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Showing posts from January, 2013

Six Go Mad in Reykjavik - Burns Night in Iceland 2013

In a rehearsal room in the Icelandic Academy of Arts, something is stirring. A posse of six Scottish musicians has just arrived to join forces with a similar number of their Icelandic contemporaries to prepare for The Great Scottish Icelandic Concert, a musical Burns Night celebration taking place in the bar of the uber-hip Kex hostel on the edge of Reykjavik.A couple of Canadians have just arrived to prepare for their scheduled performances the next night, and they too will become part of one of the richest under-the-radar international exchanges that could only happen in Iceland.

These aren’t just any musicians either. From Scotland, maverick pianist and composer Bill Wells is here with his National Jazz Trio of Scotland, consisting of vocalists Lorna Gilfedder, Kate Sugden and Aby Vulliamy, the latter of whom doubles up on viola. Between them, the trio have a multitude of connections with some of Scotland’s more exploratory left-field combos. Also in attendance is Alasdair Roberts, w…

Julia Donaldson - Running on the Cracks

When Julia Donaldson was first approached by Tron Theatre director Andy Arnold with a view to him adapting her novel for teenagers, Running on the Cracks, it never crossed her mind that she should be the one to do it. This despite the fact that the Hampstead-born Bearsden resident is not only the current Children’s Laureate, but has been responsible for the words of some 184 books for children, many in tandem with illustrators. One of these, The Gruffalo, became a publishing and story-telling sensation, and has sold over ten million copies, been translated into some forty languages, been hailed as a modern classic and has been adapted both for stage and screen. Which, for an illustrated story about an imaginary monster, isn’t bad going.

One would think that all this high-profile activity would make Donaldson relish such an opportunity. “If he’d said do it, I could have,” she says of Arnold. “I think I’m quite good at stripping things back. I’m the same with illustrated books. I had quit…

Games Without Frontiers – It’s A Knockout with Ortonandon

The family that plays together, stays together. Gameswomanship is certainly on the cards for the three-headed hydra that is Ortonandon, featuring the triple whammy of sisters Katie, Sophie and Anna Orton, who exist collectively and separately, skirting the boundaries of performance and experience as they go.

Previous Ortonandon outings have included Ortonandon: Get Set, at Intermedia Gallery, Glasgow, in 2010, Net Working, Shuttle Cocking, in which people were invited to play badminton in a mate’s back garden as part of the Back Garden Bienale, and They Made A Three Headed Monster, a billboard for Glasgow International Festival of Visual art 2012. This took a school photograph of all three Orton sisters writ large. There was a four minute film, Like Affects Like A Pickle, a collective contribution to art-zine, Zug, and, for the 2012 Edinburgh Annuale, Come On Live In Ortonandon. Here attendees were invited to observe and take part in a life in the day of the Ortons over twenty-four hou…

Randan Discotheque – Sonderweg – (Bonjour Branch)

4 stars
Fuck miracles. The art/pop diaspora of the last few years transverses
regions, as this first non-CDr release from Forest Pitch imagineur
Craig Coulthard's revolving musical troupe proves in spades. With a
title taken from a nineteenth century German theory of the country's
'special path,' Sonderweg opens with some very wise spoken words before
Coulthard and cohorts take their own special path through a terrain of
bad-ass guitar garage, deep-fried saloon-bar twang, space-jazz chorales
and a hint of ceilidhism to flesh out Coulthard's erudite epic
narratives.

With synthesised burbles and operatic warbles lending jauntiness
throughout, Where Did You Come From? is weirdly infectious enough to
sound like a Caledonian take on Bob Dorough's Three is A Magic Number,
while Heather The Weather is a novelty smash hit in waiting. Think of a
po-mo Proclaimers corrupted by swathes of Zappaesque dryness, and
you're still only halfway to paradise.

The List, January 20…

Zoe Beloff: A History of Dreams Remains to be Written

Talbot Rice, Gallery, Edinburgh, until February 16th
5 stars
Libido and revolution are not so strange bedfellows in New York-based
Edinburgh ex-pat Beloff's first solo show in Scotland, in which
imaginary worlds collide in two complimentary takes on utopia. In
Dreamland, Beloff mines the archive of the Coney Island Psychoanalytic
Society and Its Circle, reimagining its founder Albert Grass'
extravagant vision of a Freud-inspired theme-park for the mind that the
Brooklyn-based fun palace could have become if its own pleasure
principle had been unleashed. Beyond comic books and assorted ephemera,
films of the Society's members dreams are shown, while a model of
Grass' proposed design incorporating a giant figure of a young girl as
Libido is at its centre.

Upstairs, The Days of the Commune finds Beloff putting Days of the Commune, Bertolt Brecht's
1948 play about the Paris Commune on the streets and in the moment via
a series of filmed stagings involving a…

Slovakian Master Printers

Edinburgh Printmakers until March 2nd
3 stars
There’s a muscular gloss to much of the work on show in this showcase
of four Slovakian print-makers that forms part of an ongoing
international exchange initiated by the Scottish Society of Artists.
Much of this is to do with the mezzotint techniques by two of the
artists, which lends their extravagant images the air of 1970s fantasy
graphics, which captures some of the wilder imaginings of the decade
all four came of age.

This is most apparent in Karol Felix’s gold-tinged apparitions, in
which parallel worlds reflect back on each other with an ornate totemic
sheen. There are intimations of ancient alchemy too in Igor Benca’s
more technologically inclined work.

  Both Robert Jancovic and Marian Komacek’s contributions are even more
beguilingly opaque. Komacek’s pieces veer between a brooding
seductiveness and, on ‘Crosses’, a near Beuysian sense of
post-industrial detritus. Jancovic’s work is most interesting of all,
occupyin…

A Taste of Honey

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
From the opening bars of Over The Rainbow played on a lone trumpet,
it’s clear we’re in Coronation Street country in Tony Cownie’s revival
of Shelagh Delaney’s neglected back-street classic. History has lumped
Delaney’s boisterous yarn concerning clever clogs teenage school-girl
Jo and her extended dysfunctional family in with the kitchen-sink
social-realist set by way of Tony Richardson’s big-screen version. In
truth, it is more playful than that, both in its writing and playing
style.

If anything, the straight-to-audience asides need accentuated more on
Janet Bird’s revolving boarding house set, as if the characters are
doing a turn in the local social club. Delaney’s writing is peppered
throughout with enough acerbic bon mots and witheringly dry put-downs
to resemble a series of heightened routines played to the max by
Rebecca Ryan’s stern-faced Jo and Lucy Black as her bottled-blonde
mother, Helen.

Helen is a terminal survivor l…

Sonic Cineplex

Glasgow Film Festival

The Arches, Glasgow, February 16th, 3-11pm Science-fiction and electronic music have long co-existed in parallel universes, the assorted experimental visionaries behind them predicting the future. Detroit techno pioneer and long-term sci-fi obsessive Jeff Mills in particular has made such a symbiosis a dimension-expanding virtue. These two worlds finally collide beneath Caledonian skies when Mills beams down his live soundtrack to Viennese-born expressionist auteur Fritz Lang’s 1929 film, ‘Woman in the Moon’, as part of an all-day space invasion known as Sonic Cineplex.

This meeting of minds between Mills and Lang originally came via the Cinematechque of France, who first recognised what such a space-age collaboration could contribute to a Lang retrospective. “I was aware of Lang’s other films,” Mills explains, “but ‘Woman in the Moon’ had really escaped. It was Lang’s only bona-fide science-fiction film, and was produced in two distinct parts. It’s a melodrama, wit…

The Beacon - Greenock's New Arts Centre

There’s a seal which has been bobbing about the Greenock waterfront for the last year or so, according to the builders working on the construction of The Beacon, Inverclyde’s brand new twenty-first century arts centre, which is finally open for business. Beacon artistic director Julie Ellen spotted it the other day as well, and the diners in the building’s bistro and restaurant are also in with a chance, given the wide-screen view the façade provides.

One wonders how much too the seal has been watching the landscape change in equally dramatic fashion, as The Beacon Arts Centre gradually took shape. Set alongside a series of more traditional sandstone buildings next to Customhouse Quay and overlooking the River Clyde estuary, The Beacon more resembles a development in somewhere like Reykjavik than a town like Greenock.

The Beacon is an initiative which has been a long time coming, ever since it became clear a decade or so ago that the old Greenock Arts Guild Theatre was no longer fit for…

The Maids

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

4 stars

When director and designer Stewart Laing comes onstage two thirds of the way through his production of Jean Genet’s elegantly brutal power play to take questions from the audience during the set change, it sums up every deconstructed moment that preceded it. Laing may have obeyed Genet’s gender-bending maxim that all parts in his flight of fancy about two maids who role-play their mistress’s decadence be played by young male actors, but he takes things much further.

The noises of war open the show, as the stage curtain is painstakingly raised, lowered and moved backwards and forwards in an extravagantly choreographed performance of its own. Three seated young men rehearse a Metallica song on electric guitars, before performing it before projected footage from Vietnam. Later, against a perfect reproduction of the stage’s actual back wall, Scott Reid, Ross Mann and Samuel Keefe play songs by the Velvet Underground and David Bowie before tearing emotional c…

Macbeth

Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow
4 stars
The buckets of blood the Witches pour into a dustbin are the shape of
things to come at the opening of Ali de Souza’s unexpurgated take on
Shakespeare’s play of corrupted ambition. As the body-count gets
higher, the supernatural trio are there in the background at every
crucial moment, striking a pose like a goth dance troupe on Halloween.

This is all too fitting in a production performed by second year acting
students in a brick-bare Chandler Studio theatre. Such set-pieces
emphasise the play’s darkness, while keeping every scene intact
clarifies much of its meaning. Other moments are at times a tad too
over-loaded, such as the John Coltrane sound-tracked dinner party at
which Brian Vernel’s Macbeth loses the plot, but even here, Vernel,
Tarjei Westby as Banquo and Rebecca King as Lady Macbeth sustain a
steely intensity.

As Macduff and Duncan’s upper-crust son Malcolm plot out their
strategies on the king, the St George’s Cross flag pi…

Hafter Medboe and Anneke Kampman - Places and Spaces (Fabrikant)

4 stars
At first listen, Conquering Animal Sound chanteuse Anneke Kampman's
first sojourn into off-piste collaboration sounds like the straightest
thing she's done. Here she is, singing proper words and everything
alongside seasoned jazz guitarist Medboe and his band who here include
saxophonist Konrad Wisniewski on a suite of songs that seeks to capture
an environmental essence complete with twittering noises off between
songs. Listen harder, and there's a spectral oddity at play throughout
Kampman's coos and Medboe's dexterous and atmospheric picking that
lulls one into a false sense of security before exploding into little
light-and-shade storms. Recalling Trish Keenan in Broadcast or Alison
Statton's post Young Marble Giants trio, Weekend, Medboe keeps the
melody intact while Kampman's rich, glacial voice swoops without fear,
punching out each phrase with a calculated off-kilter precision that
makes for a scarifying pastoral delight in this refreshingly …

Rebecca Ryan - A Taste of Honey

Rebecca Ryan is pregnant again. At just twenty-one years old, the
former star of council estate comedy drama Shameless has had more buns
in the oven than most. The last time was during a two year stint on TV
in Waterloo Road, in which Ryan's character, schoolgirl Vicky McDonald,
became pregnant. Before that Ryan played a pregnant runaway in Laurence
Wilson's stage play, Lost Monsters. Now it's the big one, as Ryan
prepares to play Jo, the lippy Salford teenager in Shelagh Delaney's
iconic 1958 play, A Taste of Honey, in the Royal Lyceum Theatre,
Edinburgh's new production of this iconic but somewhat neglected play.

Ryan struts around the rehearsal room as Jo, tearing verbal chunks out of Lucy Black, who plays Jo's slatternly mother, Helen, her cardigan
stretched by the pillow-like appendage stuffed under it. Watching Ryan,
it could be an older version of Debbie Gallagher, the youngest of
Shameless's tempestuous Gallagher clan brought vividly to life by
write…

Hanna Tuulikki - Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds

“The word that keeps coming back to me is connectivity,” says Hanna Tuulikki, the Glasgow-based sound artist and illustrator who puts her own voice at the centre of her practice. Tuulikki is talking about Air falbh leis na h-eòin, or Away With The Birds, an ambitious ongoing project based around Gaelic song and the vocal mimesis of the birds that circulate around the island of Canna, in the Inner Hebrides, where she has just returned from an intense development week working alongside the local community.

At the new work’s heart is a new vocal composition which has already been performed by Tuulikki in a three-voice version shared with Nerea Bello and Lucy Duncombe at assorted work-in-progress events. With the long-term aim of performing Air falbh leis na h-eòin / Away with the birds in a nine-voice site-specific extravaganza on Canna itself, as well as Tuulikki, Bello and Duncombe, the piece already involves sound recordist Geoff Sample, film-maker Daniel Warren, choreographer Rosalind…

The Maids - Stewart Laing Directs Jean Genet

It's taken a while for Stewart Laing to get Jean Genet's play, The Maids, onstage. Given that the director, Tony award winning designer and founder of Untitled Projects has made what might be dubbed the Penguin Modern Classics canon of French authors something of a specialism over the past few years, this comes as quite a surprise. At last, Laing's vision of Genet's power-play between two servants who act out their fantasy of killing their mistress is brought to the Citizens Theatre's main stage where Genet's work hasn't been seen since the 1980s. That was when Philip Prowse directed and designed Robert David Macdonald's translations of three Genet plays, The Balcony, The Blacks and The Screens.

The Maids itself hasn't appeared in the Gorbals since Lindsay Kemp directed Tim Curry in the play back in 1971. Kemp was a long time admirer of Genet, and also produced Flowers, a seminal dance-theatre interpretation of Genet's novel, Our Lady of the F…

Pat Lovett

Theatrical agent, choreographer, dancer
Born August 16th 1945; died December 24th 2012
Without Pat Lovett, who has died aged 67 after a long battle with emphysema, theatre, film and television in Scotland would be a much duller place. As the boss of Scotland's longest-standing acting agency, Lovett was a larger than life figure whose social flamboyance sat alongside a straight-talking steeliness when doing business. It was a skill she honed while working as a dancer on Ken Russell's 1971 feature film, The Boy Friend. As Equity rep, she was forced to square up to Russell after he'd perched his ensemble on a perilously high set of aeroplane wings. Lovett won the battle, as well as danger money for the company. It would hold her in good stead as the dynamic agent she became.
Patricia Diane Lovett was born in Woolwich and grew up in Blackheath in South-East London, the youngest of three sisters to Fred and Irene, a seamstress. Fred, who flitted between stints as an enginee…

Your Lucky Day/Big Bang

Various venues
4 stars Fortune smiled on New Year’s Day events in Edinburgh this year, from an opening quasi-mystical invitational ritual that opened proceedings to the epic street theatre invocation of the dawn of time itself that closed it. Your Lucky Day was a smorgasbord of thirteen individual events that took place in assorted Old Town venues, but which was given a sense of cohesion by having the audience roll a dice to see where chance took them. Many of the events were drawn from twenty-first century renderings of folk and roots culture, with bite-size turns from Rachel Sermanni at the Tron Kirk, Shane Connolly and Alasdair Roberts’ take on eighteenth century mummers play, Galoshins, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and country swing from Stretch Dawson and the Mending Hearts at the Roxy. Best of all was a sneak peek of Crows’ Bones, a luminous musical collaboration between Lau accordionist Martin Green, nykelharpist Niklas Roswall and the haunting voices of Inge…

Concert in the Gardens 2012

Ross Bandstand, Edinburgh
4 stars Some bands really do have all the luck, as the line-up to see in 2013 in Edinburgh proved with an anthemic flourish this year. Local wannabes Bwani Junction kicked things off with a brand of intelligent and infectious African-tinged power-pop that was puppy-dog eager to please, but which in the end sounded more Big Country than Fela Kuti. The View too kept things straightforward, sounding somewhere between The Kinks if they'd sang about the Tay rather than the Thames, and 1960s novelty-jocks, Lord Rockingham's X1.
It was left to a rejuvinated Simple Minds, though, to capture a full sense of triumphalism. Entering to their synthesiser dominated instrumental, Theme For Great Cities, original members Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill set the tone with a rapid-fire pre-bells triple whammy of Waterfront, Love Song and Celebrate. With Kerr basking in the shape-throwing beatific greatness of it all, it was a fabulous opening salvo for a widescreen greate…

The Traverse 50 - 50 Plays For Edinburgh

Golden jubilees don't come around often for artistic institutions, so it's somewhat edifying to see that Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre bursts into late middle age with little let-up in terms of developing new playwriting. Following new artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's inaugural season, the celebrations begin early in 2013 with 50 Plays For Edinburgh, an evening of 500-word long micro-plays inspired by the capital. The programme is the result of an open call for submissions from writers with no more than two professional stage productions to try and capture the essence of the city in as small a time as possible.

Out of 630 entries, the fifty that were eventually chosen will receive a performance under the guidance of O'Loughlin and Traverse associate director Hamish Pirie, who initiated the idea and whose baby the project remains. Rather than simply providing a one-off showcase developed from a novel idea, however, 50 Plays For Edinburgh has more long-term aim…