Twelfth Night. An enigma wrapped up in a conundrum: Royal Lyceum Theatre


TwelfthNight-700x70.jpg

Even the bloody poster’s great: by DO in Leith (http://madeby.do)

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”  Act 3.

I urge those potential audience members unfamiliar with this play (like me) to read the Wiki (or other) synopsis two or three times before you come along to this outstanding production, because it is thoroughly deceptive and even more enthralling than Jed Mercurio’s “The Bodyguard” that is thrilling British TV audiences right now.

It’s a Shakespearian comedy, verging, at times, on farce.  And one can immediately understand why Ade Edmondson was cast as Malvalio in last year’s Royal Shakespeare production.  It’s a high comedy role but needs considerable light and shade to work throughout.  Unquestionably this is achieved in bucket loads by Christopher Green here in Edinburgh (transferring as a Co-Pro to Bristol Old Vic for a month from 17 October), he’s the star turn in a simply brilliant ensemble.

He certainly lives up to his famous line…

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

But my God it’s complicated.  Take this for a start.

In Shakespeare’s original (which this stays true to script-wise if not cast-wise).  Viola cross-dresses as a man to chase (but fall in love with) Olivia on behalf of his boss Orsino.   Viola having been cast adrift from her almost identical looking twin brother Sebastian.

Now, get what Wils Wilson does.

Viola is a black female.  That’s fine

Her identical brother, Sebastian, though, is a white female.  So they couldn’t possibly be mistaken as the same person.

Olivia.  That’s straightforward, she’s a white female.  Easy.

Orsino is a black female, not male.

So the love triangle is now three females, two of colour and the “identical twin”, also female, is white.  That makes the finale tricky if you aren’t concentrating.

Let’s chuck in Lord Tobi Belch.  Not a Lord.  A lady.  Which makes his, sorry her, suitoring of the maid, Maria, very 21st century.

I don’t say any of this to pass judgement because it’s a key constituent of what makes this production so enthralling.  But it’s complicated (as if it wasn’t anyway.)

So we have sex and skin colour deviations from the source material but we also, as you might expect, have a time-shift to deal with.  It’s set in the summer of love (1960’s sometime) at a party, or perhaps in a commune, where the bored or drugged partygoers suggest they “do” Twelfth Night.

That then places the musical ensemble, led with gusto by the one off that is Aly Macrae, in a musical nirvana which is a huge opportunity for composer Meilyr Jones (who also plays Curio).

And it has to be great because, after all, as the bard himself says (Act 1 scene 1)  “If music be the food of love, play on.”

It is, and they do.

In fact the music is outstanding, immediately likeable, tuneful and with a real groove (I loved it) and it gifts Curio, Feste (brilliant performance by Dylan Read) and Auguecheek (Guy Hughes) almost unlimited show stopping moments.

Feste had us rolling in the aisles – at one point we were treated to a Marti Feldman moment that is burned onto my retina.

I cared a little less for Dawn Seivewright’s Lady Tobi as I felt it was just a little too 100% full on, although it is a massive performance.

The set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita – try saying that after a few Chardonnays doll – is enthralling and remains beautiful throughout.

The costumes are triumphal.

And, of course, the whole thing would just be a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma without the brilliant direction and vision of director Wils Wilson.

This is gonna be a great export from Scotland when it hits Bristol later this year.  In the meantime fellow Scots, get yersel’ along.

 

 

 

 

 

What Girls are made of by Raw Material and Regular Music (but forget all that, it’s Cora’s show) at The Traverse.


A Traverse Theatre Company and Raw Material co-production in association with Regular Music.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 11.38.32.png

I booked my tickets for this months ago.  I expected it to be outstanding (after all Cora Bissett rarely puts a foot wrong and is my favourite Scottish Director).  But that, as we all know, is what jinx’s things.  So I was nervous that this ran the very strong risk of self-indulgence.

But no.  This is not self -indulgent.

Neither is it self- aggrandising (another huge risk as it’s Cora’s story of her sudden burst into fame in her teens as lead singer of Fife band, The Darlinghearts).

Whether it’s Orla O’loughlan’s deft direction, Cora’s beautiful writing, Grant O’rourke’s hysterical interjections in a host of cameo roles (or those of fellow cast, and band, members Susan Bear and Simon Donaldson) it’s hard to say because they all add up to a package that will fill your heart with joy before filling your eyes with tears.

It’s contemporary Scottish theatre at it’s mightiest.  It’s right up there with Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart.  But where it takes a further step is where it leaves the comedy and the music behind (brilliant as that is) and steps into personal territory on multiple levels.  I won’t say why for fear of spoiling it for you.

It certainly brought out the inner girl in me.  And made me proud to ‘be a girl’.  (When you see it you’ll understand.)

And by the way, Grant O’rourke can pluck a bass guitar like the best of them.

I’m a little surprised this isn’t an NTS show because it, like the above mentioned NTS hits, it could have a long life on the road, unlike its protagonist in her Darlinghearts days. I hope it will anyway.  Not so I can see it again (I’ve already bought another 6 tickets you see).

No, so YOU can see it.  In London.  In New York.  In Kirkaldy.

It’s peculiarly Scottish, but it’s unquestionably universal.

And it’s a national treasure.  Just like our Cora.

 

 

 

Anna Meredith Opens the Proms tonight.


I first fell in love with Anna Meredith when she supported Anna Calvi at the, now defunct, The Caves in Glasgow.  It was a bonkers performance and I adored it.  I bought her SAY award winning Varmints soon after and saw her live at Leith Theatre last year opening Hidden Doors Festival.  The best gig I saw in 2017.

My appreciation of her was actually behind the curve because she had already established herself as a highly regarded composer in modern classical circles and that is one of the reasons she will open The Proms tonight and the Edinburgh Festival in August with a commissioned piece about WWI called 5 Telegrams.

Even though I consider myself a big fan nothing, NOTHING, could prepare me for this.  This awesome, really nothing short of awesome, performance in the Tiny Desk Concerts series.  I thought Penguin Cafe had kicked it out of the park a couple of years ago in this series but this kicks it out of the park next door too.

Sit back, relax and enjoy Nautilus (surely the greatest piece of music ever written for the tuba), Ribbons (she even sings, who knew?) and The Vapours.

19 minutes and 4 seconds of utter bliss.  Thank you Anna.

Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2018: my top picks


Jessie-May-edinburgh-fringe-blog-1040x585.jpg
I’ve done a lot of research into the Fringe and Festival this year and have booked a lot of tickets – for 25 shows so far. All are based on strong recommendations from either myself, The Stage, What’s on Stage, The Independent or The Guardian. So to save you some research time you might want to look at what I’ve booked as a starter.
Top tip. Look at 1/2/3 August for cheap previews and 6/7 August as it’s 2 for 1 days. The restricted view seats at the Kings are not restricted and are a bargain too.
Festival
Five Telegrams – The free opening show featuring music of Anna Meredith
La Maladie De la Mort – theatre
Home – theatre
European Young Musicians 2018 Semi Final
Autobiography – dance
Love Chapter 2 – dance
Xenos – dance
Fringe
Goblin perform Suspiria (film and live music accompaniment – Sold out I think) – Summerhall
Sister Act – FCT
Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour
Ulster American – Traverse
Janis Joplin: Full Tilt – with Hannah Scott on 7/14/21 August
8 Songs
My Left/Right Foot – The Musical (NTS)
Vertical Influences – a canadian Ice skating show – participative
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
Island Town – Summerhall
De Fuut – Big in Belgium at Summerhall
No Kids
Lights over Tesco Car Park
Carmen Funebre – outdoor spectacle
Killy Muck
Underground Railroad Game – Traverse
What Girls are Made of – Traverse
The Greatest Play in the History of the World – Traverse – with her from Corrie
Also on my list but not yet booked:
Jessie Cave
Our Country
Nele Needs a holiday – The musical
Insert slogan here
Giselle
The Moira Monologues

100 (actually 105) days of not drinking alcohol.


liquor_bottles.jpg

I love wine.  I love beer.  I love whisky.

But I drink too much of each.  Period.

So, in January this year I began my now almost customary Dry January (starting on 7th of the month because I was working on a theatre production until then and, of course, that involved drinking each night – not forgetting the after show).

Over the years I have more and more looked forward to, rather than dreaded, Dry January because it has become something of a physical reset button.  Maybe a mental one too.

Now, I don’t do ‘Mindfulness’ in fact I shit on mindfulness.

So, if that’s what floats your boat you won’t find any of that chat in the following paragraphs. (What I will say, though, is that 100 days without alcohol changes your perspective on stuff.  It energises you and if there were no twats in the world you would become very, very calm.  But there are.  Twats, that is. Lots.)

This ain’t no mindfulness lecture.

What do twats do?

Well, for one, they call me boring for not drinking.

My wife hasn’t drunk for six years and that doesn’t make her boring.  She lives with me for fuck’s sake.  It isn’t possible.

One of my friends said to me last week, “Mark, you know when we (twelve blokes) go to Primavera next month and if you decide you aren’t drinking, that’s cool.  Your choice.”

No, David Reid, (for it was he) you were cool for saying that, unsolicited.

Why, not drink for 100 days (105 so far actually)?

I honestly don’t really know why.  Well, maybe I do and I’m just not admitting it to myself.

Some of it has to do with the second sentence in this post, and the research that shows that it’s not young people who are over-indulging most these days – it’s 55 year olds like me that are.  That worries me.

More time, cheap booze, plenty disposable income = drinking too much.

Drinking too much = decreasing return on investment and increasing chance of cancer.

But, you know, as Joe Jackson says (sings), everything gives you cancer.  There’s no cure, there’s no answer.

So it can’t be that.

Let’s just say, I’m experimenting.

The experiment so far.

Hypothesis.  Drinking less than the garden pond of beer/wine/whisky a week that I did will have an impact on your body.

Observation. Yes.  It does.

I have lost at least two inches –  I’d say 3 – 4 actually – around my gut.  But this has been helped by my increased exercise (running) and my increasing adherence to a form of fasting diet. No food till noon.

My face is thin as a linguine strand, sadly atop a conchigilie, but, in time, this conchigilie is morphing into a macaroni.

(Shut this fucking pasta strand (no pun intended) down NOW.  Ed.)

My legs are fucked to bits though.  Knees, hamstrings completely kabooshed as I pound my fat carcass around the streets of South Queensferry.

But it’s getting easier.  Not to watch.  To do.  I wear lycra you see, and nothing is as inelegant as a still-a-bit-obese middle aged man in lycra – but it holds my muscles together and stops my breasts slapping my face.

I sleep better.  I can’t actually stay awake past about 10pm.

I work better.  If I had any.

I am calmer.  Am I fuck.

I remember shit.  Oh yes baby.  I remember everything.  Fucking EVERYTHING.

I am fun.  Debatable.  But I have been to many gigs (and enjoyed them), theatre shows, nights out, parties and not been a wanker.  In my opinion.

I piss like a horse.  I don’t know why, but I do.  Maybe I have pissed 2 inches off my gut.

My shit is exactly the same colour every day.  Tan.  Never black.  Consistent texture too.

I am less sarcastic.  So I am told.  But this post surely undermines that.

I am richer.  This has many caveats but, yes, I have saved some money.

How do I replace the bev?

The answer partly lies with Nanny State by Brew Dog, Piston Head Lager and Erdinger Alcohol Free Isotonic Drink, with a lemonade top because it is gash otherwise.

Thank you Nanny State and Piston Head.  Erdinger, you only get a pass.

The other answer is a new found love of coffee.

Will it continue?

I don’t know, do I?  I am an addictive personality.  I only have on and off switches.  So when you see me in my natural pre-this-post-state don’t throw it back in my face please.

Can you do it?  And what advice would I give?

Yes you can.  Don’t make too much of it.  Set a date a few weeks in advance so that you can blow out before you start.  Starting with a hangover is an EXCELLENT idea.

This blog is good.  Far more thoughtful than this car smash of an advice-piece.

Now, head off to the bar and get me a lime and soda.  Please.