One guy two Guvnors starring James Corden: On tour.

I’ve seen both National Theatres this week.

The National Theatre of Scotland on Wednesday; which put on a very thought provoking, intellectual production (27) in conjunction with The Lyceum – it was very good… striking, poignant and absorbing (although the lady behind me in the queue for returns at The Kings and Joyce McMillan both took a different point of view) – and The National who have laudably taken their Lytellton Theatre spring hit out to the provinces.

The expectation has been  bit of a tsunami here in Scotland with review after review proclaiming the genius of this show.

Miraculously, I never even realised it was playing in Edinburgh until Thursday but persuaded Jeana that it was worth a punt to stand in the returns queue for the matinee.

We struck gold.  Central seats in the stalls six rows from the front.

And, oh my god, what treasure we found.

I’ll deal with the one bad bit first…The second act has so many plot details to resolve that it slightly runs out of steam and nearly got in the way of Corden and Co’s standing ovation.

But it didn’t!

Now for the manna.

This is outrageously good entertainment.  Completely and utterly unpretentious theatre for the masses.  I tell you, if you scooped up 1,500 randoms from Princes St, Leith Walk, anywhere in Edinburgh and dumped them in the Kings and said ” Right, fuck what you think of theatre and its lovey dovey connotations and just watch this” they too would be on their feet at the end like me.

This is cultural gold.

It’s like the best bits of every pantomime you ever saw.  The central scene in which Corden waits a meal for his two masters in The Cricketers Arms restaurant area is so slapstick, so outrageous, so brilliant that I think a little bit of wee wee escaped from me.

In the first act James Corden performs gladiatirially.

It’s immense. It’s unforgettable.  It’s uncompromising and yet, and yet, he has a supporting cast of 16 around him that he cannot overshadow, so great is their contribution to this brilliant, brilliant piece of unaffected entertainment.

I could go on and on and on about this.  But that would only spoil it.  Clearly adaptations of 16th Century Italian farces still have great life in them if you get the best writers involved.

I simply cannot recommend this show highly enough.  It transfers back to London (West End) next month and it is unmissable.

Recent Listening. Tom Waits. Bad as Me.

Stunning record. Shite sleeve.

Jesus Christ!

Tom Waits my have pulled off the greatest recording of his already great career.

Waits has had a habit of producing impenetrable recordings that leave you cold.  For me he peaked at Blue Valentine (1978) and then Heart Attack and Vine in 1980 before putting out great records such as Swordfishtrombones (1983) and Orphans (2006).  His album with Gavin Bryars where he sings alongside a tramp (Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet) is astonishing too.  But there has been much to pass by in between these classics.  Alice anyone?

This though finds Waits in stunning form.  It is a beast of a record opening on Chicago with a pulsating steam train clatter and the deepest Bass Sax growl you’ve ever heard.  “All aboard” shrieks Waits as the 2 minute classic reaches it’s denoument and we the fearful passengers set off on a voyage of discovery that veers from distraught weeping and gnashing of teeth on the amazing “Raised Right Men” with its factory clangings and steam hisses to the downright scary title track “Bad as me” that opens again with that aforementioned bass sax that reminds me of Amy Winehouse’ Back to Black.  Hell Broke Luce is simply Waits on steroids.  His voice never gravellier.

It’s as if Waits life depemds on this record, so intense is the experience.  And yet, it’s tuneful, engaging, funny and enveloping.

Absolutely essential listening.

Recent listening. Hotel Shampoo by Gruff Rhys.

The title reflects Gruff Rhys' hobby of collecting hotel shampoo bottles. A laudable occupation.

Gruff Rhys is the lead singer in Super Furry Animals.  Wales’ finest band by some considerable margin over the last ten years in my humble opinion.  So, what to make of a solo outing?

Total control of the qualkity control button is my conclusion.

More super soft arrangements, quality harmonies, particularly when guest singer El Perro Del Mar (great name by the way) pops up on track 9; Space Dust  number 2.

This is a great pop record with no pretentions to be any more than that.  Wholly recommended.


The Ides of March kicks Tinker Tailor’s sorry Limey ass.

The Ides of March is to the USA what Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is to England.

Each country’s respective A teams line up to impress us with what they can respectively muster.

It’s a hopeless non contest.  Aided mostly by the fact that the American material is richly plotted and deeply absorbing whereas the English mire themselves in dense sub plotting that renders the whole thing indigestible.

The Ides of March is outstanding.  George Clooney, overlooked by many critics in this role because he is not always the centre of attention, plays Governor Mike Morris, a Democratic presidential canditate (complete with Obamaesque marketing materials) so well that you would unquestionably believe it if Clooney announced tomorrow that he was running for the real presidency.  And hell, if Schwarzeneger can run California and Reagan was good enough for the White House; why not Clooney?

So let’s clear up one thing from the off.  Clooney is immense.  Clooney is one of America’s greatest ever movie actors and this is a subtly downplayed ‘best of George Clooney’ performance. Not only that; he directed it, wrote it and produced it.  Is there nothing he can’t do?

Playing opposite King C is his heir apparent, Ryan Gosling.  Gosling is the central fulcrum of this brilliant movie but he has a safety blanket of complete and utter class:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his world weary boss, Paul Giammatti as his boss’ direct adversory, Marisa Tomei as a grubby Wall Street Hack, Evan Rachel Wood as the love interest (well, love would be stretching it.  Let’s just call it lust.).  All are superb, and it’s great to see Giamatti not playing a buffoon for a change.

But let’s focus on Gosling for a second.  Gosling can not put a foot wrong right now.  I fancy him for at least two Oscar nominations this year for this role and for Drive.  He has so stormed the Hollywood A list as to make it his own (Clooney beware) and you see him only getting even better if he can keep his eye on great roles in truly great movies.  In Ides of March he sweeps through the movie with ease, just as in Drive he starts out all likeable and decent but as it progresses his darker side emerges.  I the case of Ides it all centres around his “affair” with 20 (or is it 19) year old intern Molly Stearn played seductively By Evan Rachel Wood.

It seems that interns are both forbidden fruit and fair game in equal measure (Monica Lewinsky anybody?).  Her sleeping with Gosling (who plays Morris’ deputy campaign manager Stephen Myers) sets of a chain of events that it would be unfair of me to reveal.  Suffice it to say the last half hour has more twists and turns than a slinky on a spiral staircase.  It’s gripping.

This is a very fine piece of modern American cinema, the fact that is adapted from the stage makes it well crafted and honed to perfection.  Expect serious rewards in the Ides of February in the Kodak Theatre.

If you don’t like Elbow you will hate this…

This blog will self destruct in 7 days from now but in the meantime if you are an Elbow fan you will enjoy Guy Garvey rabble rousing his followers in Manchester Cathedral.  Note perfectly of course.  At one point (on Lippy Kids) he is supported to stunning effect by the Halle Youth Choir.

Just click here.

There’s something about Elbow that is particularly moving.  The songs are beautiful of course but it’s a combination of Guy Garvey’s plaintive vocals and his obvious passion for them that really tugs at the heartstrings.

Good on you boys.

What particularly pleases me about the Elbow story is that they all had to second mortgage their houses to make ‘Seldom Seen Kid’.  It was literally the last throw of their dice.  And it worked, netting them a Mercury Prize along with millions of record sales.

Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.

Their latest album, ‘Build a Rocket Boys’ whilst not having the same impact as ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ is a beautiful record full of fabulous quiet anthems.


Cheetah Outrage

My sister, Emily, has been putting in awesome shifts – for, like, months – over the past seven years in South Africa (many as a volunteer) in support of a phenomenal wildlife charity called Cheetah Outreach.

Their raison d’etre is neatly summed up in the following paragraph…

It took 4 million years of evolution for the cheetah to become the exceptional animal it is today and only 100 years for man to place it on the endangered list. Now the fastest land animal in the world is losing its most important race: the race for survival.  At the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 100,000 cheetahs lived throughout Africa and in parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. Today there are just 7,500 cheetahs left and South Africa is home to fewer than 1,000 of these majestic cats.  Cheetah Outreach is an education and community-based programme created to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah and to campaign for its survival. 

This year Emily was joined for over a month of her stint by her partner, James, in South Africa as she once again set off to hand-rear a bunch of Cheetah cubs.

The impact on James was huge, and not surprising, given his tireless fundraising and lobbying on behalf of his own non-profit organisation; The Lion Foundation. (The Lion Foundation is a non-profit organisation providing an umbrella for an ad-hoc group of friends to do diverse fund-raising activities. Since 1994 they have rattled buckets, bungee-jumped, paraglided (or paraglid?), run raffles and Open Days for, volunteered with and published donated works in aid of seventeen charities including ATD Fourth World; Pestalozzi Children’s Village, Kent; The Monkey Sanctuary, Cornwall; NARA; Children with Leukemia; Aid to Romania; Willow Foundation; ACTV; The Tibet Foundation; Durrell, Jersey.)

To say that James is enthusiastic would be something of an understatement and having returned to these shores he has set to with vim, vigour and a roar to raise funds for Cheetah Outreach.  Consequently he’s organising a fundraiser – principally in his Devonshire hometown of Bantham but thanks to the www everywhere really.

That’s where I, and you, come in.

As Northern ambassador for James’ uber-enthusiastic activity I am now on the campaign trail, imploring you, my beloved reader, to show some support for his efforts.

And so, if you feel the plight of the Cheetah is worthy of a little support join us in raising money to keep this fantastic beast and wonderful charity in rude health.

All you have to do is pledge a little dosh via the following (no doubt by now familiar) mechanism.

Log on to and stick in a few bob.

Go on.  Go on.  Go on.


Once again, I declare my RLTC interests before sharing my views on this really interesting night in the theatre.

Abi Morgan’s new play for National Theatre of Scotland and The Royal Lyceum Theatre is a slow burning thought piece.  Over five Acts it gradually unfolds its subtle pickings as it runs through the theatrical gearbox with ease.

Although Maureen Beattie takes marketing centre-stage it’s by no means all about her (although her performance purrs) and, in fact, it’s Nicholas Le Prevost who overcomes a slowish start to increasingly dominate the proceedings.

I’m not going to dwell on the plot because it would be too easy to spoil it by revealing the action.

In some ways the action is not really that important because this is a polemical, rather than plot-based,  play about two opposing “kirks”: science and religion. But it’s obvious that what drives blind science and blind faith is…err…blind belief.  Read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and you will see exactly what I mean.

The need for order, belief, integrity and singlemindedness are every bit as important in a convent as they are in a lab and this play explores deeply the integrity of belief.

It’s thoroughly thought provoking and it is delivered via a totally engaging, and yet, at times, humorous, but at all times riveting script.

The set is astounding.  A brutalist concrete bunker that could at once be a university, the Catholic grotto at Carfin or a business hotel foyer where business has to be done.

And business does have to be done

The cast are great.

I loved Maureen Beattie’s unemotional and consequently hugely sympathetic performance as the convent boss elect.  Her predecessor, the ageing Sister Miriam, played by Colette O’Neil was wonderful: what a part for an actor of a certain age.  And the newbie, the loose cannon that is Audrey, brilliantly builds her character throughout.  I enjoyed Molly Innes’ performance in Wondrous Flitting (for me the stand out performance in that show) and she delivers again as the agent provocateur of the conservative Catholic church.

This play neither belittles nor celebrates religion.  It challenges scientific orthodoxy and as a result weaves a fine line between all camps leaving you, the viewer, to use your brain.

Oh, I nearly forgot.  It’s about Alzheimers disease.

And it’s only on for three weeks.

You, like me, will probably want to go twice, so move it.

The world has lost its technological axis

Steve Jobs died today.

I am gutted. I’m actually in tears.

I love, really love, that man, even if he was hard to work for.

I never worked for him; merely admired him above, pretty much, anyone else on earth.

Three things to remember him by…

This from apple

This from Apple.

And this; one of the greatest ads ever and what he was all about…

This ad makes me cry and you know what Apple need to make a tribute ad to him about him.


Drive. Ultra violence with exquisite style.

I’ve managed to miss every single one of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous movies (Bronson being perhaps the best known) and typically his scores are mediocre on IMDB, which suggests his perchance for violence (he cites Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an influence) has divided his audiences to date.

Not so in this one.

At the time of writing Drive is recording a whopping 8.4 on the movie bible score meter.

And with justice.

Refn now sports a Cannes Best Director gong on his mantlepiece and it feels justified because this movie has been crafted to within an inch of its life.  This is a real director’s labour of love; from The Michael Mannesque, super saturated, ultra crisp LA at night cinematography to the uber mannered acting, fantastic casting, sparse as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s pantry script (he wrote it) and ASTONISHING soundtrack (surely the Oscar winner already).

It’s languid, propped up by very little dialogue but driven by the aforementioned score that oozes class, from the opening and closing songs to the underscore by Cliff Martinez that builds tension relentlessly.  It’s a tribute to the 80’s with echoes of Moroder, Kraftwerk, Eno, early Human League and more recently My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai.  Astounding.  That gets a straight ten in my book.

But of course that’s not what everyone’s talking about.

They’re talking about Ryan Gosling as the unnamed, unblinking, unflinching eponymous driver.

Ryan Gosling is amazing in this movie and while there are brilliant supporting roles from the touchingly understated Carey Mulligan as the love interest, Albert Brooks (nasty as the lead baddie with a tiny little bit of a heart) and Ron Perlman (neanderthal, wicked, compelling…gorgeous in a way) it’s Gosling all the way.  The performance of his career surely (great as he was in Blue Valentine, and I’ve not seen him in the much lauded Ides of March yet, but I will) he commands the screen with not a blink of his eye from start till end, well actually at the end there is a wee blink.  This is a tour de force performance and I loved it.

The violence is excellent.  Slow to come to the boil but shocking and visceral upon arrival.

The driving is not overdone.  Chase movies (except Ronan) are so tedious.

The love story is well developed but never gets in the way.

And the moral? Heroes come in all shapes and forms because this is surely a hero movie wrapped up in a complex web of antiheroes.

Very strongly recommended. 8.5 out of 10.

Scotland’s Greatest Album on STV

OK, so the series, fronted by the delightful Claire Grogan, kicks off on Tuesday on STV.

Here’s the facebook link.

My feeling is that the decision will be heavily weighted by the viewing demograph which will therefore strongly favour albums of the 70-‘s and 80’s with a shout for those of the early 90’s.

That gives a strong advantage to the following

New Gold Dream by Simple Minds – average pop that was far bettered in their earlier albums, especially Real to Reel Cacophony and the sublime double album release that was Sons and Fascination/Sisters Feeling Call.

This is the Story by the Proclaimers ( a potentially worthy winner)

Rain Town by Deacon Blue (also of note).

Some pish by Travis or fucking Texas.

But the real talent lies elsewhere, but will be pushed out by popularism.

No chance will Belle and Sebastian win but Tiger Milk is extraordinary.

Not a fan but Jesus and Mary Chain should, but won’t feature.

The Blue Nile are OBVIOUSLY one of Scotland’s greatest if not THE greatest.  On that basis I think I’d give it to A Walk Across the Rooftops.

The Fannies.  Too many albums will split their vote.

Aztec Camera.  The wondrous High Land, Hard Rain should but wont.

Orange Juice are too fey and anyway were a better singles than albums band.

Bill Wells trio no-one has heard of.

King Creosote should probably be in there for his body of work but his Mercury nominated opus magnificus of this year has no chance.

The Skids.  Fuck off back to Fife.

Craig Armstrong’s the space between us is beautiful but has no chance.

The Scars.  Author Author.  magic.  No chance.

John Martyn is too folk/Jazz to win.

Eddie Reader likewise.

So, that leaves me with my outside bet.

Screamadelica.  Over -rated but loved and toured to death this year including a lot of high profile gigs.  Could just do it.

So, my prediction?

The Proclaimers.

What do you think.  Please comment.

Melancholia puts the depress into depression.

Ahhh.  Lar Von Trier.

The ex Enfent Terible that was the darling of the critics only to upset Bjork and have them pretty much universally turn against him.

This movie has largely been slated by the critics despite Kirsten Dunst’s best actress award at Cannes.

Me?  I loved it.  His best film in a long time and up there with both Breaking the Waves and Kingdom.

It’s far from Dogme, that’s for sure, with its absolutely thunderous score from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde being one of the movies main focal points.  It’s a powerfully moving musical theme that picks out the more arresting moments in a film that is bracketed by ‘epic’ whilst the meat of the sandwich is a languidly paced examination of the relationship between two sisters as they deal with one of their depressive tendencies.

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both put in excellent shifts as the (highly unlikely it has to be said) sisters.  I’ll be honest, you do have to make quite a leap to see this pair as real life sisters but once you are over that you can just enjoy the film for what it is.

Dunst plays a role that could have taken her into the field of major histrionics and self searching angst, but she carries it off with such a lightness of touch that she really does grab the audience sympathetically, Gainsbourg is a seriously good actress in a fine role well suited to her personality.  She too could have overplayed several moments in the movie, but holds back suitably.

The men, for once in a Von Trier film, have the less sympathetic roles.  Keifer Sutherland as the partner of Gainsbourg and father of their child spends more time acting like a boy scout leader that husband fearing the end of civilisation as he plots fun and games with his young son played sweetly by Cameron Spurr.

Like Mallick’s recent Tree of Life (with which several comparisons can be made) it’s an oddly compartmentalized affair (the aforementioned bookends are high octane sci-fi – initially in the vein of 2001 Space Oddessy and latterly in the style of Danny Boyle’s vastly underrated Sunshine).  It’s in the main meat of the film that styles particularly diverge.

The first Act is Dunst’s story as she endures her deeply dysfunctional wedding day – way too much hand held camera for my liking that contrived the action a little but gave Dunst the chance to develop her story of depression – John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as her deeply unpleasant parents get really nice cameo roles to play around with.

Act two is her sister’s story, here the cinematography is much more relaxed and often breathtaking.

Dunst continues to draw the plaudits as she emerges from her depressed catatonia as the world heads rapidly towards apocalypse in the shadow of a giant planet headed for collision with earth.

It is the planet, Melanchonia, that gives the movie its name and its theme.

For some the whole movie, at 135 minutes, may be too long.  For me, it was perfectly paced and the slight twist at the end of the tale was deeply satisfying and ultimately enthralling.

Strong recommendation. 8/10 maybe 8.5.