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Showing posts from November, 2016

Five Guys Named Moe

Festival Square Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Looking for a real good time this Christmas? Then stroll on down to the magnificently named Funky Butt Club, the speakeasy dive that the quintet who give Clarke Peters' irresistibly infectious piece of musical theatre its name, and chase those winter blues away. Paulette Randall's revival of Peters' 1990 west end hit has taken over the purpose-built Festival Square Theatre as part of Underbelly's Edinburgh's Christmas season. With much of the action taking place on a revolving circular floor housed within the temporary construction's expansive in-the-round interior, the audience watch from cabaret tables within the circle, as the show's firecracker cast jump between the two spaces.

Here we meet Nomax, a down-at-heel big lug wallowing in self-pity after being dumped with good reason by his true love Lorraine. With a bottle in front of him and Louis Jordan playing on the radio, Nomax is in the thick of the ultima…

Leslie Bricusse - Scrooge! The Musical

It's a sunny morning in Los Angeles,and Leslie Bricusse is working on his latest musical.

“It's always sunny here,” says the man who co-wrote Goldfinger for Shirley Bassey with Anthony Newley and John Barry, and penned the score for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “It hasn't rained here for about for years, so it's beautiful.”

While there hasn't been anything resembling a drought regarding Bricusse's output, the sunny climate is perhaps a reflection of the now eighty-five year old writer and composer's outlook. This is evident from the fact that his new work will see him putting lyrics to Tchaikovsky's score for an animated version of The Nutcracker, the ever-green ballet drawn from Alexander Dumas' story, which was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman's short story about a little boy's favourite Christmas toy coming to life.

“Imagine,” says Bricusse. “My latest collaborator is Tchaikovsky. He's even older than Dickens.”

The novels of Ch…

George's Marvellous Medicine

Dundee Rep
Three stars

Growing pains don't come much more expansive than those shared by George, the boy alchemist at the heart of Roald Dahl's nasty little tale about how a terrier-like granny is brought down to size by a home-made cocktail of domestic detritus. In Stuart Paterson's Scots-tinged adaptation, first produced by Borderline Theatre and revived here in Joe Douglas' vivid pastel-shaded affair, Ann Louise Ross' Grandma is a bitter old crone in a purple wig and confined to an oversize armchair. With his mum and dad having both left the family farm for the day, poor bored George must tend to Grandma's every whim. When he starts cooking up a magic potion of his own design, however, Grandma gets a breath of fresh air in a way she never imagined.
George is helped along in his poisonous endeavours here by a quartet of colourful characters who
resemble ninjas at a teenage rave. Their status is confirmed, both by Michael John McCarthy's burbling elect…

Jazzateers – Don't Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Cowboy (Creeping Bent)

For a golden moment sometime around 1981, it seemed that pop music had been reborn as something primitive and pure. In a wilfully independent post-punk climate, anything and everything was up for grabs. Jazz, funk and all hybrids inbetween were de rigeur.

In Glasgow, care of Alan Horne's Postcard Records, this took the form of a short-lived but world-changing musical response to the spit and sawdust, razor gang machismo of the city’s unreconstructed pub life. It looked to the past of the Velvet Underground's more sensitive side, lounge bar jazz and Radio 2 for comfort. Orange Juice may have added extra camp, Josef K more funk and Aztec Camera more class to the template, but it was left to Postcard second-wavers Jazzateers to add an essence that fell somewhere between shambolic and chic.
With a name that conjured up a one-for-all, all-for-one coffee bar gang mentality, the original Jazzateers oeuvre was fragile, fey and overwhelmingly pretty. Led by guitarist Ian Burgoyne and b…

Ghost The Musical

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Three stars

When writer Bruce Joel Rubin and director Jerry Zucker's celestial romance first appeared on the big screen in 1990, it wasn't that far removed from 1960s cult TV show Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), only with extra added schmaltz. Two decades later, Rubin's musical stage play featuring songs by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart and songwriter Glen Ballard invested a further layer of gooeyness on a story which had already given Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers renewed anthemic status
As financier Sam and potter Molly's domestic bliss in their Brooklyn loft is cruelly cut short, none of this is a bad thing in Bob Tomson's touring production of Rubin and co's recently revamped version. Things may be a tad one-dimensional at times, but the balance between poignancy and slapstick works well, with much of the latter provided by Jacqui Dubois' gospel-singing medium, Oda Mae. The second act bank scene between Oda Mae …

Anthony Neilson - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

At first glance, Anthony Neilson might not be the most obvious choice to write a new stage version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as this year's Christmas show at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Neilson's early works, after all, were lumped in with the 1990s wave of so-called in-yer-face writers. As a theatre-maker who creates his work in the rehearsal room rather than at his desk, Neilson's way of working remains outwith the norm in text-based British theatre, particularly where it might be applied to a seasonal play for children.

Look again, however, and there is a magical quality that pulses much of Neilson's work, that seems to have leapt onto the stage straight from his head without any intellectual filter to restrain it. Neilson's most celebrated show to be seen in Scotland to date, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, originally produced by the Tron Theatre at the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, in part created a Wonderland style fantasia …

Screamers, Bangers & Cosmic Synths (Triassic Tusk)

Anyone who ever chanced upon Moon Hop, the occasional club co-run by members of Edinburgh-sired band FOUND, and which ran at Henry's Cellar Bar in Edinburgh throughout 2014 and 2015 will have stumbled into a late-night multi-cultural wonderland of musical riches. With the evening introduced by low-key live shows from the likes of The Sexual Objects, Withered Hand and ex Arab Strappers Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton playing separately, FOUND themselves could be seen in various solo guises and together. As wonderful as such uniquely styled outings were, Moon Hop's heart was pulsed by the records spunbefore, inbetween and after the live shows.

This came in the form of some of the wildest array of records you'd never heard, a euphoric melting pot of retro-futuristic psych soul funk disco eclectica spread out across the decades and culled from all four corners of the world. Here was a compilation album in waiting, something that could exist on a par with other crate-digging…

Little Shop of Horrors

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars

In their six year existence, the ever enterprising Sell A Door theatre company have carved something of a niche for themselves by touring brand new productions of hit musicals in a way more readily associated with the heavyweights of commercial musical theatre. Not that being relative new kids on the block has cowed them in any way. Tara Louis Wilkinson's take on writer Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken's 1982 campy pastiche inspired by Roger Corman's 1960 B-movie is very much alive and kicking in its approach.
Set in a Skid Row flower shop that's wilting badly, nerdy botanist Seymour stumbles upon a strange plant that brings dramatic fresh life to the neighbourhood. As the new money moves in accompanied by a media frenzy, Seymour's new status also improves his chances with shy shop girl Audrey, who he names the plant after. Audrey's dentist boyfriend Orin, meanwhile, as played by former X-Factor winner Rhydian, is a bi…

Dominic Hill - Citizens Theatre's Spring 2017 Season

It seems fitting that Citizens Theatre artistic director Dominic Hill is talking about the Gorbals-based theatre's 2017 spring season while his production of The Rivals is still running. While Hill may have carved a reputation for programming more serious works since he took over the reins of the Citz, Sheridan's eighteenth century comedy, which plays until this weekend, shows off Hill's lighter side. As does too his forthcoming take on Stuart Paterson's version of Hansel and Gretel, which is this year's Christmas show at the Citz. Coming at the end of a season in which the company's revival of Trainspotting has captured the imagination of audiences across Glasgow on a huge scale, there is clearly fun to be had at all levels.

As the Herald exclusively reveals the announcement of three shows and a mini festival that complete the Citizens Theatre's Spring 2017 season, tickets for which go on sale today, the theatre's more playful side can already be seen …

Leonard Cohen - Death of A Ladies Man

Leonard Cohen was a joy. It's suddenly okay to say that now that the Canadian poet, song-writer and increasingly deep-throated singer has died aged 82, just three weeks after what has turned out to be his final album, You Want it Darker, was released. It wasn't always the way. Received wisdom in my assorted teenage lairs was that Laughing Lenny, as I took to calling him in gentle mockery of his deadpan funereal delivery, was the ultimate miseryguts.

Growing up in the late 1970s and early 80s, existential crises were being embraced – albeit at a wilfully alienated distance – by assorted post-punk nihilists. Despair, depression and disorder were what seemed to make them tick in the urban wastelands we so self-consciously scowled our way around. Leonard Cohen, however, was as bleak as it gets. Or so we were told.

Cohen was one of those names to drop. Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Arthur Lee, Scott Walker and John Cale were others. These were names picked up from music paper eulogies…

The Male Nurse – The Male Nurse (Decemberism)

There was a time in the pre internet 1990s when some of Edinburgh city centre's darker Old Town thoroughfares were emblazoned with hastily-pasted posters heralding some of the capital's lesser sung future attractions. Around the Cowgate, one could occasionally spot samizdat crosses spray-painted onto walls in a way that suggested some kind of un-named insurgency was afoot even as it seemed to indicate an impending emergency. This graffiti tag was also part of a subliminal insurrection that announced The Male Nurse were in the area. A couple of decades on, a similarly styled blue cross on a white background now forms the Keith Farquhar-designed cover of this long overdue vinyl only compilation of one of pop's most wayward missing links.

The Male Nurse evolved from a band called Lucid, which featured vocalist Keith Farquhar, guitarists Alan Crichton and Andrew Hobson plus Craig Gibson, Spencer Smith and Martin Wilson, who had been at Leith Academy with Farquhar. Having playe…

Gina Birch - The Raincoats

Gina Birch can barely contain herself.

“We had the most amazing gig,” enthuses the bass player with the Raincoats, the band she co-founded almost forty years ago with guitarist and co-vocalist Ana da Silver. “What a night! It was fantastic! I'm still flying high.”

Birch is talking about the show the Raincoats did the night before at Islington Town Hall as part of the fortieth anniversary celebrations of Rough Trade, the record shop and label that became the social hub of London's post-hippy, post-punk underground in the mid-1970s. Back then, the Raincoats were part of the first wave of artists to release their records on Rough Trade in a way that would come to define a state of independence in the UK music scene.

On a label diverse enough to include releases by Belfast agit-punks Stiff Little Fingers, Sheffield electronicists Cabaret Voltaire and reggae legend Augustus Pablo, the Raincoats stood out alongside Swiss band Kleenex and the saxophone-led skronk of Essential Logi…

Secret Show 1

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

The clue in this latest adventure by the Blood of the Young company is very much in the title. Inspired by a similar wheeze initiated by the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith while its building was being renovated, director Paul Brotherston and a football team size cast of eleven are this week inviting audiences to take a chance on their production of an un-named play, without any expectations of what might await them.
This makes the reviewer's job a tricky one, as normal circumstances dictate that some basic elucidation regarding plot is usually forthcoming. As with Agatha Christie's long-running yarn, The Mousetrap, however, giving the game away in such a cavalier fashion here would be quite wrong. To be clear, no spoiler alerts are necessary.

All that can be said of the experience is that it is a cheekily irreverent eighty-minute version of a classic play that is performed in the Tron's Victorian Bar. At various points it features a holiday…

Mike Poulton - A Tale of Two Cities

It has been the best of times recently for Mike Poulton, whose stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities, opens in Edinburgh tonight as part of the current tour of a production originally seen in 2014 at the Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton. Directed by current Royal and Derngate boss James Dacre, Poulton's adaptation of Dickens' French Revolution set saga announced Dacre's tenure with an epic flourish honed over two decades of working on classic texts by the likes of Chekhov and Schiller, and which have been seen in productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company and on Broadway.

While more recently Poulton has adapted Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies for the RSC as well as a version of the York Mysteries, Dickens' tale of life during wartime is clearly a labour of love.

“I'd always wanted to do A Tale of Two Cities,” he says. “It was a favourite novel, and Dickens being a man of the theatre, you can se…

Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns (Know Your Enemy)

“Who doesn't/Emotionally Connect/To Music?” declaims Sandy Milroy in his observations of Daisy, a young woman who downloads the latest Adele album, midway through the nine minute epic that is It is Morning, the finger-jabbing slow-core centrepiece of the second cassette release by Milroy's Shareholder project as a full band. This follows on from Shareholder's previous band-based cassette, JimmyShan, that followed a slew of long out of print releases by Milroy in his solo Shareholder guise.

As a member of sludge-noise auteurs Muscletusk as well as siring Shareholder, Milroy has long been a key figure of Edinburgh's cross-pollinating avant-noise underground. In the last couple of years, however, by introducing vocals to the power trio that Shareholder has become, there is a more focused intent to the guitar, bass and drum clatter that lets rip over seven tracks like the bombs released from the war plane on the cassette's front cover collage.

With fellow travellers Gr…

The Rivals

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

If ever there was a play more perfectly suited to accommodate the Citizens Theatre's artistic director Dominic Hill's stylistic penchant for turning a play visibly inside out, so it appears to take place backstage, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's eighteenth century comedy of manners is hard to beat. In a work that puts social pretence at its heart, it seems fitting that we see the cast put on their wigs and elaborately powdered face masks even as they set the scene for Sheridan's similarly multi-layered romp around the houses of Bath en route to true love. And if the assorted picture frames that fly in and out with assorted painted backdrops are as artificial as the mirrors are empty of glass on designer Tom Rogers' set, the point about how looks can be deceptive is made even clearer.
The person most keen on keeping up appearances is Mrs Malaprop, played here by Julie Legrand as a tragicomic grand dame intent on bringing the most we…

The House of Bernarda Alba / The Burial at Thebes

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Three stars / Four stars

Family feuds are at the heart of these two productions performed by the RCS' final year BA Acting students. While the relationship between a domineering mother and her five daughters desperate to break her grip is the backbone of Federico Garcia Lorca's final play, The House of Bernarda Alba, a sister's love for her slain brother is what drives The Burial at Thebes, Seamus Heaney's take on Antigone. While Heaney's version lends a clarity to the original story's poetry made even clearer in Gareth Nicholls' expansive contemporary dress production, James Graham-Lujan and Richard L O'Connell's 1940 translation of Lorca enables director Ros Philips to take the play beyond words.
Philips begins playfully by having her cast of eight women line up onstage in nightgowns and introducing themselves accompanied by a Balearic beat before confiding something they've managed to avoid telling th…

Jimmy Cauty – The Aftermath Dislocation Principle

It was somehow fitting that The Aftermath Dislocation Principle, former KLF/K Foundation avant provocateur Jimmy Cauty's monumental installation of a post-catastrophic model village, arrived in Edinburgh's Grassmarket on the back of a lorry, on October 31st. Housed within a graffiti-daubed forty-foot metal shipping container and built on an epic scale, here was a miniature reimagining of a bombed-out British Everytown where the aftermath of some kind of un-named uprising had taken place. [do aftermaths take place? Perhaps another verb?] Advertised as being set in the near future, as with Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, however, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle looks very very now.

Not only did Cauty's model village park up at the King Stables Road end of the Grassmarket on Halloween, when a form of magic-inspired anarchy causes hordes of costume-clad celebrants to take to the streets and imbibe excesses of whatever alchemical brew takes their fancy. This year it was …

Million Dollar Quartet

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

December 4th 1956, as the projection on the stage curtain points out prior to Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's musical drama, marked one of the most significant moments in early rock and roll history. As Jason Donovan's Memphis record mogul Sam Phillips explains to the audience following a rousing rendition of Blue Suede Shoes by his young charges, it was the day that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and an unknown Jerry Lee Lewis ended up in Phillips' legendary Sun studio together for the first and last time. The recordings of the impromptu jam session that followed immortalised one of the earliest supergroups to never take the stage.
In Ian Talbot's production of a decade-old Broadway hit now embarking on its first UK tour, on the one hand this becomes a feelgood nostalgia-fest featuring a series of rapid-fire rock and roll classics belted out by the four principals, alongside Katie Ray as Elvis' girlfriend Dyan…

Julie Legrand - The Rivals

When Julie Legrand was growing up in Pitlochry, where she lived until she was three, she saw from afar the dubious glamour of an actor's life. This came via the family cottage in the garden that was let out as digs for members of the original Pitlochry Festival Theatre's incoming ensemble, who would perform in the theatre's summer season.

“I knew from an early age that something very special was going on down at the bottom of the garden,” Legrand says today. After more than thirty-five years as an actress on stage at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in West End musicals, as well as a leading stint in Footballers Wives on TV, Legrand is now steeped in the special world she witnessed as a child.

After more than twenty years away, this week sees her return to the even more special world of the Citz to play mispronouncing matriarch Mrs Malaprop in Dominic Hill's revival of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's eighteenth century comedy, …