My Edinburgh Festival so far. (I’ll add to it as I go)


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It’s been great.

It always is.

Have I seen a life-changer yet?

Not sure I have, but I’ve seen a lot of class.

I hate star ratings, but for convenience I have chosen this methodology to save time.

Those in bold are official Edinburgh Festival shows

5*****

The Patient Gloria – Traverse.  Outstanding theatre about a psychotherapy experiment from the 60’s by Abbey Theatre

Baby Reindeer – Richard Gadd’s masterpiece in the Roundabout at Summerhall.  Awe inspiring performance and story

Villagers – The best live performance at Leith Theatre. Perfection

This is the Kit – (No this was).  A sublime performance both by TITK and support and beautifully lit by Grant Anderson.  Outstanding sound quality.

The Incident Room – superb story about the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry at The Pleasance

Peter Gynt – outstanding and hilarious take on mid 19th century classic at Festival Theatre

The Shark is Broken – Jaws – the back story at Assembly.  An amazing and very, very funny three-hander by actors playing Robert Shaw, Rod Steiger and Richard Dreyfuss

4****

Anna Calvi – wonderful performance at Leith Theatre

Crocodile Fever – tremendous co-pro between The Lyric Belfast and The Traverse.

Fish Bowl – Hilarious French physical comedy at The Pleasance

The Last of The Pelican Daughters – very funny Pleasance show that I had to leave after 30 minutes due to fire alarm

Oedipus – Would have been five stars but for the subtitles. The Kings

Shit – Ultra-sweary, hilarious but deeply moving Ausie show at Summerhall.  Brilliant.

Nightclubbing – Grace Jones inspired Summerhall Performance art.

Kala Kuti Republic – Tremendous dance show about Fela Kuti.  Met, and made best mates with, Bobby Gillespie at The Lyceum

Elgar’s Kingdom – Great tunes from The Halle and Edinburgh Festival Chorus.  Rubbish lyrics. At the Usher Hall

Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation – outstandingly original NTS show by Tim Crouch. At Festival Theatre Studio.

Once on This Island – Forth Children’s Theatre. My own company’s show.  A truly beautiful musical with a fabulous ensemble and several great performances  

3***

The Burning – great performances but treacle-like script, at The Pleasance

Cométe – nice festival opener – pub band that may have gone to 4**** with a bigger audience

Who Cares – polemical Summerhall stuff about the care system but no narrative to properly engage with

The Crucible – too hard a story to tell through dance at The Playhouse

Best of the Fest – mixed bag, not the best of the Fest or it would have been 5*****

Ed Gamble – Work in Progress gig. Great warm up chat but the ACTUAL material was…meh.

Trips and Falls –  The spirit of the Fringe alive in this interesting but poorly cast and largely poorly performed Glasgow Uni production.  The Chief of police and the Granny were good though.

Square go – Started great but fell away, Scottish playground romp at the amazing Roundabout, at Summerhall.

2**

Teenage Fanclub – Boring.  At Leith Theatre – left after 45 mins.

Twin Peaks – Show about breast cancer billed as a comedy but not funny.

1*

Dynamite – it wasn’t – utter student improvisational crud by Bristol Uni Improv Soc.  Felt sorry for the excellent small girl with a pony tail (Katie) – not enough to save her blushes.

 

 

 

 

 

Simply the best gigs I’ve ever been privileged to attend


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My pal Pete, and I, were discussing our all time favourite gigs after we gushed about Anohni on Wednesday night at the Edinburgh Festival.

He’s a massive James and Rolling Stones fan and said it even beat James.  I was more cautious.  Whilst I gave it a full five star rating and said it was in my all time top ten it’s had me thinking all week.

So with much consideration here are my all time top 20 favourite gigs.  Each in different ways was a five star performance.

In no particular order, because that’s too hard.

The Clash.  Edinburgh Playhouse. (Combat Rock tour)

Sufjan Stevens. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Carrie and Low tour Edinburgh International Festival – simply the best sound I have ever heard)

Anonhi. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Edinburgh Festival, this week)

Siouxsie and The Banshees. Edinburgh Playhouse. (around the time of Israel)

Kraftwerk. Edinburgh PLayhouse (front Row.  Computer Love Tour)

Kraftwerk.  King Tuts Stage (T in the Park – 3D tour)

Bill Nelson. The Nite Club (Upstairs from Edinburgh Playhouse)

Faust.  The Citrus Club (original one in Edinburgh Grassmarket (set fire to the stage with Petrol)

Simple Minds (supported by Positive Noise).  Tiffany’s, Glasgow.

Simple Minds.  Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow.( 5 x 4 Tour)

Chic. West Holts Dance Stage (Glastonbury)

Massive Attack. The Other Stage (Glastonbury)

Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Pyramid Stage (Glastonbury)

John Grant. The Park Stage (Glastonbury)

Savages.  Williams Green Stage (Glastonbury)

Melody Gardot.  Voodoo Rooms

Emma Pollock. Voodoo Rooms

Laurie Anderson.  Queens Hall (possibly the O Superman tour, certainly around that time)

King Creosote performing From Scotland with Love at  The Hub Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival)

Frank Sinatra.  Ibrox Park (Glasgow 1999 headline spot).  I’ll never forget him say that “I never thought I’d hear every single member of an Ibrox crowd cheer a Catholic”

One major point to note.  Only one single stadium gig.  The last one.

Some of the greatest were in the smallest venues; Pollock, Gardot, Bill Nelson, Faust.

Who did I never see that I wished I had?  Magazine, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins, Can, Velvet Underground.

 

FFS. That was good. (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks at Edinburgh Festival Theatre)


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Pardon the obvious cheap jibe but it HAD to be done.

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks (known as FFS) collaborated on stage tonight in the Edinburgh International Festival and ended their show with the ironic “Collaborations Don’t work”.

Ironic because they do.

Not since Elton John and Kiki Dee has collaboration hit such great heights.

I jest.

Sparks and Franz Ferdinand are made for each other.  Their art school schtick is a perfect match.  Their angsty jittery, jangly synth/guitar combo creates greatness at every turn and, of course, each gets to showcase their three best songs.

Franz chose Take me Out (awesome), Michael (good) and Do you Want to (awesome) to shattering response.

Sparks elected for No 1 Song in Heaven (awesome), This Town ain’t Big Enough for the Both of us (awesome) and When Do I get to sing “my Way” (good).

Frankly the effect of this and their sublime collaboration was almost overwhelming.  This was a truly life affirming gig that anyone in that audience will talk about for years.

Thank you Franz Ferdinand.  Thank you Sparks.  Thank you Edinburgh international Festival.  Thank you Fergus Linehan for your vision to put this on.

And so the festival lies before us…


We saw the Wheel at the Traverse to kick off our festival and next we have the show that FCT is doing; The Chess Game.  I chair this youth theatre and we have 40 excited youngsters treading the boards for the 33rd year in a row at the Festival.

Next, I have Wondrous Flitting, which The Lyceum is staging at The Traverse;  The Lyceum Theatre Company’s first Fringe outing in many years.

Then there’s the shows I’ve booked so far.  I’m seeing Steven Berkoff in action in Oedipus next Friday.  That should be utterly sensational.

But also one of the hot tickets which I have is to see Marc Almond  In Ten Plagues.

But my aching hollow in my chest is for Dance Marathon.  Who will go with me to this experiential play in which the audience dance for four hours in a real life “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’

There is more…all at the Traverse at the moment, a site specific piece in Edinburgh’s Medical Hospital which is about death and the afterlife called “What Remains” and David Greig’s reputedly wonderful “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” with its promising Kylie Minogue finale.

You’ll notice I am not doing the Fringe Cancer; Comedy.

I may do Dave Gorman, and I’ve been invited to The Stand opening night pre-fest jolly with CBS, but I don’t do comedy because I’m a miserable Quantas flyer.

Oh, and a snob.

Meredith Monk. Songs of Ascension at The Royal Lyceum Theatre. Edinburgh Festival 2010


Well, it’s not every day you see a legend in the flesh.  When I say a legend, I don’t mean of Clooneyesque proportions.  I think we’re more in Daliesque territory because Meredith Monk (who records for ECM which might give you a clue) is not what you’d call mainstream.  Approaching 70, she led the line in her own production with grace and conviction.

Her and co writer, Ann Hamilton’s Songs of Ascension (which was commissioned by the wildly applauded Kronos Quartet) is never, ever going to trouble any sort of populist chart any day soon.  And the mass exodus from The theatre after about 15 minutes when it reached the height of “obscurity” was quite tell tale and amusing.

In the foyer beforehand I was told it was, to paraphrase, “pish”.

But it wasn’t.  It’s a devastatingly original smorgasbord of jungle noises, American Indian type language and a range of string and wind instrumentation that goes from dischordant noise to utter beauty in less than a minute.

There’s quite a lot of creepy hippy dancing and some blurry meaningful monochrome video in abundance too.

But.  It works.  I loved it.

Although I guess I’d be a little challenged to explain the plot – other than it’s about nature, getting back to one’s roots and rebirth.  Maybe.

Even Jeana loved it.  Mostly (sort of).

Moments of pure Penguin Cafe Orchestra magic, particularly when what sounded to me like a harmonium was to the fore, just blew me away and actually, if you put your mind to it, you could ignore the silly dances. (She’s famous for her dancing apparently.  But only in hippy circles.)

The choir (I assume put together locally) stole the show in the finale number and we all left happily.

Aah! Apart from the couple behind me who got a flea in their ear from me for chatting through the first 20 minutes.  “If you don’t like it you can leave.” I informed them.  “Some of us are trying to listen to this.”

Up they were shut!

Try this.  You’ll no doubt hate it.

Is this FCT’s last radical road trip?


WPC McBulldog dumped all 70 of us FCT members off the back of our float at the end of last Sunday’s Festival Cavalcade, leaving us transportless and facing the long walk back to Bangholm which, in fact Izzie and nine intrepid explorers embarked upon.  The rest of us were left to ponder the demise of a tradition of 30 years where we all travel to Holyrood Park (or Princes Street in the old days) on the back of a 40 ft Artic.

So, for those of you who’ve shared the fun, have one last nostalgic look at Cavalcade 2010 starting at Bangholm as we left our spiritual home and later as we took the second of two wrong routes to the start.

It was a hoot.

The Last Witch by The Traverse Theatre Company at The Lyceum


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Me and Mrs G went to see this highly recommended production yesterday and just managed to squeeze in with the last two seats in the theatre.

Let’s start on a plus note.  The visual effects are stunning as is most of the acting, but especially the quite extraordinary Kath Howden.  the music and sound add greatly to the experience and my overall take on it was positive.  Good but not great I’d say.

The story is interesting and the dialogue is really good but something was missing for me (and I suspect most of the audience because the applause at the end was more grateful and polite than raucous).

It’s about the burning of The Last Witch in Scotland (in Dornach of all places in 1727) and I liked the way the story really centered on this madwoman’s affection for her daughter and her blind belief that she was indeed a witch when in fact she was really just an illusionist (and olden days junkie).  The story of the daughter (played beautifully by Hannah Donaldson) was what actually gripped me most because there was just the suggestion that she (not her mother) might indeed be touched by the hand of the devil.

Rona Munro, in her programme notes, told us that there were many ways she could have told the tale (one thought was that the Witch may have had an ancient version of Alzheimers) and although I very much enjoyed the dialogue I just felt it missed a beat somewhere along the way.