Cockpit. The Lyceum’s latest smash.


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Photo credit:  Production photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

In 1948 the young Bridget Boland (I know nothing of her) wrote this site specific play.  And it IS site specific even though it is presented in the Lyceum Theatre because she sets her play, about a holding centre for displaced persons in the aftermath of WWII, in 1948, in a theatre.

Actual genius.

This gives her the opportunity to introduce some great theatrical gags; most memorably the line spat out in complete contempt by the theatre’s stage manager for Front of House personnel.  A laugh out loud moment.  One of several.  Although this is no comedy.

The concept is that in this Displaced Persons’ (DP) ‘camp’, a sort of Calais ‘Jungle’ of 1948, in an unnamed German city, two British military personnel (the latter day peacekeeping force) are trying to organise the transport of 1,000 DP’s to their homelands.

It’s a Tower of Babel with many languages spoken and, more importantly, many short and long term differences of opinion and prejudices.  Of course, the Jews fare worst of all because the Jews were no less persecuted by the Nazis than many other nations and creeds.  That comes across strongly.

But Latvians and Lithuanians, Yugoslavs (Bosnians, Croatians, Serbian et al), Poles and Russians, French sympathisers and resistance all harbour deep grudges and these constantly flare up in an electrifying first act until a moment of humanity transforms the situation. It would be a spoiler to reveal this so you’ll have to see the show to find out how politics can be transcended by human nature.

It’s an absolute cauldron of infighting that shows partly how ridiculous political belief and dogma is (religion gets a right kicking too) but also how complex it is.  That scene from Life of Brian about the Judean Liberation Front is a great touchpoint, although it is treated far more seriously here.

The cast is drawn from a number of European nationalities which could have led to a dreadful ‘Allo Allo’ mood overall.  But how director Wils Wilson overcomes this is one of the many directorial sleights of hand that really impressed this audience member and means we have a truly international feel, but an all English script.  I have to say Wils Wilson has a masterful touch throughout.

It opens with a full ensemble Ukranian folk song that is brilliantly performed (and composed by the inimitable Aly Macrae – you may recall him from the The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart where he is a lead character) before resolving into the show itself.  I’d have liked to have seen even more musical pieces as they are all highlights. None more so than a few moments of operatic spinetinglingness that draws the breath away (I’ll not spoil it for you by describing what, where or when, but I guarantee you will be spellbound).

An actual real life showstopper.

It’s sort of Brechtian in places I suppose.  And resonates strongly with Caucasian Chalk Circle.  If you liked the Lyceums CCC you will like this.

Universally the ensemble acting is strong – really it’s as impressive a cast as I’ve ever seen at the Lyceum – but Peter Hannah as the fresh-faced and easily overwhelmed ‘Man in Charge’, Captain Ridley, is outstanding and is ably abetted by his more experienced and world weary underling; Deka Walmsley as Sergeant Barnes.

The design is a considerable feat and splurges out into stairwells, bars and the foyer, further enhancing the site-specificnesss of the production. The sound design and musical underscoring combine to create a sense of place, an air of menace and frankly an utter joy when it erupts into full blown musical scoring.

But, really, what most enraptured me was the script.  How anyone could conjure up such a politically accurate and insightful overview of the aftermath of WWII at a time when surely obfuscation, fake news and propaganda must have been rife amazes me.  What’s even more remarkable is that its relevance today (yes I know that’s such a weary phrase) is simply dizzying.

“The trouble with the British is they just don’t understand Europe.”  I kid you not.  Bridget Boland wrote those words in 1948. (I probably paraphrased.)

I rest my case m’lud.

 

 

 

 

Brexit. The omnishambles of all omnishambles.


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Almost on a daily basis I sit slack-jawed as I read the latest developments in the ‘Brexit negotiations’ and in the words of David Byrne “I say to myself; How did I get here?  How did I get here?”

This situation is not just a mess, an omnishambles, it’s a national disgrace.

One contributor to the debate in the staunchly anti-Brexit Guardian said this morning;

“…the throwing away of Margaret Thatcher’s negotiated rebate…we being the only country to have one…the continuing use of our own currency…not being in Schengen …things that were we ever to apply to rejoin the EU we will never have again.

We are throwing away not only membership of the EU and the freedoms for ordinary people that brings , but PREFERENTIAL membership negotiated by a conservative Prime Minister who, love her or hate her, wouldn’t think this current crop worth employing as cleaners.”

Even the word – an abominable mash up – turns my stomach.  It just sounds made up, as it is, but also foolish, trivial and yet it represents the biggest single economic catastrophe that no nation on earth would contemplate, other than Britain.  Any why?  Because a tiny minority voted in a horrendously misleading referendum on manifestos that were warped (and misleading) on both sides, to teach the then government a lesson.  And, agree with me or not, in a significant enough minority (certainly more than 2% I would argue) to get rid of Johnny Foreigner.

Will that work?  Yes it will.  But only the best and most useful, most employable ‘Johnnies’ who are returning to their Easter European homes in their droves after the pound collapsed and they find it a better economic option than remaining.

Ridiculous as it sounds, David Cameron now looks like a visionary, except for one tiny thing; despite his total opposition to it he offered the country an opportunity to vote for this fucking monstrosity at a time when the rabid right were enjoying farcical, almost comical, support during the ‘Farago years’.

This absolute Frankenstein creation is now being ‘negotiated’ to frankly, derision by the likes of Michel Barnier.  Can you imagine his private conversations?  I mean can you? Through howls of laughter in Mansion House-esque European meetings.

“…and you wouldn’t believe what he proposed next…”

“Oh Michel, I don’t know how you can keep a straight face.”

Now it emerges that the European Court of Justice will remain the highest court of jurisdiction in our land in the farcically titled ‘Period of transition’.  Another red line crossed.  Another ridiculous outcome.

Just like the ‘we won’t give them a penny’ bombast that marked early ‘negotiations’, yup that red line was crossed too.

‘All the Johnny Foreigners will be turfed out on their ears’.  That red line was crossed.

Can anyone give me a good honest definition of the benefits of this decision?  The government is sharply divided on the whole matter.  Most of the Labour party (despite what they say) and all of the SNP is pro-Europe.

I understand, but DO NOT respect, in this instance, the democratic rules of the nation  that a decision is a decision.  I suspect ‘No’ would win by a considerable margin if this was put to the country as a snap referendum under the question…

“Given what you now know of the Brexit process do you wish to continue Britain’s exit from Europe’

Surely there must be a democratic mechanism to, at the very least, debate this and put an end to this extreme stupidity because I don’t want my children living with the dire consequences of this absurd xenophobic pig-headed fuckwittery.

It’s all terribly, terribly sad.

 

 

 

 

 

Detroit: Movie Review. Kathryn Bigelow just keeps on delivering.


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It’s fair to say that Kathryn Bigelow is on a roll.

Her last three movies (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and now Detroit) have been gut busting horror shows about the human condition.

I love that Kathryn Bigelow sits in the ‘male’ directors’ chair.  I love hat she must be and should be a feminist icon, because she does the sort of movies that she makes much better than most men make them.

Kathryn Bigelow likes an explosion, a gun, a death.  But her female perspective on this raises it from guts and gory/glory into something higher.  Something more profound.

Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker both took on war as the subject matter.  This does too, but it’s the war of the races.  The war of oppression by white men upon black in the Summer of Love.

Ironic, because this is a film about hate.  Racism. Supremacy.

It opens with a short animation that perfectly encapsulates America’s fundamental tic.  The thing that won’t go away.  The displacement of race.  From the displacement of American Indians to the displacement of Africans to the slave plantations of  the Deep South and latterly their displacement into the Northern industrial cities like Detroit.

This displacement, in fact, displaces the white ruling class into the suburbs and that’s the start of deep tension and resentment.

We have witnessed this in the UK too, as gentrification of once unfashionable districts has displaced both black and white working classes into modern day ghettos.  And it aint stopping any day soon.

What Bigelow achieves with this movie is a political calling cry to any liberal minded decent human being, regardless of colour or creed.  It vilifies the atrocious white police force of late sixties Detroit  (Yet, I don’t think Detroit itself was much different from other places – there were riots in Harlem for instance and we all know about 1980’s LA).

She creates an almost documentary feel that is more 4D than any of the 4D Sh!t you’ll see in multiplexes.  Because this is for real.

Apart from the relatively well known John Botega (brilliant thank you) her massive ensemble cast is star-free.  That’s kinda how she rolls.

But each and every one of the 20 or so leads (yes 20) will have had life-affirming, and early career defining, roles in this epic.

But one stands out above all else in this majestic movie.

Will Poulter.

The actual devil incarnate.

Were he real, not an actor, he should rot in hell.  But he’s only an actor and his performance is surely Oscar worthy. You simply despise this evil racist bastard.  And he is unflinching in his evilness.  The smirk at the end of the movie almost gets you out of your seat.

This is a truly great movie.  A movie that should be syllabus material on any High School history course.

Kathryn Bigelow and her team (especially writer Mark Boal) deserve all the awards that this movie will hopefully receive.

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*****

 

 

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.

*****