Edinburgh’s Christmas Theatrical Blessings.


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We really are blessed in our wee city with theatrical greatness.  The Kings’ Panto (not my cup of tea) is great I’m told.  The Lyceum’s Arabian Nights is extraordinary.  A beautiful musical adventure with a multi cultural cast that grows and grows as the show develops – not your usual Christmas fare I concede, but it is really very good.

And today Jeana and I were again blessed to see a not very busy matinee of the extraordinary ‘How to Disappear’.

It’s not really a Christmas show, it’s really just a show that’s on in December, set in December, but it is brilliant.  Really brilliant.  Three astonishing performances in Morna Pearson’s mental health and government fuckwitterey assault on the bastards that run our asylum.

Owen Whitelaw is full on awesome in his role as a befuddled genius detached from the world because of his mental health issues, his lovely caring sister, Isla,  played so sympathetically by Kirsty Mackay is just delightful and, at its heart, is the bad cop (or is she?), the benefits assessor Jessica (Sally Reid, quite magnificent).

It’s delivered in Doric.  Why?  I don’t know but it’s BEAUTIFUL because of that.

It’s bleak, it’s moving, it’s hilarious.  It’s magnificent.  Please buy yourself an early Christmas present and go see it because you’ll thank me.

The Disaster Artist: Movie Review


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The Disaster Artist is essentially a biopic of an episode in the life of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, a failed actor who somehow managed to spend over $6m on making what some regard as the worst film in Hollywood history; The Room. (It scores 3.6 on IMDB for information.)

I would urge you to at least watch some of the ‘Best of The Room’ videos that you can find on Youtube before seeing tThe Disaster Artist.  Better still, go to a screening of the movie which has reached such levels of cult status and interactivity that it’s become a bit like a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening or a Singalonga Sound of Music.

I mean it’s awful.  The Room, that is.

Here we find out how it came about and that means trying to get under the skin of Tommy Wiseau himself, clearly a task that James Franko has tackled with some relish, as he plays the lead role (and, like Wiseua directs the movie). His younger brother Dave Franko plays Wiseau’s best friend Greg who plays Mark in the movie.

It’s outright weird in places as we try to get to grips with Wiseau’s accent – at times he is virtually unintelligible (including in The Room final cut – one of its great charms).  He claims to be from St Louis but he looks Chinese or certainly East Asian and sounds Hungarian or certainly Eastern European.  It’s a bizarre mash up that Franko nails from the off.

Then there’s the money, where does it come from?  No clues are given. And his sexuality?  His relationship with Greg is nothing if not close, but there is no sexual advances made on his ‘baby faced” charge who he takes in to his home in LA.

Seth Rogan has a supporting role as an exasperated Script Supervisor/stand in director when Tommy is on screen – one famous scene required 67 takes and is captured hilariously here.

But it’s all a little sad.  Clearly we are laughing AT Wiseau not WITH him and it all felt a little charmless in that respect.  There’s no doubt Franko pulls it off and his brother also has a good turn, but for me I’d have liked just a spark of sympathy for the big fella.

The movie has gone on to wash its face and Wiseau has milked it enthusiastically over the years – maybe a little more than a caption to that effect would have given Tommy the last laugh.

 

‘Me First You 2nd.’ A journey through mental health challenges.


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Left to right.  My Uncle willie (RIP) Auntie Anne and Madeleine.

One of the things about my Uncle Willie’s funeral, that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was the kind of awe that I felt spending time with my extended family (dominated in numbers by the wonderful Vidlers).

Remember that beatific smile I told you about?  He’s wearing it above.

Specifically, I mentioned the letter that Madeleine read out to her Granny and Grandad and how moving and charming it was.  Well, I got speaking to her afterwards and she mentioned that she writes a blog.  Not just any old blog; an award nominated blog –  the  Leibster blogging award.

In her byline Mads writes: My life with mental health. A road to recovery. Surviving the 21st century. Being happy. Throw the stick-ma away. And breath…  

It turns out this is Mads’ story about her journey through life suffering from a triple whammy of debilitating mental illness, specifically; obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) as we’ll as periods of low mood. (She points out also that she is a little dyslexic).

You might think that this could add up to a pretty difficult read, and there are heart wrenching moments but it’s also interspersed with humour and hope.  Although low mood is clearly an extremely toxic scenario Mads in one of her posts brilliantly and entertainingly brings the subject to life.

Problem: ‘Not clingy enough skinny jeans’

Outcome: Significant anxiety and low mood

Solution: 6 year old slightly smelly £1 blue IKEA cushion.

I’d strongly recommend that you follow Mads’ blog particularly if you know people with the above mental health challenges or are in this position yourself.

Well done Mads.  Keep up the good work.

Meantime I’ll content myself with slagging off politicians and telling fart gags.

My Wonderful Uncle Willie. (20 June 1941 – 23 November 2017)


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Kathryn, Kenneth, Willie, Anne, Andrew, Susan and Julie.  All the family.

Although my Uncle Willie passed away on 23rd November we had to wait rather a long time to say our final farewells.  The reason being that he had died from complications as a result of contracting Mesothelioma, a truly horrendous disease caused by inhalation of Asbestos during his time working as an electrician in the construction of his beloved Cockenzie Power Station, which, like him, has been laid to rest.

Although many tears were shed at his funeral mass and then again during a rendition of Annie’s song by John Denver, yesterday was a joyous occasion.   (Amusingly, his granddaughter Lucille told me it was the only song he knew, but it was to open the floodgates yesterday at 12:05; my cousin Georgia and sister Jane somehow managed to sing along through their veil of tears.  Me? I was a goner.)

The family will be taking up the fight against this evil disease, but I can only thank the stars that Willie did not succumb to quite the depths of cruelty it can unleash.

But the fact is, Willie’s no longer with us.  So I’d like to thank him for what he was.  A huge, gentle, giant of a man with a heart of platinum (gold is too cheap an element to use in describing this great man).

His smile, I will never forget it.  It was beatific, almost saintly, it emanated a warmth like no other I have ever seen.  Although, my daughter Ria has ‘inherited’ some of it I have to say.)  And that was, for me, his trademark.

As Ken so beautifully said in his wonderful eulogy, and echoed by the lovable Father Basil, Willie would help ANYONE, do ANYTHING, although his biggest strength was electrics – so many a fridge, theatre power source and bit of wiring was carried out in our house, at Forth Children’s Theatre and at the homes of ALL of his huge wonderful family, his Church family and his youth theatre family.

After the tears though, came the incredible love and happiness that only a great family can bring to your heart.

The wake was a wonderful celebration of his life with more greeting (the letter from his beloved grand-duaughter Madeleine, whose hair he used to prepare for school, was a highlight, although again the tears came – what a beautiful and loving tribute to her Grandad, but also with equal measure to her Grannie,  my wonderful Auntie Anne.)

Perhaps the best was saved for last, at the ‘after wake’, with a smaller almost completely family group we swapped stories, reminiscences and updates of our marvellously varied lives.  You certainly couldn’t accuse us of conforming to a ‘type’ as a family.  A ‘look’, yes, as my brother in law Nik commented, almost open jawed.

And we ran out of whisky, so someone was despatched to raid Willie’s drinks cabinet. A bottle of Glenlivet marvellously appeared and lasted only minutes but that meant we’d had a dram on Willie.  A touching gesture.

Willie, this is not goodbye (as CS Lewis said) it’s au revoir.