Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Blythe Duff - Ciara

It's not every day that a major writer pens a play with a specific actress in mind. This is exactly what happened, however, when Knives in Hens and Blackbird author David Harrower approached former Taggart star Blythe Duff, who performed Harrower's two-hander, Good With People, at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe before transferring with it to New York.

The result of this collaboration is Ciara, a solo piece in which Duff plays a woman who runs a successful Glasgow art gallery, but who also happens to be the daughter of a just-deceased big city crime lord.

“David told me he wanted to write something about Glasgow,” says Duff of the roots of the play that now forms the flagship production of the Traverse Theatre's Edinburgh Festival Fringe season. “That was in 2010, then in 2011 he came back, and we worked quite closely on the play. It was so exciting being part of that process, and what we've got now is this piece about a woman in her fifties who has effectively legitimised her father's ill-gotten gains. It says something about the relationship between the art world and the underworld, which has always existed, but it's also about grief and loss, and is an incredibly moving family story as well.”

Perhaps because she's been on the other side of the law as Detective Constable Then later Inspector) Jackie Reid in Taggart for more than two decades, Duff seems to be able to find it easy to apply the necessarily forensic eye for detail in finding out what makes her character tick.

“She's a tough cookie,” Duff says of Ciara. “She's smart. I think she's got a lot going for her, even though she's grieving for a lot of things. She's certainly grieving for the loss of her childhood. She had an extraordinary childhood, during which she was very cosseted. She was a princess, and when princesses grow up they become some kind of royalty.

“She also has this incredible need to tell her story. She says from the start that she doesn't care if the audience feel sorry for her or not, but she also has this incredible need for love, even as she's coming to terms with her grieving. She's married, but you find out that she's very much alone in the world. Her mum's not around, her brother's not around and her dad's not around, and you discover she's quite a lonely soul.

“There's people she has lunch with, but she has no real friends she can talk to. That's why she seeks people out to tell her story. The people who live in that world she grew up in. there's not many people you can talk to about it.”

Duff was last seen onstage in the Borders-based Firebrand company's revival of Rona Munro's women's prison set play, Iron. Duff's turn as a lifer won her the Best Actress award at this year's Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland.

It couldn't have come at a better time,” Duff admits. “After thirty years in the business, I must be doing something right.”

Prior to Iron, Duff did Good With People, and previously appeared in another solo work, Karen McLachlan's play, Just Checking. The latter was produced by Duff's own company, Datum Point, who also co-produced Good With People, and are now joining forces with the Traverse again for Ciara. While there have also been roles with the National Theatre of Scotland, all of the plays named above found Duff sticking her neck out in a series of meaty roles where, after twenty-one years of Taggart, she could so easily have played safe.

“I keep thinking, oh, my God, that was a big number,” Duff says. “Every time I've done a big, chunky piece, the experience propels me onto the next thing. So since 2009 I've constantly been in preparation for projects. I really work hard, and I decided I was going to put myself on the line in some way. I turned fifty, and you'd think there are no parts for fifty year old women, but I've been seeking them out, and embracing everything that comes my way.

“I never thought one job would last twenty-one years, and now, I could probably get a job that would earn me lots more money, but the Traverse gave me my first ever professional job, and, it sounds grand, but I suppose I want to give something back, and when someone like David Harrower comes along and says they're thinking of writing something for you, it's very flattering.

“I need to be creative, and be inspired by texts, so it's all a bit of a buzz. Performance is one thing, but it's the process to get that which in some ways makes things more interesting. It's really connecting to people that I enjoy.”

By Duff's own admission, it hasn't all been plain sailing.

“When I did Iron,” she remembers, “we had three and a half weeks to prepare, and I almost did a runner. I thought, okay, I'm in Hawick, no-one'll find me. That play's a hundred and two pages long, but with a new play you've always got a big white script. With iron, we were working with the published play-text, and because that's so small, you under-estimate how many words there are.”

Despite her anxieties, Duff gave a storming performance, hence the much-deserved award. Beyond this too, Duff is in full possession of a canny pragmatic streak that suggests she's more in control than she lets on. This manifests itself most clearly via datum point, and indeed her whole approach to co-production and collaboration in austere times.

“This is something I want to do,” Duff says of Datum Point's ongoing set of co-productions. “We all have to think about doing theatre in a business-like fashion. Business is a dirty word, but we have to talk ourselves up. We have to make theatre something that people want to leave the house for.”

With Duff onstage, Orla O'Loughlin's production might well be that sort of theatre.

“I don't think this will be a show-off piece,” Duff says. “There's not a lot of movement. I let the words do it for me. My thoughts about Ciara are that it needs to have a long life. It needs to come to Glasgow. It's like Glasgow rock. It's got Glasgow imprinted all the way through it. The Edinburgh festival audiences will take it in one way, and that's great, but this play shows Glasgow warts and all, and Glasgow audiences are used to that. It's this incredible exploration of the Glasgow art world. Some people are frightened of art if it doesn't match their furniture, but the play looks at
how artists work, and what art means to people in a world where the criminal element and what we call the cheese and wine element sit cheek by jowl.”

Ciara, Traverse Theatre, August 1st-25th

Blythe Duff – On Stage and Screen

Blythe Duff was born in East Kilbride in 1962.

After leaving school, Duff joined The Company, a Glasgow-based theatre company run at the Washington Arts Centre as part of the Youth Opportunities programme. Duff also joined Scottish Youth Theatre.

Duff's first professional job was at the Traverse as part of an SYT young Playwrights Festival.

She went on to appear at the Traverse in plays such as Anne Marie Di Mambro's Tally's Blood, Sharp Shorts, and King of the Fields, by Stuart Paterson.

During her twenty-one years on Taggart, her character Jackie Reid rose through the ranks, from a community WPC, to Detective Constable, Detective Sergeant and, in the final series in 2011, Detective Inspector.

Duff founded Datum Point productions in 2010, and to date have produced or co-produced Just Checking, Good With People and Ciara.

The Herald, July 30th 2013


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Gabriel Orozco – thinking in circles

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, August 1st-October 18th

There's something very Zen at the heart of Gabriel Orozco's work. This is clear from even the title of the Mexican-born artist's new show at the Fruitmarket Gallery, and which forms part of this year's Edinburgh Art Festival. Comprising a mix of works old and new, including some pieces from the 1990s never shown before, 'thinking in circles' offers a conceptual overview of Orozco's work and his fascination with the circle as a structure.

The idea for the show,” according to curator Briony Fer, “was to take one work, a painting called 'The Eye of Go,' and look at the artist's work through the lens of that work. Orozco began at the beginning of the nineties, and made his name as the kind of artist who definitely didn't make paintings in the conventional sense, yet in 2004 he started making paintings again. His work is characteristically radically diverse; photographs, temporary works, drawings, installations, working tables, and so the show asks what holds this in many ways incompatible range of things together, and what kind of approach to making art makes it coherent in one practice?”

Given that much of the previously unseen work was made in the 1990s, one wonders why Orozco has waited until now to give these works from Orozco's own archive an airing.

The large-scale acetates are in the show because they tell a new story about how the artist came to make the paintings like 'The Eye of Go,'” says Fer, “but also shows him thinking through problems of abstraction and the Mondrian- Duchamp conundrum from the beginning. Orozco even made plans of how to display the acetates, which certainly show him thinking about Duchamp's Large Glass, but never actually did so. In the preparation for this show they were found rolled up in his house, and we decided to exhibit them for the first time. In his notebooks there is a photo of one of these abstract acetates stuck to a brick wall outside on the street, but this is the first time they will have been shown inside a gallery. I hope it has been interesting for him to look back on the work from this time in a different way and reflect on the motif of circles as it runs through everything he does.”

Orozco's fascination with circles itself seems endless.

The show is about the way circles hold the work together and why,” Fer points out. “As a motif he isn't interested in making formal compositions with circles, but with using circles like instruments. Circles throughout the 20th century have off-set the modernist grid and set motion in train and its the movement they create that interests him most, the way they can rotate or spread out. 

thinking in circles does far more than look back, however.

Some of his very latest works are in the show,” Fer says. “They are river stones that have been carved with circular patterns by a stone carver, rather like the footballs that has cut into and drawn on - one of which is also in the show. The stones are a bit like nature's footballs. There are also some new paintings, so the exhibition comes right up to now.”

www.fruitmarket.co.uk


The List, July 2013

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Sarah Kenchington – Wind Pipes For Edinburgh

Trinity Apse, Chalmers Close, 42 High Street, August 1st-September 1st

Sarah Kenchington has no desire to be a one-woman band. This is clear in her latest hand-built musical instrument/installation for Edinburgh Art Festival, am interactive construction made from a hundred decommissioned church organ pipes, which, with no keyboards involved, requires at least six players to operate the bellows.

“The pipe organ's becoming a bit of an endangered species,” says Kenchington, who began making Heath Robinsonesque musical instruments out of collected detritus a decade ago. “A lot of them are being scrapped, because they're incredibly expensive to maintain and repair, so this has become a bit of an orphanage for unwanted pipes. There are enough bellows for twenty-four people. Normally only one bloke gets to play a church organ, but now anyone can play. ”

This is part of a mission Cambridge-born Kenchington appears to be on to reclaim the effort of making music as well as to democratise it.

“It's about swimming against the tide of everything being plugged in, and putting the physical back in music,” she says. “I started off as a maker, but was never quite happy with just sticking something on a plinth. At one point I ended up making a pedal-powered instrument that was just operated by me. I felt I'd gone off track, because I didn't want it to be me just sitting there on a stage. I felt like I'd let my instruments down.”

As well as its daily showings, a series of concerts will feature contributions from the likes of Eagleowl and regular collaborator, The One Ensemble's Daniel Padden, all of whom will have to deal with the instrument's more random elements.

“It's a great leveller,” Kenchington says. “it's not designed for virtuosos. It's more about groups of people playing simple parts together. At a very early age, you either get music or you don't, because of the way it's taught. This is about getting music back to the people.”


The List, July 2013

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rip Rig and Panic – God/I Am Cold/Attitude (Cherry Red)

4 stars

It's not every day a free-jazz-punk-skronk-funk combo get to strut their stuff on a prime time BBC TV sit-com. This, however, is exactly what happened on December 7th 1982 when Rip Rig and Panic appeared on the living room set of The Young Ones to perform their single, You're My Kind of Climate, featuring Andrea (mum of Miquita) Oliver miming vocals in place of absent teenage chanteuse Neneh Cherry while roadie and performance poet Jock Scot similarly mimed trumpet.

Granted The Young Ones, set in an anarchic student flat occupied by Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson was hardly Terry and June, created as it was on the back of the burgeoning alternative comedy boom. Set alongside The Young Ones' other musical guests who included Madness, Motorhead and Dexy's Midnight Runners, however, Rip Rig and Panic stood out like a mad uncle making a charming nuisance of himself at a wedding. So much so, in fact that they were informed that their unruly behaviour would guarantee that they wouldn't be asked back onto BBC TV ever again. As these expanded reissues of Rip Rig and Panic's trio of equally unruly albums prove, however, it was the BBC's loss.

Here, after all, is one of the great missing links in post-punk, a free-thinking collective who tackled a melting pot of musical styles with a youthful loose-knit abandon that suggested they were learning their chops as they went, picking up some serious dance moves en route. Rip Rig's founder members, guitarist and clarinettist Gareth Sager and drummer Bruce Smith had both been in The Pop Group, Bristol's most intense avant-provocateurs who similarly looked to funk and dub for inspiration before imploding in 1981.

With singer Mark Stewart forming Mark Stewart and The Maffia, other off-shoots as well as Rip Rig and Panic included Maximum Joy and chart-bothering instrumentalists Pigbag. With Sager and Smith hooking up with pianist Mark Springer and bass player Sean Oliver, who Sager had first seen busking, an invitation was sent out to Cherry, who had sung with The Pop Group's fellow travellers, The Slits, and, with Smith, in the On-u sound affiliated New Age Steppers. Cherry was also the step-daughter of jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, which gave her hipster kudos in abundance. #

The result of this unholy alliance was wilder and more eclectic than anything their peers were doing, and would sow the seeds for a multi-cultural stew that would tentacle out through Massive Attack and Portishead, right up to The Cherry Thing, Neneh Cherry's recent collaboration with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson's skronk trio The Thing, a band who, it must be said, sound at times not unlike Rip, Rig and Panic.

Without Rip, Rig and Panic too, remember, we may never have witnessed Neneh and Andi Dish It Up, a six part cookery show hosted by Cherry and Andrea Oliver. Presumably the BBC executives who dreamt up the show weren't aware of Rip Rig and Panic's lifetime ban.

There were two different strands to the Rip, Rig and Panic oeuvre. The first was a kind of free-form party-time funk, pulsed either by squalling saxophone or else Springer's singular piano, sometimes both at the same time in a tug of love only anchored by Smith and Oliver's rock-steady rhythm section. The second was a poppier if equally funky song-based affair that put Cherry at its centre.
Both came with scatologically wild titles, usually care of Sager, who also penned the similarly scattershot lyrics.

If Storm the Reality Asylum and Wilhelm Show Me The Diagram (Function of the Orgasm) were riddled with counter-cultural references that sounded like interpretative musical pamphlets in miniature, the Springer-led Change Your Life sounded like a demented Vince Gauraldi jamming with some just discovered African tribe on a Go! Team mash-up in waiting. Just calling their debut album God was an audacious act of provocation from the band. But then, given that Rip, Rig and Panic had named themselves after a piece by jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, why the hell not?

God wasn't being put out on some esoterically inclined micro-indie label after all. Like its follow-ups, God was released on Virgin, which, while it still held on to its own hippy roots via a welter of post-punk signings, was undoubtedly a major.

I Am Cold features You're My Kind of Climate and Storm The Reality Asylum, arguably R, R and P's most commercial moments, and should've been squat-dance classics in waiting, as the two 12” versions that feature among an abundance of extras on these new editions make clear. Then along comes a free wig-out bearing the title, Another Tampon Up The Arse of Humanity, and any perceived attempt at crossover looks suddenly unlikely.

With Don Cherry guesting on all three albums, such a cross-generic libertine spirit suggested that here was a new generation of British jazzers forged in the image of the likes of pianist Keith Tippett (who Springer had played with) and saxophonist Larry Stabbins, as well as other players such as Barbasos-born trumpeter Harry Beckett and – especially – pianist Chris McGregor and his Brotherhood of Breath, who, as emigres from apartheid era South Africa, fused black and white sounds in a way that was the most joyous of political statements in a more accepting London scene. All of this would hit commercial pay-dirt a couple of years later with Simon Booth and Larry Stabbins' Working Week outfit who so encapsulated London's mid 1980s jazz dance scene, but, despite surface similarities, such polo-necked cool was unlikely to become Rip Rig and Panic's infinitely more sprawling sensibilities.

If it was in live shows that Rip Rig and Panic's unruly spirit was unleashed to the max, then Attitude sounds the most honed, conventionally focused and 'produced' of the three albums. This may somewhat conversely be to do with the final album's increasing use of guest players, including drummer and doyen of the London improv scene, Steve Noble, whilst also remaining there was little in the way of compromise.

Following Attitude, Springer went off to do his thing, while the rest of the band would morph into Float Up CP, before Cherry eventually went mainstream via her 1989 debut solo album, Raw Like Sushi, work with Massive Attack and beyond. Sager went on to form Head, prior to more recent solo releases on Scots indie label, Creeping Bent and sojourns this side of the border with Jock Scot, The Nectarine No 9 and others.

Sean Oliver's passing in 1990 ended the Rip Rig rhythm partnership with Smith, who went on to join John Lydon's ever-fluctuating Public Image Limited project for two albums in the mid-1980s, before signing up to the band again when Lydon recently reformed PiL. Smith now divides his time between PiL and the reformed Pop Group with Sager and Mark Stewart. Given just how much things have come full circle in each member's waywardly singular pursuits, perhaps now is the time for Rip, rig and Panic to reconvene. Just imagine the glorious mess they could make! 

The List, July 2013

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Tell Me The Truth About Love - Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell on W.H. Auden and Benjamin Britten

When considering cabaret acts, the names of composer Benjamin Britten and poet WH Auden don't immediately spring to mind. Yet the most revered British composer of the twentieth century and the equally iconic Auden briefly dabbled with the form after early collaborations on the films, Coal Face and Night Train, and the radically inclined song cycle, Our Hunting Fathers. Tell me The Truth About Love is a new show in which playwright Mark Ravenhill and composer Conor Mitchell bring together the four songs the pair wrote alongside new treatments for another four sets of lyrics by Auden, for which Britten's music is presumed to be lost or incomplete. As a flame-carrying bonus, Mitchell has also composed brand new settings to a quartet lyrics penned by Ravenhill. These will be performed by Jamie McDermott of flamboyant ten-piece chamber-pop ensemble, The Irrepressibles.

“I'm a complete Britten geek,” Mitchell says of his interest in the composer, whose centenary was recently celebrated at the Aldeburgh Festival, which was founded by Britten. “I knew there was this set of existing cabaret songs, but they've always been hard to perform, because there's only four, then there were these other four which I did the music four, and then Mark came up with these new lyrics, which made for a complete hour.”

As Ravenhill explains, “Auden and Britten were inspired by cabaret songs from America and Germany, and I think they initially set out to write these things for fun, and as a sideline to what they saw as more serious work. Auden wrote a play with Christopher Isherwood, The Ascent of D6, which Britten was also writing the music for. They all thought that this was a more serious thing, but which is pretty much unstageable.”

While Ravenhill's early career was defined by his 1996 play, Shopping and Fucking, the last few years has seen him look to other theatrical forms to make hybrid works, often with music. The last music theatre collaboration between Mitchell and Ravenhill was Ten Plagues, an intense song cycle performed by Marc Almond at the Traverse Theatre during the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This followed Shadow Time, commissioned for the twenty-first anniversary of the London Gay Men's Chorus. While the sensibilities of all these have trickled down into Tell Me the Truth About Love, particularly in terms of the homosexuality of both Auden and Britten, both Ravenhill and Mitchell are keen to stress the differences as well.

“There's less of a narrative than in Ten Plagues,” Ravenhill points out, while Mitchell observes that “Cabaret songs have to be immediate, to get the lyrics through. With something like Ten Plagues, you can play with things, and one word can have twelve notes to it, bit you can't do that with cabaret songs.”

For Mitchell, who has recently worked at Perth Theatre with long-term collaborator and the theatre's artistic director, Rachel O'Riordan, following in Britten's shoes might have been more daunting if he hasn't observed this maxim of keeping things simple.

“I composed it twice,” he says. “I always start something and think, I'm going to show them, but the first time was too complex, so I went back and listened to what Britten did. I learnt a lot, because he just went for cabaret tunes.”

While Auden and Britten remained classy even as they were attempting to be trashy, The Truth About love is just the latest example of a reinvention of cabaret over the last few years which hasn't been since the 1980s so-called alternative scene. This was recognised in 2012 when cabaret was given its own section in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, while both Camille O'Sullivan and the Tiger Lillies have performed in the Edinburgh International Festival.

While such formal recognition is significant, the irresistible rise of cabaret gas also been sired by the recession.

“Cabaret is cheaper to do than a full play,” Ravenhill observes, “and a lot of it has come out of what's happening in pubs and clubs as a way of entertaining people with something that's not quite comedy and isn't quite theatre. For a while I think people associated cabaret with what happens on cruise ships, but it does seem to be back in a more interesting way now.”

Mitchell goes further, pointing out how “the institutions of music are starting to lose their rigid definitions. These days you van have pop singers singing classical works, and classically trained singers singing pop songs , so these old barriers are starting to melt.”

Mitchell and Ravenhill plan to collaborate further on projects great and small. With Marc Almond still performing Ten Plagues, the pair are also looking to working with him again.

“Ultimately I'd like to try and find the resources to stage a big opera,” Ravenhill says, “but we just have to find something that excites us all, and that we can get our teeth into.”

Tell Me The Truth About Love, Underbelly, Edinburgh, July 31st-August 26th, 7pm-8pm

The Herald, July 23rd, 2013


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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Events - David Greig and Ramin Gray on a Play That Sings

When David Greig woke up to a newspaper interview he'd done about his latest play, what he read bore little resemblance to the work he was still in the process of writing. The Events, according to the report, was to be a musical about the Norwegian killer Anders Brevik, who slaughtered seventy-seven people in July 2011 when he bombed central Oslo before opening fire on an island youth camp. Brevik claimed the attacks were to prevent what he saw as the Islamisation of Norway, and is currently serving a twenty-one year prison sentence for terrorism and pre-meditated murder.

To suggest that such a serious writer as Greig would do anything so crass as pen a musical about such a horrific occurrence, then, was as headline-grabbingly misleading as it was innacurate. The Events, which runs at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh as part of its Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, may or may not draw inspiration from massacres such as Brevik's, but it looks set to be a far subtler experience than previous headlines suggest.

“My first reaction was anger,” Greig admits. “To suggest that I was writing a musical about Anders Brevik was so far away from what we were doing. Then my second reaction was that the subject was so controversial, that maybe some things are too dark to talk about.”

The Events focuses on a liberal-minded woman and how she reacts when the choir that she leads are attacked with tragic results.

“She's a typical liberal,” says Greig. “She's vegetarian, she's a little bit hippyish, she works with depressed people, and she runs this choir. She's someone who thinks she can find empathy with the attackers, but she's also the victim.”

The Events began over a conversation with Ramin Gray, artistic director of Actors Touring Company (ATC), who are lead producers of the show, in the Traverse bar.

“We realised there were similarities between the Islamic terrorists who were involved in 9/11 and 7/7, and Brevick, who at that point had not long before been responsible for this great tragedy in Norway. As we've also seen more recently in events in Woolwich, which again isn't dissimilar to Brevick or 7/7, these things were all committed by strange, vacant-eyed boys. They're sort of bogeymen, but they're weak, inadequate bogeymen.”

Gray observes that “All of the things mentioned have a political context. They're not like what happened with the equally terrible events in Dunblane or Columbine. They have a political purpose, however warped they might be. Maybe the people behind them were abandoned or abused, we don't know. When these things happen, all of us, whether they affect is directly or not, spend days and weeks trying to work out what happened and why it happened. We also try and work out what should happen to the perpetrators. I think part of the reason that these people obsess us is that there's no clear answer ever. ”

The Events is a co-production between ATC, the Young Vic, Brageteatret in Norway and the Schauspielhaus in Vienna. After its Edinburgh run, the production will play in London, Dublin and Birmingham. The pair's researches, which involved speaking to psychiatrists, hypnotherapists, priests and many others, eventually took them to Norway, where they spoke to a boy who was on the island when Brevik opened fire.

“I haven't spoken to any perpetrators,” says Greig. “That's probably a mistake.”

This may be so, though both Greig and Gray are at pains to stress that The Events is very much a work of fiction.

“Our project is to investigate and probe,” Gray says. “To understand is maybe to condone, and maybe that's not possible.”

Greig wonders whether “understanding would give the perpetrators some kind of victory. The play ends in act of retribution, but it's all a bit ambiguous at the moment, and we were just discussing whether any of us would kill the perpetrators of such a crime. Some would, but some definitely wouldn't, but what I think the play does look at is that this idea of understanding is kind of a shroud that's put in front of you to avoid the darkness, when you actually need to face the darkness.”

Greig wrote The Events while his stage version of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, currently playing in the west end, was being rehearsed. The image Greig presents of him sitting at the back of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane writing something so recognisably serious as The Events while something so fantastical as Dahl's story was being knocked into shape is a glorious counterpoint to the material.

One crucial element of The Events will be the onstage appearance of a real choir, which will be made up of local singers from each town or district the play tours to.

“The choir came first in a way,” says Greig. “We saw a choir when we were doing some research in Norway, and it seemed like such a perfect image if the best in being human. In the play, what happens to them becomes the motor for the story. A choir is a group that can include or exclude you”

Gray points out that “The play looks at the effect of these events on the community and communities in general. Every community is bound to every part of humanity, and a community choir really taps into that. It's a simple way of making the play sing.”

As the play is presented in different places, particularly in towns or cities still raw from real life tragedies, one can't help but wonder how audiences will react. Norwegian audiences in particular may perhaps recognise some aspects of themselves onstage.

“What I would very much like,” says Greig, “is for people in Norway to be able to reflect on it, and to bring their own experience to it in a creative and positive way.”

Gray concurs.

“What I would like to do,” he says, “is to provide a space for a community to come together and share a moment.”

“What I'm not interested in,” says Greig, “is going out to shock or provoke. That would be horrible.”

The Events, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, July 31st-August 25th.

David Greig was born in Edinburgh in 1969, and brought up in Nigeria.

At Bristol University he formed Suspect Culture Theatre co with director Graham Eatough and composer Nick Powell. Plays written with the company include Timeless and Mainstream.

Greig's professional breakthrough came in 1995 at the Traverse Theatre with Europe. Plays that followed include The Architect, Outlying Islands and Damascus.

More recently, Greig wrote Midsummer, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart and Dunsinane.

Greig's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently running in the west end.

The Herald, July 16th 2013


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The Confessions of Gordon Brown - Kevin Toolis on a Tragic Hero

As tragic heroes go, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's downfall was one of the most public examples of vaulting ambition gone wrong. This is prime material for drama, which award-winning journalist and film maker Kevin Toolis has taken full advantage of in his forthcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe play, The Confessions of Gordon Brown. While this solo work performed by Ian Grieve is ostensibly about Brown, as Toolis explains, there's a lot more going on beyond the purely biographical.

“The first job I ever had in 1983 was as a parliamentary press gallery reporter,” he says, “then I did a lot of work in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East. I encountered a lot of political structures and a lot of political leaders, in all different shapes and forms, from terrorist organisations, to bureaucracies. I was always very interested in leadership, and who is the leader, and I was always very interested in Gordon Brown. I think the play began when I was listening to BBC radio one night, and someone said that when he was in power, Gordon Brown was a Shakespearian tragic figure, but no-one could actually tell you from which play. He was a combination of Richard the Second, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth, which in a way summed up all these different aspects of Gordon Brown's character. He had a reputation as something of a factionalist, some of the things he did were a bit indecisive, but he was also a very good man. He's a much more complex human being than Alex Salmond. I could never do The Confessions of Alex Salmond, or even Tony Blair.

“Who we elect to be leader, and who we choose to become leader are absolute universal traits of society from the beginning of time. In a way you would recognise the same things in every political manifesto. The future's going to be better, our city shall shine upon the hill, we shall be victorious, the pound will remain strong, and tomorrow, crucially, the sun will rise from the east.

“So the play's about Gordon Brown, but it also has a universal quality, I hope, which really looks at
who are these people we've elected leaders, why do we have such faith in them, and why are we disappointed when they turn out to be actually pretty ordinary?”

Toolis has made something of a life study of political structures. His book, Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul is regarded as a definitive study of the Irish Republican movement. Toolis has also reported widely on conflicts in the middle east. He has also written scripts for Universal Pictures, and in the 1990s began making documentary films. Toolis co-founded Many Rivers Films, and recently co-produced the feature film, Complicit, a spy thriller involving an attempted British terror plot. As with all his work, The Confessions of Gordon Brown is as much about belief systems than anything. Following I, Tommy, Ian Pattison's comic study of disgraced former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, Toolis' play is the latest play to look at living politicians rather than dead ones.

“It's not an authorised biography,” Toolis says, “and it's certainly not a hagiography. What I did do was to speak to large numbers of members of the Labour Party, significant members of Brown's leadership circle, from Douglas Alexander to Ed Balls to Damien McBride, and to many other people who would be on the fringes of that circle. I read every book there is about Brown, but it's not a documentary. It's an artistic interpretation, both of the man and of the universal king, and aspects of leadership, some of which are ancient, some of which are very modern.”

Given Brown is still very much alive and kicking, if keeping a low profile these days, what, one wonders, would he make of Toolis' play?

“I've no idea,” says Toolis. “Gordon Brown has something of a reputation for being a thrawn king, but the play is empathetic. It's not a hatchet job. It's a dramatic interpretation of a very important issue which transcends Gordon Brown, and is really about what it means to be a leader. There's a relevance there too to what's going on in Scotland right now with the forthcoming referendum. If Scotland goes independent, that will basically be about belief in Alex Salmond as the undisputed leader, who will lead us into the promised land, because we believe that we will, because he is the leader. He may be leading us into catastrophe, so maybe people will come out and not vote for him. The choice of leader, and the faith that the led put in the leader is absolutely crucial. The play examines that in great detail. We [put these leaders on a pedestal, and that's partly a problem with us, because we want to be led.”

The Confessions of Gordon Brown, Pleasance, Edinburgh, July 31st-August 26th
www.gordonconfesses.co.uk

The Herald, July 16th 2013


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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Big Daddy Vs Giant Haystacks - Lords of the Ring

When British professional wrestling legend Mick McManus passed away in May this year aged 93, it was the end of an era this cauliflower-eared villain helped to define. Two other arbiters of the original sports entertainment who are no longer with us were Shirley Crabtree and Martin Ruane, better known as larger than life kings of the ring, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. When 25 stone Daddy, named by his promoter brother Max Crabtree after Tennessee Williams' thundering patriarch in his play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and 33 stone Salfordian Haystacks clashed in the ring, the earth moved, even as the white trash Greek tragedy they played out became a microcosm of a little Britain that was itself being killed off.

This rise and fall is poignantly captured in Big Daddy Vs Giant Haystacks, a new play by comedy writing duo Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, which is just the latest example of a resurgence of interest in a form of spectacle still mocked by many, even as it gave way to the far glitzier fare propagated by WWF, now WWE. Yet before then ITV head of sport Greg Dyke removed UK wrestling from our TV screens in 1988, it was essential viewing for millions of fans. It was too low rent, claimed Dyke, ignoring an audience that existed beyond the chattering classes. In this respect, Dyke was making as much of a political statement as Daddy and Haystacks themselves.

“There's really a much bigger story to tell,” according to Mitchell. “Essentially the play is the story of Britain, and those very significant years between 1976 and 1988, when the shift in power between the north and the south became more prevalent. In that way, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks came to symbolise aspects of the British character. There was something going on there about the Wars of the Roses, and there was something about the image of the working-class Tory, as Big Daddy, with his Union Jack top hat, effectively became John Bull. So it's a play about people who set themselves up to be their own symbols.”

The revival of interest in such old-school spit-and-sawdust entertainment began with the publication of Simon Garfield's seminal oral history, The Wrestling, published in 1996. Since then, Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller has made a film about Adrian Street, the Welsh miner's son whose feather-boaed image disguised a brutal expertise in the ring; a BBC 4 documentary looked back the era; and a website, Wrestling Heritage, provides an exhaustive look back at some of the sport's unsung greats.

While Garfield's book was dramatised in 1998, WWE icon Mick Foley turned stand-up on last year's Fringe, while writer/performer Rob Drummond trained himself up for a show that culminated in him taking part in a fully-fledged bout of drop-kicks and flying buttresses. This year sees the return of The Wrestling, a show performed by comedy duo, Max and Ivan. As for the wrestling itself, it's still there if you look hard enough in shows promoted by Crabtree's arch-rival, Brian Dixon, on the summer holiday camp circuit.

“It's not a huge revival,” Mitchell observes, “but people have noticed that it hasn't gone away, which is a good thing. I approve of a country that allowed the wrestling to exist than the one that didn't.”

Big Daddy Vs Giant Haystacks, Assembly George Square, August 1-26, 12.15pm.


The List Edinburgh Festival Guide 2013, July 2013


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Various – Scared To Get Happy (Cherry Red)

4 stars
It was Kitchenware Records underdogs Hurrah! Who gifted this bumper 5 CD 1980s indie-pop compendium takes its name its title via a lyric from their single Hip Hip, which duly inspired a Sarah Records related fanzine. It's arguable that neither Kitchenware, Sarah or the bands they housed could have existed without Orange Juice, who flirted with the fragile notion of happiness on their song, Felicity. It was Edwyn Collins' arch-janglers, after all, who arguably invented the anti-macho, anti-rockist aesthetic that would go on to become a genre before Madchester and Brit-Pop triumphalism shoved such literate sensibilities aside.

It's odd, therefore, that while Collins' Sound of Young Scotland contemporaries Josef K, Aztec Camera and Fire Engines are here, Orange Juice aren't. Neither, indeed, are The Pastels, who picked up Postcard Records DIY mantle and went on to influence the spirit of every generation of independently-minded bands that followed in their wake. Again, Pastels peers such as the BMX Bandits, The Shop Assistants, Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes and The Boy Hairdressers, as well as a nascent Primal Scream, all appear.

Scared To Get Happy isn't, however, attempting to replicate C86, the NME cassette compilation for which readers collected six weeks worth of vouchers then waited twenty-eight days for delivery before being able to hear a collection which defined an era of so-called 'shambling' bands. Nor is it a recreation of Pillows and Prayers, Cherry Red's own defining compilation of the label's early 1980s roster which was sold for just 99p.Artists from both albums appear here, but this is a broader church, which, despite the plethora of Scottish acts on show, including Strawberry Switchblade, The Wake, TV 21, Scars, The Bluebells, Del Amitri, Friends Again and others, embraces a disparate array of under-achievers, one-offs and future pop stars from all over.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pulp and The Stone Roses fall into the latter bracket, though its tantalisingly wonderful one-offs like the heroic romance of the Wild Swans' The Revolutionary Spirit and Fantastic Something's sublime If She Doesn't Smile (It'll Rain) that matter just as much. As the collection's 134 tracks move through the decade without a Fairlight in sight, even with the omissions, here is a parallel pop universe preserved in all its lo-fi glory. 

The List, July 2013

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Hugh Buchanan – The Esterhazy Archive

Summerhall, Edinburgh
3 stars
The title of this new show of sixteen watercolours hung all too appropriately in Summerhall's wood-panelled Dean's Room may sound lifted from a 1960s Cold War spy caper, but its depictions of books and documents all bundled up with brown paper and string are even more intriguing. The Esterhazy family archive is stored in Forchenstein, south of Vienna in twenty-five vaulted rooms in the basement of an ancient fortress. Buchanan's excavation not only captures the meticulous intricacy of the endeavour, but, seems to tap in too to the whole notion of archiving as art so much in vogue right now. Yet, by observing it at first remove, as Buchanan does here, there's a gimlet-eyed objectivity to his studies as much as there is warmth.

While there are hints of Beauysian-styled detritus on show acknowledged in the title of one of the larger works hung on the walls beside Summerhall's staircase, framing the archives in impressionistic paintings like this makes them less austere and self-consciously mysterious. The light and shade in each painting bathes the bundles in a romantic glow that gives each package a mythological air to savour. 

The List, July 2013


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Cannibal Women of Mars

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
The clue is in the title of this new comedy sci-fi musical by Mick 
Cooke, Gordon Davidson and Alan Wilkinson as to what it's about. Set a 
hundred years into the future, the earth is so overcrowded that sex has 
been banned, leaving shiny shell-suited virgins Largs and Jaxxon on a 
mission to pop their cherry by way of a one-way ticket to Mars to help 
repopulate a planet occupied  solely by women. When they fall into the 
clutches of Queen Beatrice and her man-hungry daughters Pippa and 
Yasmin, however, they appear to have bitten off more than they can 
chew.

Andy Arnold's production, a collaboration between the Tron, Twentytwo 
Productions and Limelight, blasts off with a series of libidinous 
scenarios in a camp cartoon of a show that boldly goes places that 
taste forgot. Arnold's production is rough round the edges, as fringe 
musicals should be, and is enlivened by a fistful of songs accompanied 
by a four-piece band led by musical director Sally Clay. There are some 
larger than life comic turns from Darren Brownlie and Mark Prendergast 
as Largs and Jaxxon, Marj Hogarth makes for a scarifyingly predatory 
Queen, while Helen McAlpine and Fiona Wood are in fine voice as the 
pneumatic sisters.

Gavin Mitchell steals the show with a series of bite-size cameos, from 
the James Bond villain pastiche of Earth's President, to the nutty 
professor who might well be related to Dr Strangelove. If the material 
sometimes doesn't match the performances, it's too throwaway to matter, 
and when the libidinous aliens urge us to “Throw down your guns and 
pull down your pants,” it's as sound advice as any.

The Herald, July 10th 2013

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Vanishing Point 2014 - Mr Cutler Strikes Again

On a stage full of musical clutter, there's a man playing a harmonium. The drones emanating from the instrument are mournful, and as familiar sounding as the school assembly piano tinkles coming from the other side of the stage. Yet, only when a voice comes in does everything click into place. It's a voice that doesn't so much speak as intone in a doleful and deadpan baritone that's instantly recognisable as one Ivor Cutler, the Glasgow-born poet, songwriter and performer whose minimalist absurdism captured several generations of left-field humour-loving listeners to BBC radio. This relationship began in the 1950s and 1960s on Monday Night at Home, broadening Cutler's appeal in the 1980s and 1990s via John Peel and Andy Kershaw's shows before Cutler passed away in 2006.

The above scene opened the third day of a week's development at Inverness' Eden Court Theatre for Matthew Lenton's Vanishing Point theatre company's forthcoming show. This co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland has the working title of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, and will be one of two Vanishing Point projects set to appear in 2014. The second, set to be produced with partners in Russia and Brazil, will look at old age and caring. Which, judging by the very early stages of the Ivor Cutler show, looks set to be thematically related.

As a four piece band led by musical director James Fortune, who worked recently on west end hit, Posh, stand by, actors Sandy Grierson and Elicia Daly sit opposite each other at a small square table bedecked with microphones and two water-filled glasses. With a flat-capped Grierson doing a pitch-perfect impression of Cutler's voice, the pair engage in a sad and sweet little dialogue that suggests the pair are saying goodbye for the final time. As their exchange reaches a natural impasse, Grierson and Daly circle their fingers along the rim of the glasses, setting off a set of amplified chimes which the band quietly pick up on, not just with harmonium and piano, but with violin, musical saw and brushed drums.

These underscore Grierson's funereal rendition of Cutler's song, I'm Going in A Field, a ditty first heard on Cutler's 1967 George Martin produced album, Ludo, recorded after Cutler appeared as Buster Bloodvessel in The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film. The song was more recently heard in Paisley Patter, part of Scottish Ballet's 2010 Off Kilter dance compendium. As Grierson repeats Cutler's erotically inclined mantra with increasing abandon, its sentiments and melody may sound not unlike Louis Armstrong's take on Wonderful World, but, with Grierson up on his feet and pacing the floor like a pop star, the music rises and swells with equal abandon. The effect is spine-tinglingly elegiac. As a card-carrying member of the Noise Abatement Society, Mr Cutler, as he preferred to be called, would not approve.

“Now and again we're very intentionally disturbing Ivor Cutler's cosmos,” Fortune confesses, “but at the same time respecting his world view by trying to find justification for that. You can get away with it if you have the character of Ivor Cutler come onstage and say I hated that. I'm also thinking of it like a gig, in that we'll write down a list of songs, and think, what would that be like? He's got a lot of love songs.”

For Lenton too, the roots of the project are musical, dating all the way back to Vanishing Point's 2007 show, Subway. That show saw company associate Grierson onstage with a seven-piece Balkan band the company came across in a bar while on tour.

““When we were workshoping Subway, we had a violin in the room,” Lenton explains, “and would do improvisations where we'd just tell a story and someone would play some music. In all that improv we would always use that song, I'm Going in a Field, which I loved.”

Fortune observes that Cutler's distinctive musical style itself has its roots in klezmer, a musical form that combines the joyous with the melancholy in a way that chimes with Lenton and Grierson's outlook.

“The thing that worried me about it was of being too twee or too cosy,” says Lenton. “I talked myself around that by imagining if Ivor Cutler was Russian rather than Scottish, he'd maybe be thought of more as someone like Gogol or one of those absurd Russians.

Grierson goes further, likening Cutler to Polish-born Jewish American novelist, Isaac Bashevis Singer.

“Cutler was Jewish, “ Grierson says, “so you see his Scottishness, but his Jewishness also comes through in his work, and you see all sorts of similarities.”

If such sentiments tally with Vanishing Point's internationalist outlook, the company's second 2014 production looks set to make their approach even more concrete. Following previous partnerships with companies in Italy and Portugal on Interiors and Saturday Night, this new work with the working title of Growing Old looks set to be developed with collaborators in Glasgow, Brasilia and Moscow, before premiering at the Brighton Festival. Before this, Interiors looks set to tour to Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima, with other possibilities beyond those dates.

“It's an interesting time to be doing all that,” Lenton says, “It's something that I've always wanted to do, and, instinctively, I've always looked outside this country for my influences, but at this time, you also get these different perspectives of Scotland from all these different places. With the independence referendum coming up, you get a lot of people in different countries who are interested in Scotland and ideas of Scottishness.”

Lenton, who recently decamped his living arrangements from Glasgow to Nairn, talks seriously about relocating Vanishing Point's operations solely to a highland base, where he would be able to operate in a manner which again resembles more holistically inclined European ensembles who step off the artistic production line to operate on their own terms.

“Part of me just wants to do the Pina Bausch thing, buying a barn up here, making the company based here, having a place where artists can stay, and having a partnership with Eden Court, where we can maybe present a show a year as well as touring work out from here. It's easy for companies to get too comfortable with a particular aesthetic, and I think that's dangerous. Not just with the work we do, but how we work. It's all about being curious, and not seeing boundaries or borders, and wanting to work with people from different places. Vanishing Point have always ploughed our own furrow, and found ways that we want to work. As an artist, and as a person, you have to keep moving forward, and you have to keep trying things that you don't know you can do.”

Mr Cutler might have approved.

Vanishing Point's Ivor Cutler project will premiere in co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland in April 2014.


Vanishing Point – Theatre, Music and Internationalism.

2004/5 - Lost Ones – Vanishing Point's breakthrough show featured original music by Alasdair Macrae, and featured an international cast who toured Scotland, Kosovo, Macedonia and Sri Lanka.

2007 – Subway – Sandy Grierson and a seven piece Balkan band discovered while on tour featured in this dystopian tale of a prodigal's return to the city he left behind.

2009 - The Beggar's Opera – This startling cyberpunk reinvention of John Gay's eighteenth century satire featured a live score performed by A Band Called Quinn.

Ivor Cutler in Words and Music

Ivor Cutler was born in Glasgow in 1923, and first recoded his songs and poems for Monday Night at Home, which he appeared on thirty-eight times between 1959 and 1963.

Paul McCartney spotted Cutler on a late night television show, and invited him to play Buster Bloodvessel in the Beatles film, Magical Mystery Tour.

Beatles producer George Martin worked on Cutler's first album, Ludo.

Cutler recorded his first session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme in 1969. Another twenty-one followed.

Cutler released fifteen records on labels that included Virgin, Rough Trade and Creation.

Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Volume 2 was recorded live at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow, and released in 1978.

Cutler published twelve books of poetry, six prose works and fourteen children's books, before he passed away in 2006 aged eighty-three.

The Herald, July 9th 2013


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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cannibal Women of Mars - Lost In Space

When a lone trumpeter found himself beguiled by an alien spectacle populated by strange creatures, he was inspired to do something similar. So, enlisting a pair of fellow travellers, the trumpeter and his comrades decreed to set out on a mission and boldly go where they'd never been before. The result of the endeavours of Mick Cooke, Gordon Davidson and Alan Wilkinson is Cannibal Women of Mars, a brand new science-fiction comedy musical involving a planet-load of man-eating women, an over-crowded Earth offering cheap emigration deals to Mars, and a set of brand new songs in the best rock and roll musical tradition.

“I went to see Avenue Q,” says Cooke of the left-field musical behind his initial inspiration. “I hadn't been to many musicals, but this seemed really different, and I felt there was maybe more room for something like that. Then at the start of 2011 I got together with Gordy and Alan, and said how do you fancy writing a musical. All I knew at that stage was that it was going to be set on Mars, and that there would be men transmitted to Mars, but I didn't know why that was the case.”

The three co-writers brainstormed for a couple of weeks, “then we decided that maybe the women up there were going to be cannibals,” Wilkinson continues. “Then because of the current times, we decided that Mars could be a waste disposal unit for the unemployed. It's set a hundred years in the future, there's been a hundred year-long recession, and unemployment's got ridiculous, so sex has been banned, and the politicians discover these cannibal women so decide to send the unemployed up there to be eaten. It's a very broad satire,” Wilkinson deadpans.

As with all science-fiction, there is a hint of truth in even the silliest of stories.

“At the time we were writing the play,” says Cooke, “there was a lot of talk about the possibility of manned missions to Mars. I read an article about it, and on the same page there was another article about the pilgrims going to America, and how, when all the crops failed, they resorted to cannibalism, so the two things combined in this ridiculous fashion”

The trio behind Cannibal Women of Mars come from very different backgrounds. Cooke, of course, is best known as trumpet player with Belle and Sebastian, whose vocalist and chief songwriter Stuart Murdoch has also been struck down with the musical bug by way of his God Help the girl project, which is currently being made into a feature film. Cooke also plays with top-notch ska band The Amphetameanies, and composes for TV and film, including the Scottish BAFTA winning animation, The Happy Duckling.

Davidson too is from a musical background, having released early records by Mogwai, Yummy Fur and Alex Kapranos' pre Franz Ferdinand outfit, The Karelia on his F&J records label. As a performer, when not overseeing the news pages of The Scottish Farmer magazine, he is the driving force and main song-writer with The Amphetameanies alongside Cooke.

Wilkinson, meanwhile, is a journalist and children's author, whose first book, a comedy thriller entitled The Christmas Files: Operation Snowstorm, was published in 2012.

Despite such a disparate set of pedigrees, Cannibal Women of Mars is the first theatrical outing for all three co-writers.

“We went to the National Theatre of Scotland,” says Cooke, “who gave is a couple of weeks development. We were adamant from the start that we didn't want to do something that wouldn't fit in a Scottish subsidised theatre,” he continues with a philosophy in-keeping with recent pocket-sized indie musicals such as Midsummer and Whatever Gets You Through the Night.

As any sci-fi geek will tell you, no doubt at length, the precedents for Cannibal Women of Mars are many. While on the one hand, planets dominated by Amazonian-type women have long been the stuff of fantasy fiction both in dog-eared paperback and on the big-screen, rock and roll and sci-fi have shared stages many times in the last millennium.

The former includes Zardoz, John Boorman's trippy 1974 excursion into sexual politics in which a pony-tailed and nappied-ip Sean Connery attempts to reassert a planet's masculinity among a race of women who declare the penis to be evil. Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show which first appeared at the Royal Court Upstairs not only gave rise to a cult movie that made a star of Tim Curry, but became a commercial success story that finds the play still packing them in on the touring circuit some forty years after it first appeared.

Science-fiction was all the rage in the 1970s, with crazed genius Ken Campbell going so far as to found The Science Fiction of Liverpool to perform an anarchic nine-hour version of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's trilogy of novels, The Illuminatus. With a cast that included Bill Nighy and a house band featuring the nexus of the Liverpool music scene including Bill Drummond and future Lightning Seed Ian Broudie, The Illuminatus transferred to the National Theatre in London, where it opened the Cottesloe Theatre. Campbell went on to another sci-fi project with Neil Oram's The Warp, a cycle of ten plays first scene at the ICA in 1979 before being seen in five marathon performances when the company squatted the old Regent Theatre during that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Campbell went on to stage Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy at the ICA.

A few years later Bob Carlton's Return to the Forbidden Planet grafted rock and roll hits onto a yarn derived from the 1950s film, Forbidden Planet, which in turn was a sci-fi rendering of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Return to the Forbidden Planet went on to win an Olivier award for Best Musical, and has toured the world.

More recent excursions into the sci-fi rock and roll universe include 1995 Edinburgh Fringe hit, Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, which moved onto the west end in 2006. The burgeoning jukebox musical genre, meanwhile, moved into fantastical territory with the Ben Elton scripted Queen compendium, We Will Rock You.

“Science-fiction lends itself to camp,” Wilkinson points out. “You can take things to extremes and really go overboard. We had quite a few discussions about why the women were cannibals, but in the end it didn't matter. I don't think we need to get someone like Brian Cox in as adviser.”

Cannibal Women From Mars, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, July 5th-20th.

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The Modern Scottish Musical – A User's Guide

Stiff! - Forbes Masson arguably kick-started the contemporary Caledonian musical tend in 1999 with this quasi-Faustian camp-fest which he wrote and starred in, before penning two sequels, Mince and Pants.

Sunshine on Leith – Stephen Greenhorn wrote the book for this Proclaimers-soundtracked jukebox musical which is currently being turned into a feature film.

Midsummer – Playwright David Greig teamed up with Ballboy's Gordon McIntyre for this lo-fi two-hander about a very eventful one-night stand in Edinburgh. The play has toured the world.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night – A pot-pourri of writers and musicians raging from Withered Hand and composer John Kielty to Deacon Blue's Ricky Ross combined for a compedium of stories set after dark.

Glasgow Girls – Cora Bissett was the driving force behind this politically charged musical about young asylum seekers, which fused hip hop, rap and world music sounds to powerful effect.

The Herald, July 2nd 2013

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