgonzola port had reopened ancient hostilities based on the Merrytrees Gardens allotments allocation. Legal proceedings are continuing.
Brinmouth-over-Weblington has certainly got the X-Factor, and I hope that Ms Crumpet can be persuaded to reveal more of her talents – especially now that Sir Peter has been kind enough to offer her an internship in his local offices.