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Showing posts from July, 2017

Picture This – Snapshots of Edinburgh's Photographic History

In 1843, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson stumbled on a working partnership which began when painter Hill asked the younger Adamson to take a picture of more than 400 renegade clergymen from the newly formed Free Church of Scotland. Little did they realise that by documenting such a key moment of Edinburgh life in such a new-fangled fashion, they were kick-starting a revolution of their own. Photography had only been invented four years before, but the pioneering collaboration forged by the pair paved the way for what would become one of the major artforms of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The result of the partnership can be seen in A Perfect Chemistry, the first major showing of Hill and Adamson's work in fifteen years, which is currently on show in the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery, situated in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh as part of Edinburgh Art Festival. The fact that the duo's array of social documentary studies of Ne…

The Ruling Class

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

When an institutionalised posh boy with mental health issues and a messiah complex the size of his family's mansion inherits his father's title, the old school way of doing things appear to be in ruins. Given that young Jack's ascension comes as a result of an unfortunate incident during a bout of auto-asphyxiation, his apparent madness is just one more skeleton in the familial closet. What follows in John Durnin's rare revival of Peter Barnes' 1968 satire is a piece of madcap classicism which, while clearly a product of its time, points up how little has changed in a world of back-scratching toffs.
At first, Jack Wharrier's mercurial Jack is a voguish hippy, flirting with notions of peace, love and spiritual enlightenment in a way that sees him mounted on a cross in a statement of his own self-deified glory. Increasingly absurdist lurches of style involving references to Richard III, Victorian pot-boilers and music hall …

Adventures En Route to A Jazz Education – How Larry Stabbins Changed My World

My first experience of live jazz was at the Philharmonic Pub in Liverpool.

The Phil, as it was known, was and still is situated on the corner of Hope Street and Hardman Street, diagonally across the road from the Philharmonic Concert Hall and a stone's throw from what was then Liverpool College of Art. This was where John Lennon learnt to rock and roll, while next door to the Hall, the Everyman Theatre was making waves in regional theatre.
Among the red brick Georgian terraces of Hope Street in an era where the pubs shut at half past ten, there also lurked various basement clubs, like the Casablanca, where actors, poets and bands hung out once they'd come off stage or done a gig.

This was Liverpool bohemia writ large.
The Phil, or the Philharmonic Dining Rooms to give it its formal name, was built between 1898 and 1900, said by some local legends to have been at the behest of a local millionaire wanting somewhere to house his actress mistress. It consists of a large bar in a &…

Meow Meow - The Little Mermaid

“The sky is opening up!” says Meow Meow down the line from Australia, where she's just waking up to the sunniest of mornings. The avant cabaret chanteuse, dancer, performance artiste and Edinburgh regular has just been talking about how she feels after coming offstage from her multi media cabaret version of The Little Mermaid, which plays Edinburgh International Festival's late night slot at the Hub this year. She's been talking about feeling part of a higher universe, and the magic of that, all the while looking out of the window as she talks. Her sudden exclamation isn't her being melodramatic, however. Rather, real life has interrupted her reveries in a very fantastical form.

“It's a hot air balloon,” she says as she watches it float through the clear blue sky and past her window. While even she couldn't have planned such an appearance, the drama of it is perfect. “It's as if it's been summonsed from the wings,” she beams.

Meow Meow's Little Me…

WHIST

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Freudian slips are showing all over the place in this new melding of physical theatre and virtual reality, played out in the top floor foyer of the Festival Theatre by Ashford based dance company, AOE. With the room adorned with a series of geometric sculptures, the audience are kitted out with a VR headset. This advises the wearer to stand over an approximation of a wormhole before signalling them to move to one or another of the sculptures in turn. Once here, the viewer is thrust into the centre of a 360 degree filmed dream sequence which, dependent on your reactions, takes you on one of 76 possible journeys drawn from Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams.
Over the next fifty minutes, this dreamer had his internal urges exposed by way of a series of films involving assorted mini psycho-dramas. Backdrops included a dinner party, a library and a very Ibsenesque birdcage. Others will have had a completely different experience.

Co-pro…

Peter Principle obituary

Peter Principle

Born 1954; died July 17, 2017

Peter Principle, who has died suddenly in Brussels aged 63, was the rhythmic pulse of Tuxedomoon, the San Francisco sired electronic avant classical ensemble he joined in 1979, forming the core of the group with saxophonist Steven Brown and violinist Blaine L Reininger. This was the case throughout a wilfully singular anti-career involving various exiles and hiatuses. Alongside fellow collaborators in video and performance, the trio constructed a back catalogue of nouveau primitive punk modernist cabaret that sound-tracked the ruins of an imagined Europe's past, present and futures. When Tuxedomoon played their first ever concert in Scotland in 2016 as part of a tour that saw them recreate their 1980 Half-Mute album in full, the choice of Edinburgh's multi-arts space Summerhall sat perfectly with the group's underground experimental aesthetic.

Such sensibilities were evident too on Principle's four solo albums, which fus…

Martin Creed - Words and Music

Life is up and down for Martin Creed. The most tangible manifestations of the Turner Prize winner's seemingly structured world-view can be seen in his public restoration of the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh in 104 different types of marble. It's there too just across the road from the Steps in the lift of the Fruitmarket Gallery, who commissioned the restoration. In 2010, the gallery showed Down Over Up, an exhibition in which the gallery stairs were transformed into a synthesiser, with each step playing a different musical note. The lift did something similar, as a whooshing chorale moved up and down the scale depending on which way you were going.

Creed released albums of spindly minimalist ditties whose words went back and forth as they reduced an idea to its bare bones. He did something similar with ballet when he appeared alongside dancers from Sadlers Wells, who performed the most basic of steps. The programme also featured Creed singing songs and screening films featurin…

Richard Findlay obituary

Born November 5 1943; died July 8 2017.

Richard Findlay, who has died after a short illness aged 73, was a rare breed in the boardrooms of the numerous arts organisations he chaired. Unlike some of the familiar merry go round of Scottish establishment patricians looking to up their status by taking on such a role, Findlay cared deeply about the arts. This was the case whether as the inaugural chair of the newly set up National Theatre of Scotland in 2003, or stepping in to steer Creative Scotland out of a mess of the organisation's own making in 2015. The latter followed a period when Scotland's arts funding body had become mired in a culture of managerialism that lost the faith of the artistic community the organisation was there to serve. Such a culture was counter to everything that Findlay stood for.

As an actor, Findlay played small parts in several TV dramas. It was behind the scenes in broadcast media where Findlay would excel, however, particularly in local radio, where…