How to capture the essence of writer, his biography, work, influences, impact? And when it’s a writer such as Dennis Potter – dramatist, journalist, novelist, commentator. There’s realism, naturalism of course – tell the story, facts, dates, works. But that wouldn’t do for a writer who famously felt that drama was the better form for telling ‘truth’ – and at that, drama that further played with ideas of inside and outside the head, the past and present, and multiple layers of ‘reality’ intersecting and interplaying. ‘No biography’ gasps Daniel in his last breath, a request ignored by those who reanimate his head for the purposes of entertainment (in DP's Cold Lazarus).
So, what a relief – what a thrill – to finally get to see Project Adorno’s Dennis Potter in the Present Tense. Developed and written after extensive research, interviews with scholars, enthusiasts, and members of his family, it’s incredibly well-informed. It is though a million miles from any dusty academic study or realist biography. With songs, audio clips and striking – often abstract - visuals the show (for that’s the only way to describe it) was an entertaining, amusing, thought provoking and touching, tour de force. As Potter fans, the (sadly too small) audience at this performance at Coleford’s Festival of Words, were appreciative of the insights the pair had clearly got from their visits to the Forest of Dean, and studying Dennis Potter's work. There were references to his upbringing in the Forest, but also fabulous songs and clips relating to Al Bowly, Hammersmith Bridge, razoxane, and Blackeyes - and much more. A feast for the brain, eyes, ears and soul, if you ever get the opportunity to see this short but wonderfully formed show – grab it!