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Showing posts from March, 2017

The Secret Goldfish – Petal Split (Creeping Bent)

It's kind of appropriate that it's taken the Secret Goldfish sixteen years to record a new album. For a band whose effusive garage-band punk pop has roots in post-Postcard C86 outfit Fizzbombs as much as 1960s girl-band bubblegum, this long-awaited follow-up to their Aqua-Pet and Mink Riots albums, with B-side and out-takes collection Jet Streams inbetween, is a coming of age of sorts.

Not that there's anything remotely sulky or world-weary in this fresh-as-a-daisy ten-song set from a band tellingly named after an imaginary tome name-checked in The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger's iconic novel of adolescent angst. Penned in the main by singer Katy McCullars and guitarist John Morose, with bass player Steven McSeveney and drummer Paul Turnbull providing ballast, roots are acknowledged by way of covers of Vic Godard and Edwyn Collins and an opening track written with Sexual Objects main-stays Davy Henderson and Simon Smeeton. The end result heralds the warmest return …

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

The question mark is everything in the title of Caryl Churchill's 2006 play, in which two gay lovers take on the world they might just be running. Not that anything is made too explicit here in a punishing forty-five minute ride around the psycho-sexual impetus behind the desperate need for power enough to shore up a void of self-loathing and a terror of anything resembling affection.
As Kevin Lennon's Sam and Sandy Grierson's Guy swagger around the Citizens' Circle Studio while the audience enter to a minimal techno soundtrack and bathed beneath swirling spotlights, this is certainly the case with Sam's more aggressive half of the partnership. Necking beer too fast and with a punchbag hanging within reach, he is the boss, and is clearly in charge of the punishment that is doled out to help keep him there, be it in Vietnam or any other war that blew up in his face. Guy is more passive, a too eager to please civil servant who …

Anita and Me

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Neil Cooper
Three stars

When a shaven-headed teenage boy wearing braces starts ranting about how foreigners are coming over here and stealing all our jobs, the ignorant fury of such a statement mid-way through Tanika Gupta's stage version of Meera Syal's 1996 novel, sounds chillingly of the moment. Such is the knee-jerk response of Little England to disenfranchisement and difference, it seems, whatever decade we're in.
Up until that point, thirteen year old Meena has led a noisy if fairly sheltered life growing up amidst the bustle of her Indian family in the red-brick Midlands mining village of Tollington. Slade are on the radio, and boys are the imaginary stuff of the letters she sends in song to teenage agony aunts Cathy and Claire in Jackie magazine. If only she could be blonde like her wild child pal Anita, then she wouldn't have to wrap her cardigan around her head as if it were a wig.

On one level this sounds as much a comic back-…

My Country; A Work in Progress

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It's half an hour before a suited and booted Britannia turns the power on at the start of the National Theatre of Great Britain's meditation on the life and times of the UK in a post-Brexit world. Down the street from the Citizens Theatre, opposite the Mosque, a man with a pukka English accent explains to a young Asian man how the pelican crossing works. Both seem amused by such a seemingly alien means of controlling traffic flow.
As Article 50 is finally activated, such an incident seems to offer hope beyond the confusion expressed in the patchwork of voices in the NToGB's play, woven together by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and director Rufus Norris from 300 hours of interviews with voters from Britain's nations and regions. As Britannia pulls together six other similarly sober-looking ciphers to give them voice, the population's everyday fears are punctuated by the platitudes and promises drawn from the real-life politicians…

Zinnie Harris, Morna Pearson, Stef Smith, Amanda Tyndall - Theatre Meets Science at Edinburgh International Science Festival Theatre

When worlds collide, what happens next is usually the stuff of disaster movies. This has never been the case with Edinburgh International Science Festival, however, as this year's substantial and expansive theatre programme looks set to prove. While the children and families theatre section features a brand new commission, Cosmonaut, site-specific specialists Grid Iron team up with Lung Ha Theatre Company for Dr Stirlingshire's Discovery, which is performed in the grounds of Edinburgh Zoo.

Things take off even more in the adult programme, as both of the city's main producing theatres present major productions as part of the Festival. At the Royal Lyceum Theatre, playwright/director Zinnie Harris oversees the Scottish premiere of Caryl Churchill's look at cloning, A Number. At the Traverse Theatre, meanwhile, artistic director Orla O'Loughlin presents Girl in the Machine, a new play by Stef Smith which looks at the all-consuming nature of twenty-first century techno…

Mick Harvey

When Mick Harvey and band opt to perform a semi-instrumental version of Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus towards the end of a set of Serge Gainsbourg translations topromote Harvey's newly released fourth volume of Gainsbourg covers, Intoxicated Women, it's a bit different from the version played in London the night before.

Then, Harvey duetted with German chanteuse Andrea Schroeder in her native language translated as Ich liebe dich...ich dich auch nicht. With Schroeder unable to make the Edinburgh visit for this show curated by Summerhall's Nothing Ever Happens Here operation, Harvey opted not to draft in guitarist and co-vocalist Xanthe Waite as what might have seemed an obvious stand-in. “She's my niece,” deadpans Harvey regarding her absence, “and that would've been wrong.”
Such a trifle probably wouldn't have stopped Gainsbourg from doubling up on one ofthe most erotically charged numbers ever committed to vinyl. Harvey's actions nevertheless sum up how surp…

All The Little Lights

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It looks like a game at first, when the three girls in Jane Upton's play come together for a surprise birthday party on a make-shift campsite amongst all the rubbish down by the railway. Look closer, however, and beyond the supermarket cake and the games of dare on the track-lines, and it's clear that Joanne has got Lisa here for a reason.
Twelve year old Amy probably wouldn't understand. She's “cute, but not in a baby way,” but both Joanne and Lisa bear the scars of what happened at the grown-up parties with the man from the chippy. Lisa got out, to a nice house like those she used to make up stories about as she and Joanne peered through the windows. But unless Joanne does something soon, she'll never get out, and she'll take Amy down with her.

Inspired by recent cases of child sexual grooming gangs, in which some 'older' girls were used to procure younger ones, Upton's joint winner of the 2016 George Devine Most …

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Three stars

Business is business at the start of Hugh Hodgart's revival of Shakespeare's sunniest rom-com, as performed by MA Classical and Contemporary Text students at RCS, in partnership with Bard in the Botanics. Love and money are in the air as Theseus and Hippolyta announce their nuptials to the world's press, sealing the deal on an unholy alliance between Athens and Amazonia as they go. As Honey Durruthy's Egius seeks advice on the merry-go-round romance between Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius, Theseus' line to Hermia about austerity and single life becomes even more pointed by its power-dressing context.
While Hermia and Lysander's camping trip to the woods doesn't end well, especially when Hermia's love-sick hippy chick mate Helena is around, the Rude Mechanicals' worker's playtime sees Bottom briefly become Titania's bit of rough. With Isabel Palmstierna's Puck at the centre of such cac…

Steven Severin – The Vril Harmonies

For almost two decades now, Steven Severin's solo instrumental work has largely kept its own counsel in the shadows. The output of the former co-founder and bass player of Siouxsie and the Banshees has been prodigious, with a dozen albums of dark ambient soundscapes released thus far.

This began in 1998 with Visions, an extended reworking of his soundtrack to Nigel Wingrove's short film, Visions of Ecstasy, almost a decade before. Unreleased until 2012, Wingrove's sensual fantasia inspired by the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila is the only film to have been refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Censors on the grounds of blasphemy.
Since then, Severin has released scores for theatre and film, including the soundtrack for supernatural thriller London Voodoo and Richard Jobson's film, The Purifiers, as well as for one-time Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance performer/director, Shakti. Since Severin himself moved to Edinburgh twelve years ago, he has become even…

Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish - Offside

Sabrina Mahfouz wasn't interested in football when she started work on Offside, the play she co-wrote with fellow poet Holly McNish, and which tours to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh next week. Mahfouz didn't really do sport at all, while McNish had been more interested in playing the game than watching it when she was a student, to the extent that she trained as a coach for young people. By the time they dug deep into the history of women's football, which forms the backdrop of the play, they were both very much on the same side.

“The initial idea for the play came from Caroline Bryant, who's the artistic director of Futures Theatre, and who's this massive football fan,” says Mahfouz. “Her daughter plays football, and she was always going on about wanting to make a show about women's football. I wasn't sure if I was the right person to do it, but as soon as I looked into it, and saw all this stuff about how football had been used as a political tool aga…

Between poles and tides

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh until May 6th
Three stars

In difficult times, getting back to nature is one solution, as demonstrated in some of the works on show in this group-based exhibition of new acquisitions from the University of Edinburgh art collection. Things aren't always as they seem, however, in the series of paintings, video, publications and sound-based works, as the leopard's face looking out from Zane (2013), Isobel Turley's two-second video loop of this most endangered of species suggests. Filmed in Edinburgh Zoo, Zane's steely gaze may suggest he is guarding the other exhibits, when in fact he has been immortalised in another, more Sisyphean form of captivity. The voice-over of another video, Daisy Lafarge's Not For Gain (2016) hints at an even more invidious form of social control.
The row of wall-clocks in Katie Paterson's Timepieces (Solar System) (2014) points to the global interplay between such things, while her Paterson's Future L…

Bill Drummond, Johny Brown and The Cherry Blossom Quartet

Bill Drummond is full of surprises. Just ask Johny Brown, poet, playwright and for three decades the soothsaying frontman of Band of Holy Joy, whose state-of-the-nation musical addresses have become increasingly urgent dispatches from austerity Britain. When Drummond handed Brown a set of plays that he'd written and asked him if he thought he might be able to do anything with them, it was a gesture that came out of the blue.

The result of this is The Cherry Blossom Quartet, a five-night series of radio broadcasts of the plays, adapted by Brown and performed live with accompanying soundscapes on community-based online art radio station, Resonance FM. With a cast that features the likes of Joe Cushley and Sukie Smith, Drummond will be given voice by actor, activist and long term collaborator of Brown's, Tam Dean Burn.
“Bill's never written a play before,” says Brown, “but he started going to watch all these plays at the Arcola Theatre in London close to where he lives in Sto…

Elvis Costello

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

"I never thought I'd have to sing this again," says Elvis Costello before the final song of a two and a half hour set that makes up the very personal rummage through his back pages that is his solo Detour show. By this time he's showed us snaps from a family album that includes footage of his dad, big band crooner Ross McManus, after introducing the evening with videos of his own career on a giant mock-up of a 1960s TV set. He's entered with a shimmy and moved from acoustic guitar to electric with a stint at the piano in between.
One minute Costello is a showbiz raconteur cracking jokes, the next he's playing a ferocious version of Watching the Detectives while bathed in a moody green light as retro-styled pulp fiction posters flash up behind him. There is a funereal piano-led version of his Falklands War elegy, Shipbuilding, and an unamplified Alison. Following a blistering take on Oliver's Army against an image …

Hay Fever

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

There is a moment in-between the second and third acts of Dominic Hill's new production of Noel Coward's 1920s comedy when the flapping stops. That moment belongs to Clara, the life-long dresser and some-time servant to the divine Judith Bliss, actress, matriarch and all-round self-styled legend. As played by Myra McFadyen with a beetling dolefulness, Clara's red-draped routine both confirms and subverts the heightened artifice of everything she is otherwise sidelined from. In this way, she also becomes the melancholy conscience of a play in which the bohemian Bliss family are so desperate to have a good time that even pleasure becomes a struggle.
Coward's conceit of having the Bliss clan so individually self-absorbed that they each invite a weekend guest allows them to be adored by those who become both spectators and bit players in Judith and co's never-ending soap opera. It isn't just Susan Wooldridge's studie…

Rufus Norris - My Country: A Work in Progress

Just before Christmas, Rufus Norris spent a week in Fife listening to the 300 hours of interviews that had been recorded for My Country: A Work in Progress, the post-Brexit state of the nations verbatim show he was developing with the National Theatre of Great Britain. It was during this seasonal sabbatical that the enormity of the show, which arrives at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow next week, hit home.

As artistic director of the NToGB, Norris is the head of an institution housed on London's South Bank, and which arguably goes some way to defining the public face of a liberal middle-class elite. Now here he was, listening intently to the voices of those across the length and breadth of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales who may not have ever graced that institution's brutalist portals. Hearing these people's words while holed up in a place where some of the interviewees aged between nine and ninety-seven might well reside, and with a rather quainter kind of metropoli…