Improvised rock. My moment of fame.

After the tedious Dixie’s Tupperware Party show on the Fringe last week I had dinner at The Dogs in Hanover Street.  Bloody hell, it was brilliant.  Lamb Sweetbreads to start with (revoltingly delicious) followed by Slow Cooked Belly of Pork (Yummy).

After that we headed to the pub next door to be greeted by a hippy/goth bloke inviting us to see/join in with his experimental band.  So I did.  Called the A Band they apparently change their name every time they gig.

Given they had no drum kit I had to opt for my second calling; lead vocals.  And so a happy half hour passed by.

A bit like this sort of stuff man.

Dixies Tupperware party


Ok.  I was in the minority.  I didn’t fancy this show much in the first place I admit but I didn’t expect it to be quite so lame.

I really hate the way that comedy has overwhelmed the Fringe.  And by that I mean it’s more of a Comedy festival than the Comedy Festival.

And if all comedy is this bad I pity the audiences at this year’s festival/fringe.

Why don’t they do something a bit more adventurous and go and see some drama? (There’s still plenty of it hidden away)

It’s just a three minute sketch dragged out to a mind numbing hour (and arse numbing as a matter of fact because the seats at the Wildman Rooms at The Assembly are VERY uncomfortable if you’re any taller than 5’5″).

But what do I know.  The audience loved it.  Sort of.

The Last Witch by The Traverse Theatre Company at The Lyceum


Me and Mrs G went to see this highly recommended production yesterday and just managed to squeeze in with the last two seats in the theatre.

Let’s start on a plus note.  The visual effects are stunning as is most of the acting, but especially the quite extraordinary Kath Howden.  the music and sound add greatly to the experience and my overall take on it was positive.  Good but not great I’d say.

The story is interesting and the dialogue is really good but something was missing for me (and I suspect most of the audience because the applause at the end was more grateful and polite than raucous).

It’s about the burning of The Last Witch in Scotland (in Dornach of all places in 1727) and I liked the way the story really centered on this madwoman’s affection for her daughter and her blind belief that she was indeed a witch when in fact she was really just an illusionist (and olden days junkie).  The story of the daughter (played beautifully by Hannah Donaldson) was what actually gripped me most because there was just the suggestion that she (not her mother) might indeed be touched by the hand of the devil.

Rona Munro, in her programme notes, told us that there were many ways she could have told the tale (one thought was that the Witch may have had an ancient version of Alzheimers) and although I very much enjoyed the dialogue I just felt it missed a beat somewhere along the way.

Music Quiz Mayhem

Last years NABS winning team; Multiply

Last years NABS winning team; Multiply

This is when my willingness to help folk out comes back to bite me.  I have not one but two music quizzes planned in September, both for good causes and both with overlapping audiences so the questions will all have to be different.

Please support one or both of them.

On 3 September I will be doing one for Altzheimers Scotland to raise funds for Pete Mill who is doing a sponsored hike to Machu Pichu to raise money for them.  It’s £40 a team and is being kindly hosted by Hudson recruitment in The West End of Edinburgh.

More details here…

On 24 September it is the third annual NABS music Quiz at Newhaven Communications.  Previous nights have been a riot and very close fought affairs with Newhaven winning in 2007 and Multiply lifting the trophy in 2008.  It’s £100 for a team of four.

Let me know if you’d like to enter either of them as a team OR as an individual (we can match you up into a team).


New Bob Dylan Sat Nav launched


I don’t have the softest of spots for old Bob and I particularly don’t enjoy his overrated Radio Theme Show; which is kind of dull I think.  But I do like his spoken voice and would actually consider buying this.  It would drive me mad though as his laconic drawl would be a nightmare on more complicated instructions like…

“At the roundabout take the first exit then take a sharp right followed by a sharp left.”

Having failed to deliver the entire message before you’d reached the first exit he’d be chiming back at you.

“Hey dood, you messed up, but let’s chill out a bit.  Let’s go through that again…when you came on the roundabout in the first place man you shoulda hung a left at the first exit…No man you’ve just taken the second exit by mistake.  But hey no worries, just find a layby to pullover, take five, chill then revisit the highway by means of a U turn.  Head back to the roundabout and take that good old first exit again, which, by now dood, is the fourth exit then take that sharp right and a sharp left.  You got that?  No? Whatever man.  Let’s just cruise!”

Tempo’s Fringe Production of ‘The Rink’


I was fortunate enough to take in not one, but two of Tempo’s fringe shows tonight.

Nobody Does it Better is not billed as a big show but believe me it is a great treat. It showcases around 20 James Bond movie theme songs in a variety of solos, company and dance numbers. It’s great fun but this is really only the support (no disrespect) to Tempo’s main production – the rarely performed “The Rink”.

The music is written by Chicago and Cabaret’s Kander & Ebb and is in that style.

The script is brilliantly written by The Full Monty writer Terrence McNally.

What a great show. It’s a delightful mix of comedy and pathos and the singing is universally excellent; as is the acting.

The show’s glue is the mother and daughter duo of Norma Kinnear (wow) and Gabrielle Pavone (wow) but is monumentally supported by the male wrecking crew who take on a variety of parts as well. One criticism is that Tempo’s programme doesn’t establish who is who so I’m not sure who the excellent Dino was. This is musical theatre at its best.

It’s only on till Saturday so dither ye not. Get there pronto.

I promise you will enjoy both shows and particularly The Rink. (Oh. And the band is brilliant. Especially the trombonist!!!)

Quite extraordinary


OK.  I know I am prone to an overenthusiastic moment from time to time.  Hell, I’m an enthusiast.

But could anyone fail to be moved by Usain Bolt’s historic moment on Sunday night as he reduced the 100m world record by a bigger single margin (0.11 seconds) than at any time in history.  This man is electrifying.

Bring on 9.49.



I was just talking to Lee,  my Hearts fan colleague, about how nice it was to see Hibs joint top of the league and Hearts joint bottom and he went and got all upset,  libelous about Yogi and basically acted like you’d expect a Hearts fan to act when his team is £30 odd million in debt and joint bottom of the league.

He had to revert to boasting about the fact that they were top of the crap teams last year.   And then he had the audacity to slag Hibs for being one down at half time against St Mirren.  As if it mattered what the score was at half time.  I don’t actually ever recall points being awarded for first half performances do you?

A man tries to pay a bill with a spider’s drawing

This is for real…

Right up my street

Below is the complete email conversation that Adelaide man David Thorne claims he had with a utility company chasing payment of an overdue bill…
From: Jane Gilles
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.19pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account
Dear David, 
Our records indicate that your account is overdue by the amount of $233.95. If you have already made this payment please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.
Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.37pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account
Dear Jane, 
I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.07am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account
Dear David, 
Thankyou for contacting us. Unfortunately we are unable to accept drawings as payment and your account remains in arrears of $233.95. Please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.
Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.32am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account
Dear Jane, 
Can I have my drawing of a spider back then please.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.42am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Overdue account
Dear David, 
You emailed the drawing to me. Do you want me to email it back to you?
Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.56am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account
Dear Jane,
Yes please.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 12.14pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 09.22am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Whose spider is that?
Dear Jane, Are you sure this drawing of a spider is the one I sent you? This spider only has seven legs and I do not feel I would have made such an elementary mistake when I drew it.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.03am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Whose spider is that?
Dear David, Yes it is the same drawing. I copied and pasted it from the email you sent me on the 8th. David your account is still overdue by the amount of $233.95. Please make this payment as soon as possible.
Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.05am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Automated Out of Office Response
Thankyou for contacting me. I am currently away on leave, traveling through time and will be returning last week.
Regards, David.

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.08am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?
Hello, I am back and have read through your emails and accept that despite missing a leg, that drawing of a spider may indeed be the one I sent you. I realise with hindsight that it is possible you rejected the drawing of a spider due to this obvious limb ommission but did not point it out in an effort to avoid hurting my feelings. As such, I am sending you a revised drawing with the correct number of legs as full payment for any amount outstanding. I trust this will bring the matter to a conclusion.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 2.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?
Dear David, As I have stated, we do not accept drawings in lei of money for accounts outstanding. We accept cheque, bank cheque, money order or cash. Please make a payment this week to avoid incurring any additional fees.
Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 3.17pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?
I understand and will definately make a payment this week if I remember. As you have not accepted my second drawing as payment, please return the drawing to me as soon as possible. It was silly of me to assume I could provide you with something of completely no value whatsoever, waste your time and then attach such a large amount to it.
Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Tuesday 14 Oct 2008 11.18am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Ragtime. Forth Children’s Theatre.

I know I’m biased and I shouldn’t be reviewing a show that I’m involved in but what the hell. You only live once. I saw the show tonight and to say I was blown away would be a considerable understatement. My involvement with FCT has been slightly sporadic with a dip as the kids grew up, but it has been ignited as a result of the 30th anniversary and my part in ‘Ya Beauty’.

But this is a different kettle of fish altogether. This is the Edinburgh Festival. The greatest arts event in the world and little old FCT have been in it for thirty years. There’s a creeping improvement, or should I say enhancement, in the output of FCT that started in 1980 (a wee bit better than the first show in 1979) and aside from the odd blip has gathered momentum ever since. The result is that each festival prompts the response ” that was the best ever” and this year is most certainly no different. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because this group is so collegiate, so looking out for each other, so determined to be as good as is humanly possible. It’s a cliche I know but believe me when I say this is a huge family looking out for each other and willing for collective excellence. It’s refreshing indeed. And I am privileged to be in any way linked with it.

Anyway that’s a long preamble to whether Ragtime actually cuts the mustard. It does. Oh it does. There’s a bunch of old hands that are on their last show and are clocking out with style (Hannah Scott, Ronan Radin, Phoebe Dowens and Matty Smith). Hannah is a major talent that you’ll be watching on stage or screen one day soon. Trust me. Her intensity of performance always takes the breath away and again she delivers movingly. Ronan puts in the most mature performance of his career in the role of Father; Hannah’s husband; it’s a controlled and mature presentation of a man deeply challenged by his wife’s love of a black baby and its mother, the electrifying Becky Clark, new to FCT in the role of Sarah, the unfortunate mother of Coalhouse Junior’s bastard son.

Coalhouse, played by Andy Umerah, another FCT newcomer, is so good that you question whether this can be amateur theatre. Actually pretty much everyone and everything about this show makes you do that.

The show itself is top drawer. It’s based on a Penguin Modern Classic of the same name by E L Doctorow which charts the issues surrounding the retention or realisation of The American Dream depending upon where one sat on that continuum in the Ragtime, pre great war, era. From rich to poor. Black to White.

Central to this part of the story is the remarkable Sean Quinn as Tateh and his mostly mute daughter (played frighteningly well by Esther Scott). It’s them as opportunistic immigrants that most vividly make the leap from dream to reality and the show captures that beautifully.

The music of Ragtime is central to the show. It’s so complex, in its rhythmic changes and harmonic complexity, that you wonder how a group of young people can cut it. But they do, seemingly effortlessly thanks to the musical direction of Neil Sommerville and his team Marcella and Katy. The band rocks and the cast roll. They roil around the stage in a way that often takes the breath away, and that”s because Cameron Dyer, as well as performing sublimely as younger brother, has choreographed (moved really) the 45 strong cast throughout. Sublime.

Many of the show’s highlights belong to the chorus though. Taut, crisp and in character throughout, the chorus comes in at all the climaxes and never fails to pack a hefty and often gutteral punch. They create many of the most moving moments in this epic musical and many of the audience were openly in floods, and I mean floods of tears last night..

Andrew McDivitt, another newcomer, as Houdini and Julia Carstairs as Evelyn Nesbit are also on fire, but my personal accolade. amongst the secondary characters, goes to Erin Henderson as the anarchistic Emma Goldman – she really rocks. and lets not forget young Angus who as Little Boy opens the show, he too performs beautifully. I may have missed someone, if I do I apologise but that’s not to overlook their performance because this show is as difficult and dangerous as the North Face of the Eiger but FCT scale it one and all like surefooted mountain goats.

Technically the show rocks, but the last word has to go to director Andrew Dyer and his assistant Claire Stewart. Sam Mendes, get your ass up here and see what is possible.

The content is deeply political, entirely relevant to today and both moving and hilarious.

OK, my comments are lush. But I ain’t gonna do that without real reason and commitment.

If you only see one show in this year’s festival…


My (sorry, our) wonderful, wonderful children

her indoors and himwee

Exam results tomorrow.

All three of our children await them with different levels of importance.  And engagement.

When they come in most will be met sanguinely.

Good or bad they (mostly) tried hard. (Those that didn’t know who they are.)

But it’s not everything. Exam results.

Amy is doing an amazing job at Scotland’s top Seafood restaurant.

Tom is astounding on the golf course; his handicap has now eclipsed most of my adult mates and he will be on the fourth tee of the regional final of The Dunfermline Masters tournament, as his results certificate plops through the letterbox, tomorrow.

And Ria is, from Friday, taking centre stage in a ten day run in the world’s greatest arts festival.

Me?  I try.

Jeana?  She delivers.

At last…


Thank you Lord for Catriona Matthew.

Finally Scotland has some dignity on the world golf stage.

We should dominate this game (don’t get me startyed on footie) but we are a national enigma.

Matthews’ win in the British Women’s Open at the Weekend at Lytham St Anne’s is something to celebrate then.

And the back story is quality.

A three month old baby.  And a fire rescue a couple of weeks ago as her house and most of its possessions went up in smoke in France.

She’s a hero.

Thanks Cat.

Ragtime Publicity Photos

I spent most of today taking cast photos for Ragtime.  Great fun and the kids at FCT were fab.

Well we ran off about 400 photos this afternoon at Newhaven Harbour and The Botanics.  Here’s just a few as a wee taster.  You can find them all on this Flickr link

The New Rochelles were shot in sepia to reflect the stuffiness and formality of the time and their super wealth.


three rochelles3

new rochelle3

The Immigrants are shot in a blue duotone to represent the cold misery they are about to face in an America that ain’t gonna welcome them.


family 13

waiting in lione3