Do you even know what a stenographer is?
The Urban Dictionary describes it thus:
A stenographer is someone who types what people say. You have to listen carefully and type very fast to be a stenographer. On TV shows, you may have noticed someone typing everything the judge, lawyers, and witnesses say in a courtroom. That’s the stenographer.
So it’s the ideal subject matter for a tap dancing number as you tip tap away at your typewriter and that’s exactly the idea behind this number in my Youth Theatre’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. In this scene Millie walks the stenography test.
Millie (Emily Jackson) had sadly lost her voice on the day I filmed the rehearsal.
Instead of doing my work this morning I made this instead. It’s an FCT in- joke but it made me laugh doing it. I hope you enjoy it.
I hope no-one takes offense. None intended.
I introduced one of the FCT cast to the production team at STV when they wre casting for their recent STV Appeal commercials and wee Emma Simpson got the job…
So far the appeal has raised over £1.2m.
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.
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.
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.