Gentlemen. How’s your waltz technique?


I laughed out loud this morning when Shaun Keaveny, on BBC 6 Music’s breakfast radio show, described his dancing the waltz as resembling a woman shifting a wardrobe.

I struck a chord with me.

I couldn’t find the perfect illustration of this so this will have to do.

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My attempt at a waltz with an unnamed lady.

In comparison, my tap dancing is like watching an excited puppy seek attention in a roomful of crushed tin cans.

Darkest Hour: Movie Review.


Dullest Hour more like.

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It was all I could do to stay awake in this admittedly luscious, extremely well acted production.

But usually the Ring Cycle is also both of those things.  It doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable though.

Honestly, it goes on and on and on with little or no light and shade (other than in the sumptuous lighting of almost every shot  – Joe Wright sure can create a filmic canvas, but once you’ve seen 100 Caravaggios you’ve seen a thousand, and there’s a thousand on show here.)

Now, let’s consider Oldman’s performance.  It’s highly celebrated and he is hot favourite for all the acting gongs this season.  But it’s an impersonation (and one that’s been done well on more than one occasion before).

Compared to Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out it is far less engaging in my opinion.  His fear and horror is palpable.

Oldman does capture more than a cliched portrait of Churchill and shows sensitivity and wit, but he’s encumbered by too much screen time, monotonous styling and a sense of ‘wait for it, the big quote is heading this way in 30 seconds,’ time and again.

King George and Viscount Halifax both have to deal with speech defects that may well be historically accurate, but do nothing for either of their gravitas.

In a massively male movie (which is fair enough) Lily James as Churchill’s secretary adds light relief, but Kristen Scott Thomas throws shards of light.  If only she had more screen time.

Christopher Nolan’s magnificent Dunkirk makes a far more interesting exposition of the happenings in the French port in May/June 1940.  By contrast, this is just rather self indulgent, with little in the way of either entertainment or historical insight.

 

Creative Edinburgh Awarded Major Funding Package.


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I’ve been Chair of Creative Edinburgh since 2012, and introduced the fledgling organisation to a large audience alongside Fiona Hyslop in 2011 at The Hub in Leith Street.

It was a grand night with lots of dreams (wandering around the room I heard mutterings of cynicism.  “Another (another) creative organisation for Edinburgh, that’s all we need.”) I paraphrase of course.  But for a while that was a prevailing attitude that we had to overcome.

However,  Janine and Lynsey (our directors) were tough as old boots, rolled their sleeves up, donned creative curatorial hats and said “Stuff ’em, we’re gonna make this work.” (Again, I paraphrase.)

Jim Galloway, of the City Council’s Economic Development team, was not one of the cynics.  far from it.

He saw the light.

He had a modest budget from which to draw, and for six years now he has convinced his colleagues not just to fund us, but to celebrate us, endorse us and commission us for consultancy projects (when appropriate).

We’ve never let him down.  He’s never let us down.

The cynics slowly dropped away (but let’s never kid ourselves, no organisation is free from its critics, though few in our case are particularly ‘open’ with their criticism).

We’ve done a good job.  Of that I am in no doubt.  And when I say ‘we’, I principally mean the executive team of directors (Janine, Lynsey and now Claire) ably abetted by their own teams; currently Anna and Rachel but also Jenny, Holly, Catriona and several more.

We’ve drawn on our members to help us in lots of areas and we’ve created an excellent Steering Group who soon put us right when our ideas go a bit off track.

Our board (past and present) has been brilliant.  An eclectic, multi-skilled bunch of proper personalities with a grounding in good governance (thanks especilly to Mike Davidson for that).

Our members’ jams, meet ups and surveys have kept us informed.

And so we’ve grown.

One, two, three, soon four thousand (I hope) members.

We’ve travelled, literally, the world – all over Europe, North America and Asia so far.

But it’s been tight; very, very tight – financially.

Each year has seen a couple of stale biscuits and a half bottle of red wine line the cupboard.  Half a box of Dairylee in the fridge.

But our funders, and sponsors have grown in variety and commitment.  Each year that Dairlyee has looked more likely to be there on April the 6th, and not snaffled by the bailiffs.

And so, yesterday, it was with a mixture of relief and joy that we found out Creative Scotland (who I also have to say have been an increasingly amazing source of support and vision) announced that we, and our great friends and partners at Creative Dundee, had been granted Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO) status along with 114 others.

This is a game changer.  Our funding will now be greater than ever before, and ‘guaranteed’ (so long as we deliver) for three years.

It doesn’t mean we don’t need Jim and the other supporters we have taken on over the years, quite the opposite.  And hopefully some of this recognition will rub off on them.  I particularly have to single out Anderson Strathern, Codebase, FreeAgent, CGI, Chris Stewart Group, Federation of Small Businesses, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Whitespace,The Skinny and others.  Thank you all.  Please continue to support us as we grow.

We wil be doing more, but not haphazardly.  We have a plan to help develop, educate, meet, grow, focus and spotlight the creative industries in Edinburgh.

We’ll work closely with our friends in Dundee.  Gillian Easson has done an amazing job there and she too has been recognised as an RFO.

My heart goes out to those organisations that lost RFO funding (and those that were reduced).  Sadly in this habitat there are always winners and losers.  May you live on and return renewed and invigorated to the fray.

For me, this is a bit of a career highlight.

I’ve known, since I met Janine and Lynsey, that this could, and would, work.  They leave a great legacy and are both still heavily involved (formally and informally).

We have a strong, committed, enthusiastic executive and governance team.  We have committed members.  We now have more robust funding to underpin our vision.

As Jeff Bezos says. “This remains day one.”

The Lover at The Lyceum Theatre (until Feb 3rd.)


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This, if you’ll forgive the pun, is a stellar line up of theatrical co-producers; The Royal Lyceum Theatre Co, Scottish Dance Theatre and (clears throat) Stellar Quines.

Indeed, it’s the first time (outside of the Festival) that The Lyceum has staged dance since 1972.  It’s been a long wait.

I’d have to say to begin with that it’s a bit of a Marmite piece; if you’re looking for ribald comedy you’ll have to wait for next month’s production of The Belle’s Strategem, and if in your face, angry drama is your bag this won’t get you going.

Instead, we’re served an extremely original, thought provoking reflection on love (or is it lust), class, race and sexual politics in 1930’s Indo-China-Vietnam – a French colony (interestingly explored in its dying days in Francis Ford Copolla’s brilliant Apocalypse Now – but only in the Director’s Cut).

The colonial setting brings with it an interesting role reversal of what you would expect; it’s about an affair between a privileged, but poor, 15 year old French private school girl and a rich, 27 year old, Chinese man (dancer Yosuke Kusano).

Despite his worth the Chinaman is nevertheless the poor relation because of his skin colour and he is toyed with by the adventurous and lusty young girl (played by dancer Amy Hollinshead).

The play is carried by the girl, now in her middle age, reflecting on her relationship both with the man and her two brothers and mother.

As a woman (played with a calm steeliness by Susan Vidler) she views the relationship and tells the story of how love and money become inextricably intertwined.

Despite their impoverishment the brothers still maintain a life of hedonistic, and at times violent, pleasure that often threatens to invade the lovers’ space.

What makes this such an interesting production is the way in which dance, drama, music and sound combine to present a unique theatrical experience.  The dance is never less than engaging with a subtle snakelike quality to both the sexual relationship and the general storytelling.

It’s the Woman’s narration that is the biggest trick in the bag for Dramaturg, David Greig and co directors Fleur Darkin (Scottish Dance) and Jemima Levick (Stellar Quines). Not only does she tell the story from the stage but she voices (through clever lip synching) all of the characters from her youth (affecting a younger timbre to her voice) but she also delivers large sections on tape and in whispered asides projected from the rear of the theatre.  It’s highly engaging and very unusual.

The slow, extremely deliberate pace of the language is often in contrast to the music bed and the dance.  (At times it reminded me of the extraordinary 2015 puppet movie, Anomalisa.)  Throughout, you could hear a pin drop in an engrosssed audience.

It’s a refreshingly original, albeit languidly paced production with much to savour.  Just remember if it’s action and belly laughs you’re seeking, seek elsewhere.

Fire and Fury. Inside the Trump White House.


I’m reading this mind spinning book and one third of way through I think I have the measure of The Donald.

Basically it’s pretty easy to get a gig as a special advisor to the POTUS.  You don’t actually need any talent.

Anyway. I have spotted the main flaw in his presidency and so I’d like to share a bit of consultancy advice that I’ve used in first year advertising lectures in the past.

It’s a familiar statement that many of you will know but if heeded could transform his premiership.

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Can I have a job now please Mr President?

Molly’s Game: Movie review.


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It’s always a treat when Aaron Sorkin brings a new script to our screens, large or small, and his output (aside from West Wing) has been quite thinly spread over recent years.  For me, the high point was The Social Network, but Steve Jobs was pretty damn fine too.

And it’s an unusual move for writers to become directors (albeit Martin McDonagh has done so to remarkable effect).  This is Sorkin’s directorial bow and he makes a pretty decent fist of it.

It’s a good, but not great, film that moves along at typical, for Sorkin, high pace, almost matching that of Tom Lehrer’s, The Elements.  And that is both its strength and its weakness.  It’s kind of exhausting keeping up with 140 minutes of non stop verbal action.

The story concerns the real life of Molly Bloom; Olympic skier turned (illegal) poker madame.  My first gripe is the huge dependence on narration from the central character (played superbly by Jessica Chastain).  It’s a tiresome devise that too often intrudes.  It doesn’t kill the movie but, for me, it hampers it.

The second is that it’s just too one-paced.  It lacks light and shade.

But it’s also absorbing, interesting and full of surprises.

Chastain puts in an an Oscar nominatable performance (but it’s in no way winnable, given what Frances McDormand has put down in Three Billboards as a marker).

Idris Elba had the ladies in my company quite hot and bothered and puts in a decent shift as Chastain’s legal representative.  He’s needed because her early cleaner than clean rules of engagement gradually become blurred and loose.

It’s a great yarn and it holds the audience throughout.  But will I remember it a year from now?  Not particularly.

 

Yo Mae Leh by Invisible Minds.


This song has been haunting me since its release on 30th October last year.

Gorgeous is the only word I can find to describe it adequately.

It’s from an anonymous bunch of musicians, and more is promised from them.  Listen carefully and you will hear that the title is the lyrics.  I put them into Google translate and it detected Japanese; and the translation?

An entirely unhelpful ‘Yes h’.

Anyway enjoy it.