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Showing posts from June, 2011

Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits - Estait of the Nation

The first time Paul Henderson Scott saw Ane Satyre of the Thrie
Estaits, Sir David Lyndsay's sixteenth century epic that took the rise
out of church, state and gentry, it was a life-changing experience.
That production of Scotland's oldest known surviving play, as knocked
into textual shape by Robert Kemp, was seen by Scott at the 1948
Edinburgh International Festival. Then, as he related to National
Theatre of Scotland artistic director Vicky Featherstone several weeks
ago, he couldn't believe he'd never seen it before. Here was a play
that represented his culture, his history and his mother tongue in a
way that nothing else had in his experience.

Since Scott's eureka moment, he has gone on to see it in home-grown
productions in 1949, 1973 and in 1985, when Tom Fleming's production
for the now defunct Scottish Theatre Company played at the Edinburgh
International Festival. The production was revived the following year
at Glasgow's Theatre Roya…

Five-Minute Theatre

Various venues
4 stars
It's 4.55pm on a rainy midsummer solstice, and at assorted hubs around
Scotland, the logo on the National Theatre of Scotland website looks
suspiciously like the BBC's old trade test transmission, cheesy muzak
and all. By 5.01pm, however, actress Sally Reid is being beamed in from
Perth Theatre, where she is playing the venue's ghost in a fittingly
theatrical opening monologue for this unprecedented live streaming of
two hundred and thirty-five bite-size plays broadcast over twenty-four
hours across the world. Ten minutes later, Tam Dean Burn is wearing a
toy theatre on his head beside the Clyde with a glove puppet salmon on
one hand and the rush-hour traffic behind while Beltane style
percussion is beaten out. Within the hour we've seen a swimming pool
choir, a Gaelic internet dating yarn and several contemporary dance
troupes from all parts of Scotland and beyond.

There's brilliant work too by Douglas Maxwell and Dundee Rep, a

After The End

Dundee Rep
4 stars
It's a somewhat disarming experience seeing a second home-grown
production of Dennis Kelly's brutal two-hander within weeks of
Glasgow's Citizens theatre's own. Set in a nuclear fallout shelter
where Mark and Louise might just be the last two people alive following
an apparent apocalypse, Kelly's drama sets up an increasingly ugly
power-play between Mark's geeky outsider figure and his vivacious and
popular work-mate that is at times harrowing to watch.

Director Emma Faulkner takes the audience off-site to a concrete props
store that gives the action the gritty, grimy feel required and leaves
both actors with nowhere to hide. Pulsed by the low hum of Philip
Pinsky's sound design, things start quietly enough, as Tony McGeever's
Mark attempts to explain to Helen Darbyshire's Louise exactly what
happened before and after the blast. Before long, though, hidden
agendas come to the fore as it becomes clear that the game Mark…

The Wild Swans

The Captain's Rest, Glasgow
Tuesday June 7th 2011
Heroism comes in many forms, but Paul Simpson's ongoing awfully big
adventure fronting his reconstituted, reconfigured and on this showing
on the first date of a short UK tour thoroughly reignited Wild Swans
nom de plume is a sublime experience that falls somewhere between a
vintage copy of Boy's Own magazine brought to life and an indie
supergroup in excelcis.

In a set gleaned largely from new album, The Coldest Winter For A
Hundred Years, it's a call to arms from the off, with Simpson's lyrics
a one-man campaign against the worst excesses of urban regeneration,
his beloved Liverpool in particular seen through a mix of rose-tinted
yearning for the days that defined him, and an impassioned despair at
the 'dark satanic shopping malls' that have wiped out the fields where
Simpson used to play.

Set to the shimmeringly busy jangle of former Brian Jonestown Massacre
guitarist Ricky Mayme - fresh from an unspecified b…

Thomas Houseago – The Beat of the Show

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh until July 3rd 2011
4 stars
The relationship between the title of the first museum-based show by
Leeds-born sculptor Houseago and the work itself may not be immediately
apparent. It's taken from 'Transmission', the urgent post-punk anthem
released in 1979 by Joy Division, who implored listeners to 'Dance,
dance, dance to the radio'. Wander through the sepulchral marble-white
hemp, iron and wood structures possessing Inverleith's ground
floor, however, and something monumental grabs hold. It's as if the
imposing dome at the centre of a room littered with sawn-off remnants
of trees or the bulbous giant leg in the next are paying tribute to the
aftermath of some Ballardian dystopia, marking time until whatever
happens next.

The masks, the walk-through wooden gate and the giant fox-head in the
basement further suggest a society getting back to basics. Either that
or totems of some primitive cult…

Nina Rhode – Friendly Fire / Cara Tolmie – Read thou Art And Read Thou Shalt Remain

Dundee Contemporary Arts until July 31st 2011
4 stars
If the world is a circle without a beginning and nobody knows where it
really ends ('laa-la-laaa-la'), as a zenned-out Hal David once wrote to
a Burt Bacharach choon for the big-screen Shangri-la of Charles
Jarrott's 1973 remake of 'Lost Horizon', then both Nina Rhode and Cara
Tolmie's worlds seem to be on a permanent loop in these wonderfully
complimentary shows. For Glasgow-based Tolmie, this comes via two
films, one an actual loop of a Death Valley landscape viewed from a
speeding car, the other a hand-crafted pop-up toy theatre made with a
shoebox, some sticky-back plastic and some close-up cut-outs of a
similarly mountainous mural and a window that blows hot and cold. Out
of this comes a narrative both domestic and epic, set as it is in a
room with a very special view.

In her first ever UK solo show, Berlin-based Rhode's series of spinning
wheels, cut out shapes and endless mirror image…

Wounded Knee – Anicca (Krapp Tapes)

4 stars
This latest excursion in Drew Wright's ongoing adventure in
ethno-celtic vocal loops marries two extended pieces back to back on a
cassette that comes in a plain brown hand-stamped envelope and wrapped
in an offcut of tweed. Where 'Whither?' eventuality morphs into
snatches of al green's 'Take me To The River,', flipside 'Wither,' a
kind of dub version of the former, comes over more biblical in its
bullfrog mantra. The length of both tracks allows Wright's
extrapolations space enough to breathe in an ideal accompaniment for
Sunday afternoon strolls up Arthur's Seat with bigger hills in mind.
There's even a plaster in case you trip on the crags.


White Heath – Take No Thought For Tomorrow (Electric Honey)

3 stars
The latest graduate of Stow College's music industry course's in-house
record label is this Edinburgh five-piecce's collection of epic
soundtracks to vocalist Sean Watson's heartfelt lyrical concerns.
Delivered in an opaque vocal rasp, this is an album chock-full of
widescreen ambition that at times resembles the sublime adventures of
late-period Talk Talk mashed-up with Sigur Ros, with its grandiose
piano, violin and bass trombone arrangements overlaying the urgent
melodrama of the guitars. Watson certainly puts himself through the
emotional wringer, and sometimes it all gets too much, but at its
sweepingly regal best, this is grown-up heartbreak made for fractured

The List, June 2011


After The End - Not The End of The World As We Know It

When a young woman has been left with two black eyes you fear the
worst. When that young woman just happens to be an actress appearing in
a brutal contemporary play in which power games between the sexes are
brought to the fore in a disturbing and claustrophobic fashion, you
could be forgiven for speculating on how life imitating art might not
necessarily always be such a good thing. As it turns out, the injuries
sustained by Nicola Daley, who has just finished a run of Dennis
Kelly's play, After The End, in a production directed by Amanda Gaughan
at the Citizens Theatre's Circle Studio in Glasgow, are nothing to do
with anything that happened onstage. Rather, Daley's two shiners were
acquired in an offstage stumble that nevertheless lent her performance
opposite Jonathan Dunn in Amanda Gaughan's production an accidental
whiff of authenticity.

Just as the Citz production has been put to bed, however, another take
on After The End prepares to open in Dundee…

CATS Awards 2011 Overview - Scottish Theatre Is In Rude Health

“If you believe a story’s worth telling, you’ll believe in it to the
death.” So said Cora Bissett, director of Roadkill, an astonishing look
at sex trafficking close to home and winner of the year’s Best
production award at yesterday’s Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland.
If ever there was a sentiment that summed up the creative whirlwind of
just how much theatre in Scotland is punching well above its weight,
Bissett captures it perfectly. This is especially the case in the
current economic climate, with cuts in arts funding as inevitable this
side of the border as they were recently in England.

Bissett accidentally captured the gung ho, never say die approach that
makes artists create work in the face of adversity, and the CATS awards
rightly celebrates this. Apart from anything else, it also shows off
the full diverse range of the work made in Scotland that is a world
apart from the London awards scene centred mainly around commercial
west end shows.

As well as Roadk…

Chris Watson - Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer

Chris Watson began his tape experiments as part of pioneering electronic band Cabaret Voltaire, and later co-founded The Hafler Trio. He has recorded albums for Touch Records, created sound installations across the world, recorded nature documentaries with David Attenborough and collaborated with artists including Alec Finlay and Hanna Tuulikki. He is currently working on ‘Whispering In The Leaves’ for 2008’s AV festival in Sunderland, UK.

What’s going on in the garden?

I was commissioned to do a sound piece for the Winter Garden in Sunderland. It’s similar to the sorts of places I remember in Sheffield from when I was a kid. All these rich Victorian philanthropists who didn’t know what to do with their money sent out their people to collect specimens and showed them for public benefit in what were basically massive public greenhouses. As soon as I walked in it reminded me of plants from a rainforest, where you hear more than you see, except it was as if someone had provided me with a…

Shadowed Spaces

Edinburgh, July 15th 2007
Music, by its very nature, can take you anywhere. On record, the private consumption of something designed for public dissemination is already transcendent enough. In the live arena, the communal experience makes such experiences even more pronounced. Hence the mass appeal of stadium-rock fascist rallies and the mud-bath pilgrimages of the open-air festival.

Shadowed Spaces confounded expectations of both these secular desires to share…something. Or other. The Arika organisation’s follow-up to last year’s Resonant Spaces, a Scotland-wide tour which utilised the unique timbres of venues such as Hamilton Mausoleum and Smoo Cave for musicians John Butcher and Akio Suzuki to bounce off, Shadowed Spaces aimed to do likewise with urban alleyways normally hidden from view, their doors for once left ajar. Over a two week period, New York based drummer Sean Meehan, Japanese saxophonist Tamio Shiraishi and fellow countryman percussionist Ikuro Takahashi visited six sit…

Simon Fisher-Turner - Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer

Simon Fisher Turner is a composer and musician who recently appeared at Tramway, Glasgow, performing at Alexandre Perigot’s exhibition, Pipedream, inside a life-size recreation of Elvis Presley’s former home, Gracelands. Fisher-Turner’s first album was produced by Jonathan King, and he later worked with Derek Jarman, composing soundtracks for The Last Of England, The Garden, Edward II and Blue. He briefly played with The The, and has released a string of albums under a variety of names, including his own. He provided scores for Croupier, directed by Mike Hodges, and was nominated for an Oscar for Anna Campion’s feature, Loaded. His most recent album, Lana, Lara, Lata, was released on Mute Records in 2005

How did you get to Gracelands?
I’ve worked with Alexandre for a few years. He comes up with these crazy ideas I half understand, then go and do something with them. We once did a project called Fanclubbing in a deserted arts centre in Marseille, and by the end we had a whole album. Th…

Throbbing Gristle – Part Two - The Endless Not (Mute)

When the original ‘Wreckers Of Civilisation’ declared that ‘The Mission Is Terminated’ in 1981, a legend was already in motion. It’s one that Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson had been living up to since Throbbing Gristle’s notorious 1976 debut at COUM Transmissions’ ICA exhibition led Tory roustabout Nicholas Fairburn to take the moral high-ground. TG’s provocative mix of cheap n’ nasty analogue-electro-sludge and performance art terrorism continued to turn nihilism into an art-form which Punk could only cock a rusty safety-pin at.

This silver jubilee reunion fast forwards to a time where the industrial template TG set down has begat the fright-wig stadium bombast of Marilyn Manson, but which has more significantly been appropriated by today’s fertile and fanatical scuzz-house noise scene. The Endless Not is subsequently an odd and self-conscious revisiting to one-time extremities long since superseded.

As with Iggy Pop’s carefull…

Paul Rooney – Lucy Over Lancashire (SueMi)

Paul Rooney is an obsessive auto-didact of a certain age, weaned on a back-street pop culture he’s upended, rummaged through the fag butts of at length, then rolled around in on his own doorstep before spinning the acquired wisdom and experience into shaggy-dog stories down at his defiantly red-brick northern English local. Or at least, that’s how it appears from this magnificently chewy and utterly surreal 12” single, released on delicious raspberry ripple, joke-shop blood coloured vinyl through Berlin’s SueMi Records.

Anyone who witnessed Pass The Time Of Day, the exhibition this Liverpool born, Edinburgh College Of Art trained chancer curated on tour in London, Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery, Nottingham and Manchester throughout 2004/5 will get the idea. Via a series of installations, Rooney and fellow travellers including Arab Strap, Stephen Sutcliffe and Mark Leckey explored primarily pop music as a distraction from the everyday, a way of getting ‘out of it.’

There’s previous for…

Hanna Tuulikki

When Hanna Tuulikki was growing up in Brighton, she spent five years living in a mobile home while her architect father built his family a brand new house. In such cramped confines, the then 11-year old understandably craved the great outdoors, where sea, sand and sky were in abundance. Now 24, the Glasgow based sound artist and singer with off-kilter free folk groups Nalle and Scatter concedes that being at one with nature at such a formative age has maybe influenced her current practice.

This includes a recent residency in Cromarty, recording people imitating the slow but steady inhalations and exhalations of the sea on 100 Breaths, 100 Waves, and a replication of a dawn chorus on Salutations To The Sun. Rather than kooky affectation, however, Tuulikki’s outdoor pursuits were developed on Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art course.

“I was very idealistic,” Tuulikki says, “and was interested in how art could provide solutions to a person’s environmental problems. But I felt ver…

Approximately Infinite Universe

CCA, Glasgow, September 19th 2008
The padded cell-like interior of the Centre of Contemporary Arts’ performance studio may be an accident of design, but it’s been an oddly appropriate setting of late for a spate of left-field sonic activity. Such one-off events have proved so intense that they’ve occasionally threatened to spill beyond its chi-chi walls, psychically if not physically. Most of this energy has stemmed from a template laid down by the missing-in-action Subcurrent festival, which programmed some of the most exciting purveyors of so-called free folk artists and electronic primitivists re-defining 1960s hippy idealism for a lo-fi DIY age.

In spirit, the opening night of this fancifully named eight date UK tour and self-styled ‘caravan of raw sound magic,’ in which Finnish and American free spirits join hands via a quartet of cross-country collaborations, takes on Subcurrent’s best attributes, albeit with a more formal, consciously curated modus operandi. This is most eviden…

Paul Rooney – Lost High Street

Collective Gallery, Edinburgh – May 31 – July 12 2008
It’s a good life on the buses. Ask Paul Rooney, whose alter-ego revisits his alma mater via the tourist route on an open-topped double-decker in this newly commissioned video installation, which plays on the sort of wood-finish screen every des-res aspired to in the three-channel age.

Like a VHS version of Lindsay Anderson’s ‘The White Bus’, which sent ‘A Taste Of Honey’ writer Shelagh Delaney’s own imagined self on an impressionistic voyage round her native Salford, Rooney’s journey isn’t so much into some urban heart of darkness, but visits a leaf-lined, heritage-industry limbo where the ghosts of wartime spies lurk.

Unlike ‘The White Bus,’ there are no stopping off points in ‘Lost High Street.’ Rather Rooney is trapped on some Sisyphean Groundhog Day, sentenced to traverse the streets of Edinburgh forever, undercover and in danger of being shot by both sides, whoever they might be.

Such first-person interior monologues are the r…

Die Todliche Doris – Soundless Music

alt. gallery, Newcastle,
November 28 2007-February 9 2008

‘The East Is Best, But The West Is Better.’ So declared German electro-primitivist duo Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft in 1981. Whether by accident or design, such a manifesto/gauntlet summed up the spirit and creative needs and contradictions of an austerity-era post-war generation who may have been physically hemmed-in by the Berlin Wall, but were testing new boundaries beyond it by sometimes literally bashing through it.

Die Todliche Doris - literally The Deadly Doris, though often mis-translated as The Deadly Dose – was created and convened as an ever-mutating, imaginary and archetypal uber-Frau by Wolfgang Muller and Nikolaus Utermohlen alongside a variety of drummers. The group became the more playful but equally iconic flip-side Yin to the po-faced Sturm und Drang Yang of Einsturzende Neubaten, who they shared a wasted boho scene with.

‘Soundless Music’ pulls the viewer/listener through the group’…

Simon Reynolds - Retromania

Simon Reynolds mentions Kate Bush before I do, and the first lady of
other-worldly warbling is clearly on both of our minds. As we talk
through the background to Reynolds' new book, the tellingly titled
Retromania – Pop Culture's Addiction To It's Own Past, Bush's decision
to release Director's Cut, an album of reworkings of material from 1989
album The Sensual World and 1993's The Red Shoes is a prime example of
what Reynolds is getting at. As is too former Joy Division and New
Order basssist Peter Hook's decision to tour his new outfit The Light
playing Unknown Pleasures, his first band's debut album, in full, with
Hook effectively fronting his own tribute act.

The plethora of reformed acts doing likewise and the BBC 4 re-runs of
1976 editions of Top of the Pops are just the top of the iceberg. A
seemingly endless cycle of fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and
nineties revivals rub up ever closer to each other by way of the
infinite a…

Bard in the Botanics - Ten Years of Open-Air Shakespeare in Glasgow

It's quite an odd sensation for Gordon Barr being indoors. On the eve
of the launch of the tenth anniversary of Bard in the Botanics, the
annual festival of open-air Shakespeare that takes place in Glasgow's
Royal Botanic Gardens, the company's artistic director finds himself
spending Saturday afternoon in Scottish Youth Theatre's Brian Cox
Studio overseeing an epic production of The War of the Roses trilogy
performed by twenty-one final year acting students from RSAMD.

While this dramatic conflation of Henry V1 parts one, two and three and
Richard 111 will later play in the open-air over three nights, for one
day only at least, Barr has the luxury of not having to keep an eye on
the weather forecast, lest rain stop play as has happened more often
than he'd like over the last decade. This year, however, Barr,
associate director Jennifer Dick and their core ensemble of actors have
come prepared. Because, while the large marquee that's about to be

Dead Man's Cell Phone

The Arches, Glasgow
Neil Cooper
3 stars
There are few things more pervasive in this gadget-obsessed society
than the ringing of a mobile telephone. The mere possibility of some
life-changing call is so great, it seems, that staying in touch at all
times is crucial. Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Sarah Ruhl
makes this abundantly clear in her increasingly absurd study of just
how desperate making a connection can be.

It starts inconsequentially enough, with a man and a woman sat at
separate tables in a quiet little diner. If the possibility of
flirtation is there then no-one's saying much about it. Only when the
man's phone rings in earnest is the woman, Jean, prompted into an
action that steers her on a picaresque adventure involving grieving
mothers, wronged mistresses and loving brothers, not to mention the
proposed sale of a kidney in a South African airport.

Ruhl's play may only have been written in 2006, but so far has
technology come in terms of sm…

Knives in Hens

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Two kilt-clad women tear around a bottle-strewn stage flashing their
knickers to the strains of Lulu's 1969 Eurovision winner Boom
Bang-A-Bang, repeatedly whipped off their feet by a similarly apparelled
man who looks like he's fallen off a Scots Porridge Oats ad. A vaulting
horse sits next to a brightly-coloured mini carousel on which assorted
bodies collapse. Three microphone stands are lined up in front,
enabling actors Duncan Anderson, Susan Vidler and Owen Whitelaw plus
dancer Vicki Manderson to be heard above the din, be it a Tammy Wynette
classic or an Edith Piaf showstopper as the action erupts into a
hell-for-leather maelstrom that looks part Olympic gymnastic display,
part demented mardi gras.

These aren't the most obvious trappings to accompany David Harrower's
1996 play, a flint-hard rural affair about a woman who finds liberation
from her faithless marriage to a ploughman through the power of words
taught t…


Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
A plane crash and a stray bullet changes everything in the lives of the
group of twenty-somethings in Chris Thorpe's 2009 play, originally seen
at the National Student drama Festival and revived here by director
Jane Hensey and an eight-strong ensemble of final year acting students
from RSAMD. Yet it takes a ghost to become the social glue that holds
this complex web of friends and lovers dealing with matters of everyday
life and near-death experiences as together as they'll ever be.

At first glance, Daniel Sawka's Dan appears to be just another prodigal
back-packer heading back to the town he fled with a set of anti-war
stories acquired while protesting against globalisation in exotic
climes. But as he strikes an almost too free-and-easy liaison with his
old friend Mel's flatmate Laura, it slowly becomes clear that the mess
he left behind will go on to define them, no matter how much Helen
Macfarlane's Tash pretends it won…

Dominic Hill - From The Traverse to the Citz

Anyone visiting Edinburgh's Traverse Bar Cafe recently will have
noticed a brand new set of posters adorning the far wall. These posters
aren't for shows currently holding court in Scotland's new writing
theatre, however. Nor are they advertising the Traverse's 2011
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, announced on June 9th. These
posters actually illustrate every in-house show produced at the
Traverse since the arrival in January 2008 of Dominic Hill as artistic

These range from Zinnie Harris' wartime drama, Fall, through to
co-productions with the National Theatre of Scotland, Oran Mor and,
with Edinburgh International Festival, Rona Munro's The Last Witch.
Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, Ursula Rani Sarma's The
Dark Things, Linda McLean's Any Given Day, and, most recently, Chris
Hannan's swashbuckling take on The Three Musketeers and the Princess of
Spain are all up there.

It's an impressive body of work…