Moonshine Freeze by This is the Kit


You know when an album just goes ‘bang’; hits the middle of the target?

Sounds unique?

Grows and grows and grows?

Well, this is one of them.

This is the Kit. Moonshine Freeze. On Rough Trade.

Led by Kate Sables from Winchester before Bristol and now Paris.

It’s a goldmine of folky Pop and was led off by the title track as the lead single earlier this year and rotated heavily on Radio 6.  But dive into the album and you are rewarded with much pleasure.

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The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe. The final Reckonings.


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You’ve put up with me so far so here’s the final evaluation.  And the Gorman Awards.

Best show:  Nederlands Dans Theatrer.

Best Musical (excluding Pippin):  Les Miserables.

Best Play:  The Divide (Part 1)

Funniest Show:  Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Best Venue:  Summerhall

5 stars *****

Nederlands Dans Theater

Rain

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Border Crossing

Richard Gadd: Monkey See, Monkey do

The Divide (Part 1)

Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid

£¥€$ (Lies) by Ontroerend Goed

Gus Harrower

Adam

4 Stars****

Les Miserables 4.5*****

Lilith: The Jungle Girl

The Gardener

Dolly Would

Meet me at Dawn

Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon

Staffa

Sweeney Todd

The Divide (Part 2)

Into the Woods

Nina

3 stars***

Flight

Blanck Mass

Guy Pratt

Seance

2 stars**

Party Game 2.5***

The Performers by Irvine Welsh

 

 

 

 

Staffa by Ned Bingham and Gerry Fox at the National Library of Scotland: Edinburgh Festival review.


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Staffa is a 12 minute film of the island that is home to Fingals Cave.  It consists of a Tryptich of films in which Drones capture the island and the cave at different times of year set to Ned Bingham’s score which is an homage to Mendelssohn’s celebrated Hebrides Overture and was recorded by the RSNO.

It’s a delightful find in the Boardroom of the National Library and was so good I sat through it twice (Big deal. Ed).

A perfect blending of drone photography by Stef Williams and Pete Stanton and music that is both stirring and sublime.

A wee gem.

4****

Flight by Vox Motus at The Churchill Theatre: Edinburgh Festival Review


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This is a truly unique theatrical experience.  For a start there are no actors.

Essentially it is a moving diorama of tiny little figures that light up in small ‘stages’ over the course of 45 minutes and accompanied by a high quality recording of the story of the flight of two brothers from Afghanistan to the ‘Promised Land’ that is England and their scrapes and scraps along the way.

It has received huge praise and from a technical point of view I would certainly echo that.

It’s a vivid, unique and highly immersive experience.

My only criticism is that the story itself lacked real emotional grit.  It’s a familiar story now, over familiar almost, that added nothing to the body of written and film work out there.

But technically an absolute triumph.  For that reason I was pleased to see it.

3***

Rain by Rosas / Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at The Playhouse: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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This is my year of dance.

NDT last week were colossal.  Border Tales by Protien Dance at Summerhall were colossal.  Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour was collosal.

This is colossal.

I am no modern dance expert but I know when I see something that has to be at the top of its genre.

For an hour we were serenaded by the quite beautiful Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians while 10 dancers (7 female, 3 male) execute a miracle of coordination in front of, and occasionally through, a circular steel mesh curtain.

Here’s what Tom Service has to say about Music for 18 Musicians in The Guardian.

Music for 18 Musicians creates a labyrinthine experience for the listener. You’re locked into the mesmerising way in which one pattern morphs into another, addicted to the groove and pulse of the music at the smallest scale of what’s happening from one note to the next.

At the same time, the music describes a bigger journey, as melodies and patterns recur over the scale of the whole piece. Reich builds up waves of density and complexity that crest at different points (listen out for Section V and Section IX especially), creating an experiential arc that does much more than repeat a sequence of chords and rhythms.

I honestly don’t know what it was about but it was transfixing.  The subtle costume changes throughout the show perhaps hinted at the changing of seasons.  It was almost unnoticeable because the palette is largely pale, but suddenly you realised the corps was now pink, now beige, now gold.  Beautiful.

And the choreography.  My God.

Reich’s piece is described above as labyrinthine and that’s what the dancing becomes with waves, flows, counterblows and pauses that result in sublime almost falling over moves (swoons) that never fail to make me swoon.

I don’t have the technical language to describe this but the experts acknowledge it as a masterpiece and I have to concur.

Steve Reich, for one, was thrilled by this.

5*****.  Bravo!

Meet Me at Dawn by The Traverse Theatre Company at The Traverse: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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My Summerhall Fringe was brilliant, but so too were my Traverse experiences.  With the exception of Party Game by Blue Mouth Inc, which mis-stepped (pun intended) a little, we were fed a great diet of work.

This 4**** show is an intense experience and so created an almost perfect set of emotional experiences; alongside Adam 5*****, Lilith: The Jungle girl 4.5****, Nina 4****, and Party Game 2.5**.

This is the Traverse’s foray into the official Festival and the EIF is to be congratulated for giving ‘The Trav’ this opportunity to impress on the ‘big stage’, in their own home. with their resident director, Orla O’Laughlin, on board – she grows in stature steadily.  I expect this show to feature heavily in the CATS next year.

This is a big, profound piece of theatre, centred on grief.  Its story takes its time to unveil itself as a gay couple (it later transpires) are washed up on a fairly remote island after a boating accident that at first appears to be simply a foolhardy act, but gradually it emerges the consequences of the accident are far greater.

It transpires the accident was indeed fatal and this remote island is an island of the mind where the two lovers are granted a wish.  That one so often said on death beds.  “if only we could have one more day together.”

They do.

But, one day?  One fucking day?  Why not a year?  Why not a fucking new lifetime?

The additional day doesn’t play out perfectly. and in a series of time shifts it’s tricky to decide really which time is now, which then and which in the future.

It’s a bold complex theme, brilliantly directed, designed and lit.

The central performances of Robyn (Neve McIntosh) and Helen (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) are electric.  They revel in the depth of Zinnie Harris’s dense plot and shine light on all the key emotional triggers.

I could hear several sobs coming from the audience as the play reaches its finale.

Great, grown up theatre.

 

 

 

Lilith: The Jungle Girl by Sisters Grimm at The Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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Sisters Grimm is a multi-award winning Melbourne based experimental queer theatre group and Lilith is the barmy brainchild of Ash Flanders (who plays Lilith) and Declan Greene.

The three person cast includes Candy Bowers as the hilarious Sir Charles Penworth a Dutch based brain surgeon and Genevieve Giuffre as his assistant, Helen Travers, who is deeply in love with him (her as it happens).

The show concerns the civilisation of a feral jungle girl Lilith, who has been brought up by Lions in the jungles of Borneo and has an irrational fear of Penguins.

From the off it is obvious that Lilith is actually a man as Ash Flanders makes his entrance completely naked and ‘soaped up’ in a pink gunge that makes the vinyl floor of the set a veritable ice rink and creates many off script moments of hilarity.

Bowers’ hilarious Victorian bombast creates belly laughs a plenty.  Her performance is at the heart of the show but all three are excellent.  In a particularly amusing ongoing gag he can’t (or won’t) pronounce Helen’s name correctly; it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

There is a degree of Pygmalion about this because if Lilith cannot reach an acceptable level of civilisation and language she will be lobotomised by Sir Charles (or worse).

The threat pushes her onwards and the transformation is real until it all goes wrong and we are transported to London Zoo where Bowers has now assumed the persona of a South London Rapping Lion.

It is again hysterical.

This show is brilliant.

I’m not sure it has any deep meaning, but with its mix of a fine ‘Ripping Yarn’, slapstick, gender bending, extreme full frontal nudity and terrific acting it’s an absolute treat.

4.5*****

 

 

The Gardener by Cumbernauld Theatre at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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My goodness has Summerhall had an immense Fringe.  And I’ve only seen part of it.

It has been my main home for the Fringe having seen this show ****, Dolly Would ****, LIES *****, Charlotte Church ****, Richard Gadd *****, Blanck Mass ***, Border Crossing ***** and Seance ***.  (2 x 3 star shows, 3 x 4 stars and 3 x 5 stars.  That’s a pretty good investment in my book).

My main reason for seeing The Gardener was because Nicola Roy plays a supporting role in it to Crawford Logan.  She’s an unsung star of Scottish Theatre and one of our best comic actors. (It just so happens she is a delightful human being to boot.)

Any way, it did not disappoint.

To a deliberately very small audience of  20 we are shown into the bowels of Summerhall – the brightly lit ‘Machine Room’ which, it transpires, is the meeting room of the Pine Grove Villas ‘Retirement Community’.

There are no pines and “it’s an Old Folks Home” observes Frank (our host) “Should be called Altzheimers Acres.”

Frank is hosting a lecture on gardening to us, his 20 fellow ‘inmates’, but the lecture is merely a device to reflect on his love of gardening.  Fecund as he is in his ‘Cultivation of the Soil’ he is sadly less fecund in his life, with his beloved wife Joan who is three years passed.

Gardening is the great metaphor for a life that he constantly breaks off from the lecture to retell.

Initially hysterical, thanks largely to Roy’s interventions as the “only nice” carer in the home, it becomes increasingly sad, but Crawford Logan (brilliant as Frank) doesn’t milk the pathos.  He is a stoic character who sees life as what it is, with it’s inevitable outcome.

Tony Cownie has beautifully crafted a lovely Dramaturg by Lynda Radley and the cleverness of the design by Ed Robson has an ace up its sleeve as the show comes to an end, with no bows.

A poignant, heartfelt piece that will surely keep popping up around the country.  If you get the chance to see it.  Jump.

 

Dolly Would by Sh!t Theatre at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Well, this one comes from left field.  It’s a mash up of love, real love, for Dolly Parton (in which her legendary breasts feature very prominently and not just in the image above – from near the show’s conclusion) and the fact that Dolly the Sheep (named after Dolly Parton) was created near to Summerhall in the Rosslyn institute.  Given that Summerhall was previously a Veterinary School this is perhaps also appropriate.

The cloning theme is developed by showing the veneration Dolly Parton creates with clone fans galore (famously Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton lookalike show and lost).

We are left in no doubt that Sh!t Theatre’s two players, Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, are lesbian lovers and their love for each other and of Dolly Parton (not uncommon in the gay world as I realised with no uncertainty when I was in the crowd for her legendary Glastonbury legends gig) was a relationship-saving writing project.

Their love for Dolly has no bounds and this reunited them and has led to a totally insane celebration of her life during which the ridiculous treatment she received from the media, focussing largely on her looks and her assets, is ridiculed.

But also her own sexuality is deeply questioned.  Was her great friend Judy really her lover?

I liked the way they used the 1977 Barbara Walters interview with Dolly as a narrative musical device that was a recurring theme in the show, supported by a neat live music loop.

I suppose more questionable was the way they cut their vest tops to expose their breasts for most of the show.  It might make some of the more strident feminist wing of their devotees uncomfortable, but I was fine with it.

Some of Sh!t’s performance is shambolic (the balloon bursting scene for example) and wilfully amateur in its look and feel (a fair bit of corpsing occurs) but that’s all part of its charm.  And I have no doubt it is intended.

I loved it.  My wife hated it.

I guess that’s part for the course.

4****

 

 

 

 

Richard Gadd’s Monkey See, Monkey do at Summerhall: Review, Edinburgh Fringe


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I was taking no risks seeing this.  Voted the hit of last year’s Fringe Gadd has toured the world performing it over 200 times.

what I was not prepared for was its kick in the heart emotional trauma.

This is billed as comedy but it’s so much more than that. (But, yes, it’s outrageously funny.)

The ‘more’ is an entire treatise on sexual abuse and the resultant depression.

The monkey of the title is Gadd’s subconscious creating massive panic attacks and extreme self doubt.  The show is a metaphor about running away from money demons (the monkey on your back) and so, to bring that metaphor to life Gadd performs it from a tread mill and his vest top gradually saturates as his one hour run slowly overwhelms him physically.

But the low-fi technical brilliance of the show with his sound and video designer, Phil, is what makes it so original and ultimately extremely moving.

My wife is not one to demonstrate her emotions by way of leading a standing ovation.

Until last night.

Bravo.

Bravo indeed Richard Gadd.

*****

Nederlands Dans Theater: Review Edinburgh Festival


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Quite the most extraordinary hour and a half of dance I have ever seen in my life.  To say this is challenging is to completely dismiss the technical and creative excellence on show here.

Three roughly half hour pieces begins with ‘Shoot the moon’  a bizarre love triangle (of 5 dancer) in a revolving set comprised of three rooms where not only do the dancers spin the stage around but hidden cameramen also project extreme close ups of their performances into two screens above the set.  It’s quite brilliant technically and the dancing is superb.  A beautiful accompaniment by Philip Glass.

Part two, The Missing Door, is the highlight in which we witness an Escherian horror movie being created to a soundscape that’s jagged and tormented. David Lynch would love it.  And it’s as much theatre as dance.  I was blown away.  Literally: because at one stage a huge tornado engulfs the set.  The twitchy stuttering dance is bewildering and completely engrossing.  One of the dancers in a green dress is literally thrown about the stage as if she was a rag doll.

Part three (stop-Motion) is set to an achingly beautiful Max Richter piece and features a gorgeous film of a darkly dressed lady observing the actions below before transforming into a hawk, and oh, what actions.  on a white set we do not realise that half the surface is coated in chalkdust until the floor is gather into the middle and a large pile of dust is then used to create stunning clouds of white ‘smoke’.  It’s gorgeous and the choreography is perhaps a little more familiar in its style than its predecessors.  It is no less brilliant fort that.

Party Game by Blue Mouth Inc at the Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Blue Mouth Inc’s Dance Marathon was my highlight of Fringe 2011 (eek 6 years ago).

Party Game was not my highlight of Fringe 2017.

It’s a similar concept in that it is all about audience involvement and being part of the show except for one fatal flaw.

There is no real audience involvement.

Instead what we experience is a fairly dull, close observational piece in which all the strengths of Dance Marathon are diluted manifoldly.

The dancing is mildly embarrassing, the nudity, frankly, stupid and all just a little boring.

My friend and aI agreed it was a three star show on the night.

It was two.

 

Blanck Mass at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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I only discovered Blanck Mass the other day.  But have immersed myself in his magic vibe since then (but only when the Mrs is down corner shop, cos when she heard me training for the gig she said TURN THAT FUCKING SHITE DOWN. She is deluded.)

He is half of Fuck Buttons.

He is loud.

He is proud.

He is loud.

Really fucking loud.

And quick.

I clocked one number (the closer) at 200bpm, so I will probably need a fucking hip replacement next week. ‘Cos I was dancing along.

And a hearing aid.

And his videos are like sick (maggots and intestines doing peristaltic movement).

When he weren’t fucking our hips he went for ballads (80bpm), it was a wee bit dull.

But when he cranked it; it was FUCKING great.

Here’s to 200bpm.

Cheers man.  Short but sweet.

 

Sweeney Todd by Captivate: Edinburgh Fringe Review at Rose Theatre


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Another day, another sweat in the Rose Theatre.  (Aircon please for next year).

This time it’s Captivate’s older group and their excellent telling of Sweeney Todd – surely Sondheim’s masterpiece.  (We’d already seen The Conservatoire do Into The Woods this Fringe and that was equally compelling, but in a very different setting.)

The first thing to say is this…those boxes.  Great in Les Mis, brilliant in this.  Superb direction by Sally Lyall and Tom Mullins to make a few crates tell the multi storey (well two, and a basement) story of the demon barber of Fleet Street on one storey, with boxes.

(Christ I’m glad that is out of the way.)

This was a great show. Really great.

For Sweeney to work you need an electrifying double act between him and Mrs Lovett.  Darren Coutts and Hazrel Beattie did exactly that.  She, a brilliant character actor, he, a nuanced demon with a stunning voice.

Lovett ran the show with her hilarity and brooding love for Sweeney.  Todd just underscored, smouldered and grimaced and grunted and groaned and was suitably obdurate from start to finish (with some light relief during the hilarious “A Little Priest.”)

The thing about Sondheim’s masterpiece is that he develops song themes for all the characters and as the show develops they overlap, clash and evolve.  I love this about Sweeney.

It’s a brilliant piece of classical musical theatre learned from the classical composers and not only do the cast, but the orchestra too, deliver in spades (special shout out for Liz Woodsend on RedII).

Judge Turpin (particularly aggressive) and Beadle Bamford pull their roles off well but I was staggered by Colum Finlay’s finale solo which was more castrato than falsetto and just amazing.  He was a highlight of the show throughout.

Alistair Robertson pulled off the tricky Pirelli part really well.

The others did well without standing out but the company was outstanding at every turn (I have sung the company pieces in Sweeney and know how tricky and dramatic they can be.)

It’s a tricky venue but hats off to both sound and light.  Both delivered impeccably (if a little strong on the gobos for my liking).

****

Border Tales by Protein Dance at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Another day, another Summerhall 5 star show.  This time it’s dance, but with a BIG twist.  It’s political and it features dancers that sing, act and deliver spoken word monologues that never outstay their welcome.

First off, can I just say the choreography is beautiful with monologues often delivered in brilliant flowing double-hander dance movements where the dancer/actor seems to flow like water supported by their counterpart whilst delivering their insights.

It’s mesmerising and the first time I’ve ever seen anything even remotely like this.

The show is about Britain’s rise of immigrantion from all over the globe.  The cast is led by a gruff Yorkshireman who displays many of the traits we regard as cliches, but performed with a humour and lightness of touch that protects it from parody.  I’m afraid there was no programme so I can’t name names but this central and leading character pulled a difficult gig off with ease.

The six dancers were supported by a Colombian multi instrumentalist who worked in tandem with excellent backing music and beautifully held the show together (he too could act when called upon to do so).

The remaining five in the cast represented a second generation African (Nigerian) Londoner fully immersed in UK culture, a Hong Kong Chinese man, A Taiwanese Chinese girl who, with her poor enunciation of English, became the butt of many of the Yorkshireman’s jokes, An Irish Catholic man and a hirsute Egyptian (parodied as an ‘Arab’) is he african?  Is he middle Eastern?

It all paves the way for questions about the value or otherwise of multiculturalism, some nice subtle digs at Brexit, debate about religion and which one (including trendy atheism) is best.

And it’s at times funny, always brilliantly delivered, original and downright fascinating.

A true melting pot of our times in a show you should do your best to get tickets for.

The Divide by The Old Vic: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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This show has had (incredulously to me) mixed reviews because it is a stellar piece of theatrical work and in particular a stellar piece of direction by Annabel Bolton.

The design of this six hour, two-piece, marathon takes the breath away and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  The use of gauze which I wonder if the director meant to echo her use of mesh over the actors’ faces as a means of protection from ‘the plague’ was brilliant throughout.

Gauze is an ancient theatrical device that’s rarely exploited these days , yet it is a centrepiece in this outstanding production.  It strikes a chord with me because its ‘old fashioned’ technique chimes beautifully with Alan Ayckbourn’s vision of the future.

His vision has no technology.

Literally none at all.

No snapchat.  No hand held devices.

(OK, a spot of email at the end but that’s it.)

It’s radical and it’s brilliant.

It’s ‘human’.

His dystopia is a romantic one. (And it’s complicated.) Maybe he likes Blur…

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

The story is so brilliant on so many levels; sexual, political, racial. His future vision is of a world where black is white and vice versa.

In this play;

  • Women are the dominant sex (but have no self esteem).  They have assumed power and out-bred men.  Yet men STILL pull the strings, somehow.
  • Same sex marriage is the norm.  Heterosexuality is repulsive (Cue a sort of Romeo and Juliet subplot)
  • Republicanism is dead.  Certainly in the UK neoliberalism and free thinking (leftist) politics grow gradually throughout.

I loved every minute of the 6 hours and 5 minutes of this brilliant play.  Sure, it needs tightening but that will happen when you see it LONDON.

Can I just say in closing how mesmerisingly brilliant the two main protagonists were; Erin Doherty and Jake Davies who narrate the show through their childhood to adolescence.

Truly great performances, both.

(Check out the photo above and the amount of highlighting on that script.)

 

Les Miserables by Captivate Theatre: At the Rose Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Review


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I know how difficult Les Mis is for a youth group, trust me.  But Captivate have been honing their skills on the Fringe with this show (different casts each year) for a while now so they should know how to go about it.

And they do.

The Rose Theatre is a welcome addition to our theatrical real estate in Edinburgh and when they sort out their technical teething problems it will be a brilliant venue.  Today’s was more succesful than the National Youth Jazz Orchestra gig that I reviewed earlier in the year, but it’s not quite nailed on yet.

But let’s forget about that, shall we, and concentrate instead on this stupendous production.  The nature of working a shared venue necessitates a parsity of set design but Director, Sally Lyall, has done a good job in utilising a bunch of grey wooden crates that come into their own at the barrier scene which works really well.  I also liked her devise for transporting the ‘souls’ of the many fatalities in this celebrated show off the stage and through the audience.

It’s a lovely visual leitmotif.

In general her direction is assured and light handed, but at times there is a tendency for ‘enthusiasm’ that I’d like better if it was dialled down to 9.  But in the quieter, more poignant, moments such as Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own and Bring Him Home she creates an electrifyingly intense audience connection.

The ensemble is brilliant.  Every number they perform is welcome, solid, and really well pitched.

The orchestra (it’s not a band) is big, beefy and boisterous.  They do a fine job

But it’s the succession of excellent principle performances that really gets you.

I loved Conall Ross’ Marius (one of my favourite parts in the show) and I adored his Empty Chairs (for me the song of Les Mis).  He’s nicely soppy but engaging with it.  The scene with his comrades, prior to battle, where he declares his undying and sudden love for Cosette is really well done.

Cosette herself is simply wonderful with Naomi Anderson reminding me of a young Irene Allan (her delightful soprano voice really resonates with emotion).

The Thenardiers are both brilliant (but especially Georgia-Lee Roberts who would give Les Dawson a run for his money in any gurning competition), Eion Mullen though is also great.

Rosie Graham’s hapless Eponine gathers momentum throughout the show and she puts in a lovely understated performance.

Kara Chalmers is beautiful as Fantine and she totally hits the spot with her show-stopper moment.

The youngsters; Little Cosette (Isla Manson/Georgia Sim/Kayla Travers) and Gavroche (Tom Barclay or Seamus Cross – I know it wasn’t Andrew Gilbert as he used to be in my Youth Theatre) were also excellent.

But, for the show to really work, you need a strong Valjean and Javert.  Both were outstanding.  They bounced off each other convincingly and Benjamin Collins’ rendition of On my Own hit all the high spots with an assured use of falsetto.  That can be the death of many a Valjean; long before the Epilogue. Finlay McKillop sounds like an opera singer and is destined for good things in the future.  I would’t be surprised if he turns up at the Conservatoire.

Collectively, their excellent diction really helped move an extremely complex story along, at a fair old clip, in a very coherent way and that can be another real problem with Les Mis.

Not this one.

That was a 4.5 stars for me guys.  Enjoy your run.  The standing ovation at the end proved I was not alone in this view.

 

Birthday Cake: Review, Edinburgh Fringe, KCS Theatre


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KCS Theatre boast of six successive five star reviews from the Scotsman so the implication is that similiar will follow.  (I find it interesting that the Scotsman choose to review a London Youth theatre six years in a row but Edinburgh’s finest Youth tTheatre has not had a single review since the 1980’s but that’s an aside.)

However this is no five star show.  Presented earnestly by an enthusiastic cast it suffers a little from being presented in a conveyor belt venue where productions are rattled through with little or no chance for production design other than the most basic.  The story (described as a dark comedy) concerns at the stabbing of a teenager, Louie, that is presented in a series of flashbacks of his teenage life in which we discover his struggles with his sexuality.

The story is very difficult to follow and the acting, although pretty decent has a lack of real conviction.

Although an obvious friend of the company behind me found the whole thing hysterical I can’t say there was a single laugh out loud moment.

Startlingly average in my opinion.

At C Venues Level 3.

 

£¥€$ (Lies). Review. At Summerhall. (No spoilers)


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Belgian shockmeisters, Ontroerend Goed, are renowned for creating immersive theatre that freaks out its audiences.  I’ve never had the balls (or got in fast enough to buy tickets) to actually see them, but I was quick off the mark this year.

I’m very, very glad of that because this fully immersive metaphor for the 2008 crash is a compelling and unpredictable experience; part casino experience, part theatre part competition it’s brilliantly managed from the sound design through to the temperature control of the room.  Both contribute to creating an atmosphere that winds up the audience from the get go.

It’s hilarious and fascinating in equal part.

I don’t want to say any more for risk of spoilers.

It’s completely sold out so I count myself lucky to have experienced this monumentally clever and wholly original theatrical experience.

Seance. Review, Summerhall


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I saw Fiction at last year’s Fringe by the same creators (Glen Neath and David Rosenberg).  It was a mega creepy aural experimental show in a blackened out Potter Row and I loved it.  So I was full of anticipation for a Seance in a blacked out shipping container.  Whilst it’s creepy it’s by no means terrifying,  not by a long shot.

Some may be freaked by it.  Not I though.  Having said that it’s clever and brilliantly sound designed.  So, for a fiver, you get something good, just not great.

Sasquatch, The Opera: Review. Summerhall.


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To describe this as bonkers is approaching understatement.  Ina production desperately let down by both lighting and design teams Roddy Bottum’s opera is still a great success.  The sound, in particular, is so all  over the place that it’s hard to follow the storyline but that doesn’t matter so much as the band is brilliant, the score outstanding and the performances excellent.

Two keys, (one is Bottum), a drum machine, Tympani and two trumpets make up the ‘orchestra’ and the synth led score is simply brilliant, certainly not what I expected from a metal band member.  It’s nearer early Human League than it is Faith No More.

Certainly it left some audience members cold with several walk outs, but the rest of us (notwithstanding the shoddy tech) loved it.

Go see.

American Honey: Movie review


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Andrea Arnold’s debut movie, Red Road, is a shocking social documentary style movie that is breathtaking in its boldness and unflinching in its depiction of a Glasgow underclass that most of us do not know.  American Honey does a similar job of depicting an American class that’s seldom caught on screen and was cast mainly from the street.

It too is pretty unflinching in its depiction of drug taking, young sex and the unwinding of an American dream; of sorts.

It’s a road movie that follows the fortunes of 18 year old abused runaway, Star, and her relationship with a group of young magazine salespeople touring the country looking for door to door sales in a variety of American housing schemes (both rich and poor).

It leads to an episodic series of events that range from amusing to totally horrific.

Arnold’s style is uncompromising.  It, like Grand Budapest Hotel, is shot in square (Instagram) format which gives it a certain contemporaneity and the photography, that is mainly cinema verite, occasionally bursts into beautiful, glorious, rich warmth such that it takes your breath away.

It’s a compelling performance by Sasha Lane as Star and Shia LaBeouf also impresses as her mentor and, later, lover.  Riley Keogh is also excellent as the aloof, slightly terrifying team leader who lives a separate life of relative luxury while her band of stoner sales people rough it in hostels.

But it’s an uncomfortable ride that rewards your patience.

Nina – A Story about me and Nina Simone. The Traverse Edinburgh Fringe, review.


 

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This is an ambitious theatrical piece but I wonder if it was playing in the wrong place to the wrong audience.

Because the audience is 99.5% white.  We’re all middle class.  We’re mainly liberals.

I want to see this show in Alabama.  In Mississippi. In Detroit.  (as a fly on the wall) Because Josette Bushell-Mingo’s anger, pride and passion for this first lady of Jazz infused political outcry is great.  But I am not her constituency;  much as I might want to be.

It’s part play, part gig and brilliantly defines the anger and political influence of dear departed Nina Simone.

The design is, at times, with the use of an ingenious metal back cloth, absolutely stunning.

 

The band; Shapor Bastansiar on keys, Shaney Forbes (fuck me he’s good) on drums and Jair -Rohm Parker Wells on double bass are electric (but acoustic); but sadly the afternoon we saw Josette the vocal delivery was a big fight as her mic seemed underpowered.

As for Josette. Her voice is amazing.  Her performance is amazing.  The gig part of the show is amazing.

But the point of it.  The politics. In Edinburgh in August?  I’m not convinced.

Josette, if you read this, (I don’t suppose you will) I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.  It’s a brilliant production I just think it could have more impact, rather than luvvie appreciation in other more relevant places.

 

Into The Woods. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Assembly Hall, The Mound, review. Edinburgh Fringe 2017.


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Many lovers of Stephen Sondheim’s classic, Into The Woods, were disappointed with Disney’s movie version as it strayed too much off point. Not me, I liked the way Disney popularised a bloody difficult show.

But RCS is big enough, and talented enough, to go back to basics and stage an authentic labyrinthian production with so many characters, so many sub plots, but one whole, that demands a faultless ensemble to deliver (and a faultless band/orchestra).

This delivers.

The show itself is a blockbuster, with many great numbers and much classic Sondheim nuance, noodling and conundrumery.

In the world of musical wordplay Sondheim has no equal.  This is his masterpiece in that respect.

It might not reach the heights of his MUSICAL masterpiece, Sweeny Todd, but it ain’t far behind.

And if you want to put the next generation of Scotland’s (in fact beyond Scotland) best talent through their paces this is an inspired choice.

My one complaint is that the man behind us appeared to be breathing through some sort of oxygen mask and proved a great distraction but hey ho, you’re not going to say ‘Gonnae no dae that?’ to a man in an oxygen mask; are you?

At the interval we perused the situation.  He wasn’t in a mask he was just, you know, a show spoiler.

So we moved to shite seats, with a restricted view and poorer acoustics, but no sub-soundtrack of Holby fucking City.

Anyway, to the show.  Decent design.  Great lighting (whyever not, as Grant Anderson designed is in the chair).  Outstanding band. And brilliantly choreographed.

But, at the end of the day it’s about the ensemble.  There’s essentially 17 main parts and several secondary roles.  In a perfect ITW you need a 17/17.

This wasn’t that, but I’d say 14/17.

And the key parts delivered big style. (There seems, from the programme notes to be some doubling up of parts so apologies if I have called names wrongly and I will correct if need be)

Abigail Stephenson as Little Red Riding Hood steals the show in her skippy, dippy, innocent but vicious rendering of the role. Eu Jin Hwang pulls off the Baker’s role sympathetically.

Philippa Cassar is excellent as Cinderella and I liked Andrew Sowrey’s Steward.

Caroline Lyell is brilliant as the witch.

It’s an absorbing engrossing production in a great venue.  Go see it.

 

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour


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Sometimes you stumble upon an ‘experience’ that is so unique, so damn CLEVER that it takes your breath away.

Guru Dudu has created that ‘experience’: an hour long tour in the hands of a self appointed guru and yoga instructor with a deep love of Disco music.

50 of us congregated in the Grassmarket at 2pm on a busy Fringe Sunday afternoon, right in the heart of thronging Edinburgh touristville. After being given radio controlled earphones Guru Dudu commenced the tour with a bit of dance yoga warm up, meet the neighbours, before commencing the tour. In a fairly tight mile or so loop we danced to Abba, Stevie Wonder, Backstreet Boys, Chic and many more disco and discoesque classics.

We created a Soul train near the University.

We sang Bohemian Rhapsody to the crowd at Greyfriars Bobby.

We air guitared.

We serenaded strangers.

But, most of all, we danced like crazy gradually becoming less and less aware of the fact that this was essentially a public performance with a cast of strangers and a conductor that is also a master choreographer.

“Voullez Vous, Aha” a second before each ‘Aha’ Guru Dudu points out a passing person on the left or right and instructs us to shout ‘Aha’ and point at them in unison. It works every time. You laugh at your innate ability to be a massed choir and dance troupe with absolutely no training. It is miraculous.

And we grinned. Oh how we grinned, from ear to ear for every second of the 45 minute tour.

This is as good a Fringe show as you will EVER perform in. Go on, release your inner Bee Gee.