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Showing posts from May, 2017

Tristan & Yseult

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Five stars

Things are swinging down at the Club of the Unloved in the Cornwall based Kneehigh company's audacious pop-tastic reworking of the oldest love story in the world. The balloons are out and a chorus of balaclava and cagoule clad 'love-spotters' are trying out their chat up lines in vain. The music comes from a retro-styled record player at the front of the stage and a junkyard house band that plays all the heart-breakers and more.
When a gang of hard-men are kicked into touch, French-speaking Tristan goes on a cruise to Ireland to bring back the ring-leader's sister Yseult for the ruling King Mark. Under the influence of a heady brew, Tristan and Yseult fall head over heels, as is related by Kirsty Woodward's Jackie Kennedy-alike narrator, Whitehands. Inevitable tragedy ensues, but not before a melee of slapstick inspired routines explodes into riotous life.

In Emma Rice's circus-styled revival of a production first seen in …

Hidden Door - Philip Jeck and Rebecca Sharp - Rules of the Moon

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

"How does it end?" are the first and last words spoken by playwright and poet Rebecca Sharp in this spectral collaboration with composer Philip Jeck, that fuses storytelling and projections with Jeck's electronically generated soundscape. The pair's contribution to this year's Hidden Door festival charts the fantastical flight of Mary Christie, a young Girl in a red jumper who runs away from a fire and goes deep into the darkness, both of the city and her own psyche.
It begins with the seeming innocence of a music box melody and projections of what turns out to be a 60 watt bulb. As Sharp's live words are punctuated and overlaid with recordings of her voice, her initially fractured poetry is given a more linear narrative pulse as we follow Mary into the night. Along the way, there are stolen cars, cracked electronics and images of a luminous blue night sky that lend an eerie urgency to an increasingly dream-like after-dar…

Andrew Panton - Taking Over Dundee Rep

Andrew Panton was at his new desk at Dundee Rep by 7am last Thursday morning. Given his recent appointment as artistic director of the Tayside theatre, such enthusiasm is understandable, especially as Panton was putting the final touches to his first season, which was announced at an event at the theatre on Saturday night.

Outside the window of Panton's office, an industrial cherry-picker was already at work, with those inside the vehicle taking down the lettering on the wall beside the entrance to the theatre. By now, a new set of letters will have been unveiled as a symbolic pre-cursor to Saturday's announcement that marks a new chapter in Dundee Rep's history.

“It's suddenly made everything feel very real,” says Fife-born Panton, as each letter is removed while the sun shines. “There's going to be a whole new branding, and a new logo, so the whole theatre will look and feel a little bit different. Watching the old branding being taken down is making all of tha…

Hidden Door / Charlotte Hastings - Heroines / The Mash Collective / Creative Electric - Sinking Horses / FOUND / BDY_PTS / Marnie / Manuela

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The sun may have shone on Leith this weekend, but inside Leith Theatre, the stars were looking down on the first swathe of artistic interventions this shamefully neglected building has seen for a quarter of a century. Those stars may have been projected, but they gave a sheen of cosmic glamour to a reinvigorated space that is the sort of large-scale civic hall the capital has been crying out for.
Beyond the main auditorium, all manner of performances, film screenings and interventions took hold, from beneath the main stage right up to the makeshift galleries on the roof of the building. Things began early on Friday night, with the theatre's upstairs balcony playing host to Heroines, Charlotte Hastings' three-woman cut-up of speeches by female icons of Greek tragedy. The entire auditorium was utilised by The Mash Collective, a grey-clad ensemble who tapped into Leith Theatre's history with a series of dance routines. In one of the small…

Damo Suzuki's Network

The Mash House, Edinburgh
Sunday May 21st

An old Japanese man in a blue t-shirt stands on a dimly lit stage clutching a microphone stand as if his life depended on it. Diminutive in stature and ascetic in appearance, the man babbles into the microphone with transcendent intent. Damo Suzuki's done this a million times before, and over the next fifty minutes loses himself inside his performance once more. As his straggly silver hair snakes across his face, his voice rises and falls, one minute a high-pitched mantra, the next wordless gurgle. In the gloom behind him, an ad hoc band carve out a slow-burning backdrop. It begins with bowed guitar, adding percussive flourishes and bass and keyboard patterns that steadily flesh out to become a complementary pulsebeat to the incantations they accompany.

Suzuki first carved out his niche with Can, the German kosmische hippy classicists he joined after being spotted busking on the streets of Munich in 1970 by the band's bass player Holg…

Sons of the Descent – Lazy Glamour (Brawsome Productions)

Somewhere in the midst of the 1980s/1990s indie-pop goldrush, amongst the Baggy casualties and shoegaze superstars, there were a million others of equal merit who fell by the wayside, plagued by bad luck, bad timing or both. Come on down Hugh Duggie and Ian White, who, as Sons of the Descent, are the waggish brains behind this low-key smorgasbord of quietly crafted off-kilter pop gems.

Given their respective backgrounds, it was inevitable that Duggie and White would eventually find each other. Duggie served time in late period Lowlife, the band formed by ex Cocteau Twins bassist Will Heggie, before going on to front Mute Records-connected noiseniks, Foil. White, meanwhile, played guitar with Edinburgh band The Wendys, who were signed to Factory Records not long before the late Tony Wilson's musical plaything/utopian folly crashed and burned into financial ignominy, a glorious victim of its own largesse.

The result of the pair's collective pedigree is a suitably wacked-out colle…

War in America

Former Royal High School, Edinburgh
Four stars

“The state does not commit terrorist acts.” So says Mr Fox, the thrusting home secretary of an un-named European government in Jo Clifford's attempt to cut through a make-believe sham of so-called democracy. Clifford does this by making the situation critical, so both powers are divided, not by political parties, but along gender lines. Even here, alas, while the carefully styled She appears to be strong and stable, it is the spin doctoring duo of Ms Warp and Ms Webb who pull the strings.
As Saskia Ashdown's She pulls off her blonde wig and kicks her power heels away, Clifford strips back the public image to get to the messed-up human within. As the new woman-only authority attempts to court the youth vote as well as their weaker male contemporaries, She is in pieces over her estranged activist daughter. While older members of the House are haunted by ghosts, Andrew Cameron's Mr Fox unwinds by exploring the limits of real f…

Andrew Dallmeyer - Obituary

Andrew Dallmeyer – Playwright, actor, director

Born St Boswell's, January 10 1945; died May 21, Edinburgh


Andrew Dallmeyer, who has died aged 72 following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease, was a fiercely individual artist. This was the case both as a writer of an estimated 78 plays, many of which remain unpublished, or as an actor, whose expressive facial tics and looming physicality made him a natural for the range of grotesques and downbeat absurdists he specialised in. This was mirrored in his writing, which similarly set him beyond the mainstream as a seemingly wilful and at times eccentric outsider.

This was the case whether playing the title role in the original 1980s production of Liz Lochhead's Scots version of Moliere's play, Tartuffe, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, or writing about kindred spirits including Salvador Dali in his play, Hello Dali (1982), and Thomas de Quincey in Opium Eater (1984). The latter went on to win a BAFTA Scotland for its ra…

David Martin - Hidden Door at Leith Theatre

When Leith Theatre opens its doors as this year's home of the Hidden Door arts festival today, festival director David Martin believes it will be twenty-five years to the day since anyone last performed here. This was only discovered by accident when sound artist Dave House was researching a new work designed to mark what he calls the venue's 'melancholy-yet-beautiful state of disrepair'. Working in situ, House will use field recordings and environmental sound in an attempt to evoke the past, present and future of the building for a piece that will run throughout Hidden Door's ten-day duration.

Some of these sounds might well emanate from what happened two days into the festival get-in, when volunteers gutting the main hall discovered what lay beyond the black drapes and what turned out to be a false black proscenium arch. Once this was ripped away, it revealed a far more ornate surround that came complete with a crest at its the centre.

This is just one of the d…

Glory on Earth

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When an eighteen year old girl sweeps into town with the world seemingly at her feet, the only opposition she faces is from a middle-aged white man who enjoys laying down the law. Plus ca change, it seems, ever since Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to square up to John Knox over a series of meetings that took place in Edinburgh between 1561 and 1563.
Linda McLean's new play imagines these showdowns through the prism of Rona Morison's fiercely intelligent Mary, a dancing queen who isn't afraid to put her head on the block. Backing her up in David Greig's swish and suitably chic looking production are a fabulous entourage of six other Marys, who shimmy alongside the teen queen like a 1960s girl group. More than a mere chorus, they become different facets of Mary's inner self, giving her strength as she goes. By contrast, Jamie Sives' Knox is a mansplaining absolutist resembling the most rabid of internet trolls.

As McL…

Emma Rice - Tristan and Yseult

The last time Emma Rice spoke to the Herald was in 2015, when she was overseeing a tour of her audacious staging of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca, with the Cornwall-based Kneehigh theatre company. While she was then artistic director of Kneehigh, with whom she had begun her theatre career as an actress, her appointment as incoming director of Shakespeare's Globe had recently been announced. As successor to Dominic Dromgoole, hopes for Rice's tenure, which she took up at the beginning of 2016, were high.

Less than two years on, and with a touring revival of Rice's Kneehigh production of mediaeval romance Tristan and Yseult arriving at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow next week, Rice has already announced that she will be leaving the Globe in spring 2018. That announcement came after Rice had only been in post for a few months, and followed concerns from the theatre's board regarding some of her artistic choices. This appeared to be in relation to her introduct…

Music is Torture

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

Poor Jake. One minute he and his band, Test Card, are the in sound of 1998, the next he's playing a shaker on a Belle and Sebastian B-side and doing a dog food commercial. For the last fifteen years he's been stuck in the Sisyphean hell of his similarly past-its-sell-by-date recording studio, working on an endlessly unfinished album by a band called Dawnings, who are stuck in a sound booth repeating themselves ad nauseum. When Jake's waster hanger-on Nick uploads a long-lost slice of brain-pummelling techno called Kill Them All, Jake looks set to make the big time for all the wrong reasons.
Louise Quinn's knowing piece of gig theatre puts a novel twist on an all too familiar rock and roll take on Faustian self-destruction. In Quinn's world, brought to claustrophobic life in Ben Harrison's increasingly fantastical production, it isn't the star chasing band who sell their souls to the devil, but the lowly sound engineer looki…

Steven Claydon - The Archipelago of Contented Peoples: Endurance Groups

The Common Guild, Glasgow until July 9
Three stars

All that glitters is not necessarily gold in this first solo show in Scotland by Steven Claydon, a former member of avant-electro sleaze merchants Add N to (X), and a more recent shortlistee for the 2016 Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Here, Claydon's new (or are they?) constructions question notions of authenticity and value, be it through a shrine to dead teeth, a similarly worshipful array of multi-coloured gas canisters, or numerous subversions of ethnographic fetishism which illustrate what Claydon calls 'cultural cannibalism'.

Chain-store 'African' heads devour gold-painted packets of pills, as if sanctioned by private medicine millionaires who would hike up the prices of life saving drugs by a thousand per cent. Shredded bank notes - a much more efficient way of dealing with money to burn - are framed as a dappled decorative back-drop. Crocodiles grow out of carved canoes, saved from some biblical flood. All t…

Jane Eyre

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

From the moment she comes bawling into life at the opening of director Sally Cookson's delirious staging of Charlotte Bronte's taboo-busting novel, the adventures keep on coming for its eponymous heroine. On designer Michael Vale's set of wooden platforms and catwalks, Nadia Clifford's furious Jane is shunted from pillar to post in a show as restless in its execution as Jane's own journey. Her brutalised childhood as an orphan hungry for knowledge is illustrated by a cast of nine, who morph from bullying family members to religiously oppressed pupils of the school where Jane is exposed to even more of life's cruelties.
Mirrors are held up en masse so Jane can confront herself inbetween attending to her inner voices that drive her onwards. As she grows into a still wilful young woman, her self-protective shell gives way under Rochester's mercurial influence, until at the end of act one she crumbles into a defeated heap,…

Jo Clifford - War in America

When Jo Clifford's play, War in America, opens at the former Royal High School in Edinburgh in just over a week's time, the scenario it depicts might seem worryingly familiar. Clifford, after all, has imagined a world whereby America is in turmoil, while the unelected female leader of a European power is taking her country to the brink of disaster. Meanwhile, in the real world, the post Trump, post Brexit landscape becomes increasingly dramatic by the day.
Given such a back-drop, one could be forgiven for presuming that Clifford had knocked out such a contemporary-sounding state of the nations saga in response to recent events. In fact, Clifford wrote War in America in 1996 as one of a mooted five play series that fused the personal and the political. In hindsight, the play could either be considered out of step with the time it was written in, or elsew a prophecy of things to come.

“You couldn't make it up,” says Clifford, on the morning of the latest eruption from the …

Rachel Maclean – Spite Your Face

When Rachel Maclean was chosen to represent Scotland at this year's Venice Biennale, the world appeared to have just been turned upside down, and not in a good way. As so-called fake news dominated the discourse of a post-Brexit world in which promises were broken pretty much immediately by the pro-Leavers, the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President appeared to have been countenanced by misinformation on a grand scale. The liberal fairytale, it seemed, had turned into a nightmare.

The result of this for Maclean following a ten-day script-writing session in Venice last December is Spite Your Face: A Dark Venetian Fairytale. This new thirty-minute film was commissioned and curated by the Scottish Borders based Alchemy Film and Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh.

Maclean's recognisable tropes drawn from the pop cultural ephemera of girls magazines, MTV videos by the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Disney films and computer games h…

Polygraphs

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow until September 17th

Fake News alert. All is not what it seems in this group show that questions the con trick of authenticity through a series of appropriations of history as modern myth-making. Taking Hito Steyerl's seven-minute film, Abstract (2012), as its centre-piece, a much bigger picture is revealed by the show's seventeen artists, who explore notions of colonialism, slavery, the arms trade and identity politics. This in turn subverts received hand-me-down narratives dressed up as truth.

In this respect, Polygraphs questions the show's own existence within the context it sets down for itself and GOMA's perceived complicity in the yarns it spins even as it critiques them. A polygraph, after all, is a lie detector, that pulse-racing gizmo beloved of pulp crime thrillers and daytime TV quiz shows, and itself questionable in terms of reliability.

From Peter Kennard's subversion of Constable with his now classic anti-nuclear mon…

Sally Cookson – Reimagining Jane Eyre

“It's a girl!” These are the first words uttered in Sally Cookson's audacious staging of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's taboo-busting 1847 novel concerning the book's eponymous heroine's journey from headstrong orphan to an independent woman living and loving on her own terms. Those words may not be lifted from Bronte's story, but in a production that uses music, movement and theatrical spectacle as key tools in telling a similarly multi-faceted story, the words bring Jane kicking and screaming into the world with a sense of purpose that suggests that, while her sex is important in everything she does, she is much more besides.

“Jane Eyre was a story I'd been interested in turning into a piece of theatre for a long time,” says Cookson,who first created the play in 2014. “When I first read Bronte's novel as a young woman in my twenties, I was struck by the power of this woman who knew what she needed to do to have a satisfying life, be that physically or …

Daphne Oram's Wonderful World of Sound

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars


It was a ghost in the machine, it seems, who inspired an already curious Daphne Oram to pursue her fascination with electronically generated sounds. The most famous result of the seance held by the Wiltshire teenager's parents was Oram's key role in the founding of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. As Paul Brotherston and Isobel McArthur's restlessly engaging dramatic portrait of Oram makes clear in words and music, however, Oram was much more than that.

On a stage peopled with pukka post-war sorts, McArthur's Daphne takes the microphone to address the audience in immaculate cut-glass tones. As her amplified words are distorted, it becomes the perfect illustration of how Oram's pioneering experimental compositions were by turns mocked, sidelined and airbrushed away by a patriarchal BBC.

This is played out by a wonderfully engaging McArthur and the four male actors who pivot around her central presence with a cartoon-like playful…

Anneke Kampman - Daphne Oram's Wonderful World of Sound / Kathryn Joseph - Room / Louise Quinn - Music is Torture

Daphne Oram spent less than a year working as studio manager with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the body she co-founded in 1958 after persuading the BBC to invest in experiments with electronic sound and music concrete. By that time, Oram had already composed the sine-wave based score for the 1957 radio production of Jean Giraudoux's play, Amphitryon 38, which was the first piece of electronic music to be commissioned by the company. The same year, Oram worked on the debut recording of Samuel Beckett's radio play, All That Fall, which led directly to the setting up of the Workshop.

Having begun her career at the BBC as a junior studio engineer in 1942, Oram's abrupt departure nevertheless paved the way for the likes of Delia Derbyshire, who had a major hand in creating the original theme music to Dr Who. Beyond her extensive exploratory work with something she dubbed Oramics, Oram's relationship with drama continued after she left the BBC in TV, film and theatre, as …

The 306: Day

Station Hotel, Perth
Four stars

Outside the grand entrance to the Station Hotel, a row of ten women stand in silence. Some hold wooden placards, which are tellingly blank and slogan free. As welcoming committees go, it's a powerful pre-cursor to the second part of Oliver Emanuel's 306 trilogy of plays, designed to open up the largely hidden history based around the 306 British soldiers executed for cowardice during World War One.
Where the first part focused on the men themselves, this follow-up looks at the lives of the women left behind and forced to fight battles of their own. Where Gertrude struggles to survive once her husband is killed by the state, Mrs Byers waits in vain for a letter from her son, also a victim of the government. Mrs Byers' daughter Nellie is a munitions factory firebrand, whose husband is in prison for being a conscientious objector, but who won't be silenced, whatever the cost.

Jemima Levick's production is a beautifully conceived constru…

Travels With My Aunt

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Don't be fooled by the stage's resemblance to a railway station waiting room in a particularly sleepy suburban hamlet at the opening of Phillip Breen's new staging of Graham Greene's 1969 novel. As the book's adaptor and former Citz co-artistic director Giles Havergal has proven countless times since it was first seen in the same auditorium almost three decades ago, what follows is the most deceptively subversive dissection of society's mores you're likely to see.
In a post-Brexit climate, where free movement is being curtailed and fought-for liberties stripped away, Greene's tale of how retired bank manager Henry Pulling is enlightened into new life by his free-thinking Aunt Augusta is also a darkly prescient if still frothy affair. With Havergal's ingenious conceit of having the text split between four men in suits, Breen's quartet look here somewhere between a surrealist's convention and a cosplay t…

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
Four stars

It is somehow fitting that Rapture Theatre's touring revival of Edward Albee's explosive 1962 play opens within the grounds of a university campus. George and Martha, the warring couple at the play's heart, after all, live within an old-school academic bubble in which they have to make their own amusement. Over the three and three quarter hours that follow in Michael Emans' production, the games they play almost destroy them, even as they're all that helps them to survive.
What is immediately striking as soon as Sara Stewart's blousy Martha and Robin Kingsland's George stumble through their front door is that, beyond the sparring, there is a deep-rooted affection between them. Kingsland plays George with an effete waspishness rising above his crushed intellect, so you get a glimpse of what Martha saw in him before disappointment set in. For all Martha's attention-seeking fury, in Sara Stewart's mercurial …

Running Wild

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Ever since War Horse stole the world's heart, another staging of one of Michael Morpurgo's deeply moral novels was inevitable. Stand up Samuel Adamson's adaptation of the author's 2009 work for young people, which starts off in a London park, where nine year old Lilly remembers spotting wild birds with her football crazy dad. Little does she know she will end up being saved from a tsunami in the wilds of Indonesia by a flatulent elephant called Oona. Somewhere along the way we learn that Lilly's dad was a casualty of the Iraq war, while the hunters who stalk the jungle are as likely to take pot-shots at her as an orangutan named after footballer Frank Lampard.
In an expansive staging by co-directors Timothy Sheader and Dale Rooks, both Lilly and Oona are caught in the crossfire of these money-obsessed predators, as their destruction of the natural world is exposed. Beyond such an eco-friendly triumph of right over might,…

Andrew Wasylyk – Themes for Buildings and Spaces (Tape Club Records)

Dundee, as everyone knows, is on the up. With much of central Dundee having been flattened and turned into a series of building sites over the last couple of years, and with developments such as the forthcoming V&A design museum looming at the dock-side, Tayside's would be European Capital of Culture 2023 is in the throes of reinvention.

In response, Dundee-born Andrew Wasylyk takes a wander around his home town in the form of eight impressionistic instrumentals that create a wistful psycho-graphic portrait of a time and place caught somewhere between past, present and future. Such a line of inquiry is a far cry from Mitchell's tenure as front-person of country-tinged alt-pop outfit the Hazey Janes. His stint as bassist with a rejuvenated Idlewild too is not obvious grounding for such a leap. Mitchell has previous form with atmospheric ambience, however, by way of the dreamy electro space pop of Art of Memory Palace, the duo he formed with Raz Ullah to record the 2015 Th…