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Showing posts from June, 2013

Edinburgh International Magic Festival - More Than Just An Illusion

When research scientist and PhD student Kevin McMahon took part in a TV reality show that gave members of the public a crash course in a field diametrically opposed to their own, he would never have dreamt that it would lead to him, not just switching careers, but to founding what was probably the world's first magic festival. As the fourth Edinburgh International Magic Festival begins this weekend, however, McMahon, now the festival's co-director and a full-time close-up magician himself for the last six years, it's an accidental dream come true. It was when McMahon applied to take part in Faking It that the dream began. The producers whisked him off to America, where he studied magic for two weeks under globally successful double act, Penn and Teller. On his return, he performed to Paul Daniels, who presumed McMahon not to be an old hand at the magic game. McMahon himself was smitten, and has been performing professionally ever since. EIMF was born from an ide

Multiplex - Tron Skillshops Revisited

From the playground to the office block, pecking orders exist in all walks of life. This is made explicitly clear in the revival of Multiplex, Christopher William Hill's play written for the Tron Theatre, Glasgow's Tron Skillshops young people's theatre group that forms part of the theatre's outreach and community initiative, Tron Participation. Hill's play looks at the twilight world of multiplex cinemas where a coterie of ushers jockey for position in the after-dark food chain they occupy. From the Plankton at the bottom of the pack, we move up a peg with the too cool for school Dudes before we meet the Buffs, for whom what goes on up there on the big-screen is a matter of life and death. Whether such a chain of command exists in the assorted groups that make up Tron Skillshops and Tron Participation isn't on record, although it's interesting to note that many of the teenage performers taking part in Multiplex were members of the junior group when

Nile Rodgers and Jean Pierre Muller

Summerhall, Edinburgh 4 stars When a large wooden painting of Cab Calloway's face hung from the ceiling of Summerhall's dissection room came crashing down, narrowly missing the star of this unique art and music collaboration, it could have proved disastrous. Nile Rodgers, however, brushed away the incident with the same charm that has seen him through a forty-year musical adventure which began with Chic, and is currently riding high with Get Lucky, the song Rodgers wrote with Daft Punk that is currently the biggest selling record of the summer. An Indigo Night in F is a new suite charting Harlem's rich sonic history that came out of 7x7, Belgian artist Jean Pierre Muller's installation presented at Summerhall in 2012, and which featured work by the likes of Robert Wyatt and Archie Shepp as well as Rodgers. Muller explained all this to a crowd of just 300 from a customised stage area which over the next two hours was gradually decked out with cut-out diorama

Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner

Tramway, Glasgow 4 stars There are those who will swear they were there at all six episodes of the radical site-specific theatricalisation of James Hogg's nineteenth century novel at the fag end of the 1980s. For most of us, however, all we have are the meticulously detailed archive exhibited en route to the auditorium and actor George Anton's lovingly told if possibly unreliable memoir about one Paul Bright. According to Anton and the role-call of theatrical luminaries who appear paying homage on-screen, Bright was a counter-cultural iconoclastic savant, who blazed a brief and chaotic trail from the back rooms of pubs to Mayfest and the Edinburgh International Festival, before crashing and burning in the ultimate act of avant-garde self-destruction. In Stewart Laing's production of Pamela Carter's script for this co-production between Laing's Untitled Projects, the National Theatre of Scotland and Tramway, Anton presents all this found material as a p

Bard in the Botanics 2013 - Weathering The Storm

When Bard in the Botanics artistic director programmed The Tempest as his flagship production of his 2012 season of open-air Shakespeare plays, to call his choice unintentionally ironic is something of an understatement. 2012, remember, was the wettest summer for a hundred years, according to the Met Office. Not that Barr or anyone else connected with Bard in the Botanics needed such official confirmation of such a soggy climate. The fact that the company were forced to cancel some fifty per cent of performances because of rain stopping play spoke volumes, even if the temptation to have The Tempest's self-exiled magician Prospero cook up a dramatic storm for real must have been a method-acting friendly temptation for the company's tenth anniversary season. This year, however, Barr and his team return to the fray unbowed with three new productions which are being rehearsed even as Barr keeps an optimistic eye on a weather map. What Barr gas dubbed the Edge of War season sh

The Gospel According To Sandy Nelson

Sandy Nelson never meant to be a comedian, even if he did spend fourteen years on the stand-up circuit. Nelson started out as an actor, working with David MacLennan's politically minded musical theatre troupe, Wildcat. Only when acting work dried up in what he wryly refers to as his “dish-washing years,” did Nelson throw his hat in the comedy ring. Today, however, things have come full circle, and Nelson has finally quit stand-up to embark on a variety of theatre projects that has seen him back working with MacLennan as a regular at Oran Mor's A Play, A Pie and A Pint season of lunchtime plays. Nelson's latest work as both writer and actor is an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, which forms part of this summer's Classic Cuts season of pared down favourites. While Iain Robertson will play Petruchio, Nelson himself will play Baptista in Rosie Kellagher's production of Nelson's second stab at a Classic Cut. “Last year I adapted Pyg

Poetry, Punk and Primal Scream - Jim Lambie Makes It Happen

Primal Scream have just been introduced onstage as the best rock and roll band in the world. When the five-piece led by a check-shirted Bobby Gillespie troop on and launch into a forty-five minute, nine-song set drawn largely from their just released More Light album, any suspicions that they are studio-bound alchemists only are instantly dispelled by one of the most glorious live performances of the year. Under dim red lights, the band open, not with new material, but with the slow-burning noir of Out of the Void from 1997's dark come-down album, Vanishing Point. After that, things crank up for the insistent urgency of More Light's first single, 2013. It may be without the post-punk saxophone of the record, but, in its raw state, with a sax sample low in the mix, it still sounds like a manifesto, a soundtrack to an Occupy riot and a devotional hymn to rock and roll all at the same time. It's back to Vanishing Point for Burning Wheel, before some wag in the crowd

Life in a Scotch Sitting Room – The Noise and Smoky Breath of The Third Eye Centre

1. When the Tom McGrath Trust held a fund-raising event at the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on March 1st this year, its melee of jazz, performance and poetry captured the polymathic chaos of the late playwright, poet and pianist in all its inclusive glory. It was, said someone, ;like spending a night inside McGrath's head. With the CCA housed on the site of the old Third Eye Centre, the event also marked something of a spiritual home-coming. It was McGrath, after all, who was the Third Eye Centre's first artistic director when the hippified arts lab opened its doors in 1974 to become Glasgow's first multiple artform space. Theatre, music, exhibitions, readings and out and out happenings could all be housed under the same roof, with the best book shop on the planet and one of the city's first vegetarian cafes thrown in to plot, scheme, dream or just hang out in. With his own artistic roots at the centre of the 1960s London underground, be it editing c

Some Other Mother

MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling 3 stars Take a child away from home for long enough and put them in an insecure situation, and chances are they'll create their own world just to protect themselves with the power of their imaginations alone. So it is with Star, the ten year old north African asylum seeker who lives with her mother in a damp and run-down Glasgow high-rise. With the constant threat of deportation coming via a knock on the door at dawn, Star finds comfort in mythical tales from home and Dog Man, a Calvin and Hobbes style imaginary friend with a nice line in sweary words that help keep the nightmares away. AJ Taudevin's play is produced in association with the Scottish Refugee Council and the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, where it plays for two nights this weekend to open Scottish Refugee Week. It may initially look like a piece of up to the minute kitchen-sink social realism, with neighbours hanging out on the balconies of Clare Halleran's set and social

Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner - The Real Thing?

Most regular arts page readers will have heard of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner, James Hogg's seminal nineteenth century Scottish novel. This will be the case despite the fact that the book was initially published anonymously, and was hugely neglected during Hogg's lifetime. Only in the twentieth century was Hogg's finest work pretty much rediscovered and given the classic status it so richly deserves. The same excavation of unknown brilliance looks set to happen to Paul Bright, who, according to director Stewart Laing and writer Pamela Carter, was an avant-garde director who in 1987 staged dramatised extracts of Hogg's novel in a set of site-specific performances at locations that included Arthur's Seat. Now, along with actor George Anton and a coterie of artists and film-makers, Laing's Untitled Projects company in a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland and Tramway will look at Bright's all too brief moment i

Citizens Theatre 2013/14 Season

You could be forgiven for thinking that Citizens Theatre artistic director Dominic Hill is taking a breather. As the Herald exclusively announces Hill's plans for the Gorbalas-based theatre's autumn season right through to 2014 as tickets go on sale today, Hill is characteristically laid-back. This despite having just directed his current season's final show, a double bill of Far Away and Seagulls, a double bill of short plays by veteran iconoclast, Caryl Churchill. In fact, despite appearances to the contrary, Hill is anything but in repose. The afternoon we meet, Hill is in and out of meetings working on a major refurbishment dor the Citz's auditorium, set to take place this summer. He's also working on long-term projects, including developing new musicals which may see the light of day at some point. For the moment, however, before looking forward, Hill allows himself a brief moment of reflection. “It seems a long time since the beginning of the season


Oran Mor, Glasgow 3 stars The raison d'etre of Jacobean comedies is for their characters to romp around the houses in lengthy perambulations of duplicitous intent en route to love, money or both. So it is with Ben Johnson's yarn about a Venetian gentleman who tricks three of his peers after his fortune into believing him to be on his death-bed. In the original play there are further complications, but what adaptor and director Andy Clark has done to mark his directorial debut with the first of this summer's lunchtime season of Classic Cuts is to strip the play down to its bare essentials in a way that does it plenty of favours. It opens with Clark's white-faced cast of four serenading the audience with some gentle guitar strums before Edward Kingham's Volpone and his conniving servant Mosca hold court to Voltore, Corvino and Corbaccio. These come bearing gifts to curry favour with Volpone, who disguises himself in order to woo Corvino's wife Celia w

Let The Right One In

Dundee Rep 5 stars When a bullied boy meets the strangest of girls in the woods at night, they are instantly drawn to each other. Yet, in Jack Thorne's stage adaptation of Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel and feature film, things are even more peculiar than mere adolescent awkwardness. While Oskar comes from a broken home where his mother gets by with a glass in her hand, his new neighbour Eli has her own dysfunctional relationship with an apparent father figure who brings her fresh blood. With a serial killer on the loose, Oskar and Eli eke out a quiet form of co-dependence while all about them is turmoil. Fans of Lindqvist's work will already know the outcome of Oskar and Eli's story, but John Tiffany's exquisitely realised production for the National Theatre of Scotland in association with Dundee Rep transcends its source to become a rich and beautiful theatrical experience that is by turns gripping and tender. The forest has long been