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Showing posts from December, 2014

Joe McAlinden - EDIT

When Joe McAlinden sat on a rock beside the sea near Achiltibuie, he didn't know the end result would be the making of the short film, EDIT, which premiered at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Directed by visual artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the team behind 20,000 Days on Earth, the award-winning impressionistic documentary featuring Nick Cave, EDIT will be screened on New Year's Day as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's series of Scot:Lands events around the capital. A loop of EDIT, which follows a young woman's cross-country journey in search of her missing younger brother, will form Tide:Land at a yet to be named venue. Here, McAlinden will perform the live soundtrack that inspired Forsyth, Pollard and stage and screen writer Martin McCardie to make the half-hour film that features a remarkable performance by Kate Bracken. “Bizarrely, it was me who started it,” the former singer with the group, Superstar, says of the ro

Kevin McLeod - From The Singing Kettle To Funbox

When the founders of children's music theatre company The Singing Kettle, Archie Trezise and Cilla Fisher, announced in October that the much-loved company was set to close following a final tour of large-scale venues around Scotland, it marked the end of an era that began an astonishing thirty-two years ago. Before children of all ages could mutter so much as a 'Spout, handle, lid of metal', however, The Singing Kettle's final line-up of Kevin McLeod, Anya Scott-Rodgers and Gary Coupland announced the arrival of a brand new company called Funbox to keep the spirit of their former employers alive. “We were having far to much fun doing what we do to stop doing it,” Funbox co-founder McLeod explains of the decision to carry on beyond the company he has worked with for the last seventeen years, “so we decided to start our own company and do something similar. We think the work that The Singing Kettle has done in terms of keeping the tradition of Scottish playground songs a

Briefs: The Second Coming

Spiegeltent, St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh Four stars “Is everybody alright?” asks the six-foot drag-queen in his/her high-heeled pomp at the edge of the Spiegeltent catwalk after three similarly attired colleagues have taken a trio of their fellow artistes dressed as dogs for a walk. The vintage movie starlet shapes thrown by those portraying the dog-owners initially suggests a kitsch precursor to some energetic bounding from their charges. When the scene ends with a comic but no less effective simulation of coprophagia between mistress and four-legged friend, however, it makes for a more unexpected but altogether more subversive punchline. By this time the six-man team who make-up Australian troupe Briefs have thrusted, teased and bared their well-buffed behinds in a series of routines involving bananas, a yo-yo, a Rubik's Cube and increasingly less clothes. There are wigs, lip-synching, and a gymnastic routine with a suspended ring loaded with enough homo-erotic attitude as

Hamish Clark - Almost Maine

When Hamish Clark went from his home in Broughty Ferry in Dundee to Edinburgh University to study English Literature, he never meant to become an actor. When he joined the student theatre company, performing, writing and putting plays together, a career on the stage began to seem like a possibility. It took a few years working in factories, shops and other jobs to get by, but Clark suddenly found himself a familiar face through appearing in a series of ads for a mobile phone company, then as a regular for seven years in Sunday night drama series, Monarch of the Glen. This week, however, Clark returns to the stage at the north London based Park Theatre in the UK premiere of American writer John Cariani's 2005 Broadway hit, Almost Maine. Cariani's play is set in a small American town in the thick of winter where over the course of one cold and frosty evening, various couples fall in and out of love at exactly the same moment in nine two-person vignettes. In contrast to it's s

Smoke Fairies – Waiting For Something To Begin

One of the many stand-out songs from the Chichester-sired duo of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies' eponymous fourth album begins with some far-off plainchant that ushers in the sort of gossamer-thin atmospherics not heard since the back-packer trip-scape of All Saints' Pure Shores. A low-slung guitar and a drum-beat that's part martial mediaevalism, part Spectoresque wall-of-sound, gives way to a self-reflective tale of small wonders, everyday epiphanies and fleeting moments of shared joy. Like some ancient madrigal fused with Me Generation confessional and given a discreet post-modern sheen, Waiting For Something To Begin belies any misplaced notions of kookiness the duo's name and image may imply. At the heart of its textured melancholy and cut-glass introspection is a shimmering sensuality possessed with strength and power. At moments Blamire and Davies' twin vocal recalls the equally spectral work of Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski with 4AD rec

Faust – Just Us (Bureau B)

Three stars Like a little army of trolls marching out of the shadows, this latest opus from the Jean Herve Peron/Zappi Diermaier version of Germany's veteran kosmische hippy Dadaists creeps up on you slowly. Peron's looming bass and Diermaier's martial drums set a moody tone before exploding into the extended guitar wig-out of the album's opening assault, 'Gerubelt'. After more than forty years in the saddle, Peron and Diermaier have styled this new release as jUSt, a set of twelve semi-improvised bare-bones rhythm-driven sound sculptures designed to be rebuilt by anyone who fancies a bash at adding their own touches to it. Whether the end result will find Krautrock copycats indulging in fantasy-wish-fulfilment hero-worship or inspire something more interesting remains to be seen. What's left in the meantime is a group of miniatures far less formless than mere backing tracks. Stripped back to basics, the same rush of primal physicality best captured in Faust

Victoria Morton

The Modern Institute, Aird's Lane, Glasgow Until January 17th 2015 Four stars 'OPTIMUM LIVING MADE EASY', the quasi-ironic legend just about declaims from the second of five large-scale paintings that make up a new cycle of work by Victoria Morton. Or at least that's what it appears to say, as the poster-size message that resembles a stencilled-in slogan is all but obscured by swirls of red camouflage as well as the image of a female figure who appears to be squirting paint into her palm. Such wilful discretion is the most tellingly talismanic image on show, even as it acts as a bridge between the explosions of colour elsewhere. At times improvised but never slap-dash, these burst forth with a self-referential life-force which flits between a blood-rush of fevered activity offset by pools of calm that trickle out beyond the oranges and lemons. As a very personal story-board, it highlights a vivid life and death swirl that points to little moments captured from everyday

Alasdair Gray – Spheres of Influence I and II

GOMA until May 25th 2015/Glasgow School of Art until January 25th 2015 Five stars It's only too fitting that programme image for the first of these two shows that form part of the Glasgow-wide Alasdair Gray season, lovingly and meticulously put together by Sorcha Dallas to mark Glasgow's original renaissance man's eightieth year, is a compass. For both the GOMA show it heralds and its accompanying GSA show join the dots between those who influenced this poppiest of classicists and those who followed in his wake, with Gray both wide-eyed bridge and beacon between the two. So at GOMA we move from Durer's crucifixions, Blake's judgements and Aubrey Beardsley's erotic politesse to Japanese figurative art, line drawings by David Hockney, the vintage poetics of Adrian Wiszniewski and Chad McCail's poster-size take on wisdom and experience. The umbilical links between these and Gray's own works are made plain, yet remain tantalisingly fresh even as the join is

The Devil Masters

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Three stars It's Christmas Eve in Edinburgh New Town, and in the ornate interior of legal power couple Cameron and Lara's Georgian des-res, the fire is roaring, the wine is uncorked and their beloved dog Max is frolicking in the garden. Set to a classical music soundtrack, the scene is almost too perfect in Orla O'Loughlin's production of Iain Finlay Macleod's new play, as if lifted from the pages of some high society magazine. Enter John, an intruder from the opposite end of the social spectrum, whose rude intrusion and kidnap of Max sees the veneer of respectability rapidly unravel as Lara at least shows her true colours. The name of the game for what follows is survival, as John first becomes trapped, only to use his animal mentality to turn the tables on his captors. As played by John Bett and Barbara Rafferty as Cameron and Lara, and Keith Fleming as John, the heightened grotesquerie in the cartoon class war that foll

Desire Lines – The Future Is Unwritten

1 Thirty-five years ago tonight, on December 8th 1979, I went along to an under-eighteens matinee gig in a shabby basement club in a run-down street in Liverpool city centre. I was fifteen, the band I went to see was called Joy Division and the club was called Eric's. To say the experience was life-changing is an understatement. Eric's was situated at one end of Mathew Street, and was already legendary for birthing a colourful post-punk underground made up of bands with ridiculous names such as Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes. Both these bands were signed to Zoo records, run by two young men from an office at the other end of the street, over the road from Probe Records, a social hub where all the Eric's crowd hung out. A couple of years before on the same street in an old warehouse transformed into an arts lab and cafe called the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, maverick theatre director Ken Campbell premiered a twel

Iain Finlay Macleod - The Devil Masters

When Iain Finlay Macleod moved part time to the Stockbridge district on the cusp of Edinburgh New Town, it was as far spiritually from the playwright, novelist and tweed-maker's Lewis birth-place as it was geographically. Macleod had decamped to the capital to take up his post as the 2013 Institute of Advanced Studies for the Humanities (IASH) Edinburgh University/Traverse Theatre Fellow, and the original plan was to write something loosely based around the nineteenth century Enlightenment which begat the thinking of David Hume and Adam Smith. Yet, s he spent more time in the area, Macleod became increasingly drawn towards the not always enlightened world of the legal profession. Then, when a friend told him a story about someone looking after a dog which subsequently died, forcing its minder to put its body in a suitcase to take it across town to the vet's on the underground, it became something else again. The result of such a disparate set of inspirations is The Devil Master

The Amazing Adventures of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp

Cumbernauld Theatre Four stars “Don't go messing with cosmos,” says the operator of a celestial helpline to big bad Abanazer in Tony Cownie's pocket-sized take on this most magical of pantomime favourites, “or the cosmos will mess with you.” This is something Abanazer eventually learns to his cost  as he manipulates peasant boy Aladdin into leading him to the magic lamp and the genie that will sate his greed. Lovestruck Aladdin, meanwhile, has his sights set on the beautiful Princess Jasmine, even if it means trampolining his way over the palace walls with his best pal Karif to get her. A bored king is the initial impetus for the yarn to unravel, as his loyal subjects scramble around in desperation to find one more story to keep him interested. Only when the oldest and wisest member of the tribe lays bare a tale closer to his heart than he lets on does the gang leap into the dressing up box to act it out. As dramaturged by Ed Robson and Roderick Stewart, this makes the most of

A Christmas Carol

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Five stars Don't be fooled by the pasty-faced jug-band who strike up a jaunty version of Silent Night as a curtain-raiser to Dominic Hill's seasonal look at Charles' Dickens' festive classic. Aside from an audience sing-along to The Twelve Days of Christmas and Ebeneezer Scrooge's closing conversion, that's pretty much as cheery as things get. Such over-riding solemnity is by no means to the show's detriment, however, as Hill and his creative team take full advantage of Neil Bartlett's marvellously pared-down script. Fused throughout with an epigrammatic musicality that allows for much playfulness, it allows an inherent theatricality to burst onto the stage with an ensemble cast of eight led by a pop-eyed Cliff Burnett as the old miser himself. From the off, even the quill-scratching labours of Scrooge's employees are choreographed to perfection by movement directors Benedicte Seierup and Lucien MacDougall before things vee


Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars Be careful not to quaff too many flagons of frobscottle before going to see the Royal Lyceum Company's festive take on Roald Dahl's over-sized yarn about a kindly but flatulent giant. If you do indulge in the make-believe beverage, Andrew Panton's production of David Wood's stage version might well end up with so much whizzpopping, as Dahl would have it, that it could resemble an exercise in odorama, not to mention adding assorted off-kilter pumps and parps to Claire McKenzie's already energetic live soundtrack. Wood opens up Dahl's pages by way of a magician's birthday party no-show, which inspires young Sophie to put herself centre-stage as she acts out her favourite present along with her pals, while also giving her mum and dad the starring roles. On a life-size wooden doll's house flanked by little fluffy clouds designed by Becky Minto, Robyn Milne's Sophie transports her puppet self into the clutches of

Jim Campbell – Indirect Imaging

Dundee Contemporary Arts until January 25th 2014 Four stars The light and a whole lot more besides pours out of the seven pieces in Chicago-born LED auteur Jim Campbell's first ever UK solo show from the moment you set foot into the DCA's foyer, where a digital clock behind the reception desk displays the night and day of things rather than time itself. If this is a precision-perfect image of a retro-future relic, it's soporific fusion of low-lit high-tech isn't trying to be cute, but comes fused with an intelligent and quietly personal poetry. Outside Gallery 1, 'Motion and Rest 5' (2002) may at first glance resemble a traffic sign, but is actually footage of a person walking on crutches. Inside, similar optical effects are writ ever larger. 'Explode View (Commuters)' (2011), the self-explanatory 'Home Movies 1040-3' (2011) and 'A Fire, A Freeway and A Walk' (1999-2000) capture bodies in rest and motion, en route to work, rest or play. &

Miracle on 34th Street

Pitlochry Festival Theatre Four stars Imagine what might happen if a shop store Santa Claus started to advise the cash-strapped mums of the pre-schoolers he promises the world to to go somewhere cheaper. Today, just as in Meredith Willson's 1963 stage musical of the 1957 feel-good film, chances are the white-bearded anarchist would have his mental health questioned before being sent for trial. Especially if the old man actually believed he was Santa Claus, real life facial hair and all. Such may be the way of capitalism at Christmas, but John Durnin's lavish production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre's ensemble make it clear that, at this time of year, at least, suspension of disbelief is paramount to overcoming seasonal cynicism no matter how extreme. This is certainly the case with thoroughly modern middle manager Doris, who's been unceremoniously dumped and left to bring up her equally jaded daughter Susan on her own. Enter ex military man and would-be lawyer Fred to

Rupert Thomson - From Summerhall to Salford

When it was announced last week that Rupert Thomson had been appointed as one of three specialist programme associates at the state of art Lowry centre in Salford, it probably wasn't because of how Thomson looked. Even so, clad in a vintage raincoat and cap with a neatly hipsterish v-neck, tie and skinny jeans ensemble beneath, one can't help but notice Thomson's resemblance to one of the back-street dwelling 'match-stalk men' painted by the artist that gives the Lowry its name. The fact that Thomson was born and partly raised in the neighbourhood a stone's throw from the centre - “South Manchester, not Salford,” he's careful to note,” - built in the city's formerly run down docklands area lends Thomson an even more striking frisson of post-modern cool. It's an all too appropriate image too for a man who will flit between the rough and not always ready expanse of Summerhall, where Thomson will remain in post, and the Lowry's bright

James and the Giant Peach

Dundee Rep Four stars 'Give them a peachy juice burst' the legend declaims from a speech bubble attached to the face of a fresh-faced infant on the giant billboard that acts as a stage curtain for the interval of Jemima Levick's festive production of Roald Dahl's five a day-based classic. David Wood frames his stage version around the sort of New York walking tour normally the preserve of A-list movie stars. Here, we find young James Henry Trotter exercising his possibly lysergically influenced gardening skills from the inside of a beat-up caravan on a slice of Central Park that resembles a revolving traffic island. Accompanied by a posse of human-sized insects, James embarks on a fantastic voyage that sees the unidentified fruity object that freed him from a pair of wicked aunties move across land, sea and air before coming home to roost in the big apple itself. With the ever expanding peach represented in Jean Chan's surrealist-influenced design work by a series o