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Love and Information

Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

When the small screens on which digital captions display both the titles and dialogue of Caryl Churchill's remarkable 2012 work briefly fall prey to technical gremlins mid-way through, without a word, the glitch accidentally sums up everything both the play and this unique production is about. Broken into fifty bite-scenes divided into four sections bridged by artfully riotous scene-changes, Churchill's text strips language down to its bare minimum. This is done by way of a series of duo-logues that show people reaching out for each other, more often than not in vain.
In a world where social media, computer-generated communication and virtual technology keeps everything at an increasingly distant remove, flesh and blood encounters are increasingly brief. As each couple attempts to get to the heart of the matter in scenes sometimes barely longer than a sketch, plenty of room is left for interpretation.

This is certainly the case in J…

David Bates – La Clique Noel, The Famous Spiegeltent and Edinburgh's Christmas

Less than a year ago, David Bates thought he might well be done with Edinburgh. The owner and producer of the Famous Spiegeltent, who had transformed a ninety-seven year old construction into a global brand which in part had come to define the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, had been told that the site the Famous Spiegeltent had operated out of in St Andrew Square since 2014 was no longer available. Essential Edinburgh, who manage the site, said they wanted the Gardens to return to a “relaxation space,” although the short notice of their decision left the Famous Spiegeltent without a home for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

All this created a bit of a kerfuffle, exacerbated somewhat by Edinburgh International Festival using St Andrew Square for this year's Standard Life sponsored opening event, the light-based spectacular, Bloom.

Ten months on, Bates is back in Edinburgh even if the Famous Spiegeltent as a physical entity isn't. A different spiegeltent is here, howeve…

Cabaret

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Five stars

Will Young's pasty-faced Emcee pokes his head through the giant 'O' in the word 'WILLKOMMEN' that covers the stage curtain at the start of this touring revival of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb's finest musical hour. Young's peek-a-boo moment shatters through something monumental, even as it hails the coming new order. With Emcee the gate-keeper to Berlin's 1930s underground club scene, Young resembles a malevolent doll in leather lederhosen. By the end of the first act, Young is pulling the strings, as he leads a chilling version of Tomorrow Belongs To Me.
Such are the delicious contradictions of a show originally drawn from Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories, with Young Olivier nominated when he first appeared in Rufus Norris' West End production five years ago. On the one hand, Joe Masteroff's book is a damning indictment of how austerity culture and mass disaffection is exploited by p…

Tabula Rasa

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Mid-way through this stark meditation on loss, and the care that's required in the lead up to that loss, actress Pauline Goldsmith stands in the swirl of strings conjured up by the twelve musicians who surround her. Up until then, her character has been a kind of hospital ward-bound raconteur, reeling off warts and all yarns concerning the funeral of a friend called Peter, and his descent into death that pre-ceded it. Dressed in scarlet in a world of black and white, Goldsmith's deadpan and unflinching monologues at moments recall the taboo-busting elaborations of 1970s comedian Dave Allen.
In this cross-artform collaboration between Vanishing Point theatre company and the Scottish Ensemble, however, Goldsmith's punchlines come through four pieces by Estonian composer Arvo Part. With the Scottish Ensemble playing them live, as Goldsmith stands among the twelve musicians, it looks like they might have been conjured from her own mind …

David Paul Jones – Something There

When a track from David Paul Jones' Samuel Beckett inspired Something There album was played on the radio, a remarkable thing happened. Jones' contemporary classical suite, performed by the Ayrshire-born composer's eight-piece DPJ Ensemble, had been released by Linn Records, and was picked up by Australia's ABC Classic FM station. The third track, the wistfully named The Sun Comes and Goes in the Land of Woop-Woop, was a particular favourite. Over its nearly sixteen minutes duration, the music's layers of piano, cello and saxophone soaked ambience evolves into a heartfelt emotional meditation made flesh by its vocal arrangements.

When it was played, one listener emailed Jones care of Linn, to thank him for the piece. More specifically, the writer of the email was hospital-bound and in constant pain with terminal cancer. When he turned on the radio and heard Jones' music, however, as Jones remembers it, “He said for that moment, or for the track's duration, …

Mozart vs Machine

Sound Festival @ The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Saturday November 11th

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stands in peri-wigged triumph. Towards the end of what's billed as 'an electronic essay collage opera', the shades-sporting eighteenth century composer looks every inch the glam-tastic pop star he was, living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful body of work. For the last hour or so, Mozart has been squaring up to Raymond Scott, one of the great-grand-daddies of twentieth century electronic music, whose experiments with gadgets and gizmos saw him invent what he called the Electronium, which was arguably the world's first self-composing synthesiser. The future would have sounded a lot different without Scott's pioneering work, and Bob Moog,who worked with him prior to inventing the epoch-changing Moog synthesiser, cited his former employer as a major influence.

Here, Scott's inventions open up a wormhole in time that sees Mozart take a leap into a future that allows him…

Lampedusa

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It could be anywhere, the sparse expanse of beach littered with washed-up detritus that covers the stage throughout Jack Nurse's revival of Anders Lustgarten's quietly impassioned plea for humanity. As the title of Lustgarten's play makes clear, it is actually the Italian island that is the gateway to Europe for migrants attempting to flee Syria and other places. It is also where Andy Clark's grim-faced fisherman Stefano is employed to scoop up the drowned bodies of those who didn't make it.

Closer to home, in a northern English town on the other side of the world, Anglo-Chinese student Denise attempts to make ends meet as a debt collector for a payday loan company. Louise Mai Newberry's Denise is smart enough to understand how poverty and prejudice work, but is herself trapped by her mother's incapacity.

As Lustgarten's twin monologues weave across each other, the connections between the two become painfully clea…

Together

Glasgow Film Theatre, November 6th
Five stars


The London East End laid bare in Italian film-maker Lorenza Mazetti’s fascinating 52 minute piece of post World War Two poetic realism looks a far cry from the gentrified hipster’s paradise it would become half a century later. Dating from 1956, the novelty of seeing the film now as part of a UK tour promoted by the Bo'ness-based Hippodrome Film Festival, who commissioned a new live score by contemporary improvisers Raymond MacDonald and Christian Ferlaino, is the presence of the then unknown Leith-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi.

In his only acting role, the then thirty-two year old Paolozzi appears alongside painter Michael Andrews as a pair of deaf dockers navigating their way through the blitz-battered streets. Here, gangs of children mock the men's silence with delighted cruelty, while the pair remain oblivious to the everyday noises of the pub, market and fun fair. As a double act, where Andrews lean-ness reflects his outgoing desi…

Barry Miles and James Birch - The British Underground Press of the Sixties

It was fifty years ago this year that the so-called summer of love burst forth with a wave of hippy idealism played out to a psychedelic soundtrack. In the UK, much of the activity sprang from the coming together of counter-cultural forces two years earlier at the International Poetry Incarnation. Held at the Royal Albert Hall, this iconic event put American beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the top of the bill of some of the finest (male) minds of his generation.

Immortalised on film by Peter Whitehead's short documentary film, released the same year, the IPA subsequently spawned numerous Happenings, where psych-rock bands, triptastic light shows and freaky dancing set the template for high times to come. Barry Miles, who worked at Better Books, where the idea for the IPA was hatched, saw the possibility for a magazine to help disseminate all the alternative ideas that were brewing around sex, drugs and rock and roll. The result of this was International Times, or IT, a playful and p…

Jonathan Lloyd - Love and Information, Solar Bear and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's British Sign Language and English Course

When Jonathan Lloyd decided to direct a production of Caryl Churchill's play, Love and Information, with final year students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's unique three year BA Performance in British Sign Language and English degree, he knew it wasn't an obvious choice. On the one hand, the recently installed director of Solar Bear theatre company had a group of performers who all define themselves as deaf or D/deaf (more of the latter definition later), who would be embarking on their first ever tour of professional venues. This would showcase the company's talents with maximum exposure beyond the relatively safe confines of the academic environment.

On the other, Lloyd had selected a play looking at the information age, but which, over its fifty short scenes, is seriously open to interpretation. With no stage directions or any indication of setting or character names, the result of this is a tantalising production performed by a cast of ten in a mix of Br…

The Wipers Times

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Four stars

When the editorial team behind a mould-breaking satirical magazine go over the top at the end of the first act of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman's play, as heroic gestures go, it's no joke. This is World War One, after all, and the merry pranksters from an ad hoc zine called The Wipers Times are on the frontline of battle in the Belgian town no-one can pronounce. Given that the men are genuinely going over the top and into battle, casualties are considerably higher than the occasional suit for libel.
Led by rebellious officers Fred Roberts and Jack Pearson, the magazine allows a rare voice for good-natured if at times scurrilous dissent on the trenches, and acts as an inadvertent morale booster. The bad guys, of course, are the office-bound pen-pushers and top brass bureaucrats, represented here by Sam Ducane’s cartoon toff, Lieutenant Colonel Howfield.

While it never totally transcends its TV roots, the play's sit-com style scenes are peppere…

Wire

The Mash House, Edinburgh
Monday November 6th

There’s nothing remotely flabby about Wire, the wilfully singular accidental veterans of the so-called punk wars, who recently insisted on Marc Riley’s BBC 6Music A-Z of Punk that they categorically weren’t punk at all. Given that the metal machine music of this year’s Silver/Lead album sounds as driven and as purposeful as any of their initial trilogy of 1977-79 albums, you can see their point.

Live, the band's original core trio of Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis and drummer Robert Grey, plus guitarist Matthew Simms, take no prisoners, and never play to type. This is the case from the curiously rock star-like head-wear of Lewis and chief vocalist and guitarist Newman - a flat cap and a trucker’s cap respectively - to the stoic refusal to play almost anything resembling ‘the hits’. As the ipad perched on Newman's mic stand, from which he reads his lyrics suggests, Wire are as twenty-first century as it gets.

This doesn't…

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman - The Wipers Times

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman are used to being in the frontline. As editor and cartoonist respectively of satirical bible Private Eye, they have spent many a year dodging metaphorical bullets from an outraged political establishment. As script-writers too, ever since they worked on revues together while at Ardingly College public school in West Sussex (also the alma mater of four Conservative MPs – so far), they have consistently bitten the hand that feeds them.

While Hislop is best known as long-standing team captain on satirical TV quiz show, Have I Got News For You, Newman's career as writer and cartoonist has seen his work appear in high-end publications such as Punch and The Spectator. Together as writers, they created the character of gormless toff and old Ardinglyian, Tim Nice-But-Dim, for The Harry Enfield Show on TV, and, among numerous radio works, in 1994 penned Gush, a satire based on the Gulf War and written in the style of Jeffrey Archer.

Despite such a collective ar…

Wind Resistance

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

The sound of birdsong floats about the auditorium as Karine Polwart comes on stage to perform her meditation on the land, sea and air that surrounds her in Fala, the village just outside Edinburgh she calls home. It's a sound that soothes, possibly because, as Polwart talks of the 2,400 pink-footed geese that fly from Greenland to Fala every winter, it's clear it is the voices of the many. Skyborne socialism, Polwart calls it.
The geese become a leaping off point for a show that fuses songs and stories to create a beautiful evocation of the need for community in an increasingly fractured world. This is the case whether Polwart talks us through her complicated pregnancy a decade ago and the heroic support she received, or an unlikely but apt evocation of football manager Alex Ferguson's philosophy of teamwork. There are too the everyday tragedies of those whose lives were cruelly cut short, like real life couple Roberta and Will,…

Duet For One

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

When successful classical violinist Stephanie is struck down in her prime by multiple sclerosis, her entire creative lifeblood is ripped asunder as she is left wheelchair-bound. This leads to a set of reluctant sessions with stoic psychiatrist Dr Feldmann, whose gnomic line of inquiry is a knowing counterpoint to Stephanie's more mercurial tendencies. As her moods swing between defensiveness, rage and self-loathing, Stephanie is forced to face up to a new life, literally playing second fiddle to both her less talented students and her increasingly experimental composer husband.
Tom Kempinski's 1980 study of enforced artistic debilitation was a huge hit when it first appeared in 1980. This was possibly because of the play's reported inspiration, iconic cellist Jacqueline du Pre, who, like Stephanie, also had her musical career cut short by MS. This is a connection Kempinski now denies in a pithy programme note for this touring rev…

Anders Lustgarten - Lampedusa

When Anders Lustgarten wrote the first draft of his play, Lampedusa, in late 2014, it seemed no-one was really talking about what was a then largely un-noticed international migrant crisis. The week before the play opened in London a few months later, Lustgarten notes, over 400 migrants were killed when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya. A few days later, over 700 people were drowned trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, which the play is named after, and which has become a primary European entry point for mainly African migrants.

“The journey of the play is an interesting one,” says Lustgarten, as a new production of Lampedusa prepares to open in the intimate confines of the Citizens Theatre's Circle Studio in association with the young Wonder Fools company, overseen by director Jack Nurse. “I'd been doing a lot of work on development banks, and one of the things they do is displace people, and through organisations like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) t…

Inverleith House - The Art Newspaper Letter

To whom it may concern

I was surprised to read in The Art Newspaper how internationally renowned Edinburgh artspace Inverleith House had apparently been 'saved' from closure. Simon Milne, the publicly accountable Regius Keeper of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where Inverleith House is situated, claimed that “There was a rumour that we are not going to do art anymore...that was never the case.” Milne repeated his claims in the Herald newspaper on September 15th 2017.

Milne's claims directly contradict the statement RBGE were forced to make in October 2016 when details of the closure were leaked to the press. The statement said that “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.”

In an interview in the Herald on October 19th 2016, Milne was quoted as saying that Inverleith House was unable to “wash its face” financially. Milne also said that “These are hard financ…

Matthew Lenton, Jonathan Morton, Vanishing Point and the Scottish Ensemble - Tabula Rasa

In a dimly lit rehearsal room, a troupe of performers are slow-walking their way into the performance area as mournful music plays. Led by actresses Pauline Goldsmith and Cath Whitefield, the other twelve people seem to be clawing their way onstage,cutting loose as they go in some undefined quasi religious ritual. At moments the choreographed stage shapes they throw look somewhere between the video for Michael Jackson's song, Thriller, and a line dance. While some of it can't help but look silly, it is the sight of a company cutting loose in order to explore what their performance, in its early stages and still largely formless, is about.

This may be standard for a theatre company such as Vanishing Point, whose artistic director and creative visionary Matthew Lenton is sitting in the dark, shouting words from a text at the performers as they go. With the musical accompaniment, it's a hypnotic and oddly moving spectacle. The best thing of all about is when you remember th…

The Monarch of the Glen

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Enough tartan tat to line Pitlochry high street carpets the stage like a badly furnished highland hotel at the opening of Peter Arnott's swish new stage adaptation of Compton Mackenzie's 1941 comic novel. A pantomime style stag looms on the horizon before a troupe of socialist hikers march onto land marked by 'No Trespassing' signs later used for firewood.
Welcome to Glenbogle, the crumbling pile overseen by Donald MacDonald of MacDonald, aka Ben Nevis, whose territorial claims on the land don't seem to apply when he and his partner in crime Kilwhillie are flogging it off to big-talking American developer, Chester Royde. Chester's trophy bride Carrie has her own vested interest, while her sister-in-law Myrtle is more inclined to colonise hunky nationalist poet, Alan, than nice-but-dim Hector. Tellingly, Alan sides with the tartan Tories to repel English boarders.

The symbolism is laid on with a Saltire-patterned trowel in…

Pathfoot Building at 50 - The Spirit of '67 and Turning the World Upside Down

In 1967, the world was being turned upside down. With the counter culture in full psychedelic swing, the so-called Summer of Love was about to break, even as protests against the Vietnam War were building to a peak while race riots flared up across America. In the UK, homosexuality was decriminalised, while abortion was legalised.

Closer to home, Celtic won the European Cup and championship, the first Northern European club to do so. Meanwhile, the global village Marshall McLuhan had predicted was brought into our living rooms when the first ever live international satellite broadcast saw 400 million viewers watch the Beatles fanfare in All You Need is Love.
It may have been the Fab Four's kaleidoscopic masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and later their Magical Mystery Tour record and film that sound-tracked the year, but things were happening underground as well. Beyond the tripped-out whimsy of Pink Floyd's debut record, the Doors, Love's Fore…

Young Fathers - Squaring Up to A Black and White World

When Mercury Music Prize winning band Young Fathers were commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to make a short film, the Edinburgh based trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings relished the proposition. The context was a UK tour of Van Dyck's seventeenth century painting, Self-portrait. Having been purchased by the NPG in 2014, Van Dyck's work formed a key part of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's Summer 2017 exhibition, Looking Good: The Male Gaze from Van Dyck to Lucien Freud, which explored male image, identity and appearance.

Young Fathers' film was one of six commissions. Other artists who made films were Marcus Coates, John Stezaker, Mark Wallinger, Karrie Fransman and Jason Turner. It was Young Fathers' film, however, that garnered much of the attention.

Over a low electronic hum, the film, shot in SNPG, features a text co-written by Bankole with Young Fathers former manager Tim Brinkhurst. The words are …