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Joe McAlinden - EDIT

When Joe McAlinden sat on a rock beside the sea near Achiltibuie, he
didn't know the end result would be the making of the short film, EDIT,
which premiered at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Directed by visual artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the team
behind 20,000 Days on Earth, the award-winning impressionistic
documentary featuring Nick Cave, EDIT will be screened on New Year's
Day as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's series of Scot:Lands events
around the capital.

A loop of EDIT, which follows a young woman's cross-country journey in
search of her missing younger brother, will form Tide:Land at a yet to
be named venue. Here, McAlinden will perform the live soundtrack that
inspired Forsyth, Pollard and stage and screen writer Martin McCardie
to make the half-hour film that features a remarkable performance by
Kate Bracken.

“Bizarrely, it was me who started it,” the former singer with the
group, Superstar, says of the roots…

Kevin McLeod - From The Singing Kettle To Funbox

When the founders of children's music theatre company The Singing
Kettle, Archie Trezise and Cilla Fisher, announced in October that the
much-loved company was set to close following a final tour of
large-scale venues around Scotland, it marked the end of an era that
began an astonishing thirty-two years ago. Before children of all ages
could mutter so much as a 'Spout, handle, lid of metal', however, The
Singing Kettle's final line-up of Kevin McLeod, Anya Scott-Rodgers and
Gary Coupland announced the arrival of a brand new company called
Funbox to keep the spirit of their former employers alive.

“We were having far to much fun doing what we do to stop doing it,”
Funbox co-founder McLeod explains of the decision to carry on beyond
the company he has worked with for the last seventeen years, “so we
decided to start our own company and do something similar. We think the
work that The Singing Kettle has done in terms of keeping the tradition
of Scottish playground songs a…

Briefs: The Second Coming

Spiegeltent, St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh
Four stars
“Is everybody alright?” asks the six-foot drag-queen in his/her
high-heeled pomp at the edge of the Spiegeltent catwalk after three
similarly attired colleagues have taken a trio of their fellow artistes
dressed as dogs for a walk. The vintage movie starlet shapes thrown by
those portraying the dog-owners initially suggests a kitsch precursor
to some energetic bounding from their charges. When the scene ends with
a comic but no less effective simulation of coprophagia between
mistress and four-legged friend, however, it makes for a more
unexpected but altogether more subversive punchline.

By this time the six-man team who make-up Australian troupe Briefs have
thrusted, teased and bared their well-buffed behinds in a series of
routines involving bananas, a yo-yo, a Rubik's Cube and increasingly
less clothes. There are wigs, lip-synching, and a gymnastic routine
with a suspended ring loaded with enough homo-erotic attitude as to…

Hamish Clark - Almost Maine

When Hamish Clark went from his home in Broughty Ferry in Dundee to
Edinburgh University to study English Literature, he never meant to
become an actor. When he joined the student theatre company,
performing, writing and putting plays together, a career on the stage
began to seem like a possibility.

It took a few years working in factories, shops and other jobs to get
by, but Clark suddenly found himself a familiar face through appearing
in a series of ads for a mobile phone company, then as a regular for
seven years in Sunday night drama series, Monarch of the Glen.

This week, however, Clark returns to the stage at the north London
based Park Theatre in the UK premiere of American writer John Cariani's
2005 Broadway hit, Almost Maine. Cariani's play is set in a small
American town in the thick of winter where over the course of one cold
and frosty evening, various couples fall in and out of love at exactly
the same moment in nine two-person vignettes.

In contrast to it's set…

Smoke Fairies – Waiting For Something To Begin

One of the many stand-out songs from the Chichester-sired duo of
Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies' eponymous fourth album begins
with some far-off plainchant that ushers in the sort of gossamer-thin
atmospherics not heard since the back-packer trip-scape of All Saints'
Pure Shores. A low-slung guitar and a drum-beat that's part martial
mediaevalism, part Spectoresque wall-of-sound, gives way to a
self-reflective tale of small wonders, everyday epiphanies and fleeting
moments of shared joy.

Like some ancient madrigal fused with Me Generation confessional and
given a discreet post-modern sheen, Waiting For Something To Begin
belies any misplaced notions of kookiness the duo's name and image may
imply. At the heart of its textured melancholy and cut-glass
introspection is a shimmering sensuality possessed with strength and
power.

At moments Blamire and Davies' twin vocal recalls the equally spectral
work of Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski with 4AD record…

Faust – Just Us (Bureau B)

Three stars
Like a little army of trolls marching out of the shadows, this latest
opus from the Jean Herve Peron/Zappi Diermaier version of Germany's
veteran kosmische hippy Dadaists creeps up on you slowly. Peron's
looming bass and Diermaier's martial drums set a moody tone before
exploding into the extended guitar wig-out of the album's opening
assault, 'Gerubelt'.

After more than forty years in the saddle, Peron and Diermaier have
styled this new release as jUSt, a set of twelve semi-improvised
bare-bones rhythm-driven sound sculptures designed to be rebuilt by
anyone who fancies a bash at adding their own touches to it. Whether
the end result will find Krautrock copycats indulging in
fantasy-wish-fulfilment hero-worship or inspire something more
interesting remains to be seen. What's left in the meantime is a group
of miniatures far less formless than mere backing tracks.

Stripped back to basics, the same rush of primal physicality best
captured in Faust&#…

Victoria Morton

The Modern Institute, Aird's Lane, Glasgow
Until January 17th 2015
Four stars

'OPTIMUM LIVING MADE EASY', the quasi-ironic legend just about declaims
from the second of five large-scale paintings that make up a new cycle
of work by Victoria Morton. Or at least that's what it appears to say,
as the poster-size message that resembles a stencilled-in slogan is all
but obscured by swirls of red camouflage as well as the image of a
female figure who appears to be squirting paint into her palm.

Such wilful discretion is the most tellingly talismanic image on show,
even as it acts as a bridge between the explosions of colour elsewhere.
At times improvised but never slap-dash, these burst forth with a
self-referential life-force which flits between a blood-rush of fevered
activity offset by pools of calm that trickle out beyond the oranges
and lemons.

As a very personal story-board, it highlights a vivid life and death
swirl that points to little moments captured from everyday nar…

Alasdair Gray – Spheres of Influence I and II

GOMA until May 25th 2015/Glasgow School of Art until January 25th 2015
Five stars

It's only too fitting that programme image for the first of these two
shows that form part of the Glasgow-wide Alasdair Gray season, lovingly
and meticulously put together by Sorcha Dallas to mark Glasgow's
original renaissance man's eightieth year, is a compass. For both the
GOMA show it heralds and its accompanying GSA show join the dots
between those who influenced this poppiest of classicists and those who
followed in his wake, with Gray both wide-eyed bridge and beacon
between the two.

So at GOMA we move from Durer's crucifixions, Blake's judgements and
Aubrey Beardsley's erotic politesse to Japanese figurative art, line
drawings by David Hockney, the vintage poetics of Adrian Wiszniewski
and Chad McCail's poster-size take on wisdom and experience. The
umbilical links between these and Gray's own works are made plain, yet
remain tantalisingly fresh even as the join is gl…

The Devil Masters

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
It's Christmas Eve in Edinburgh New Town, and in the ornate interior of
legal power couple Cameron and Lara's Georgian des-res, the fire is
roaring, the wine is uncorked and their beloved dog Max is frolicking
in the garden. Set to a classical music soundtrack, the scene is almost
too perfect in Orla O'Loughlin's production of Iain Finlay Macleod's
new play, as if lifted from the pages of some high society magazine.

Enter John, an intruder from the opposite end of the social spectrum,
whose rude intrusion and kidnap of Max sees the veneer of
respectability rapidly unravel as Lara at least shows her true colours.
The name of the game for what follows is survival, as John first
becomes trapped, only to use his animal mentality to turn the tables on
his captors. As played by John Bett and Barbara Rafferty as Cameron and
Lara, and Keith Fleming as John, the heightened grotesquerie in the
cartoon class war that follows …

Desire Lines – The Future Is Unwritten

1

Thirty-five years ago tonight, on December 8th 1979, I went along to an
under-eighteens matinee gig in a shabby basement club in a run-down
street in Liverpool city centre.

I was fifteen, the band I went to see was called Joy Division and the
club was called Eric's.

To say the experience was life-changing is an understatement.

Eric's was situated at one end of Mathew Street, and was already
legendary for birthing a colourful post-punk underground made up of
bands with ridiculous names such as Echo and the Bunnymen and the
Teardrop Explodes.

Both these bands were signed to Zoo records, run by two young men from
an office at the other end of the street, over the road from Probe
Records, a social hub where all the Eric's crowd hung out.

A couple of years before on the same street in an old warehouse
transformed into an arts lab and cafe called the Liverpool School of
Language, Music, Dream and Pun, maverick theatre director Ken Campbell
premiered a twelve-hour sta…

Iain Finlay Macleod - The Devil Masters

When Iain Finlay Macleod moved part time to the Stockbridge district on
the cusp of Edinburgh New Town, it was as far spiritually from the
playwright, novelist and tweed-maker's Lewis birth-place as it was
geographically.

Macleod had decamped to the capital to take up his post as the 2013
Institute of Advanced Studies for the Humanities (IASH) Edinburgh
University/Traverse Theatre Fellow, and the original plan was to write
something loosely based around the nineteenth century Enlightenment
which begat the thinking of David Hume and Adam Smith. Yet, s he spent
more time in the area, Macleod became increasingly drawn towards the
not always enlightened world of the legal profession. Then, when a
friend told him a story about someone looking after a dog which
subsequently died, forcing its minder to put its body in a suitcase to
take it across town to the vet's on the underground, it became
something else again.

The result of such a disparate set of inspirations is The Devil
Masters…

The Amazing Adventures of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp

Cumbernauld Theatre
Four stars
“Don't go messing with cosmos,” says the operator of a celestial
helpline to big bad Abanazer in Tony Cownie's pocket-sized take on this
most magical of pantomime favourites, “or the cosmos will mess with
you.” This is something Abanazer eventually learns to his cost  as he
manipulates peasant boy Aladdin into leading him to the magic lamp and
the genie that will sate his greed. Lovestruck Aladdin, meanwhile, has
his sights set on the beautiful Princess Jasmine, even if it means
trampolining his way over the palace walls with his best pal Karif to
get her.

A bored king is the initial impetus for the yarn to unravel, as his
loyal subjects scramble around in desperation to find one more story to
keep him interested. Only when the oldest and wisest member of the
tribe lays bare a tale closer to his heart than he lets on does the
gang leap into the dressing up box to act it out. As dramaturged by Ed
Robson and Roderick Stewart, this makes the most of a …

A Christmas Carol

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Five stars
Don't be fooled by the pasty-faced jug-band who strike up a jaunty
version of Silent Night as a curtain-raiser to Dominic Hill's seasonal
look at Charles' Dickens' festive classic. Aside from an audience
sing-along to The Twelve Days of Christmas and Ebeneezer Scrooge's
closing conversion, that's pretty much as cheery as things get.

Such over-riding solemnity is by no means to the show's detriment,
however, as Hill and his creative team take full advantage of Neil
Bartlett's marvellously pared-down script. Fused throughout with an
epigrammatic musicality that allows for much playfulness, it allows an
inherent theatricality to burst onto the stage with an ensemble cast of
eight led by a pop-eyed Cliff Burnett as the old miser himself.

From the off, even the quill-scratching labours of Scrooge's employees
are choreographed to perfection by movement directors Benedicte Seierup
and Lucien MacDougall before things veer i…

The BFG

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Be careful not to quaff too many flagons of frobscottle before going to
see the Royal Lyceum Company's festive take on Roald Dahl's over-sized
yarn about a kindly but flatulent giant. If you do indulge in the
make-believe beverage, Andrew Panton's production of David Wood's stage
version might well end up with so much whizzpopping, as Dahl would have
it, that it could resemble an exercise in odorama, not to mention
adding assorted off-kilter pumps and parps to Claire McKenzie's already
energetic live soundtrack.

Wood opens up Dahl's pages by way of a magician's birthday party
no-show, which inspires young Sophie to put herself centre-stage as she
acts out her favourite present along with her pals, while also giving
her mum and dad the starring roles. On a life-size wooden doll's house
flanked by little fluffy clouds designed by Becky Minto, Robyn Milne's
Sophie transports her puppet self into the clutches of T…

Jim Campbell – Indirect Imaging

Dundee Contemporary Arts until January 25th 2014
Four stars

The light and a whole lot more besides pours out of the seven pieces in
Chicago-born LED auteur Jim Campbell's first ever UK solo show from the
moment you set foot into the DCA's foyer, where a digital clock behind
the reception desk displays the night and day of things rather than
time itself. If this is a precision-perfect image of a retro-future
relic, it's soporific fusion of low-lit high-tech isn't trying to be
cute, but comes fused with an intelligent and quietly personal poetry.

Outside Gallery 1, 'Motion and Rest 5' (2002) may at first glance
resemble a traffic sign, but is actually footage of a person walking on
crutches. Inside, similar optical effects are writ ever larger.
'Explode View (Commuters)' (2011), the self-explanatory 'Home Movies
1040-3' (2011) and 'A Fire, A Freeway and A Walk' (1999-2000) capture
bodies in rest and motion, en route to work, rest or play. …

Miracle on 34th Street

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars
Imagine what might happen if a shop store Santa Claus started to advise
the cash-strapped mums of the pre-schoolers he promises the world to to
go somewhere cheaper. Today, just as in Meredith Willson's 1963 stage
musical of the 1957 feel-good film, chances are the white-bearded
anarchist would have his mental health questioned before being sent for
trial. Especially if the old man actually believed he was Santa Claus,
real life facial hair and all.

Such may be the way of capitalism at Christmas, but John Durnin's
lavish production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre's ensemble make it
clear that, at this time of year, at least, suspension of disbelief is
paramount to overcoming seasonal cynicism no matter how extreme. This
is certainly the case with thoroughly modern middle manager Doris,
who's been unceremoniously dumped and left to bring up her equally
jaded daughter Susan on her own. Enter ex military man and would-be
lawyer Fred to be…

Rupert Thomson - From Summerhall to Salford

When it was announced last week that Rupert Thomson had been appointed
as one of three specialist programme associates at the state of art
Lowry centre in Salford, it probably wasn't because of how Thomson
looked. Even so, clad in a vintage raincoat and cap with a neatly
hipsterish v-neck, tie and skinny jeans ensemble beneath, one can't
help but notice Thomson's resemblance to one of the back-street
dwelling 'match-stalk men' painted by the artist that gives the Lowry
its name.

The fact that Thomson was born and partly raised in the neighbourhood a
stone's throw from the centre - “South Manchester, not Salford,” he's
careful to note,” - built in the city's formerly run down docklands
area lends Thomson an even more striking frisson of post-modern cool.
It's an all too appropriate image too for a man who will flit between
the rough and not always ready expanse of Summerhall, where Thomson
will remain in post, and the Lowry's bright,…

James and the Giant Peach

Dundee Rep
Four stars
'Give them a peachy juice burst' the legend declaims from a speech
bubble attached to the face of a fresh-faced infant on the giant
billboard that acts as a stage curtain for the interval of Jemima
Levick's festive production of Roald Dahl's five a day-based classic.
David Wood frames his stage version around the sort of New York walking
tour normally the preserve of A-list movie stars. Here, we find young
James Henry Trotter exercising his possibly lysergically influenced
gardening skills from the inside of a beat-up caravan on a slice of
Central Park that resembles a revolving traffic island.

Accompanied by a posse of human-sized insects, James embarks on a
fantastic voyage that sees the
unidentified fruity object that freed him from a pair of wicked aunties
move across land, sea and air before coming home to roost in the big
apple itself. With the ever expanding peach represented in Jean Chan's
surrealist-influenced design work by a series of i…

Scotch and Soda

Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
Three stars
What happens in a bar after-hours stays in a bar after-hours. Unless,
that is, the late-night action is immortalised and worked up into an
hour-long routine by a troupe of alt-circus performers who resemble
extras from a Tom Waits song. This is the case here, as Australia's
Company 2 transform drinking games into gymnastics in the Underbelly's
flagship show for Edinburgh's Christmas 2014 programme.

A quintet of acrobats accompanied by the equally five-strong Crusty
Suitcase Band introduce the audience into a speak-easy atmosphere with
a fanfare that moves between rag-time and bump n' grind. Things start
off simple enough with a set of what looks like party tricks, as sole
female member of the ensemble Chelsea McGuffin takes a walk across some
upright champagne bottles.

The elaborately bearded Mozes indulges in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it
full-frontal flash before embarking on a far more impressive solo
trapeze act. Hi…

Nikola Kodjabashia - A Christmas Carol

Ebeneezer Scrooge and composer Harrison Birtwistle may not be the most
obvious of artistic bedfellows. Without the latter, however, one
suspects Nikola Kodjabashia would not have been able to make the
Citizens Theatre's seasonal production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas
Carol as adapted by Neil Bartlett sound like it does when it opens this
weekend.

It was Birtwistle, after all, who effectively taught Kodjabashia his
musical chops when the Macedonian composer studied under the former
musical director of the National Theatre in London before giving  him
his first theatre gig on Sir Peter Hall's production of The Bacchai.

Since then, Kodjabashia has worked all over the world, and has forged a
particularly fruitful working relationship with the Citz's artistic
director, Doninic Hill, who will oversee A Christmas Carol. This
follows on from Hill's acclaimed productions of Crime and Punishment,
which saw Chris Hannan adapt Dostoyevsky's epic novel for the stage, as
w…

Pere Ubu

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Four stars
“Ma body may be broken,” drawls Pere Ubu's vocalist and de facto
director David Thomas to explain why he won't be getting up from his
chair so the people at the back of the room can see him, “but ma miiiiiind
is more dangerous than ever.”

It may sound like a line from a Tennessee Williams play, but having
already thrown his walking stick to the ground en route to an
explanation of Random-access memory, Thomas' seated presence as he
slugs a bottle of red wine inbetween reading lyrics from a music stand
is clearly a bodily necessity.  Mercurial belligerence may have always
been Thomas' thing, but his uncompromising stance is also a knowing
piece of self-reflection as the current Ubu line up play two sets
culled largely from the band's recent Carnival of Souls album.

With no mention of Ubu's recent appearance on the soundtrack of the
latest series of American Horror Story, the first half hour is a
loose-fit alliance o…

Jean-Denis Leduc and Orla O'Loughlin - New Writing From Quebec

When the Traverse Theatre's artistic director Orla O'Loughlin touched
down in Montreal in September of this year to take part in an
international exchange between Scots and Quebecois playwrights, one of
the first things she saw was a Saltire hanging from a city centre
balcony. A week after the referendum on Scottish independence, feelings
were still raw.

Edinburgh's new writing theatre had spent referendum night itself
presenting their production of John McCann's play, Spoiling, which
imagined the Realpolitik behind an independence win as Scotland's first
minister of international affair prepared her maiden speech. The
Traverse also hosted an informal presentation of David Greig's
independence-themed Twitter plays. As the referendum result became
clear, however, the next night of Spoiling was by all accounts an even
more emotional affair.

It was against this backdrop that O'Loughlin arrived in Montreal with
Scottish writers Rob Drummond, Dougla…