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Showing posts from January, 2015

Ponte City

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until April 26th
Four stars

'Live in Ponte', declaims the mantra on a poster depicting some glossy
urban paradise, 'and never go out.'  For the  54-storey circular folly
that still towers over Johannesburg's skyline and which was originally
built in 1976 to house South Africa's white elite, alas, things didn't
quite work out like that. By the time South African photographer
Mikhael Subotsky and British artist Patrick Waterhouse came calling,
the concrete monstrosity was largely occupied by black residents who
moved in following the collapse of apartheid, although many had
subsequently been evicted by predatory property developers.

The result of Subotsky and Waterhouse's five year study in this
international collaboration between the SNPG, Le Bal, Paris and FoMu
Antwerp is an expansive piece of impressionistic photo-journalism that
combines archive and found material alongside fresh images and texts
documenting …

To Kill A Mockingbird - Timothy Sheader on Staging Harper Lee's Classic Novel

When Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird was reported to have been
banned from GCSE reading lists in England and Wales last year alongside
other works by American writers at the behest of UK Education Secretary
Michael Gove, there was an understandable outcry. Here, after all, was
an iconic and much-loved Pulitzer Prize winner which, since its
publication in 1960, has become a modern classic.

As Regent's Park Theatre set off on a tour of Timothy Sheader's hit
west end staging of the novel which takes in three Scottish cities,
what the incident highlighted was just how much of a bond readers who
grew up with To Kill A Mockingbird maintain with it throughout their
adult life.

“I watched what Michael Gove was saying,” says Sheader, “and he said
that he wanted more of Charles Dickens, who I think is wonderful and
writes great universal stories and creates wonderful characters, but
they're not really about life in the same way that To Kill A
Mockingbird is or in the way …

The Garden

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

In a windowless high-rise built where the Sun no longer shines, the
entire world seems to be closing in on Jane and Mac, the listless
couple at the centre of this short opera penned by real life partners,
playwright Zinnie Harris and composer John Harris. The concrete
landscape they've created for Jane and Mac is grey and empty, their
lives barren of feeling as each struggles with their own private ennui.

When a small weed appears beneath the lino, having seemingly grown up
through breeze-block like some Ballardian bean-stalk, it's flash of
green suggests a life beyond the four walls for them both. When what
turns out to be an apple tree keeps growing back, refusing to be
pruned, its persistence awakens in Jane and Mac a desire which
transcends beyond the numbness, even as they self-medicate their way to
oblivion,

Commissioned and presented by the Aberdeen-based Sound festival of new
music and adapted from Zinnie Harris' short play, this mu…

Filter's Macbeth

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
When what looks like a bunch of black and grey clad technicians huddle
around a bank of home-made electronic instruments at the centre of an
otherwise bare stage to make assorted retro-futurist beeps and bloops
worthy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the penny drops that sound and
fury will most likely be at the heart of the Filter company's
seventy-five minute truncation of Shakespeare's Scottish play.

As it is, this follow-up to the company's take on the far frothier
Twelfth Night, which toured to the Citizens last year, is an oddly
restrained affair, in which any eerieness in the collectively created
co-production with Bristol's Tobacco Factory comes from Tom Haines'
soundtrack. Here an ever rolling set of witches culled from the cast of
seven become the show's house band, ghosts in the machine both driving
and manipulating the action as they tune in on it like some diabolical
branch of the Stasi or GCHQ. Poppy Miller's…

Faith Healer

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
“Spend your life in show-business and you become a philosopher,” says
Teddy, the spiv-like manager and touring partner of The Fantastic
Francis Hardy in the third of four monologues that make up Brian
Friel's haunting dramatic meditation on the the unreliable powers of an
inconsistent muse, and how those powers can trap their carrier in their
own self-destructive mythology.

Before Teddy met Frank, his world was occupied by bagpipe-playing
whippets and other end-of-the-pier acts. Once their paths crossed, it
was an endless itinerary of one-night stands in isolated towns and
villages in Scotland and Wales where miracles sometimes happened. Like
an ageing rock band, Frank, Teddy and Frank's wife Grace embark on a
never-ending tour of backwoods venues struggling to recapture the
alchemical spark that once made Frank great in-between burying himself
in booze and antagonising strangers and intimates.

It is Frank who frames the p…

Susannah Armitage - Producing A Play, A Pie and A Pint

In the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, a huddle of four young women sit
in closed ranks formation in the new writing venue's busy lunchtime
bar. At the centre of the gathering, whoo include Traverse associate
director Emma Callander and former Perth Theatre head now in charge of
Sherman Cymru in Cardiff, Rachel O'Riordan, is Susannah Armitage. The
subject of discussion is the ever-expanding enterprise that is A Play,
A Pie and A Pint, the lunchtime theatre set up a decade ago at Oran Mor
in the west end of Glasgow by former head of Wildcat Stage Productions
and co-founder of 7:84 Scotland, David MacLennan.

The premise of the operation was simple. Put short new plays on at
lunchtime for a week on a minimal budget, throw a glass of what you
fancy and a pie of your choice in with the ticket price, and see what
happens. Up until then, there was little history of lunchtime theatre
in Scotland, but A Play, A Pie and A Pint's quick turnover of work
quickly became a mu…

The Sexual Objects – Softly Softly With Marshmallow

When The Sexual Objects release their second album, Marshmallow, this
week, this long-awaited follow-up to their 2010 debut, Cucumber, will
be a singular experience bar none. Ever the conceptualists, the
Edinburgh sired quintet led by Davy Henderson, a key figure in the
Sound of Young Scotland ever since his first band, Fire Engines,
announced themselves to the world in 1980 with the breathless fury of
alt. muzak mini-album, Lubricate Your Living Room, will put out their
new opus in a uniquely bespoke fashion.

While an accompanying set of instrumentals magnificently christened
Cream Split Up and currently garnering airplay care of Marc Riley on
BBC 6Music will be heard on 10'' vinyl, Marshmallow will be let loose
into the world in an edition of, well, you choose. Because, while the
album is technically self-released on the SOBs own Eyelids in the Rain
micro-label in conjunction with the Creeping Bent Organisation, as was
their 2013 digital only single, Feels With Me, Henderson …

Ferdy Roberts and Tom Haines - Filter's Macbeth

Shakespeare is very much on Ferdy Roberts' mind just now. Last week saw
the actor and director complete a West End run of Shakespeare in Love,
Lee Hall's adaptation of the 1998 film co-scripted by Tom Stoppard and
Marc Norman. At the same time, Roberts had just begun rehearsals in the
title role of Macbeth, in a radical new production by Filter, the
company which Roberts co-founded and is one of its three co-directors.

Where Shakespeare in Love is shot through with glossy West End values,
Filter's Macbeth is a looser-knit and infinitely more playful affair,
which exploits the play's frequent references to sound by allowing
proceedings to be led by music in a way the company have previously
done on Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Macbeth, the
action is led by the three Weird Sisters, who operate a series of
home-made electronic instruments, effectively conducting the action as
they invite Macbeth to join them, thus sealing his fate.

“We w…

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Royal Conservatoire Scotland
Three stars
Opening a New Year production of Shakespeare's sunniest rom-com during
a weekend of stormy weather more appropriate to The Tempest is a
gloriously contrary gesture. There was much warmth on offer, however,
in Ali de Souza's 1920s take on the play performed in the RCS' Chandler
Studio space by young acting students.

The romantic merry-go-round builds up an impressive head of dry ice
later on, but it's a rag-time soundtrack that ushers in the assorted
cross-class shenanigans that follows. Even the Mechanicals – here the
Royal Artisans of Athens Alliance Amateur Drama, or RAAAADA, if you
please – enter with a soft-shoe chorus line.

Lysander and Demetrius are a pair of horny lads in stripey blazers, and
the objects of their assorted affections, Hermia and Helena, a couple
of society flappers who've just discovered boys. Only once things move
underground, however, and Puck applies his chemical charms in all the
wrong places, does the…

Letter to City of Edinburgh Council re JD Wetherspoons Application for Change of Use of the Former Picture House Venue, Edinburgh

13 / 1 / 15

Dear Councillor,

I am writing once again regarding the issue of the venue previously known as The Picture House, and which is due to be discussed by the Development Planning Sub-Committee on Wed January 14th 2015, presented as 'Application for Planning Permission 14/02936/FUL At 31 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2DJ, Change of use from Class 11 (Assembly and Leisure) to Sui
Generis (Public House) including external alterations.'
It is noted that the Development Management Sub-Committee, of which you are a member, has been recommended to support the application, submitted by Wetherspoons, a pub chain based in Watford.

I would urge the Sub-Commitee to reject those recommendations, as have more than 13,000 of City of Edinburgh Council's constituents in a petition which I trust is being taken into account by members of the Committee alongside all other objections to the application.

Councillors may like to take the following points into consideration prior to making t…

2015 - The Theatre Year Ahead in Scotland

The pantomime fairy-dust may have barely been swept away, but already
Scotland's theatres are gearing up for a busy year ahead. There is much
anticipation for the Gorbals theatre's forthcoming revival of John
Byrne's play, The Slab Boys (February 12-March 7). This main-stage
production will be directed by David Hayman, who oversaw the original
production of Byrne's tragi-comedy set in a Paisley carpet factory when
it first appeared at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in the late
1970s. By that time Hayman had already blazed a trail as an actor at
the  Citiz, and The Slab Boys continues a relationship re-established
when he played the title role in King Lear.

There's a double whammy from playwright Douglas Maxwell this year, with
two plays making their way around the country. The first, at the Citz,
is Fever Dream: Southside (April 23-May 9), a surreal comic thriller
set in Govanhill during a heatwave.

The second, a collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland…

Sean O'Callaghan - Faith Healer

Sean O'Callaghan couldn't sleep the night before he was due to meet
director John Dove about the possibility of appearing in the title role
of Brian Friel's play, Faith Healer, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in
Edinburgh. O'Callaghan was in the thick of playing Friar Laurence in a
production of Romeo and Juliet at the Sherman Cymru theatre in Cardiff,
where Perth Theatre's former artistic director Rachel O'Riordan is now
in charge, and his attention should have been firmly fixed on that.

As it was, there was something about the role of Frank, the alcoholic
faith healer on a never-ending tour of Welsh and Scottish villages
where he would attempt to work miracles that wouldn't leave him alone.

“There were so many resonances in the play that it was hard to stop
thinking about it,” O'Callaghan says of the play, made up of a quartet
of monologues spoken by Frank, his wife Gracie and his stage manager
Teddy, as each give different versions of a crucial incident wh…

Scot:Lands

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

Imagine putting bite-size chunks of a country's culture within walking
distance of each other to create a psycho-geographic map of a nation
steeped in history but embracing the future even as it parties through
its present. So it was with Scot:Lands, a ten-stop New Year's Day tour
of Edinburgh city centre, where a compendium of music, performance and
film were brought together from assorted outlying areas.

Having spun the compass at the National Museum of Scotland, aka
Home:Land, it was possible to be directed to Barn:Land, where Alasdair
Roberts was being sampled live by Ross Whyte at Greyfriars Kirk in a
way that fused traditional singing with electronic experimentation.  In
Blether:Land, based in the Scottish Story Centre, you could sample a
half-hour of dark tales of old Edinburgh from Fiona Herbert. Her yarns
about the Jekyll and Hyde-like duality of auld Reekie involved Deacon
Brodie, the Darien disaster and the lengths sixteenth century …

Lilly Allen, Soul II Soul, Young Fathers - Concert in the Gardens

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Four stars

Lily Allen wasn't the obvious choice to headline this year's
Edinburgh's Hogmanay, even with her third album, Sheezuz, coming after
five years out of the musical loop. From the moment this most
gloriously contrary pop star bounds onstage sporting a sparkly hooded
baseball top with a giant A on the back on a stage set of oversize
illuminated babies bottles against a pink and purple backdrop, however,
Edinburgh is hers.

Prior to that, on the Waverley Stage, Scottish Album of the Year and
Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers kick the night off with a
manifesto-like cacophony of synthesised sirens, projected slogans and
martial drums that ushers in a darkly intense set of righteously angry
twenty-first century hip hop.

Joined by chanteuse and kindred spirit Law, the band's frontline trio
of Kayus Bankole, 'G' Hastings and Alloysious Massaquoi let loose a
fitting antidote to the City's archaic rules on live music pro…