Edinburgh’s Christmas Theatrical Blessings.


how-to-disappear-traverse-theatre-edinburgh.png

We really are blessed in our wee city with theatrical greatness.  The Kings’ Panto (not my cup of tea) is great I’m told.  The Lyceum’s Arabian Nights is extraordinary.  A beautiful musical adventure with a multi cultural cast that grows and grows as the show develops – not your usual Christmas fare I concede, but it is really very good.

And today Jeana and I were again blessed to see a not very busy matinee of the extraordinary ‘How to Disappear’.

It’s not really a Christmas show, it’s really just a show that’s on in December, set in December, but it is brilliant.  Really brilliant.  Three astonishing performances in Morna Pearson’s mental health and government fuckwitterey assault on the bastards that run our asylum.

Owen Whitelaw is full on awesome in his role as a befuddled genius detached from the world because of his mental health issues, his lovely caring sister, Isla,  played so sympathetically by Kirsty Mackay is just delightful and, at its heart, is the bad cop (or is she?), the benefits assessor Jessica (Sally Reid, quite magnificent).

It’s delivered in Doric.  Why?  I don’t know but it’s BEAUTIFUL because of that.

It’s bleak, it’s moving, it’s hilarious.  It’s magnificent.  Please buy yourself an early Christmas present and go see it because you’ll thank me.

The Disaster Artist: Movie Review


13-disaster-artist.w710.h473.jpg

The Disaster Artist is essentially a biopic of an episode in the life of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, a failed actor who somehow managed to spend over $6m on making what some regard as the worst film in Hollywood history; The Room. (It scores 3.6 on IMDB for information.)

I would urge you to at least watch some of the ‘Best of The Room’ videos that you can find on Youtube before seeing tThe Disaster Artist.  Better still, go to a screening of the movie which has reached such levels of cult status and interactivity that it’s become a bit like a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening or a Singalonga Sound of Music.

I mean it’s awful.  The Room, that is.

Here we find out how it came about and that means trying to get under the skin of Tommy Wiseau himself, clearly a task that James Franko has tackled with some relish, as he plays the lead role (and, like Wiseua directs the movie). His younger brother Dave Franko plays Wiseau’s best friend Greg who plays Mark in the movie.

It’s outright weird in places as we try to get to grips with Wiseau’s accent – at times he is virtually unintelligible (including in The Room final cut – one of its great charms).  He claims to be from St Louis but he looks Chinese or certainly East Asian and sounds Hungarian or certainly Eastern European.  It’s a bizarre mash up that Franko nails from the off.

Then there’s the money, where does it come from?  No clues are given. And his sexuality?  His relationship with Greg is nothing if not close, but there is no sexual advances made on his ‘baby faced” charge who he takes in to his home in LA.

Seth Rogan has a supporting role as an exasperated Script Supervisor/stand in director when Tommy is on screen – one famous scene required 67 takes and is captured hilariously here.

But it’s all a little sad.  Clearly we are laughing AT Wiseau not WITH him and it all felt a little charmless in that respect.  There’s no doubt Franko pulls it off and his brother also has a good turn, but for me I’d have liked just a spark of sympathy for the big fella.

The movie has gone on to wash its face and Wiseau has milked it enthusiastically over the years – maybe a little more than a caption to that effect would have given Tommy the last laugh.

 

‘Me First You 2nd.’ A journey through mental health challenges.


Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 11.07.57.png

Left to right.  My Uncle willie (RIP) Auntie Anne and Madeleine.

One of the things about my Uncle Willie’s funeral, that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was the kind of awe that I felt spending time with my extended family (dominated in numbers by the wonderful Vidlers).

Remember that beatific smile I told you about?  He’s wearing it above.

Specifically, I mentioned the letter that Madeleine read out to her Granny and Grandad and how moving and charming it was.  Well, I got speaking to her afterwards and she mentioned that she writes a blog.  Not just any old blog; an award nominated blog –  the  Leibster blogging award.

In her byline Mads writes: My life with mental health. A road to recovery. Surviving the 21st century. Being happy. Throw the stick-ma away. And breath…  

It turns out this is Mads’ story about her journey through life suffering from a triple whammy of debilitating mental illness, specifically; obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) as we’ll as periods of low mood. (She points out also that she is a little dyslexic).

You might think that this could add up to a pretty difficult read, and there are heart wrenching moments but it’s also interspersed with humour and hope.  Although low mood is clearly an extremely toxic scenario Mads in one of her posts brilliantly and entertainingly brings the subject to life.

Problem: ‘Not clingy enough skinny jeans’

Outcome: Significant anxiety and low mood

Solution: 6 year old slightly smelly £1 blue IKEA cushion.

I’d strongly recommend that you follow Mads’ blog particularly if you know people with the above mental health challenges or are in this position yourself.

Well done Mads.  Keep up the good work.

Meantime I’ll content myself with slagging off politicians and telling fart gags.

My Wonderful Uncle Willie. (20 June 1941 – 23 November 2017)


23847416_1951946051487461_4976555599607414604_o-1.jpg

Kathryn, Kenneth, Willie, Anne, Andrew, Susan and Julie.  All the family.

Although my Uncle Willie passed away on 23rd November we had to wait rather a long time to say our final farewells.  The reason being that he had died from complications as a result of contracting Mesothelioma, a truly horrendous disease caused by inhalation of Asbestos during his time working as an electrician in the construction of his beloved Cockenzie Power Station, which, like him, has been laid to rest.

Although many tears were shed at his funeral mass and then again during a rendition of Annie’s song by John Denver, yesterday was a joyous occasion.   (Amusingly, his granddaughter Lucille told me it was the only song he knew, but it was to open the floodgates yesterday at 12:05; my cousin Georgia and sister Jane somehow managed to sing along through their veil of tears.  Me? I was a goner.)

The family will be taking up the fight against this evil disease, but I can only thank the stars that Willie did not succumb to quite the depths of cruelty it can unleash.

But the fact is, Willie’s no longer with us.  So I’d like to thank him for what he was.  A huge, gentle, giant of a man with a heart of platinum (gold is too cheap an element to use in describing this great man).

His smile, I will never forget it.  It was beatific, almost saintly, it emanated a warmth like no other I have ever seen.  Although, my daughter Ria has ‘inherited’ some of it I have to say.)  And that was, for me, his trademark.

As Ken so beautifully said in his wonderful eulogy, and echoed by the lovable Father Basil, Willie would help ANYONE, do ANYTHING, although his biggest strength was electrics – so many a fridge, theatre power source and bit of wiring was carried out in our house, at Forth Children’s Theatre and at the homes of ALL of his huge wonderful family, his Church family and his youth theatre family.

After the tears though, came the incredible love and happiness that only a great family can bring to your heart.

The wake was a wonderful celebration of his life with more greeting (the letter from his beloved grand-duaughter Madeleine, whose hair he used to prepare for school, was a highlight, although again the tears came – what a beautiful and loving tribute to her Grandad, but also with equal measure to her Grannie,  my wonderful Auntie Anne.)

Perhaps the best was saved for last, at the ‘after wake’, with a smaller almost completely family group we swapped stories, reminiscences and updates of our marvellously varied lives.  You certainly couldn’t accuse us of conforming to a ‘type’ as a family.  A ‘look’, yes, as my brother in law Nik commented, almost open jawed.

And we ran out of whisky, so someone was despatched to raid Willie’s drinks cabinet. A bottle of Glenlivet marvellously appeared and lasted only minutes but that meant we’d had a dram on Willie.  A touching gesture.

Willie, this is not goodbye (as CS Lewis said) it’s au revoir.

 

 

How to be a tool: Lesson 1.


IMG_2619.JPG

I’m sure some of you will disagree but the pettiness of this diatribe is frankly laugh out loudable.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said:

“Motorists and commuters must be dismayed. “This SNP government opened the bridge with a £1.5m celebration party and used it as a symbol of their stewardship of the country.


All the while they knew that there were problems with the road surface, that these problems would have to be fixed and the bridge would have to be closed shortly after opening it. 


At no point were road users, whose daily lives are now thrown into disarray, informed that there were impending closures.

To make matters worse, we now know that there are potentially more closures to come. 


Commuters just wanted a bridge that would get them to work on time. 
“There are some serious questions to be answered as to how shoddy workmanship passed quality control checks prior to opening in the first place, whether or not these errors were as a result of pressure to speed up the works and whether there was any political pressure on the contractors to open despite ministers being made aware of potential faults and snags. 


It is abundantly clear the SNP was far more preoccupied with spending taxpayers money on party planning than actually delivering a vital infrastructure development fit for purpose from day one. 


This bridge fiasco is absolutely symbolic of a feckless SNP government which thrives on self-congratulatory indulgence at the expense of the tax-paying public.” Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said:

Transport Scotland has known about these faults for months and they have chosen to keep that information from the public.

Road users found out about carriageway closures at the last minute and officials have confirmed there are more closures to come.

The SNP transport minister must give a full explanation and account for his handling of the project.

Either the SNP knew about this fault and choose to keep it quiet or they didn’t, which demonstrates yet again their gross mismanagement of major infrastructure projects.”

2017. Songs I like (a lot).


Me and the mrs.jpg

Well…technology has finally overtaken me.

When I went to compile my best of the year CD I realised I had only bought four contributing albums. Spotify has won the day.  So, no posting out CD’s any more instead you’ll have to make do with a playlist. Doesn’t impact on the quality of the compositions though.

I start with a song from the early 70’s that I discovered (probably on 6 Music) and have played the album it comes from all year round called Right on Fire by Voices of East Harlem.

The album is gold.

There’s a few old favourites like Arcade Fire (brilliant at Primavera), Aimee Mann (an incredible return to form) Penguin Cafe, Laura Marling, The National, Courtney Barnett (with Kurt Vile), LCD Soundsystem and Alt J
And there’s a slew of great new discoveries, like the incredible 13 minute closer by Kamasi Washington, IDLES (seeing them in May next year), King Gizzard (also brilliant at Primavera), Loyle Carner (who should have won the Mercury Prize), and This is the Kit (playing in January in Scotland).
I hope you enjoy it.