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Showing posts from May, 2015

FiniTribe - A New Testimony

When Edinburgh's electronic dance pioneers FiniTribe returned to active duty in 2014 with a set of remixes of their 1980s Acid anthem, De Testimony, it marked the low-key resurgence of one of the most eclectic operations to ever emerge from a club culture that saw them emerge from Edinburgh's post-punk scene in 1984 to release material through Wax Trax, One Little Indian and FFFR, subverting nursery rhyme Old MacDonald to wind up the ubiquitous hamburger joint en route.

Since their 1998 album, the more downbeat Sleazy Listening, former member Philip Pinsky has become a successful composer for theatre, with the current line up of fellow originals Davie Miller and John Vick now formally known as FiniTribe with A Finiflex Production in a nod to their old studio base.
Since returning, the new incarnation of FiniTribe have played with fellow clubland auteurs 808 State, and are slowly but surely becoming key players in an underground scene personified both by Glasgow's Poetry C…

Yer Granny

King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars


Douglas
Maxwell’s scurrilous West Coast of Scotland version of Argentinian writer
Roberto Cossa’s piece of comic outrage, La Nona, could have been tailor-made for
popular fun palaces like the King’s. There’s something about the 1970s setting,
the Glam Rock pre-show music and the even louder wallpaper of designer Colin
Richmond’s garish living room set in Graham McLaren’s National Theatre of
Scotland production that reeks of an unreconstructed music hall turn writ large,
loud and at times very dirty indeed.

Yet there’s revolutionary intent too in
this tale of a small town chip shop owning family caught in the midst of the pre
Thatcher recession and up against a shiny new burger bar as the Queen’s 1977
Silver Jubilee looks set to tame the masses. Jonathan Watson’s patriarch Cammy
even riffs on an imaginary conversation with HRH in-between defending his couch
potato would-be genius brother Charlie to his soon to be emancipated wife Marie.
Daughter Marissa, meanwhile, t…

Nicola McCartney - Crazy Jane

When Nicola McCartney was first approached by Garry Robson to write a play about Jane Avril for the Birds of Paradise theatre company, the disability-based theatre company which he is co-artistic director of, on one level McCartney seemed like the obvious choice.

“He wanted someone who had written about women and trauma,” says McCartney, “and I've done a lot about both.”

Yet the Belfast born writer of plays such as Heritage and Lifeboat hadn't penned a full length work for a decade after she stopped writing several years following a breakdown. McCartney had felt she had nothing left to say, and moved into full-time foster parenting before gradually moving back into theatre by way of dramaturgy and teaching playwriting at the University of Edinburgh.

Now she was being offered the chance to dramatise the life of a nineteenth century artist who was principal dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, where she allegedly invented the high-kick for the Can Can. Feted by the great and t…

Hidden Door

The Secret Courtyard, Edinburgh
Four stars

What a shame that City of Edinburgh Council is in such a mess that they're flogging off their assets to property developers who then turn them into luxury flats, hotels and restaurants with little or no cultural provision. That's what's about to happen to the Market Street Vaults, the site for last year's Hidden Door, a nine day pop-up festival of music, theatre, visual art and film brought to life by the festival's creative director David Martin and his team of volunteers.
That's what looks set to happen too to this year's Hidden Door venue, set in the former King Stables Road headquarters of the City's Departments of Lighting and Cleansing, which Martin and co have transformed into a multiple space endeavour dubbed The Secret Courtyard. With art of one form or another occupying every crumbling nook and cranny either side of the courtyard itself, the result is the sort of hippified autonomous zone and bohemi…

The Only Fun in Town? - Going Live in Edinburgh's Grassroots Music Scenes

Whenever people say there's nothing musically going on in Edinburgh
outside of August I find myself bristling, because I know it's not true. Ten
years ago when it seemed like there were only a handful of bands, while assorted
venues and club nights that existed then have been and gone for a variety of
reasons, including fire, mismanagement and demolition, I could maybe understand
such a complaint. Right now, however, live music and a grass-roots arts scene in
Edinburgh is thriving. This despite what feels at times like every effort from
City of Edinburgh Council and it's archaic laws on noise restriction to police
or else stop live music completely.

The fact is, there is plenty of live
music – and I include a club culture here that goes beyond boys with guitars -
that takes place pretty much every night at small venues such as Sneaky Pete's,
Electric Circus, Henry's Cellar Bar, the Wee Red Bar at Edinburgh College of
Art, Citrus, the Caves, the Bongo Club, the Fore…

Lee Miller and Picasso

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
23 May − 6 September 2015

When Lee Miller met Pablo Picasso in 1937, it was a meeting of minds that lasted more than three decades up until Picasso's death in 1973. Somewhere inbetween the pair became mutual muses, with Miller photographing Picasso more than a thousand times, while Miller was painted by Picasso numerous times.

The bond between these two major artists is made clear in Lee Miller and Picasso, a major new exhibition in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's Robert Mapplethorpe Gallery, and which forms part of the SNPG's 2015 Season of Photography. More than 100 images and objects selected from the Lee Miller Archive will highlight Miller and Picasso's friendship during turbulent times, and will include the wedding photograph of Miller and English surrealist Roland Penrose.

“Miller and Picasso's legacy is still very much with us,” explains the show's curator Annie Lyden, “and their enduring friendship s…

Into That Darkness

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

“What interests me is not what uniform a man has on,” says Nazi death camp commandant Franz Stangl at one point in Robert David Macdonald's piercing adaptation of Gitta Sereny's forensic journalistic dissection of Stangl. “It is what is inside the man.” The fact that his interrogator is Sereny herself, attempting to get to the root of how a lonely zither-playing boy can grow up to oversee one of the largest mass murders in history is a telling indictment, both of his own lack of self-awareness and his long buried desire to offload his previously unacknowledged guilt.
Behind plate glass in an austere grey prison office, Sereny peels back layer after layer of Stangl's psychological skin. Initially buttoned up in a tight-fitting suit, by the end of the play he's down to his shirt-sleeves. Where Cliff Burnett's Stangl appears wraith-like and haunted, he remains quietly cocksure as he wearily confronts his own crimes. In his presence…

Mark Thomson - On Leaving the Royal Lyceum Theatre on the Eve of its 50th Season

When the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh announced the resignation of its artistic director Mark Thomson last week after twelve years at the helm, there were some who thought Thomson's decision was in response to Scotland's arts funding quango Creative Scotland's potentially damaging seventeen per cent cut in the theatre's regular funding. Here, after all, was one of the country's leading rep companies who, as this season's productions of Brian Friel's Faith Healer, Tony Cownie's new take on Goldoni's The Venetian Twins and Thomson's own boisterous production of Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle have proved, is at the top of its game.

This was confirmed by the news that the Royal Lyceum has been nominated for a record breaking seventeen awards at this year's Critics Awards For Theatre in Scotland. The announcement too of the theatre's fiftieth anniversary season as a producing company has also set the country's theatre scene …

Happy Days

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

When the bell rings to mark the beginning and end of Winnie's day in Andy Arnold's exquisite revival of Samuel Beckett's classic piece of existential vaudeville, it's urgent peals may suggest closing time on some kind of gladitorial struggle, but her enforced stillness says otherwise. Such contradictions of hope and despair are at the heart of Beckett's work, and, buried to her waist in the sand as if the victim of some urchins prank while sleeping, Karen Dunbar's Winnie is an equally mercurial creature.
One minute she's all smiles, rummaging through the bag beside her for an assortment of beauty aides to help keep up appearances. The next she's fondling a revolver, waxing lyrical on what the day may or may not bring. Her partner in crime Willie, meanwhile, all but ignores her, hiding from the sun behind a newspaper as he throws out monosyllabic non-sequiters.

The assorted rituals constructed from domestic minutiae Win…

Al Pacino – The Local Stigmatic

Beyond his iconic movie roles, Al Pacino is a consummate man of the theatre. His 1996 documentary, Looking For Richard, explored Shakespeare's Richard III, a role Pacino played on Broadway in 1979. Pacino had already won a Tony award a decade earlier for his career-launching performance in Don Peterson's play, Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie?

More recently Pacino played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and appeared in a revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Mamet wrote China Doll, which has just been on Broadway, especially for Pacino. It was while appearing in a 1983 revival of Mamet's American Buffalo that Pacino first thought about filming a play that had lived with him since his early days at New York's legendary Actor's Studio.
The Local Stigmatic was an early work by poet and doyen of London's 1960s counter-cultural underground, Heathcote Williams, and was first performed at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 1966 in a double bill with The Dwa…

Normal/Madness

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Three stars

It's a mad world for Kirsty, the young woman at the centre of Fiona Geddes' solo play, revived following its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run for a series of dates to tie in with Mental Health Awareness Week. One minute she's quoting French novelist Marguerite Duras regarding the unhinged proclivities of mums everywhere, the next she's rewinding her own back pages beside the seaside or else taking a phone call from her own mother to prove Duras' point. Somewhere inbetween she's taking second and third opinions from a conveyor belt of doctors regarding the nature of schizophrenia, an illness she's so au fait with that she even wore the t-shirt.
As performed by Geddes herself in Jessica Beck's production for the fledgling Kidder company, the end result is a quasi stand-up tale of ordinary madness and the hand-me-down legacy left in its wake. Barely still for a second beside a chair perched on a low angled platform, Gedd…

Live Music Matters? - How City of Edinburgh Council Killed the Picture House

The decision by City of Edinburgh Council to give Watford based pub chain JD Wetherspoon planning permission to convert the historic music venue and former cinema most recently known as The Picture House into a 'superpub' on Lothian Road is a huge blow to Edinburgh's live music scene. Based on CEC officers recommendations, this decision marked the end of a saga which has left a much needed mid-scale music venue boarded up sionce December 2013 after JD Wetherspoon bought it from HMV.

The decision was passed by CEC's Planning Committee's Development Management Sub Committee by six votes to four, with Councillor Eric Milligan, who is also head of the Licensing Board, abstaining. Four members of the fifteen-strong committee were absent. Given the significance of the issue, which prompted almost 13,500 people to sign a petition organised by the Save The Picture House campaign, this result was disappointing to many.

The impact of the Picture House's closure in ter…

Gitta Sereny's Into That Darkness Revived at the Citz

When in 1994 Robert David MacDonald staged Into That Darkness, Gitta Sereny's study of Nazi extermination camp commandant Franz Stangl, it was twenty years since the Austrian born writer's book was first published. The book itself had resulted from some sixty hours of interviews with Stangl, in which he eventually admitted his guilt before suffering a heart attack nineteen hours later.

MacDonald's production was staged under the title In Quest of Conscience at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, where with Giles Havergal and Philip Prowse he was the theatre's co-artistic director. The playwright, translator, adaptor and international polymath himself played Stangl opposite Roberta Taylor as Sereny.

Another twenty years on, and the Citz has restored the book's original title for a new look at MacDonald's version of Sereny's book which opens this week in a production by Gareth Nicholls. This time out Blythe Duff takes on the role of Sereny, with Cliff Burnett …

Mermaid

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

In a run-down seaside down where Tesco has left the local fishing industry bereft, teenage Blue sits chained to her mobile phone, desperate for the seemingly grown up world beyond to let her into the party. While her brightly-dressed peers follow their hormones, Blue dreams up a world of her own, where mermaids live in harmony beneath the sea, untouched by the wars that rage above them. One, however, becomes smitten with a drowning prince and the allure of the shiny world above.
It can't be understated just how gorgeous, how poignant and how downright radical Polly Teale's twenty-first century reboot of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of The Little Mermaid is in her own touring production for Shared Experience and Nottingham Playhouse. Set against a backdrop of peer-group pressure and privilege, of Royal weddings and media scrums, of anti war marches and beach bodied airbrushed perfection, its not hard to spot the real-life …

Rites

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It's the close-up of a razor blade that strikes you first in this unflinching study of Female Genital Mutilation co-created by director Cora Bissett with actor and writer Yusra Warsama. Beyond the simple out-front declaration of the play's verbatim status by Paida Mutonono, who plays Fara, a young woman who realises she is the victim of something neutered to the more user-friendly FGM, it's this flash of cold steel that makes you flinch as it is projected onto hospital screens care of Kim Beveridge's video collage.
What follows over the next ninety minutes is a patchwork of first-hand experience of this most hidden form of abuse and the complex roots that sired it. Victims, campaigners and even a cutter tell their stories from as far afield as Gambia and Somalia to as close to home as Manchester, Bristol and Scotland. There is commentary too from social workers, lawyers and academics, all woven together in an understated if relentle…

Edinburgh Art Festival - The Improbable City

There was a moment during the 2014 Edinburgh Art Festival when festival director
Sorcha Carey found herself sitting above the city's old Royal High School, where
work by Amar Kanwar and Shilpa Gupta was being shown inside and outside
architect Thomas Hamilton's neo-classical Greek Doric creation built between
1826 and 1929. Indian curator Vidya Shivadas, who was standing beside Carey,
looked out at the city's panoramic view.

“Sorcha,” Carey remembers Shivadas saying. “You live in a picture postcard.”

This confirmed something Carey had always thought.

“Edinburgh as a city has a vocabulary of the
imagination,” she says. “There's something profoundly fairytaleish about it.
There's a magic castle and at times it looks like a dark kingdom.”

Out of
this has come The Improbable City, a series of seven public art commissions for
this year's Edinburgh Art Festival featuring brand new interventions by artists
including Charles Avery and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, and set to be situated in …

Graham Fagen: Scotland + Venice 2015

May 9th-November 22nd

Graham Fagen appears to be making gold when Scottish Art News comes calling at the Glasgow-based artist's home studio. Alchemy of one kind of another is certainly on Fagen's agenda as he fires up lumps of clay in the kiln in his garden shed. These rough-hewn cubes will form part of a set of works that make up Fagen's solo show which, under the auspices of Hospitalfield House in Arbroath, will represent Scotland at this year's Venice Biennale.

Upstairs, the floor is lined with small bronze trees, on the branches of which will eventually hang some of the cubes currently being fired. For Venice, Fagen is planning to mount a large-scale bronze tree, which as he explains, he's “trying to take the life out of it, so it's some kind of cross between nature, architecture and function.”

Fagen has previously shown in Venice in 2003 as part of Scotland's first year at the Bienale in the group show, Zenomap, as well as non-country based group shows…

Artist Rooms: Joseph Beuys

Timespan, Helmsdale, June 5th-September 6th
When Richard Demarco brought Joseph Beuys to Edinburgh College of Art as part of the 1970 Edinburgh International Festival exhibition of iconoclastic contemporary German artists, Strategy: Get Arts, it fostered a relationship between Beuys and Scotland which impacted and influenced both ever after. The latest encounter comes in one of the National Galleries of Scotland's ongoing Artist Rooms series of touring shows, which puts some of Beuys' fat and felt based work into Timespan, the Helmsdale based gallery and museum which is the only public contemporary art gallery in Sutherland.
Given Beuys' focus on the environment and notions of community, the connection with a relatively isolated village such as Helmsdale is clear, as Timespan curator Frances Davis explains.
“For us it makes perfect sense,” Davis says. “Not just to do with the symbolic properties of fat and felt in terms of nourishment and warmth, but the engagement with …

Katy Dove

December 1st 1970-January 27th 2015

It is with sadness that Scottish Art News reports the death of Glasgow-based artist and musician Katy Dove, aged forty-four. Dove's vibrant animations were invested with a sense of colour and rhythm, something she also applied to the music of Muscles of Joy, the all-female band which Dove was a key member of.
Dove was born in Oxford and grew up one of five sisters in Jemimaville on the Black Isle. After studying psychology at the University of Glasgow, Dove made jewellery before gaining a scholarship to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee in 1996. Here Dove began to explore sculpture, and introduced animation to her automatic drawings with Fantasy Freedom (1999), a ninety-second film that formed the core of her degree show. Dove went on to become part of Zenomap, Scotland's first Venice Biennale show in 2003.

While recent works such as Meaning in Action (2013) continued her exploration of bodily movement, Dove's m…

Karen Dunbar - Happy Days

Karen Dunbar didn't know much about Samuel Beckett's work before the Tron Theatre's artistic director Andy Arnold asked her to play Winnie in Happy Days, which opens next week as part of the theatre's Mayfesto season. Now, however, she's something of an expert on a play which at first glance looks like one of the oddest ever written.

“It's pretty left field,” says Dunbar, sitting in an upstairs meeting room at the Tron, all wrapped up in a warm coat and woolly hat as she sucks on an E-cigarette attached to a small cannister with the word 'zen' on the side. “I can't say I came to it as a big Beckett fan. Nah. I just said, Samuel Beckett He's a writer. Is he Irish? No, he's American. No, wait. So that would've been my answer on Who Wants to be A Millionaire? Now, of course, I could tell you what colour flannel he prefers wearing. I do enjoy studying, studying for a cause. I actually like reading random pish about nothing, anyway, so it&#…

Nicolas Party: Boys and Pastel

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, May 2nd-June 21st.

Inside Inverleith
House, Nicolas Party and a small regiment of assistants are painting every
available inch of wall-space with rich blocks of colour. These will form the
scenic  backdrop  to a series of new works that will make up the Swiss-born,
Glasgow-trained, Brussels-based artist's first major solo show in a UK public
gallery. As a former graffiti artist, Party is used to transforming the
landscape, and in keeping with this, the murals will be as integral to the
experience as a stage set.

As the consciously effete and decidedly unmacho
title of the show suggests, the characters that eventually do appear are equally
theatrical and exclusively male figures. Whether seen singly or in
conspiratorial pairs, with their rouged cheeks and puffed-out, exaggerated
demeanour, if not for their unsmiling expressions that give them the air of ever
so slightly predatory Victorian dolls come to life, Party's boys might otherwise
be…

Kevin Williamson - Neu! Reekie!, #UntitledOne and Why His First Publishing Venture in Fifteen Years Won't Be Dealing With Amazon

Mayday looks set to be an extra special occasion for Kevin Williamson this weekend. This has little to do with the political past of a man who, as a one time Scottish Socialist Party firebrand, was the first person to be ejected from the Scottish parliament building in Holyrood while making a protest against the Iraq war while sporting a George Bush mask.

It is to do with the launch of #UntitledOne, the new poetry anthology and accompanying music compilation produced in association with Birlinn's Polygon imprint by Neu! Reekie!, the monthly poetry, music and animation night presented at assorted Edinburgh venues over the last four and a half years by Williamson in partnership with poetic whirlwind Michael Pedersen. While the former features the likes of Tom Leonard, Scotland's Makar Liz Lochhead and Douglas Dunn nestling up to Jenni Fagan, Aidan Moffat and Jock Scot, the latter sees Mercury Music Prize winners Young Fathers line up with the likes of The Sexual Objects, Momus a…