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Showing posts from 2011

The Wedding Present - David Gedge Hitches Up Once More

David Gedge doesn't reckon much to New Year's Eve. As the voice, lyricist and driving force behind Leeds-born indie-rock Luddites The Wedding Present for more than a quarter of a century, such a seemingly curmudgeonly sentiment shouldn't come as a surprise. Despite this, the now California domiciled frontman of what are arguably the ultimate John Peel band has took it upon himself to come back to rainy, chilly and possibly snowy Britain for the seasonally named Seeing Out 2011 With The Wedding Present three-date mini-tour. The first of these shows will take place tonight at The Garage in Glasgow before moving on for a homecoming show in Leeds tomorrow, then finishing up in an undoubtedly lively London on New Year's Eve itself. All of which seems a somewhat contrary cause for celebration. “I've always been a bit disappointed by New Year,” Gedge mourns. “Even as a kid I never liked it. It's over-produced, it's expensive, and there's too many people aro

Matthew Zajac - A Scotsman in Sweden

When Matthew Zajac was cast in a new play set to tour Sweden, Finland and beyond, he had to learn a brand new language. Because the recent tour of Hohaj, adapted from Swedish writer Elisabeth Rynell's novel by Ellenor Lindgren, was not only set in an imaginary town in the far north of Sweden. As produced by the Vasterbottensteatern repertory theatre based in the town of Skelleftea, Hohaj might have seen Zajac play an incoming drifter, but the play was nevertheless written and subsequently needed to be performed in Swedish. “They can understand what I'm saying,” Zajac jokes. “It was an interesting challenge, having to learn a new language so quickly, but fortunately they have seven or eight week rehearsal periods, which I would say is too long compared to the two to three weeks we have here, which is two short. But I actually needed those seven or eight weeks. It's funny, because I don't really think the language itself is that difficult. There are other l

Strathclyde Theatre Group - Surviving The Ramshorn

When the University of Strathclyde made swingeing budget cuts earlier this year, as is too often the case, it was the arts that suffered. While the university faculty set its sights on becoming a technology and innovation centre on a par with some American institutions, both the Collins Gallery and the Ramshorn Theatre have been forced to close their doors once the plug was unceremoniously pulled. This despite the fact that both venues arguably had the biggest public profile of any centres within the university. As home to Strathclyde Theatre Group for the last twenty years, The Ramshorn in particular connected with a world way beyond academe. Yet, while a separate operation to the Ramshorn under the long term care of artistic director and head of the drama department Susan S Triesman and equally hands-on administrator Sylvia Jamieson, STG looked to have reached its own end following the Ramshorn's closure. With Jamieson and Triesman now retired, rather than shut u

2011 Round-Up - The Best Theatre of The Year in Scotland

Many theatre companies are currently in an extended limbo until chief funders Creative Scotland finally decide their fate after what must seem like an eternal wait. As 2011 has proven again and again, however, great art – a word not used much these days – will out despite such an on-going silence. In a year which has seen a merry-go-round of artistic directorships at Perth, the Citizens and Traverse theatres, cross-company collaboration has seemingly been one solution to being able to put on big work in cash-strapped times. If one show illustrated all of the above, it was Age of Arousal, Stellar Quines’s magical-realist whirlwind co-produced by the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh right at the start of the year. Muriel Romanes’ reimagining of Quebecois writer Linda Griffiths’ play was a wildly skew-whiff Victorian costume romp that was by turns sexy, radical, witty and wise in a magnificent fusion of word and deed that seemed to posit a brand new theatrical language. Adventurou

What Presence? - The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos

Street Level, Glasgow, December 17th 2011- February 2th 2012 5 stars Harry Papadopoulos is the great unsung documenter of post-punk, who, between 1978 and 1984, captured a crucial era in pop history in all its geeky glory. Having started out taking snaps for Bobby Bluebell’s fanzine, The Ten Commandments, and orbiting around Postcard Records’ extended family of jangular mavericks who would go on to define themselves as The Sound of Young Scotland, Papadopoulos became a staff photographer on music paper Sounds. Where contemporaries on NME such as Anton Corbijn and Kevin Cummins have been rightly lionised for their work, Papadopoulos’ canon has been all but airbrushed from history. The significance of this major excavation of a huge body of work, then, cannot be understated. With more than three hundred images on show, the fertile Scot-pop scene inevitably dominates. A gangly and giggly Orange Juice era Edwyn Collins skates on thin ice. Josef K vocalist Paul Haig poses li

Andrew Kerr – So Ensconced

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh November 12th 2011-January 22nd 2012 3 stars Absence makes the heart grow fonder in Andrew Kerr’s first major solo show in Scotland. Almost seventy new paintings discreetly dominate both floors, only interrupted by the odd smattering of drawings or sculptural intervention. Most of the mainly sketchbook-sized works are urgent Zen abstractions awash with counterpointing colours that swoosh into vivid life as if racing to catch a moment before it disappears. Some look like splodged-in blueprints for flags of imaginary countries. Others are rich with implied veldts and blurred deltas, a jungle drum soundtrack the only thing missing along with the blank corners where the works were pinned down while being made. Occasionally more tangible shapes squint through the heat-haze; an alligator here; a motor in motion there. The nails embedded in a small arc of wood give it a sad-eyed cartoonish feel. The bone-like structure dividi

Tracer Trails At Christmas - An End of Term Report For The Best DIY Promoters in Scotland

When the third edition of the Retreat! Festival was awarded a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel award in 2010, it was vindication for a network of independent music promoters who had grown out of what we now must call a post-Fence Collective climate. Chief of these was Tracer Trails, a solo operation run by one Emily Roff, who for the last half-decade has effectively changed the live musical landscape in Edinburgh, and, with like-minded partners in tow, looks set to do something similar in Glasgow. This year alone, Tracer Trails has put on twenty-one shows featuring a total of seventy artists playing in a variety of carefully chosen venues that have included church halls, working mens clubs and community centres. Tracer Trails also ran two festivals, the fourth Retreat! In Edinburgh, and the new Music Is The Music Language weekend in Glasgow. As if this wasn't enough, Roff initiated the Archive Trails project, in which Alasdair Roberts, Aileen Campbell and Drew Wright,

The Tom McGrath Trust Maverick Awards - A Playwright's Legacy

When playwright Douglas Maxwell first heard his mentor, the late Tom McGrath use the phrase “writers like us,” it was the first real acknowledgement of him as a serious artist that McGrath had received. McGrath, then Associate Literary Director for Scotland and based at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre with a brief to nurture younger playwrights, sealed the deal a cheque for 75GBP. As small an amount as it was, this money allowed Maxwell a small amount of time and space to develop his craft while also giving him the sort of personal confidence his first ever professional fee made possible. The now hugely successful author of Decky Does A Bronco, If Destroyed True and Our Bad Magnet related this tale at the launch of the Tom McGrath Trust Maverick Awards in October of this year. A low-key and informal breakfast affair, the newly constituted awards ceremony stayed true the more holistically understated if creatively all-encompassing creative vision of McGrath. This was

The King and I

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars If Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerrstein's much-loved 1951 musical were to be pitched as a new work today, chances are it would be knocked back at every turn. Devising a show about an eastern despot with a dodgy human rights record and a fondness for American presidents who is enlightened and educated by a prim English school-teacher, after all, hardly sounds like the sort of feelgood fare to keep the nation's post-war pecker up. Slavery, misogyny, bullying, spying and brutality are all in the mix, and if there's anything happy about the ending, it's that the King's death is for a more universal good. Yet even at a Saturday afternoon preview performance of the newly constituted Music and Lyrics consortium's touring restaging of Paul Kerryson's original production for The Curve, Leicester, its eye-poppingly clear just how inspired a yarn this is. The songs and story are intact, with Ramon Tikaram and Josefi

Martin Boyce - Turner Prize Winner 2011

Unlike his work, Martin Boyce doesn't appear to have any angles. Two days before scooping the 2011 Turner Prize for 'A Library of Leaves', his 2010 show at the Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, the Hamilton-born, Glasgow School of Art trained maker of desolate and often decimated imaginary futurescapes sounds quietly relaxed about the forthcoming bunfight. “Everything's done and dusted, really,” a chirpy-sounding Boyce says of 'Do Words Have Voices', an impressionistic imagining of a park in autumn that forms his contribution to the Turner show at the Baltic, Newcastle. “I'm just polishing my shoes and pressing my socks.” The last two years has seen Boyce's cache rise with a series of elaborately wide-open constructions clearly drawn from the same parallel universe as both these exhibitions. Boyce represented Scotland at the 2009 Venice Bienale with 'No Reflections', presented by Dundee Contemporary Arts. This year's Modern In

What Presence! - The Sound of Young Scotland Rediscovered in Harry Papadopoulos' Post-Punk Photography

Imagine Orange Juice era Edwyn Collins skating on thin ice in a pictorial homage to Sir Henry Raeburn's painting, The Skating Minister. Or a pre chart success Associates singer Billy Mackenzie tying up his shoe-lace like a cherubic choir-boy and wearing what looks like a school jumper. How about future Creation Records maestro Alan McGee sporting a full head of hair with his first band The Laughing Apple? A tweed-clad Aztec Camera looking like landed gentry fashion models as they suck ostentatiously on pipes? All these images and more can be seen in What Presence! a long overdue exhibition of photographs by Harry Papadopoulos that opens at Glasgow’s Street Level gallery this weekend. As can too a pixie-like Claire Grogan of Altered Images, Subway Sect’s Vic Godard in full-on crooner mode, Stephen Pastel inventing C 86, Fay Fife getting gobby in The Rezillos, Scars, Strawberry Switchblade, Nick Cave in The Birthday Party, Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof in a Santa suit and S

The King and I - A New Consortium

Ramon Tikaram is in a bit of a daze. The actor who first came to prominence in 1990s generation-defining TV drama This Life has been doing the polka all week as part of his preparation for the title role in a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, the King and I, and, at the end of the day in an Edinburgh sports hall all cosied up in beanie and big jumper, is worn out. This is all a long way from Albert Square, where Tikaram was recently filming his latest stint as Amira Shah in BBC soap, East Enders. Then there was a recent jaunt to Morocco to play a Taliban commander in a new film about kidnapped Channel Four reporter Sean Langan. It's been eight years since Tikaram did a musical, when he appeared in Bollywood Dreams. Where that show was effectively a large-scale ensemble piece, The King and I is a virtual two-hander between Tikaram and his co-star, regular West End leading lady Josefina Gabrielle But Tikaram isn't the only one involved in Th

The Tree of Knowledge

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars Enlightenment comes in many forms in Jo Clifford's parable-like fantasia, in which David Hume and Adam Smith wake up in the twenty-first century, where the results of their philosophies are in freefall. Their world in Ben Harrison's wide-open production is designer Ali Maclaurin's brutalist breezeblock rotunda on which blueprints for assorted tomorrows are projected, artless and without centre. Their guide is a working-class woman from Fife called Eve, who, arguably like all of us, began life with a false sense of optimism for a future that never quite became the brave new world it was supposed to. As Smith painfully discovers when he embraces new social freedoms with the zeal of a convert, in a corupted free market economy, even sex is flogged off on the cheap, cold and loveless as it goes. Gerry Mulgrew's Hume and Neil McKinven's Smith first come to life on comfy chairs, as if beamed down to some celestial salon

National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Bill Wells Gets Busy

The National Jazz Trio of Scotland has never really been a trio. Nor has Bill Wells’ cheekily-monickered combo ever played jazz in the conventional sense. With a first album of original material, the waggishly christened Standards Volume Two, imminent, Wells and his reconvened NJT play DIY promoters Tracer Trails Christmas shindig to showcase a more vocal-based direction care of Golden Grrrls singer Lorna Gilfeather and Findo Gask/Francois and the Atlas Mountains vocalist Gerard Black. “It started off as one thing and became something else,” Wells says of the NJT’s metamorphosis. “There’s never any definite idea of what we’re doing, and it becomes what it becomes.” With his high-profile collaboration with Aidan Moffat ongoing, the Tracer Trails bill will also feature Pianotapes, Wells’ collaboration with Stefan Schneider of German electronicists To Rococco Rot, and Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson, who Wells may also end up playing with. Wells’ prolific


Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh November 19th 2011-February 18th 2012 4 stars “Beauty,” according to that man David Hume, whose tercentenary year is almost up, “is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” So it goes in this bumper grab-bag of some fifty-odd works, each subjectively selected by a far-reaching network of artists, curators, movers, shakers and other organisers who populate Scotland’s fecund visual landscape. Their brief, as with Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, is to do it beautifully. The result is a gloriously disparate jumbled-up wonderland of art for art’s sake that’s a joy to wander through. Classicism and conceptualism rub up against each other, as do the institutions with the DIY pop-up spaces in an all too rare fit of democratic inclusivity in the best sense of both words. Beholder also speaks volumes about taste. So what’s an ugly-bugly portrait in the corner to some will have others in raptures.

Startle Reaction – Torsten Lauschmann

Dundee Contemporary Arts, October 22nd 2011-January 8th 2012 4 stars You don’t immediately notice the quieter, more domestic pieces in Torsten Lauschmann’s biggest box of tricks to date. The subverted digital clock above the DCA box office and the wired-up chandelier that hangs in Gallery One, where two of Lauschmann’s films are looped, aren’t as flashy as the rest of what’s on show. They don’t seek to dazzle and disorientate; they don’t beep or buzz, flash or fade, whirr or whizz like much else on show in Lauschmann’s gently immersive time-sequenced theme-park he hood-winks us into believing in. Yet, for all their functional discretion, these two pieces nevertheless shed light on the big, tangled-up mess of interconnectivity that Startle Reaction is all about. This is clear too in his films. Misshapen Pearl is an impressionistic meditation on the place where natural light morphs into neon. Artifice as well as interconnectivity exists in Skipping Over Damaged Areas, w

Lili Reynaud-Dewar - Blacking Up With Jean Genet

It’s somehow fitting that Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s artist talk and screening of radical author Jean Genet’s explicit 1950 film, Un Chant d’Amour, was postponed last Wednesday night due to the public service workers strike that caused Tramway to be closed. It’s fitting too that another film, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-75, containing hitherto unseen footage of the radical Black Panthers movement’s leading lights, is on a limited release in Scottish cinemas the same week that Reynaud-Dewar’s new performance piece does appear at Tramway for one night only alongside the delayed talk and screening. The political thinking behind Jean Genet’s Walls, Speaking of Revolt, Media and Beauty, after all, is a vital signifier of both its content and influences. This has been the case with much of Reynaud-Dewar’s work since the Paris-based former lawyer and dancer graduated from Glasgow School of Art’s influential Environmental Art course. “I find Genet's political commitments admirab

Fordell Research Unit – The Illusion of Movement (At War With False Noise/Braw Music)

3 stars Following the textured nuances of his Pjorn 72 label’s Songs For Dying compilation, Edinburgh noise auteur Fraser Burnett joins forces with Muscletusk’s Grant Smith for a relentless exercise in metal machine minimalism. On what sounds like four variations on a theme, each piece is drilled through with the same building site/goth night churn that wouldn’t sound out of place in Silence of the Lambs. Such rawness channels the bass backing track of The Gift, Lou Reed’s grisly short story for The Velvet Underground’s hardcore White Light/White Heat album. Put through a blender and spewed into a megaphone, it barely muffles the sound of suffocation. The List, December 2011 ends

The Tree of Knowledge - Jo Clifford's Free Exchange

Adam Smith is having it large. In an out of the way warehouse in Leith, the noted economist and mid-wife of capitalism as we know it has dropped his bunged-up mummy's boy facade and is all hoodied-up following a trawl through what looks to have been the brightest, brashest and most full-on gay bars in town. What's more, Smith is loved-up on a chemically enhanced high, and is opening up to his esteemed colleague, philosopher and man of letters David Hume, like he's never done before. Where the two once got by on dry discourse, in the modern world, at least, an altogether different form of intercourse looks more likely. Or so it goes in rehearsals for The Tree of Knowledge, Jo Clifford's audacious new play which pits these two men of ideas in a present-day limbo. Here they're led like a pair of Scrooges by a twenty-first century everywoman through a hi-tech, free-market wonderland they might just have helped think into being. As actors Neil McKinven a

Lawrence of Belgravia - A Star Is Born

There's a scene in Paul Kelly's new documentary film, Lawrence of Belgravia, in which his subject is seen riding the London Underground. Although the viewer never sees this mysterious character in plain sight, we're given tantalising glimpses of him in odd-angled profiles, mirror-shaded and baseball-capped, like some off-the-leash stall-holder from Camden Market. Or a rock star. While this is being played out, a Birmingham-accented voice-over earnestly relates how desperate he is to be famous, and about how, once he’s living the dream, he'd never use the Underground again, but would be prefer to be driven around in a limousine. Visually, the scene is a tease, vaguely reminiscent of some celebrity game-show in which a panel are asked to identify one of their peers before they burst through a sliding door to rapturous canned applause. The voice-over, on the other hand, sounds more like the cravings of some Big Brother wannabe milking their fifteen minutes