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Showing posts from 2013

Beyond The Fringe - Edinburgh's Underground Theatre Scene

When Tightlaced Theatre and Sporadic Music's co-production of Susanna Mulvihill's new play, 1933: Eine Nacht Im Kabarett, opens in Edinburgh's Summerhall complex in a couple of weeks, it not only marks the opening of 2014's home-grown theatre season. The show also points to a fertile under-the-radar arts scene that exists in the capital via a network of young companies working in venues outwith traditional theatre spaces.
This has recently manifested itself, both in the In Your Face Theatre company's recent revival of the stage version of Irvine Welsh's novel, Trainspotting at Out of the Blue's converted drill hall home, and in the Village Pub Theatre's ongoing presentations of new work in the back room of the bar the company have adopted as home. Previously, the Siege Perilous company have produced work at the Malmaison Hotel on the Shore, while Creative Electric have been devising experimental work with young people in the bowels of the Bongo Club. T…

Scot:Lands - A World in A Day

When novelist Alasdair Gray suggested that we should 'Work as if you were in the early days of a better nation' on the frontispiece of his 1983 short-story collection, Unlikely Stories, Mostly, the landscape he imagined might have looked and sounded a little like Scot:Lands. The New Year's Day centrepiece of Edinburgh's Hogmanay programme, Scot:Lands presents a microcosm of Scottish music and performance that both looks to its cultural roots for inspiration while remaining utterly contemporary as it is performed in the throbbing heart of the capital city.
With nine unnamed but iconic venues in Edinburgh's Old Town hosting some imagined new 'Land', each features a rolling programme of international artists curated by venues and figureheads from a particular area. So where High:Land will be run by The Ceilidh House venue in Ullapool, Heid:Land will be curated by The Pathhead Music Collective from Fife. While the former will feature the likes of radical folk …

Singles, Downloads and Other Misfits - The Sexual Objects, Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band, The Fall, Sandford

The Sexual Objects – Feels With Me (Eyelids in the Rain) Five stars For seekers who know, Davy Henderson is the greatest rock poet on the planet, and has been ever since he exploded into Edinburgh's post-punk art/pop scene with the short-lived but fast-burning Fire Engines. High-concept pop entryism followed with Win before the guitar shards of The Nectarine No.9 got things back to basics.
Henderson's latest vehicle is an altogether warmer affair, and this first recorded sighting since 2011 debut vinyl long-player, 'Cucumber', retains its loose-knit appeal. A download-only parallel universe smash hit, it opens with Simon Smeeton's acoustic guitar intro before ooh-oohing its way into a gorgeous harmony-kissed instant classic that warns against false prophets before bursting into raptures of its own making.
There are shades here of '22 Blue', an early lament by The Nectarines, which Henderson, Smeeton, drummer Iain Holford and bass player Douglas McIntyre …

Trainspotting

Out of the Blue, Edinburgh Four stars It's like stepping into a time-warp even before the young and tellingly named In Your Face Theatre company's revival of Harry Gibson's stage version of Irvine Welsh's seminal debut novel properly begins. The early 1990s techno that plays prior to the show in a venue dark and expansive enough to fool the audience into thinking they've stumbled on some dilapidated warehouse in the middle of nowhere has something to do with it. So too do the studiedly observed re-creations of the poster images from Danny Boyle's 1996 film version on the programme of Christopher Rybak and Craig Boyle's promenade production, which arrives just a few months shy of the play's twentieth anniversary.
There, however, similarities end, as Rybak and Boyle's chorus of glow-stick wielding hoodied-up grim reapers lead us through a ghost train vision of Mark Renton and his assorted drug buddies in what is essentially a series of cut-up routin…

Jimmy Chisholm - Directing Aladdin

When Jimmy Chisholm was asked to direct Aladdin, this year's top of the range pantomime at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, it was a marriage made in back-stage heaven. Chisholm, after all, is an actor who, over some forty years experience, has done pretty much every Christmas show going. Not only has he written and directed his own pantomimes in Stirling and, with Ian Grieve, in Perth, but he has played dame on the stage of the King's itself.
The King's is the big one, after all, with great expectations from all involved. As such a seasoned performer, Chisholm will understand only too well what his starry cast have to deal with in their efforts to make Aladdin the biggest and brightest show in town. It will have helped too that an actors short-hand will already exist between him and the likes of TV favourites Karen Dunbar, who plays the Genie of the Ring, Still Game's Gavin Mitchell, as the evil Abanazar, and Widow Twankey herself, played by Gordon Cooper.
Cooper'…

Naomi Wilkinson obituary

Naomi Wilkinson – Theatre designer Born, August 16th 1963; died November 18th 2013 Naomi Wilkinson, who has been found dead at her home in Islington, North London, was a singular stage designer with a vision and flair that was a natural fit for large-scale shows, but which could also be applied to smaller studio pieces. In the former, there were few bigger than Dominic Hill's epic production of Peer Gynt, which began its life at Dundee Rep during Hill's tenure there as co-artistic director. In the latter, a box that was part kennel, part museum exhibit was enough to bring atmosphere to an already chilling play such as Hattie Naylor's play about a young boy living wild on the streets of Moscow, Ivan and the Dogs, which toured to the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Gifted with a strong visual aesthetic from an early age, Wilkinson initially studied fine art in Bristol before being increasingly drawn to stage design, going on to study it on the Motley Theatre Desig…

The Traverse 50 - An End of Term Report

This time last year, the artistic team at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh were preparing celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Scotland's new writing hub. While a certain amount of looking back over a colourful history since its beginnings in a former High Street tenement brothel turned 1960s bohemian hub was necessary, it was the future that concerned artistic director Orla O'Loughlin and associate director Hamish Pirie the most. With this in mind, the Traverse 50 was launched. This initiative initially saw some 630 writers with no more than two professionally produced plays under their belts respond to an open call for 500-word micro-plays inspired by Edinburgh's capital city. From these, some fifty writers were selected to take part in a year-long programme of events. This was kicked off by Plays For Edinburgh, a performed reading of all fifty selected plays by a professional cast that took place over one long but exhilarating evening…

The Jungle Book

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Five stars A dread-locked and camouflage-trousered boy wanders through the auditorium and onto the stage at the opening of Nikolai Foster's epic take on Stuart Paterson's dramatisation of Rudyard Kipling's novel. When the boy takes off his headphones, stops checking his smart-phone, sniffs the air and howls to the heavens, it sets the tone for a hip and street-wise spectacle that's as far away from the Disneyfication of Kipling's story as you can get. The dread-locked boy is Mowgli, the original feral kid, who, stolen by ruthless tiger Shere Khan, is rescued by wolves and shown the ways of his new world by bear Baloo and panther Bagheera. Except here, Jack Lord's ageing pack leader Akela wields an electric guitar, Lanre Malaolu's Shere Khan is a blinged-up, fur-coated gangsta and Jorrell Coiffic-Kamall's Bagheera a be-shaded body-popping rapper. Elexi Walker's slinky Kaa the snake, meanwhile, brings to mind Bat…

The Snow Queen

Cumbernauld Theatre Four stars It's worth wrapping up warm for the fun-sized wintry adventure enticing wand-waving young audiences to Cumbernauld this year. The wooly-hatted and winter jumpered cast of five are already onstage to greet them at the opening of director Ed Robson's new take on Hans Christian Andsersen's beloved tale. As the cheery quintet set the scene of young Gerda's quest to free her best friend Kai from the clutches of the dreaded Queen, each peels off to become a multitude of larger than life characters Gerda meets en route. With Samantha Foley playing Gerda with wide-eyed gusto, one minute the others are operating a puppet of Jerry The Ferry Frog as Gerda attempts to cross the lake, the next they've become a pair of wax moustached Welsh guards. Nicky Elliot becomes Gerda's faithful on the road sidekick Dug the daft dog, Heather Pascal makes for an ethereal Princess of Dreams, while Julie Brown doubles up as a Flower Lady who pl…

'Jerry's Map'

Summerhall, Edinburgh, December 7th-January 24th 2014
When Keith Waterhouse's fictional fantasist Billy Liar wanted to escape from the horrors of the real world, he would retreat to a place inside his head called Ambrosia. The Situationists, meanwhile, charted psychogeographic maps of European cities, navigating places by mood rather than geography. There is much of the spirit of both in Jerry Gretzinger's ever-expanding map of an imaginary world, which the American artist has been painting for more than fifty years, and which currently numbers some 3011 sheets of A4 paper.
“It goes way back to my childhood,” 79-tar old Gretzinger explains on the eve of his parallel universe's first appearance outside the U.S.A.. “I was fascinated with maps, and would imagine these places, because we didn't travel much. Then at some point I started making my own. That grew out of playing with my brother on this little plot of land we lived on. We created this little model village out …

It's A Wonderful Life

Pitlochry Festival Theatre Three stars The programme for Pitlochry's latest festive outing may claim Thomas M. Sharkey's stage adaptation of Frank Capra's seminal 1946 film inspired by Philip Van Doren Stern's short story, The Greatest Gift of All, to be 'A New Musical!', but the show is actually some twenty years old. While there may be good reasons why it's taken so long for Sharkey's take on things to receive its Scottish premiere, after last year's success with White Christmas, it is nevertheless a bold move for director John Durnin to programme something so rarely seen onstage, however iconic its source. Much of the story remains unchanged, as small-town everyman George Bailey attempts to throw himself off a bridge before an angel called Clarence steps in with what these days would be deemed an intervention. The first half has Clarence watch over George as a celestial narrator to see how he got to such a state, while in the second,…

White Christmas – The Musical

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Five stars The stage adaptation of the Irving Berlin scored 1954 feelgood movie has been on the circuit for almost a decade now. Going by this latest outing for David Ives and Paul Blake's version, it hasn't lost any of its sparkle. For anyone who's been stranded in a remote ski lodge, the story revolves around successful showbiz duo Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who learnt their song and dance chops when in the army during World War Two. Womanising Phil cons straight-laced Bob into boarding a train to wintry Vermont with singing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes. The hotel they're staying at turns out to be run – badly - by Bob and Phil's much-loved former General, who inspires his former charges to stage a benefit show in his barn, while love between the two double acts blossoms out of season. It's a heart-warmingly sentimental romance that must have had a significant resonance when first seen so soon after the war. Almos…

Rachel O'Riordan - Leaving Perth Theatre

It's somehow fitting that Rachel O'Riordan's swansong as artistic head of Perth Theatre is Cinderella. Here, after all, is an age-old tale of how a young woman went to the ball as a stranger before leaving all about her dazzled before she disappears. So it has been with O'Riordan's three-year tenure in Perth, which has seen the Cork-born director arrive in Scotland as an unknown quantity and pretty much revitalise one of the country's oldest producing houses with some bold programming and even bolder results that have increased audiences, drawn critical praise and won awards.
For her final production, O'Riordan persuaded playwright Alan McHugh to re-jig his original script so that the action now takes place in a theatre rather than the stately home of his original. Coming on the eve of the theatre going dark for two years as it commences a fourteen million pound redevelopment, this is O'Riordan's way of saying goodbye to the theatre she's calle…

Daniel Padden - Composing For Ciara

When Daniel Padden went to the first read-through of David Harrower's play, Ciara, he didn't think it required any music to accompany it. Given that the Glasgow-based composer and musician had just been commissioned to write a score for the play, this looked like it was going to be a problem. As it turned out, while the play was led by Blythe Duff's solo turn as a Glaswegian art gallery owner and daughter of a recently deceased gangster, Padden framed the play with a soundtrack that helped to accentuate the mood of the piece even more. “Finding music to put into the play was a real challenge,” says Padden of Harrower's Herald Angel winning Fringe hit, which returns to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this week. “In physical terms, it's just one woman onstage telling a story, with no action or set-pieces that offer a composer the opportunity to do something, so just finding a space for music was a challenge. In David Harrower's writing, every word…

A Christmas Carol

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars There are few better symbols of the early twenty-first century's ongoing era of recession and austerity culture than Charles Dickens' nineteenth century meanie, Ebeneeza Scrooge. Neil Duffield's stage adaptation of Dickens' novel is brought to life in Andrew Panton's production in a way that emphasises the error of Scrooge's greedy ways without ever losing sight of the story's power as family entertainment.
With the narrative spread out between an eight-strong ensemble cast, who play assorted musical instruments to accompany their singing of traditional carols, Scrooge's Christmas Eve epiphany is conveyed in an impressionistic fashion by a magnificently pop-eyed Christopher Fairbank. As he humbugs his way through the streets, Fairbank's Scrooge resembles the sort of mean-spirited and compassion-free politician who believe poor people are penniless by choice, and that beggars are little more than scroungers…

The BFG

Dundee Rep Four stars A birthday party to beat them all is the result when a children's entertainer fails to turn up in David Wood's stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic story about a little girl called Sophie's unlikely friendship with the Big Friendly Giant, who whisks her away from the orphanage she lives in. By framing the story with another girl called Sophie's party, as she and her pals hit the dressing up box to tell Dahl's story, it takes an imaginative leap into a world of creative play which the young audience can draw inspiration from in Joe Douglas' bright and bold production. The appearance of Sophie and The BFG in both human and puppet form lends proceedings an even more fantastical essence. Ali Craig's BFG is a wide-eyed vegetarian hippy type who collects dreams before planting them in the minds of sleeping children. Isolated from his flesh-eating contemporaries for simply being too nice, and with a unique line in word-…

Limbo

St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh Four stars When alternative cabaret came in out of the cold and went glossy a couple of decades ago, the mainstream it moved into saw audiences lap up its hybrid form. So it is with Scott Maidment's latest compendium of new circus novelty, which follows on from 2012 hit, Cantina, and which has just played a five month season on London's South Bank. Brought to Edinburgh by Underbelly Productions, and housed in a Spiegeltent as part of their Edinburgh's Christmas programme, Limbo is a sexy mix of gymnastic set-pieces performed by a nine-strong troupe, who include a live band led by New York multi-instrumentalist, Sxip Shirey.
It is a white-suited and wild-haired Shirey who acts as ringmaster of what is effectively an international supergroup, who perform on a tiny stage at the centre of the Spiegeltent. Shirey uses human beat-box magic to draw from the aisles the rubber-limbed Jonathan Nosan, a man who can lick his own boots with his leg wr…

Christopher Fairbank - A Christmas Carol

When Susan Boyle told Christopher Fairbank that he could sing, it was unexpected praise for the actor still most recognised for his role as fire-raising Scouse builder Moxey in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' builders abroad comedy drama, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. In the midst of rehearsing Scrooge for a festive production of A Christmas Carol at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fairbank had arrived early one Saturday morning to find director Andrew Panton standing outside. As a silver Mercedes pulled up beside them, who should step out of the passenger seat but Ms Boyle herself.
Fairbank followed the pair up to the rehearsal room, and offered them a cup of tea. When he took the hot beverage to them, Panton was playing the piano to accompany Boyle going through her scales. Panton, who is Boyle's musical director on her forthcoming Christmas album, sang a thank you to Fairbank, who sang back his own thanks.
“You can certainly hold a note,” joked SuBo.
“Yes,” Fairbank quippe…