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Showing posts from December, 2011

The Wedding Present - David Gedge Hitches Up Once More

David Gedge doesn't reckon much to New Year's Eve. As the voice, lyricist and driving force behind Leeds-born indie-rock Luddites The Wedding Present for more than a quarter of a century, such a seemingly curmudgeonly sentiment shouldn't come as a surprise. Despite this, the now California domiciled frontman of what are arguably the ultimate John Peel band has took it upon himself to come back to rainy, chilly and possibly snowy Britain for the seasonally named Seeing Out 2011 With The Wedding Present three-date mini-tour.

The first of these shows will take place tonight at The Garage in Glasgow before moving on for a homecoming show in Leeds tomorrow, then finishing up in an undoubtedly lively London on New Year's Eve itself. All of which seems a somewhat contrary cause for celebration.

“I've always been a bit disappointed by New Year,” Gedge mourns. “Even as a kid I never liked it. It's over-produced, it's expensive, and there's too many people around…

Matthew Zajac - A Scotsman in Sweden

When Matthew Zajac was cast in a new play set to tour Sweden, Finland
and beyond, he had to learn a brand new language. Because the recent
tour of Hohaj, adapted from Swedish writer Elisabeth Rynell's novel by
Ellenor Lindgren, was not only set in an imaginary town in the far
north of Sweden. As produced by the Vasterbottensteatern repertory
theatre based in the town of Skelleftea, Hohaj might have seen Zajac
play an incoming drifter, but the play was nevertheless written and
subsequently needed to be performed in Swedish.

“They can understand what I'm saying,” Zajac jokes. “It was an
interesting challenge, having to learn a new language so quickly, but
fortunately they have seven or eight week rehearsal periods, which I
would say is too long compared to the two to three weeks we have here,
which is two short. But I actually needed those seven or eight weeks.
It's funny, because I don't really think the language itself is that
difficult. There are other la…

Strathclyde Theatre Group - Surviving The Ramshorn

When the University of Strathclyde made swingeing budget cuts earlier
this year, as is too often the case, it was the arts that suffered.
While the university faculty set its sights on becoming a technology
and innovation centre on a par with some American institutions, both
the Collins Gallery and the Ramshorn Theatre have been forced to close
their doors once the plug was unceremoniously pulled. This despite the
fact that both venues arguably had the biggest public profile of any
centres within the university.

As home to Strathclyde Theatre Group for the last twenty years, The
Ramshorn in particular connected with a world way beyond academe. Yet,
while a separate operation to the Ramshorn under the long term care of
artistic director and head of the drama department Susan S Triesman and
equally hands-on administrator Sylvia Jamieson, STG looked to have
reached its own end following the Ramshorn's closure.

With Jamieson and Triesman now retired, rather than shut up s…

2011 Round-Up - The Best Theatre of The Year in Scorland

Many theatre companies are currently in an extended limbo until chief
funders Creative Scotland finally decide their fate after what must
seem like an eternal wait. As 2011 has proven again and again, however,
great art – a word not used much these days – will out despite such an
on-going silence. In a year which has seen a merry-go-round of artistic
directorships at Perth, the Citizens and Traverse theatres,
cross-company collaboration has seemingly been one solution to being
able to put on big work in cash-strapped times.

If one show illustrated all of the above, it was Age of Arousal,
Stellar Quines’s magical-realist whirlwind co-produced by the Royal
Lyceum, Edinburgh right at the start of the year. Muriel Romanes’
reimagining of Quebecois writer Linda Griffiths’ play was a wildly
skew-whiff Victorian costume romp that was by turns sexy, radical,
witty and wise in a magnificent fusion of word and deed that seemed to
posit a brand new theatrical language.

Adventurousne…

What Presence? - The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos

Street Level, Glasgow, December 17th 2011- February 2th 2012
5 stars
Harry Papadopoulos is the great unsung documenter of post-punk, who,
between 1978 and 1984, captured a crucial era in pop history in all its
geeky glory. Having started out taking snaps for Bobby Bluebell’s
fanzine, The Ten Commandments, and orbiting around Postcard Records’
extended family of jangular mavericks who would go on to define
themselves as The Sound of Young Scotland, Papadopoulos became a staff
photographer on music paper Sounds. Where contemporaries on NME such as
Anton Corbijn and Kevin Cummins have been rightly lionised for their
work, Papadopoulos’ canon has been all but airbrushed from history. The
significance of this major excavation of a huge body of work, then,
cannot be understated.

With more than three hundred images on show, the fertile Scot-pop scene
inevitably dominates. A gangly and giggly Orange Juice era Edwyn
Collins skates on thin ice. Josef K vocalist Paul Haig poses like …

Andrew Kerr – So Ensconced

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
November 12th 2011-January 22nd 2012
3 stars
Absence makes the heart grow fonder in Andrew Kerr’s first major solo
show in Scotland. Almost seventy new paintings discreetly dominate both
floors, only interrupted by the odd smattering of drawings or
sculptural intervention. Most of the mainly sketchbook-sized works are
urgent Zen abstractions awash with counterpointing colours that swoosh
into vivid life as if racing to catch a moment before it disappears.

Some look like splodged-in blueprints for flags of imaginary
countries. Others are rich with implied veldts and blurred deltas, a
jungle drum soundtrack the only thing missing along with the blank
corners where the works were pinned down while being made. Occasionally
more tangible shapes squint through the heat-haze; an alligator here; a
motor in motion there.

The nails embedded in a small arc of wood give it a sad-eyed cartoonish
feel. The bone-like structure dividing the…

Tracer Trails At Christmas - An End of Term Report For The Best DIY Promoters in Scotland

When the third edition of the Retreat! Festival was awarded a Bank of
Scotland Herald Angel award in 2010, it was vindication for a network
of independent music promoters who had grown out of what we now must
call a post-Fence Collective climate. Chief of these was Tracer Trails,
a solo operation run by one Emily Roff, who for the last half-decade
has effectively changed the live musical landscape in Edinburgh, and,
with like-minded partners in tow, looks set to do something similar in
Glasgow.

This year alone, Tracer Trails has put on twenty-one shows featuring a
total of seventy artists playing in a variety of carefully chosen
venues that have included church halls, working mens clubs and
community centres. Tracer Trails also ran two festivals, the fourth
Retreat! In Edinburgh, and the new Music Is The Music Language weekend
in Glasgow. As if this wasn't enough, Roff initiated the Archive Trails
project, in which Alasdair Roberts, Aileen Campbell and Drew Wright,

The Tom McGrath Trust Maverick Awards - A Playwright's Legacy

When playwright Douglas Maxwell first heard his mentor, the late Tom
McGrath use the phrase “writers like us,” it was the first real
acknowledgement of him as a serious artist that McGrath had received.
McGrath, then Associate Literary Director for Scotland and based at
Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre with a brief to nurture younger
playwrights, sealed the deal a cheque for 75GBP. As small an amount as
it was, this money allowed Maxwell a small amount of time and space to
develop his craft while also giving him the sort of personal confidence
his first ever professional fee made possible.

The now hugely successful author of Decky Does A Bronco, If Destroyed
True and Our Bad Magnet related this tale at the launch of the Tom
McGrath Trust Maverick Awards in October of this year. A low-key and
informal breakfast affair, the newly constituted awards ceremony stayed
true the more holistically understated if creatively all-encompassing
creative vision of McGrath. This was …

The King and I

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
If Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerrstein's much-loved 1951 musical
were to be pitched as a new work today, chances are it would be knocked
back at every turn. Devising a show about an eastern despot with a
dodgy human rights record and a fondness for American presidents who is
enlightened and educated by a prim English school-teacher, after all,
hardly sounds like the sort of feelgood fare to keep the nation's
post-war pecker up. Slavery, misogyny, bullying, spying and brutality
are all in the mix, and if there's anything happy about the ending,
it's that the King's death is for a more universal good.

Yet even at a Saturday afternoon preview performance of the newly
constituted Music and Lyrics consortium's touring restaging of Paul
Kerryson's original production for The Curve, Leicester, its
eye-poppingly clear just how inspired a yarn this is. The songs and
story are intact, with Ramon Tikaram and Josefina …

Martin Boyce - Turner Prize Winner 2011

Unlike his work, Martin Boyce doesn't appear to have any angles. Two
days before scooping the 2011 Turner Prize for 'A Library of Leaves',
his 2010 show at the Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, the
Hamilton-born, Glasgow School of Art trained maker of desolate and
often decimated imaginary futurescapes sounds quietly relaxed about the
forthcoming bunfight.

“Everything's done and dusted, really,” a chirpy-sounding Boyce says of
'Do Words Have Voices', an impressionistic imagining of a park in
autumn that forms his contribution to the Turner show at the Baltic,
Newcastle. “I'm just polishing my shoes and pressing my socks.”

The last two years has seen Boyce's cache rise with a series of
elaborately wide-open constructions clearly drawn from the same
parallel universe as both these exhibitions. Boyce represented Scotland
at the 2009 Venice Bienale with 'No Reflections', presented by Dundee
Contemporary Arts. This year's Modern Insti…

What Presence! - The Sound of Young Scotland Rediscovered in Harry Papadopoulos' Post-Punk Photography

Imagine Orange Juice era Edwyn Collins skating on thin ice in a
pictorial homage to Sir Henry Raeburn's painting, The Skating
Minister. Or a pre chart success Associates singer Billy Mackenzie
tying up his shoe-lace like a cherubic choir-boy and wearing what looks
like a school jumper. How about future Creation Records maestro Alan
McGee sporting a full head of hair with his first band The Laughing
Apple? A tweed-clad Aztec Camera looking like landed gentry fashion
models as they suck ostentatiously on pipes?

All these images and more can be seen in What Presence! a long overdue exhibition of photographs
by Harry Papadopoulos that opens at Glasgow’s Street Level gallery this
weekend. As can too a pixie-like Claire Grogan of Altered Images,
Subway Sect’s Vic Godard in full-on crooner mode, Stephen Pastel
inventing C 86, Fay Fife getting gobby in The Rezillos, Scars,
Strawberry Switchblade, Nick Cave in The Birthday Party, Boomtown Rat
Bob Geldof in a Santa suit and S…

The King and I - A New Consortium

Ramon Tikaram is in a bit of a daze. The actor who first came to
prominence in 1990s generation-defining TV drama This Life has been
doing the polka all week as part of his preparation for the title role
in a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, the King and
I, and, at the end of the day in an Edinburgh sports hall all cosied up
in beanie and big jumper, is worn out.

This is all a long way from Albert Square, where Tikaram was recently
filming his latest stint as Amira Shah in BBC soap, East Enders. Then
there was a recent jaunt to Morocco to play a Taliban commander in a
new film about kidnapped Channel Four reporter Sean Langan. It's been
eight years since Tikaram did a musical, when he appeared in Bollywood
Dreams. Where that show was effectively a large-scale ensemble piece,
The King and I is a virtual two-hander between Tikaram and his co-star,
regular West End leading lady Josefina Gabrielle

But Tikaram isn't the only one involved in The K…

The Tree of Knowledge

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Enlightenment comes in many forms in Jo Clifford's parable-like
fantasia, in which David Hume and Adam Smith wake up in the
twenty-first century, where the results of their philosophies are in
freefall. Their world in Ben Harrison's wide-open production is
designer Ali Maclaurin's brutalist breezeblock rotunda on which
blueprints for assorted tomorrows are projected, artless and without
centre. Their guide is a working-class woman from Fife called Eve, who,
arguably like all of us, began life with a false sense of optimism for
a future that never quite became the brave new world it was supposed
to. As Smith painfully discovers when he embraces new social freedoms
with the zeal of a convert, in a corupted free market economy, even sex
is flogged off on the cheap, cold and loveless as it goes.

Gerry Mulgrew's Hume and Neil McKinven's Smith first come to life on
comfy chairs, as if beamed down to some celestial salon in…

National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Bill Wells Gets Busy

The National Jazz Trio of Scotland has never really been a trio. Nor
has Bill Wells’ cheekily-monickered combo ever played jazz in the
conventional sense. With a first album of original material, the
waggishly christened Standards Volume Two, imminent, Wells and his
reconvened NJT play DIY promoters Tracer Trails Christmas shindig to
showcase a more vocal-based direction care of Golden Grrrls singer
Lorna Gilfeather and Findo Gask/Francois and the Atlas Mountains
vocalist Gerard Black.

“It started off as one thing and became something else,” Wells says of
the NJT’s metamorphosis. “There’s never any definite idea of what we’re
doing, and it becomes what it becomes.”

With his high-profile collaboration with Aidan Moffat ongoing, the
Tracer Trails bill will also feature Pianotapes, Wells’ collaboration
with Stefan Schneider of German electronicists To Rococco Rot, and
Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson, who Wells may also end up
playing with.

Wells’ prolific back…

Beholder

Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh
November 19th 2011-February 18th 2012
4 stars
“Beauty,” according to that man David Hume, whose tercentenary year is
almost up, “is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the
mind which contemplates them.”

So it goes in this bumper grab-bag of some fifty-odd works, each
subjectively selected by a far-reaching network of artists, curators,
movers, shakers and other organisers who populate Scotland’s fecund
visual landscape. Their brief, as with Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, is to do
it beautifully. The result is a gloriously disparate jumbled-up
wonderland of art for art’s sake that’s a joy to wander through.

Classicism and conceptualism rub up against each other, as do the
institutions with the DIY pop-up spaces in an all too rare fit of
democratic inclusivity in the best sense of both words. Beholder also
speaks volumes about taste. So what’s an ugly-bugly portrait in the
corner to some will have others in raptures. Yoko O…

Startle Reaction – Torsten Lauschmann

Dundee Contemporary Arts, October 22nd 2011-January 8th 2012
4 stars
You don’t immediately notice the quieter, more domestic pieces in
Torsten Lauschmann’s biggest box of tricks to date. The subverted
digital clock above the DCA box office and the wired-up chandelier that
hangs in Gallery One, where two of Lauschmann’s films are looped,
aren’t as flashy as the rest of what’s on show. They don’t seek to
dazzle and disorientate; they don’t beep or buzz, flash or fade, whirr
or whizz like much else on show in Lauschmann’s gently immersive
time-sequenced theme-park he hood-winks us into believing in. Yet, for
all their functional discretion, these two pieces nevertheless shed
light on the big, tangled-up mess of interconnectivity that Startle
Reaction is all about.

This is clear too in his films. Misshapen Pearl is an impressionistic
meditation on the place where natural light morphs into neon. Artifice
as well as interconnectivity exists in Skipping Over Damaged Areas,
whic…

Lili Reynaud-Dewar - Blacking Up With Jean Genet

It’s somehow fitting that Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s artist talk and
screening of radical author Jean Genet’s explicit 1950 film, Un Chant
d’Amour, was postponed last Wednesday night due to the public service
workers strike that caused Tramway to be closed. It’s fitting too that
another film, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-75, containing hitherto
unseen footage of the radical Black Panthers movement’s leading lights,
is on a limited release in Scottish cinemas the same week that
Reynaud-Dewar’s new performance piece does appear at Tramway for one
night only alongside the delayed talk and screening.

The political thinking behind Jean Genet’s Walls, Speaking of Revolt,
Media and Beauty, after all, is a vital signifier of both its content
and influences. This has been the case with much of Reynaud-Dewar’s
work since the Paris-based former lawyer and dancer graduated from
Glasgow School of Art’s influential Environmental Art course.

“I find Genet's political commitments admirable,…

Fordell Research Unit – The Illusion of Movement (At War With False Noise/Braw Music)

3 stars
Following the textured nuances of his Pjorn 72 label’s Songs For Dying
compilation, Edinburgh noise auteur Fraser Burnett joins forces with
Muscletusk’s Grant Smith for a relentless exercise in metal machine
minimalism.
On what sounds like four variations on a theme, each piece is drilled
through with the same building site/goth night churn that wouldn’t
sound out of place in Silence of the Lambs. Such rawness channels the
bass backing track of The Gift, Lou Reed’s grisly short story for The
Velvet Underground’s hardcore White Light/White Heat album. Put through
a blender and spewed into a megaphone, it barely muffles the sound of
suffocation.

The List, December 2011

ends

The Tree of Knowledge - Jo Clifford's Free Exchange

Adam Smith is having it large. In an out of the way warehouse in Leith,
the noted economist and mid-wife of capitalism as we know it has
dropped his bunged-up mummy's boy facade and is all hoodied-up
following a trawl through what looks to have been the brightest,
brashest and most full-on gay bars in town. What's more, Smith is
loved-up on a chemically enhanced high, and is opening up to his
esteemed colleague, philosopher and man of letters David Hume, like
he's never done before. Where the two once got by on dry discourse, in
the modern world, at least, an altogether different form of intercourse
looks more likely.

Or so it goes in rehearsals for The Tree of Knowledge, Jo Clifford's
audacious new play which pits these two men of ideas in a present-day
limbo. Here they're led like a pair of Scrooges by a twenty-first
century everywoman through a hi-tech, free-market wonderland they might
just have helped think into being.

As actors Neil McKinven as S…

Lawrence of Belgravia - A Star Is Born

There's a scene in Paul Kelly's new documentary film, Lawrence of
Belgravia, in which his subject is seen riding the London Underground.
Although the viewer never sees this mysterious character in plain
sight, we're given tantalising glimpses of him in odd-angled profiles,
mirror-shaded and baseball-capped, like some off-the-leash stall-holder
from Camden Market. Or a rock star.

While this is being played out, a Birmingham-accented voice-over
earnestly relates how desperate he is to be famous, and about how, once
he’s living the dream, he'd never use the Underground again, but would
be prefer to be driven around in a limousine.

Visually, the scene is a tease, vaguely reminiscent of some celebrity
game-show in which a panel are asked to identify one of their peers
before they burst through a sliding door to rapturous canned applause.
The voice-over, on the other hand, sounds more like the cravings of
some Big Brother wannabe milking their fifteen minutes of …