Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2012

MacPherson’s Rant

Madras College, St Andrews 3 stars The demise of the Byre Theatre as a thriving professional producing house following funding cuts after a major refurbishment was a major loss to St Andrews. With any luck, this new production of a script originally penned by John Ward may help encourage the re-establishment of a permanent artistic team at what is now primarily a receiving house. Ward’s play was a heroic reimagining of the life and death of seventeenth century Scots wanderer, James MacPherson, who created his own mythology via the song he penned while awaiting execution. Kally Lloyd-Jones’ production of Linda Duncan McLaughlin’s adaptation was enabled by the Scottish Government-backed Year of Creative Scotland 2012’s bestowment of the Scotland’s Creative Place Award to St Andrews. Performed by a mixed cast of professionals and community participants, the production is staged in a heated tent in the grounds of Madras College, and is a romantically inclined romp that sugg

The Woman in Black

Theatre Royal, Glasgow 4 stars When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe came of big-screen age earlier this year in the cinematic adaptation of Susan Hill’s spookiest of novels, one feared that its gothic gloss might suck the life out of the late Stephen Mallatratt’s stage version. After more than two decades in the west end and ten national tours, judging by this latest encounter, Robin Herford’s still spine-tingling production isn’t ready to lie down just yet. Mallatratt’s play finds lawyer Arthur Kipps hiring an actor to role-play events from years before in an attempt to exorcise ghosts that have haunted him since. These involve a young Kipps being packed off to a desolate country house to oversee a dead woman’s affairs, only to have the eponymous Woman transform his life. As a dense yarn of illigitimacy, accidental death and revenge from the grave is unveiled, the shocks pile on aplenty for Kipps, whether played by Julian Forsyth or by Antony Eden’s Actor. This m

Nation's Best Am Dram - Reality TV Onstage

Amateur dramatics may still conjure up images of chintzy middle England matriarchs over-playing Alan Ayckbourn in draughty village halls, but it remains one of Britain's most popular past-times. Some two thousand groups estimated to be producing work, while in Scotland, the Scottish Community Drama Association is a major hub of am dram activity. Some of the best am dram groups are currently on show in Nation's Best Am Dram, a six part TV series on Sky Arts HD, which pits teams against each other in a competition judged and mentored by high-profile theatre professionals. With three very different Scottish groups making it down to the last eight, and with performance in a London West End the prize for the winner, am dram is a very serious business for everyone involved. By way of actor and director Kathy Burke's throaty narration, the first two episodes of Nation's Best Am Dram have introduced viewers to Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group (EGTG), the Glasgow-based


Tramway, Glasgow 4 stars The week-long residency at Tramway by maverick producers, Fuel, continued in the tone set by David Rosenberg’s opening sonic adventure, Ring, of invading our space and subverting our senses. The rest of the programme was by turns arresting, provocative and, at its best, deeply political, both on a personal and a global level. Nowhere was this mashed up more than in Make Better Please, Unexpected Guests’ latest meditation on how we live now. This began with focus group style round-table discussions on news events of the day, and ended with a collective purging of the mess of twenty-first century secularised culture discussed earlier. Following a succession of quick-fire role-plays, things grew increasingly frantic, as one of our hosts took on the sins of David Cameron, Jimmy Savile, George Osborne and all the rest. Pulsed along by a punk-style din, this was Unexpected Guests getting back to their and our roots, where the primitive power of the


Tramway, Glasgow 4 stars The audience may have been left in the dark in this first of four performance-based pieces that make up the bulk of Fuelfest, Bank of Scotland Herald Angel winning producing team Fuel’s week-long residency at Tramway. Yet director David Rosenberg’s immersive experience is delivered with such scarifying intensity that his production is as enlightening on the possibilities of sound as it is on group dynamics and mass manipulation. Once we’re ushered into a room with two banks of chairs facing each other with a harshly-lit gulf between, we’re lulled into a false sense of security by a man who calls himself Michael, but admits it’s not his real name. We’ve already been given head-phones and our names noted down, and now Michael talks us through proceedings as if we’re regular attendees of some un-named group therapy session. As we’re plunged into blackness, any hinted-at meditations plumb darker imaginings, so the voices in our head bicker, confes

Doogie Paul Obituary

Doogie Paul - Musician Born October 16 th 1972; died November 3 rd 2012 Doogie Paul, who has died of cancer aged forty, was a singularly mercurial figure, both as bass player with James Yorkston and the Athletes over five albums across ten years, and during his early days as an award-winning if somewhat bruised and battered skateboarder. Paul captivated too on the all too rare occasions he performed his own songs live. Paul's untimely passing has robbed Edinburgh and Scotland's music scene of a rare talent, who, whether in the studio, onstage or in a bar with the many friends and strangers his energy sparked off, remained an instinctive, open-minded and unique presence. Douglas Paul was born in Glasgow to Anne and Douglas, who led a musical family. Paul's father had been a professional bass player, and his elder brothers, Alan and Iain, played guitar and drums respectively. Paul grew up with his family in Newton Mearns, where he attended Mearns Primary and Ea

Doctor in the House - Dominic Hill on the Citizens Theatre's Spring 2013 Season

It was former Citizens Theatre boss Giles Havergal who told the Gorbals emporium's current artistic director Dominic Hill that Dr Faustus had never been produced at the theatre during his tenure. Given the body of classical plays produced with such flamboyant verve during Havergal's thirty year reign over the theatre along with fellow directors Robert David Macdonald and Philip Prowse, that Christopher Marlowe's play had never been tackled in the Gorbals came as a surprise to Hill. Today's exclusive announcement in the Herald of the Citz's forthcoming Spring 2013 season finds Hill addressing this oversight by putting Dr Faustus at the centre of a programme that aims to make the classical contemporary. As tickets go on sale today for all shows, we can also announce that Hill's production of Dr Faustus will reunite him with the creative team behind his production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt while in charge of Dundee Rep. As well as writer Colin Teevan coming

The Red Hourglass

The Arches, Glasgow 3 stars To get over the things you fear, you first have to confront them. Whether novelist Alan Bissett is scared of spiders or not isn’t on record, but he certainly gets stuck in to the little blighters in this arachnid-friendly solo effort first performed by himself during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. From the hoodie-sporting common or garden variety who comes on like some wannabe chancer straight out of an Irvine Welsh story, to the black-booted southern belle Black Widow with predatory intentions, Bissett’s sextet of comic thumbnail sketches are life studies akin to biology lab dissections with extra added amateur psychology thrown in. Bissett’s subjects are being held captive under glass in a St Andrews research centre, where the female of the species rules the roost. The pecking order elsewhere is made clear by the presence of a swarthy Latino tarantula and the neurotic New Yorker who embodies the recluse spider. As well observed as all th


Tron Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars There’s something deeply troubling at the heart of this double bill of solo plays by Simon Stephens, which say much about the love/hate relationship with the city it takes its collective name from, be it at home or away. The first, T5, finds a woman in a hotel bedroom on the run from the crime scene she’s just witnessed, but unable to flee completely from the responsibilities she’s left behind. The second, Seawall, follows a shaggy dog story told by a man who seems to have everything, right through to the holiday accident that changed everything. Both plays have appeared separately in different productions during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Seen together in George Perrin’s touring production for Paines Plough in association with Live Theatre, Newcastle and Salisbury Playhouse, these beautifully written studies of urban neuroses and everyday tragedies form a complimentary whole made even more powerful by how each story is told. The Wom

Andy Hope 1930 - When Dinosaurs Become Modernists

Inverleith House, Edinburgh November 1 to January 13 2013 4 stars Scary monsters and super-creeps abound in the Berlin-based artist formerly known as Andreas Hofer's first UK museum exhibition, which features five new works among an epic forty-one on show. Seen side by side, there are moments when they resemble an outsize pulp fiction collage of pop culture ephemera swirling around Hofer's brain, over-lapping each other as they burst through the frame. Even the fact that Andy Hope 1930 has a secret identity speaks volumes about where he's coming from. Because, drawing a line between Roy Lichtenstein and Daniel Johnston, Andy Hope 1930 takes the trash aesthetic of golden age comic book iconography and invests it with a subverted mythology born of the more questioning, me-generation years. So, against a Zabriskie Point style landscape in 'Impressions d'Amerique', Batman and Robin are dressed as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, making the umbilical link b


Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh Wednesday October 24th 2012 3 stars “ It will all work out fine,” murmurs Merja Kokkonen, aka Finnish electronic chanteuse and Fonal Recordings artiste Islaja, as she stands before her keyboard and assorted accoutrements. Kokkonen is sounding decidedly snuffly for her return trip to Edinburgh following her last visit in 2010. Islaja's appearance is a slightly downbeat climax to a quadruple bill of very different electronic imaginings. First up is Anak-Anak, the solo guise of Conquering Animal Sound vocalist and knob twiddler Anneke Kampman, whose looped warbles sound like a strangely penetrating and appositely spartan chorale. 'Raven 'Shuns is a Noise-scene supergroop of Rhian Thompson, aka CK Dexter Haven, Stuart Arnot and Susan Fitzpatrick, who record as Acrid Lactations for their own Total Vermin label. Combined, it's a quiet riot of toy-town scrapings that might just have discovered the true sound of string. Tomutont

Summerhall Art & Music Exhibitions

Summerhall, Edinburgh, until November 24 th 2012 4 stars The path-way from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan is a tellingly symbolic one in the two most straightforward of seven big shows exploring the relationships between sound and vision in very different ways. The images of these two icons of popular music may be a short stroll from a dark room to the basement, but, captured at their creative peak, these two pop cultural giants mark out the co-dependent leap from blue-collar street-songs to the avant-garde. In 'A Hero of the True West, Jim Marshall's images captures the Man in Black in transit via thirty black and white shots of Cash in concert and with his family in the late 1960s. When Cash peers through the grille of a van en route to Folsom Prison, so stony-faced is he that it's as if he's in as cell of his own making. If Cash appears on the run from his own demons, the image of him with Dylan is a kind of baton-passing. Because, as captured by celebrity snapper

Theatre Uncut 2012 - Living In Interesting Times

When Theatre Uncut was awarded a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award during this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it was vindication for a radical idea borne from adversity. Theatre Uncut''s three programmes of brand new plays were performed script-in-hand in the Traverse Theatre bar at ten in the morning. Many of the plays had been penned just a few days before by an array of international writers, and were performed by a top-notch cast pulled together from other Fringe shows with only a couple of hours rehearsal. The plays themselves were akin to living newspapers, responding to current events with a sense of immediacy that mattered more than any rough edges there might have been. There weren't many. Nor were the plays old-fashioned polemics, but offered up instead a more lateral set of responses which retained a very human and poetic heart amongst the seriousness of their concerns. The new works ranged from a piece by American playwright Neil LaBute that loo

We Hope That You're Happy (Why Would We Lie?)

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars The popcorn handed out to the audience on the way in to see Made in China's two-handed dissection of happiness is as playfully deceptive as everything that follows. The black-clad young woman standing atop a platform licking an ice lolly who greets us similarly wrong-foots any implied fun and games. Over its fifty minute duration, however, Tim Cowbury's script morphs into an increasingly manic and unreliable memoir of apparently shared experience in search of meaning. The woman on the platform is Jess. The young man that slinks on sporting a Sideshow Bob hair-do is Chris. As the pair gaze out at the audience, they claim to be best friends. In-between downing cans of beer pulled from an ice-box beside Jess, the duo tell elaborate shaggy-dog stories and do dance routines to David Bowie's Rebel Rebel and Susan Cadogan's reggae take on Hurt So Good. They cover themselves in flour and tomato ketchup, putting themselves through dram


The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh 4 stars It’s the cosiness that draws you into theatre designer Kai Fischer’s moodily lit installation and performance piece. The casual listener might never guess where the words being uttered in such soothing female tones through speakers attached to a series of wooden platforms are taken from. Once you realise they are drawn verbatim from the catalogue for the Nazi-organised Degenerate Art Exhibition that took place in Munich in 1937, the piece takes on a new measure of seriousness. The exhibition, organised by Adolf Hitler and his cronies, aimed to deride and discredit anything the state could not control or understand. As the sensors that operate each speaker are triggered whenever a viewer draws close, the gentlest of cacophonies comes gradually and shockingly into focus. When performers Pauline Goldsmith and Pauline Lockhart draw the audience into what initially resembles a children’s story-telling session, the content of their si

Muscles of Joy – No-One's Little Girls Shouting Out Loud

1 International Women’s Day March 1982 In a black-painted former city centre warehouse turned venue in Liverpool, called, oddly enough, The Warehouse, The Raincoats are singing a traditional Latin-American folk song a cappella. The song is the encore to a set honed in the wake of the all-female trio’s (plus assorted male and female drummers) previous two albums of lo-fi Ladbroke Grove squat-rock with a lyrical feminist bent, their self-named 1979 debut, which features an even more gender-bending take on The Kinks’ song Lola than the original, and its smoother, more world-beat-inclined 1981 follow-up, Odyshape. A live cassette recorded in New York, The Kitchen Tapes, will follow a year later, and a final album, Moving, in 1984, before The Raincoats fall prey to whatever things bands fall prey to. It will take more than a decade for Nirvana's Kurt Cobain to bring The Raincoats into the spotlight once more. Tonight, however, with Gina Birch, Ana Da Silva and Vicky Aspinall lined