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Showing posts from March, 2011

Staging The Nation

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 5 stars When John Byrne is asked by fellow playwright Chris Hannan about his use of language in his seminal slice of Scots working class tragic-comedy, The Slab Boys, Byrne states how the baroque, pop culture savvy patois that drives the drama came from a hatred of “pedestrian” writing. Byrne singles out mundane lines like ‘What time is it?’ as a particular example of naturalistic banality. Ten minutes later, actresses Charlene Boyd and Julie Duncanson are on the floor acting out a scene from the play between glamourpuss Lucille and tea lady Sadie. In an already hilarious set of exchanges, Duncanson utters the self-same line just dissed by its author, and the packed audience erupts at the gloriously contrary joy of what has just occurred. Subtitled The Traverse, New Writing and How it Changed the World, this first of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Staging The Nation Events gathered together many of the key players who helped sire The Slab Bo

Caged

The room looks like a bombed-out kindergarten, and through an amped-up ipod Joe Jackson is singing something about pretty women out walking with gorillas on his street. The floor is carpeted with piles of upturned books, a paddling pool filled with soil and assorted goblets, buckets and other casual detritus. At the centre of the room inside a circle chalked on the floor is a large banquet table that seems to have been the venue hosting a particularly unruly chimps tea party. The walls are lined with sheets of A4 paper with assorted self-help mantras scrawled on. ‘You cannot change another’, reads one. ‘You can only change yourself. ‘It is good to step into another’s shoes’, declaims another. As the music plays, four people clamber about the room, trying on coats and hats, picking up assorted props, or, in one case, hanging upside down beneath the banquet table. Two of the people, Andy Manley and Ros Sydney, are actors, and such behaviour should probably be expected from

The Phantom Band/FOUND

Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh 4 stars On paper the Phantom Band shouldn’t work. The Glasgow sextet’s unholy stew of Green-era REM guitars, Scots folk balladeering, motorik Krautrock rhythm and Appalachian Americana tugs in so many ways – quite often all in the same song - it should all collapse in on itself in disaster. As their debut album Checkmate Savage and 2010’s follow-up The Wants proved, however, it makes for thrilling listening. Live it’s even better, as is the support from Chemikal Underground labelmates FOUND, the Edinburgh trio who, for their third album, Factorycraft, have stripped down, grown some muscles and let rip where loose-fit post Beta Band stylings used to sit. So fiercely focused is their pot-pourri of electronic squiggles and wigged-out references to Vincent Gallo and Johnny Cash, that vocalist Ziggy Campbell not only breaks a string on his own guitar, but also on the borrowed Phantom Band axe that replaces it. Three of the Phantom Band sport woo

Journey’s End

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars ‘Your Country Needs You’ says the empire-building legend on the stage curtain as an accusatory pre-cursor to David Grindley’s mighty and elegiac production of R.C. Sherriff’s World War One play, which, more than eighty years after it first appeared, seems as tragically pertinent as ever. Set in a British officers dug-out on the eve of the March 1918 German offensive, it’s a bleak and twitchy world we’re led into, that resembles an extension of a public school dormitory, with all the same pecking orders intact. Top of the heap is Stanhope, a once heroic figure whose mercurial nature has been tempered by terror, self-loathing and whisky after three years in charge on the frontline. Into this highly-strung emotional morass comes Raleigh, who hero-worshipped Stanhope at school, and now sees war as some kind of Boys Own romance. The shell-shocked reality, however, is starkly different. Jonathan Fenson’s claustrophobic, candle-lit set looks almo

Marcus Adams: Royal Photographer

The Queen's Gallery, Edinburgh 3 stars The best Royal portrait ever was a line drawing gracing the cover of post-punk zine City Fun in 1981 to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di. A classic image of the happy couple was waggishly reconfigured so the couldn’t-believe-his-luck fruitcake’s hand was stuffed into his doomed fiance’s blouse, groping away like bilio. While something similarly disrespectful should accompany Wills and Kate’s forthcoming nuptials, there’s none of that in this handsomely displayed archive of the definitive Royal snapper, primarily because Adams ditched his subjects once puberty got the better of them. Leaving aside how Adams would probably end up on the sex register today, we take a sepia-tinted tour through the birth of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, through to HRH’s own offspring Charles and Anne, and a subsequent slice of the twentieth century establishment en route. Princesses Liz and Mags seem to lose their sparkle as t

Chris Watson

InSpace, Edinburgh, April 22nd How do you go from being a core member of experimental electronic pioneers Cabaret Voltaire to becoming David Attenburgh and Bill Oddie’s favourite sound recordist, with the odd radio documentary and installation for assorted sonic arts festivals thrown in for good measure? Sheffield-born Touch Records recording artiste Chris Watson doesn’t have an answer for his seemingly wayward career trajectory over the last thirty-odd years, but, on the eve of a trip to Iceland to make a programme for BBC Radio 4 prior to a week-long Edinburgh residency care of Edinburgh International Science Festival in association with left-field music promoters Dialogues, neither does he see much difference between his assorted outlets. “I’m essentially a sound recordist,” Watson enthuses, “and I don’t see any distinction between any of the things I do. Something I might do for TV might end up informing an installation work, but what I get excited by is the release

Claude Cahun / Sue Tompkins

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh until April 17th 4 stars Two female artists bridge the last two centuries in these contrasting but complimentary shows. Cahun’s all-angles black and white photographs on the top floor of the gallery captures the artist’s striking singularity via a series of portraits that look like an early twentieth century pre-punk template for equally studied images by Patti Smith. Downstairs, meanwhile, ex Life Without Buildings chanteuse Tompkins expands her adventures with text-based pieces by utilising safety pins and other accoutrements into her palette. With her text pieces becoming increasingly minimal on paper at least, the opening of Tompkins’ show saw her perform her opus ‘Hallo Welcome To Keith Street’ in full. Reading from a thick swadge of paper scrappily bound in a folder, Tomkins gave a gleeful rendition of what sounds like a very personal set of free-associations, bippetty-boppitying about in front of the gallery’s lift

Somersaults

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars James is a man who left Lewis for London, made a mint on computer games and became a twenty-first century self-made metropolitan man. Now, however, he’s in meltdown. Having quit his job, lost his wife and been declared bankrupt, he attempts to get back to the roots he can barely remember anymore. Old university chums found on Facebook don’t help. James can’t even recall the Gaelic word for somersault, so does them out instead, defining himself by an action where a long-neglected language used to live. This is the rich and complex tapestry behind Iain Finlay Macleod’s new play for the National Theatre of Scotland’s Reveal season, set in a square-shaped and shrouded sandpit where past and present impressionistically rub up against each other as James tries to find himself anew, even as a gimlet-eyed accountant sells off his assets. Vicky Featherstone’s production lets loose a tantalising meditation on the struggle to retain one’s language

Mother Courage and Her Children

Paisley Arts Centre 3 stars Contrary to what some naysayers may think, inclusive theatre between disabled and able-bodied performers is thriving to the extent of barely being able to notice the join. Following hot on the heels of Robert Softley’s Girl X, Birds of Paradise’s Glasgowed-up take on Lee Hall’s chewily modern-sounding translation of Bertolt Brecht’s war-torn epic plays much of it for laughs. So while the action may nominally take place in seventeenth century Poland during the thirty years war, Alison Peebles’ wily and hard-bitten Mother Courage and her brood are gallus enough to suggest they’re manning a stall down at the Barras. The way they stuff their junk in carrier bags from Lidl and swig back Buckfast adds to the effect, as does Johnny Austin’s portrayal of Courage’s son Swisscheese as some galumphing escapee from Gregory’s Girl. The encircled A for anarchy sign grafittied on the bombed-out walls of Hazel Blue’s set, however, suggests something more serio

DEATH, Dumb, Blonde

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow 3 stars Blonde ambition is all over the Citz this week. To compliment Marilyn, Sue Glover’s audacious look at the ultimate tragic pin-up girl for its final lost weekend in the main theatre before transferring to Edinburgh, the Circle Studio plays host to writer and director Neil Doherty’s arguably even wilder dissection of the Marilyn Monroe legend, in which Doherty attempts to reclaim the screen goddess’s fragile psyche in an entirely different fashion. At first glance things look geared to a post-Warhollian trash aesthetic in exelcis, as Tyler Collins’ be-wigged Drag Act enters his/her boudoir to a David Bowie soundtrack. As emotional traumas are laid bare, the superstars in the doorstop-size Monroe biography under the bed step off the pages to find a truly captive audience. First up comes Jonathan Dunn’s Sharp Shooter, part gangster, part shrink, part grim reaper, who puts the Drag Act under the influence until Kirsti Quinn’s Dumb Blonde herse

Yes, Prime Minister

Kings Theatre, Glasgow 3 stars Something ever so slightly shocking happens towards the end of the first act of Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s updated stage version of their 1980s political TV sit-com. One minute PM Jim Hacker, his cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby and private secretary Bernard Wooley are in Chequers trading decidedly old-school repartee that nevertheless reveals them to be occupying a world filled with Blackberries, Euros, global warming, a brand new recession and female advisers in the shape of the formidable Claire Sutton. The next they’re considering the moral maze that comes with the prospect of procuring an under-age prostitute for the foreign secretary of the imaginary state of Kumranistan in exchange for a loan. In a show that in the brutal age personified by the far racier environs of The Thick of It, such a lurch shows how politics has become even nastier since the days of Thatcherism that still hang heavy over Westminster and beyond. What f

Linda Griffiths - Age of Arousal

A Victorian costume drama with a radical feminist bent might not sound the most entertaining of prospects. As has already been proven at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, however, Stellar Quines’ production of Canadian writer Linda Griffiths’ Age of Arousal, which opens at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre before touring the country, defies convention at every level. ‘Wildly inspired,’ as Griffiths would have it in her programme notes, by George Gissing’s progressive novel, The Odd Women, Age of Arousal is a playfully serious and utterly theatrical look at female liberation during as time when women outnumbered men three to one. Those unlucky enough not to marry, it seems, were marginalised by a society that had yet to view women as equals. Based around a secretarial school which hopes to liberate its pupils via the typewriter, the play focuses on the different solutions chosen by three sisters who enroll in the school run by a precursor to the Suffragettes and her younger lover. A

King Lear

Theatre Royal, Glasgow 4 stars It’s been some time since Shakespeare’s mightiest imagined history epic has been seen in full pomp in these parts, but Michael Grandage’s stately and grandiloquent take on these touring dates of his Donmar Warehouse production has event written all over it. Central to this of course is the appearance of Derek Jacobi in the title role, although the full sixteen-strong ensemble contribute to the overall picture in spades. Grandage sets things on Christopher Oram’s dappled barn of a set, where Jacobi’s initially impish and attention-seeking king plays the sort of games with his three little girls that only those in their dotage can get away with. Only his favourite, Cordelia, alas, recognises how every daddy’s girl needs to fly the nest, even as her big sisters play a more ambitious game. The casting of the sisters unveils a fascinatingly complex set of archetypes, with Gina McKee’s Anglo-Saxon steeliness as Goneril contrasting increasingly sh

David Hayman in Barlinnie

It wasn’t the first time David Hayman had been inside HMP Barlinnie. In truth, the veteran actor and director’s appearance this week in the former home of convicted murderer turned sculptor Jimmy Boyle to give a bravura solo turn in his friend and colleague Rony Bridges play, Six and a Tanner, makes him something of an old lag. In the 1980s when Hayman was at the helm of left-wing theatre company, 7:84, he would frequently host rehearsals of forthcoming works before inmates. Hayman’s associations go back even further, to the days of Barlinnie’s controversial special unit, which enabled Boyle and other offenders the resources to become artists under a progressively enlightened regime. Hayman played Boyle in the 1981 STV drama, A Sense of Freedom, based on Boyle’s autobiography. Hayman also directed Silent Scream, a 1990 feature film starring Ian Glen as Larry Winters, another Special Unit inmate who died of an overdose of barbiturates in the institution. Neither film was

Girl X

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars Beneath a busy city underpass, seventeen people meet to talk, argue and engage. The internet has gone down, so such real live flesh and blood encounters are deemed necessary to allow a collective letting off of steam. At the centre of this is actor and disabled activist Robert Softley, who puts on the agenda the ethical dilemma of what to do when the parents of a child with cerebral palsy decree to desexualise her, stunting her growth and keeping her forever young. Out of this comes a torrent of tangents, twists and turns any debate can veer off into, online or otherwise. Taboos are broken, things are said in the heat of the moment and at times things go too far. The conclusion? If there is one, it’s left hanging, waiting for the next posting. On one level Softley’s collaboration with Belgian director Pol Heyvaert and dramaturg Bart Capelle for this contribution to the National Theatre of Scotland’s Reveal season is community theatre wri

Love Letters To The Public Transport System/Count Me In

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 5 stars/3 stars The National Theatre of Scotland’s rolling Reveal season has thus far focused on big ideas presented in small packages. These two works in progress exemplify this approach in two solo pieces performed by their authors in an engagingly charming fashion. Gary McNair’s Count Me In is a stand-up lecture that takes McNair’s self-confessed political ignorance as the starting point for an inter-active power-point led trawl through the history of what passes for democracy. As witty as it is, McNair over-eggs his simple premise with an over-reliance on hi-tech gadgetry when a simple hand in the air would suffice. Simplicity is the key to Love Letters To The Public Transport System, Molly Taylor’s autobiographical monologue in which she attempts to track down the train and bus drivers who transported her and others to their accidental destiny. Sat on a twin seat from a double-decker with a pile of discarded tickets beside her on the floor,

Sweetness

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh 3 stars Once upon a time in the north, in a land that Jamie Oliver’s Healthy Dinners forgot, two brothers are dying side by side, albeit in separate houses where their estrangement festers. Archie has cancer, while Murdo’s obesity suggests his heart might fail any second. Especially as his endless sugar-rushing extends to spoon-feeding himself with pus from his own sores. Into this war of attrition steps Kate, a writer from the south on a tour of the land’s less populated arenas. Stranded by the snow, she moves between the two men, hearing different versions of a real-life epic involving dismembered cats, a lost doll, a wife secretly shared and a lost child each claims as their own. Adapted by Kevin MacNeil from Swedish writer Torgny Lindgren’s novel, Hummelhonung, Sweetness is a piece of skewed post-modern story-telling that revels in its own oddness. Matthew Zajac’s production for Dogstar even puts Sean Hay in a humungous fat suit as Murdo

Gina McKee

Gina McKee doesn’t seem to mind throwing herself in at the deep end. Playing Goneril, the eldest of three sisters in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which arrives in Glasgow tonight with Derek Jacobi in the title role, she doesn’t really have much choice. This is partly down to director Michael Grandage, who, rather than spending hours around a table deconstructing every word, prefers his cast to be free of the script and on their feet as early on in rehearsals as possible. It is, says McKee in her soothing Geordie burr, “very liberating. “It’s really interesting when you do a show like this. A lot of people know the play, and because I knew I was going to be doing it a long time before we started, a lot of people were like, ooh, Goneril, evil, evil. But I wanted to make sure that it’s not just a stock interpretation of the character, but that we find out what fuels her. So, I went, okay, what are the facts? We know she’s married to Albany,

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Dundee Rep 4 stars Jim Cartwright’s 1992 northern English musical romance may now look like a pre X-Factor, pre Su-Bo period piece, but in its lineage of working-class drama from A Taste of Honey through to The Royle Family and early Shameless, its depiction of self-determination against all odds still packs an emotional punch. Jemima Levick’s new production also recognises the power of the three-minute pop song epics that painfully shy teenager LV learns by rote from her dead dad’s old record collection, and which provide salvation from her drink-sodden mother Mari’s increasingly manic adventures in excess. Everything changes, however, when the latest flame Mari brings home is seedy showbiz agent Ray Say, who thrusts LV reluctantly into the spotlight, even as young telephone engineer Billy pursues her in a different way. Levick and designer Janet Bird invite the audience into this gig of all gigs from the off by seating them at nightclub tables before tinsel drapes that

The Haunting

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars Say what you like about hoary old ghost stories, but, as with the runaway success of The Woman in Black, in terms of sensationalist fun with smoke, mirrors and a bag of stage tricks as old as Methuselah himself, they’re hard to knock. This one even has the literary cred of being (very) loosely adapted by writer Hugh Janes from a quintet of Charles Dickens short stories, with an extra added soupcon of incident and colour culled from Dickens’ own real life interest in all things supernatural to knit together a suitably shadowy and impeccably plummy haunted house yarn. Young book dealer David Filde is seconded to catalogue the country house library of his uncle’s late colleague, whose money-centred son has become the new Lord Gray. Other things are afoot beyond financial transactions, alas, as Filde encounters Dostoyevsky-loving poltergeists, disembodied female voices off and all manner of things that go bump in the night. This might well b

Staircase

Tron Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars In a low-rent London barber’s shop one increasingly frantic Sunday, Charlie is awaiting a knock on the door from a police-man serving him a summons. Tomorrow, the daughter Charlie sired twenty years previously but has never seen is coming to visit. Keeping Charlie company is Harry, his much put-upon gentleman friend and dirty little secret. As the pair bitch and spar their way to a gin-soaked impasse, Charlie’s increasingly long dark night of the soul goes beyond his initial tough guy bluffness to suggest this might just be the last act for the ultimate old ham. Playwright Charles Dyer might not be a household name of post-war British theatre, but as Andy Arnold’s rare revival of his 1966 curio, camped-up like bilio on film by Rex Harrison and Richard Burton, testifies to, he took Pinter’s grotty demotic to a new level of fantasy-fuelled meta-narrative that predicts Kiss of the Spiderwoman. The testy co-dependence between Charlie and Harry is

The Comedy of Errors

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars It’s worth keeping an eye on the sombrero-sporting bar band playing package tour Mariarchi as the audience take their seats for Edward Hall’s sit-com inspired romp through Shakespeare’s double-bluffing yarn of twins separated at birth. Running in tandem with the all male Propeller company’s similarly audacious production of Richard 111, by the time we reach the interval, they’re collecting for charity on the stairs, busking a set of pop classics that somehow manages to mash up Eurhythmics with the White Stripes. If such levity suggests Hall and his twelve-strong cast are having fun with the bard’s shortest work, you’re not wrong. The words are all there, but so is a scarlet-suited Duke who should be fronting a Heaven 17 tribute act, a dominatrix Abbess and a northern club turn with a firework up his bare backside who could be the ghost of Malcolm Hardee. The lost twins themselves are a riot of loud shirts and quiffs for the two versions o

Richard 111

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars The men in white coats looking like zombified extras from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and wielding baseball bats are the first of many striking images in Edward Hall’s radical redux of Shakespeare’s nastiest imagined history play. The Victorian hospital setting which Hall and designer Michael Pavelka go for in this production for Hall’s all-male Propeller ensemble opens up a world of possibilities, as Richard Clothier’s callipered-up schemer moves through a gothic whirl of screens, sinister looking chairs and operating tables splattered red like some long banned video nasty. Clothier’s Richard is a sly, psychopathic charmer, wooing the girls with comedy flowers just as soon as he’d bite off their fingers to get back his ring for his next conquest. His hired assassins are like some Burke and Hare style music hall double act as they prey on Clarence, the increasingly high death count eerily punctuated by jolly sing-songs. The little princes

Marilyn

Citizens' Theatre Glasgow 4 stars "Who said Lady Macbeth was a brunette?" spits Marilyn Monroe at one point in Sue Glover's imagined history of the bottle blonde bombshell's encounters with French icon Simone Signoret in a Beverley Hills hotel in 1960. Her outburst is the crux of Monroe's sense of frustration at being cast as the eternal dumb blonde while filming the risible Let's Make Love with Signoret's husband Yves Montand. In private too, while Dominique Hollier's stately Signoret talks politics with Monroe's latest father figure husband, Arthur Miller, Monroe is needy, vulnerable, neurotic and insomniac, desperate to be taken seriously as she reads Shakespeare rather than learning her lines. Darting between the two is Pattie, Pauline Knowles's Olive Oil like hairdresser to the stars who is the only one to see the real roots of Monroe's bad daydream of a life. Kenny Miller's footlit, red carpeted catwalk of a se

Age of Arousal

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars "A shame that sex matters are so untidy," says one character in Canadian writer Linda Griffiths' 'wildy inspired' take on George Gissing's Victorian novel, The Odd Women, at one point. Previously, the characterin question, Hannah Donaldson's coquettish Monica, was the youngest,most flirtatious and sexually liberated of three sisters orbiting aroundproto-feminist Mary Barfoot and her young lover Rhoda Nunn, who run aschool providing emancipation via Remington typewriter. By the end of the play, Monica is trapped by the consequences of her own desires, and the thirty year road to sexual equality the women aspire to looks a lot further away. There's nothing hidden in Muriel Romanes' production, which wears itssensuality on its sleeve in this alliance between Stellar Quines and the Lyceum. The title of each scene is projected onto a net curtain inold-school type-face before ushering in a series of playful liaiso

Gagarin Way - Review

Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline 4 stars When Gregory Burke’s devastatingly funny treatise on socialism, capitalism and Fife’s most rubbish terrorist cell first appeared a decade ago, ideology was believed to have died in what looked like a post-political age. Like a slow-burning grenade lodged on some mythical barricades, however, in today’s post 9/11, post 7/7, post-recessionary climate of student riots and public anger with the banks, Rapture Theatre’s revisiting of the play now looks like a hugely instructive period piece. Sentimental trade-unionist Gary and thrill-seeking auto-didact Eddie kidnap what they believe to be a Japanese industrialist in the Dunfermline factory they slave in every day. When victim Frank turns out to be a Leven ex-pat just as disillusioned as them, the debate that ensues goes beyond the high-minded theory of ex politics student and security guard Tom to take a more nihilistic approach. It’s still a brilliant idea, putting the all too often abstrac

Jeremy Millar - Resemblances, Sympathies and Other Acts

Jeremy Millar has just been listening to PJ Harvey’s new album prior to talking about his forthcoming ‘Resemblances, Sympathies and Other Acts’ show at the CCA in Glasgow. Somehow the other-worldly, transcendent qualities of this most hypnotic of singer-songwriters fits in with Millar’s aesthetic, adding another presence over our shoulders as he gathers his thoughts about why, exactly, he decided to encase himself in silicon posed as a dead body for a newly commissioned sculpture, ‘Self Portrait As A Drowned Man (The Willows),’ that forms the show’s centre-piece. The cast for ‘Self Portrait As A Drowned Man (The Willows)’ has been built by special effects expert Grant Mason, whose work has been previously seen in ‘Taggart’ and David Mackenzie’s big-screen adaptation of Scots beat writer Alexander Trocchi’s novel, ‘Young Adam.’ While this lends Millar’s work a patina of pop cultural cred, it shouldn’t undermine the seriousness of the work’s intention. “The last few years

Edward Hall - Propeller Theatre

When a bunch of guys hang out together without any female influence to soften them up, a gang mentality inevitably develops. So it is with Propeller Theatre, the company founded by Edward Hall in 1997 to produce Shakespeare’s canon acted exclusively by men. The evidence of fourteen years of male bonding can be gleaned this week when Propeller fly into Edinburgh with The Comedy of Errors and Richard 111, two radically different plays requiring equally apposite approaches. In keeping with their thoroughly modern aesthetic, Hall and the Propeller boys have opted to lace Richard 111 with a touch of Victorian gothic, whereby the man who would be king marches through what might be a mental asylum. For The Comedy of Errors, Hall has taken the company’s all lads together approach to the limit by setting it on a cheap and cheerful 1980s package tour in some equally cut-price Mediterranean resort. “I remembered what it was like,” says Hall, “scarpering off to Tenerife or Magaluf

Non-Stick Erratic Carvery

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Sunday February 13th 4 stars Lazy Sunday afternoons in the Botanics will never be the same again after this all-day extravaganza of nine acts culled from Edinburgh’s fecund experimental hiss-and-mist scene set in the ornate upstairs gallery of Inverleith House. Headlined by out-of-town guests Jazzfinger, a series of mix-and-match collaborations between assorted members of Scrim, Muscletusk, Hockyfrilla and Fordell Research Unit came complete with natural light and the eerie outside silence outside once darkness fell. Cartoon sound-art double-act Usurper added a meta-narrative to their usual japes by recreating the noise of their willfully absent kindergarten junkyard kit using vocal noises rather than manufactured ones. Deadhestcess was a loose alignment of Helhesten’s theatrical sound poetics and Muscletusk/Dead Labour Process’s vocal deconstruction of counter-cultural anti-psychiatric guru R.D. Laing’s volume of word-ga

Benni Hemm Hemm – Skot (Kimi)

4 stars From the opening jangles of this latest magnum opus by Icelandic ex-pat Edinburgh resident Benedikt H Hermannsson one could be forgiven for thinking this was the missing link between the fey-pop joie de vivre of early Orange Juice and the finished article of Belle and Sebastian a decade or so later. As it is, Hermannson is very much his own man, crooning in a frippish Icelandic over a set of gloriously jaunty piano, horn and string arrangements from his home-grown kitchen-sink big band (he has another version in Edinburgh he’s currently touring Europe with). Knowing the lingo probably helps, but, throw in a whistling choir or two, and it sounds like a work of pure joy nevertheless. The List, February 2011 ends

Smalltown Review

Tron Theatre, Glasgow 3 stars Ayrshire is a funny place. This comedy triptych sired by Douglas Maxwell, D.C. Jackson and Johnny McKnight for McKnight’s Random Accomplice company takes the three writers home-towns as the starting point for a riot of willfully outrageous nonsense where the audience even get to vote for which ending they prefer. The conceit binding the plays together is a grand wheeze concocted by the marketing bods at the local toon council who spike the newly branded Rabbie Juice with a mind-altering substance which inadvertently causes the whole of Ayrshire to go fifty-seven varieties of gaga. With a mop-up operation in full swing, only three towns are still flogging off this strangest of brews; Girvan, Stewarton and Ardrossan. Maxwell’s opening Girvan-set piece focuses on this the most, in a seaside post-card come to life featuring misguided civic pride, the spectre of a boxing kangaroo, much ado with ice-cream cones and a tourist trade that is literally

Gagarin Way

When Gregory Burke’s debut play, Gagarin Way, first appeared at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in the summer of 2001, it’s thesis on the apparent death of socialism via a bunch of rubbish terrorists in Fife inadvertently marked the end of an era. While Gagarin Way summed up in part an age of apathy where violence was for kicks rather than a cause, before the year was out, the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York changed everything. A decade later, with few taking David Cameron’s big society in any way seriously, and with the Con-Dem alliance provoking riots on the streets of London, protest is very much back on the agenda. Rapture Theatre’s tenth anniversary revival of Burke’s play, which has just opened in Dunfermline prior to its current tour, looks more timely than ever. Looking back on the work that put him on the map and opened the door for the even bigger success of Black Watch, Burke for one suggests that Gagarin Way isn’t as big a political statement as

Smalltown

Take three boys, all sired in not so sunny Ayrshire before they ran away to the big city in the west to find fame and fortune. That fame came through the theatre, where these three very different little boys became playwrights, mainly of a comedic bent, writing at times of the growing pains of being stuck in assorted backwoods hamlets dreaming of escape. With such similar but different routes taken by D.C. Jackson, Douglas Maxwell and Johnny McKnight, what one wonders, must be in the Ayrshire water supply to cause such a creative overflow? Audiences will be able to find out when they visit Smalltown, the new play co-written by the trio and directed by McKnight for his Random Accomplice company, who open at the Tron this week before taking the show out on tour. With each author setting their individual contribution in their own home town, Girvan (Maxwell), Stewarton (Jackson) and Ardrossan (McKnight) become the back-drop for a science-fiction B-movie inspired yarn charting

Death of A Salesman

Perth Theatre 4 stars In the current economic climate, Arthur Miller’s masterly study of one man’s downfall in a world where everything is for sale now looks like the most painfully prophetic of all his mighty works. On a purely domestic level, watching Willy Loman’s slow, self-deluded suicide as the very edifice of everything he ever put faith in collapses around him is even more harrowing. Rather than graft on any over-egged thesis, however, Ian Grieve’s swansong production as artistic director at Perth somewhat wisely lets Miller’s play speak for itself. The result is both a telling insight into the cruelties of a boom and bust society where the big-talking pitch is the norm, as well as a compelling tragedy concerning the loneliness of the long-distance little guy and the far-reaching consequences of his on-the-road indiscretions. At first when Ron Emslie’s weary Willy first starts talking to himself on Ken Harrison’s busy set, conjuring up scenes of less tired times w

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart Review

Tron Theatre, Glasgow 5 stars The National Theatre of Scotland’s ongoing adventures in popular culture have impressed thus far by avoiding any sense of artistic tourism. This latest foray into ad hoc informality finds writer David Greig and director Wils Wilson going deep into the heart of folk ballad country to make something which is by turns one of the most rambunctiously life-affirming and touchingly beautiful reinventions of its subject. Designed to be played in spit and sawdust pub function rooms, and performed here by five actor/musicians in the Tron’s already atmospheric Victorian Bar, we’re introduced to the shy young folk song collector of the play’s title who, inbetween doing a PhD on the topography of Hell, is dispatched to Kelso in 2010’s bleak mid-winter to deliver an academic paper. Stranded in the snow made here of torn-up napkins and tinkled wine glasses, Prudencia finds herself caught in the hurly-burly of supernatural excesses that resemble the musical

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Tron Theatre, Glasgow 3 stars Falling in love is a disease that can strike at any time, turning one’s world upside down and provoking all manner of irrational behaviour, sheer terror included. In Karen McLachlan’s tragic-comic solo vehicle for actress Blythe Duff, such an unexpected emotional whirlwind is equated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a disease equally all-consuming and just as common. Duff plays Izzy Grant, a high-flying career woman who’s just met the man of her dreams and looks set for the perfect wedding with the perfect cake and an even more perfect seating plan at the reception. If only, as Izzy finds herself overwhelmed and inveigled upon by all her worst fears she’s thus far protected herself from via series of seemingly harmless rituals; “the glue that holds me together,” as she puts it. As Izzy addresses the audience directly in the spick-and-span kitchen of her pristine white des-res, illustrating her anxieties with a series of heightened physica