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Showing posts from June, 2016

Heartbeat

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars

If anyone fancies a glimpse of what some imaginary little Britain should remain like forever, they could do worse than take a look at this touring stage version of the phenomenally successful Sunday night TV cop show based on Nicholas Rhea's Constable series of novels. For eighteen years, after all, the Yorkshire hamlet of Aidensfield was forever stuck in a 1960s that barely swung, and where the common people doffed their cap to the local landowner while being kept in line by a succession of upright local bobbies. Crime, of course, never paid, especially if it was committed by a role-call of shifty interlopers from the fleshpots of the south.
Things appear to be changing in what amounts to a feature-length episode penned by long-serving cast member David Lonsdale, who revives his role of village buffoon David Stockwell. It's 1969, patrician landlord of the Aidensfield Arms, Oscar, is recuperating from an illness in Bridlington, and chirpy Scou…

Fire Engines – (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang

When indie label boss Bob Last played one of his roster the forthcoming debut single by his latest charges, the high-concept studio gloss and anti-fascist sentiments of the song impressed the four young men gathered on Last's sofa. It was 1981, and with Margaret Thatcher forming an unholy alliance with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Heaven 17's slap-bass driven '(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang' sounded like a very necessary anthem.

No-one in the room expected the four young men, who, as Fire Engines, had just released an LP of so-called aural wallpaper called Lubricate Your Living Room on Last's Pop Aural label, to cover the song before the original was even released. Especially as the raw, rudimentary and highly-charged angularity of Fire Engines was as far away from Heaven 17's studied construction of style and substance as it could be.

When Fire Engines ran out of time recording their first John Peel session, however, and opted to record a f…

David Ganly - The Lonesome West

When David Ganly was cast in a trilogy of new plays by a little known writer in 1997, he didn't know that the productions by the Galway-based Druid Theatre Company would spend the next three years travelling to London and Sydney before embarking on a Tony award winning Broadway run. By that time, Martin McDonagh had been hailed as one of the most audacious and taboo-busting voices of his generation, and his rural west coast of Ireland set Leenane trilogy – The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West – three of the most shocking but laugh out loud hilarious plays of the decade's new wave of British playwriting.

Almost two decades on, and Ganly is back in a new production of The Lonesome West that forms the highlight of the Tron Theatre's summer season when it opens next week. Where Ganly played local priest Father Welsh in the play's first production, this time out he takes on the pivotal role of Valene, one of two brothers who, in a play tha…

Elton John

Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh
Four stars

When a knight of the realm congratulates an entire country for being the only sensible people in what's left of the UK after the EU referendum, it's magnificently seditious stuff. When that knight is Sir Elton John opening the Edinburgh leg of his world tour to promote his recent Wonderful Crazy Night album, it makes it even better.
Especially as an impish Sir Elton and his impeccable band has just ushered in a two and half hour set with the instrumental overture of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road era Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. With his nibs sporting a sparkly blue outfit and red shades and following it with The Bitch is Back, such a mash up lays bare the maestro's unbridled raison d'etre of showbiz classicist panache that sits somewhere between Liberace and Mozart.

As he rewinds his way through a fistful of hits that includes Benny and the Jets and Philadelphia Freedom, John's back catalogue also traces its wa…

Coriolanus

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four stars

A little people power, as has been proven over the last few days, is a dangerous thing. So it goes with the Roman war hero who gives Shakespeare's most astonishingly current play its title. Thrust into politics on a wave of triumphalism, a lack of a common touch and open contempt for the people sees Coriolanus thrown out of office and cast out to the metaphorical wilderness where new alliances are forged.
Gordon Barr's production opens this year's Bard in the Botanics season with a subversive swagger, with Coriolanus here a woman who goes off to battle with her boys, leaving Duncan Harte's stay at home husband Virgilius holding the baby. Coriolanus' sparring with her mother, Volumnia, played by Janette Foggo, is given a fresh edge by the gender-swap, even as Alan Steele's Menenius offers paternal guidance.

Coriolanus herself is played with whirlwind-like ferocity by Nicole Cooper, who stomps her way through the Botanic gar…

Many Happy Returns – Belle & Sebastian, Arab Strap and Vic Godard Rip it Up and Start Again

When former Buzzcock turned Magazine auteur Howard Devoto sang how 'Twenty Years Ago I Used Your Soap,' in 1980, the song's Proustian reflections embodied the post-Devoto Buzzcocks notion of nostalgia for an age yet to come. Thirty-six years on, suddenly anniversaries are everywhere.

Most lauded of all birthdays just now is Punk's fortieth, which is currently being marked by Punk London, a year long commemoration best captured by an exhibition of memorabilia and suchlike at the British Library. One of the era's progeny, however, most definitely won't be blowing out any candles.

Fashion designer, founder of lingerie label Agent Provocateur and son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corre, has declared his intention to burn his own collection of Punk memorabilia, estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of £5 million. It is the ideas of Punk that counts, Corre declared earlier his year, not the left-behind detritus which has now been hi-jacked a…

Graeme Maley - Pale Star and A Reykjavik Porno

When filming on Graeme Maley's debut feature film was delayed, the Ayrshire-born director channelled his frustration into creativity. The end result of this nine month wait is not one, but two world premieres by Maley screened at Edinburgh International Film Festival this week.

Pale Star and A Reykjavik Porno are a pair of dark thrillers filmed and set in Iceland, but co-produced with Scotland-based Makar Productions and supported by Creative Scotland. Given how Maley has divided his working life between Scotland and Iceland over the last few years, such a collaboration between the two countries seems appropriate.

As a theatre director, Maley has presented Scots plays in Iceland, including the Icelandic premiere of David Harrower's play, Blackbird. Maley has also fostered a two-way traffic by bringing translations of Icelandic plays to Scotland. Djupid (The Deep), by Icelandic writing star, Jon Atli Jonasson, was first seen at Oran Mor in Glasgow before touring the Highlands, …

Adulting

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

Confused twenty-somethings take note. Just because you've reached an age which received wisdom and assorted rites of passage declare that you're a fully-fledged grown-up who can safely be let loose in the big wide world, that doesn't mean the growing pains will stop. Far from it, in fact, as the quartet who make up the young Spilt Milk company make entertainingly clear in this devised compendium of self help style party games and acquired wisdom.
It begins with our hapless quartet sharing real life notes culled from surveys with strangers on how the short leap from adolescence to adulthood isn't quite as straightforward as advertised. On a set lined with shiny post-it notes and leftover childhood totems, school disco cheesy pop classics usher in a series of playful meditations on falling in and out of love and what your younger and older self might learn from such inbetweeners on the verge of something they can't quite put their …

Anna Orton - A Design For Life

Anna Orton never expected to be working with acting greats like Timothy West when she embarked on a theatre design course at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Neither did the thirty-one year old Gorebridge-raised artist expect to be part of a team that was headed up by acclaimed directors such as Sally Cookson and Tom Morris. As Orton makes the final touches on her design for Morris' production of King Lear featuring West in the title role, however, that's exactly what has happened.

The production forms part of an ongoing collaboration between Bristol Old Vic, where Morris is artistic director, and the Theatre School. The idea is that, rather than getting a twenty-something student to attempt the gravitas of Lear's title role, a genuine monarch of the stage such as West is brought in alongside other professionals, with the rest of the cast made up of acting students about to graduate.

As well as West, when Morris' production opens this week, David Hargreaves will play Gl…

Much Ado About Nothing

Dundee Rep
Four stars

There may have been a summer nip in the air in Dundee on Saturday night, but onstage in Irene Macdougall's grandiloquent looking revival of Shakespeare's most serious of rom-coms, heat was being generated on every level. On the Sicilian streets crickets chirrupped through the night, but when Beatrice and Benedick rubbbed up against each other in a mutual desire to prove who was cleverer, the temperature soared.
In Emily Winter and Robert Jack's hands, such japes look closer to flirting than fighting, with the ongoing sexual chemistry palpable to all except those directly involved. Such a fine romance is offset by the more troubling affair between Hero and Claudio as manipulated by Ali Watt's scheming Don John. In this way, the light and shade of the play is starkly realised, with a clear lurch into darkness at the top of the second half.

While there are plenty of biscuit-coloured pillars and hidey holes to manipulate all manner of indiscretions …

Robert King – Super 8

When Robert King auditioned to be vocalist for Scars, the Edinburgh band formed on the back of punk, he was reputedly so scary in his performance that the other auditionee watching left the room, never to be seen again. This story is one of many about Scars that pops up in Big Gold Dream – The Sound of Young Scotland 1977-1985, Grant McPhee's meticulously researched documentary excavation of a much unsung era.

As Creeping Bent record boss Douglas MacIntyre also makes clear in Big Gold Dream, it wasn't Orange Juice's first single, Blue Boy, that was Scotland's equivalent of Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, as some maintain. It was actually Scars' ferocious debut, Horrorshow / Adult/Ery, released on Fast Product records in 1979, that sent shockwaves around a younger generation in search of something beyond a one-chord thrashabout.

Thirty-seven years on from Scars debut, and thirty-five after the band's solitary album, Author! Author!, with time as an emigre …

Carla Lane – The Liver Birds, Mersey Beat and Counter Cultural Performance Poetry

Last week's sad passing of TV sit-com writer Carla Lane aged 87 marks another nail in the coffin of what many regard as a golden era of TV comedy. It was an era rooted in overly-bright living room sets where everyday plays for today were acted out in front of a live audience in a way that happens differently today. If Lane had been starting out now, chances are that the middlebrow melancholy of Butterflies, in which over four series between 1978 and 1983, Wendy Craig's suburban housewife Ria flirted with the idea of committing adultery with successful businessman Leonard, would have been filmed without a laughter track and billed as a dramady.

Lane's finest half-hour highlighted a confused, quietly desperate and utterly British response to the new freedoms afforded women over the previous decade as they trickled down the class system in the most genteel of ways. This may have been drawn from Lane's own not-quite free-spirited quest for adventure as she moved through he…

Irene Macdougall, Gordon Barr and Jennifer Dick - Shakespeare in Scotland Now

It's been quite a year for Shakespeare. The 400th anniversary of the English bard's death on April 23rd 1616 has prompted all manner of suitably dramatic commemorations. On television, Shakespeare has received a healthy amount of airtime not seen the BBC put his entire canon onscreen during the 1970s and 1980s. This has included an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Dr Who and Queer As Folk writer Russell T Davies, which starred Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas and John Hannah.

Elsewhere in the schedules, The Hollow Crown was an all star adaptation of Shakespeare's History plays, while Shakespeare Live! was a live broadcast hosted by David Tennant to celebrate Shakespeare's influence on artforms beyond theatre, such as opera and jazz. Even comedy writer Ben Elton has got in on the act with Upstart Crow, a very sub-Blackadderish take on Shakespeare that features David Mitchell as a hapless bard attempting to climb the literary ladder in the face of personal and pr…

American Idiot

King's Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

With the U.S. Elections looming, the uninitiated might presume a show called American Idiot to concern itself with the no longer amusing rise of Donald Trump. As it is, the ever enterprising Sell A Door theatre company's touring revival of American nouveau punk trio Green Day's rock opera stays faithful to the show's loose-knit narrative of three young men coming of age in a post 9/11 world.
Director and choreographer Racky Plewes' quasi-boutique production also has the added advantage of real life rock star Newton Faulkner at the centre of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's songbook. All of which makes an audience young enough to have barely registered the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York something of a devoted audience.

Faulkner plays Johnny, who with his buddies Tunny and Will ekes out a stoner's existence on the sofa, guitar sometimes in hand. Motivated by the spectacle playing out on their T…

Dominic Hill - Trainspotting and the Citizens Theatre's Autumn 2016 Season

If Trainspotting has ever stopped being in the news since Irvine Welsh's debut novel was first published in 1993, it's renewed profile is currently at a premium. This is largely to do with Danny Boyle's stylish film version of Welsh's tale of life and death among Edinburgh's junkie culture, which became a totem of 1990s pop culture, as its flashy mix of sex, drugs and rock and roll among the dole queue classes went stratospheric.

Boyle's film receives a screening at next month's Edinburgh International Film Festival, just as its original cast have reconvened twenty years on to begin work on a sequel. While both Welsh's book and Boyle's film tapped into a zeitgeist that gave voice to a strata of society previously sidelined by the artistic mainstream unless it was American, it has been largely forgotten that Harry Gibson's stage adaptation did something similar between the two.

Gibson's version was originally seen at the Citizens Theatre in G…