Skip to main content

Where Are We Now? #1 - Young Fathers / Charlotte Church's Late Night Pop Dungeon / Linton Kwesi Johnson / Hollie McNish

City Hall, Hull
Five stars

'Writing was a political act' goes the legend projected on the back wall of Hull City Hall, 'and poetry was a cultural weapon'. These are the words of Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of four artists performing tonight, but his mantra may as well be the slogan for Neu! Reekie!, the Edinburgh sired spoken word, music and film night which has taken the capital's underground out into the world.

Neu! Reekie'!'s weekend long Where Are We Now? festival that formed part of Hull City of Culture 2017 was a gathering of the counter-cultural clans. With its name taken from David Bowie's piece of late period melancholia and a poster designed by Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, the aim of Where Are We Now? was to celebrate oppositional art as much as provoke.

Poet Hollie McNish performed a witty and street smart set that covered sex, motherhood and the everyday bigotry of her granny's next door neighbour. Johnson, now as much historian as poet, delivered a wise litany that reflected decade on decade of institutionalised racism.

Charlotte Church has become the people's diva, and her Late Night Pop Dungeon is a thing of joy, as Church and her eight-piece band became a living jukebox of poptastic classics. Closing the night, Young Fathers invited us to join them in an imaginary country where everyone is welcome. Their set that follows is a thundering musical soup of martial drums, urgent crosstalk and some of the sweetest singing this side of Marvin Gaye. This magnificent hybrid is inclusive, anthemic and triumphal, and is exactly where we should be now.

The Herald, June 5th 2017



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …