A War of Two Halves by Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow, produced by This Is My Story and Nonsense Room: Theatre review


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I am celebrating the centenary of WWI’s Armistice Day with some ‘enthusiasm’.

Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Never Grow Old”  which premiered at The London Film Festival got the ball rolling to incredible effect a couple of weeks ago.  It is a must see.

And on Sunday I shall be attending a virtually sold out Far From Ypres at The Usher Hall in which my good pal Gary West will be taking to the stage as part of a celebrated ensemble.

Last night was the turn of theatre in a site-specific production held at Tynecastle Football Stadium.

As a lifelong Hibs fan attending a period drama that ‘celebrated’ Heart of Midlothian’s incredibly altruistic past had a degree of challenge.  It was clear that I was surrounded by a largely partizan audience.  But I’m bigger than that.  If these men could face ‘The Hun’ in the French trenches, I could pay my respect alongside my rivals.

And I’m very glad that I did.

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Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow’s play is a very fine thing indeed.  It was performed on the Fringe and has been timeously restaged in its original form for this monumental anniversary.

One of the potential problems this show faces is the way that some Hearts fans celebrate their team’s mass act of courage as a comparator.  No other team so unselfishly released their players from their contracts in such a way (13 players enlisted together to serve in McCrae’s Battalion, the 16th Royal Scots).

And that’s only part of the story.

Hearts were top of the league, having won 19 of their 21 games, when the mass exodus occurred.  They continued to play for the team, but on the back of strenuous army basic training that included long forced marches.  Their form inevitably slumped dramatically, through sheer exhaustion, and what should have been one of the greatest celebrations in Hearts’ history was dashed.

But what Beeson and Barrow have created is brilliant in this respect.  That achievement is duly noted but not at the expense of the competition.  It is far from vainglorious and largely avoids comparative narrative (indeed the contribution from other clubs is articulated clearly); rather it takes you into the souls of these young lads who fought for King and Country, sacrificing glory on the battlefields of Tyncastle, Ibrox, Celtic Park and Easter Road.

It’s beautifully acted throughout (although sadly no programme was made available so I have no idea who the cast was).

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A central character, one of the players and the narrator, leads us through the build up to the mass enlistment, glorying in Hearts’ impressive form.  This takes place in the new main stand to the sound of radio commentaries of the matches, before we traverse the stadium.  One scene is in the Home Players dressing room, another in the bar, several in the stands themselves before culminating in an achingly beautiful finale underneath the Gorgie Road stand in a makeshift bunker.  The final moments play out by the poignant War Memorial.

I’m sure, for many, this is an intensely moving experience. I found it highly dramatic and sympathetically presented.

There is no tub-thumping in this play.  There is a great deal of humour and the sound design and violin accompaniment by the sole female cast member is excellent and highly redolent of the time.

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Hearts, Hearts, Glorious Hearts features subtly (#HHGH) and is appropriate, without dropping the show’s standards..

The performances are roundly laudable, especially the leads but the ensemble do their part with merit.

This is another must see reflection on the Great War.  It has wonderful provenance, it’s superbly written and directed in what is both a stirring but challenging location.

Highly recommended.  But you’ll have to move quick if you want a ticket.

PS. The Last Days of Making featuring the Tiger Lilies at Leith Theatre (from Saturday) also looks pretty special.

1971. Never a Dull Moment. Rock’s Golden Year by David Hepworth: Book Review.


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David Hepworth has researched a thoroughly entertaining and rapid-fire read in this paean to 1971.  The title is accurately describes its content which is a cultural contextualisation of why, in his and presumably many others’, view, in 1971, from a musical point of view you’d never had it so good and, as it transpires in Hepworth’s mind, never did again.

He makes a strong case.

It’s fundamentally a pivot year in musical history. Both rock and roll and pop have established themselves and ‘buying records’ is now a common practice.  Indeed it has replaced going to the cinema which is facing the low point in its history as TV and music have replaced the big screen in young people’s affections.

Furthermore the shift has begun to swing from 45’s (singles) to 33’s (LP’s), those beautiful 12″ platters that we thought had been consigned to history until Generation X discovered them to cover cracks in their bedroom walls.

This is a new dawn for music and it’s the year when many genres are emerging or evolving into more mature manifestations of their sixties’ inspiration.

The list of seminal 1971 records is not to be sniffed at (not all of these make Hepworth’s list).  I’ve picked out my own favourites in bold but there is so much to choose from. It’s an embarrassment of riches:

  • Janis Joplin’s Pearl
  • Tapestry by Carole King
  • The Yes Album
  • Tago Mago by Can
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Tanz Der Lemminge by Amon Düll II
  • LA Woman and Other Voices by The Doors
  • War by War
  • Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones
  • The Stones also released their first ever compilation (a new thing at the time) this year
  • Maybe Tomorrow by The Jackson 5
  • Bryter Later by Nick Drake
  • Thin Lizzy by Thin Lizzy
  • Carpenters
  • Relics and Meddle by Pink Floyd
  • Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart
  • Ram  – Paul (and Linda) McCartneys’ first solo album
  • Marvin Gaye’s astonishing What’s Going On
  • Man in Black by Johnny Cash
  • Home Made by The Osmonds (the first real ‘boy band’ unless you consider the Jacksons as such – certainly the beginning of teen pop.)
  • Joni Mitchell’s seminal Blue
  • Surrender by Diana Ross
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by The Moody Blues
  • Fireball by Deep Purple
  • Shaft Soundtrack by Isaac Hayes
  • Who’s Next – The Who’s best record
  • Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys mark II
  • Aretha’s Greatest Hits
  • Electric Warrior by T Rex
  • Judee Sill by Judee Sill
  • Trafalgar by Bee Gees
  • Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens
  • Hawkwind’s In Search of Space
  • American Pie by Don Mclean
  • Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne
  • Reflection by Pentangle
  • Tupelo Honey by Van the Man
  • Zep 4
  • Nursery Cryme by Genesis
  • There’s a riot going’ on by Sly and the Family Stone
  • Muskel Hillbillies by The Kinks
  • Two Earth Wind and Fire albums
  • People Like Us by The Mamas and the Papas – pre-Ham sandwich?
  • Pictures at an Exhibition by ELP (their second of the year)
  • Nazareth
  • Islands by King Crimson
  • The Concert for Bangladesh (live) by George Harrison and friends – the precursor to Live Aid etc
  • The Electric Light Orchestra
  • Wild Life by Wings
  • America

And… on December 17th the greatest recording of all time.  Hunky Dory by David Bowie.

There’s 14 albums in bold there, more than one a month. (And I was only 9 year’s old at the time so I have had to discover every one of them retrospectively).

My Sweet Lord by George Harrison was the top selling single of the year, Imagine by John Lennon was runner up and Maggie May by Rod Stewart got the bronze. (Brown Sugar was fifth).

By any reckoning that’s a powerhouse of music with the emergence of AOR, Prog and heavy metal.  A golden year for folk. Seminal soul records (Shaft and What’s Going on in particular.) And the emergence of ‘Krautrock’ (Can and Amon Düll were contemporaries of Kraftwerk) which was to, in turn, influence the last 30 years’ dance music.

Hepworth tells this story month-by-month, cleverly cross-referencing collaborators, rock histories and using back stories to spice up the drug addled goings on of The Who, The Stones, Clapton and many more.

He drops in other cultural references, from cinema primarily, and peppers it with the politics of the time.

It’s an authoritative read with several eyebrow raising moments.

For real music lovers (like me) I’d go as far as to say it’s essential reading.  Hepworth’s style has its faults but I’ll forgive those for the quality of his research.  I’m not surprised it won 2016’s music book of the year in eight different newspapers.

Highly recommended (for music lovers.)

Footnote.

I don’t actually agree that it’s the greatest year of all time, but that doesn’t really matter.

I think 1979 saw a similar confluence of happenings.  (If you want evidence of that check out NME’s 1979 albums of the year.  It’s jaw dropping – London Calling only made number 8!)

  • The emergence of the new and highly influential post punk movement – Talking Heads Fear of music won NME”s coveted album of the year, PIL’s Metal Box was #2 and Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure’s taking the bronze)
  • But with ‘Punk’ also maturing in its own right
  • The end of disco but still at creative high – 3 of the Top ten singles were disco (Gloria Gaynor, The Jackson 5 and Sheila B. Devotion)
  • Coventry Ska
  • Bowie still there
  • The emergence of electronica – Human League made the list with Reproduction

What do YOU think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Leith’s Never Easy


This is brilliant. a good man.

seanjapp

It’s easier to leave than be left behind, leaving was never my proud, leaving Leith never easy, I saw the light fading out.

With apologies to Michael Stipe and REM.

After 10 years it’s time for pastures new.  In my life I’ve made some bad choices but conversely made some great choices.  Phoning Claire, my wife, after a drunken night in Dunfermline in 1992 was the best choice I ever made.  Still daft about you after all these years.  2 kids.  Sol and Romi who light my life up in a way unimaginable and watching them grow into two intelligent and happy children gives me so much pleasure.  Following Hearts on some days brutal and in others stellar, not always the bridesmaids anymore.

I joined Mediacom in the winter of 2008.  Romi was 2 months old and Sol 3 and a 1/2.  I thought I would give it a few…

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My word of the day: Bowdlerisation.


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n.bowdlerisationthe act of deleting or modifying all passages considered to be indecent.

I have written about this before but I had no idea it had a term.  So thanks to Terena Bell in today’s Guardian for this almost life changing insight..

Bowdlerisation is when f*ck*ng w**** newspapers, for example, use *’s to bleep our letters from words like c*nt so that they are apparently less offensive.

But we all know what a c*nt is.

A c*nt is Don*ld Tr*mp and apparently there’s a trend for people to bowdlerise his name in exactly the way I just did.

I fucking love that.

No I REALLY l*ve that.

The Guardian never bowdlerises.  But hilariously The S*n and The M**l do it constantly.

That’s because both newspapers are c*nts.

So I’m a happy boy.

Fuck you Don*ld Tr*mp.