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Showing posts from 2016

Ian Broudie - Going Solo

It was during the height of mid-1990s Britpop fever when Liverpool-born singer/songwriter and brains behind pop perfectionists The Lightning Seeds Ian Broudie suddenly found himself at No1 in the singles charts with a football anthem performed with a pair of comedians.

Almost a decade and a half on from the original release of Three Lions, the song, recorded with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel as the England football team’s official song for the Euro 96 competition, remains Broudie’s best-known work. As he sets out on a series of rescheduled low-key solo dates following the cancellation of an Edinburgh Festival Fringe show in August, however, you get the impression that the short-lived triumphalism and euphoria of Britpop are the last things on his mind.

“It’s an odd thing,” he reflects, “because in terms of my career, Three Lions had a negative effect. I’d already done three albums as The Lightning Seeds, and had started playing live with a band in the run up to the third one…

Pete Irvine - Scot:Lands 2017

When Pete Irvine talks about Scot:Lands, the multiple-venue New Year's Day extravaganza that will see some 8,000 morning after revellers move around Edinburgh's Old Town, it as if he is navigating his way around an imaginary landscape of his own design. One minute he's singing the praises of the St Magnus Festival on Orkney, the next he's flitting from the Wigtown Book Festival to the Highlands, taking in all manner of mini festivals and home grown folk art en route.

The audiences who have signed up online for the already fully subscribed free event will be able to do something similar after downloading their boarding pass that allows them access to nine as yet un-named indoor venues that hosts this celebration of localism in what amounts to a global village. Beyond geographical borders, they will also be able to explore neglected poets of the past brought to life by a new generation of young radicals, as well as checking out an even newer diaspora of Scots borne of a…

Andy Gill - Gang of Four

CULTURAL revolutions take time. Just ask the recently-reformed Gang Of Four. In the first flush of punk, they took their name from a quartet of deposed Chinese Communist Party leaders, and now, almost 30 years on, find the spiky urgency of their punk-funk pioneering co-opted into the mainstream by everyone from Franz Ferdinand to Bloc Party.

Gang of Four's appearance this weekend at the newly-constituted Indian Summer festival, in Glasgow's Victoria Park, should go some way towards reclaiming the limelight from such musical whippersnappers, as well as making up for the cancellation of a proposed Glasgow show in 2005 when vocalist Jon King injured himself.

"Jon keeps time by hitting something with a metal bar, " says guitarist Andy Gill. "Quite often we use a microwave, and, one night, we were doing the song, He'd Send In The Army, and he missed and the bar went into his knee."
As punk-rock moments go, it's a far cry from 30 years ago,…

Joanne Catherall - The Human League

WHEN Joanne Catherall played her debut gig with The Human League in a Doncaster nightclub in 1980, the idea of playing to 16,000 people in the unfeasibly glamourous amphitheatre that is the Hollywood Bowl was, like so many things in the depressed north of England at the time, an impossible dream. Up until the Doncaster show, dark-haired schoolgirl Catherall and her blonde best friend Susanne Sulley had escaped the grey, post-industrial depression of their Sheffield home on the dancefloor of their local palace of neon naughtiness, the Crazy Daisy. Within a year, they'd be Top Of The Pops regulars, performing hits from the mega-selling album Dare - including the ultimate kitchen-sink Christmas number-one duet, Don't You Want Me?

More than a quarter of a century on, Catherall, Sulley and frontman Phil Oakey are still the core of a thoroughly grown-up, re-made and re-modelled Human League. They are currently on a greatest-hits tour for audiences of not-quite-so-new roman…

Neu! Reekie! - Where Are We Now? - Hull City of Culture 2017

Onstage in a dimly lit club that sits at the end of a row of terraced houses, poet Kevin Williamson is performing a poem about Edinburgh, the city where he lives. A homage in part to Salford bard John Cooper Clarke, the co-founder of spoken-word art cabaret mash-up Neu! Reekie!'s opus is a humorous and potty-mouthed paean to all that is good, bad and ugly about the place he calls home.

Over the course of an hour or so, there are performances and presentations by members of Scottish Album of the Year winners Young Fathers, artist and provocateur Bill Drummond, poet and Neu! Reekie! regular Hollie McNish, film-maker Mark Cousins and members of Edinburgh hip hop troupe Stanley Odd. Also in attendance are radio DJ Vic Galloway and Davie Miller of pioneering electronic band FiniTribe.

With Williamson and fellow Neu! Reekie! co-pilot Michael Pedersen hosting the show, the night climaxes with a dynamic performance by Law Holt, followed by sets from a crew of fledgling rappers, which se…

Paul Simonon - Caught By the River

It's all the tube strike's fault. The double-deckers are crammed, and a black cab is impossible. In the autumn sunshine, bodies ebb and flow outwards from King's Cross's dilapidated, ever so slightly edgy exterior. Dickensian waifs flake out on red brick and sawdust street corners. An emaciated girl slaps felt-tipped ''business'' cards on telephone box walls. London may be a blur of constant motion, progress personified, but these images, along with a good old-fashioned British strike, only serve to heighten the fact that, however swanky its minimalist facade, London life is still as charmingly grotty as ever.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the gangly figure lolloping down Marylebone High Street. He may be the epitome of dressed down cool in his pinstripe plum-coloured strides and short-sleeved shirt unbuttoned to tropical proportions, but the fact that he played in one of the most influential bands to ever pogo out of Ladbroke Gr…

Last Christmas

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The painful litany of shop-soiled Christmas songs that usher in Matthew Bulgo's not entirely festive monologue speak volumes about what follows. Into the void steps Tom, a man on the verge of thirty wearing a hang-dog expression and a permanently misanthropic air. Over the next sixty minutes, Tom rewinds from hungover awkwardness with his newly pregnant girlfriend Nat, to the sheer awfulness of the office party the night before. But, as he leaves Nat alone to travel home for Christmas, Tom goes further, to the loser mates he left behind, to his widowed mum, and most of all to his dead dad who he's slowly but surely starting to resemble.
As played by Sion Pritchard in Kate Wasserberg's seasonal revival for the Cardiff-based Dirty Protest company, Tom is an initially dislikeable young pretender, a commitment-phobic man-child scared to face up to his responsibilities, yet who also feels hard done by. Out of such a gently tragi-comic sc…

Guinness – The Drink (World Records)

Here's a wheeze and a half: Guinness are/were a wonky pop duo with tentacles in various Edinburgh College of Art-sired bands, including Commie Cars and Edinburgh Leisure. Armed with John Shuttleworth-style toybox keyboards and wilfully rudimentary bass and de(con) structive guitar, throughout 2016 they produced deadpan absurdist vignettes, some of which were possessed with a tragicomic intent worthy of Tony Hancock.

After seven months they decided to split up, figuring that was quite long enough for them to have done their bit, thank you very much. Their last gift to the world is this twelve-track album, released solely on YouTube, although there's a download link if you want one, and it really is pure genius.

The opening instrumental title track somewhat appositely bumps and grinds its way across the dancefloor like very early Cabaret Voltaire, its primitive drum machine, motorik funk bass and wailing banshee guitar giving few clues to what follows. I'm A Zookeeper (Not A…

The Commitments

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Four stars

Tanked-up show-offs should take care if they do a turn at their works Christmas do this year. If Roddy Doyle's stage play of his 1987 novel made into a hit film by Alan Parker four years later is anything to go by, any would-be pop svengali in the room might sign them up to become lead singer of the hardest working band in Dublin. That's how young hustler Jimmy gets vain-glorious Deco to join his fledgling combo, anyway. Doyle's play, mind you, harks back to a time before karaoke took over the pubs and begat X Factor style TV talent shows on which anyone can be famous for five minutes.
Caroline Jay Ranger's touring production of Doyle's West End smash hit takes full advantage of the play's period 1980s setting, as Andrew Linnie's Jimmy navigates his way through a world full of back-street chancers high on glossy pop tunes to manufacture the ultimate party show-band. What Jimmy understands most of all is the sheer dramatic p…

Matthew Bulgo - Last Christmas

Matthew Bulgo is preparing for Christmas. The writer, actor and director has just finished performing in a successful run of Kenny Morgan, Mike Poulton's play about Terence Rattigan seen at the Arcola Theatre in London, and is back home in Cardiff, “gearing down for Christmas,” as he puts it. The next couple of weeks will see Bulgo dragged away from his downtime and taking a train to Edinburgh to see the first night of a revival of his own play, Last Christmas, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh next week.

As the title suggests, Bulgo's one-man play, presented by Welsh new writing theatre company, Dirty Protest, and performed by Sion Pritchard, is set around the festive season, and follows the fortunes of one man taking stock of his life during an already emotionally charged time of year.

“It's about a man who has lost his father and become a father in the space of a year,” says Bulgo. “He's travelling home for Christmas, and he's a little angry a…

Hansel and Gretel

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

“You have to be lost if you want to find yourself,” Stuart Paterson's abandoned brother and sister are told midway through his festive stage version of the Brothers Grimm's classic tale. These are wise words indeed, especially as Hansel and Gretel have found themselves stranded in the woods with no way back home. Just how seriously they can take such seemingly sage advice when given by a circus clown called Uncle Shoes whose baggy pants are constantly falling down around his ankles, however, is debatable.
The circus itself isn't quite what it seems, as Uncle Shoes and his fellow performers are under the spell of caravan-dwelling witch La Stregamama, whose main priority is feeding up her new arrivals to satisfy her sweet tooth. Only when Gretel inspires her cowed captors to rise up against her does her power fade.

Dominic Hill's production takes an already dark story and ramps it up to the max in a vivid re-telling of Paterson'…

Paisley Patterns – John Byrne, Alexander Stoddart, Kenneth Clark and Paisley 2021.

“I was brought up in Ferguslie Park,” remembers painter and playwright John Byrne of his Paisley boyhood growing up in the rough and tumble of one of the Renfrewshire town's estates, “and I remember thanking God when we moved there, because I knew then that I had all the things I needed for whatever it was that I wanted to do.”

What Byrne proceeded to do was translate his experiences as a working class kid steeped in 1950s pop culture and with ideas above his station into one of the most celebrated plays of the late twentieth century. The Slab Boys spent a day in the life of Phil McCann and Spanky Farrell, a couple of likely lads with dreams of being an artist and a pop star, but who were stuck mixing paint in the slab room of a carpet factory based on A,F. Stoddart's actual premises where Byrne himself had worked.

Over two acts of matinee idol patter mixed in with a colourful local slang, Phil and Spanky became rebels without a cause other than the possibility of a lumber wit…

Katy Dove

What is initially most striking about this retrospective overview of the late Katy Dove's paintings and animations that arrives at the DCA eighteen months after her passing is just how much life bursts from everything on show. From the images of children dancing alongside strips of material that hang outside the main galleries like stills from the drama workshop montage in swinging sixties Brit-flick Georgy Girl, to the kaleidoscopic shadows of her own hands and legs in what turned out to be her final film, Meaning in Action (2013), there is little stillness anywhere in Dove's work.

Pastel-coloured shapes and patterns culled from the unconscious in a series of automatic paintings are gradually given form and definition enough to create a world in constant motion en route to an idyll. This is especially evident in Melodia (2002), a four and a half minute film in which Dove takes a watercolour landscape by her grandfather and breathes swirling life into its skies, seas and other…

Of Other Spaces: Where does gesture become event?

Cooper Gallery, Dundee until December 16th
Four stars

The unisex toilet door tucked away in the corner of the entrance to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design may not be part of the first Chapter of the Cooper Gallery's sprawling two-part voyage through feminist art since the 1970s. It nevertheless illustrates a progression of sorts in gender identity which many of the artists on show here have paved the way for.
With a title taken from Hannah Arendt, the show brings together work and archival material from nineteen artists that spans generations in a way that makes explicit the umbilical link between art and activism across the years. On the stairs, the seminal film of post-punk artist Linder's meat-dress and dildo-sporting 1984 performance at the Hacienda with her band Ludus is beamed onto the wall. Upstairs, work by other key figures including Annabel Nicolson, Georgina Starr and Su Richardson respectively involve a performance with a sewing machine, crocheting w…

Scrooge! The Musical

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Ebenezer Scrooge is the quintessential Charles Dickens character, wheeled out once a year like fairy lights to brighten up the neighbourhood. Watching Philip Rham's vivid and well-rounded interpretation of the mealy-mouthed old skinflint in Richard Baron's seasonal revival of Leslie Bricusse's rollicking feel-good musical, it is clear he is also a man of our times, and a perfect representation of the state we're in now. Scrooge, after all, is an emotionally damaged loan shark who has made his fortune on the backs of the poor, and who exploits austerity as an excuse to pay his staff below minimum wage while hiking up interest on his pay-day loans.
The bustling street scene that opens the show having been ushered in by projections of falling snowflakes, however, is as inclusively cosy as the Christmas card brought to life that Adrian Rees' set so resembles. Even Scrooge's creepy presence can't dim such an image as he slo…

Clarke Peters - From Five Guys Named Moe to The Wire to Directing Blondes

Clarke Peters is sitting on a beach in Rhodes. In half an hour's time the sun will set and the actor and writer whose profile has rocketed in the last year via his portrayal of righteous cop Lester Freamon in David Simon's sleeper hit TV drama, The Wire, will have spent another day in paradise.

This time last week, Peters was in Edinburgh directing a very different kind of TV star, Denise Van Outen, in her Jackie Clune scripted solo show, Blondes, and expounding about a new wave of musical theatre on The Culture Show.

Somewhere in-between the two, Peters has managed to fit in two days filming on a new big screen version of Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black.

Peters will be jetting back to Edinburgh this weekend, however, for two very special mid-morning Question and Answer sessions, designed specifically with Wire fans in mind. That these are set to take place in The Underbelly's biggest space, The Udderbelly, is testament to just how much The Wire - the five seri…

Lee Breuer - Peter and Wendy

One of Lee Breuer’s sons was about three years old when the American theatre director started work on his version of JM Barrie’s Peter And Wendy with the New York-based Mabou Mines company. At that time, Mabou Mines were only playing the first act of the show that arrives in its full form as the last major component of the Edinburgh International Festival’s drama programme at the beginning of September. By the time Breuer introduced a second act, some five years into the play’s development, another son had arrived and was again three years old at the time Peter And Wendy was being rehearsed. Rather than becoming an attention-seeking distraction from the work at hand, the presence of Breuer’s infant children opened his eyes to what would become a crucial factor in his new take on Peter Pan.

“It became deeply personal,” he says in his tough-guy New York drawl. “From having my sons around, it dawned on me that Peter wasn’t the nine-year-old that JM Barrie said he was, be…

Robert Ashley - Foreign Experiences

Going west isn't so much a perennial American pastime as a way of life. Ask Robert Ashley, the New York-based composer of spoken word opera, whose back catalogue over the past quarter of a century is largely made up of a mammoth trilogy of Perfect Lives, Atalanta - Acts of God and Now Eleanor's Idea, which obliquely maps out a cross-country quest in search of enlightenment.

The final part of the trilogy is itself divided into four parts, each focusing on the response of one particular character after the banks run out of money. With the fourth part, Foreign Experiences, at Tramway for one night this weekend, some 15 years after its premiere, such prescience in relation to the current global economy is purely accidental.

"When I started it," says 79-year-old Ashley in a slow, considered voice somewhat at odds with the 72-beats-per-minute tempo his work is scored for, "I was interested in the modern notion of religion in the US, where it seemed to me t…