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Showing posts from October, 2011

27

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Faith, hope and not so much charity as big business sponsorship are at
the heart of Abi Morgan’s heartfelt new play for the National Theatre
of Scotland. Inspired by Dr David Snowdon’s book, Aging With Grace,
based on his scientific study of nuns and the effects of Alzheimer’s
disease, Morgan sets up a text-book culture clash between two very
different orthodoxies trying to find meaning and enlightenment in a
fast food, hi-tech, wonder drug world which cares for neither.

In one corner is Nicholas Le Prevost’s shy but driven American, Dr
Richard Garfield, in the other the force of nature that is Maureen
Beattie’s Sister Ursula Mary. Orbiting around them in the west of
Scotland nunnery over half a decade are infinitely more realistic
elements from both younger and older generations, who map out their own
destinies while Richard and Ursula remain in very different forms of
limbo.

There are times in Vicky Featherstone’s monumental-lookin…

One Man, Two Guvnors

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
5 stars
James Corden isn’t an obvious matinee idol. Such is his wide-eyed
control over the audience in Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre
production of Richard Bean’s audacious reinvention of Goldoni’s The
Servant of Two Masters, however, that it’s impossible not to warm to
his barn-stormingly full-on performance.

Corden’s TV-friendly features help, of course, in what, in Bean, Hytner
and especially physical comedy director Cal McCrystal’s hands is
transformed into a riotous end-of- the-pier seaside postcard sit-com.
Bean sets things in Brighton during 1963, that crucial year, as poet
Philip Larkin put it, when sexual intercourse began ‘between the end of
the Chatterley ban and The Beatles first LP’.

It was also the year the skiffle boom was stamped on by rock and roll,
as Corden’s estuarised harlequin Francis Henshall finds to his cost
when he and his washboard are chucked out of his band. Out of such
adversity, Francis blags his way into the pa…

James Corden - One Man, Two Guvnors

James Corden bounds into the boardroom of the National Theatre on
London's South Bank at full pelt, like an overgrown puppy whose master
has just come home. Fifteen minutes earlier he'd had a packed matinee
crowd at the National's Lyttleton Theatre in the palm of his hand in
One Man Two Guvnors, Richard Bean's saucy seaside postcard style
adaptation of Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters. Nicholas Hytner's
production, which opens in Edinburgh tonight, gives vent to a
rollickingly relentless performance by Corden as an on-the-make chancer
who, fired from his skiffle band, wheedles his way in and out of
trouble in 1960s Brighton.

Over the course of the afternoon, Corden literally throws himself into
every minute of what is a wonderful vehicle for his ongoing if somewhat
self-conscious rehabilitation into the nation's comedic heart. In a
Mod-era romp that looks like it could have been dreamt up by a Park
Life era Damon Albarn in some unholy unio…

Happy Days In The Art World

Tramway, Glasgow
3 stars
There's an uber-cool whiff of Hollywood as well as Samuel Beckett about
this new show by Berlin-based Scandinavian art duo Elmgreen & Dragset,
which this weekend received two low-key work-in-progress previews en
route to a full run at the Performa festival in New York. The first
comes in the form of real life movie star Joseph Fiennes onstage. The
second, despite the title, looks to Beckett's other existential
masterpiece, Waiting For Godot, for guidance.

Fiennes plays one of two men who wake up on bunk-beds in a black room,
too hungover to remember where they were the night before or why
they're all dressed up in identical black suits. The private view
babble that sounds as the lights go down gives the game away in spades,
however. Fiennes' ID and Charles Edwards' ME are idealised versions of
their authors, an art-star double act trapped in a self-reflexive
bubble. They're waiting for salvation, not from Godot, but the

A Day In The Death of Joe Egg

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
If Ricky Gervais wants a few tips on what constitutes real artistic
taboo-breaking, he should perhaps consider attending Phillip Breen's
revival of Peter Nichols' dangerously black comedy. First presented on
the same stage forty-four years ago, this tale of a couple whose
freefall marriage is defined by their daughter's disability may be a
jazz-soundtracked period piece, but it retains more comedic edge than
much contemporary fare.

It begins with Miles Jupp's frustrated teacher Bri addressing the
audience as if we're an unruly end of afternoon classroom. Moving
indoors to his seemingly domestic bliss with Sarah Tansey's
highly-strung Sheila, it soon becomes clear the pair have constructed
an elaborate game centred around wheelchair-bound Joe. With such
survival strategies becoming increasingly exhausting, Sheila has taken
refuge in amateur dramatics, leaving Bri, hemmed in by his own
frustrated intelligence, to wha…

The Writing On Your Wall

Edinburgh Printmakers until October 25th 2011
4 stars
When Jeremy Deller put Rupert Murdoch's wrinkled walnut face on a
sky-blue 'Vote Conservative' poster to raise funds for the Labour
Party, it looked like satire. Given the ongoing phone-hacking saga, it
now feels like prophecy. The 'Murdoch Doesn't Give A XXXX' poster
opposite from 1986's Fortress Wapping days may be dated in terms of its
reference to a then novel Australian fizzy lager, but, seen alongside
Deller's piece, it's an important pointer to how history repeats itself.

Curated by Rob Tuffnall, this group show aims to reclaim the radical
grassroots of print., when a pamphlet, a poster and a button badge were
the ideologue's weapons of choice. Such notions date all the way back
to James Gillray's early nineteenth century cartoon, awash with
pop-eyed society grotesques. Crucial archives from post 1968 Notting
Hill provocateurs King Mob include a flyer for the famed depar…

Koreless

Sneaky Pete's Edinburgh
Sunday October 9th
4 stars
Lewis Roberts may only be just about old enough to attend a club, but
judging by this appearance he certainly understands what's required to
keep the customers satisfied. Still in his teens, this Glasgow-based
Welshman has patented a form of lazy, low-slung electronica on his
somewhat obliquely titled twelve inch single, 4D/MTI, awash with
stop-start twitchy-fingered glitches and sampled divas that sounds
designed for the play-room . Live, Roberts somewhat wisely cranks
things up a bit, lest anyone think they're at a groovily soundtracked
dinner party where people think its okay to talk over the music. Some
still do anyway, but they're twats.

The novelty here is having Roberts perform behind his laptop on a stage
mounted in the centre of the dancefloor, thus creating an in-the-round
experience hitherto unexplored in Sneaky Petes' bijou interior. As
Roberts mixes and matches an array of beats and twinkle…

Minimal – Philip Glass at 75

Tramway, Glasgow, Saturday October 29; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow,
Sunday October 30.

How fragile is Glass? And how shattering? Audiences have had plenty of
time of late to ponder the cause and effect of veteran New York
composer Philip Glass' considerable body of work. Glass himself
appeared with his Ensemble to perform the dizzying soundtracks to
Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy of films as part of Edinburgh
International Festival. Hot on its heels came a performance of '1000
Airplanes On The Roof,' the Glass-scored 'science-fiction opera',
featuring The Red Note Ensemble playing beneath a Concorde in a hangar
at the National Museum of Flight.

The latter performance is repeated, sans Concorde, as part of the
self-explanatory Minimal festival, which this year celebrates Glass'
seventy-fifth birthday with a weekend programme split between Glasgow
Royal Concert Hall and Tramway. As well as '1000 Airplanes On The
Roof,' avant-chamber group…

John Foxx & The Maths – Interplay (Metamatic Records)

4 stars
Now a real-life silver Foxx, the pushing-sixty electro-pop/clash
pioneer and former vocalist with Ultravox before Midge Ure made them
rubbish might just have found his time. Even if, it must be said, this
retro-future compendium of detached, dystopian analogue-synth ditties
enabled with collaborator Benge was originally released in March this
year. While the two extra tracks on this special tour edition don't
really constitute a new album, neither do they take away from the
ice-cool machine-age sexiness of an appositely warm revisitation to a
sound designed for serious young men to suck their cheekbones in to
while standing on their own in neon-lit nightclubs watching lip-sticked women
dance.

The List, October 2011

ends

Abi Morgan - The Hour Has Come

If Abi Morgan hadn't met a couple of nuns on train, her new play for
the National Theatre of Scotland might not have happened. The writer of
lauded TV drama The Hour and forthcoming Margaret Thatcher biopic, The
Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, was travelling up to the Edinburgh
Festival, and fell into conversation with the pair sitting opposite her.

“They were in their late seventies or early eighties,” Morgan
remembers, “and were very sweet and very inspiring. But during the
course of the journey it became apparent that they were being left
behind, and that there were no new young women coming up in their
order. Suddenly they were looking beneath them at this society they'd
lived in all their adult lives, and there was no new blood. These
women’s' lives can be traced and mapped out. They don't have children,
they don't smoke, they've never married, and there's something
anthropological going on there about a way of life which is maybe going

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat

Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
4 stars
Everything's Getting Older, an album which paired pianist Bill Wells
with former Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat, is a delicate creation of
wisdom and beauty. In the flesh, Moffat's evocatively deadpan portraits
of middle-aged ennui framed by Wells' equally melancholy tinkles sound
even more heartfelt.

This could have something to do with Moffat's cold, however, which he
announces on the first night of this mini-tour with an unhealthy
sounding clearing of the throat following Tasogare, the instrumental
that opens both the album and tonight's show. Moffat is surrounded by
drums and a music stand, while a pair of dictaphones containing
recordings of rain hang on his microphone stand. As the evening
progresses, Wells' compositions lend Moffat's words a patina of
sophistication that suggests jazz as their perfect backdrop. If that
sounds a little bit lounge-core, think again, as Wells throws some
left-field abs…

Baby Baby

Dundee Rep
3 stars
It's something of a baptism of fire in Dundee Rep's revival of Vivian
French's adaptation of her novel for teenagers, which tours community
centres following a short run at the Rep itself. Ostensibly a vehicle
for the Ensemble's two new graduate actors, Baby Baby's depiction of
teenage mums can't be the easiest of calls. As two young women forced
to grow up too soon and with more in common than they think, however,
Kirsty Mackay and Natalie Wallace rise to the occasion with an
unsentimental steeliness that does the subject proud.

April and Pinkie run in different packs. Where April is a parent
pleasing little miss perfect, Pinkie is a black-clad rebel. Both, in
their own ways, are desperate to impress. Until the inevitable happens
and the pair are thrown together in a hostel, only a mutual gal crush
brings each to the other's attention. With new sets of responsibilities
to get a grip of once their babies are born, the messy bi…

Dublin Theatre Festival 2011 - The Edinburgh Connection

'Strength. Endurance. Tenderness.' Such a legend is one of half a dozen
gracing a series of covers for the 2011 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre
Festival. 'Power. With some twenty-eight productions on show over three
weeks, and with sixteen produced by Irish companies, such epithets
cover all bases in a festival which, along with the Dublin-based
Absolut Fringe festival, which immediately precedes the Theatre
Festival, appears to bear little resemblance to its Edinburgh
counterpart.

Both are smaller for one thing. Despite the 'Dublin Loves Drama'
banners posted around town, there's little sense of the city-wide
saturation of Edinburgh in August. Unlike the free for all of the
Edinburgh Fringe, its Dublin equivalent is curated, and the care taken
over both the Absolut Fringe and the Theatre Festival programmes is
more akin to Edinburgh International Festival. With Dublin
concentrating solely on theatre, however, and with no crossover between
the two eve…

Days of Wine and Roses - Owen McCafferty Takes To Drink

“I don't think I've ever seen a farce before,” claims playwright Owen
McCafferty. “It was an eye-opener for me, because everyone around me
was laughing, and I just didn't get it.”

McCafferty is talking about his visit to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast,
the night before, when he watched Kenneth Branagh and Rob Bryden mug
their way through The Painkiller. Adapted and directed by Sean Foley,
one half of The Right Size, The Painkiller is a version of a work by
French screen-writer/director Francis Veber, who originally filmed it
in1973 as L'emmerdeur, or A Pain in the Ass. Notable for the casting of
Belgian torch singer Jacques Brel in the lead role, L'emmerdeur has
since been remade twice, once by Billy Wilder. For McCafferty, at
least, Foley's version seems to have lost something in translation.

“Irish writers don't tend to go down that route,” he says of what now
in his eyes look like some very English japes.

McCafferty certainly hasn't, as his ve…

The Salon Project

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
If you think the modern world is killing the art of conversation,
Stewart Laing's exquisitely constructed reimagining of nineteenth
century salons for a post-modern age is a perfect night out for closet
intellectuals in need of stimulation. By taking over the whole of the
Traverse and putting the audience at the heart of the action, Laing and
his huge team for Untitled Productions are bringing back social
networking in the old-fashioned way.

It begins back-stage, with the audience attended to by a coterie of
dressers, who kit us out in formal garb that improves the posture and
inspires all manner of fancy thoughts. Once we step inside a mocked-up
drawing room complete with chandeliers, our own costume drama is
enlivened by a rolling programme of entertainments. On the first night,
these included blindfolded performance artist Donna Rutherford mashing
up some 78RPM vinyl with three wind-up gramophones, a stripped-bare
tableau vivant…

Saturday Night

Tramway, Glasgow
4 stars
To suggest Vanishing Point's latest peep through the windows of the
human soul is a sequel to their international hit, Interiors, is to be
lulled into a false sense of security. The stylistic trappings of a
glass-fronted house in which people wordlessly interact may be the
same. This time out, however, director Matthew Lenton takes his cast of
six beyond everyday minutiae to produce something infinitely more
troubling.

It begins idyllically enough, as a young couple move into an empty
living room they'll soon turn into a home. Within seconds, it seems,
their space is invaded and their private world turned upside down, be
it by cloyingly intrusive neighbours, a sprung leak or faulty
electrics. As an old woman rocks in her chair upstairs, doors open of
their own volition. The wildlife documentaries and footage of the early
Apollo missions to the moon that play on the TV become someone's worst
fears made flesh. The astronaut who floats u…

The Salon Project - Stewart Laing Gets Philosophical

There's a place just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile which the chances of
you or I ever having been invited inside are pretty slim. By all
accounts, the select few who have graced the doors of occasional
functions at this residential address a stone's throw from Holyrood are
shaping future intellectual thought. Inspired by ideas of eighteenth
century salons, in which the latest ideas on philosophy, science and
art were debated in a lively social environment, this twenty-first
century Edinburgh model is the latest example of a new wave of salons.
Here, enlightened thinkers can talk freely in a way in which the
democratically elected members along the road either can't, won't, or
are simply not clever enough to engage in such a discourse.

In his glass-windowed office in Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre peering
over a scaled-down model of the theatre's main stage, theatre director,
designer and current Traverse artist in residence Stewart Laing appears
a…

Apocalypse: A Glamorously Ugly Cabaret

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
How would you spend your final hour and fifteen minutes on earth before
the world finally ended, with a bang, a whimper or otherwise? One
possibility is to idle the time with the black-toothed double-act
waiting for rapture in this transatlantic alliance between two ex
Benchtours visual theatre types reinvented as The Occasional Cabaret,
and the creative couple behind New York-based Edinburgh Festival Fringe
stalwarts, Clancy Productions. Combined, these creative couples have
put together a politically inclined compendium of monologue and song
which, in an ideal world, would soundtrack their way to Heaven. Or
Hell.

With the audience sat at cabaret tables and a scarlet-draped stage
squeezed into the Tron's Changing House space, Lulu and Gdjet are a
couple of gold-garbed crones resembling end of the pier fortune-tellers
who didn't quite predict what was coming next. As vamped into being by
Catherine Gillard and Nancy Clancy, and aided …

Twelfth Night

Perth Theatre
4 stars
A new wind has blown into Perth, just as it does in Shakespeare's
Illyria. That's the accidental message anyway during the opening storm
scene of the theatre's incoming artistic director Rachel O'Riordan's
debut in-house production. Because, in something usually played as a
knockabout rom-com, Riordan sets out her store from the start by
blowing away such surface froth to reveal near-Chekhovian depths.

Much of this stems from an update to a post World War One Scotland in a
crumbling petrol-blue house where a baby grand piano sits at the top of
an elaborate staircase. Here Conor Mitchell's Curio sips cocktails
while whipping up a jaunty Palm Court style soundtrack with violinist
and fellow gent Valentine. That's about as fizzy as things get,
however, as all involved wander about in a kind of shell-shocked limbo,
trying to re-connect with some sense of purpose.

Samara MacLaren's brittle, flapper-like Olivia and Martin Ledw…

Echo and the Bunnymen - Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Wednesday September 28th 2011

When Liverpool's most grandiose post-punk Scally-delicists released
their fourth album, Ocean Rain, in 1984, it was advertised as the
greatest album ever made. Despite the band's then manager Bill
Drummond's provocative hyperbole that he would later refine with the
KLF and the K Foundation, it wasn't, but it's collection of
string-laden epics was the sound of a band at the peak of their powers.
It was also the last time the original four members ever sounded so
special in a work that was both fragile and heartfelt.

To hear Ocean Rain live, then, complete with all-female teenage string
sextet The Cairns Strings bolstering original vocalist Ian McCulloch
and guitarist Will Sergeant leading a fine young band, should have been
an event on a par with The Crystal Day, the original all-day magical
mystery tour around the band's home town that preceded a three-hour
live spectacular by the band in Liverpool's St George's…

Echo and the Bunnymen

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
1 star
When Liverpool's most grandiose post-punk outfit released their fourth
album in 1984, it was advertised as the greatest ever made. It wasn't,
although it's collection of string-laden epics was the last time the
original four Bunnymen sounded so special. To hear Ocean Rain live,
then, complete with an all-female string sextet bolstering original
vocalist Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant and a fine young band,
should have been major. As it was, despite the music's dramatic
splendour, an overly-refreshed McCulloch steered us into chaos.

During the first 'greatest hits' set, McCulloch apologises for being “a
bit shaky...one point off the ten.” Over the next two hours the score
gets considerably lower. Like a bad comedian, McCulloch threatens to
sing Donald, Where's Your Troosers, and does unlikely impressions of
Jim Morisson impersonating Sid James.

Ocean Rain is ushered in by Silver's triumphant flourish,…

Saturday Night - Another Quiet Night In With Vanishing Point

By the time you read this, Vanishing Point theatre company will have
almost finished the premiere run of their new show, Saturday Night, in
three Portuguese cities prior to opening in Glasgow next month. Back in
Glasgow rehearsal several weeks beforehand, and what's possibly the
biggest touring set in the world is waiting to be dismantled and
shipped out to foreign climes. For now, it's two-tiered expanse we're
allowed to peek into through full-length perspex windows holds court to
a series of private moments performed by half a dozen actors from three
different countries. The next day, however, this imitation of a
flat-pack ideal home des-res will be demolished, so there's nothing
left but a rehearsal room gap-site waiting for something as yet unknown
to replace it.

Behind the perspex, a pregnant woman attempts to turn a house into a
home. Upstairs, another woman moves in hypnotic motion in a rocking
chair. Back downstairs, the roof springs a leak, while …

Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
Drama that deals seriously with prejudice and disease may be all the
rage in mainstream American teen TV these days from Glee to True Blood.
When Bill Russell and Janet Hood's flesh and blood wake for first
generation AIDS victims first appeared at the end of the 1980s, its mix
of schmaltz-laden show-tunes and social comment was considered edgy
enough to become a cause celebre.

More than two decades on, the gospel-tinged ensemble numbers and
overwrought ballads belted out by the nineteen performers onstage in
Paul Harper-Swan and musical director Michael Webborn's new studio
production sound all too X-Factor familiar. The stories they frame,
however, told in a series of rhyming monologues, are a heartfelt and
timely reminder of a world-changing epidemic that may no longer hit the
headlines, but still affects people every day.

Set here around the tables of a celestial cabaret club, the gathered
angels of the show's title may mourn t…

Singing Far Into The Night

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
3 stars
Strikes, riots and pay-cuts for the lowest earners are all the rage
just now, the first two possibly with good reason. None of this is
anything new, however, as Hamish MacDonald's new play for Mull Theatre
makes clear in a tale of would-be revolutionaries on the streets of
Glasgow and aboard a Royal Navy ship in 1931. Inspired by real life
events when sailors in Invergordon protested at a twenty-five per cent
wage cut while officers continued to lord it over them, MacDonald's
script follows the travails of Connal MacNab, who becomes a figurehead
for a mutiny that mirrors his journalist brother Finlay's would-be
Bolshevik tendencies on terra firma.

As an incarcerated Connal looks back on an adventure that led to his
downfall forty-odd years earlier along with thrill-seeking actress
Erica, what becomes evident in this hitherto buried piece of peoples
history is just how much the establishment are prepared to put the boot
in w…

Para Handy – A Voyage Round The Stories of Neil Munro

Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
3 stars
Hard hats and fluorescent bibs are de rigeur down at Inverbeg Council
Recycling Depot at the opening of John Bett's musical reimagining of
some of Neil Munro's boat-bound yarns involving the saltiest of
sea-dogs. Bett's rough-hewn co-production between Eden Court and the
Open Book company looks to his own theatrical roots with 7:84 and
Wildcat as a rudder for this ribald compendium.

For those who may not know the legend, Para Handy is captain of pre
World War One puffer boat the SS Vital Spark. With first mate Dougie,
deckhand Sunny Jim and engineer Macphail in tow, adventures are many as
the crew navigate their way through the Clyde's nether-most reaches.
Once Bett's modern-day framing device is done away with, a busy melee
of song, archive film footage and silent movie style captions are
ushered in amidst an array of sketch-like scenes. These feature a
role-call of comic grotesques in what looks like an extended sit-com
tha…