Monday, 31 October 2016

Band of Holy Joy – A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes

For more than thirty years now, Johny Brown's Band of Holy Joy have been the conscience of a divided nation. Hailing from North Shields in Tyneside but having formed his original troupe of street-punk vaudevillians in New Cross in London, Brown's heart-on-sleeve social-realist vignettes have been infrequent dispatches from the frontline of broken Britain. Combined with his more hauntologically inclined sonic experiments on online art radio station Resonance FM, Brown's ongoing canon is a righteous address from the margins.

With the most recent Band of Holy Joy album, The Land of Holy Joy, released in 2015 on the Edinburgh-based Stereogram label, this self-released two-CDr set is the third of four aural scrapbooks published in a limited edition of just seventy, and, following on from the previous two, An Atlas of Spatial Perceptions and Custom and Crime in Savage Society, is probably already pretty hard to come by. A fourth collection, Fruits and Flowers for Particular People, is due shortly.

Packaged in a hand-made plain brown sleeve, the record's co-opted cover sticker references the book by chef Charles Elme Francatelli, a kind of nineteenth century Jamie Oliver, from where Brown and co filched the record's title. The recordings themselves are loosely connected suites of songs that become an extended musical lover letter to Brown's home town.

The first CD, All God's Splendour Lies Somewhere Later, dates from 1991, and is effectively a drum-programmed dry run for what would become Band of Holy Joy's Tracksuit Vendetta album, released the next year. As recorded here, the title track of that album, is a reggae noir portrait of low rent inner city living on the run, punctuated by trombone and fiddle in a way that sounds like a sequel to The Specials’ Ghost Town.

In an eerie piece of Mark E Smith-style psychic pre-cognition, as Brown and the band were recording the song, reports were filtering through of the riots that flared up in 1991 on Newcastle's Meadow Well estate, and the album is linked with recordings lifted from a TV documentary on the uprising. These lend atmosphere and colour to an already-evocative collection of red-brick anthems which, inbetween paeans to Marvin Gaye's visit to Belgium, documents the aftermath of life in northern Britain after Thatcher had left her mark. Brown invests all this with a soulful urgency that yearns for something better, closing song Claudia Dreams morphing into 1960s bubblegum smash hit Everlasting Love with joyous abandon.

The second CD, A Town Where No Town Ought To Be, is an even more conceptual grab-bag of largely brand new material recorded on the hoof and pieced together beside instrumental avant-chamber miniatures scored by James Stephen Finn and field recordings of ships about to set sail. Poetic elegies of wartime casualties, atmospheric soundscapes and plain old Geordie folk laments lend a poignant air to a series of impressionistic snapshots of a town that's been blitzed, battered and sold down the Tyne, but has never lost heart. All of this is beautifully-illustrated by an ever-evolving tumblr link chock-full of lyrics, fragments of text and archive photographs of the lost streets of North Shields that completes a multi-media patchwork paying homage to a wondrous place.

http://bandofholyjoy.tumblr.com/

Product, October 2016

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Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Rebel – Clear & Lies in June (Monofonus Press)

For twenty-odd years (some of them very odd) Benedict R Wallers, aka The Rebel, has been reeling out a deadpan and wilfully singular take on spindly DIY adult nursery rhymes for terminal nihilists. As if to illustrate, this twenty-one track cassette of 4-track recordings begins with a sneeze and a spoken word rendition of the second verse of Prince's Sign O The Times,

With roots in Edinburgh avant-provocateurs The Male Nurse before honing his stetson-headed schtick fronting the Country Teasers, Wallers' output as The Rebel has been prodigious, and this third part of his Poems With Water trilogy released on the Austin, Texas-based Monofonus Press label allows full vent to his polymathic tendencies. If reading Prince lyrics is a good way to start, the rest of Can I Pass? - the track it forms part of - is as straightforward as it gets over the next hour.

The brief reading from Flann O'Brien's experimental novel, At Swim Two Birds, in Pegasus, is a telling pointer to where Wallers' head might be at. There are kindergarten keyboard instrumentals, self-sabotaging double-tracked readings from his own novel, sampled dialogue from Blue Velvet and The Shining and a cover of the Carter Family's Country classic, I Found You Among The Roses. Tim Dides Arowand may begin with a subversion of Carly Simon's You're So Vain, but is in full possession of the sort of Robert Wyatt-esque English whimsy with a twist that sent Syd Barrett over the edge. 242, meanwhile, references uber-cool ’80s chanteuse Sade's suburban wine bar smoochathon, Smooth Operator.

All of which may initially rub the listener up the wrong way as a disarming and comically contrary experience. But beyond the rudimentary-sounding plinky-plonkyness and drum machine shuffle, something more serious going on. Wallers' playfully inclined experiments with multi-track recording are actually low attention span music concrete collages. As they toy with their own inherent absurdity, they become part of the low-rent musical detritus that is so destructively savoured here.

www.monofonuspress.com

Product, October 2016
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Jumpy

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

“The best we can expect from life now is avoiding the worst,” says Hilary's man-hungry best friend Frances over a bottle of wine early on in April De Angelis' bittersweet evocation of mid-life crises among women who came of age in the 1970s. Then, Hilary and Frances took advantage of the freedoms afforded by a new wave of feminist thinking, went on day trips to Greenham Common and weren't afraid to become independent women on their own terms. In 2009, when the play is set, Hilary is about to turn fifty, her marriage to Mark is cosy to the point of dull and her about to be sixteen year old daughter Tilly is stropping her way through life in postage stamp size skirts and has taken to letting her monosyllabic boyfriend Josh sleep over.

Cora Bissett's revival of De Angelis' West End hit relocates the action to Kelvinside, and has designer Jean Chan pile the stage sky high with domestic detritus that looks like an explosion that has burst out from Hilary's head. As her mother's ongoing meltdown spirals, Tilly's getting of wisdom becomes increasingly monstrous. In a pair of beautifully nuanced performances, Pauline Knowles and Molly Vevers invest mother and daughter with a vulnerability that flares up into an antagonism that reveals them as emotional flipsides of each other.

With each short scene punctuated by assorted Me Generation classics interspersed with grungier fare that points up the gulf between Hilary and Tilly, the first act ends with a wild dream sequence set to a funereal arrangement of Nirvana's terminally bratty Smells Like Teen Spirit. There is more dance too, when a scene-stealing Gail Watson as Frances attempts a jaw-droppingly inappropriate burlesque number.

With both Frances and Josh' father Roland depicted as actors, the script is peppered with theatrical in-jokes throughout a piece that could easily be carved up into several episodes of award-winning TV dramady. Because, while the assorted scenarios of dysfunctional families depicted are first world problems writ large, it is the everyday middle class ordinariness of them that makes De Angelis' play at times so touching. It does this even as it invites us to laugh at the ongoing ridiculousness of a world where growing up only seems to get harder with age.

The Herald, October 31st 2016

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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Simon Callow - De Tribun

When Simon Callow played Mozart in the National Theatre's original 1979 production of Peter Shaffer's play, Amadeus, part of his preparation for the role was to make it look as if he knew what he was doing. As an actor dedicated to his craft, such intensive research wasn't unusual for Callow. Amadeus, however, introduced a new challenge for him.

“I had to go to great lengths to impersonate a man playing the piano,” says the actor and writer still most familiar to many from his appearance in Richard Curtis' film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. “I thought it was important to try and get the movement right when I sat at the piano. Paul Scofield, who was playing Salieri, had no interest in any of that, but I really sweated over it.”

Thirty-seven years on, Callow appears onstage tonight alongside music of a very different kind as part of the Aberdeen-based Sound festival of new music. He will be the sole actor in De Tribun (The Tribune or the Mother of all Speeches), a piece by Mauricio Kagel, the Argentinian-born composer who lived for much of his life in Germany, where he experimented with fusing musical and theatrical elements. In De Tribun, which is scored 'for political orator, march music and loud-speaker', Callow plays a political orator rehearsing his speech, stopping and starting pre-recorded applause as he hones his performance.

Kagel composed De Tribun in 1978 when he was living in Cologne in a still divided Germany where a Soviet backed regime was just a wall away. With his home country ruled by a military dictatorship alongside other South American countries including Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil, Kagel's composition was an absurdist satire on totalitarianism which, in the current political climate, seems oddly familiar.

“It's very chilling indeed,” says Callow as he prepares for the performance. “The character I play is a rabble rouser. He's someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator. He's basically every dictator that's ever appeared, and is very relevant to some of the things that are going on in the world just now.”

Beyond the themes of De Tribun, it was the musicality of the piece that appealed to Callow.

“I was very keen to do it,” he says, “because I love working with musicians. I'm not a musician, and I'm not a great singer either, although I've just sung an aria by Puccini for Stephen Frears. What I particularly like is working with musicians on new music, and although De Tribun isn't new, it's complex ad it's difficult and it feels new.

“The music and the text don't overlap each other. It's really a series of marches, and I say this hectoring text, which is underpinned by these marches as it gradually becomes clear that the orator wants complete power. It's very raw and incredibly tough. It's really quite something.”

Callow's singular acting style, which can see him occupy the stage with a larger than life presence that can capture a character's full sense of ridiculousness, is perfect for De Tribun's would-be tyrant. Unlike the majority of his roles, however, he didn't have much to go in in terms of research.

“I'm not even sure there's a commercial recording of it,” he says, “although they sent me a version that was in Dutch.”

Callow's performance of De Tribun forms part of Freedom o(r) speech,a triple bill of work co-produced by three major European ensembles – Red Note from Scotland, I Solisti del Vento from Belgium and Song Circus from Norway. As well as De Tribun, the programme features Dutch composer Louis Andriessen's piece, De Staat (The Republic and the world premiere of The F Scale, a newly commissioned work by Sound's first composer in residence, John De Simone.

Kagel died in 2008, but his pioneering work as a a composer exploring form has left its mark.

“He was an extraordinarily influential figure,” says Callow, “and was one of a generation of artists – Pierre Boulez was another one – who were incredibly important in terms of what they did with music.”

The day after he appears at Sound, Callow will give a morning performance of his solo version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the University of Aberdeen. Callow is looking forward to returning to the city.

“I'm so fond of Aberdeen,” he says. “I first encountered the place in 1974 when I was touring with the Young Lyceum company in Edinburgh with a musical called The Fantastics. It was the first time I got to know Scotland properly, and then I visited it again when I directed Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera, which we toured, and we brought my production of My Fair Lady there as well. But Aberdeen is such a fantastic, noble city built of all this wonderful grey granite. “

Callow's take on A Christmas Carol is a labour of love that continues a love affair with Dickens' work that has seen him perform several adaptations of his novels, as well as lesser known works. The latter includes his double bill of Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, which he brought to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and later toured.

“Doing a one-man version of A Christmas Carol is a really wonderful way of doing it,” Callow says. “Not only can I move quickly between scenes in what is a phantasmagoria of a story, but most importantly, it means I can keep Dickens' voice.

“One of the interesting things about A Christmas Carol is that it makes everyone feel warm, even though it's actually a terrifying story. Who would want to be dragged through their entire past life and forced to confront all your wrong-doings in the way that Scrooge is, even when he returns to society

Callow is currently trying to make a film of A Christmas Carol. This looks set to take a very different approach to Christmas Carol: The Movie, the partly animated feature film, in which Callow led an all-star cast as he provided the voice of both Dickens and Scrooge.

“We're going to do it in quite an experimental way,” he says, “which with only one performer I think is the only way to do it. But I will never ever tire of Dickens. He's the writer who means the most to me. His work is inexhaustible.”

Beyond De Tribun, music looks set to remain a fixture of Callow's working life. In a forthcoming episode of Midsomer Murders, he looks set to appear as a viola player. Interestingly, when Callow previously appeared in the programme, he was again cast as a musician, this time a violinist.

“That was very strange,” he says. “They had a professional violinist sitting beneath me, and they kept cutting away to him.

Callow has also written a biography of Wagner, which is scheduled for publication this coming January.

“I'm passionate about music,” he says, “even though I was probably the only child in the world whose mother refused to send me to piano lessons.”

Despite and possibly because of this, Callow's interest in music has seen him host the 2004 Christmas show by London Gay Men's Chorus at the Barbican, and in 2007 became a patron of the London Oratory School Schola, the boys choir at the catholic school he attended as a child. Composer James MacMillan are also patrons of the choir.

While it is unlikely that De Tribun will ever be performed at the London Oratory, the themes of Kagel's composition chime beyond pure music to sound a warning bell for us all in terms of who we mandate to hold offices of power.

“I think we are all dealing every day of our lives with a world that is becoming increasingly unpalatable,” says Callow, “but art can make things more meaningful, and with De Tribun I think Kagel was forewarning us about what can happen, and how through art and through his work we can try and make sense of our times.”

Simon Callow performs De Tribun (The Tribune) as a part of Freedom o(r) Speech at Sound Festival at ACT Aberdeen tonight at 8pm. Sound Festival runs until November 6.
www.sound-scotland.co.uk

The Herald, October 29th 2016

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Friday, 28 October 2016

Karla Black and Kishio Suga – A New Order

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
October 222nd 2016-February 19th 2017

Karla Black and Kishio Suga may be generations as well as oceans apart, but the worlds within worlds they occupy even as they unfurl their creations around them seems to come from very similar places. Both Glasgow-based Black and the Japanese veteran of the Mono-ha or School of Things movement that grew up in that country between 1969 and 1972 create sculptures that fuse natural and industrial materials to create interventions of pure form.

In Suga's case, this is best exemplified in Interconnected Space, a piece originally made in the 1970s in which a large boulder sits at the centre of a room supported by four ropes hung from the top of each wall. Black's preoccupations comes in the marshmallow fluffiness of pastel-tinted cotton wool carpets that fill entire rooms with a whiteness prettily stained with pale slivers of paint.

While Suga's works are reconstructions of pieces originally made in the 1970s, Black's are brand new constructions made this year. Both are site-specific, their essential structures adapted to their respective environments. Seen across the entire lower floor of SNGMA, they become two sides of the same coin. While Suga balances blocks of wood of various shapes and sizes on an elaborate zig-zag of steel rope, Black creates a cellophane roof dappled with paint drips that resembles an abandoned playroom left after a Happening.

Both artists too see words as being incapable of summing up their work, even as they use titles that are wilfully and teasingly opaque Suga's 1970s series of silver-tinted photographic documents of assorted 'activations' as he puts it could be the names of Prog-ambient albums that straddle several eras, while a healthy disregard for comes at the entance of the exhibition, where the letters of both artists names are jumbled up as if part of some cryptic linguistic game that parades gleefully and messily beyond words.
 
The List, October 2016

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Season Ticket

Dundee Rep
Three stars

It's a black and white world for Gerry, the football daft fifteen year old who forms the heart of Lee Mattinson's play, adapted from Jonathan Tulloch's novel and filmed as Purely Belter sixteen years ago. Gerry came into that world kicking and screaming, and he's been kicking and screaming ever since. This is the case whether it's in reaction to the brutality he's grown up with while holed up in a Gateshead housing estate with his mum Dee and sister Claire, or whether it's for Newcastle United, the team that has become the saviour of Gerry and his pal Sewell. If only they could experience the communal thrill of a game first hand, their lives would be complete.

This is how the pair end up embarking on a fundraising spree that includes breaking and entering their head teacher's house and 'twocking' – stealing - anything they can lay their hands on in order to be able to afford a pair of season tickets. Things don't go to plan for the lads, alas, in Katie Posner's slightly sprawling production for Northern Stage and Pilot Theatre.

Scenes are punctuated by a recorded commentary, while references are updated to include Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and manager Rafael Benitez. The show is carried by Niek Versteeg and Will Graham as Gerry and Sewell, who lead a six-strong cast in what becomes a classic quest for heroes, even if Gazza and Alan Shearer are long past their prime. The result is an unsentimental rites of passage that takes in the darker edges of fractured family life, but still manages to offer some kind of hope.

The Herald, October 27th 2016

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April De Angelis

Things changed when April De Angelis turned fifty. Here she was, an independent woman and successful playwright who had grown up with feminism, and who had a teenage daughter who took such hard won advantages for granted in a world where feminism itself had become a dirty word. What had happened, De Angelis wondered, both to her and the world she lived in.

The result of such a mid-life meltdown was Jumpy, a play about the stresses and strains of a fifty-something woman who had grown up protesting against nuclear weapons at Greenham Common, but whose teenage daughter couldn't care less about such things. First world problems such things may be, but Jumpy became a West End hit, and five years on is revived in a new production which opens this week at at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.

“It came out of experience,” De Angelis says of the play. “I'd turned fifty, and my daughter had turned sixteen the same year, and that made me think about a lot of things, particularly about feminism. When I was growing up feminism was at the centre of everything. The Equal Pay Act had come in, and my generation reaped the benefits of that. I could speak out and say I wanted to be a writer. My mother's generation didn't have that, and it was different again for my daughter's generation. My daughter identifies as a feminist now, but she didn't when she was sixteen. Then she was more interested in clothes and how she looked.

“Now, there's an everyday feminism which hadn't happened five years ago, but there is also more mental illness in young women than there's ever been before, which I'm not surprised about, because there's all this pressure on women about how they should or shouldn't look, and about their shape and size matters.

“I suppose as well I was dealing with the fact that parenting had become much more liberal, and I didn't really know the rules, so was probably over-parenting. Then, turning fifty, and thinking about what that means, and with my daughter turning sixteen, it was a crisis year, really.”

Much of that crisis stemmed from a form of misogyny which has become increasingly vocal of late.

“Men flirt with women and women flirt with men, and that's fine, because that's human nature,” De Angelis says, “but there seems to be an aggressive edge there now sometimes. I can write Jumpy and say it's all going to be okay, but there's all this stuff going on, and you wonder really whether young women are going to be okay.”

De Angelis mentions the case of footballer Ched Evans, whose conviction for rape was recently quashed following a re-trial that saw his alleged victim's sexual history used as evidence.

“That was awful,” she says. “For someone to say, oh, you're not a virgin so we can't believe you is wrong, but I think it is a conservative time. We've got this hard austerity, there are wars going on, and these things breed conservative ideas, so you get some people marching because of a hatred of foreigners.

“With social media now as well everything erupts so quickly, and with the Ched Evans thing you had this collective anger from women that was really important. We've all got daughters, and you have to guard yourself and be responsible for each other.

De Angelis began her career as an actress with Monstrous Regiment, the feminist theatre company that existed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. This was at a time when identity politics was high on the agenda in what used to be called alternative theatre, with black, gay and feminist troupes all making their mark.

“Monstrous Regiment and other companies really shaped the theatrical landscape, as well as influencing how people think,” De Angelis says.”At that time, theatre wanted to change the world, and it really was a kind of revolution.”

De Angelis looked to the work of Caryl Churchill and Sarah Daniels, women writers who experimented with form as much as much as content.

“I remember going to see Top Girls,” De Angelis says of Churchill's seminal play that put various iconic women from history in the same room. “It's such a great play, and I was really inspired by it. I think Caryl Churchill really changed the DNA of theatre.”

Monstrous Regiment gave De Angelis her first writing commission, and in 1987, her debut play, Breathless, won an award at the Second Wave Young Women's Writers Festival. Since then, her work has been seen across the world, with Jumpy in particular making its mark internationally.

“The success of Jumpy really opened things up for me,” De Angelis says. “I got commissions off the back of it, and it really shows you what can happen when a play does well.”

Beyond Jumpy, De Angelis is currently working on an adaptation of the novels of Italian writer Elena Ferrante for the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Ferrante has recently come under public scrutiny, not for her internationally recognised work, but for the fact that she has chosen to write pseudonymously since she first came to prominence in the early 1990s. This year, a male novelist attempted to out Ferrante's real identity in a paper that analysed the historical and geographical content of her work. This month, a male journalist published an article that attempted to identify her through financial transactions regarding property and royalty payments. Such obsessive behaviour can be regarded as another form of violation.

“Isn't it awful” says De Angelis. “I mean, just leave her alone. There's no law that says you can't be anonymous in a way that means you might read the book without thinking about who the author is. Because she's really successful it's really bugged this male journalist, who's said how dare she be successful, and raked through her bins. It's about jealousy and revenge.”

Given that she too is a successful female writer, has De Angelis ever encountered jealousy from male colleagues?

“No,” she says. “The theatre is a really liberal, constructive place. Having said that, there still aren't many theatre buildings run by women, and there is still less work put on by women writers than men, and that's still the same in every profession.”

Five years after Jumpy first appeared, De Angelis has changed again. Her fiftieth birthday crisis has passed, and her daughter is no longer a stroppy teenager.

“That sixteen year old who used to stomp into the room in big heels is now a grown up young woman making her own way in the world. But young people are so full of life. They challenge you, as they should. It's a battle at times, a love and hate battle, but in the end it's all done for the best.”

Jumpy, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, October 27-November 12.
www.lyceum.org.uk

The Herald, October 25th 2016

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Sunday, 23 October 2016

23 Questions for October 23rd - What the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh's Board of Trustees need to answer on the day they close Inverleith House

1 - Would the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Board of Trustees agree that Inverleith House is a major international public artistic asset?

2 – If so, could the Board of Trustees explain why they have chosen to close Inverleith House down as a contemporary art gallery without notice?

3 - Could the Board of Trustees clarify what Creative Scotland's explicit expression of 'disappointment' with the Trustees' decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary artspace without notice might refer to?

4 – Given that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a publicly funded body, could the Board of Trustees provide the minutes of the meeting at which the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery took place, presumably at the Board's quarterly meeting on October 5th 2016?

5 – As a publicly funded body, could the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Board of Trustees also provide a list of all those in attendance at the meeting where the decision was taken?

6 - Given that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith House are public assets directly funded by the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, could the Board of Trustees clarify what level of public consultation was undertaken prior to their decision?

7 - Could the Board of Trustees also clarify who contributed to any public consultation?

8 – Could the Trustees also clarify where any information collected by any public consultation is published as is required by law concerning any public body?

9 – Creative Scotland's 'disappointment' at the decision taken by the Board of Trustees suggests that Inverleith House is at no financial risk in the immediate future. Can the Board confirm that is the case?

10 – It is a matter of public record that Creative Scotland awarded the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh some £80,000 project funding for four projects at Inverleith House during 2016/17. The projects were British Art Show 8, a thirtieth anniversary exhibition, a publication and the writing of a Strategic Report to provide recommendations for the sustainable future of Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery between 2017-2021. Could the Board of Trustees clarify what recommendations were made for the future of Inverleith House in the Strategic Report?

11 - If the recommendations contained within the Strategic Report were that Inverleith House should continue as a contemporary art gallery, can the Board of Trustees clarify why they did not vigorously pursue these recommendations, but instead chose to close the building as a contemporary art gallery instead?

12 - Could the Board of Trustees clarify what was meant by the phrase quoted in the Herald newspaper and attributed to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Regius Keeper that Inverleith House is unable to “wash it's face” financially?

13 - Given the use of the phrase, does the Board of Trustees regard the public assets of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith House solely as a business?

14 - Could the Board of Trustees clarify why Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith House staff have been advised not to speak to the media?

15 - If Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith House staff were to speak to the media, could the Board of Trustees clarify what the consequences of such actions would be?

16 - Could the Board of Trustees clarify why the Strategic Report for the publicly funded Inverleith House and paid for by public money from Creative Scotland is being withheld from public and press scrutiny?

17 – The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh received substantial amounts of National Lottery funding in 1990 and 2003 for the upgrade of Inverleith House specifically in relation to the building's status as a contemporary art gallery. As the Board of Trustees has stated that Inverleith House will no longer function as a contemporary art gallery, will the change of use mean that at least £143,000 worth of National Lottery funds given to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will now be returned?
 
18- If the Board of Trustees does not intend returning at least £143,000 worth of National Lottery funds granted to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in relation to Inverleith House's specific status as a contemporary art gallery, given the intended change of use of the building, could they clarify why this is the case?

19 – Could the Board of Trustees clarify what future use for Inverleith House is planned, provide costings and clarify the financial advantages of this option, alongside any accurately costed options for alternative uses of the building discussed at the meeting of October 5th 2016?

20 - Could the Board of Trustees confirm if any discussions have taken place in respect of any proposals to convert Inverleith House into a hotel, wedding venue or other commercial use?

21 – There has been a widespread sense of outrage and dismay generated in response to the Board of Trustees' decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery, both among the artistic community and the wider public who the Board of Trustees are accountable to. Would the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Board of Trustees agree that those who took the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery are responsible for a major act of cultural and civic vandalism caused by their actions, and which undermines the international importance of Scottish art?

22 – If the Board of Trustees does not agree that those who took the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery are responsible for a major act of cultural and civic vandalism, in what ways do they believe the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery is of any benefit to the public?

23 – If the Board of Trustees does agree that those who took the decision to close Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery are responsible for a major act of cultural and civic vandalism, could they clarify in what ways they believe those responsible for the decision to close Inverleith House as a gallery are in any way fit for office?

Product, October 23rd 2016


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Friday, 21 October 2016

Grain in the Blood

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Sacrifice is everywhere in Rob Drummond's brooding new play, co-produced here between the Tron and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, where it visits following its Glasgow run. It's there in Andrew Rothney's near silent figure of Isaac, on compassionate leave from the prison he's been rotting in since he attempted to bring life through death during harvest time in his rural home years before. Now he's back, and with John Michie's stoic prison chaperone Burt watching over him, it's his twelve-year old daughter Autumn who needs saved. Isaac's mother Sophia would do anything to see Autumn survive, as would Frances Thorburn's Violet, who would kill to replace her own lingering loss.

There's an eerie sense of foreboding that looms large in Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's production that is ushered in by Michael John McCarthy's cracked chamber folk score. Even at it's most sombre, however, Drummond's script is peppered with grim one-liners delivered mercilessly by Blythe Duff as Sophia and John Michie's stoic Burt with barely a deadpan glance.

At the play's brutal heart, however, is a revelatory performance by Sarah Miele as Autumn, who carries the play right to the end, taking control of her own and everybody else's destiny with a premature wisdom beyond her years. This helps her see through all the hand-me-down hokum so much clearer than everybody else in such an unsentimental fashion. Even so, Autumn enjoys the ritual as a game as much as she does the fateful round of Truth or Dare at her birthday dinner. It is here the knives really come out in a dark tale where broken lives continue come what may.

The Herald, October 24th 2016

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Kai Lumumba Barrow and Eric A. Stanley - Arika - Episode 8: Refuse Powers' Grasp

When the Arika organisation started out as producers of experimental music festivals, their
work on Instal at the Arches in Glasgow and later Kill Your Timid Notion at Dundee Contemporary Arts broke the mould in terms of bringing major international left-field musicians and sound-makers to Scotland.

As the artistic landscape shifted, the ground Arika occupied opened up for a new generation of sonic explorers to put on their own events, perhaps inspired by some of the veteran acts they'd seen at Instal and Kill Your Timid Notion. As more experimental music festivals grew up around them, Arika moved beyond sound to consider the social and political forces that gives art its meaning.

The end result has been a series of weekend-long Episodes, in which Arika have hosted various provocations, discussions, performances and screenings which create a dialogue where art and activism meet in a kind of counter-cultural salon.

This weekend, Episode 8 – Refuse Powers' Grasp, looks at ideas that stem largely from the idea of the prison-industrial complex. The term was first coined by veteran black civil rights activist Angela Davis in the title of a speech she gave in 1997 which became the basis of her book of the same name. It refers to how prisons are used as an ideological tool in which oppressed minorities are invariably incarcerated more than a privileged majority. This is particularly the case in relation to queer, black and trans people.

Refuse Powers' Grasp brings together an international array of thinkers, artists, writers and performers to square up to the forces that attempt to cage such minorities as they argue for progressive alternatives to prison.

One of the highlights of Episode 8 looks set to be a presentation by Gallery of the Streets, a radical performance troupe led by director, activist and prison abolitionist Kai Lumumba Barrow, which uses everyday spaces as sites of resistance.

In Glasgow, Barrow will work with local groups to oversee an open rehearsal for her ongoing development of (b)reach: The Fugitive Chronicles. With the title drawn from Marge Piercy's 1976 feminist science-fiction novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, the show is a black queer retelling of Percy's story about a former prisoner committed in a mental hospital who begins to communicate with a being from a utopian future. While totalitarianism and other of society's ills have been wiped out in that future, the death penalty remains in place.

“We are going to be doing an experiment,” says Barrow, who since the 1970s has been at the forefront of abolitionist grassroots organising in the United States. “We're looking at a model for social change, working with our bodies to visualise and verbalise our stories concerning state violence, and doing that in a collaborative way.”

Barrow's activism includes co-founding Critical Resistance, a prison abolitionist organisation co-founded with Angela Davis and others. Barrow has worked with numerous other grassroots organisations, including the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the Black Panther Newspaper Committee and Queers for Economic Justice. She formed Gallery of the Streets in 2010, and, using Black Feminist Theory as a jumping off point, has created temporary site-specific installations in collaboration with marginalised communities directly affected by existing hierarchies. The open rehearsal for (b)reach is the first stage of a much longer project that Barrow aims to complete by 2020.

“I've been trying to organise forms and ideas into something we're calling the praxis of imagination,” Barrow says. “I'll be using multiple artforms that work together to create a single story, and through all this, looking at how the imagination can be used as a tool for liberation.”

Also appearing at Episode 8 will be Eric A. Stanley, who, as well as being an assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, co-edited the 2011 anthology, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, which has recently been republished in an expanded second edition by AK Press. Along with Chris Vargas, Stanley directed the 2006 film, Homotopia, and this year the pair made Criminal Queers, which will be screened at Episode 8.

Criminal Queers is a campy film we made with no budget over a ten year period” says Stanley. “It's quite funny, as probably most people who are in the film are going to be at Episode 8, but the film is a humorous way of looking at serious issues.”

Captive Genders opens with a foreword that looks back to the Stonewall riots that took place in 1969 after the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, was raided by police. The book brings together writing by current and former prisoners, activists, academics and others in an attempt to understand how race, gender and sexuality are played out and defined by the prison-industrial complex. In this way, the book highlights a sector of society whose struggles with incarceration are rarely seen in mainstream media.

“A lot of mainstream LGBT organisations have never thought critically about imprisonment,” says Stanley. “Mainstream LGBT politics has a disavowal of LGBT people who are incarcerated.”

One of the most high-profile trans figures currently imprisoned is Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Soldier who, as Bradley Manning, was court-martialled and sentenced to thirty-five years in a military prison after disclosing almost three quarters of a million classified military documents to WikiLeaks. Manning has written a chapter for the new edition of Captive Genders.

“Unfortunately,” says Stanley, “Chelsea Manning could spend the rest of her life in prison. She's a horrific example of all the things prison can do to you - a microcosm of what thousands of people are going through right now.”

Episode 8 – Refuse Powers' Grasp runs from October 21st-23rd at Tramway and The Art School, Glasgow. Full programme details can be found at www.arika.org.uk

Product, October 2016
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Where The Crow Flies

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Three stars

The baby won't stop crying and scary men are shouting obscenities through the letterbox at the opening of Lisa Nicoll's curiously creepy new play produced by the Glasgow-based In Motion Theatre Company. Graffiti is sprayed across the walls of Carrie's house, and rubbish is rotting in the summer heat in the back garden. Just to add insult to injury, Emily has moved in next door, and is already invading Carrie's space enough to make her paranoid.

The cause of Carrie's siege mentality is her husband's imprisonment for a crime he says he didn't commit, and the bad lads left on the outside who say he did. Emily may not be in league with them, but she has a few secrets of her own, largely to do with her absent daughter Annabel.

Beth Morton's production begins with a kitchen-sink style set-up that looks at two very different women living alone with their pain, then lurches into psycho-thriller territory before Carrie and Emily come out the other side seemingly unscathed. This makes for an oddly overloaded seventy minutes that at times resembles an unholy alliance between Mike Leigh and Ken Loach if they'd worked on Tales of the Unexpected.

Keira Lucchesi and Angela Darcy invest an edgy humour into their respective portrayals of Carrie and Emily in a show that tours Scotland this month as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Commissioned by the Scottish Government backed Sense over Sectarianism initiative and developed with women from Blackburn in West Lothian, Morton's production shows off the bonds that form between this oddest of couples as they learn how to survive together.

The Herald, October 20 2016

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Inverleith House to Close as a Contemporary Art Gallery

It has been confirmed by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh that Inverleith House, contained within its grounds, will no longer be used as a contemporary artspace. This comes after thirty years as a gallery, in which, under the curatorship of Paul Nesbitt, Inverleith House became a pioneering venue that showed early work by many Scottish artists alongside a bold international programme which has consistently sat alongside a parallel programme of botanical-based work.

Inverleith House has also presented more exhibitions by Turner Prize winners and nominees than any other gallery in the UK apart from the Tate Gallery in London. The gallery's current exhibition, I still believe in miracles... closes this weekend on October 23rd, after which the building's future is uncertain.

In a statement released on October 18th, RBGE said that 'After considerable consideration the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has accepted that, in the interests of prioritising its core mission To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future, it must be pragmatic about the overall diversity of its wider commitments.

'As part of this, Inverleith House will no longer be dedicated to the display of contemporary art, and RBGE is looking at options for the alternative use of the building. RBGE will continue to use both the overall setting of the Garden and other existing indoor spaces to engage our visitors with art in the Garden environment. No member of staff will lose their job in the adjustment. The intention is very much that we intend to retain our reputation as an art venue across the board, be it for botanical art, illustration, performance, photography, sculpture and contemporary art.'

The statement went on to say that 'Through this change the organisation will remove the various inevitable financial risks attached to running a high-profile gallery. It will also free-up resources to concentrate more fully on its scientific and horticultural research and conservation work and provide greater scope to encourage public engagement with the environment.'

RBGE's decision comes two years after Inverleith House was unsuccessful in its bid for three year regular funding from Scotland's national arts funding body, Creative Scotland. Along with its predecessor, the Scottish Arts Council, Creative Scotland has supported Inverleith House's exhibition programme with £1.5m of public funding between 1994 and 2016. This includes an annual sum of approximately £80,000 of Flexible and Open Project funding for exhibitions, plus a capital award of £148,453 towards the cost of up-grading the provision of visitor facilities at the Inverleith House Gallery made in 2003.

Built in 1774 as the family home of Sir James Rocheid, Inverleith House was a part of the Inverleith estate sold to become the Royal Botanic Garden around 1820. In 1877, the House and its surrounding land was gifted to the Crown for the due purpose of extending the activities of the Royal Botanic Garden and for the enjoyment of the public. After restoration work following a fire, the building became the official residence of the RBG's Regius Keeper.

From 1960, Inverleith House became the inaugural home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and in 1970 was given category B listed status by Historic Scotland. It opened in its current guise as an exhibition space managed by RBGE in 1986, with Nesbitt appointed curator.

It was arguably Nesbitt's vision that put Inverleith House on the map as an artspace, as he opened the House and its unique light up to a series of exhibitions by major artists that the two tranches of National Lottery funding received to upgrade the building, first in 1990, then in 2003, would arguably not have been forthcoming.

Artists who have made solo exhibitions for Inverleith who have won or who were nominated for the Turner Prize include Douglas Gordon, Richard Wright, Callum Innes, Jim Lambie, Cathy Wilkes, Karla Black and Mark Leckey. In 2012, Luke Fowler was nominated for the Turner for his show at Inverleith House. Other Scottish artists of note who have shown at Inverleith House include include Lucy McKenzie and Ciara Phillips. The list of artists showing work in I still believe in miracles...., reads like a Who's Who? of internationally renowned contemporary Scottish artists. The exhibition also features botanical drawings, plant models, and teaching diagrams from the garden’s archive and the Linnean society in London.

Other botanical-based works seen at Inverleith House include John Hutton Balfour’s Botanical Teaching Diagrams in 2003,The Dapuri Drawings in 2002, Stella Ross-Craig's Drawings of British Plants in 2001 and Rungiah and Givindoo's South Indian Botanical Drawings.

Edinburgh-based artist Alec Finlay, whose work has frequently been seen in outdoor environments, and whose father, Ian Hamilton Finlay, currently has work on display in I still believe in miracles... stated that 'It will be a matter of concern to the entire art community and audiences alike that the distinguished thirty year tradition of exhibiting art in what is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful venues in the UK is under question. The ability of the curator, Paul Nesbitt, to select artists suited to the graceful proportions of the building and the wonderful light has gone hand in hand with his ability to work with peers exhibiting botanical art. While RBGE is not responsible for provision in a way that conventional art galleries are, the tradition it has established is a precious reality.'

In response to RBGE's announcement, a Creative Scotland spokesperson said 'We are very disappointed that the Board of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh (RBGE) have taken the decision to cease operating Inverleith House as a dedicated contemporary art gallery. Over thirty years, under the stewardship of Paul Nesbitt, Inverleith House has built an international reputation as a place where contemporary art is curated and presented to the highest standards and in a truly unique setting. The importance of the gallery, alongside the work of Paul and his team, to contemporary visual art and artists in Scotland cannot be understated and its loss will be profoundly felt.
'
We understand the financial pressures that RBGE are under, like other publicly funded organisations. However, we would have hoped that the value that Inverleith House brings to the gardens, to the public, and to Scotland as a space for art and creativity could have been better recognised and result in a different decision. We look forward to hearing more about the plans for the wider exhibition programme in the Gardens. This decision by the RBGE Board precedes the publication of our Visual Arts Sector Review which, while highlighting the significant successes and strengths of visual art in Scotland, also underlines the challenges the sector faces and the barriers that prevent it from achieving its full potential.'


The List, October 19th 2016


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Clipper – Maid of the Seas

On December 21st 1988, Pan Am flight 103, a Boeing 747 named Clipper Maid of the Seas, which was making a regular trip from Frankfurt to Detroit via London, fell from the air over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, in Dumfries and Galloway. The aeroplane's 243 passengers and sixteen crew members were killed by a bomb placed inside a suitcase stored onboard the aircraft. As the plane careered into residential areas of Lockerbie, eleven people on the ground were also killed.

Passengers on the flight included Paul Jeffreys, onetime bass player with Steve Harley's Cockney Rebel, and poet Joanna Walton, a former girlfriend of Robert Fripp who had written lyrics for Fripp's 1979 album, Exposure, and who had coined the term Frippertronics to define Fripp's tape-looping techniques.

The subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Libyan national Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, followed by his release from Greenock Prison by the Scottish Government in 2009 on compassionate grounds has mired the tragedy in a controversy over who exactly was responsible for the bombings that remains unresolved today.

In Lockerbie, the event obviously left its mark on everyone, including then eighteen year old Malcolm Irving, a small-town indie kid weaned on John Peel's late night radio show.

It was on Peel's programme, in fact, that Irving first heard reports of this calamity so close to home. Back home in Dumfrieshire while on a break from college in Edinburgh, he was a mere fifteen miles away.

Later, in Edinburgh, Irving would go on to form indie noiseniks Cupid Mount Etna, who were regulars at the city's Cas Rock venue in the mid 1990s. Irving also ran the short-lived Colon Blast label, which released a 7” by Cupid Mount Etna, and a cassette compilation of Edinburgh bands, Capital City on its Knees.

Twenty-eight years after the disaster, Irving and the band of fellow travellers he's christened Clipper have released Maid of the Seas, a suite of musical responses to Lockerbie that are an elegy to the events themselves, but which also sound like a more personal purging.

The opening title track sets the tone with a funereal piano-led instrumental overture, over which David Rosenthal's flute seems to soar throughout the record. Insistent low-end guitars suggest the roar of an aircraft itself before actual jet engines segue into Breaks The Morning Light, a country-tinged slowcore lament, in which Irving's doleful vocal sets down an initially innocent sounding prologue.

Similarly, December Song takes an old-school prom ballad framework and fuses its festive croon with local references that are peppered throughout the record. Dryfe Sands. Copshaw Holm. Tundergarth. Solway. All Irving's mystical-sounding playgrounds now sullied by falling debris.

The names sound even eerier when offset by the more far away yet still more familiar JFK, Washington and Trafalgar Square.

Katie's Knowe references the hill where the plane's cockpit fell down, and it can't be a coincidence that, as Rosenthal's flute twitters high above it, the song's chorus lifts the melody from the John Denver-penned Leaving on a Jet Plane, which became a hit in 1969 for folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, and was later used in TV ads for United Airlines.

Captain MacQuarrie is a sad little portrait of the plane's pilot, which, like Autumn Leaves that follows, fuses Americana with Caledonian musical sensibilities. In the latter, voices howl over a lazy twang that wouldn't sound out of place in a David Lynch film. In what sounds like a noirish investigation in the undergrowth, the record's first mention of al-Magrahi offers little hints of conspiracy.

The Water of Milk, named after a burn that runs close to the River Annan, has a 1950s cop show feel that continues the detective work, focusing on the iconic aerial photograph taken the day after the crash. The female flight attendant found still breathing by a farmer's wife, but who died shortly afterwards is there too.

The Mediterranean exotica of Mary's House moves the action to the shop in Malta that gives the song its name. It was here where the clothes in the suitcase containing the bomb were bought.

All the detail here can be found in books and a multitude of newspaper reports from the time, and Irving has clearly done his homework. But if a casual listener might be unaware of the record's full back-story, each song and the album as a whole still stands up. The narratives here, after all, are akin to hand-me-down murder ballads that mythologise even as they mourn the dead.

Up until this point, Maid of the Seas has been a thing of slow-burning melodrama and brooding ambiguity. Yes, there are politics at play in each of the meticulously crafted miniatures, just as there were in the bombing itself and even more so in everything that followed. But Irving is never hectoring, preferring to paint impressionistic thumbnail sketches of events, in which journalistic observations are laced with understated poetic barbs of opinion.

The last two songs on the album are where things finally crack open to vent more explicitly inclined spleen. Somewhat appositely, The Ballad of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi isn't a ballad at all. Rather, it’s a propulsive waltz-based dervish of a song. Here, Gordon Kilgour's loose-limbed drumming and Colin Seditis' loping bass patterns come into their own over Alan Cloughlie's psychedelic organ sounds, while Rosenthal's flute sounds like it's flapping about looking for an escape route.

With Jonathan Kilgour's stabbing lead guitar pattern running throughout, the final Cancer is the Killer is accusatory in tone before itself exploding into the distance, leaving only a raging calm on this vital musical evocation of an international tragedy that even now leaves a myriad of unanswered hanging in the air.

Clipper launch Maid of the Seas with a performance of the album in full at Leith Depot, Edinburgh, October 21st, 7.30pm. Maid of the Seas by Clipper is available at https://clippersongs.bandcamp.com

Product, October 2016
 
 
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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Elliot Roberts - Grain in the Blood

When Elliot Roberts saw writer and performer Rob Drummond's show, Bullet Catch, at the Arches in Glasgow, he never thought he would end up working as assistant director on a new play by the prolific writer and performer presented on the main-stage of the Traverse, the world-renowned Edinburgh-based new writing theatre. Three years on, however, and Roberts has been installed for the last few weeks on Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's production of Drummond's play, Grain in the Blood.

This co-production with the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, where it opens this week, finds Drummond putting a noirish thriller into a rural landscape where a prodigal's return home to an isolated community steeped in local folklore raises moral dilemmas about personal sacrifices made for a greater good.

For Roberts, his tenure on Grain in the Blood also marks a breakthrough for the young director and former dramaturgy student at the University of Glasgow enabled by a bursary initiated by the Saltire Society Trust. The £3,000 bursary has given Roberts the opportunity to work as assistant director of Grain in the Blood for a full nine weeks, and forms part of a wider programme of support which will see the Saltire Society supporting a variety of young artists in the early stages of their career with £50,000 worth of backing from the independent charity.

“It's the perfect opportunity for me to gain a bit of experience,” a quietly spoken and erudite Roberts says. “My background is equal parts directing and dramaturgy, which both come from the same impetus and skill-set, and which hopefully help writers tell their stories, and obviously the Traverse has a big reputation as a theatre that works exclusively with new writing, so experiencing the range of what goes on there has been really important.

“I've been working with the literary department, and getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of how that works, but there's so much I can learn as well from being in the rehearsal room, hopefully becoming more confident with the various processes, as well as learning first hand more about what makes the Traverse tick.”

The role of an assistant director covers many bases, and can, one suspects, be a hugely different experience depending on the personality of both the organisation and the artistic director an assistant is working under. Given that both O'Loughlin and the Traverse have a long history of collaborating with artists to nurture developing talent, however, Roberts' experience has been a fruitful and stimulating one.

“It's covered quite a lot of different things,” he says. “A lot of it has been about doing as much research about the world of the play as we can, and being able to answer questions about the background to the characters and what we do or don't know at any point in the play. It's also a very flexible and collaborative role, and I've been able to offer my eyes onto things when Orla might want a different perspective on things.”

Originally from Cambridge, Roberts was attracted to drama from an early age.

“I was drawn to the idea of telling stories,” he says, “but out of all the different ways of telling them, what appealed about theatre was the fact that it happens live and in the moment, and when it works, you feel witness to something special. When you're watching something like that, it's as much about what isn't said as what is, and where a perfectly realised silence can say as much as a perfectly pitched line. That's one of the great things about watching actors.”

Prior to moving to Glasgow, Roberts studied drama at Hull University.

“Hull is getting all the praise and attention I thought it should have been getting years ago,” Roberts says, referring to the city's forthcoming tenure as UK City of Culture 2017. “When I first went there I was told that there was a queue at 8.30 in the morning when the drama department opened, and that they had to chuck people out at 11 O' Clock when it shut, and that was the sort of place it was. That's the sort of place I wanted to be, where everyone was enthusiastic about what they did because they believed in it. It was the same in Glasgow, and it's the same at the Traverse as well, and that makes for a really intoxicating atmosphere. Otherwise, if you don't believe in something, what's the point?”

Roberts started coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing in a short play about Everyman one year, working as a technician the next, and doing a placement as a dramaturg with the Third Angel company the year after. He moved to Glasgow in 2013.

“It seemed like somewhere with a vibrant theatre scene,” he says, “and coming up allowed me to see a lot of Scottish work.”

Since graduating from the University of Glasgow in 2014, Roberts has worked as an assistant director on Ophelia at Oran Mor as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint and other companies. Roberts is also a core member of the Glasgow-based Leylines Theatre company, and worked on their production of The Giant and her Daughter, which was staged at Govanhill Baths as part of the city's Southside Fringe, and as part of a special programme for Refugee Festival Scotland.

“Leylines isn't just about putting on new writing,” he says, “but is looking at storytelling skills in communities. The last thing we did was called Ley Night, and was an event where people sang songs or told stories in a way they might not have had the confidence to do before.”

Beyond Grain in the Blood, Roberts says he has no immediate plans, “though what I'm hoping the bursary will help me to do is expand on the work I've been doing at the Traverse, and as both a director to continue conversations with particular writers and directors and see where that leads. Again,I have a strong feeling that I only want to work on pieces I believe in.

In terms of theatre that might have had an influence on his own work, Roberts points to Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner, director Stewart Laing and writer Pamela Carter's meta-theatrical extravaganza disguised as a monologue produced by Laing's Untitled Projects company.

“I was hugely inspired by that,” says Roberts. “It was incredibly clever, with this huge amount of visual detail, but it was also very affecting.”

Grain in the Blood too appears to be leaving its mark.

“This is really quite a special offering from Rob,” says Roberts. “My first experience of Rob's work was seeing him do Bullet Catch, but this is so different. It's meticulously written, like watch machinery, with all these delicate components that make it tick, and if you removed one then the whole thing would fall apart. As a play it looks at this really tricky moral dilemma about what we would be prepared to sacrifice, and bringing all of these aspects of the play together in the way that Rob does is really striking. It's a real emotional tug of war of a piece. It has all these dramatic twists and turns in there, and it does them excellently.”

Grain in the Blood, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, October 19-29; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, November 1-12.
www.tron.co.uk
www.traverse.co.uk

The Herald, October 18th 2016

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Spoiling

Kirkton Community Centre, Dundee
Three stars

Things have changed since John McCann's pre-independence referendum fantasia first appeared in Edinburgh during the summer of 2014. Then, with the actual vote looming, McCann imagined newly appointed SNP Foreign Minister Fiona preparing to square up to her Westminster counterpart as the world's press watched sovereignty being handed over. Somewhat symbolically pregnant, Fiona also looked set to have her wings and her upstart tendencies clipped by Mark, a junior bureaucrat with a nice line in managerialist gobbledegook who had been sent to make sure she didn't go off message.

Now, in this updated version rewritten by McCann for Dundee Rep Ensemble's latest community tour, the 2014 No vote a bittersweet memory for both parties. Set in 2020, a second indy referendum may have finally got a result, but there is the lingering mess of the post-Brexit fall-out to deal with as well.

As the play opens, Fiona rises from a small mountain of screwed up paper where she's spent the night with her factotum Paul attempting to write a speech worthy of being immortalised on tea-towels in a way the script she's been given is decidedly lacking. The morning after, alas, Paul has been moved on, with Belfast-born Mark tasked to pick up the pieces.

As a vehicle for the Rep's latest crop of graduate actors, Joe Douglas' production justifies the presence of Rebekah Lumsden and Laurie Scott as a pair of not so hip young gun-slingers who have both been fired into political life by the sort of energy that sprang up around the 2014 referendum.

As played by Lumsden, Fiona is a potty-mouthed young firebrand possessed with an impressively realised sense of superiority and a picture of herself with Nicola Sturgeon on the mantelpiece. Scott's Mark may have already been tamed, but once the pair let rip with a cut and paste speech culled from the scraps around them, old passions are rekindled with abandon.

What emerges from the wreckage of this seemingly brave new world is a picture of radical idealism reined in by the sort of compromised realpolitik that is exactly what isn't required in the real world right now. Even so, depending on what happens next, both onstage and off, it might well be what a very Scottish coup ends up looking like in a comic allegory of future shocks to come that continues its tour this week.

The Herald, October 17th 2016

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Dario Fo obituary

Dario Fo

Comedian, Playwright, Director, Performer, Activist, Painter, Designer, Theatre-maker


Born March 24 1926 ; died October 13 2016


Dario Fo, who has died aged ninety following a lung-based illness that saw him hospitalised two weeks ago, was a radical maestro who understood the power of laughter beyond polemic. The news of his passing comes in the midst of Dancing With Colours, Whipping With Words, a month-long celebration of the Nobel Prize winning author of now classic works such as Accidental Death of An Anarchist and Mistero Buffo, which is currently ongoing in Edinburgh. Fo himself, whose works have been heard in more than thirty languages, was due to travel to Scotland to take part in an onstage conversation at the Royal Lyceum Theatre with his biographer, translator and greatest champion, Joe Farrell.

It was Farrell's rollicking versions of Fo's key works that brought them to Scots audiences in a series of productions produced by Borderline Theatre Company and others that combined Commedia d'el Arte styled buffoonery with a ferocious lampooning of an often brutal political establishment, and which throughout the 1980s seemed to chime with a climate of unrest. This saw the English language title of Fo's play, Can't Pay? Won't Pay! adopted as a rallying cry by the anti Poll Tax Movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s right up until the imposition of the hated tax brought down UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before it was eventually abolished. With austerity culture fostering a new wave of right wing populism and political discourse reduced to playground taunts, Fo's sense of the ridiculous is needed now more than ever before.

Dario Fo Fo was the eldest of three children born in Lombardy's Province of Varese to a railway station master father and a peasant mother. While his mother wrote a book about the local area, Fo's father was both a socialist and an enthusiastic amateur actor. Fo learned storytelling from his maternal grandfather.

In 1940, Fo moved to Milan to study, but was conscripted into Mussolini's army, which he used as a disguise to help his father smuggle refugees to Switzerland. After the war, Fo began to study architecture, but after a breakdown began to paint and perform with small theatres. In 1950 Fo joined a pioneering variety show before meeting Franca Rame, the actress and writer who would become his romantic partner and his most important artistic collaborator and comrade right up until her death in 2013.

The couple worked in film, TV and variety before the upheavals in France during May 1968 saw them moved out of the mainstream to using farce and roughcast techniques plundered from mediaeval theatre to satirise the establishment. In a country where church and state held so much sway, Fo and Rame became a crucial voice of dissent even as it laughed at the object of its ire.

The first sighting of Fo's work in the UK came with a version of Accidental Death of An Anarchist, a madcap farce adapted by Gavin Richards for his Belt and Braces company after Richards had spent stints with both 7:84 and Ken Campbell's Roadshow. Richards' productionn ran on the West End, and, in Thatcher's Britain, productions of Fo's work soon seemed to be everywhere.

Scotland's variety tradition seemed to be a kindred spirit of Fo's aesthetic, with Borderline's productions of Trumpets and Raspberries, Can't Pay? Won't Pay! and Mistero Buffo starring Robbie Coltrane tapping into the maestro's irreverent ribaldry.

Italy has always been politically volatile, and Fo and Rame suffered first hand from the forces of oppression. Following controversy over a sketch about the working conditions of construction workers, Fo and Rame were banned from Italian state television for fourteen years. In 1973, Rame was kidnapped by fascists, allegedly at the behest of establishment figures, and was tortured and raped while in captivity. Several years later, and with Fo readmitted to the TV fold, Mistero Buffo was condemned by the Vatican as 'the most blasphemous show in the history of television.'

More recently, Fo was sued by Italian senator Marcello Dell'Uttri regarding references to him in his 2003 play, The Two-Headed Anomaly. At the time, Dell'Uttri was on trial for money laundering. The play also poked fun at the shortness of then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose fictional version was strapped to a chair and given electric shock treatment by Fo. It imagined too Vladimir Putin being shot dead by Chechen rebels while visiting Berlusconi's luxury villa, with the play's title refering to the subsequent transplanting of Putin's brain into Berlusconi's head.

Farrell's definitive biography, Dario Fo & Franca Rame – Harlequins of the Revolution, first published in 2001, is ripe for an update, particularly in light of this month's activity. Last week's Edinburgh performance of Fo's 2009 piece, Francis the Holy Jester, by his long-term collaborator Mario Pirovano, was a masterclass in the maestro's work.

Fo's passing comes at a time when a new generation of theatre-makers are engaging with politics in a way that hasn't been seen so explicitly since the days of Fo's fellow travellers in Scotland, 7:84, Wildcat and Borderline, fused popular artforms and an oppositionist stance in a localised way that mirrored Fo's work. Work by some of these younger artists can be seen at Dancing With Colours, Whipping With Words, and the likes of Mark Thomas and Julia Taudevin can now be seen as Fo's torch-bearers.

It is to them Fo was speaking in his last interview, given to the Herald to tie in with the festival, and published just last week as he contemplated the state of a world in which politicians continue to brutalise opposition even as they appear to be beyond parody.

“There are times when society is not sure what is happening,” Fo said. “People in general may think there is nothing we can do about it, so even when an artist or a writer feels that people aren't behind them because they don't understand what is happening, it is important to continue using satire or irony. It is important to keep addressing people,” said the holiest jester of all, “so they can find the right way to go.”

The Herald, October 14th 2016

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Crude

Shed 36, Port of Dundee
Four stars

It's like Christmas and a trip to Blackpool at once as the audience for Grid Iron theatre company's latest site-specific extravaganza are bussed out from Dundee city centre to one of several massive sheds used by the city's Port Authority, transformed here into a theatre space. As it is, the array of lights that flank the shed belong to three stationary exploration rigs that tower over the company's exploration of the oil industry.

Inside the shed, video projections at the back of Becky Minto's tiered steel set beam out statistics of how many barrels of oil are drilled during the course of the ninety minute show as several stories play out between a barrage of historical information. Much of the latter in director Ben Harrison's script is provided by Texas Jim, a big-talking cipher of how oil has made a few people like him rich, while the people and places exploited along the way are mere collateral damage.

In the Niger Delta, Tunji Lucas' Joel is fighting for unpolluted water. In the Arctic Circle, Itxaso Moreno's eco-warrior Camila risks life and limb for the cause. And in Scotland, Phil McKee's offshore worker Mike's domestic life is slowly caving in on him. Real life testimonies from the Piper Alpha disaster, a dream sequence involving aerial acrobatics and the odd song complete a dramatic collage which the acoustics of such a vast space sometimes make difficult to hear. In terms of the political intent of such an enterprise, the show's fluidity goes some way to exposing the tangled global web that is woven in order to extract money from the earth, whatever the human cost.

The Herald, October 12th 2016

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Grid Iron - Crude

In an upstairs room in Leith, Grid Iron theatre company are going for gold. The prize is the Edinburgh-based company's latest site-specific extravaganza, Crude, a dramatic study of oil, the slippery substance that powers the world, making some people very rich. For those on the frontline, the human cost sometimes proves even greater.

This is easy to see in the mock up of a hotel bar and bedroom where a one-night tryst between characters played by Phil McKee and Kirsty Stuart takes place. There are brief monologues from survivors of oil rig disasters such as the one that happened in 1988 when an explosion happened on the North Sea based Piper Alpha rig, which was destroyed in a blast that killed 167 people, including two rescue workers. A memorial to those who died sits in Hazelhead Park in Aberdeen.

In another scene, McKee's character is tied to a chair and tortured. Inbetween all this, a man in a stetson called Texas Jim swaggers about like J.R. Ewing, the slickly devious oil tycoon played by Larry Hagman in overblown 1980s TV drama, Dallas. To an outside eye, the scenarios are hard to piece together at this stage, though they do demonstrate the expansive spread of an oil industry that is pervades into our everyday lives whether we realise it or not.

“Oil isn't just about what you put in the car,” says Grid Iron director Ben Harrison, writer and director of Crude. “There is oil in everything in this room. It's on the walls, on the chairs, in pretty much everything you touch and everything you wear. Oil is everywhere, and if you were an eco-warrior, the extreme end-point of that would be that you wouldn't be able to go out. You'd just sit in a room naked.”

This is why in capitalist society oil has become such a precious commodity, as well as a political football. This is particular the case in Scotland, where the presence of North Sea has provided employment for several generations of riggers. As Harrison found out during extensive research that took I interviews with riggers as well as dipping into the 700 hours of archive recordings of oil industry workers held by the University of Aberdeen, it sometimes comes at a very human cost.

“What is central to the play is the fact that the men work two weeks on, two weeks off, and what those work patterns do to families,” Harrison explains. “The oil industry has the highest divorce rate in the UK of any other profession or workforce. It's funny, because I assumed the divorce came when both partners became further and further disconnected from each other with that working pattern, but the first peak is when they have kids. It's a great job for a single man, but as soon as you have a family it can be a disaster. The second peak is when the offshore workers give up, try and find something else to do, and are under their partners feet the whole time. Neither side can cope with that.”

Beyond such a localised domestic fallout, Crude looks to a broader context for the trickle-down consequences of the oil industry. As Harrison observes, “Scotland's place in the oil industry is vital, but it was also important that we moved away from Scotland, because while it's a local story, it's also a global one.”

To this end, Crude weaves three narrative strands together, which moves between Scotland, the Arctic Circle and the Niger Delta, both key players in oil production in a way that has caused major protests. In the Arctic Circle, it is estimated that some ninety billion barrels of oil remain undiscovered, while Greenpeace have launched the Save the Arctic initiative to highlight the threat the area is under from oil drilling.

Similarly, some two million barrels of oil a day are extracted from the Niger Delta, though much of it is burned or flared, causing local pollution and climate change. The lack of distribution of oil-based wealth has provoked numerous environmental movements and inter-ethnic conflicts, including activity from a guerilla group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

“We go from a very cold place to a very hot place,” says Harrison, “and the Niger Delta in particular is very important to the piece, because the whole coastline has been completely devastated by oil spills.”

In an attempt to knit all this together, Harrison looked to Short Cuts, Robert Altman's interwoven big-screen rendering of short stories by Raymond Carver.

“All of the characters are connected by one degree of separation,” says Harrison, “and thematically they relate. So there's an Arctic Circle protestor, and a character in the Niger Delta, who never actually meet in the play, but are linked thematically. The Texas Jim character frames things as this timeless character who has lived since the birth of oil in 1859 in America, though actually oil was discovered by the Greeks two thousand years ago.

“Then there is a deeply unhappy oil worker, who is worried about the downturn that is happening, but finds himself in a position where he has to go and work in the Niger Delta. The economic downturn in the oil industry is a very real thing. Aberdeen largely survived the 2008 recession because of the oil industry, but now finds itself in a place where house prices are crumbling.”

As a show, Crude is very much getting back to Grid Iron's roots. It isn't just the one-word title that's on a par previous shows such as Gargantua and the Edinburgh Airport set Roam, plus the presence of Harrison at the helm. The location of Crude in a warehouse owned by Dundee Port Authority??? beside a pair of static rigs is the company's latest example of aligning performance to an appropriate space.

In an ideal world, Crude would have been performed on an actual oil rig, with the audience being helicoptered out to sea. Even a one-way flight for twelve audience members, however, would have proved financially prohibitive even for a company as imaginative as Grid Iron. Add in the fact that no-one is allowed on a less than spacious oil rig without undergoing a form of induction at least a month before, and practical logistics too were against it.

As it is, audiences will still be required to bring their passports in order to enter the show, which takes place in Shed 36, an empty warehouse where refitting work on three oil rigs parked beside it is undertaken in what Harrison calls “one of the biggest sheds I've ever seen.”

The seeds of Crude date back ten years.

“It was after we did Roam in Edinburgh Airport,” Harrison remembers, “and we always do an exercise to try and think of what would be more difficult than the place we've just done something. Roam was pretty difficult, but we were walking down Princes Street, and I said, what about an oil rig. We were never going to get that, but where we're doing the play now I reckon is the next best thing.”

Crude, Shed 36, Port of Dundee. Buses from Greenmarket car park beside Dundee Science Centre/Dundee Contemporary Arts. Tickets from Dundee Rep. Photographic ID is required to enter the Port.
www.dundeerep.co.uk

The Herald, October 11th 2016

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Monday, 10 October 2016

Francis The Holy Jester

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Four stars

“Please,” says Italian actor Mario Pirovano after a lengthy introduction to his interpretation of his long-time collaborator Dario Fo's solo study of Saint Francis of Assisi. “Relax. It's only theatre.” Given what happens over the four 'episodes' that follow, such a pre-cursor to the main event is self-deprecation as arform.

The first two pieces find Francis dealing with a possibly symbolic wolf before being forced to make a speech to war-torn Bologna. So powerful is his stand-up satire, it seems, that peace breaks out three days later. Both are sublime, but it is the second half's extended riff on Francis' attempts to tell the gospel in a more down-to-earth lingo than Latin where Pirovano really flies, before things finish up with the saint's final transcendent hours.

Inbetween playing assorted popes, cardinals and other animals, Pirovano presents Francis, not as the beatific Dr Doolittle figure he has been mythologised as, but more akin to Robin Hood, a man on a mission blessed with a common touch who wanders the world with his band of brothers spreading the word. All this is as far removed from the figure who the late Margaret Thatcher named her favourite saint as can be.

Penned by Fo in 1997, the play was brought to life by Pirovano as part of Dancing With Colours, Whipping With Words, a month-long celebration of Fo's work and its influence, including the first ever UK exhibition of Fo's paintings. There was a time when Fo's work was a regular fixture of Scotland's theatre calendar. In the current political climate which seems beyond parody, on this showing, we need his and Pirovano's sense of the ridiculous more than ever.

The Herald, October 10th 2016

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Vanishing Point - Lost Ones

SCHOOL'S out in downtown Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is a few days before the Sri Lankan new year in April, and, at the gates of Bishop's College, a few students are hoisting a banner for Exstastics, a Sunday night extravaganza that's a hipper version of a gang show. All 650 seats at the theatre are sold out, and there is an endof-term frisson in the air.

Outside the theatre itself a beggar lies prostrate as the Tuk Tuks - the barely-legal three-wheeler taxi cabs - buzz by. Inside, a culture shock from the mysterious west is taking shape. The Glasgow-based Vanishing Point theatre company is preparing for the opening night of their Edinburgh Fringe hit, Lost Ones. This dark slice of gothic fantasy has arrived in town following stints in Kosovo and Macedonia, having first impressed the talent scouts in Edinburgh last August at the biennial British Council showcase.


The urban sprawl of Colombo - which became a powder-keg last week following a series of mine and bomb attacks on military targets by Tamil Tiger rebels - allows few youth activities outside a monthly rock night, where angry death metal bands have their say on the state of the nation. Mirchandani has brought in slam poet Lucy English to strut her stuff in local coffee houses and helps oversee, too, the Gratiaen Award for literature, initiated by Sri Lankan-born novelist, Michael Ondaatje.

Where Kosovan and Macedonian audiences were exuberant in their appreciation of Lost Ones, Sri Lankans are quieter. The show is different from anything the country's reserved audiences have seen, not just in its subject matter, which concerns a writerwhose imagination is troubled by the ghosts of his murdered classmates, but in its fantastical style as well.

With banners across town, the word on Lost Ones is most definitely out. Outside a Buddhist temple on the main road, where a chained elephant stands with a pink coat covering all of its body apart from the eyes, a man stops me. He asks me what I'm doing here, and I tell him I'm accompanying a theatre company from Scotland.

He already knows all about Lost Ones. "I met an Irish actress yesterday, " he tells me and shows a list of names on what appears to be a petition, and explains that he is a teacher at a school of deaf children. The name Claire Lamont stands out. The penny, or rather, the Rupee, drops.

"Claire Lamont made a very generous donation, " the man says, pointing to a figure next to Claire's name. I duly cough up and make my escape, hurrying past another man squatting on the roadside with a basket from which a cobra's head slinks out.

"It was my first day here, " Lamont tells me later, "I didn't know what I was doing, but it seemed like a good idea at the time."

At a drama workshop earlier, Vanishing Point artistic director Matthew Lenton, working alongside Lamont and fellow actress Catherine Whitefield, explained to a group of keen trainee teachers and students exactly where Lost Ones came from. He talked about guilt and forgiveness, and about the tabloid hysteria over the Jamie Bulger case, when two boys, themselves barely out of short trousers, tortured and killed a toddler as if he were a toy. He also talks to them about Vanishing Point's working methods, about how "making a mess in the rehearsal room and playing around like kids" can lead to something like Lost Ones.

Nineteen-year-old Dilum and his friends Hirano and Mayura are the three keenest participants in the room. Their bright-eyed openness is impish and charming, and their easy rapport stands out from more academically inclined members of the group.  

"Because of the political situation it's sometimes hard to be creative, " Dilum tells me. "But we are hungry for something more than what we have here. We want to be creative, too."

Lost Ones isn't the first piece of contemporary theatre from Scotland to play in Sri Lanka. In 1997 a delegation from the country, including TV ad director Steve De La Zilwa, visited Edinburgh's Traverse where they saw Anna Weiss, Mike Cullen's blistering play about "received memory syndrome".

Blown away, De La Zilwa vowed to stage it at home, and within a year his own new production, with an ad hoc semi-professional company - the norm in a country with only a few low-level artistic outlets - was playing to sell-out audiences.

Ariel Dorfman's play, Widows, which also made its UK debut at The Traverse, has received two productions, one in Sinhalese, the most common language of Sri Lanka, and one in English. Given recent events and Sri Lanka's general history of unrest and struggle between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers, this Greek-influenced tale of women left at home during wartime has a far more obvious relevance to its immediate audience. Yet it is the far more controversial, taboo-busting Anna Weiss that has left its mark, and as theatre in Sri Lanka is subject to scrutiny by a censorship board, that speaks volumes about the desire for stronger fare. Every play-script must be presented before the board before a performance licence can be issued and while no-one seems entirely sure whether the scripts are actually read, lip service is paid to the process.

Lost Ones has had to be put through the rigmarole the same as any other script, and, despite more than a few "F" words, the production goes ahead unmolested.

On the first night the audience numbers just over a hundred. It's the smallest of the short run, which builds steadily over the course of the week.

According to Sri Lankan lighting designer Thusan Dias, who's been working closely with Vanishing Point's own designer, Kai Fischer, the show is the most significant imported inf luence on a moribund Sri Lankan theatre scene in recent years.

In the sixties, he says, theatre in Sri Lanka was at a high, be it performed in Sinhalese, Tamil or still-dominant post-colonial English. In the late seventies and early eighties, television took over, and many of the best dramatists moved into writing highquality soap operas.

By the 1990s, the country had to face insurrections in 1971 and 1989 and English-speaking theatre in particular was suffering. Then Shared Experience theatre company visited with their production of Mill on the Floss and when they returned in 2001 with Jane Eyre, local theatre-makers had learned from their example. "Vanishing Point will make an important mark in a different way, " Dias asserts. "Whereas Shared Experience was all about doing things in a big way, now, after Lost Ones, people will start using minimal things to their maximum level."

Coming from several generations of lighting designers, Dias was almost ruined when more than 70per cent of his equipment was washed away by the Christmas 2004 tsunami. Through Shared Experience, an appeal was put out to every theatre in the UK to help him continue his trade, and old stock was shipped out to Sri Lanka. The lights for Lost Ones in Bishop's College once belonged to the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Vanishing Point's final performance is the busiest yet, with more than 300 young people in attendance. They may be quiet, but afterwards many of them gather round Lenton and the cast, hungry for answers. They want to know how the magic of Lost Ones was created - and a group of boys has formed a fan club forWhitefield and Lamont. One or two, however, are interested in more spiritual concerns, about forgiveness and loss, and how tormented spirits can linger.

Whatever its appeal, Lost Ones is a hit and the headline in the Sri Lankan Sunday newspaper says it all. "Unconventional!" it roars, praising the show to the heavens. In Sri Lanka, as the kids who'll be at Exstastics that night know, that is becoming the highest praise.

Lost Ones will tour the UK in the autumn. Vanishing Point and Neil Cooper visited Colombo courtesy of the British Council.

The Herald, May 2nd 2006

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Friday, 7 October 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When Jason Manford's down-at-heel inventor Caractacus Potts rebuilds a rusted old banger in this new touring revival of Jeremy Sams' stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl scripted 1968 musical film, he gets a lot more than he bargained for with the flying machine that results from his tampering.

Inspired by Ian Fleming's short story awash with a trademark Bondesque array of customised cars, cartoon villains and exotic locales, the film's Bank holiday friendly songbook by Richard and Robert Sherman remains intact. James Brining's co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse and former Festival Theatre boss John Stalker's Music and Lyrics company uses all the resources at his disposal to hone a facility for musical theatre developed while running Dundee Rep.

With Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's adventures on land, sea and air brought to life by a mix of hi-tech back projections and old-school engineering, Manford helms the show as nice guy Potts opposite Charlotte Wakefield's Truly Scrumptious. This allows Phill Jupitus considerable leeway to ham it up as Baron Bomburst alongside Claire Sweeney as his Baroness.

In the spirit of the teamwork the show advocates, the supporting cast have the most fun. Sam Harrison and Scott Paige have a ball as Bulgarian buffoons Boris and Goran, and Jos Vantyler's Childcatcher is a malevolent Goth sprite. On opening night, Hayden Goldberg and Caitlin Surtees are one of three teams of child actors playing the Potts offspring.

But it is the full-on ensemble scenes that count, be it the mockney morris dancing display, the Sweeney-led samba extravaganza or the music box magic that liberates an entire nation in a tale designed to unleash the collective child within.

The Herald, October 10th 2016

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