Glasgow to Edinburgh by bicycle


So, as I may have mentioned already I’ve been asked to blog on behalf of http://ow.ly/c1Ssg the Pedal For Scotland bike ride which runs from Edinburgh to Glasgow on the morning of September 9th.

To be honest six months ago the very thought of it would have filled me with dread but being four and a bit stone lighter, partly thanks to my beautiful bike I am actually relishing the challenge.  Nevertheless, I need to build the mileage up and get the “miles in my legs” if I’m going to make a decent fist of it.

It’s 47 miles which should be achievable in just over three hours at my rate of riding (I average 16 miles an hour typically).

So, yesterday amidst the rain and before the Andy Murray defeat I got on my bike and thrashed out 17 miles in about an hour.  For a change I wore my heart rate monitor to see how I coped.  From a start where my heart rate was about 60 I quickly settled into a rate in the mid 130’s (good solid exercise) but at the end I had to tackle the dreaded Hawes Brae in South Queensferry.  A real beast of a hill about half a mile long and really steep.  It climbed and climbed as I forced my way to the top, peaking at 168.  For those of you who know for a 50 year old that ‘s 220 – 50 (170)  only 2bpm short of it.

My objective is to get 100 miles a week into my legs but that’s  a big ask.  Also I’ve got two holidays planned so that isn’t going to help either plus FCT has a show on in the Festival called Once on This Island which will also preoccupy me for the best part of a fortnight.

But anyway.  Here goes.

My picks of the Fringe


It may seem  a little disingenuous for me to offer my thoughts on a Fringe when, like most mortals, holding down a day job makes  it hard to see as many shows as the legion of professional critics get to see – and not to mention the fact that I was effectively staging my own production (as Chairman of FCT who put on ten exhilarating performances of The Chess Game).

But, if I was to use complete objectiveness as my watchword for blogging you’d all be desperately dissapointed.  I’m sure my predilection for frankness makes for a more interesting read.

I read with delight an extended extract from Mark Kermode’s biography in the Observer earlier today and I realise his style is one that I aspire to.  His destruction of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour made me laugh out loud and lick my lips.

It was a Fringe dominated by shows from the collosus of Scottish new writing; The Traverse.  I saw no fewer than 6 of their shows but it should be pointed out that these threw up a wide mix of collaborators; not least my own beloved Lyceum who produced a high octane multi-character, three-hander called Wondrous Flitting which had many amusing moments and a very fine performance by Molly Inness in particular.

But their collaborations also included the NToS, Grid Iron and Blue Mouth Inc; all of which I enjoyed.

I’m desperately sorry that I missed Mission Drift which was, I suspect, the pick of the bunch but the following all inspired me;

The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart shows what a collossus of Scottish writing David Greig is; this site specific show, set in the  nearby Ghillie Dhu pub, had both Jeana and I in stitches and full of awe at a quite remarkeable ensemble performance.  Outstanding.

The second site specific show I saw was What Remains.  Set in the Anatomy School of Edinburgh University, and produced by Grid Iron it was the nearest one gets to outright horror on stage.  Driven remarkably by its writer, David Paul Jones, it begins with a highly intense (scary actually) twenty minute opening movement from a Concerto for piano written and performed by the aforementioned Jones.  It was electric.  What follows is the story of Jones’ descent into madness.  Part Bella Lugosi, part Anthony Hegarty, part Luis Bunuel, part Hammer House of Horror this show absolutely blew me away and at one point a certain plot devise pretty much made me let go of my bowels. Jones is simply wonderful as he acts sings and plays the piano in a one man tour de force.

My third Traverse pick is Dance Marathon.  Again Jeana and I attended and this was a joy from start to finish.  Following the recent trend, it too is site specific and the action took place in The Lyceum’s rehearsal studios in which the audience IS the cast and we dance for four hours (we went to a super long performance on the show’s last night).  Pouring with sweat at the denoument in which Jeana and I failed to be crowned King and Queen of the dancefloor in a dance, poetry, song and video smorgasbrod of excellent entertainment I was approached by Bluemouth’s producer who said she’d been watching me all night and declared me “Awesome and relentless”.  My proudest moment on this year’s Fringe.

Lastly, Marc Almond’s performance in Ten Plagues was awesome.  Very moving.

My other notable show this year was Berkoff’s Oedipus at The Pleasance which was brilliant.  The Greek Chorus of mainly old and middle aged men stole the show in a way choruses rarely do.  It was a little let down by the casting of Anita Dobson as Oedipus’ object of affection but it was not enough to stop tis being a top class show.

I saw FORK’s amusing Pink Noise but it fell short of completely convincing me that every sound emanating from this Finnish a Capella group was indeed man made.

All things considered though my personal Fringe First goes to Dance Marathon for the most invigorating (physically as much as intellectually) four hours I’ve spent in a theatre.

The Chess Game by Forth Children’s Theatre


I’ve spoken little on this blog (but a lot on FCT’s) about the show the young people’s theatre  that I chair is putting on in the Fringe this week.  However I’d like to redress that now.  It finishes on Saturday night and unfortunately we have tickets left.

It’s a little known show; unknown would be a better word but we are privileged indeed to have its creator (Iain MacDonald from Greenfaulds High School in Cumbernauld) as our musical director.  Alongside him are Vic Laing as director, Kirsty Shaw as his assistat (at a mere 16 years of age) and Katy Barry as our voice coach.

It has been a special week as audience member after audience member have gasped at the professionalism of the show, the quality of the production and the sheer exuberance and ability of the cast allied to outstanding and memorable songs.

Well done everyone on stage and off for the power of work you have put in and the quality of the work that has emerged.

Here’s what the Evening News (respected critic Thom Dibdin) had to say…

A JAZZY score and light-hearted banter underpin the strong and serious message of FCT’s well-judged musical offering for the Fringe.

Originally produced by the company in 1985, The Chess Game is written by their musical director Iain MacDonald. It is both a timely piece of entertainment and one which perfectly weighted for its young performers.

A collection of anonymous, white and black-clad figures emerge out of darkness. Over the musical they form up into a hierarchy, with individuals taking the roles of the chess pieces, and then the pieces take on the aggressive qualities of the game of chess, to a brilliantly twisted finale.

The older members of the cast, such as Rebecca Gilhooley as the White Queen, and the quartet of girls as the media-savvy Knights, put in strong and subtle performances.

The younger members shine too. Hayley Scott and Liam Thomson as the lead pawns trade on their strengths – hers in her voice, his in his acting – with great, heartfelt performances.

Which is what makes this production so entrancing. It entices the performers out of their comfort zones – but not so far as to leave them exposed – with strong music and great rhythms that are complex in structure, but satisfying to listen to.

Run ends Saturday

Please let me know if you would like tickets.

Forth Children’s Thearte. The Chess Game


Well, we’re three nights into our run with OK sized audiences  ; good for an unknown show.  But we need to up the ante on that if we are to cover our costs.  So that starts at 1.50 when we preform on the Lower Stage on The Royal Mile.

It’s an open air event and this is the scene from my window…

But we will carry on regardless with 39 kids and a battery operated generator.  Should be fun…

After that, a bit of flyering and back for a Barbeque at base.

The first review of the show has come in from Thom Dibdin.  He was very complimentary ad even used a couple of my pictures.

Apps, Happiness, Casablanca and The Chess Game

 

When Two Queens Go to War… Rebecca Gilhooley and Julia Carstairs in FCT’s The Chess Game. Photo © Mark Gorman

By Thom Dibdin

Start it up and lets go! Day One of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe dawned bright and clear. No monsoon, no rain, just a crisp morning with light wind and sunny skies.

A perfect day for a play called Happiness, it would seem, at a sparkling new venue to boot: The Playhouse at Hawke and Hunter Green Room. Good timing too, for the Tron Theatre’s revival of Casablanca, the Gin Joint Cut – which arrives in Edinburgh with a slew of four and five star reviews under its belt. And to round off the day, a visit to the first Edinburgh Local Hero, with the fabby FCT’s The Chess Game, at Inverleith.

 

The Cast of The Chess Game, by FCT. Photo © Mark Gorman

Finally the Local Heroes, Forth Children’s Theatre. I always enjoy reviewing their productions but was slightly concerned to be there on first night of The Chess Game, particularly when the company has just said good-bye to a very successful generation of young performers.

No worries, though, The Chess Game was excellent. Not perfect yet, but the voices will mature and grow in confidence over the years, as will the acting. There are several in the company who need to learn to speak up and out, as the mumbled spoken lines into their boots. Director Vic Laing could also have improved some of the blocking. He left several of the more diminutive members of the company stuck out of sight at the back in big ensemble numbers and tableaux which should have given everyone a chance to shine.

That said, the young company tackled this piece about war, redemption and taking responsibility with real maturity. There are several very problematic moments which they made pass by with a natural fluidity to their pacing. Their musical performances pushed right to the edge of their abilities too – well beyond their comfort zones – and they made the tricky arrangements sound simple.

Of course they do have some cracking support, and those responsible for the wardrobe did an excellent job. The live band were crisp and supportive under the leadership of Iain MacDonald who wrote the words, music and lyrics of the show – which FCT first performed back in 1984. A thought-provoking treat. And I found myself humming the tunes on the way home.

So, come along to our venue…at Inverleith Church Hall, Ferry Road (Top of Granton Road), from August 5th – 13th at 7.30 with matinees on Saturday 6th and 13th at 2.30 pm.

Tickets are priced £12 (£10 conc). All tickets are £8 on Sat 6th Matinee.

Call the FCT Ticket Hotline to place your order on 07794 144372.

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.

2010. In hindsight.


Not a bad vintage actually.

Work wise I was run off my feet once again and almost literally in December which proved to be extraordinarily challenging due to the shitness of the weather and the fact that I was researching all over the country.  It was a real struggle, very stressful indeed.

Some great clients which include STV, Ampersand, Corporation Pop, 60 Watt, nmp and LA Media from last year.  But added a few too including Gill’s Cruise Centre, Paligap, and The Usability Lab.

My golf stank pretty much from start to finish and I had a poor Arran and a poor St Andrews.  However one highlight was an Eagle 3 on the par 5 second in the club championships first round.  I won that but went out in round two.  However Forty years of failing to Eagle were finally over. (Tom got about 6 last year alone).

Musically it was a big return to form after very poor shows in both 2008 and 2009.

I’ve already posted my tracks of the year elsewhere which will give you an idea of my top ten albums, but for the record, these are they…

I’m New Here by Gil Scott Heron

Band of Joy by Robert Plant

The Courage of Others by Midlake

Queen of Denmark by John Grant

The Suburbs by The Arcade Fire

Sky at Night by I am Kloot

Elektonische Music Experiment – German Rock and Electronic Music 1972 – 1983

Write About Love by Belle and Sebastian

The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

Seasons of my Soul by Rumer

My blog had a record year, just, with 340,000 hits, up 45,000 on last year and beating 2008 by only 1,000.  As a result I hit the million mark last week and raised over £1,000 for St Columba’s Hospice in the process.  Thanks to all who contributed.

I did two music quizzes (one in Edinburgh and one in Manchester) for NABS and these raised £3,500

The Hibees were a farce from year start to end and our Scottish cup hopes look less plausible than for a very long time.  Looks like we’ll be going at least 110 years before winning it again.

Theatre again played a big part in my year.

My role as a director of The Lyceum developed and I thought Mark Thomson had a vintage year.  Every show was a hit in some form or other and the highlights for me were The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Price and The Importance of Being Earnest.

FCT had another good year, my first at the helm and I’d like to thank the fab committee for their support.  Two great shows in Just So and Guys and Dolls and another ENDA award.  Annie’s next but no decision yet on the festival.  Our away day in October was deemed a great success.

Amy started at Uni and is working hard as she has done all year at Dakota.  She bought a virtually new car herself ( a Toyota Yaris) and I was really proud of her for being so focussed to be able to do this.  Ria is working hard at school and did really well in her standard grades.  Tom isn’t and didn’t.

Tom’s golf continued to improve and his handicap went from 11 to 7.

Sadly Jeana’s blossoming work at Suntrap came to an end when the funding was pulled.  She was devastated and I suspect still is.

We holidayed in California and it was a tram smash of a holiday from start to finish, summed up by this video…

http://www.youtube.com/v/E5lc8c9EsXg?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1

In books I didn’t read much.  I am enjoying Freedom by Jonathon Franzen but the best of the year was the Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace.

fantastic series of horrific police brutality .

And my movie of the year? Well, I saw over 20 movies at the flicks this year and a lot of real quality.  But I plump for The Social Network.  A Prophet was great as was Monsters and The Road, but David Fincher surpassed himself with an amazing script by Aoron Sorkin.

TV show of the year? No Question. Mad Men (we’re playing catch up and only nearing end of season two but it’s fabulous).

In reality TV The Apprentice continues to kick ass.

Digital gizmo of the year?  My iPad… but also my Canon 450 D.  An up and down year on the camera front but happy with my lot and looking for a Canon 5D Mk 1 and a new 28mm prime lens to move on a level in 2011.

Idiot of the Year?  Won hands down by Nick Clegg.  Only cos he sold his soul to the devil.  But he was run close by those fools that lead our government.  You know who they are.  Tony Blair continued to make a right fucking dick of himself and the legacy of Kenny Macaskill is not away yet with Magrahi in the rudest of health.

Sadly I lost a number of friends during the year; Myles, Kathy and Jim, I’ll miss you all.  God bless and love to all of your families.

Wife of the year? Jeana Gorman. 21st year running.  How can she bear it?

Put it this way. I couldn’t live with me. Still.

And so to 2011.

My hopes?

Hibees win the Scottish Cup.  (That’s just stupid.  Ed.)

Tom gets down to a 4 handicap.

I win something, anything, at Golf.

The kids do well at school and uni.

I am healthy throughout. (And lose rather a lot of weight.)

Both Cath and Jean stay healthy too

The credit crunch doesn’t get worse again.

Who will win £100 and help Pego’s millions for St Columbas Hospice?


I’m running a sweep to guess when I will hit 1,000,000 views of my blog and the proceeds will be donated to St Columbas Hospice.

The reason I am doing this is because my blog first took off as I wrote about my dad dying whilst he was in St Columba’s.

So the deal is this.  Go to this link and Pledge £10 to guess when the magic millionth reader will  arrive and the closest to the time and day will win £100 and a bottle of champagne (put up by me and not taken out of the proceeds!).

Now, to give you a little help we currently sit at 964,124 views (at 8pm on Sunday November 7th).  I am currently averaging 786 views a day but it has been higher and lower.

At this rate I will hit Pego’s millions in 45 days. (About 21st December roughly?)

But will it be sooner and at what time?

You can enter as many times as you like.  Good luck.

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.

My (sorry, our) wonderful, wonderful children


her indoors and himwee

Exam results tomorrow.

All three of our children await them with different levels of importance.  And engagement.

When they come in most will be met sanguinely.

Good or bad they (mostly) tried hard. (Those that didn’t know who they are.)

But it’s not everything. Exam results.

Amy is doing an amazing job at Scotland’s top Seafood restaurant.

Tom is astounding on the golf course; his handicap has now eclipsed most of my adult mates and he will be on the fourth tee of the regional final of The Dunfermline Masters tournament, as his results certificate plops through the letterbox, tomorrow.

And Ria is, from Friday, taking centre stage in a ten day run in the world’s greatest arts festival.

Me?  I try.

Jeana?  She delivers.

Ragtime Publicity Photos


I spent most of today taking cast photos for Ragtime.  Great fun and the kids at FCT were fab.

Well we ran off about 400 photos this afternoon at Newhaven Harbour and The Botanics.  Here’s just a few as a wee taster.  You can find them all on this Flickr link

The New Rochelles were shot in sepia to reflect the stuffiness and formality of the time and their super wealth.

familyv2

three rochelles3

new rochelle3

The Immigrants are shot in a blue duotone to represent the cold misery they are about to face in an America that ain’t gonna welcome them.

tateh3

family 13

waiting in lione3

Ria gets into FCT’s festival show


FCT’s next show is Ragtime (an adaptation of a book by E L Doctorow) and Ria got a chorus part after auditions on Monday to which 100 kids turned up for 45 places.  We’re all really pleased for her.

20090417-fct-ragtime-logo-2

Last night was the after show party for the FCT cast which I kept 100% sober (I had to drive) but still managed two whooping full on rave renditions of We are the Children of the night (even sober it was a hoot!)  Ria didn’t know where to look though.  Poor lassie.

And now… the verdict!


What, only five starts from the Evening News?  Now, I have to say I’m getting fed up of being called old.  First ‘pops’ then an advertising veteran and now an actor ‘no longer in the first flushes of youth.’  Is it a conspiracy?

Last night was an immense experience culminating in a standing ovation.  Really, you had to be there…  And you know what?  We’re sold out (apart from a few tickets left for Saturday afternoon).

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FCT: Ya Beauty *****, Churchill Theatre


KIDS get short shrift these days. It’s almost as if the rest of society wants them to loiter in bus shelters, just so they are to able to say those immortal words, ‘I told you so’ whenever things go wrong.
If today’s teenagers are often singled out as being lazier, less educated and ruder than any generation that came before them, anyone sitting in the Churchill Theatre last night may beg to differ on the evidence presented by the Forth Children’s Theatre as they staged their 30th anniversary show.

For any criticism of modern youngsters would be to pay the hard work, tenacity and talent of the kids in the FCT a complete disservice, particularly when some of their choral numbers could only be described as West End worthy.

To celebrate three decades of song, dance and youthful enthusiasm, the FCT have brought together a 70-strong cast, made up of children and music from every generation of the company, to perform an assortment of their favourite show tunes.

While some of the original children, such as Mark Gorman, son of late FCT founder Peter Gorman, and Geraldine DePonio may no longer be in the first flush of youth, they certainly made up for their relative decrepitude with a host of nostalgic on stage antics.

Sadly, however, the age and experience of a misspent adulthood proved no match for youth and exuberance though, and the group’s teenage members left many of their elders in the dust.

While seasoned actors Greg Sinclair, as an adorably geeky Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors, and Kerry-Ann Rae, as Annie’s devious Miss Hannigan, showed the young upstarts how a few years of further education will help develop a gift; It was the 10 to 20 age group that really dazzled on the stage.

Displaying a worrying lack of first-night nerves, the cast launched into a diverse blend of big numbers only minutes into the first act.

Covering some of musical theatre’s most challenging and popular songs they deftly worked their way through Jekyll and Hyde’s Façade, The Boyfriend’s Never Too Late and Oh! What a Lovely War’s emotive and moving Keep The Home Fires Burning.

Ensemble piece, The Ballad of Sweeny Todd, showcased superbly the ability of the group to utilise the vocal and acting ability of adult cast members while enticing excellent performances from the younger players in the chorus.

With a large female cast, many of the set pieces were designed specifically for several outstanding young sopranos.

Not to be outdone, the boys surprised with mature and expressive performances, Matthew Smith and Ronan Radin standing out.

An honourable mention must also go to Andrew Dyer’s Lucio from Romeo and Juliet. His was a lesson in introducing Shakespeare that many English teachers might wish to take note of.

A directorial team, taking turns in directing and choreographing each sequence, kept the segments of the show flowing effortlessly into one and other, although an obvious lack of rehearsal time in the auditorium meant that the some of the opportunities to use the space more effectively were lost.

Let’s just hope that none of these kids get their big break too soon, thus depriving Edinburgh’s amateur theatre of some wonderful up and coming talent.

And so the time time has come and now i face the primal curtain…


20090318-fly

The day has arrived.

We took ownership, however briefly, of the Church Hill Theatre tonight and had our first run, in the studio theatre.  Tomorrow we do our technical run at 10.30.  Dress at 2.30 and open at 7.30.  We’re ready.  The rehearsals on Sunday, last night and tonight have all built on each other and started from a good place.  It’s getting pretty tight all round I have to say.  (Although one of my numbers – Get me to the Church on Time from My Fair Lady happily calls for rumbustuousness and a lack of overall discipline!)

The show with the exception of the Sat Mat is, to all intent and purpose, sold out.  As I predicted. And the Saturday matinee is half sold and will no doubt fill up quickly now as the latecomers realise that when we said we thought the nights would sell out it wasn’t just us making it up.

If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket (and believe me you will count yourself lucky) you are in for a spellbinding evening’s entertainment.

I count myself blessed and privileged beyond belief to be part of this.  Felix McLaughlin who just came up from Cardiff on Sunday to join the final rehearsals was dumbstruck by the depth and quality of talent on show.  I’m not talking about me and my generation here I’m talking about the current and just ‘graduated’ cast who have talent in extreme.  And the directing team, choreographer and musical direction team have to be seen to be believed.

The impact this show has had on me will never be repeated in my life.  I feel sure of that because it is truly a one off, truly a labour of extraordinary love.

My father would not only have got ‘the tingles’ as he called it.  He would have been swept away in a tidal wave of emotion which is exactly what will happen to our audiences because, on the whole, their lives have been so positively influencd by the wonderful work of FCT and this is, after all, the best of FCT.

I keep coming back to the greatest thing of all;  membership is a mere £3 – for the year – which includes the opportunity of being in a 10 night run on the Fringe PLUS a show like this and we’ve never had even so much as a penny of public sector funding.

FCT is immense and this  joyous photo from the rehearsals sums it all up for me.

This is FCT!

this-is-fct

Lyceum Youth Theatre – success by Nick Drake


No, not that Nick Drake, the contemporary playwright.

lyt-success

I took Ria to see the opening night of LYT’s contribution to The National Theatre’s New Connections festival of new youth drama.  And damned fine it was too.

A cast of 19 on a tiny Trav 2 stage put on a fine performance in a space that was frankly too small given their energy.  It’s a highly choreographed show drawing on pretty much every theatrical trick in the book and it works very well.

It’s not quite an ensemble piece because three principals stand out;  Nick (the devil?) played with aplomb by Steve McMahon to the point you would happily punch his city spiv character (how appropriate in these times) hard in the face and the two romantic leads Tom (an outstanding and likeable Hector Brown) and Lucy (the lovely Kim Donohoe).

The theme is about the pursuit of money ending in tears and is a morality tale for our times with real resonance.  Money indeed cannot buy you love it seems in Drake’s eyes.  It would have been easy for the script to cross the line into cliche and clunkiness but it avoids this at all turns and the performances of the ‘chorus’ hold the show together crisply and engagingly.

It’s the first LYT show I’ve seen and just goes to show that FCT (biased as I am) do not have a monopoly on brilliant young people’s theatre in Edinburgh.  Joking aside these are very different companies and LYT’s take is very much more adult in theme and tone.

You’ll be lucky to get a ticket, but if you can.  Do.

inspiring beyond words


wwii6bstpauls

At today’s FCT rehersal we blocked and performed two numbers that had me frequently on the verge of tears.  It was a war section of the show segueing  ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ from WWI and a song from the Vackees –  set in the Blitz of WWII.

Keep the Home Fires Burning starts with a female solo for the first verse then the female chorus does verse two, then the male chorus takes over for verse three, before the full company combines for the concluding verse.  There’s no harmonies, just a gradual build from a gentle hush until the second half of the last verse which is sung in full voice and it was quite simply magnificent.  Seriously the hairs were standing up on my neck.  I was gobsmacked by it.  Joyce and Catriona’s handling of it all was nothing short of perfection.

The song from the Vackees is slightly more complicated but no less affecting and again builds to a stunning climax.

Honestly, I count my blessings to be a part of this thing with youngsters that are so talented: it’s awe inspiring.

Every single member of the directing team (musical, movement and acting) are due my unrequited thanks for this.

I know, I know I’m getting all Kate Winslett on you.  But you have to be there.

You will not regret a penny of the ticket price when you come along.  And you WILL be coming along.

“The tingles”


match-girls-1888

For those of you that know my father you will know that he used this expression a lot when describing events and moments that hit the spot and created a real emotional resonance. Today I had “the tingles” as we completed our second rehearsal for the FCT 30th Anniversary Show.

We’d learned the words and melody of “With This Life of Mine” from the Matchgirls on Friday night and today we blocked and rehearsed the movement (really exciting stuff from Jill) and brought the whole thing together.

It was really quite superb, particularly with singing coach, Joyce’s, interpretation and rigour, and her addition of harmonies

Then a new dimension was introduced.

Liam Sinclair, one of the directors, made us think about the point of it and where it fitted into FCT’s huge canon of work. The 20 minutes he took at the end of the rehearsal turned something that was great into something that is, and will be, utterly compelling, truly moving and peerless.

The way he did it left me breathless.

Be warned. There will be tears. (Especially from my sister Jane.).

Thespianism


Well, 20 plus years later, I’m back on the stage with FCT for their thirtieth anniversary show next April. First rehearsal tonight and I was given a pretty safe solo part. There are some astounding talents in the show. Some of the male leads have incredible voices. Just as well as this is the first song I have to learn. It’s going to be a major challenge but I’m looking forward to it.

We’ve all agreed that I should seek sponsorship from Imodium.

The audition. day two


So, I got called back for a second audition at FCT today.  “Read nothing into it” they said.

I wasn’t really sure what the experience was going to entail so turned up relatively carefree, and a bit late as it turned out, which was a pity because the assembled kids had been taken through two songs, Fagens’s “You gotta pick a pocket or two” and a negro spiritual.

I missed the practice totally.

Half an hour later I was called with four other guys, all of whom could have taken lead roles at the Royal Opera House, to make a complete and utter tit of myself.

In turn, we had to sing two verses from each song for which I was more or less completely unprepared and talent-free.

It was probably the most terrifying ten minutes of my life (although it felt like several hours).

As Pavarotti, Domingo and Careras strutted their stuff I evacuated my bowels.  And then I had to sing this spiritual number that would have challenged a Castrato; the objective being to check out our range, (Well, I’ll tell you now I ain’t no Tenor, I’m a baritone!)

The only thing that shook more than the paper in my hands containing the words was my voice.  Which trembled like the World Trade Centres on 9/11.

I tell you, I was completely and utterly petrified.  My stools were fluid.  My life unliveable.  My shame unparalleled.

I was not good.

In fact I was not even bad.

My dancing experience, yesterday, suddenly seemed bearable.

I think I might be psychologically scarred for the rest of my life.

You’re having a laugh


Please note this image has been retouched to protect the innocent behind me...

Please note this image has been retouched to protect the innocent behind me...

Today I did something I haven’t done for over 20 years.

I auditioned for a show. With FCT (Forth Children’s Theatre) to be precise.

I was in the first ever cast as a 16 year old, 30 years ago, and the show that FCT is putting on next spring (Easter 2009) is ostensibly a “Now that’s what I call FCT” pick of the last 30 years.

So, all current and past cast and crew were called to Leith Academy at 9.30 this morning where we played a game of zip, zap, boing as a warm up, engaged in some improvisation and then learned a dance, correction, the other 50 learned a dance.

I crashed and bashed about like a fool.

I was surrounded by kids from aged 10 through their teens and a bunch of adults who’d come back for this show and every single one of them picked the dance up more or less effortlessly, so that made my abjectness all the more awful and apparent. And the worst thing was that none of them knew me well enough to jeer, send me home packing or make videos and post it to their friends.

For those of you that had to endure this dreadful experience I unreservedly apologise. (It might have scarred some of them for life.)

To say I had seven left feet would be a huge and unneccessary compliment. I know I was rank. Nevertheless, the dancing was part of the audition. Thereafter we learned a song from The Matchgirls – an FCT classic as the Director, Vic called it – and we then had to both dance and perform the song in small groups of 8 to an X Factor type auditions panel.

Well, the judging panel must have thought someone had cross-bred John Cleese with Mr Magoo and thrown in a bit of Dumbo for good measure. I was utterly rank. I was as graceful as a Hippo giving birth, having just been dropped on a trampoline from the top of a tower block.

I truly underachieved.

But, you know what, I think it went quite well, considering.

My singing was OK, although it felt like I had ingested three packets of Imodium 30 seconds before I was due to sing. I had forgotten quite how stomach-churningly terrifying auditions can be, but hey, it’s the same for everyone I suppose.

Anyway they called me back for a second audition tomorrow.

I think there’s a part for a clown going.

FCT wins inaugural Evening News award


Winning production

Winning production

FCT’s production of Jeckyl and Hyde has won the award for best Musical in the Evening News Drama Awards. My review of the show here was hugely complimentary but sparked a deluge of debate regarding whether or not the choice of show was appropriate.

Obviously winning an award does not seal the argument but it is yet another fantastic achievement.

My father would have been mightily proud.

Congratulations also to Edinburgh Theatre Arts for winning the best Drama Award for Blue Remembered Hills.

Amateur drama in Edinburgh desperately needs the sort of filip that this sort of recognition provides and so we must thank the Evening News for their recognition.

As time goes by


The anniversary of my dad’s death looms large and as a mark of respect my mum and dad’s dear friend Sylvia Morrison cooked up a plan some time ago that came to fruition tonight.

She and her husband Gagy used to have the occassional snifter with my mum and dad in the Theatre Royal Bar of an afternoon. Next to the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre, it features a host of Playhouse performers’ signed and framed photos.

Sylvia felt my dad, as a ‘Local Hero’, should take his place for immortality, among the greats. And so plans were set in place to gain him a berth on the walls.

My pal, Jim Downie, beautifully designed a tribute to him and whilst this photo can never do it credit it might give you a wee taster to have a look yourself.

On the night over 100 people showed for a fantastic get togetherof family, friends and FCT.

It was magic.

We toasted Pego with an oggy, oggy oggy.

Oy, oy oy.

Yah beauty

A nice plus was that his picture replaced Burt Bacharach’s so, by way of an apology to Burt I think we need to enjoy some of his wonderousness.

For me, his collaboration with Elvis Costello is peerless.

Here’s a wee bit…

On the way home we collectively had our first ever Deep Fried Mars Bar.  Ria loved it.  The rest of us were less dismissive than we should have been.