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Showing posts from January, 2014

Leave Your Shoes At The Door - Jo Ronan and BloodWater Theatre

Once upon a time, fringe theatre was alternative in both form and content. Radical collectives brought together by one form of counter-cultural ideology or another attempted to change the world with non-hierarchical structures which they attempted to implement both in the rehearsal room and the office, if they had one. The rise of free-market economics and the allure of public funding forced such companies to professionalise in a way that may have allowed them to join the party, but which arguably neutered the whole notion of alternative and fringe theatre entirely. Such notions of the contradictions inherent in the system interested theatre-maker Jo Ronan when she worked for various theatre companies in the 1990s, when, despite a seemingly radical agenda in terms of productions, the accepted hierarchies and pecking orders remained in place. Several years on, such ideas of what it means to make truly collaborative theatre are explored in Leave Your Shoes At The Door, a …

Rantin

Kilmardinny Arts Centre, Bearsden Four stars Local heroes come in many guises. Most of them are in this brand new ceilidh play, ostensibly written and directed by Kieran Hurley, but, as is made clear from the off, with crucial artistic input from fellow performers Gav Prentice, Julia Taudevin and Drew Wright. The quartet are already mucking about as the audience enter designer Lisa Sangster's cosy replication of a Scotch sitting room, singing and playing folk songs old and new. Once the four have set out their store, they introduce us to a set of individuals, each of whom in their own way in search of something or somewhere to belong to. On one level, the fact that both these brave new worlds might just be called Scotland is incidental. Yet such sense of place is also crucial to Howard the Braveheart-weaned American, Miriam the bus-riding immigrant, MacPherson the Methill drunk and all the others who map out a small nation on the verge of something or other. In the …

Evita

Edinburgh Playhouse Four stars First ladies have been much in the news of late. Yet the contemporary soap opera allure of these sometime powers behind the thrones of male politicians is mere tittle-tattle compared to the dramatic life of Eva Peron. Lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber were clearly drawn to such interesting lives, as both Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar had made clear. Almost forty years after the pair's final and greatest collaboration, Evita remains both of its time and profoundly prophetic in its depiction of one woman's unflinching ambition and her ascent to greatness. The brush-strokes may be broad in Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright's fine touring production, but is full of well-choreographed nuance as it flits through Argentina's volatile mid twentieth century history that so shaped Eva before it killed her. As played by a vibrant Madalena Alberto, Eva has a drive to escape her hum…

Twelfth Night

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Four stars When Shakespeare wrote the lines that opens his island-set rom-com about how “If music be the food of love, give me excess of it,” it's unlikely that he envisaged a free jazz cacophony to accompany Orsino's attempts to make order of the words he's just plucked from the air, all while sipping a cup of tea. Yet that's exactly how Sean Holmes' long-running production of Twelfth Night begins in an audacious sound-led production for the inventive Filter company. What follows is a fast-moving ninety-minute romp that's more akin to 1980s alternative cabaret or the sort of comic free-for-alls pioneered by the late Ken Campbell's Roadshow, but which somehow manages to keep the essence of its source intact. So the storm is reported on the Shipping Forecast heard on a transistor radio, while clothes and hats are borrowed from the audience to allow Sarah Belcher's shipwrecked Viola to transform herself into Cesario.…

Kieran Hurley - Rantin

It's a cosy scene in the Glasgow-based Glue Factory complex, where Kieran Hurley is rehearsing Rantin', the writer/performer's ambitious but still intimate look at the state of Scotland's assorted nations and the people who live in therm. There are lamps and tables on the rug of a living-room set-up lined with piles of books and records as assorted characters pass through, playing out their stories and looking for a place to call their own. The writer of rave generation meditation, Beats, and the 2011 London riots based Chalk Farm is himself onstage alongside that play's co-writer, playwright/performer Julia Taudevin. Also on board are nouveau folk musicians and singer/song-writers Drew Wright, aka Wounded Knee, and Over The Wall's Gav Prentice, who tell other stories through songs that are integral to the assorted narratives that criss-cross their way. Ranging from a drunk lying face down on the floor to a tartan-obsessed man on a plane, the st…

Louise Brealey - From Sherlock to Miss Julie

Two weeks ago, Louise Brealey was on a train coming up to Glasgow to begin rehearsals in the title role of Miss Julie at the city's Gorbals-based Citizens Theatre. Sitting opposite the quietly dynamic actress was a young woman who, without warning, asked her what it was like kissing Benedict Cumberbatch. The woman was referring to the now legendary scene in the first episode of the third series of Sherlock, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss' twenty-first century reboot of Arthur Conan Doyle's equally seminal detective stories.
In the programme, Brealey plays mousily put-upon pathologist Molly Hooper, whose massive crush on Sherlock, played by Cumberbatch as a dashingly dysfunctional socio-path, has slowly captured the viewers imaginations. With Sherlock apparently returning from the dead in this season, one of a myriad of possible explanations for his resurrection saw Cumberbatch crash heroically through the windows of Molly's St Bart's Hospital lab and fall into her…

Amiri Baraka

Poet, playwright, political activist, critic Born October 7 1934; died January 9 2014 When Amiri Baraka, who has died aged 79 following a month in hospital, came to Glasgow in 2013 to speak and perform at the Freedom Is A Constant Struggle event, organised by left-field arts promoters, Arika, he brought with him a spirit of radicalism which a younger generation of artists and activists was hungry for. Sharing a platform with fellow poets Fred Moten and Sonia Sanchez and jazz musicians Henry Grimes and Wadada Leo Smith, here was a rare opportunity to witness a living embodiment of the links between black-powered art-forms and revolutionary politics that the event explored. Baraka had been at the frontline of this all of his life, be it as a young poet and magazine editor in Beat era Greenwich Village when he was still known as LeRoi Jones, as an acclaimed playwright whose play, Dutchman, won an Obie award in 1964, or as a figurehead of the Black Arts Movement calling for…

Usurper – What Time Is It? 1000 Bux (Blackest Rainbow)

Four stars Thrrp! is a 1987 comic book by Leo Baxendale, who created Minnie The Minx, The Bash Street Kids and a million other pop-eyed cartoon urchins. Published by the tellingly named Knockabout Comics, Thrrp! spins a near wordless yarn concerning twin brothers Spotty and Snotty Dick, who rid a town of 'a mysterious plague of Snotties and Bogies' by leading them out, Pied Piper fashion. With the book's title referring to the noise made by the towns-folk as they let rip en masse with particularly soggy follow-through farts, Thrrp! was hailed twenty years after its publication on Now Read This!, a blog by former chair of the Comic Creators Guild, Wim Wiacek's, as a 'gloriously gross, pantomomic splurt-fest' and 'the most lunatic slapstick to grace the music hall or comic page'.
There is something of this in Usurper, the Edinburgh-based duo of Ali Robertson and Malcy Duff, who, for a decade now since disbanding their sludge-doom-racket combo, Giant Tank…

1933: Eine Nacht im Kabbaret

Summerhall, Edinburgh Three stars It's telling that a climate of austerity has fostered a thriving alternative cabaret scene that recalls the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the same era's politics of prejudice and greed have also made a comeback. Both trends have inspired a rash of independent shoe-string theatre companies to embrace such a loose-knit aesthetic and apply it to work that is instinctively dissenting in tone.
Edinburgh's Tightlaced Theatre have done exactly that in Susanna Mulvihill's production of her own all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza that looks to Berlin's Weimar era for inspiration, but which at times sounds chillingly of the moment. The setting is Anke's club on the day that Adolf Hitler has seized power. With Anke and her staff who double up as the night's acts serving drinks to the audience sat at round wooden tables, what follows feels like eavesdropping on assorted intrigues while the all night party goes on.
While hostess Simo…

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars Light and shade are everything in Tony Cownie's new production of Eugene O'Neill's mighty quasi-autobiographical epic. This is the case from the way the house lights are kept up on the audience during the bright first act of what initially looks like an everyday family breakfast among the Tyrone clan led by the patriarchal James, to the way James' penny-pinching dimming of the living room bulbs reflects the day's ever darkening mood.
“I've never missed a performance yet,” says James at one point, and this is the case both onstage and off for an old ham whose acting career slid into mediocrity years before. James and his two sons, the feckless James Jr and the smart but consumptive Edmund are always 'on', especially when their hopped-up mother Mary is around. Mary's own mask of prim self-consciousness that hides a lifetime of disappointment slips after every hit. Years of gathered baggage has left several…

The Pop Group / The Sexual Objects

02 ABC, Glasgow Celtic Connections Saturday January 18th Four stars It may have been thirty-three years since Mark Stewart and Gareth Sager's gang of punk-funk avant-provocateurs last played Glasgow, but it was more than worth the wait at this unlikely but inspired Celtic Connections show that laid bare the roots of Bristol's influential post-punk melting pot of free jazz, funk and dub.
The night also formed part of the twentieth anniversary of the similarly maverick Creeping Bent record label, hence the appearance of The Sexual Objects, the band formed by ex Fire Engine Davy Henderson following on from his previous band, The Nectarine No 9, with whom Pop Group guitarist Sager played and recorded with.
While all bar one of The Sexual Objects are time-served Nectarines, the SOBs opening gambit goes back even further, to Henderson and guitarist Simon Smeeton's post Fire Engines project, Win, with a cover of that band's heroic 'You've Got The Power'. Stripp…

Glasgow Short Film Festival 2014 - Pulse

The Arches, February 13th in the city there are eight million stories. One of these is 'Pulse', a collaboration between film-maker Ruth Paxton and Grammy nominated composer Dobrinka Tabakova. The world premiere of this thirteen-minute impressionistic noir opens this year's Glasgow Short Film Festival accompanied by a live rendition of Tabakova's Gamelan-based score.
“We started off talking about the idea of the city,” says Paxton of an idea which developed after the Royal Philharmonic Society, who had commissioned Paxton's earlier film, 'Rockhaven', suggested the collaboration. “There was the idea too of this basic human need to connect, and we talked about someone sending a distress signal.”
'Pulse' eventually won the RPS a PRS for Music Foundation commission.
With the film's Glasgow screening preceded by a selection of short works by Tabakova, music and image are as inseparable as they were in Paxton's film, 'Nevada', which was sho…

Sean Holmes - Filter's Twelfth Night

Think of rock and roll Shakespeare, and likely as not the commercial kitsch of Return To The Forbidden Planet, based on a 1950s science-fiction film inspired by The Tempest, will come to mind. When the energetic Filter company decided to tackle Twelfth Night, however, a far more eclectic musical mix came out in the stripped-down ninety-minute version of Shakespeare's romantic comedy that visits the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow next week.
Like The Tempest, Twelfth Night opens with a ship-wreck. Unlike The Tempest, Twelfth Night veers off into a madcap sequence of mistaken identity, cross-dressing and thwarted love affairs before the inevitable happy ending as Viola and Duke Orsino get hitched. Originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company for its Complete Works Festival in 2006, Filter's thoroughly post-modern take on the play has proved to be a sensation in Edinburgh, London, Holland, Germany and Spain, hence this latest tour.
“It's the show that never dies,” j…

Bertille Bak – Faire le mur

Collective Gallery,  Edinburgh – January 18-March 2 2014
When it was announced that French artist Bertille Bak's home town of Barlin, city No.5 in the Pas-de-Calais in northern France, was to be renovated as part of a programme of urban regeneration, the authorities promised much for the former mining parish. This included vastly increased rents for a tight-knit community who were effectively being priced out of living in what is now described on Barlin's Wikipedia page as being 'a modern and dynamic place that offers its residents numerous amenities...'
Bak's response was 'Faire le mur', her 2008 film which in part charts the residents of Barlin's resistance to the proposed changes, yet does it in a way that goes beyond documentary to create a magical-realist meta-narrative that blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction. Rather than the poverty porn of Channel 4's latest underclass-baiting obscenity, 'Benefits Street', Bak has looked at her…

Alan Reid – An Absent Monument

Mary Mary, Glasgow January 25-March 15 There's something missing from Alan Reid's second show of paintings at Mary Mary. Anyone familiar with the already hazy façades of the Texan-born artist's work will recall how much it has been dominated by the figure of a woman, aloof, enigmatic and as studiedly bored as a 1970s 'Jackie' magazine mannequin, soft-focused, dappled pink and insipid. As the title of this new show points to, the lady has vanished from the scene, leaving a trail of clues that suggests that she might in fact just be hiding. “It’s an exhibition designed to convey an absent character,” Reid explains. “ A show without a subject. My previous shows used images of women extensively, so I thought it would be interesting to hint at her presence, without showing. Something like all those cinematic clichés of lipstick on glass, or a newspaper left on a park bench, or a bra thrown over a lampshade…The paintings are basically non-functioning cloc…

The Pop Group/The Sexual Objects

02 ABC, Glasgow Four stars Mark Stewart and Gareth Sager's reformed crew of original punk-funk provocateurs aren't an obvious choice for Celtic Connections. Then again, anyone who can mix up a multi-cultural stew of free jazz, dub and anti-capitalist agit-prop is more connected than most, as the Pop Group prove in their first Glasgow show for thirty-three years.
Tonight is also about celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the similarly eclectic Creeping Bent record label, and the evening begins with a set from The Sexual Objects, former Fire Engine Davy Henderson's latest groove-laden vehicle. Selections from their forthcoming second album are preceded by a magnificently audacious cover of You've Got The Power by Henderson's former band Win. Stripped of its 1980s production gloss, tonight it more resembles the Velvet Underground's What Goes On.
The Pop Group go one better with their opening clarion call of We Are All Prostitutes, as Stewart shrieks out his p…

Kidnapped

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock Four stars There's something irresistibly invigorating about Robert Louis Stevenson's historical romp, first published in 1886. Dressing it up as a Boys Own style adventure was a master-stroke, and by putting young David Balfour in the thick of a plot that involves political intrigue, Jacobite rebellion and considerable macho swagger, Stevenson created something akin to a Look and Learn of its day that has captured the imaginations of would-be Davie's ever since. The ambitious Sell A Door company take the book's spirit and run with it in Anna Fox's big, bold production of Ivan Wilkinson's new stage version, which opened its extensive tour last week. There's already something of a commotion onstage as the audience enter to the cast belting out a song on fiddle, guitar and pounding percussion as if they were a punk-folk ceilidh combo in full pelt. This is just a curtain-raiser, however, to allows the older Davie to …

Paul Shelley - Long Day's Journey Into Night

It would be easy for Paul Shelly to put his feet up and stay indoors watching the sort of daytime TV which he sometimes appears in. Now aged 71, and after more than four decades working with the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre onstage, as well as with film directors such as Roman Polanski and Richard Attenburgh, and on the small screen in such classic serials as Secret Army, you wouldn't blame the veteran actor for taking it easy.
As it is, Shelley is about to tackle one of the biggest stage roles for actors of a certain age outside of Shakespeare's King Lear. Yet, as he prepares to play tormented theatrical patriarch James Tyrone in the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh's new production of Eugene O'Neill's semi-autobiographical epic, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Shelley may be gimlet-eyed in his dissection of the play, but he appears positively laid-back at the prospect.
“It's an incredible journey, this play,” he say…

Suspect Culture - Still Timeless After All These Years

I'd been waiting for Suspect Culture to happen for a very long time. By the time I walked down Leith Walk in Edinburgh on August 27th 1997 to spend my thirty-third birthday watching the company's Edinburgh International Festival contribution, Timeless, at the now derelict Gateway Theatre, it already felt like we shared the same world. By the time I walked back up the Walk, towards town and late night celebrations, that world had been rocked forever.
As inarticulate as I felt in my immediate responses to the play, it was clear from this treatise on friendship, loss and the pains of shared experience that the company weren't just talking about my generation, even though they were a few crucial years younger than me. Graham Eatough, David Greig, Nick Powell, Ian Scott, their cast of four and the quartet of musicians that soundtracked Timeless weren't even just in tune with contemporary mores. Rather, to a greater or lesser degree, they were attempting to navigate their wa…