Skip to main content

Dye Young/Stay Pretty / Popscicle's Departure 1989 / Teenage kicks - Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Dye Young/Stay Pretty
Gilded Balloon
4 stars
From Wolverhampton to New York may not be that far, but for bored teenager Jill, up the duff in a dead-end provincial city with only her punk rock records to keep her sane in a sea of dodgy discos and glam rock oiks, CBGBs, where Television and Blondie hang out, may as well be a world away. Until, that is, she does a runner, jumps a plane to the big apple and finds herself on the mean streets without a safety net.

At first glance, Jill story’s looks like one more piece of legitimised nostalgia in Adrian Berry’s bright and punchy solo play. As appealingly populist as this vivid portrait of grey and grimy 1970s Britain is, look closer and there’s a whole lot more going on. Because, as Jill goes in search of her idol, Blondie’s still going strong front-woman Debbie Harry, it’s an unlikely yarn that looks increasingly culled from the pages from some teen pop fan mag fantasy.

Performed by Beth Medley in a manner gutsy and excitable enough to draw you into her world, and regaled in third person that at times recalls another small town runaway, Julie Burchill, the final minute of Dye Young/Stay Pretty packs an emotional punch that goes way beyond its soft-centred set-up. Someone get this on the radio immediately.

Popscicle’s Departure 1989
Assembly@St George’s West
4 stars
When Douglas Coupland summed up the disaffected youth of the late 20th century post-ideological age as Generation X, he was probably thinking of someone like Dido. Barely holding down what Coupland called a McJob in an office where she preys on all the GQ-styled guys, at first glance she’s just one more messed-up little druggy on the scene. But behind the tough-talking hipster moves and her affinity with America’s nascent wave of post-punk nihilism is a mind out of whack and a confused, angry young woman with so much energy to burn she doesn’t know where to put it. With her unfaithful loser boyfriend Jeremy’s band supporting The Lemonheads, tonight, of all nights, Dido’s finally going to show him what for.

And so the story of Dido’s so-called life goes in Madi Distefano’s solo firecracker, first seen at New York’s PS122 theatre. Performing it herself, Distefano flits between the increasingly lost Dido and slacker dufus Jeremy with an urgency that illustrates how youth subcultures operate. As the title suggests, Distefano has created a period piece of America’s flipside to its increasingly reactionary status quo. Dido may be looking for nirvana in a pre-Nirvana age, but, like so many who fell before her, she only ends up with oblivion.

Teenage Kicks
Universal Arts@Assembly
3 stars
Legendary DJ John Peel may be dead, but his spirit lives on, both in the generation of bedroom home-tapers wanting to hear obscure music more than once in the pre-MySpace age, and in the generations of lives he changed by switching them on to those very sounds. One suspects John Hodson, author of this gentle piece of old-bloke fantasy nostalgia, was weaned on such experiences.

Set in the cluttered office in the bowels of Broadcasting House Peel shared with his producer John Walters for a quarter of a century, the audience is given an oral history from the two men themselves of Peel’s reinvention from plummy-voweled hippy to downwardly mobile punk rock zealot, football fan and self-deprecating renaissance man.

A follow-up to Hodson’s Meeting Joe Strummer, it’s a charming if a tad all over the place homage, which, given the random nature of Peel’s championing of all things eclectic, is sort of how it should be. It doesn’t work quite as well as its predecessor largely because its emphasis is on the dead famous people rather than those who idolised him.

As Peel, Kieron Forsyth captures Peel’s baroque and ornately mannered speech patterns, if not always the accent he acquired when, like so many posh boys, he slid down the class scale in the wake of punk. Those already steeped in Peel-lore will already recognise the swathe of anecdotage, but for whipper-snappers who believed modern pop began with The Kaiser Chiefs, it’s an essential history lesson.

Moving into more impressionistic terrain, the play’s final scene, in which a be-winged Peel plays Fall records in Heaven, is enough for any lapsed believer to have a minor epiphany at the prospect of such a perfect after-life.

The Herald, August 2007



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …