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Showing posts from November, 2011

Shelagh Delaney Obituary

Playwright, screen-writer, author

Born November 25th 1939; died November 20th 2011.
When Shelagh Delaney, who has died of cancer aged seventy-two, saw Terence Rattigan's play, Variations On A Theme, she was appalled, both by its writing and by what she saw as an insensitive treatment of homosexuality. The response of this precocious Salford-born teenager was to pen A Taste of Honey, a play about a girl her own age who becomes pregnant to a black sailor on a one-night stand, then moves in to bring up the child with what would now be regarded as her gay best friend.
When the play was produced in 1958 by Joan Littlewood's ground-breaking Theatre Workshop company in London's east end, its taboo-breaking in terms of its depiction of race, class and a sexuality that had only just been decriminalised in England became a hit. Delaney was just eighteen. The play transferred to the West End, then Broadway. In 1961, Tony Richardson's film of the play that cast Rita Tushingham alongsid…

A Citizens Spring - Dominic Hill's First Season at the Citz

When Dominic Hill took up his post as artistic director of the Citizens
Theatre in Glasgow following his departure from Edinburgh's Traverse
Theatre, big things were expected from one of Scotland's few directors
who is capable of working on a truly epic scale. The announcement today
of his first full season of work as exclusively revealed by The Herald
confirms both the sense of expectation Hill's appointment shook up, and
the scale of his own ambitions for the Citz.

Even by themselves, the presence of a play by Pinter, a Beckett double
bill and a Shakespeare are enough cause for celebration. The fact that,
not just King Lear, but both Pinter's mid-period ménage a trois,
Betrayal, and Beckett's solo miniatures, Krapp's Last Tape and the
rarely performed Footfalls, will be directed by Hill on the theatre's
main stage rather than its two studio spaces, says much about Hill's
thinking. Betrayal, Krapp's Last Tape and Footfalls may have smal…

Wire

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
4 stars
“Can you ever really escape your past?” Wire's glengarry-sporting
bassist Graham Lewis asks as the band return for their first encore of
a louder, punkier and less polite set than when they visited Edinburgh
in February. The answer to such a philosophical enquiry is probably no,
even if vocalist and guitarist Colin Newman has spent much of the set
peering over professorial specs reading lyrics from a twenty-first
century ipad which he later morphs into a keyboard.

Material from this year's Red Barked Tree album and some older fare is
played at a volume coruscating enough to compensate for the band's
no-nonsense lack of chat. Given their art school roots, it's surprising
how uncompromisingly basic a set-up Wire keep. Where their peers might
theatricalise or recreate an album's studio embellishments with
orchestral add-ons or such like, Wire strip everything back. There is
nothing onstage that isn't black and white other…

Pass The Spoon

Tramway, Glasgow
4 stars
The knives are out at the start of David Shrigley, David Fennessy and
Magnetic North director Nicholas Bone's 'sort of opera'. This
shouldn't, however, signal any alarm bells in terms of what follows.
Because, for all the out and out ridiculousness of Pass The Spoon,
Shrigley's TV cooking show-based yarn is an irresistibly irreverent
riot of surreally grotesque humour and avant-garde music that waves a
refreshing two fingers at serious theatrical conventions even as it
takes them to the max.

Our hosts for the evening are June Spoon and Phillip Fork, a fawningly
supercilious Bleakly and Chiles of the Ready, Steady, Cook set. With
rictus grins fixed on an invisible autocue, Pauline Knowles June and
Stewart Cairns' Phil introduce us to a world where smiley-faced puppet
vegetables are auditioned to dive into the soup, Gavin Mitchell's
alcoholic Mr Egg is on the verge of cracking up, Martin McCormick's
pompous banana att…

Pass The Spoon - David Shrigley's 'Sort Of Opera'

In Scottish Opera's top floor rehearsal room, all talk is of
appendages. The phallic attachment in question is for Mr Granules, a
grotesque dinner guest in Pass The Spoon, visual artist David
Shrigley's 'sort of opera' for director Nicholas Bone's Magnetic North
company. Based around an absurd idea of a daytime TV cookery show, Pass
The Spoon features characters that include a life-size banana and an
alcoholic, manic depressive, mood-swinging giant egg.

Actor Gavin Mitchell has already donned a foam-based egg costume for
his turn as Mr Egg. This provoked much debate about whether or not the
foam egg should have holes for arms. With Mitchell's hands flapping
about in a ridiculously limited circumference to express Mr Egg's full
emotional range, Humpty Dumpty he most certainly isn't. If the egg does
have arms, Shrigley points out, then every movement will pull its
flexible but none too taut construction out of shape enough so it stops
being …

Bill Bollinger – Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

October 28 2011-January 8 2012
4 stars
Onscreen in black and white, a man is attempting to stand a log upright
of its own volition. Time and again the man methodically lifts the log
off the ground, moving it from horizontal to vertical before it topples
as though felled with some invisible axe. For a second it looks like
it’s there, only for it to go down with a silent thump. It’s a
Sisyphean task, and, as the film’s jump-cuts suggest, one that took an
age. Then, finally, in what’s become an unpredictably prolonged
performance, the log is up there, standing tall, proud and monumental.
So what does the guy do but only go and knock it over some more.

‘Movie’ goes some way to explaining the high-tension methodology of the
late Bill Bollinger, the aeronautical engineer turned 1960s New York
contemporary of Bruce Nauman, Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse and co. Unlike
them, Bollinger died in obscurity in 1988, aged not yet fifty. This
lovingly sourced retrospective, instigated by the Ku…

FareWell Poetry / Matthew Collings / Hiva Oa / Opul

The Third Door, Edinburgh
Monday November 14th 2011
4 stars
Salsa class is cancelled tonight, according to the blackboard outside
what used to be after-hours hippy student dive Medina, but which now
looks intent on filling the DIY boho gap that the Roxy Arthouse and The
Forest once occupied so randomly. The lights are low and the room is
rapt for an exquisitely thought out bill to support Anglo/French sextet
and Gizeh Records artists Farewell Poetry for a nuanced evening of
low-key cinematic poetics.

The apocalypse starts early with Opul, a collaboration between poet JL
Williams and composer James Iremonger, who blasts out a laptop-sourced
blend of industrial beats and impressionistic piano sketches to frame
Williams' words. If the music resembles cities being razed and rebuilt
in some woozy dreamscape, Williams' words are witchy, her delivery
beguiling, threatening menaces with all the rhythmic performative drive
of Patti Smith or Kathy Acker, even as she looks th…

Twin Sister

Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
Thursday November 10th 2011
4 stars
In her geek-girl specs and floppy Annie Hall hat, Twin Sister chanteuse
Andrea Estella appears as quintessentially kooky a New Yorker as any
afficionado of 1970s me-generation peak era Woody Allen movies could
wish for. The check-shirted quartet of preppy boys cooking up a post
Vampire Weekend groove behind her concur, even as they counterpoint
Estella's wispiness with something infinitely more twenty-first
century.

Guitarist Eric Cardona actually opens his mouth first to sing in a
disarmingly high voice before Estella picks things up for Bad Street, a
sassy little strut fleshed out from the band's debut album proper, In
Heaven, and which flits between bass-led punk-funk-lite, twinkly synths
and even a brief Debbie Harry style rap. With shades of Saint Etienne,
Fleetwood Mac, Broadcast and Curved Air gone disco, more often than not
in the same song, such pick and mix eclectism soars into the ether, bu…

Various – Songs For Dying (PJORN72)

4 stars
The local Noiserati and associates’ recent reclaiming of their Techno
and/or Metal roots helped their clan avoid a nihilistic dead end. As
this bumper fifteen track compendium of clings, clangs, sci-fi
slapstick, sepulchral drones, lysergic loveliness, ghosts in the
machine anthropological excavations and other light and shade metal
machine music suggests, things remain in the blartiest of health. Nackt
Insecten, Blood Stereo, Jazzfinger, Culver, Dead Labour Process, UFO
Antler Band and others produce an array of increasingly subtle,
artfully mature and largely low-key meditations. All oddly
life-affirming, even as it sometimes trips the shit out of you.

The List, November 2011

ends

Star Quality

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
2 stars
Noel Coward knew a thing or two about theatre by the time his
back-stage set short story was published in 1951. With both absurdism
and the Royal Court social-realist revolution about to turn the British
stage on its head, Coward's glory days were over, and his own
dramatised version never quite grew legs. Just why Christopher
Luscombe's adaptation has managed to stay in the commercial repertoire
for more than a decade, then, is a mystery. Or at least that's the case
if Joe Harmston's flat production is anything to go by.

The clue is in the title. Amanda Donohoe plays a leading lady on the
wane who runs rings around both the wet behind the ears playwright who
fawns over her and the been-there-done-that director who's nominally in
charge. It's his 'personal assistant' who really calls the shots,
however, as the writer is sweet-talked into making changes to his
masterpiece so the dame can still appear grand.

In…

Blackbird

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
You could hear a pin drop on the opening night of Katie Posner's
touring revival of David Harrower's blistering psycho-sexual
pas-de-deux. The fact that the bulk of the audience for this
co-production between Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal were in
their teens speaks volumes about exactly how much they can take in
terms of a thoroughly adult play that neither patronises or exploits
them. Instead, Harrower lays bare some of society's greatest taboos
through the eyes of one life-changing event's survivors.

First seen at the 2005 Edinburgh International Festival, this new,
studio size production is made all the more provocative by the close
proximity of its protagonists, Ray and Una. Caught off-guard in the
mess of his strip-lit work-place, fifty-something Ray attempts to keep
a proper distance from the brittle, tomboyish woman on a mission he had
a whirlwind affair with fifteen years earlier, when she was twelve.
With both …

Going Dark

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Seeing stars is everything in Hattie Naylor's beautiful new play, made
in collaboration with Tom Espiner of the multi-media based Sound&Fury
company. In an impressive technical display that leaves the audience in
the dark just as Naylor leaves Max, her astronomer protagonist, it's
made painfully clear in Mark Espiner and composer Dan Jones' production
just how the centre of our universe can be rocked in the blink of an
eye.

With the audience ushered into a pod-like construction on the Traverse
stage that allows full black-out, it begins with Max giving a
planetarium style lecture, complete with a map of the galaxy on the
ceiling of Ales Valasek's intimately-styled set. If all this initially
resembles a chill-out room take on The Sky At Night, things are upended
within minutes when Max discovers he's slowly but surely losing his
sight. Continuing an ongoing dialogue with his tellingly heard but not
seen six year o…

Glue Boy Blues

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
It’s swings, roundabouts and cheap thrills all the way in
writer/performer Derek McLuckie’s latest collaboration with director
Pauline Goldsmith, a rough and ready glam/punk era rites of passage for
this year’s Glasgay! festival. McLuckie’s fifty-minute solo turn
rewinds to a back-street boyhood where the only fun in town comes in a
plastic bag full of sticky stuff. One minute Derek is a church-going
angel in search of kicks beyond his dyed David Bowie cut, the next he’s
finding salvation in visions of Pegasus, the doors of perception laid
wide open to more flesh and blood pursuits.

As he fancifully immortalises his own self-created mythology,
McLuckie’s inner aesthete is torn between the Siouxsie Sioux pictures
on his wall and the Judy Garland records he discovers behind the sofa
of the Paisley high-rise that fails to hem in his wilder urges.

There are a million stories like this, but McLuckie’s tale is
infinitely less sentimental than a Bill…

George Costigan - An Actor With A Common Touch

George Costigan can’t ever see himself playing the king. Lear, that is.
The man who became a familiar face playing a council estate lothario in
Alan Clark’s big-screen version of Andrea Dunbar’s stage play, Rita,
Sue and Bob Too, doesn’t really fancy it, to be honest. He doesn’t have
the authority, he reckons. Which is why this bluffest of adopted
northerners also reckons he’s right to play Ray, a very different kind
of man on the ropes in Blackbird, David Harrower’s provocative
psycho-sexual study first seen at the 2005 Edinburgh International
Festival.

In a new co-production for Pilot Theatre Company and York Theatre
Royal, which tours to Glasgow’s Tron Theatre next week, Costigan plays
Ray, a fifty-five year old man who had a sexual relationship with Una
fifteen years earlier, when she was twelve. When Una turns up at his
workplace unannounced, old emotional scars are opened up and the new
lives each has built for themselves collapse into each other.
“It’s not an easy…

Rob St John – Weald (Song, by Toad)

4 stars
Forget the much misused F(olk)-word. Rob St John is miles better than such lazy reference points,
and putting a full electric band behind his whey-faced Lancastrian
intonations has put muscle and guts on his musings. Yet for all the
low-key chorales, musical saws and string-laden back-woods baroque
pulsing his full-length debut’s eight songs, it's St John’s increasingly
forceful mix of melancholy and other-worldly rapture that counts. At
the record’s core is the slow burning eruption of Sargasso Sea and the slash and burn revelation of Domino. If the late Nick Drake and another old Nick’s Bad Seeds ever hitch up at some
rural English crossroads, this is what such an unlikely clash of souls
might sound like.

ends

Viv Albertine

Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh
Saturday November 5th 2011

“Penis!”

Former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine may only be checking her sound
levels, but her one word opening gambit sets out her store for the
artistic splurge that’s to follow. Within seconds Albertine is relating
how she thinks about sex all the time but doesn’t believe in love;
about how her seventeen-year long marriage broke down after she picked
up her Telecaster guitar for the first time in years; about how her
first band, The Flowers of Romance, formed with Slits drummer Palm
Olive and future Sex Pistol Sid Vicious (on saxophone, no less!) used
to rehearse in Joe Strummer’s squat.

Pedigree? Without Albertine and fellow Slit Ari Up, who passed away in
2010, sisters doing it for themselves from Riot Grrrl to Muscles of Joy
would never have happened.

Slotting in this late-night ‘secret’ show on the back of her mini
Scottish tour and accompanied only by the aforementioned Tele and a
floor-load of FX boxes, Albertine’s brand …

Magazine

O2 ABC, Glasgow
Saturday November 5th 2011
4 stars
“I don’t know,” says Howard Devoto, wearily wiping his palest of faces.
“Have we done enough songs about the wrong kind of sex?” The band
behind him launch into the icy menace of 1979 album Secondhand
Daylight’s closing epic Permafrost for good measure, anyway. Devoto has
a point. As the archest man in pop entered wielding a Brechtian style placard bearing the
legend, ‘Let’s Fly Away To The World’, the band he reformed after
thirty years away strike up an opening rally of Definitive Gaze, Give
Me Everything and Motorcade. Heard in rapid-fire succession, the songs
show off the light and shade of a canon that lays bare Devoto’s soul
via an array of psycho-sexual baroque brutalist bon mots.

With new album No Thyself and bass player Jon ‘Stan’White added to the
fold to replace Barry Adamson since they first toured in 2009, Magazine sound more urgent than
ever, with Devoto’s self-absorbed confessionals offset by a dirty white
f…

Truant

Jordanhill Parish Church, Glasgow
3 stars
Breaking the rules is instinctive when you’re of an age whereby you’re
not entirely sure what they are yet. This was evident from the primary
school age audience watching this new show created by John Retallack
for his Company of Angels operation in a co-production with the
National Theatre of Scotland. Throughout sixteen unrelated scenes that
tackle a variety of cross-generational conflicts, these not easily
impressed charges giggled at the swear words and whispered throughout.
It’s not that they weren’t getting the seriousness of what was going
on. It’s just that, as with the characters onstage, they too were
seeing how far they could take things.

From the boy squaring up to a shopping mall security guard and the mum
whose teenage daughter is more grown up than she’ll ever be, to more
immediately recognisable forms of parental abuse and avoidance,
Retallack pulls no punches. Based on interviews with families from
Glasgow-based …

The Fall

HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
Thurday November 3rd 2011

The moustached man from the local tattoo parlour onstage is giving it
loads. His whine-perfect karaoke impression of Mark E Smith has the
advantage of having the most crack-shot surf-garage band around backing
him, who, for the previous half-hour, have been proving just how good
they are with a series work-outs made necessary by the prolonged
absence of their vocalist, conductor, arranger, director, gaffer and
guru.

It all started so well, with Smith practically bounding on stage on the
dot of 9pm and within a minute of the band striking up the
hundred-mile an hour chug of the forebodingly titled Nate Will Not
Return, a highlight from the new Ersatz G.B. album. Guitarist Tim
Presley from the 2006 American Fall line-up has rejoined the fold while
his replacement Pete Greenway takes time out on 'maternity leave', and
Presley's twitch-hipped boyish demeanour adds extra urgency to an
already relentless fuzz.

Magazine - Howard Devoto Knows Thyself

“Suicide has always been quite an important idea to me,” says Howard
Devoto, vocalist, lyricist and mouthpiece in chief of post-punk
fabulists, Magazine. Devoto is talking about Hello Mr Curtis (with
apologies), the band's recent single which trailed No Thyself, the
first album of new Magazine material for thirty years.

The Mr Curtis in question is one Ian Curtis, the former singer with
Magazine's Manchester scene contemporaries Joy Division, who hanged
himself on the eve of what should have been the band's first American
tour in 1980. Devoto's song also references a certain Mr Cobain, as in
the late Kurt, of 1990s grunge icons Nirvana, and another rock and roll
suicide.

By the end of an appositely jaunty number in which both of his forbears
are put on the couch and encouraged to explain what caused them pain
enough to take their own lives, Devoto is declaring his own intentions
to die like a king. Such a lofty pronouncement is up-ended somewhat
when the m…

Dr Marigold and Mr Chops

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Scarlet drapes tumble about the stage in the living junk-shop that
forms the back-drop to Simon Callow’s double bill of Charles Dickens
short stories originally performed by the great man himself a century
and a half ago. Mr Callow is the ultimate patter merchant, whether
relating a yarn about a vertically challenged sideshow turn who hits
the jackpot, or else becoming the hawker whose life is turned upside
down when he adopts a speech and hearing impaired young girl.

Mr Chops is up first, with Callow acquiring the cockney rasp of
henchman Toby in a barrel-organ sound-tracked lament for his partner,
who on winning the lottery is patronised and abused by the grasping
grotesques of high-class society. In the second half, the widowed Dr
Marigold tugs the heart-strings all the way to Christmas Day.

As Chops grows in moral stature prior to his demise even as Marigold
finds salvation, it’s easy to see where sit-com scribes Galton and
Simpson copp…

Raydale Dower - Piano Drop

“Anyone who has ever played a piano,” Tom Waits declared in a recent
interview, “would really like to hear how it sounds when dropped from a
twelfth-floor window.”

Waits probably hasn’t heard of Raydale Dower, but if the gravel-voiced
troubadour can bring his wonkily-inclined junkyard orchestra over to
Tramway this week for the Glasgow-based artist and musician’s new
three-dimensional audio-visual installation, he might just be able to
find out. As its title suggests, Piano Drop is a Sensurround record of
what happened when Dower let loose a winched-up keyboard from the
venue’s ceiling, filming it as it smashed into a million match-stick
size pieces.

The result, slowed down by up to forty times and relayed through a film
loop and an ambisonic speaker arrangement, aims to enhance the hidden
musicality of such a seemingly destructive action.

“It was a simple piece of musical curiosity,” Dower explains of Piano
Drop’s roots, “just to explore the straightforward absurd and ana…

Simon Callow - A Dickensian Life

Simon Callow can’t get away from Charles Dickens. When he arrives
onstage at Edinburgh’s Kings Theatre tonight to perform Dr Marigold and
Mr Chops, it will be a continuation of Callow’s lifelong fascination
with one of the figureheads of world literature. These two stories,
adapted here by Patrick Garland, were staples of Dickens’ repertoire as
he toured theatres to give energetic renditions which one suspects were
on a par with Callow’s own all-encompassing presentations.

First presented at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms in 2008, Dr Marigold and
Mr Chops finds Callow transforming himself first into a travelling
salesman who adopts a deaf and dumb girl; then into a freak-show turn
who wins the lottery and makes his way through a well-heeled society he
becomes increasingly repulsed by.

“I really feel quite like actors of yester-year,” Callow admits,
clearly revelling in his bravura performance. “These stories were last
seen onstage a hundred and forty years ago, with Dickens hi…