Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2012

Annet Henneman - Finding Refuge in Glasgow

In an upstairs hall in Glasgow, the speakers are pumping out an infectious mix of African dance music that proves irresistible to everyone there. Even though no-one's met before this week, the multi-cultural mix of Sri Lankans, Africans, Kurds, Scots and English people are on their feet, shaking their booties for all they're worth. One young man, from Cameroon, only arrived less than half an hour ago, but, encouraged by a quietly enthusiastic Dutch woman, is now at the centre of things, showing everyone how to dance to the rhythms of his country of origin with a sassy mix of pride and elation. What looks and sounds like a microcosm of a global village may have the atmosphere of an after-hours shebeen, but in actual fact, the scene described above took place on a Wednesday afternoon in Govan at the end of a day's rehearsal for a very special theatre project that took place last weekend. The English and Scots are a mix of community workers and performers. The Kurds, Sri

Dig The New Breed - Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme 2012 -

Today’s announcement by the National Theatre of Scotland of their Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme for developing theatre artists and directors follows on from two similar initiatives last year. Then, artists such as novelist and playwright Alan Bissett, performer and writer Molly Taylor and director Amanda Gaughan came through what were then known as the New Directors Placement Programme and the Emerging Artists Attachment Programme. While the component parts of both schemes remain in place, the new catch-all umbrella title gives things a sense of unity as well as acknowledging the sort of crossovers between disciplines which, in the current economic and artistic climate, are more prevalent than ever. While the three emerging directors will or have already worked as assistant directors on major NTS productions, the four emerging directors will focus on developing pieces that will be presented as rough works in progress at Scratch night this coming July. For NTS Art

Martin Creed – Love To You (Moshi Moshi)

4 stars It’s de rigeur for Turner Prize winners to play in bands these days, and anyone familiar with Martin Creed’s oeuvre from his 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival show at the Fruitmarket Gallery and accompanying live song-and-dance routine at the Traverse will know what to expect from this most calculated of borderline autistic, OCD auteurs. To whit, in this pre-Olympic run-up to orchestrating all the bells in the country to ring out for three minutes, Creed thrashes out eighteen miniatures of love and hate that fuse the desperate yearning of playwright Sarah Kane and the No Wave minimalism of Glenn Branca with the DIY messthetics of Swell Maps and the brattish cartoon petulance of Jilted John. Bookended by ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’, which sound-tracked the Fruitmarket lift’s rise and fall, Love To You is a bumpy thirty-seven minute and nine second ride through the confessional ups and downs of fatal attraction, obsession, rejection, frustration and apparent acceptance. If ‘1234’

James Ferraro and The Bodyguard

The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow Sunday June 17th 4 stars Simple Minds as proto techno pioneers? Probably not, but there’s more than a patina of future pomp stadiumistas early instrumental Theme for Great Cities in the opening few minutes of American electronicist and sometime half of the Skaters James Ferraro’s show. With Ferraro hunched over an old Korg synth, the martial rhythms that pulse his first of two extended pieces on this Braw/Cry Parrot/Shaddaz co-promoted show are a long way from the sublime jauntification of last year’s ‘Far Side Virtual’ album. This is a denser, harder sound, awash with glacial keyboard squiggles and Morriconeish chorales conjuring up a wave of analog nostalgia only for it to be pummelled into submission without mercy. Accompanied by The Bodyguard, who appears to be a dreadlocked technician enabling further sonic adventures, Ferraro goes quiet after thirty minutes, almost losing his audience to incessant chit-chat during the longeurs, befor

Edinburgh Annuale 2012

4 stars In terms of how art happens at a grassroots level, both Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government are as clueless as each other. The importance of Edinburgh Annuale to the city’s independent artistic infrastructure, on the other hand, cannot be overstated. This year’s edition sees some thirty-odd events in co-operatively run spaces such as Embassy, Rhubaba, The Old Ambulance Station, Superclub and Whitespace, as well as an ever-burgeoning network of flats, shops, tunnels and lecture theatres, plus online exhibitions and publications, one of which glories in the name, ‘Jelly and ice cream when Thatcher dies?’ All of which, under the Scottish Government’s idiotic changes to Public Entertainment Licence laws, are technically illegal. But no matter, at least there’s still music. Or is there? Because, while the twenty-four twelve-inch square LP record covers lined up in long-standing indie emporium Avalanche Records blend in perfectly with the racks around th

Putting on the Citz - Citizens Theatre's Autumn Season 2012

Dominic Hill is looking relaxed. Perched floppily on a chair on one side of his office, one might even suggest that the expression on the artistic director of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow's face suggests he is positively pleased with himself. As well he might after his inaugural season of classic plays put Scotland's original international emporium back on the map. Given that Hill cast Cal MacAninch in Harold Pinter's 1970s love triangle play Betrayal, oversaw David Hayman's first appearance at the Citz for more than two decades in an epic take on Shakespeare's King Lear and put a Samuel Beckett double bill of Krapp's Last Tape and Footfalls on the main stage, it's not hard to see why. While Hill is understandably in repose after directing these three shows back to back, the tricky bit comes in how to follow up such a striking calling card. The answer for Hill is to programme another season of expansively inclined work, mainly in co-product


Tramway, Glasgow 4 stars While setting Shakespeare in a psychiatric ward isn’t a new idea, neither is it uncommon for real life patients in such institutions to construct such elaborate self-destructive fantasies with themselves at their fragile world’s centre. Both concepts rub up against each other in the National Theatre of Scotland’s boldly audacious reimagining of the Scottish play, which sees Alan Cumming act out the entire play alone onstage for an hour and three-quarters. Flying without a safety net, Cumming opens himself up physically, mentally and emotionally in a performance of fearless bravura. It starts with Cumming’s character being sectioned and stripped of his twenty-first century apparel by two nurses played almost wordlessly by Myra McFadyen and Aly Craig. With fresh scars embedded into his chest, as Cumming calls to what are both captors and protectors with the Witches ‘When shall we three meet again?’ line, there are hints of a domestic massacre and a possible fai

Robert Paterson Obituary

Born October 1st 1956; died June 2012 It was tragically fitting that the final role played by Robert Paterson, who has died unexpectedly at home, was Gonzalo in Shakespeare's The Tempest at Dundee Rep. Gonzalo, after all, was an honest and trusted advisor to the king, with a good and noble heart, who provided the exiled Prospero with the basics to survive, as well as other things to make life more bearable. It was Gonzalo too who recognised Caliban as something beyond a mere monster, sees the beauty on the island he is shipwrecked on, and takes joy when all are reconciled at the end of the play. It isn't a huge role, but it is a crucial one with which, on the few nights he played it, Paterson shared many traits. This could be said of so much of Paterson's career over the last thirty years, be it as an actor, writer or director with every major theatre company in Scotland, or in film and television appearances that included Braveheart and Charlie Gormley


Tron Theatre, Glasgow 3 stars When Ella Hickson’s debut work appeared at the fag-end of the twenty-first century’s first decade, her octet of monologues tapped into a similar emotional and spiritual void that had fascinated a new wave of playwrights a decade before. Almost half a decade on, the student-based NewUpNorth-Scotland company’s revival now looks and sounds like a little time capsule of a fragmented society at rest and in motion, with each of Hickson’s characters taking pause for thought at what they’ve become. Nowhere is this more evident than with Millie, the jolly-hockeysticks hooker who tends to poetry-loving toffs put out to grass by the rise of New Labour. With David Cameron’s Westminster government posher than ever, one suspects the Millie of today would either be serving her constituency with renewed gusto or else find herself side-lined as her boys pack some Bullingdon-sired lead in their pencils elsewhere. While many of the pieces now look similarly

Mark Stewart

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh 4 stars “Welcome to Liberty City!” bellows Mark Stewart early on in a set to tie in with the recent release of his all-star The Politics of Envy album. Stewart may not need a megaphone, but he makes his point loud, proud and without recourse to the album's guest list, which includes dub legend Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Raincoats bassist Gina Birch, subversive film-maker Kenneth Anger on theremin and all of Primal Scream. Live, such a Who's Who? may be impossible on this short tour, but it doesn't stop Stewart and a dangerously well-drilled three-piece band augmented by fellow-traveller, reggae MC, Brother Culture, lambasting the audience with a thrillingly fearless set of punk-funk dub-reggae metal clatter. Stewart begins proceedings limbering up physically as much as vocally, looking every inch the contender sporting a shiny red tracky top with a towel wrapped round his neck. Stewart's regular foil and production wizard Adrian

Kate Quinnell - From Pitlochry With Love

“I've spent half the time running round in my underwear,” laughs Kate Quinnell as she swishes into the bar of Pitlochry Festival Theatre. “So it's like Noises Off all over again, basically.” Quinnell is talking about her role as Jessica in Alan Ayckbourn's Communicating Doors, one of three plays she appears in during this year's PFT season. This marks the sparkly-eyed Welsh actor's return to the theatre after causing something of a stir during her last two stints here. As opening gambits go, Quinnell's remarks on her costume – or lack of it – for her latest appearance is refreshingly if somewhat disarmingly candid, albeit utterly without guile. It wasn't just running round in her underwear as ditzy wannabe starlet Brooke in Michael Frayn's ingenious back and front stage farce that caused such a commotion. Rather, it was Ms Quinnell's lively mix of a magnetic stage presence, instinctive comic timing and multi-tasking versatility in role

The Chairs

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars Imagine throwing a party and nobody came. That's kind of what happens in Romanian absurdist Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic, revived here in an Irish-accented pop-eyed take on proceedings by the wonderful Sligo-based Blue Raincoat company, who apply their trademark physical tics to the play's conscious sense of its own ridiculousness. As the Old Man and Old Woman await their guests in a semi-circular room where the much admired Orator will hold court to their salon, the Old Man sits on his spouse's knee like some ancient ventriloquist act, as the couple discuss the apparent destruction of Paris, just who is pulling the strings is never quite clear. As a succession of invisible 'guests' arrive to be seated in a makeshift auditorium, is this red letter day an elaborate construction to survive the last days on earth with dignity and marbles intact? Or, on a more theatrically practical level, is it merely good e

The Tempest

Dundee Rep 4 stars The mountain of overstuffed black bin bags, broken-down TVs and other detritus looks more post-apocalyptic junkyard than brave new world piled onto the set of Jemima Levick’s revisitation of Shakespeare’s island-bound epic. Levick turns Shakespeare’s world upside down even more by having the island populated solely by women. With Irene MacDougall’s Prospero a steely matriarch in exile, Emily Winter’s Ariel and Ann Louise Ross’ Caliban are jump-suited prisoners in their own country who end up as surrogate daughters alongside Kirsty Mackay’s initially tomboyish Miranda. After the opening amplified bombast that shipwrecks the men from Milan onto Ti Green’s set, what emerges is a serious and stately minded Tempest. With Prospero a single mum bringing up her Miranda without any paternal influence, by magicking her usurping brother Antonio, King Alonso and his son Ferdinand to her crumbling queendom, Prospero is not only reclaiming what’s rightfully hers, but,

The Nightingales

Nice N’ Sleazy, Glasgow 4 stars The Jubilee-tastic Punk Britannia celebrations may be reminding the world of the spirit of 77’s snotty year zero aesthetic, but it arguably misses a trick in terms of what happened next beyond assorted turn-coat rock stars and cause celebres. Take The Nightingales, Robert Lloyd’s reignited vehicle for his unique form of back-street Black Country beat poetry set to a wilfully Luddite garage-band racket. Formed out of the ashes of Birmingham’s first ever punk band, The Prefects, Lloyd and co’s relentlessly literate yarns of urban absurdism soundtracked a fistful of John Peel sessions that were only second to fellow travellers The Fall in number. Back in the saddle since 2004, and featuring original Prefects guitarist Alan Apperley alongside a disparate trio of relative youngsters, The Nightingales have now released more records than their 1980s incarnation. Much of tonight’s set is taken from the just-released No Love Lost album, with a b

Little Shop of Horrors

Pitlochry Festival Theatre 3 stars From Rocky Horror to Forbidden Planet, sci-fi B movies and rock and roll nostalgia have been all the rage for now. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's 1982 stage musical even has the parallel universe luxury of being both inspired by one such feature film only to be adapted into another. Based on Roger Corman's 1960 yarn about a blood-sucking plant who eats up a Skid Row flower shop, Little Shop of Horrors isn't the obvious choice to open Pitlochry Festival Theatre's Summer Rep season. Nor, in John Durnin's production, does it fully spark into the sort of big campy life required to make it such a ridiculous pleasure, even as it tackles how greed and money corrupt in a dog eat dog – or rather, plant eats man – world. It's not without its charms, however, from the moment the girl group turned Greek/Brechtian chorus shimmy out of Mushnik's recession-hit store, to the alien plant's devouring of everything in sigh

Jemima Levick and Philip Howard - A Storm Over Dundee

You could be forgiven for thinking that women are taking over Dundee. Or Scottish theatre for that matter. As Dundee Rep’s former associate director Jemima Levick is appointed joint artistic director of the theatre with former Traverse head Philip Howard as Chief Executive, after Orla O’Loughlin taking charge of the Traverse and Rachel O’Riordan heading up Perth Theatre, Levick becomes the latest female in charge of one of the country’s main producing houses. As if to stress the point, Levick’s long-scheduled production of The Tempest, which opens in Dundee this week, bends genders in Shakespeare’s magical island yarn to the extent of casting female actors in the traditionally male roles of Prospero, Caliban and Aerial. Of course, given Dundee's long-standing reputation as something of a matriarchy, such an approach seems the perfect fit, as Levick explains. “I was keen to find a play where I felt I could do what I wanted,” she says. “You can't do that with all S

A Play, A Pie and A Pint - The CATS Whiskers

When David MacLennan founded A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Oran Mor in 2004, his first season of lunchtime plays with refreshments included in the ticket price was a modest affair. Eight years on, and having presented some 250 new works, as MacLennan gets set to receive the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland's inaugural CATS Whiskers award for Outstanding Achievement, A Play, A Pie and A Pint now looks like a genuine theatrical phenomenon that was seriously ahead of the game. With initial seasons seemingly pulled together with the help of MacLennan's extensive address book of Scottish theatre movers and shakers, it was as if those seemingly left in the theatrical wilderness after grants for companies such as the MacLennan-led Wildcat company had been cut had suddenly rediscovered their mojo. With no tradition of lunchtime theatre in Scotland, A Play, A Pie and A Pint served up works from veteran writers such as Peter MacDougall that were more serious than the

Alan Cumming - Playing Macbeth

There are surprisingly few signs of starriness attached to Alan Cumming. On the one hand, the Aberfeldy-born actor has recently become a living room regular by way of a recurring role in the Ridley and Tony Scott produced legal drama, The Good Wife. Yet, as he returns to Scotland to play the title role in a very singular version of Macbeth with the National Theatre of Scotland, he prefers to station himself in the darkest, most faraway corner of the city centre bar/ restaurant he's conducting post-rehearsal interviews in. This is a little bit different from when he last appeared onstage on home turf. That was in a flashy version of Euripides' The Bacchae, which, as with Macbeth, was directed by NTS associate John Tiffany. Then, during a day of interviews at the Groucho Club in London, Cumming seemed more ebullient in a way that matched his turn as original party animal, Dionysus. Almost four years on and playing one of the most intense roles ever written, Cumm