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Showing posts from April, 2013

The Thing About Psychopaths

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh 3 stars At first glance, Perth-born writer Ben Tagoe's new play for Leeds-based veterans Red Ladder looks like the sort of timely dissection of financial corruption that fuelled the likes of Lucy Prebble's hit, Enron. Rod Dixon's production opens with naïve computer whiz-kid Noel being courted by wheeler-dealer Ray to make some easy cash by investing other people's money in illegal ventures without them knowing. When he's found out, Noel takes the rap while Ray slithers his way towards the next fall guy.
We next see Noel in a prison cell, forced to share with bully boy Michael and father figure Emmanuel. Noel may be incarcerated, but he finds himself caught up in the same cycle as before, co-opted into a black economy not of his making until he finally sells his soul in order to survive.
While there are shades here of David Mamet's early play, Edmond, which also ends in a prison cell, it's not difficult to see Tagoe's point…

The Sash - Hector MacMillan on his 1970s classic

One night Hector MacMillan was sitting backstage in the old Pool theatre in Edinburgh with the actors who'd just performed in his play, The Sash. MacMillan was told there were two men in the auditorium who wished to see him. On making his way out front, MacMillan was greeted by what he describes as “two very polite Orange men from Leith, who took issue with the content of the play.”
Given that The Sash looked at inter-familial conflicts on the day of the Orange Order's annual parade in Glasgow, this came as no surprise. The pair had to admit that, while they'd thoroughly enjoyed the play, you would never find anybody like Bill MacWilliam, the monstrous loyalist patriarch at its heart, in the Order itself.
MacMillan hadn't noticed that there were other people lingering in the Pool's tiny shop-front auditorium as well as the two Leithers. Only when a dissenting voice boomed out “like the Reverend Iain Paisley,” according to MacMillan, to interject, did he become aw…

New Plays From China

When playwright Davey Anderson travelled to Beijing with Scavengers, as short play written for students at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, he was exposed to a world of Chinese theatre that went beyond the Golden Hedgehog festival of student drama which Scavengers was appearing at. Anderson was taken to the Beijing Fringe Festival, where lots of home-grown work made largely by directors was being shown.
“I saw very little new work,” Anderson recalls, “and that made me curious about where all the new writers were. I've actually seen very little work by Chinese writers, but I knew there must be some, and that there were great stories out there about China today.”
Through the auspices of the National Theatre of China, Anderson put out an open call for writers. This was, he admits, “a mad idea, just inviting all these writers into as room with us to scribble.”
After whittling the writers down to a ten-strong group, Anderson put them with three Scottish writers, including himself a…

Deadinburgh

Summerhall, Edinburgh 3 stars How would Scotland's capital city cope if it went into lockdown after an all consuming plague ran amock through the city? How would the survivors react if they were forced to decide on a course of action which may or may not save them? And what if the plague in question was a horde of flesh-eating zombies infected with a killer virus?
All these questions and more are asked in this promenade performance devised by the London-based LAStheatre, who have presented similar perambulations through the Old Vic Tunnels. As the 200-strong audience queue outside the film-set like maze of the former Royal Dick Vet School, they are scrutinised by men in uniform checking for signs of infection. Once inside, a general in command barks out orders while chaos reigns. We will be broken up into six groups, we're told, and led through the building where we'll be introduced to assorted real life scientists who will help us decide what action to take; quarantine…

Terre Thaemlitz - Arika – Episode 5

There's a story Terre Thaemlitz, aka DJ Sprinkles, tells in a footnote to an address given at Tate Modern a few weeks ago, and which is now published on Thaemlitz's website. It tells how, while DJ-ing a deep house set at the closing party of the event – a queer and trans-gender cultural symposium - Thaermlitz was approached by a blonde-haired woman who requested something be played by Madonna. When Thaemlitz declined to play anything by her or any of the woman's other requests, she turned nasty, and started calling Thaemlitz a faggot before staff moved her away from the DJ booth.
Such an ugly incident speaks volumes about how deep-rooted homophobia remains in society. The fact that this was a queer and trans-gender event makes the incident even worse. This is just one of the concerns which may be raised in 'Episode 5: Hidden in Plain Sight', Episode 5 of Instal and Kill Yr Timid Notion festival founders Arika's latest line of inquiry, which gives as much disc…

Split 12” v2 - Magic Eye / Le Thug / Zed Penguin / Plastic Animals (Song, By Toad)

4 stars Eclectica abounds on on this four-band snapshot compendium of dispatches from some of the country's more gloriously, and at times wilfully off-piste musical glories, who provide two songs apiece to this limited edition vinyl, alongside more of the same to be downloaded on purchase of an equally limited pack of customised beer. Plastic Animals kick things off with 'Sheltered,' a piece of sci-fi grunge that counterpoints urgent guitars and manic synth squiggles with laid-back stoner vocals. On side two, the band's second piece, 'Floating,' is jauntier, leaning here to more hypnotically voguish dream-pop stylings Magic Eye sound beamed in from behind a shoe-gazer's fringe, so beguilingly lovely are the swooping female vocals and echo-box filtered guitar patterns on 'Flamin' Teenage', which leaves plenty of swoonsome space to breathe. 'Japan' drifts off into similarly exotic waters, guitars pinging out oriental melodi…

Et tu Brutus

Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh Wed March 20th 2013 Edinburgh scene super-groups don't come along every day, yet the arrival of Et tu Brutus opening a four-band House of Crust bill headlined by Californian punks, Fracas, is a tantalising prospect. Initiated by Edinburgh School For the Deaf/St Judes Infirmary/Young Spooks/Naked auteur Grant Campbell and The Leg's Dan Mutch as a studio project, the pair have drafted in a rhythm section of Leg drummer Alun Thomas and former Sara and the Snakes guitarist Andy Brown to put flesh on the skinny-assed bones of Campbell and Mutch's avant-garage hardcore template. With Campbell wielding a microphone/intercom set-up that looks and sounds like it was looted from a 1950s black cab, the muffled fuzz gives the words he reads from A4 sheets of paper a rawness that's accentuated by the band's wilfully no-fi sound helmed by Mutch's guitar, which is played relentlessly, veering off into all kinds of odd angles bef…

Post – Cavalcade (We Can Still Picnic)

4 stars The Sound of Young Scotland continuum runs on apace with plenty of bounce on this debut mini album by a quartet led by former Bricolage and some-time Sexual Object Graham Wann. Instrumental jangularity abounds, but so does a dance-floor glam joie de vivre that's as infectious as it is deliciously calculated. Nouveau serious fun starts here.The List, April 2013 ends

Adopted As Holograph – Adopted As Holograph (Holograph)

3 stars Former uncle John and Whitelock stalwart David Philp is the crooning mastermind behind this seven song set of post-modern Palm Court swing awash with fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitar, which sounds at times not unlike The Monochrome Set gone retro zydeco. As wryly jaunty as all this sounds, there's a doleful melancholy to Philp's delivery, which nevertheless retains a trad warmth worth waltzing to.The List, April 2013ends

A Doll's House

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars Secrets, lies and scandal are at the heart of Zinnie Harris' Edwardian update of Henrik Ibsen's proto-feminist classic, directed here by Graham McLaren for this National Theatre of Scotland/Royal Lyceum co-production. By setting this tale of one woman's emancipation from the male world that controls her among the political classes, Harris gives an even sharper edge to the public consequences of private actions.
Amy Manson's Nora is here the trophy wife of Thomas Vaughan, a newly appointed cabinet minister who Nora nursed through a six month depression. As the pair move into the house that comes with Thomas' job, Nora is haunted by the figure of Neil Kelman, Thomas' predecessor, who left his post under a cloud, and who illegally loaned Nora money to survive during Thomas' illness. As Nora spends much of the play trying to keep the truth from Thomas, it's clear that she is no little girl, but an intelligent, passio…

Mariana Castillo Deball - What we caught we threw away, what we didn't catch we kept

CCA, Glasgow, until May 18th 2013 3 stars Anthropological detritus forms the bulk of this new body of work by Mexican artist Deball, which was co-commissioned by Cove Park and the Chisenhale Gallery in London, where it transfers later in the year. Deball's starting point is the work of explorer and archaeologist Alfred Maudslay, who learnt how to make paper moulds of ancient sculptures while on an expedition in 1881 in Guatamala; artist Eduardo Paolozzi and anthropologist Alfred Gell, Debell herself excavates the trio's work to make a series of papier mache sculptures based on the templates the three set down. Taken out of the forest and into a gallery space, there's a monumental state of grace imbued into each dried-up artefact that's part homage, part re-appropriation to give an eerie sense of isolated and undiscovered worlds. Set against a series of archive images of the original casts, traps and other artefacts that inspired this show, there's a …

PLOUGH – Rachel Mimiec

GoMA, Glasgow, until May 27th 2013 3 stars When GoMa's soon to be outgoing associate artist Rachel Mimiec led workshops with children at the Red Road Family Centre Nursery, her own line of inquiry with blocks of colour led to a body of work that sees pages from issues of National Geographic daubed, splodged or scribbled over. There's little to distinguish between the children's paintings and Mimiec's own work in terms of style and substance in this three-room installation. Which, for a show that looks at collective creative action, is how it should be. Landscape and nature are paramount to the experience, especially with the inclusion of Horatio McCulloch's 1866 landscape painting, Loch Moree, crucially hung upside down. It's a topsy-turvy cock-a-snook to the subject's more formal representations that comes from a sense of fun more than subversion. Yet it's the intimacy of the printed matter that resonates most in a show that blurs the boun…

William E. Jones

The Modern Institute, 3 Aird's Lane, Glasgow, until June 15th 2013 4 stars Three film-works by Los Angeles-based provocateur Jones take notions of power drawn from archive documentary footage, then, by recontextualising each one via collaging, cut-ups and other treatments, liberates them from their authoritarian origins. 'Shoot Don't Shoot' (2012) draws from out-dated police training footage designed to educate trigger-happy boys in blue when to fire at a suspect. As a hip-looking black dude walks down the street, the stentorian voice-over sounds straight out of 1960s TV cop show, Dragnet. Both speak volumes about how institutions function. With two scenarios edited together, the non-linear result looks like cops and robbers as done by Godard. There are more dual images in 'Bay of Pigs' (2012), which features split screen footage of US fighter planes bombing Cuba in the 1961 failed invasion taken from the 1974 film, 'Giron.' This makes the…

Translations

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 4 stars It's perhaps telling that Scotland's capital is hosting the only mainland UK dates for Adrian Dunbar's vivid touring revival of Brian Friel's 1980 masterpiece, staged as part of Derry/Londonderry's UK City of Culture programme. Here, after all, is a play that speaks eloquently and passionately about the very human consequences of cultural colonialism by a ruling elite. In this week of grand gestures, it couldn't be more pertinent.
Friel sets out his store in nineteenth century Donegal, where the rural community are educated at a hedge school, a form of unlegislated shared learning for all. Into this steps the British Army, who have been tasked with translating the local place names from Irish Gaelic to the King's English. What is dressed up as aspirational opportunity soon turns to siege mentality, as the locals are first patronised, then, following the disappearance of a lovesick young lieutenant, brutalised by occupying f…

Platform 18 2013 - Amanda Monfrooe and Peter McMaster Fight The Sex Wars

When boys and girls come out to play, chances are at some point end up fighting. Which may have something to do with why the two winners of this year's Platform 18 theatre-making award at the Arches in Glasgow have kept to their own, gender-wise. While Peter McMaster offers up an all-male adaptation of Emily Bronte's windswept romance, Wuthering Heights, Amanda Monfrooe looks to classical Greek forms for POKE in which the last two women in the world explore notions of male violence against women, and how they reached the state they're in. While such exercises in what looks like separatist sexual politics sound like the sort of thing that came out of a 1970s, the-personal-is-political line of inquiry, the younger generation of theatre-makers who McMaster and Monfrooe are part of are tackling their subjects with a refreshingly contemporary seriousness.
“We're finding ways to understand modes of expression of men,” says McMaster. “I've fixated on the character of Hea…

Towards The End of the Century - Scottish Playwriting in the 1990s

1 There were two words I thought might come up when I started thinking about what was going on in Scottish playwriting and Scottish theatre throughout the 1990s, and which seemed deeply relevant to its trajectory. I wondered whether to mention them or not, but after events of this week, I can't really avoid them. Those words are Margaret. And Thatcher. Because the 1990s were a curious decade, in that what Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s seemed to fuel some kind of artistic dissent, yet by the 1990s, it seemed to have disappeared. Whereas in the 1980s, it was obvious who the bad guys were, to the point were anger sometimes got in the way of art, in the 1990s, while things seemed to become cleverer and more expansive, it was also more complex and ambiguous, and less easy to recognise those bad guys. So for much of the 1990s, it felt that things were in a state of flux en route to the end of the century. Many plays – though by no means all - were about trying to …

Amy Manson - A Doll's House

As action heroines go, Amy Manson certainly looks the part. With her leonine mane and athletic physique, the Aberdeenshire-born twenty-seven year old has spent the last few years in a stream of culty small-screen dramas, while her first film role was in indie horror flick, Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud. Since then there have been regular roles in flipped-on-its-head monster series, Being Human and science-fiction drama, Outcasts, as well as guest slots in Torchwood and Misfits. There are even rumours that Manson might soon be playing a very familiar classic comic-book super-heroine.
Not that Manson hasn't had a chance to shine in period frockage, as she proved in Pre-Raphaelite romp, Desperate Romantics. All of which should hold her in good stead this week when she opens as Nora in a new version of Ibsen's nineteenth century classic, A Doll's House, at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre. Manson plays Nora, the woman at the heart of the play which will be kept in period in Zin…

Amiri Baraka - Freedom is A Constant Struggle

Poetry, jazz and radical politics aren't exactly strangers to counter-cultural activity. As the black civil rights movement grew during the 1960s, so jazz grew ever free-er and subversive as words and music cried out for liberation. One of the pioneering provocateurs of black American poetry is Amiri Baraka, the New Jersey-born poet and playwright who has been agitating, educating and organising ever since he moved into Greenwich Village, where he discovered jazz and Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Since then, the artist formerly known as LeRoi Jones has become one of the most significant writers of his generation, courting controversy with every line that questioned what he saw as an oppressive establishment. This has been the case whether in volumes of jazz criticism, revolutionary inclined poems that were a clear influence on early rap, or as a figurehead of the radical Black Arts Movement. Baraka's poem, Black Art, in which he called for 'poems t…

Un Petit Moliere

Tom Fleming Centre, Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh 3 stars There's something joyful about this double bill of Moliere comic miniatures, adapted here for Lung Ha's Theatre Company in typically scurrilous fashion by Morna Pearson. This may have something to do with MJ McCarthy and Kim Moore's jaunty accordion-led soundtrack that plays as the audience enter, or it may be the bustle of the cast who welcome them into designer Karen Tennant's beautifully draped world. Either way, there's a sense of period-costumed liberation at play, both in the first piece, The Seductive Countess, and in it's follow-up, The Flying Doctor.
The Seductive Countess finds the protege of a vain and selfish lady persuading her Viscount true love to see off her suitors, while The Flying Doctor has a pair of bumbling servants role-play a couple of quacks in order to prevent an unseemly marriage. Pared down to just seventy-five minutes overall, Maria Oller's production allows …

Birds of A Feather

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh 3 stars It may be fifteen years since Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson last regularly graced the small screen as Essex siblings Sharon and Tracey in the long-running sit-com about a pair of convicts wives, but, judging by this stage play that picks up their story, their common touch is still held looked on with affection. As is too Sharon and Tracey's man-eating neighbour Dorian, played with Medusa-haired abandon by Lesley Joseph.
While Sharon and Tracey are still living together in a nouveau-riche fly-by-bight existence, much has changed. Tracey's son is now sixteen, and his serial jailbird dad is seemingly reduced to ashes. When the pair are summonsed to an old people's care home by Dorian, the trio are reunited in an unlikely plot framed around the death of an elderly resident. In the mist of all this come sly contemporary nudges about police corruption, tabloid sensationalism, the riots, references to both Cameron and Blair, as well as the real…

Birdsong

King's Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars There's little in the way of sentimentality in much of the Original Theatre Company's new take on Sebastian Faulks' First World War novel by writer Rachel Wagstaff. Given that it looks at a doomed love affair between English officer Stephen Raysford and Isabelle Azaire, the French woman trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage who captivates him, this is somewhat surprising. But as the frontline troops let off steam with an increasingly desperate-looking sing-song that opens the play before marching to their deaths in the Somme, any ideas of a conventional war-time romance are instantly blasted into the trenches with the emotionally complex grit of what follows. Where Faulks' story was originally told via a linear narrative, Wagstaff's script, revised since Trevor Nunn's original 2010 West End production, weaves her characters through time-frames to create an ambitiously realised memory play which moves seamles…

Translations - Adrian Dunbar Minds His Language

It's the opening night party following a new production of Brian Friel's 1980 play, Translations, at the Millennium Forum in Derry/Londonderry, and the room is packed. The production forms a major part of the programme for Derry's year as UK City of Culture, and it's largely young cast are all dressed up following a couple of hours in suitably dowdy nineteenth century attire in a play that looks at how the British Army were tasked to translate place names from ancient Irish Gaelic to the King's English.
In the far corner of the room, the play's eighty-four year old author is sat on a sofa next to its director, quietly holding court. Most enthusiastic of all is a small gaggle of sparkly-frocked actresses who line up to take each other's photographs on their phone cameras while sitting next to Friel, as if he were a pop star. Which, in terms of Irish theatre, he is.
During the interval, the play's director had been standing in the corridor next to the au…

HeLa

Summerhall, Edinburgh
4 stars In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with a cancer that would kill her shortly after. As a black woman in Baltimore, her rights were limited, and she would never know that a cell sample taken without her permission would provide fuel for some of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the last half century, sealing the careers and reputations of many scientists en route.
Such a scandalous violation of human rights forms the back-ground to this new solo piece written and performed by Adura Onashile in association with the Iron-Oxide company and commissioned by Edinburgh International Science Festival. As seen all too appropriately in Summerhall's marvellously evocative Dissection Room, Graham Eatough's production has Onashile jump between Henrietta's all too personal story and its greater historical consequences with a verve that has her sprawled on a stretcher one minute, then dancing for dear life itself the next. There is archive …