A War of Two Halves by Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow, produced by This Is My Story and Nonsense Room: Theatre review


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I am celebrating the centenary of WWI’s Armistice Day with some ‘enthusiasm’.

Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Never Grow Old”  which premiered at The London Film Festival got the ball rolling to incredible effect a couple of weeks ago.  It is a must see.

And on Sunday I shall be attending a virtually sold out Far From Ypres at The Usher Hall in which my good pal Gary West will be taking to the stage as part of a celebrated ensemble.

Last night was the turn of theatre in a site-specific production held at Tynecastle Football Stadium.

As a lifelong Hibs fan attending a period drama that ‘celebrated’ Heart of Midlothian’s incredibly altruistic past had a degree of challenge.  It was clear that I was surrounded by a largely partizan audience.  But I’m bigger than that.  If these men could face ‘The Hun’ in the French trenches, I could pay my respect alongside my rivals.

And I’m very glad that I did.

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Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow’s play is a very fine thing indeed.  It was performed on the Fringe and has been timeously restaged in its original form for this monumental anniversary.

One of the potential problems this show faces is the way that some Hearts fans celebrate their team’s mass act of courage as a comparator.  No other team so unselfishly released their players from their contracts in such a way (13 players enlisted together to serve in McCrae’s Battalion, the 16th Royal Scots).

And that’s only part of the story.

Hearts were top of the league, having won 19 of their 21 games, when the mass exodus occurred.  They continued to play for the team, but on the back of strenuous army basic training that included long forced marches.  Their form inevitably slumped dramatically, through sheer exhaustion, and what should have been one of the greatest celebrations in Hearts’ history was dashed.

But what Beeson and Barrow have created is brilliant in this respect.  That achievement is duly noted but not at the expense of the competition.  It is far from vainglorious and largely avoids comparative narrative (indeed the contribution from other clubs is articulated clearly); rather it takes you into the souls of these young lads who fought for King and Country, sacrificing glory on the battlefields of Tyncastle, Ibrox, Celtic Park and Easter Road.

It’s beautifully acted throughout (although sadly no programme was made available so I have no idea who the cast was).

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A central character, one of the players and the narrator, leads us through the build up to the mass enlistment, glorying in Hearts’ impressive form.  This takes place in the new main stand to the sound of radio commentaries of the matches, before we traverse the stadium.  One scene is in the Home Players dressing room, another in the bar, several in the stands themselves before culminating in an achingly beautiful finale underneath the Gorgie Road stand in a makeshift bunker.  The final moments play out by the poignant War Memorial.

I’m sure, for many, this is an intensely moving experience. I found it highly dramatic and sympathetically presented.

There is no tub-thumping in this play.  There is a great deal of humour and the sound design and violin accompaniment by the sole female cast member is excellent and highly redolent of the time.

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Hearts, Hearts, Glorious Hearts features subtly (#HHGH) and is appropriate, without dropping the show’s standards..

The performances are roundly laudable, especially the leads but the ensemble do their part with merit.

This is another must see reflection on the Great War.  It has wonderful provenance, it’s superbly written and directed in what is both a stirring but challenging location.

Highly recommended.  But you’ll have to move quick if you want a ticket.

PS. The Last Days of Making featuring the Tiger Lilies at Leith Theatre (from Saturday) also looks pretty special.

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.: Movie (documentary) review


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No ordinary pop documentary, reads the poster, but M.I.A. is no ordinary pop star.

True.

If you’ve not see it before this video for Born Free is a shocking centrepiece to the documentary.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

I have been a fan of Maya Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A) for over a decade now so this film came as a pleasant surprise.  Allegedly it’s been over a decade in the making and the relationship between Maya and the filmmaker, Steve Loveridge, has been, to say the least, “challenging”.

She’s a bloody difficult woman, as it reveals.

The daughter of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist minority resistance group that was formed in 1976, she had to flee her home land of Sri Lanka in 1986 to set up home in London with her mother, brother and sister while her dad fought the good fight in the face of what she claims was ‘ethnic cleansing’.  It was ten years before she met her father again.

Clearly she has inherited her father’s sense of justice and fighting spirit.

Basing her unique style of hip hop on political oppression she has been an unlikely success, rising to top the Billboard dance charts and  performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl where she raised her middle finger to camera and in doing so enraged the NFL so much that they sued her for $16.6 million.

Her right to be angry is, in my opinion, quite reasonable but clearly her detractors think it is a stunt as she has gathered considerable wealth since her politically oppressed immigrant days.

For me, her wealth is irrelevant.

The documentary is a curate’s egg.  Some of it rambles almost incoherently, using found footage on dodgy VHS tape from her childhood, some of it is expertly shot.  Its timeline is also so scattergun as to be quite confusing at times and this jolts the narrative.  At times one wonders what the point really is.

She doesn’t shirk criticism, but the reaction of the NFL on American TV drew loud guffaws from the audience I was in at their petty outrage.  It’s certainly a precursor to Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Taking the Knee’ and a good, if a little childish, one at that.

Madonna was not overly happy.

For fans of M.I.A. this is a must see, for others I doubt you will be engrossed.

For me, even as a fan, it took a good hour to reel me in.  But once there I was sold.

 

 

 

Nike smash it with Colin Kaepernick.


Watch this.

10 black protagonists (some disabled)

4 female protagonists (two black)

Three white male protagonists.

Not representative, huh?

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback strongly divides opinion in the USA.

It was he who started the black injustice protest of kneeling on one knee during the National Anthem and this has driven white supremasists, such as Donald Trump, absolutely nuts for disrespecting the flag.

And it’s him that’s fronting this commercial standing in a US city street in front of a rippling US flag.

Now that’s what I call brave marketing.

This is what Donald Trump calls it.

 

And he’s right to an extent, there are boycotts from similarly white supremasist Republicans.

But my mate (who doesn’t really like Nike) just bought a White Nike NFL #7 Colin Kaepernick T shirt for £25.

Because this ad moved him.

Sure Nike may lose some customers with this (admittedly a bit Appley) ad, but they’ll win over a lot more than they lose.

Someone at Nike said to a brand manager “Don’t ask if your strategy is crazy, ask if it’s crazy enough.”

I doff my hat.

 

Howard’s End.


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Our extremely good friends, Will and Ann, have lived in Howard Place for many years and last Saturday they had a leaving do that got a little bit, well, refreshed.

Anyway, as I left I kissed goodbye to Howard Place.

GGTTH.