Skip to main content

The Dark Carnival: Unplugged

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles
Four stars

It’s very much a case of better the devil you know in the Vanishing Point company’s stripped-down touring version of their hit piece of theatrical gothic. While there might just be storytelling MC Robert Jack and crooning composer Biff Smith onstage compared to the coffin-load of sixteen actor/musicians who graced the original, the beyond the grave stories and songs remain the same.

As the audience enter the twilight zone for the restless dead as if on a guided tour of what lies beneath the earth, Jack and Smith lead us through a series of chronicles of deaths foretold. Each are laid bare in Nikki Kalkman and Matthew Lenton’s infinitely portable production with the knowing foreboding of master storytellers. Think Edgar Allan Poe hosting Jackanory. Each yarn is illustrated with a series of sepia-tinted photographs that sit astride the coffin of Kenneth MacLeod’s funeral parlour set as they might do in similar memoriam on a living room mantlepiece. From such mementoes, a series of lost souls are immortalised in anecdote and image.

There is bonhomie and gallows humour aplenty at play here in these tales from the crypt. Whisky handed out and spectral singalongs are encouraged, though anyone inadvertently breaking the spell should beware, as they will be singled out and dealt with by way of a withering remark delivered with elegance and charm.

Without the ornate baroque arrangements of his band A New International to accompany him, Smith’s songs are revealed as a form of acoustic subterranean chansons, while the interplay between him and Jack gives the pair the air of a seasoned double act. While the full version of The Dark Carnival is to be cherished in all its grandiloquent glory, this pocket-sized reimagining conjures up a cabaret-styled sprite of a show, which, given the ghost of a chance, suggests it might yet have a long life to come.

The Herald, May 20th 2019

ends



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Edinburgh Rocks – The Capital's Music Scene in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Edinburgh has always been a vintage city. Yet, for youngsters growing up in the shadow of World War Two as well as a pervading air of tight-lipped Calvinism, they were dreich times indeed. The founding of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and the subsequent Fringe it spawned may have livened up the city for a couple of weeks in August as long as you were fans of theatre, opera and classical music, but the pubs still shut early, and on Sundays weren't open at all. But Edinburgh too has always had a flipside beyond such official channels, and, in a twitch-hipped expression of the sort of cultural duality Robert Louis Stevenson recognised in his novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a vibrant dance-hall scene grew up across the city. Audiences flocked to emporiums such as the Cavendish in Tollcross, the Eldorado in Leith, The Plaza in Morningside and, most glamorous of all due to its revolving stage, the Palais in Fountainbridge. Here the likes of Joe Loss and Ted Heath broug