Whatever gets you through the night?


437660864_640

What gets you through that odd time between midnight and 4am (the most common time for people to die in their sleep – and known as the hour of souls)?

That’s what Cora Bissett explores in this part hilarious, part melancholic exploration of life in Glasgow, although it could be any city in the world really.

It came to the Edinburgh Fringe on the back of rave reviews and awards and I can tell you they are justified.

There was no programme handed out so I can’t be sure who was performing but they ranged from a babe in arms to a bunch of thirty/forty somethings.

This band of troubadors included actors, singers, musicians, dancers and gymnasts and feels like a modern day Chaucer’s tales.  It’s all supported by a, sometimes beautiful, video backdrop that blends effortlessly into the action

I counted 22 performers at the curtain call (to  a standing ovation) including the aforementioned Cora Bissett (Roadkill).

This is more of a polemic on life in Scotland and a curation of Scottish culture than a story as such.

And the result is a thing of great beauty.

“Chips and Cheese” a late night drinking song had me rolling in the aisles but the closing number that spelled the end of the night, and indeed life itself, was hauntingly beautiful.

The great and the good of Scottish music were involved in creating the show; Withered Hand, Emma Pollock, Ricky Ross, Rachel Sermani, Errors, Swimmer One, RM Hubbard to name but a few  and it’s nothing if not eclectic.  You might have thought that would make for a hotch potch of styles but it all knits together beautifully.

There are two moments of aerial acrobatics (in very different styles) that are simply breathtaking and in the second case deeply poignant.

Without ever reverting to kitsch or kailyard or tradition of any sort this performance brews up an homage to Scottish culture that is right on the money for the 21st century.  It’s the sort of thing that, on a good day, National Theatre of Scotland embraces so well and this is right up there with the very best of what NToS does.

I eagerly await my trip to Dundee to see Bissett’s very different, and even more lauded, Roadkill in September.

An audible illusion of most excellentness.


I am indebted to Stephen fry for bringing this to my attention.

This is the original recording of the very wonderful Jolene by Dolly Parton…

But this…this is a thing of incredible beauty that defies description.  In 2002 someone called Goodlittlebuddy recorded the 45rpm single of the song at 33rpm.  And this is the result.

Not only does the music bed sound designed to be that way but Parton’s voice turns into a young male baritone with beautiful effect.

 

Edinbugh during the Festival and Fringe. Surely the best place on the planet. (Maybe even compared to Glastonbury, dare I say it.)


So far 22 people have stopped me in the street to admire my T shirt.  That's The Festival for ya.

So far 22 people have stopped me in the street to admire my T shirt. That’s The Festival for ya.

Yesterday Jeana and I had the perfect festival day.

We started at 12 with Avenue Q by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA students.  So, not a professional production, but as near as damn it because these guys are the cream of the student crop in Scotland, and beyond, and they’re in their final year.

It was devastatingly funny, extremely well sung and technically appeared flawless.  I had no previous benchmark to compare the show unlike many of the audience (the guy sitting next to me had seen it seven times in the West End and on Broadway – he loved it).  If you don’t know the show try to see it this week.  In a nutshell it’s Sesame Street gone bad.  Featuring a cast of human operated puppets it’s set at the seedy end of NYC (on avenue Q) where a melting pot of nationalities, sexual orientations and monsters live in a run down street.  We hear in musical form how everyone is a little bit racist, what to do if you find out you’re gay, How it ‘sucks’ be me, what to do with a BA in English and the pleasure of schadenfreude.

The numbers are universally good, the script cracking, the puppetry mostly really good but what makes the show sparkle is the interaction between the actors and their puppets.  You can’t decide which to focus on as the performance behind the brightly coloured characters by an all black dressed ensemble is electrifying.

An absolutely stand out show in a terrific venue (Assembly on the mound).  The future of Scotland’s (musical) theatre is assured on the basis of this.

After a light lunch and a pint of the highly superior Caesar Augustus (by Williams Brothers of Alloa) we returned to Assembly for the much lauded, multi-award winning Nirbhaya.  (The Indian word for fearless).

This was a stark contrast to our earlier entertainment.  If indeed it could be branded “entertainment”.

It was inspired by the brutal rape and murder on a Delhi bus of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012 and brings us six cameo stories of Indian sexual abuse survivors.  These women all went through the stories they tell, for real, and one in particular by Sneha Jawale tells us how she was attacked by her husband with acid.  The result is there as plain as day to be seen,; her face and body mutilated and scarred, her story told through a flood of tears.

The show is book-ended by Pandey’s story and is dimly lit throughout with snatches of Indian and Western music that add atmosphere.

The stories are harrowing and half of the audience were openly sobbing their eyes out.  A young man we met in the Queue on the way in told us this was a life changing event.

I’m sad to say that for me (and Jeana) it was far from that.

You can’t take away the honesty and integrity of the piece or the clever staging, or the excellent performances but something failed to grip us.

Both of us.

Perhaps it’s too voyeuristic.  There was no programme and no notes about it so we weren’t aware if we were listening to stories of others or biographies.

For me I think the flaw lay in the direction which made it feel too staged, almost contrived in a strange sort of way, which is a shame because it is anything but.  As Lyn Gardner says in the Guardian “it veers dangerously close to well-meaning theatrical misery memoir”, and I agree.

Despite my reservations I have to recommend it though because you cannot ignore the importance of the message or the response (including a standing ovation) of many of the audience.

Afterwards the cast stood waiting to talk to anybody who felt the need.  That, for me, was the most moving moment.

After the show we had a beer with my Pals Mark and Fiona and my pal Vince’s daughter Louise which was great

Last stop of the day was a few relaxed drinks at Summerhall (the Dick Vet Bar) with David Reid and his lady Nicola Dunn.  I love Summerhall, it somehow recalls a bygone age of Fringe scuzziness.  It feels real, fresh and amateur despite its arms length awards list.  And they sell Barney’s Beer.

I also met the star of HeLa, Adura Onashile, a new one woman show who had been the case worker in Cora Bissett’s much lauded Roadkill.  And lovely she was too.

 

My (extended) family


We+are+Family-1

I can’t sleep.

My baby’s in Prague.

Her bother’s in Mallorca.

My big grown up girl is smirking at a condom museum in Amsterdam.

My wife is coping, and sleeping.

My other family, known as #FCTfam, is what’s keeping me awake. (Poor Ronan with his smashed voddie.)

Pride, as our Patron, Robin Harper, said on opening night of Godspell last week, is a sin.

But I’m prepared to take the risk of eternal damnation for feeling proud of not only the theatre company I chair, but the family I receive international facebook feeds from (other than my son who is somewhat neglectful in that respect).

It’s Godspell that’s specifically keeping me awake.

Why?

Pride.

I cannot get the intense pride I have for this show out of my head and the real affection I have for everyone involved.

Hippy?

Moi?

Perhaps.

The Shining Girls: Silence of the Lambs meets Dr Who.


credit for image to Drops of Jupiter

credit for image to Drops of Jupiter

Peter Capaldi, the erstwhile Malcolm Tucker and the new Dr Who, would have been comfortable surveying the script for this.  But too late, it’s probably already cast.  Because it’s already  “in development” as we speak, although, perhaps surprisingly, as a TV show, rather than a theatrical release, for Leonardo Di Caprio’s production company.

Time travel.  Swearing.  Grizzly homicide.  All the stuff Capaldi would have loved.  But he’ll have to make do with The Doctor for now.

Although Soutrh African writer Lauren Beukes’ has published a novel it is really a script in disguise.

But what a script.

It’s breathtakingly original in its concept and deftly played in its exposition.

Bit by bit the plot gives itself to you as you try to disentangle the hideous crimes of a man drawn to murder by some form of malevolent force that bases itself in a run down Chicago neighbourhood, but feasts itself on the antihero’s thirst for girls that ‘shine’.

Special girls who often ‘display’ as children, but thankfully don’t face the music until early adulthood.

Beukes’ antihero is certainly of Harrisian horrendousnes.

Lector would have approved.

Some of the killings are really quite graphic, others matter of fact.  All part of a plan.  And all subtly linked.

Unlike most serial killers who have time against them (only a matter of it before detection) this one has it on his side as he skips, almost blithely from decade to decade, day to day.

Out to get this bastard is sassy, spiky, frankly odd, journalistic intern Kirby who drives her mentor/boss wild with desire but enviable restraint is observed on his part (mostly).

She, a near fatal victim, but a remarkable escapee from Harper, the aforementioned fucker upper of young girls’ lives; out for revenge.  He, an ex alcoholic, divorcee with too much life under the bridge.  Sure, it’s a cliche but Beukes just about gets away with it.  (Certainly their relationship is the weakest aspect of the novel and threatens to overwhelm a badly directed screen version.)

However, in the main dialogue is good (scripty).

Character development is decent, but hardly Dickensian.

Nevertheless the whole is decidedly superior.

Gripping, pacy, original and sufficiently distasteful to give you the taste for more.

I liked it.