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Rob Hoon – Out of the Blue at 25

Out of the Blue is buzzing. It’s a bright Tuesday lunch-time in the former army drill hall turned nouveau arts lab just off Leith Walk in Edinburgh. While the main hall is alive with the chatter of an informal gathering of the city’s various festival organisations, upstairs in the balcony offices and studios, meetings and other day to day business of more grassroots arts organisations are in full swing.
In the busy café area, venue manager Rob Hoon is reflecting on Out of the Blue’s twenty-five-year existence, which began as a shop-front gallery space on Blackfriars Street before it gave rise to the Bongo Club in an old bus shelter on New Street. While the Bongo provided a focal point for the city’s thriving underground music scene, the artists’ studios within the building made for a healthy cross-fertilisation of practitioners and forms.
This was the case until the developers moved in, and the two wings of the Out of the Blue organisation were forced to relocate in separate premises. …

The Duchess (of Malfi)

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Five stars
“Men will come with open faces and say anything to get inside your knickers,” says a jealous Ferdinand to the lady in red who just found her voice at the microphone in Zinnie Harris’ reimagining of John Webster’s seventeenth century revenge tragedy. The fact that the woman is the angry little man-let’s sister gives his voice an edge that lays bare a desperate attempt to stamp out her autonomy and a terror of the lust for life she’s embraced.
All of Webster’s original plot is pretty much present and correct here, with Kirsty Stuart’s Duchess caught up in a man’s world, where, beyond her damaged siblings, her new beau Antonio has imposter syndrome, while Adam Best’s killer Bosola has serious guilt issues.
Harris’ own production for the Lyceum and Citizens theatres gives the play’s tale of a liberated woman being brutalised out of existence an extra contemporary kick. This is done in part through a use of language which undercuts its classicist ste…

The Dark Carnival: Unplugged

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles Four stars
It’s very much a case of better the devil you know in the Vanishing Point company’s stripped-down touring version of their hit piece of theatrical gothic. While there might just be storytelling MC Robert Jack and crooning composer Biff Smith onstage compared to the coffin-load of sixteen actor/musicians who graced the original, the beyond the grave stories and songs remain the same.
As the audience enter the twilight zone for the restless dead as if on a guided tour of what lies beneath the earth, Jack and Smith lead us through a series of chronicles of deaths foretold. Each are laid bare in Nikki Kalkman and Matthew Lenton’s infinitely portable production with the knowing foreboding of master storytellers. Think Edgar Allan Poe hosting Jackanory. Each yarn is illustrated with a series of sepia-tinted photographs that sit astride the coffin of Kenneth MacLeod’s funeral parlour set as they might do in similar memoriam on a living room mantlepiece. From…