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Showing posts from 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 effectiv…

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, d…

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 democrati…

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 u…

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 ce…

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 experi…

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 di…

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-pr…

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…