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Showing posts from October, 2012

Morna Pearson - The Artist Woman's New Play

“It's like a children's story,” says Morna Pearson as she makes her way up the steep metal stairs of the Traverse Theatre's Leith-based rehearsal room after observing through a window as a group of actors throw themselves into a dance routine, “but with dirty bits.” Pearson is talking about her new play, The Artist Man and the Mother Woman, which opens at the Traverse next week, and it's the most direct she's likely to be on the subject. Such reticence is peculiarly at odds with Pearson's dramatic voice if her 2006 debut play, Distracted, is anything to go by. Set in a Morayshire caravan park occupied by dysfunctional transients, Distracted served up a wild and vivid form of Doric-accented surrealism which suggested great things for Pearson. Distracted went on to win the prestigious Meyer-Whitworth new playwriting award in 2007, which saw Pearson following in the footsteps of David Harrower, Henry Adam and Conor McPherson. Given such acclaim and the subsequent a

Whisky Galore

Dundee Rep 4 stars Paul Godfrey’s stage adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s famously filmed novel is as clever as Michael Frayn’s backstage farce, Noises Off. Framed as a 1950s BBC radio play, such a conceit not only allows for subtle hints of backstage shenanigans among its cast of three who appear alongside a tireless sound effects man. Sharing the original story’s multiple roles among the trio also makes for canny economic sense. Godfrey’s version was last seen at the old Mull Little Theatre. Irene MacDougall’s new production, which tours community centres in the area this week, does much to capture the show’s essence, both in its stylistic dexterity and its deceptively subversive intent. For those who don’t know it, Mackenzie’s World War Two-set yarn is set on two neighbouring islands whose whisky rationing is overcome via a fortuitous shipwreck’s offloaded cargo. As played here, an entire community is personified with a swiftly changed facial expression or accent

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars The snow is falling throughout most of director Matthew Lenton's refreshing new look at Shakespeare's darkest of rom-coms. While this takes literally the bard's own scripted notions of how the seasons are out of whack, it opens with a sorry-looking Bottom tending to a terminally ill wife, his only distraction a TV talent show that might just help him and his fellow wannabes live the dream. Given his wife's blessing to chase his muse following a mercy call from Peter Quince, Bottom does exactly that, led on his way by a gaggle of blonde-wigged fairies who resemble peroxided Harpo Marxes. This is accentuated even more when the mechanicals are conjured into similar apparel by Cath Whitefield's wide-eyed Puck, who sprinkles her star-dust with abandon. The quartet of confused lovers, meanwhile, are too wrapped-up in themselves and their colour-coded space-age winter warmers to connect, and Flavia Gusmao's lusty


HMV Picture House, Edinburgh 4 stars Sparks may have come late to the concept album party with their 2009 album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, but theatricality has always been essential to Ron and Russell Mael's oeuvre, from composer and keyboardist Ron's deadpan demeanour to Russell's sprite-like enthusiasm onwards. This is more apparent than ever throughout the first of UK date of the siblings Two Hands, One Mouth tour. As the name suggests, the duo leave themselves unadorned either by band-mates or onstage scenery, occupying a simply-lit black box space instead. The pair have even penned a lasciviously-inclined theme song, which plays as looped pre-show music sounding like a choir of Oompa Loompas. Ron Mael enters alone to tinkle out a teasing overture of snatches from Sparks' greatest hits before his brother finally comes on sporting a tweedy outfit suggesting a silent movie director turned gamekeeper. The piano-based sprawl across selected highlig

Glasgow Girls - Cora Bissett's Radical Musical

In the corner of the Citizens Theatre rehearsal room, seven young women are gathered round a piano, at which is sat musical director Hilary Brooks, who leads the ensemble through their scales. In their dressed-down tracksuit bottoms and voice-protecting scarves, the women might well be attending some common or garden open-call audition for some big west end musical in search of fresh blood. Such a notion seems to be confirmed a few minutes later when they’re put through their paces on a metal building-site set in a cheesily choreographed routine involving umbrellas that help punctuate a song infused with unabashed peppiness. Such a bright mood has been salvaged after a piercing electronic shriek shattered the scales into discordant submission. Such an incident gives a hint that what’s being knocked into shape is no ordinary musical, as well as highlighting the tensions between old-school jazz hands routines and more modern fare. Such creative tensions are at the heart o

When Worlds Collide - Matthew Lenton's Dream

Matthew Lenton has never directed Shakespeare before. At first glance, Lenton's visually rich magical-realist imaginings with his Glasgow-based, internationally acclaimed Vanishing Point company don't really fit with the bard's poetically dense flights of fancy. Peel back the layers, however, and the two worlds that collide in his new production of one of Shakespeare's most revisited rom-coms may have more in common with Lenton's world than you might think. “ It's the Shakespeare play which as a kid I always found the most accessible,” Lenton says of the Dream. “I've always been interested in the magic and the darkness and the beauty of it, and it's nice to be able to spend time in such a different place. I've always had a difficult relationship with Shakespeare. It was certainly not something I loved as a kid, and not something I found easy. It's still not something I find easy to watch on a stage, and not something I find easy

Bat For Lashes

HMV Picture House, Edinburgh 4 stars Don't be fooled by the vaguely Stonehenge-like set dressing which adorns the stage for Natasha Khan's current tour to promote her recent third album in her Bat For Lashes guise, The Haunted Man. Khan's hippy sensibilities may still be intact, but the school-assembly whimsy of yore has been ditched in favour of a more muscular synthesiser-led euphoria that adds a more grown-up sense of drama to her vocal gymnastics. Sporting a full-length blue-grey backless robe slit at the sides, Khan is all smiles for album opener, Lillies. With microphone in one hand, drumstick in the other, she whacks the accompanying drum-pads with a relish gloriously at odds with her visual elegance. When she sings the words 'Thank God I'm alive' with arms outstretched, it sums up the sense of release that pulses throughout the new material. With a lone cellist tucked behind the stage set, much of the songs' dense textures are provid

3D Printshow London 2012

                                              The Shock of the Old – A History 1 It's no coincidence that some of the earliest sightings of 3D in mass mainstream culture came via science-fiction B-movies of the 1950s. Here, after all, was the ultimate immersive future-shock, in living colour and walking in, about and among us, albeit in a utilitarian, grim-faced Cold War climate. 3D movies were, of course, a gimmick, designed by and for geeks to sex up an ailing post-war film industry high on alien-invasion induced paranoia. As gimmicks come and go, it worked. For a while. 2 On November 26th 1952, Life magazine photographer J.R. Eyerman took a series of photographs of the audience attending the premiere of the first ever full-length colour 3D movie at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California. Arch Oboler's Bwana Devil was based on a real-life story in which a big-game hunter in Africa squared up to man-eating lions after his predecessors fell prey to

Sonica - A Gift of Sound and Vision

From Kill Your Timid Notion to GI, sound and vision have become  increasingly promiscuous bed-fellows over the last decade. Throw in an increased sense of theatricality to sound-based art, and all the elements are in place for Sonica, a brand-new feast for the senses that forms the latest addition to an ever-expanding Glasgow-based left-field arts diaspora. Produced by Cryptic, the music-theatre company who have bridged art-forms and worked internationally for almost twenty years, Sonica's inaugural ten-day city-wide programme of 'sonic art for the visually minded' brings together already existing works by the likes of Janek Schaefer, whose turntable-based work featured several years ago in a major show at the CCA, alongside new commissions from home and abroad. These include Remember Me, an opera by Claudia Molitor's opera performed inside a desk in Scotland Street School Museum. Elsewhere, Turner Prize nominee Luke Fowler will collaborate with Jean-Luc

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars Despite all appearances to the contrary, Jim Cartwright's 1992 play, written for actress Jane Horrocks, is not a showbiz spectacular. Nor was it ever meant to be, not even with a cast drawn from cabaret, comedy and popular TV and theatre circuits as they are in Cartwright's own touring revival. Rather, this close-up of a shy young girl finding salvation through song is more of a feel-good flip-side to Road, Cartwright's debut, which arrived six years earlier like a template for the thick of Thatcherism Little Voice may be set among the same northern English housing estate underclass, but where Road was unflinchingly brutal, Little Voice is a Viz comic picture post-card with a drunken punchline at the end of every scene. Nowhere is this best encapsulated than in the figure of Mari, LV's brittle good-time girl mother who falls in with would-be agent Ray Say before watching her shaky life go up in flames. Meanwhil


Tron Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars It’s taken almost twenty years for Dermot Bolger’s free dramatisation of James Joyce’s life in a day tale of Leopold Bloom’s travails through Dublin’s underbelly to have life breathed in it via a full production. For director Andy Arnold too, one gets the heady sense that his exquisitely realised production is the climax of a love affair with Irish letters which began in his early years of running The Arches. Because, as we follow Bloom into the slow-burning languor of a red light district of the mind, this looks like one of the best things Arnold has done. Charlotte Lane’s big wooden set on which the floorboards slowly wind into themselves like a serpent suggests Bloom might just be walking round in circles. As drink gets the better of him, Stephen Dedalus and the thrusting Blazes Boylan, the day takes a turn into a woozy, libido-driven dream-state. In this way, Bolger’s adaptation both grounds Joyce’s wilder excesses in the everyday, yet also allows the

Matthew Lenton - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Matthew Lenton is looking decidedly chilled. Sitting in the Royal Lyceum Theatre rehearsal room in Edinburgh, as Lenton explains his thinking behind his forthcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lyceum, Lenton’s demeanour is as far removed from the last time he spoke on these pages as he can get. Then, Lenton and his acclaimed Vanishing Point company were about to premiere Wonderland, a major new commission at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. After more than two years development spent exploring the dark underbelly of internet pornography, Wonderland was an understandably intense experience for everybody involved. While Lenton’s dramatic curiosity remained unbowed, he looked exhausted, and not a little haunted. Lenton was also in the thick of the ongoing fire-storm over national arts funding agency, Creative Scotland. Lenton was one of the first high-profile artists to speak out publicly against Creative Scotland’s scrapping of the organisation’s two-yea

American Idiot - Green Day Take on the World

It’s teatime in Southampton, and outside the city’s Mayflower Theatre, a small huddle of teenagers are hanging round. Blue-haired girls and black-clad boys skulk warily on the steps or else lean up against the theatre wall. In the park opposite, little pockets of similarly clad teens make their way towards the Mayflower in a slow-moving pilgrimage of disaffected suburban youth. In the pub next door, middle-aged men in Ramones t-shirts, greying oasis hair-cuts and khaki jackets are grabbing one last pint before they too make their way to the Mayflower. All of which speaks volumes about the mass pan-generational appeal of the show that’s just about to open there. But no-one’s come out to watch a gig by some reformed rock revivalists or the latest TV talent show sensation. Rather, the Mayflower is hosting the opening UK dates for a piece of prime time musical theatre called American Idiot, and the Green Day hordes are out in force. Once upon a time, Green Day were cartoon pun

Michael Clark Company – New Work 2012

Tramway, Glasgow October 4 th 2012 When a crop-haired female dancer is lowered from the heavens onto the vast expanse of the stage of one of the most significant performance/art spaces in Europe, it magnificently sums up the audacious spirit of Michael Clark. Especially as the trio that make up Green Gartside’s twenty-first century version of one-time squat rockers turned glossy 1980 chart stars Scritti Politti are playing The Boom Boom Bap, the lead single from Gartside’s 2006 ‘comeback’ album, White Bread Black Beer, tucked into the side of the stage beside the action the band are under-scoring. Royal Ballet rebel Clarke fled the tutus and tights set to form his own company in 1984, performing to soundtracks dominated in early works by the relentless repetitions of The Fall, who he first referenced in his 1984 piece, New Puritans. It says much for the relative conservatism of the contemporary dance world that for more than thirty years, now, Clarke has been regard