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Showing posts from October, 2016

Band of Holy Joy – A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes

For more than thirty years now, Johny Brown's Band of Holy Joy have been the conscience of a divided nation. Hailing from North Shields in Tyneside but having formed his original troupe of street-punk vaudevillians in New Cross in London, Brown's heart-on-sleeve social-realist vignettes have been infrequent dispatches from the frontline of broken Britain. Combined with his more hauntologically inclined sonic experiments on online art radio station Resonance FM, Brown's ongoing canon is a righteous address from the margins.

With the most recent Band of Holy Joy album, The Land of Holy Joy, released in 2015 on the Edinburgh-based Stereogram label, this self-released two-CDr set is the third of four aural scrapbooks published in a limited edition of just seventy, and, following on from the previous two, An Atlas of Spatial Perceptions and Custom and Crime in Savage Society, is probably already pretty hard to come by. A fourth collection, Fruits and Flowers for Particular Peop…

The Rebel – Clear & Lies in June (Monofonus Press)

For twenty-odd years (some of them very odd) Benedict R Wallers, aka The Rebel, has been reeling out a deadpan and wilfully singular take on spindly DIY adult nursery rhymes for terminal nihilists. As if to illustrate, this twenty-one track cassette of 4-track recordings begins with a sneeze and a spoken word rendition of the second verse of Prince's Sign O The Times,

With roots in Edinburgh avant-provocateurs The Male Nurse before honing his stetson-headed schtick fronting the Country Teasers, Wallers' output as The Rebel has been prodigious, and this third part of his Poems With Water trilogy released on the Austin, Texas-based Monofonus Press label allows full vent to his polymathic tendencies. If reading Prince lyrics is a good way to start, the rest of Can I Pass? - the track it forms part of - is as straightforward as it gets over the next hour.

The brief reading from Flann O'Brien's experimental novel, At Swim Two Birds, in Pegasus, is a telling pointer to where…

Jumpy

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

“The best we can expect from life now is avoiding the worst,” says Hilary's man-hungry best friend Frances over a bottle of wine early on in April De Angelis' bittersweet evocation of mid-life crises among women who came of age in the 1970s. Then, Hilary and Frances took advantage of the freedoms afforded by a new wave of feminist thinking, went on day trips to Greenham Common and weren't afraid to become independent women on their own terms. In 2009, when the play is set, Hilary is about to turn fifty, her marriage to Mark is cosy to the point of dull and her about to be sixteen year old daughter Tilly is stropping her way through life in postage stamp size skirts and has taken to letting her monosyllabic boyfriend Josh sleep over.
Cora Bissett's revival of De Angelis' West End hit relocates the action to Kelvinside, and has designer Jean Chan pile the stage sky high with domestic detritus that looks like an explosion…

Simon Callow - De Tribun

When Simon Callow played Mozart in the National Theatre's original 1979 production of Peter Shaffer's play, Amadeus, part of his preparation for the role was to make it look as if he knew what he was doing. As an actor dedicated to his craft, such intensive research wasn't unusual for Callow. Amadeus, however, introduced a new challenge for him.

“I had to go to great lengths to impersonate a man playing the piano,” says the actor and writer still most familiar to many from his appearance in Richard Curtis' film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. “I thought it was important to try and get the movement right when I sat at the piano. Paul Scofield, who was playing Salieri, had no interest in any of that, but I really sweated over it.”

Thirty-seven years on, Callow appears onstage tonight alongside music of a very different kind as part of the Aberdeen-based Sound festival of new music. He will be the sole actor in De Tribun (The Tribune or the Mother of all Speeches), a piece …

Karla Black and Kishio Suga – A New Order

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
October 222nd 2016-February 19th 2017

Karla Black and Kishio Suga may be generations as well as oceans apart, but the worlds within worlds they occupy even as they unfurl their creations around them seems to come from very similar places. Both Glasgow-based Black and the Japanese veteran of the Mono-ha or School of Things movement that grew up in that country between 1969 and 1972 create sculptures that fuse natural and industrial materials to create interventions of pure form.

In Suga's case, this is best exemplified in Interconnected Space, a piece originally made in the 1970s in which a large boulder sits at the centre of a room supported by four ropes hung from the top of each wall. Black's preoccupations comes in the marshmallow fluffiness of pastel-tinted cotton wool carpets that fill entire rooms with a whiteness prettily stained with pale slivers of paint.

While Suga's works are reconstructions of pieces origin…

The Season Ticket

Dundee Rep
Three stars

It's a black and white world for Gerry, the football daft fifteen year old who forms the heart of Lee Mattinson's play, adapted from Jonathan Tulloch's novel and filmed as Purely Belter sixteen years ago. Gerry came into that world kicking and screaming, and he's been kicking and screaming ever since. This is the case whether it's in reaction to the brutality he's grown up with while holed up in a Gateshead housing estate with his mum Dee and sister Claire, or whether it's for Newcastle United, the team that has become the saviour of Gerry and his pal Sewell. If only they could experience the communal thrill of a game first hand, their lives would be complete.
This is how the pair end up embarking on a fundraising spree that includes breaking and entering their head teacher's house and 'twocking' – stealing - anything they can lay their hands on in order to be able to afford a pair of season tickets. Things don't go …

April De Angelis

Things changed when April De Angelis turned fifty. Here she was, an independent woman and successful playwright who had grown up with feminism, and who had a teenage daughter who took such hard won advantages for granted in a world where feminism itself had become a dirty word. What had happened, De Angelis wondered, both to her and the world she lived in.

The result of such a mid-life meltdown was Jumpy, a play about the stresses and strains of a fifty-something woman who had grown up protesting against nuclear weapons at Greenham Common, but whose teenage daughter couldn't care less about such things. First world problems such things may be, but Jumpy became a West End hit, and five years on is revived in a new production which opens this week at at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.

“It came out of experience,” De Angelis says of the play. “I'd turned fifty, and my daughter had turned sixteen the same year, and that made me think about a lot of things, particularly ab…

23 Questions for October 23rd - What the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh's Board of Trustees need to answer on the day they close Inverleith House

1 - Would the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Board of Trustees agree that Inverleith House is a major international public artistic asset?

2 – If so, could the Board of Trustees explain why they have chosen to close Inverleith House down as a contemporary art gallery without notice?
3 - Could the Board of Trustees clarify what Creative Scotland's explicit expression of 'disappointment' with the Trustees' decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary artspace without notice might refer to?
4 – Given that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a publicly funded body, could the Board of Trustees provide the minutes of the meeting at which the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery took place, presumably at the Board's quarterly meeting on October 5th 2016?
5 – As a publicly funded body, could the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Board of Trustees also provide a list of all those in attendance at the meeting where the decision wa…

Grain in the Blood

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Sacrifice is everywhere in Rob Drummond's brooding new play, co-produced here between the Tron and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, where it visits following its Glasgow run. It's there in Andrew Rothney's near silent figure of Isaac, on compassionate leave from the prison he's been rotting in since he attempted to bring life through death during harvest time in his rural home years before. Now he's back, and with John Michie's stoic prison chaperone Burt watching over him, it's his twelve-year old daughter Autumn who needs saved. Isaac's mother Sophia would do anything to see Autumn survive, as would Frances Thorburn's Violet, who would kill to replace her own lingering loss.
There's an eerie sense of foreboding that looms large in Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's production that is ushered in by Michael John McCarthy's cracked chamber folk score. Even at it's most sombre, however…

Kai Lumumba Barrow and Eric A. Stanley - Arika - Episode 8: Refuse Powers' Grasp

When the Arika organisation started out as producers of experimental music festivals, their
work on Instal at the Arches in Glasgow and later Kill Your Timid Notion at Dundee Contemporary Arts broke the mould in terms of bringing major international left-field musicians and sound-makers to Scotland.

As the artistic landscape shifted, the ground Arika occupied opened up for a new generation of sonic explorers to put on their own events, perhaps inspired by some of the veteran acts they'd seen at Instal and Kill Your Timid Notion. As more experimental music festivals grew up around them, Arika moved beyond sound to consider the social and political forces that gives art its meaning.

The end result has been a series of weekend-long Episodes, in which Arika have hosted various provocations, discussions, performances and screenings which create a dialogue where art and activism meet in a kind of counter-cultural salon.

This weekend, Episode 8 – Refuse Powers' Grasp, looks at i…

Where The Crow Flies

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Three stars

The baby won't stop crying and scary men are shouting obscenities through the letterbox at the opening of Lisa Nicoll's curiously creepy new play produced by the Glasgow-based In Motion Theatre Company. Graffiti is sprayed across the walls of Carrie's house, and rubbish is rotting in the summer heat in the back garden. Just to add insult to injury, Emily has moved in next door, and is already invading Carrie's space enough to make her paranoid.
The cause of Carrie's siege mentality is her husband's imprisonment for a crime he says he didn't commit, and the bad lads left on the outside who say he did. Emily may not be in league with them, but she has a few secrets of her own, largely to do with her absent daughter Annabel.

Beth Morton's production begins with a kitchen-sink style set-up that looks at two very different women living alone with their pain, then lurches into psycho-thriller territory …

Inverleith House to Close as a Contemporary Art Gallery

It has been confirmed by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh that Inverleith House, contained within its grounds, will no longer be used as a contemporary artspace. This comes after thirty years as a gallery, in which, under the curatorship of Paul Nesbitt, Inverleith House became a pioneering venue that showed early work by many Scottish artists alongside a bold international programme which has consistently sat alongside a parallel programme of botanical-based work.

Inverleith House has also presented more exhibitions by Turner Prize winners and nominees than any other gallery in the UK apart from the Tate Gallery in London. The gallery's current exhibition, I still believe in miracles... closes this weekend on October 23rd, after which the building's future is uncertain.

In a statement released on October 18th, RBGE said that 'After considerable consideration the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has accepted that, in the interests of prioritising its core mission…

Clipper – Maid of the Seas

On December 21st 1988, Pan Am flight 103, a Boeing 747 named Clipper Maid of the Seas, which was making a regular trip from Frankfurt to Detroit via London, fell from the air over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, in Dumfries and Galloway. The aeroplane's 243 passengers and sixteen crew members were killed by a bomb placed inside a suitcase stored onboard the aircraft. As the plane careered into residential areas of Lockerbie, eleven people on the ground were also killed.

Passengers on the flight included Paul Jeffreys, onetime bass player with Steve Harley's Cockney Rebel, and poet Joanna Walton, a former girlfriend of Robert Fripp who had written lyrics for Fripp's 1979 album, Exposure, and who had coined the term Frippertronics to define Fripp's tape-looping techniques.

The subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Libyan national Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, followed by his release from Greenock Prison by the Scottish Government in 2009 on compassionate ground…

Elliot Roberts - Grain in the Blood

When Elliot Roberts saw writer and performer Rob Drummond's show, Bullet Catch, at the Arches in Glasgow, he never thought he would end up working as assistant director on a new play by the prolific writer and performer presented on the main-stage of the Traverse, the world-renowned Edinburgh-based new writing theatre. Three years on, however, and Roberts has been installed for the last few weeks on Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's production of Drummond's play, Grain in the Blood.

This co-production with the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, where it opens this week, finds Drummond putting a noirish thriller into a rural landscape where a prodigal's return home to an isolated community steeped in local folklore raises moral dilemmas about personal sacrifices made for a greater good.

For Roberts, his tenure on Grain in the Blood also marks a breakthrough for the young director and former dramaturgy student at the University of Glasgow enabled by a bursary initia…

Spoiling

Kirkton Community Centre, Dundee
Three stars

Things have changed since John McCann's pre-independence referendum fantasia first appeared in Edinburgh during the summer of 2014. Then, with the actual vote looming, McCann imagined newly appointed SNP Foreign Minister Fiona preparing to square up to her Westminster counterpart as the world's press watched sovereignty being handed over. Somewhat symbolically pregnant, Fiona also looked set to have her wings and her upstart tendencies clipped by Mark, a junior bureaucrat with a nice line in managerialist gobbledegook who had been sent to make sure she didn't go off message.
Now, in this updated version rewritten by McCann for Dundee Rep Ensemble's latest community tour, the 2014 No vote a bittersweet memory for both parties. Set in 2020, a second indy referendum may have finally got a result, but there is the lingering mess of the post-Brexit fall-out to deal with as well.

As the play opens, Fiona rises from a small mountai…

Dario Fo obituary

Dario Fo

Comedian, Playwright, Director, Performer, Activist, Painter, Designer, Theatre-maker


Born March 24 1926 ; died October 13 2016


Dario Fo, who has died aged ninety following a lung-based illness that saw him hospitalised two weeks ago, was a radical maestro who understood the power of laughter beyond polemic. The news of his passing comes in the midst of Dancing With Colours, Whipping With Words, a month-long celebration of the Nobel Prize winning author of now classic works such as Accidental Death of An Anarchist and Mistero Buffo, which is currently ongoing in Edinburgh. Fo himself, whose works have been heard in more than thirty languages, was due to travel to Scotland to take part in an onstage conversation at the Royal Lyceum Theatre with his biographer, translator and greatest champion, Joe Farrell.

It was Farrell's rollicking versions of Fo's key works that brought them to Scots audiences in a series of productions produced by Borderline Theatre Company and …

Crude

Shed 36, Port of Dundee
Four stars

It's like Christmas and a trip to Blackpool at once as the audience for Grid Iron theatre company's latest site-specific extravaganza are bussed out from Dundee city centre to one of several massive sheds used by the city's Port Authority, transformed here into a theatre space. As it is, the array of lights that flank the shed belong to three stationary exploration rigs that tower over the company's exploration of the oil industry.
Inside the shed, video projections at the back of Becky Minto's tiered steel set beam out statistics of how many barrels of oil are drilled during the course of the ninety minute show as several stories play out between a barrage of historical information. Much of the latter in director Ben Harrison's script is provided by Texas Jim, a big-talking cipher of how oil has made a few people like him rich, while the people and places exploited along the way are mere collateral damage.

In the Niger Delt…

Grid Iron - Crude

In an upstairs room in Leith, Grid Iron theatre company are going for gold. The prize is the Edinburgh-based company's latest site-specific extravaganza, Crude, a dramatic study of oil, the slippery substance that powers the world, making some people very rich. For those on the frontline, the human cost sometimes proves even greater.

This is easy to see in the mock up of a hotel bar and bedroom where a one-night tryst between characters played by Phil McKee and Kirsty Stuart takes place. There are brief monologues from survivors of oil rig disasters such as the one that happened in 1988 when an explosion happened on the North Sea based Piper Alpha rig, which was destroyed in a blast that killed 167 people, including two rescue workers. A memorial to those who died sits in Hazelhead Park in Aberdeen.

In another scene, McKee's character is tied to a chair and tortured. Inbetween all this, a man in a stetson called Texas Jim swaggers about like J.R. Ewing, the slickly devious oil…

Francis The Holy Jester

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Four stars

“Please,” says Italian actor Mario Pirovano after a lengthy introduction to his interpretation of his long-time collaborator Dario Fo's solo study of Saint Francis of Assisi. “Relax. It's only theatre.” Given what happens over the four 'episodes' that follow, such a pre-cursor to the main event is self-deprecation as arform.
The first two pieces find Francis dealing with a possibly symbolic wolf before being forced to make a speech to war-torn Bologna. So powerful is his stand-up satire, it seems, that peace breaks out three days later. Both are sublime, but it is the second half's extended riff on Francis' attempts to tell the gospel in a more down-to-earth lingo than Latin where Pirovano really flies, before things finish up with the saint's final transcendent hours.

Inbetween playing assorted popes, cardinals and other animals, Pirovano presents Francis, not as the beatific Dr Doolittle figure he ha…

Vanishing Point - Lost Ones

SCHOOL'S out in downtown Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is a few days before the Sri Lankan new year in April, and, at the gates of Bishop's College, a few students are hoisting a banner for Exstastics, a Sunday night extravaganza that's a hipper version of a gang show. All 650 seats at the theatre are sold out, and there is an endof-term frisson in the air.

Outside the theatre itself a beggar lies prostrate as the Tuk Tuks - the barely-legal three-wheeler taxi cabs - buzz by. Inside, a culture shock from the mysterious west is taking shape. The Glasgow-based Vanishing Point theatre company is preparing for the opening night of their Edinburgh Fringe hit, Lost Ones. This dark slice of gothic fantasy has arrived in town following stints in Kosovo and Macedonia, having first impressed the talent scouts in Edinburgh last August at the biennial British Council showcase.

"Everything I bring here, " British Council Sri Lanka's arts manager, Ranmali Mirchandani, ass…

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When Jason Manford's down-at-heel inventor Caractacus Potts rebuilds a rusted old banger in this new touring revival of Jeremy Sams' stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl scripted 1968 musical film, he gets a lot more than he bargained for with the flying machine that results from his tampering.
Inspired by Ian Fleming's short story awash with a trademark Bondesque array of customised cars, cartoon villains and exotic locales, the film's Bank holiday friendly songbook by Richard and Robert Sherman remains intact. James Brining's co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse and former Festival Theatre boss John Stalker's Music and Lyrics company uses all the resources at his disposal to hone a facility for musical theatre developed while running Dundee Rep.

With Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's adventures on land, sea and air brought to life by a mix of hi-tech back projections and old-school engineering, Manford helms th…