Would you like to see my show?


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I’ve sold my first 10 tickets as the box office opened today and I’d love you to come and see me in ‘Ya Beauty, 30 Years of FCT’.

I promise you it will be a night to remember (even with me in it).  A cast of 80.  So it will lack nothing in the power stakes but it’s the quality of the harmonic singing that has blown me away in rehearsal.

It runs on the Easter weekend from Thursday 9 – Saturday 11 April (with a matinee on the Saturday).  It’s at the Church Hill Theatre in Edinburgh and tickets cost only £10 for adults.

Let me know if you want tickets and I’ll sort it out for you.

The Mystery of Irma Vep by the Lyceum Theatre Company and Horsecross


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Mark Thomson, The Lyceum’s Artistic Director, often talks before his shows of the need for theatre, and The Lyceum in particular, to entertain.

Now, entertainment comes in many forms.  I’d list The Shining, Apocalypse Now and Hunger among my favourite and most entertaining movies but they are not everyone’s cup of tea; nor are they uplifting.  My wife wouldn’t have described Hunger as entertaining, that’s for sure.  So the notion of entertainment is open to considerable interpretation.

But let’s get this straight from the off; Irma Vep is PURE entertainment.

I laughed until I broke out into a sweat.

I cried and howled with laughter.

I gasped with laughter.

This show is utter class from the first, and I mean the first, moment the curtain rises and we see Andy Gray as he walks onto stage sporting a fake wooden leg and the limitations that places on straightforward movement.  John Cleese would have applauded loudly.

This sets the scene for farce of epic proportions.  Not Pythonesque though.  It’s more in the tradition of Scots Panto.  There are many nods in the direction of Russel Hunter, Walter Carr, John Grieve (is he related to the director I wonder, indeed assume) Francie and Josie and, king of them all, Stanley Baxter.  Which is to heap a great deal of praise on the heads of the quite astonishing performances (in terms of characterisation, timing, energy and wit) of Andy Gray and Steven McNicoll.

Honestly, they will have you rolling in the aisles.

As I said, Panto, and slapstick, is the predominant genre here, although the show’s story is actually a pastiche of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca with a bunch of Hammer House of Horror thrown in for good measure.

I cannot imagine what the script must have read like because it is SO Scottish, so ‘of the people’ and so personal to Gray and McNicoll that you wonder what was on the page.

Each of them plays about four parts but they interchange through very quick changes from scene to scene all night and at times it is breathless and, as a consequence, even more hilarious.

McNicoll’s Jane Twisden is possibly the dominant role (the evil maid in Rebecca) played like the tea lady in Father Ted at maximum volume throughout.  It’s so beautifully crafted and voiced that it leaves you gasping again and again.

Gray’s best moments are in his Lady Enid Hillcrest character which moulds Stanley Baxter and Mark Walliams into an unholy combination.

But seriously, there is not a single moment of weakness in any of the characters they play.

The direction by Ian Grieve is faultless and the wonderful set is a key part of the show with its myriad of doorways from where every character appearance and disappearance heralding yet another belly laugh each time they appear.  It’s ingenious.

I cannot praise this show highly enough.

OK it’s got an odd name but don’t let that put you off.  (It’s an anagram of I’m a Perv by the way!)

Go.  Go now.  No, now.  Don’t think about it.  Just go. No, do.   Do it. Do it now.   Go do it.  Go on.  Go on, go on, go on.  Now.  That’s it.  Get down there.  Now. Yes, now.  Go on now.

Doggone it


brian
A guy was driving around Dublin when he saw a sign in front of a house,

‘Talking Dog for Sale .’

He rang the bell and the owner told him the dog was in the backyard.

The guy went into the backyard and saw a Labrador sitting there..

‘You talk?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ the Lab replied.

‘So, what’s the story?’

The Lab looked up and said,

‘Well, I discovered that I could talk when I   was pretty young.
I wanted to help the government, so I told the Garda

about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country to

country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one

figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable

spies for eight years running.’

‘But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting

any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the

airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious

characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and

was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a load of puppies, and

now I’m just retired.’

The guy was amazed. He goes back in and asked the owner what he wanted

for the dog.

‘Ten euros.’ the man said.

‘Ten euros? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so

cheap?’

‘Because he’s a liar. He never did any of that shíte.’

Jade


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There is something about Jade Goody that demands respect.  OK it’s easy to knock her apparent obsession with being in the media eye but give her due respect – it is her job, her income stream and she works hard for it.

Jade Goody is a brand and a lot of people like it.  Myself included.  Sure, it’s not Chanel.  She lacks what posh people would call ‘class’ but she has a sense of style that I admire.

She’s dying though.

And here’s the rub.  She will get a mixture of praise and shit from the media over what remains of her life and she will command column miles; never mind inches.

But, if you saw her programme, like I did, on Living TV tonight you will know that she is a public figure worthy of respect.

Do you recall, did you see even, what must be her lowest moment on Big Brother when she was co-erced into stripping off? (I think she was duped in a game of strip poker.)

It was sad, and arrogent of her fellow house mates.  But I think she has learned a lot since then and not in a way that loses any of her, still, naive charm.

Jade Goody is a good person. Let’s hope what remains of her life touches some hearts and that she dies with dignity and at peace.

For 20 years this poor woman has had to endure me.


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It’s hard to define love, isn’t it.

When you live with someone and sleep with them in the same bed for twenty years you get to know the down side of someone.

God knows you could write a blog about my downside (you already have.  Ed.)

Love isn’t about flowers and champagne.  It’s not about sex.  It’s not trivial.  And actually, if the truth be told, I don’t know what it is.

It just is.

I’ve loved my wife for a little over 20 years.  Tomorrow marks the occasion that we have been man and wife for richer and poorer, for better and for worse for a decent amount of time.

I’ve been lucky.

I do believe that we are blessed by our children.  Three teenagers that I actually like (but don’t tell them that or it’ll all go horribly wrong.)  I think I like them because Jeana has enabled that.  Because she has been at home for them for their whole lives in a time when that’s a hard thing to achieve.  Sure I’ve done well in business; but I’ve never been wealthy.  But wealthy enough to protect that most pure and fortunate of instincts, to allow us to create a supportive home for our kids.

I saw a play at the Lyceum recently – ‘The man who had all the luck.” and I thought it reflected my life.  Again, I’ve been lucky.

But that would be to dismiss a lot of things.  Most of all Jeana, who has been a priceless grounding in my life.

She can tell me straight to my face when I’m being a twat.  (Actually that is not an uncommon occurance.  And on fewer occassions I can reciprocate.)

She can say, “OK” when I come home and tell her I’ve resigned from the business I owned.

In fact she can say “OK” when I set it up in the first place, 3 months pregnant with twins and a two year old, and planning a 30% wage cut.

Most of all she just ‘gets’ me.  And I think that might be a bit of what love is about.  Being inside someone’s character (soul?) so much that they know what you are about and accommodate it.

I’ve been nasty many times in our relationship, but never willfully.  And I’ve got shit for it  – like the day she poured a bottle of my favourite aftershave down the sink.  But it’s never been such a big deal really.

An hour from now the clock will chime on our 20th anniversary.  I will have been ill-prepared and ungenerous.  (I made a card though.)  I will certainly be far less eloquent than I have been in the last hour (if this is eloquent.)

But she’ll know.

She’ll know how important she is to me.  And us.

And how much I/we love her.

Because she’s Jeana.

And if you knew Jeana like I know Jeana…

Cheers matey.  Thanks for the last 20.

and you thought you had it hard…


centipede

This guy was lonely and so he decided life would be more fun
if he had a pet. So he goes to a pet shop and told the owner that he wanted to
buy an unusual pet. After some discussion he finally bought a
centipede), which came in a little white box to use
for his house.

He took the box home, found a good location for it, and
decided he would start off by taking his new pet to the bar for
a drink. So he asked the centipede in the box, ‘Would you like to go
to Frank’s place with me and have a beer?’

Silence; there was no answer from his new pet. This
bothered him a bit. He waited a few minutes and then asked him again,
‘How about going to the bar and having a beer with me?’
Again there was no answer, nothing but silence came from
his new friend. So he waited a few minutes more,
thinking about the situation. He decided to ask him one
more time.

This time putting his face up against the centipede’s house
and shouting,

‘Hey, in there! Would you like to go to Frank’s
place and have a beer with me?

A little voice came out of the box:  ‘I heard you the first time!
I’m putting my fucking shoes on!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


We went to see the RSA’s annual best of the art colleges event yesterday.  Not just because it’s a really interesting snapshot of what the art colleges are putting out there, but because Amy’s in the process of applying to Duncan of Jordanstone and, not only that, she had won a merit in the Schools competition and was an exhibitor herself.

She looked delighted by the whole experience.

Partly because the RSA spelled her name wrong.

I mean Amy Gorman isn’t that hard to spell,  so how come it turned out as Ravy Hormone?

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Well, I was delighted. (At her work of course, not the spelling car crash and the emotional carnage that resulted.  Slowly.)

And so was Jeana. (At her work of course, not the spelling car crash and the emotional carnage that resulted.  Slowly.)

Even Tom looked like it wasn’t actually the worst day of his life. (Although he enjoys a bit of emotional Shadenfreude.)

Needless to say Ria was happy to go with the flow; and pleased for Amy – in fact more pleased for Amy than Amy was. (At her work of course, not the spelling car crash and the emotional carnage that resulted.  Slowly.)

Amy’s pal Alison had a self portrait accepted too.

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As for the student show itself.

Well, I loved it and can totally recommend it.  Amy was considerably less enamored and I think that may be because there was a lot of sculpture, video and  installation art.  It made her wonder what the purpose of art college is and that’s a good point.

For me, I thought the show was way better than previous years but this too is controversial because the RSA has adopted a more selective regime.

Fine by me.  There was a lot of shite in it before.

For the record, we were unanimous in our love of Ross Brown’s work.

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See more of his excellent work here.

This month’s word


Sorry seems to be the hardest word to say just now, unless you’re a banker whereby a glib apology seems, to them, to be the antidote to their callous disregard to the world at large.

So when I listened to this song on my ipod this morning I was touched by its relevance.

It’s actually a love lament but it could easily have been written for Fred the Shred and co.

It also just happens to be one of my songs of 2008.

inspiring beyond words


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At today’s FCT rehersal we blocked and performed two numbers that had me frequently on the verge of tears.  It was a war section of the show segueing  ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ from WWI and a song from the Vackees –  set in the Blitz of WWII.

Keep the Home Fires Burning starts with a female solo for the first verse then the female chorus does verse two, then the male chorus takes over for verse three, before the full company combines for the concluding verse.  There’s no harmonies, just a gradual build from a gentle hush until the second half of the last verse which is sung in full voice and it was quite simply magnificent.  Seriously the hairs were standing up on my neck.  I was gobsmacked by it.  Joyce and Catriona’s handling of it all was nothing short of perfection.

The song from the Vackees is slightly more complicated but no less affecting and again builds to a stunning climax.

Honestly, I count my blessings to be a part of this thing with youngsters that are so talented: it’s awe inspiring.

Every single member of the directing team (musical, movement and acting) are due my unrequited thanks for this.

I know, I know I’m getting all Kate Winslett on you.  But you have to be there.

You will not regret a penny of the ticket price when you come along.  And you WILL be coming along.

Whilst FCT zig. I zag.


Oh dear.  Oh deary, deary me.

Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me.

So, we’re eight weeks into rehearsal for the 30th anniversary show.  It’s going well.  As each week goes by my confidence is improving.  I genuinely feel I can do this now in a positive way.

And then…Armageddon night.

Me and my sister, Jane, are fronting a big company number.  It’s a cheeky chappie Cockernee number from The Matchgirls by Bill Owen (Incidentally my Dad’s all time favourite).  The La di Dah it’s called.  Now the music is relatively straightforward, the only non harmonised number in the show.  Why’s that you ask?

I’ll tell you why shall I?

Because it has a frickin dance routine to learn instead.

Picture the scene tonight…

50 able, expressive, flexible, aware, engaged, bouncy, chatty, inspiring, lovely, charming, eager, noisy dancers.

And me.

Not just me…there.

Me in the front row.

Not just me in the front row, me in the middle of the front row.

The focus of the dance; alongside my sister who missed it all because she was in a meeting.

I am to dance, seriously, as Harold Shipman is to nursing homes.  I am the Eddie the Eagle Edwards of choreography.  John Sargeant is like Rudolph fucking Nuryev.  And there I am leading this number.

I promise you it is not for the faint hearted.  Poor old Lynne (the choreographer) smiled at me benignly throughout the evening, no doubt thinking “Oh shit, I know he said he was shit but this is like, preshittinposterous.”

But bless her, she looked like she thought she could get me through it.

Unquestionably the highlight of the evening was when Lynne directed us, led by me, to barge, yes barge, from the front of the stage to the back, through the ladies,  in a choreographic manifestation of young Cockernees gatecrashing a toffs party in Knightsbridge.

“Run, run, run, as if you were horses.” she directed.

I did.  I did.  Passionately and absolutely in tune with the school of Method acting.

Unfortunately my ‘horse’ was more hippolean and my poor pal Geraldine was suddenly, horrifically exposed in the line of fire,  thrust assunder, smashed into a sort of pulp; trampled frankly.  But it’s only bruising.  It shall diminish.

(Sorry Geraldine.)

Well, 10 weeks to go.  I might be OK.  Hmmm.

When I came home and told Jeana I was fronting the La Di Dah dance she just burst out laughing.  She could immediately picture the scenes of wanton destruction.

It’s no longer the la di dah, where I’m involved it’s the Blitzkreig Bop.

Yes that’s what it is.  The Blitzkreig Bop.

(Rubble and that.  Human rubble.)

Survivors crying for help under a pile of bodies after I brought them tumbling down due to an unfortunate left turn whilst everyone else turned right.

Good guys


You know me.  You know I will mercilessly lambast any company that takes the piss out of its customers , and me in particular.  Previous posts have ripped apart Mondial Insurance, Nationwide Insurance, Sky, Baxters, Tesco.  The list is long.  The misdemeanors multifarious.

So it’s good to report the opposite once in a while, so please come to the stage to take your deserved applause…

The Radiator studio.

Based in Bonar Place in Edinburgh the owner, Big John, went so far out of the way that it is impossible to record, in the confines of mere blogging, how much he helped my mother when he put in her new bathroom suite.  Having discovered that the walls were absolutely shot to bits he took everything back to the brick and physically rebuilt her entire bathroom.

How much extra did he charge her for this monumental task?

Nowt.  Not a penny.

I salute you Big John.  Cheers Mate.  Anyone looking for new radiators.  Get on down to The Radiator Studio.

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Life in the offline world


I met one of my most regular contributors – LL Cool Jim (or Jamesey) in real life last night at a brilliant FCT quiz night.

He reminded me about this wonderful Tom Waits song that I think I need to, in turn, share with you.

What’s he building in there?

The great thing is that he never actually tells you.

There’s a neat animation of part of it too that you might like.

But this is probably my favourite Tom Waits story of all time.  (the video is dreadful but stick with it and listen to the tale.)