A new venture. Spotted by Locals; Edinburgh.


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Look out for my impending travel writing.  I’ve just been interviewed by Bart and Sanne who run Spotted by Locals.  A travel app and website, created in 2008 and reaching over 60 cities, that invites a small group of writers to share their insights into their HOME city.

It’s a great idea because you get insights into cities all over the world from a non commercial perspective and outside of the usual historical or just plain obvious sights.

Anyway there will be five Edinburgh writers when I start.  Looking forward to it.  If anyone has any interesting spots for me to check out do please let me know and I’ll go investigate.

Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart at The Lyceum.


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It’s simply impossible not to go over the top about how wonderful this magical piece of theatre/music/storytelling is.

A standing ovation on a Saturday afternoon from the resolute “we will not give performances a standing ovation at the Lyceum” audience pretty much sums up its brilliance.

Joyce MacMillan’s 5 star review (I nearly always concur with this doyen of Scottish Theatre) supports the case.

My tears in act two (a rare thing in the theatre) closes it.

This is live performance at its very finest.  A beautiful brew of environmentalism, motherly love, medicine and football delivered through stories and song with a simply astounding soundscape and visual technology making for theatrical magic.

Polwart’s performance draws breath again and again.  I could hear sobs and sniffles all over the auditorium as the tale of life near a peat bog in Fala, in the Scottish Borders, drew in strands that connected the nearby ‘beautifull’ (I concur Karine) wind turbines, bird life and tales of birth in 1919 and 2007 with a beautiful symmetry that makes the conclusion achingly beautiful.

Whilst Polwart has published the script and invites others to perform it, it is hers.

100% hers.

Nobody has the range and skill to deliver this monumental (but understated) piece of Scottish theatre like Karine Polwart.

Bravo.

Hats off too to David Grieg for persuading Karine to turn an idea into a thing.

A thing of truly great beauty.

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.

 

 

 

 

Our House. A pact with Guru Dudu.


In an earlier post I told you how Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour was one of five star hits of the festival.

So much so that when he said on his Facebook page on Sunday that he needed a room for a few days we offered the room in our Air B’nB free of charge.

On one condition.

He put on a Silent Disco Walking Tour here in South Queensferry.

It was particularly relevant as today was the day the Queen opened the new Queensferry Crossing so it seemed like an excellent way to celebrate.

He agreed and I put the jungle drums into motion.  24 hours later 45 Guru Dudu virgins were assembled in Scotmid’s Car Park and the tour began.

Starting with his legendary East meets West Yoga/Disco warm up we all found our inner Disco Chakra’s to Chic’s Le Freak.  And what’s more, with Guru Dudu having implored the Disco Divas to take the relentless rain away, they did, and we were treated to a pleasant autumnal evening’s weather.

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Moving to The Loan we were further uninhibited as we each took to the dance stage in our own style which was echoed by the assembled.

Next stop the harbour, with the 53 year old Road bridge and the aforementioned 12 hour old Queensferry crossing as our background to the West and the iconic 145 year old Rail Bridge as the dance canvas to the East.

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Post bridge orgy we headed to the High Street for our mass choir performance of Bohemian Rhapsody to the Orocco Pier posse.  It was awesome (plenty of air guitars on show).

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Up the West Terrace past the Ferry Tap to the East Terrace where we did a ‘Soul Train’ to Rose Royce’s Car Wash.

Next up we performed Our House by Madness.  IN. A. HOUSE.  (The pink one on East Terrace)

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Not to be outdone, a resident of West Terrace took us up The Vennel (painful) before inviting us into her back garden, where we jigged to Rihanna.

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As we basked in a glorious sunset we headed back to Scotmid for the piece de resistance and finale.

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Scotmid staff and customers were utterly bemused as this flash mob descended on their favourite supermarket.

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And just to top it all off we did a collection for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute that has a station in South Queensferry.  (Again it seemed appropriate, on this special day, as they have been saving lives around the bridges for many, many years.)

£280 later…

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Yerma by the Young Vic. Review of National Theatre live show.


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This is a ferocious theatrical experience.

It’s a little odd to see in a cinema because the episodic nature of it, and the titling that addresses each chapter and subchapter are rendered as video. In the theatre is it a lightbox or is video suspended above the stage?  I know not.

Accompanying each title is music that starts out loud and ends up deafening, moving from luscious Spanish folk to out and out death metal.

It’s a suitable underscore to the action on stage which charts the descent into madness of the main protagonist ‘Her’ played mindblowingly by Billie Piper.

Yerma is Spanish for ‘Barren’ and it’s a 1930’s tale by Lorca reimagined for 21st century London by Director Simon Stone in a dazzling production.  It starts in almost chaos with ‘Her’ and her future husband John (Brendan Cowell) raging against each other in drunken love with a disturbing undertone of violence, almost hatred, underpinning their love.

He’s a succesful consultant, she a struggling blogger.  Their highly sexual relationship is turning as she has notions of motherhood, he anything but.  Nevertheless ‘Her’ wins the day and he agrees to conceive.

They never do.

Perhaps her abortion of a foetus from previous lover, Victor (John Macmillan), is the reason.  But she has fertile eggs, he has strong sperm.

It seems it just isn’t destined to be.

And that drives him to erectile disfunction and stress, her to madness.

The sense of despair is tangible and grows unremittingly.

The pace picks up constantly.

The chapters flow faster.

The noise ratchets.

The glass box in which they perform is a goldfish bowl of voyeuriam.  We shouldn’t be here.  It’s JUST. TOO. INTIMATE.  JUST. TOO. PRIVATE. We REALLY shouldn’t be here looking in as this relationship collapses and erupts in total anger.

Technically the play is a masterpiece.  It reminded me of Malthouse Theatre’s incredible imagining of Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Massive snap blackouts.  Seconds later a carpet of grass, of carpet, of soil.

How?

Billie Piper is collosal.

Brendan Cowell is her match.

Simon Stone has imagined a masterpiece.

 

 

The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe. The final Reckonings.


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You’ve put up with me so far so here’s the final evaluation.  And the Gorman Awards.

Best show:  Nederlands Dans Theatrer.

Best Musical (excluding Pippin):  Les Miserables.

Best Play:  The Divide (Part 1)

Funniest Show:  Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Best Venue:  Summerhall

5 stars *****

Nederlands Dans Theater

Rain

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Border Crossing

Richard Gadd: Monkey See, Monkey do

The Divide (Part 1)

Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid

£¥€$ (Lies) by Ontroerend Goed

Gus Harrower

Adam

4 Stars****

Les Miserables 4.5*****

Lilith: The Jungle Girl

The Gardener

Dolly Would

Meet me at Dawn

Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon

Staffa

Sweeney Todd

The Divide (Part 2)

Into the Woods

Nina

3 stars***

Flight

Blanck Mass

Guy Pratt

Seance

2 stars**

Party Game 2.5***

The Performers by Irvine Welsh