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David Bates – La Clique Noel, The Famous Spiegeltent and Edinburgh's Christmas

Less than a year ago, David Bates thought he might well be done with Edinburgh. The owner and producer of the Famous Spiegeltent, who had transformed a ninety-seven year old construction into a global brand which in part had come to define the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, had been told that the site the Famous Spiegeltent had operated out of in St Andrew Square since 2014 was no longer available. Essential Edinburgh, who manage the site, said they wanted the Gardens to return to a “relaxation space,” although the short notice of their decision left the Famous Spiegeltent without a home for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

All this created a bit of a kerfuffle, exacerbated somewhat by Edinburgh International Festival using St Andrew Square for this year's Standard Life sponsored opening event, the light-based spectacular, Bloom.

Ten months on, Bates is back in Edinburgh even if the Famous Spiegeltent as a physical entity isn't. A different spiegeltent is here, howeve…
Recent posts

Cabaret

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Five stars

Will Young's pasty-faced Emcee pokes his head through the giant 'O' in the word 'WILLKOMMEN' that covers the stage curtain at the start of this touring revival of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb's finest musical hour. Young's peek-a-boo moment shatters through something monumental, even as it hails the coming new order. With Emcee the gate-keeper to Berlin's 1930s underground club scene, Young resembles a malevolent doll in leather lederhosen. By the end of the first act, Young is pulling the strings, as he leads a chilling version of Tomorrow Belongs To Me.
Such are the delicious contradictions of a show originally drawn from Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories, with Young Olivier nominated when he first appeared in Rufus Norris' West End production five years ago. On the one hand, Joe Masteroff's book is a damning indictment of how austerity culture and mass disaffection is exploited by p…

Tabula Rasa

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Mid-way through this stark meditation on loss, and the care that's required in the lead up to that loss, actress Pauline Goldsmith stands in the swirl of strings conjured up by the twelve musicians who surround her. Up until then, her character has been a kind of hospital ward-bound raconteur, reeling off warts and all yarns concerning the funeral of a friend called Peter, and his descent into death that pre-ceded it. Dressed in scarlet in a world of black and white, Goldsmith's deadpan and unflinching monologues at moments recall the taboo-busting elaborations of 1970s comedian Dave Allen.
In this cross-artform collaboration between Vanishing Point theatre company and the Scottish Ensemble, however, Goldsmith's punchlines come through four pieces by Estonian composer Arvo Part. With the Scottish Ensemble playing them live, as Goldsmith stands among the twelve musicians, it looks like they might have been conjured from her own mind …

David Paul Jones – Something There

When a track from David Paul Jones' Samuel Beckett inspired Something There album was played on the radio, a remarkable thing happened. Jones' contemporary classical suite, performed by the Ayrshire-born composer's eight-piece DPJ Ensemble, had been released by Linn Records, and was picked up by Australia's ABC Classic FM station. The third track, the wistfully named The Sun Comes and Goes in the Land of Woop-Woop, was a particular favourite. Over its nearly sixteen minutes duration, the music's layers of piano, cello and saxophone soaked ambience evolves into a heartfelt emotional meditation made flesh by its vocal arrangements.

When it was played, one listener emailed Jones care of Linn, to thank him for the piece. More specifically, the writer of the email was hospital-bound and in constant pain with terminal cancer. When he turned on the radio and heard Jones' music, however, as Jones remembers it, “He said for that moment, or for the track's duration, …

Mozart vs Machine

Sound Festival @ The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Saturday November 11th

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stands in peri-wigged triumph. Towards the end of what's billed as 'an electronic essay collage opera', the shades-sporting eighteenth century composer looks every inch the glam-tastic pop star he was, living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful body of work. For the last hour or so, Mozart has been squaring up to Raymond Scott, one of the great-grand-daddies of twentieth century electronic music, whose experiments with gadgets and gizmos saw him invent what he called the Electronium, which was arguably the world's first self-composing synthesiser. The future would have sounded a lot different without Scott's pioneering work, and Bob Moog,who worked with him prior to inventing the epoch-changing Moog synthesiser, cited his former employer as a major influence.

Here, Scott's inventions open up a wormhole in time that sees Mozart take a leap into a future that allows him…

Lampedusa

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It could be anywhere, the sparse expanse of beach littered with washed-up detritus that covers the stage throughout Jack Nurse's revival of Anders Lustgarten's quietly impassioned plea for humanity. As the title of Lustgarten's play makes clear, it is actually the Italian island that is the gateway to Europe for migrants attempting to flee Syria and other places. It is also where Andy Clark's grim-faced fisherman Stefano is employed to scoop up the drowned bodies of those who didn't make it.

Closer to home, in a northern English town on the other side of the world, Anglo-Chinese student Denise attempts to make ends meet as a debt collector for a payday loan company. Louise Mai Newberry's Denise is smart enough to understand how poverty and prejudice work, but is herself trapped by her mother's incapacity.

As Lustgarten's twin monologues weave across each other, the connections between the two become painfully clea…

Together

Glasgow Film Theatre, November 6th
Five stars


The London East End laid bare in Italian film-maker Lorenza Mazetti’s fascinating 52 minute piece of post World War Two poetic realism looks a far cry from the gentrified hipster’s paradise it would become half a century later. Dating from 1956, the novelty of seeing the film now as part of a UK tour promoted by the Bo'ness-based Hippodrome Film Festival, who commissioned a new live score by contemporary improvisers Raymond MacDonald and Christian Ferlaino, is the presence of the then unknown Leith-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi.

In his only acting role, the then thirty-two year old Paolozzi appears alongside painter Michael Andrews as a pair of deaf dockers navigating their way through the blitz-battered streets. Here, gangs of children mock the men's silence with delighted cruelty, while the pair remain oblivious to the everyday noises of the pub, market and fun fair. As a double act, where Andrews lean-ness reflects his outgoing desi…