Category Archives: Damo’s Daily Blog
A city forms the folk conceived there
& we see the Edinburghers pass
Shows So Far – 21
Hangovers – 2
While south of the border England’s cities are one-by-one descending into mayhem, bloodshed & looting, north of the border, Scotland’s capital is carrying on its annual festivities serenely. I mean, I’ve lived in Scotland seven years now, for the simple fact there’s a lot less nob-heads up here. Admittedly, the percantage of nobheads is roughly the same, but there’s only 5 million souls up here, scattered over a vast area. Indeed, Edinburgh is a joy to live in, very cosmpolitan with more of a village vibe than modern European capital. But for one month it becomes a veritable Mumbai of the muses, swarming with ballet dancers & graphic artists, comics, singers & novelists. A big shout out should go to the guys & girls who work at the 300 plus venues, an untriumphed army of youngsters that steer HMS Fringe through the endless oceans of August.
Some of these are the friendly female staff down at Venue 13 on LOCHEND CLOSE- where I caught BROKEN WING a couple of days back. It was there, as everyone was getting changed practically in the street, that I met the producers of the show, who very kindly gave me a comp to see A NIGHT’S TALE (5-12 / 10.30). The company is called UNKNOWN THEATRE & are based in Cardiff, & their story is refreshing. Voluntary ran & fund-raising mental, on a shoe-string budget they charge only a couple of quid to the kids for room hire & get proffessional thespians in who teach the kids there for a cup of tea & a wagon wheel. This is evident from the great harmonies, eloquent speech & graceful acting of this bunch of teenagers singing & dancing through a perfectly pleasant children’s story. It tells the story of Billy Morgan, who follows the Bwca (pronounced Booker) into a magical land which on the edge of destruction fileld with trolls, Faerie Queen’s, wizards & music. The latter was played by four guys to the right of the stage, of which the musical’s writer, James Williams, was plonking the keys. A thoroughly entertaining affair, I loved the leibmotif of the Troll Dance & the bubbling enthusiam of the cast. They must love musicals, as they were, coincidentally, sat next to me at the Showstoppers performance as me on Thursday! Keep it up guys!
The centre-piece of today’s tryptych of showmanship was the rather delightul FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR (10-29 / 16.00). The stage is like a car-boot sale, full of bric-a-brac which is used to make the clever sound effects for the radio plays performed in front of ‘studio audience.’ It takes one back to the bygone days of the 1940’s when the family would huddle round the wireless to hear tales of crime & derring-do. For the live punter the five elegantly dressed cast members – three men & two women – don different head-pieces to bring the plays to life. Its a real slice of middle England Im not used to this far north, & a real hoot to boot. A nice touch is the yellow scripts which the actors carry round wuith them – sometimes reading, sometimes remembering the lines – very realistic. We even get boards held up from time to time telling us to applaud, laugh or do a Nazi hub-hub! Throughout the show we had sporadic advertisements & name-dropping for Clipstone’s brand of tea which were proper funny. Of the four plays presented through the hour, my favorite was TIN. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of an evil London syndicate wanting to flood a mine in order to raise the price of Tin. Cue drowning men gurgling in bowls of water & a playing card placed in an electric fan to simulate drilling. A real good-time riot of fun & frolics, being both a tribute to the inventiveness of the radio age & the company that has rekindled it for the 21st century.
My final show of the day was UNCLE TOM: DECONSTRUCTED at THE SPACE @ JEFFREYS STREET (Aug 9th, 13th 5:20PM / Aug 10th 3:20PM / Aug 11th 9:20AM), & I was joined at the performance by my erstwhile reviewer, Paul Fletcher, who will now be taking up the words…
I would like to round up all the rioters in London, get them on tour busses and bring them up to Edinburgh. I would then point them in the direction of the Edinburgh Castle and the military tattoo! Do your worse boys and girls! Set me free from this relentless night after night of military pompous and fanfare right outside my window! Grrrrr!
UNCLE TOM: DECONTRUCTED (Aug 9-13, Various times @ Venue 45) by the Conciliation Project is a musical play which puts the 1852 novel ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe on trial. It is a show that challenges our preconceptions of who we think black Americans are. And it seems that most of our conceptions come from the above-mentioned book. The characters in the play are split into two groups. On the one side, the southern slave owners, who with faces painted completely white, give a very sinister demon like appearance. On the other side are the black Americans, who do a wonderful job of playing up to their stereotypes at one moment, and then quickly slipping into a more true portrayal of the human condition under slavery the next. The singing and dancing is great, and at some points very moving. ‘Swing low sweet chariot’, and ‘Go down Moses’ are two highlights.
The performances are exaggerated but to a pitch that works very well, which captures the suffering of slavery, as well as the hypocrisy of the so-called Christian-loving slave owners. I especially enjoyed the scene where a slave auction turns into a satire of a catwalk show, the actors strutting their stuff like models, moving their hips and chains in time to the cheesy music. The slavery of human flesh still exists today! Great Stuff! Another scene that also impressed me was when 19th Century slavery was compared to the modern world of sports, and a young black athlete is checked out for his potential to join the college football team! “Don’t worry about getting an education”, the white coach mockingly laughs, “ We will sort out all that! You’re just here to play football! Make us win!”
However being quite cynical I began to think towards the end of the play that this was a classic situation of preaching to the converted. I was sure the middle class audience had already thought about all the issues raised and come to the same conclusions. But thankfully ‘Conciliation Projects’ had a surprise up its sleeve for me! Once the play had finished and the actors addressed the audience to try and get us to share our emotions about the play (I squirmed in my chair having a deep-seated fear for public speaking!), and I ended up speaking to the guy next to me who was over from Oakland, California. He told me that the issues dealt with in the play are issues he has to deal with everyday in America. He was very moved by the play and he made me realise its not just about preaching to the converted! How foolish I am! It’s about having the opportunity to express frustrations and emotions about what is happening in the world right now! And as the actors read off a list of racial atrocities from around the world, from Rwanda to New Orleans, I realised that all this is very important, and just because in my cosy little world I am free from racism it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be screamed about and expressed! It can only be therapeutic! It can maybe even change things! Which is what art and expression is all about! Isn’t it?
Answers on a postcard!
Then I arrive home and switch on BBC news and see the riots are spreading across the country, and the people in charge are predominantly white, while the perpetrators are predominantly non-white! And I have to ask myself! How much has really changed?
Preach on Conciliation Project!
Back in my world (its Damo now), I had to slip away before that talk at the end & sound engineer for VICTOR POPE’S largest, warmest audience yet. Im really enjoying being his lovely assistant, passing out bongos & shaker makers around his audience. This Thursday he’ll be playing with Luke as GINGER & THE TRAMP, down at my Forest Gig. Ive got another artist to play now, Mike ‘DR BLUE MCKEON’, who’s doing his own free show at the same venue, JEKYLL & HYDE (4-12 / 14-18 – 21.30).
So after a pull-out & an addition, here’s the new flyer for Thursday
The Forest Cafe – Bristo Place
THURSDAY AUGUST 11TH
10PM – 3AM
With Support from
GINGER & THE TRAMP
DR BLUE MCKEON
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Each is indubitably & absolutely Edinburgh
Each is proudly & consciously different from the rest
Shows So Far – 13
Hangovers – 1
With the recent Tory Arts council cuts cutting the trembling throat of regional theatre, suddenly the Fringe has become important again for our beloved, board-treading companies. To the punter on the street this means an increase in quality, & my first show of the day, Leila Ghaznavi’s BROKEN WING (9-14 / 17-20 – 11.45) is easily the best play I’ve seen so far. From the outside, venue 13 – HARRY YOUNGER HALL – looks unspectacular, with a couple of gazebos & two portakabins uncermoniously dumped outside to form the HQ. The actors were getting changed in the toilets at the front of the building for gods sake. However, never judge a book by its cover, for inside one is presented with a wonderful, comfortable theatre & a serene ambience. BROKEN WING’s own stage was an sensous eastern affair, with Persian carpets hanging from the ceiling with sable silks draped over the stage liitered with rose petals. The play itself was a beautifully written piece, played out by Americans, full of realistic fast chat & nail-on-the head Islamic culture. They told us a very engaging, thought provoking story. Essentially a young girl who had been orphaned by an earthquake in Iran had attached herself to this man & shared his bed from the age of 5 (they married at 16). Roll on to the present day & an American photographer has moved into their household – resulting in them falling in love. Subsequently she was stoned to death for adultery – & tho we dont witnness so brutal an act – the poetic description was enough to get me squirming! One of the neatest things about the play was the click of a camera that seperated scenes.
I was joined for my next play – THE DICK & THE ROSE (8-13,15-20,22-27 13:30) – by Victor Pope. This was at the very plush POINT hotel, near Lothian Road, & Im still trying to digest the play. The company, OUTCAST CAFE THEATRIX, are from a small town called South Lee in Massachusis, a tight ship ran by its eccentric director. The show is his baby & he announces each scene with a thespian relish that is almost pantomime. The play is a very visceral, erotic affair, accompanied by a whole host of different instruments, from skiffle washboards to acordians, banjos & a cello. This very avant garde story is about sex & its consequences, & uses a highly unique piece of scenery. You could call it a giant quilt with holes in, from which sesame street puppets, human heads & a giant penis emerge, the latter snaking across the quilt form erection to erection. A warm & visually splendid affair, I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life, & still feel a little dazed writing about it. While watching I realised how cool Edinburgh is at this time of the year, with flash-fires of creativity bursting out all over the city at any given moment. The muses are definitely in town & are having to clone themsleves just to keep things ticking over.
On the way to my next culture-nugget I found myself in the Grassmarket, the great tourist-friendly square at the foot of the castle. In the bygone days before football 30,000 people would flock there to see an execution, but today, on the very spot of the gallows, I found an ebbulient bandmaster driving forward the euphoric music of Britain’s first Guggenmusik band, GUGGE 200. It was invented in Switerland & means ‘Happy Music’ & indeed, the team of tubas sucked up all of my worldy woes! There were several drum kits on trolleys (& one pram) trumpets, bass drums, tamborines & over fifty smiling band members up from Bournemouth.
Just off the Grassmarket is Paul’s house, who’d joined me for a couple of plays the other day. It was then that he offered to join my ‘staff’ & assist me in my reviewing. He’d already been down to the brass band to tell them to shut the fuck up (to no avail) & was happy to leave the Grassmarket for the short walk to the top of the Royal Mile & the C TOO venue for WHAT IT FEELS LIKE (8-21 – 16.30) from the young, funky, innovative ENCOMPASS PRODUCTIONS. So, with a fanfare of friendhsip & a roll of literary drums, I would like you all to meet your new reviewer, give it up ladies & gentlemen, for MR PAUL FLETCHER;
You would think living in the grass market with an excellent view of Edinburgh castle would be an ideal location to enjoy the festival, but being obliged to listen to the military tattoo every night and having to hustle your way through the crowds of tourists, just to buy a pint of milk, can all become a very frustrating experience indeed. So much so that I want to climb up to my roof and start picking off the tourists with an AK-47! Die! Die! Die! You fuckers! Die! Aaarrggghhhh!
But Wait! Stop me now! Am I really going to turn into another Edinburgher bemoaning how the freaks of the art world disrupt my peaceful city every year?! No! Definitely not! Because underneath this world of zombie like tourism are small cozy venues where fringe productions are lighting up the dark.
Today I saw WHAT IT FEELS LIKE by “Encompass productions”, a play which explores the dream states of near death experiences. It tells the story of Nicholas Harper, who while lying on an operating table after a car crash, has a near death experience. The story takes place in his subconscious, a dark “in-between” reality where we find “Lester and Simpson”, two characters who are apparently there to assist him in his unresolved issues with his long term girlfriend Sarah. From here the play goes on to be a study in human relationships as the audience are treated to different scenes extracted from Nicholas’s memories with Sarah. The play explores the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and how we not only lie to our partners but also lie to ourselves. With the help of “the Aspects”, eerie actors dressed in black, we are further treated to some stunning physical theatre (the lovemaking scene was a thrilling piece of choreography). The play builds to a harrowing finale where Nicholas’s unconscious reveals its very sinister depths. But this is not all doom and gloom, as the well-written characters of Lester and Simpson spatter the play with humour, which serve to pull us further in to this well constructed dream world. Supported by an excellent original score, which had the woman sitting next to me in tears by the final scene, I cannot not recommend this play enough. A feeling shared by my fellow audience members whose very gracious applause said it all!
So what does it feel like to be living in Edinburgh at this time of year? Well who gives a shit about the military exploits on the castle and the annoying badly dressed tourists (buy some decent rain gear you look stupid!) when Encompass Productions are in town with their electrifying play!
After the play (moving as hell by the way) I bid Paul adieu & a happy reviewing & toddled down to the JEKYLL & HYDE to sound engineer for Victor Pope, after which we began a drinking session that didint finish until 4AM. We beganin the SPIEGELTENT, where Edinburgh’s best live band, THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS were playing. Unfortunately, they were late getting on & I had a show to catch, but in the name of supporting your local artists, here’s a you tube link & their myspace. They’re a passionate group of bohemians & aplaying round about town through the festival, including next saturday again at the Spiegeltent & 25th August at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Apparently the gig was wicked, spreading love thgrough a large, plush tent bustling with eager music lovers & I was told the stage slowly filled up with hot, dancing chicks playing shaker makers!!
My final show of the day was the famous, SHOWSTOPPERS: THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL (5-16/18-28 – 22.50). It was performed at the GILDED BALLOON in the main hall of the Student Union – & massive space (in fringe terms) that was packed to the rafters. Its easy to see why as what occirs on that stage is pure genius. The idea of teh show is that every night, from suggestions by the audience, a completey new, once-in-a-lifetime musical is summoned up from the psyches of the cast & performed with a flourish. Stage left is the director of operations, who deals with the audience & rises from his chair from time to time giving the cast its plot, often hilariously. Stage right are two musicians, a keyboard player who is the mainstay of the music, & a saxplayer/percussionist as his right hand man. The singers are three women & three men who not only make up songs on the spot, but improvise comedy inbetween. Absolutely brilliant. Tonights unique show – DANGEROUS RE-ENTRY – was set on an International Space Station, set in 2050, wih Barack Obama & Vladamir Putin cyrogenically frozen awaiting the discovery of a new planet. The themes of teh songs were Gansta Rap, Sondheim, Abba & Gerswhin, with a romantic sub-plot to boot. The best part was the creation of an alien, with one of the girls standing behind another simulating weird alien tentacles, & the tentative threesome suggested by our recently unfrozen world leaders!
After the performance I rejoined VICTOR POPE, meeting up with Bonnie from Linkey Lea (& all her cute mates), plus THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS for a drink at Cvenues bar. At first glance its something of a school disco, but we turned it into at least a sixth form bash & the place was proper jumping. On getting home in the wee hours I realised I’d been in the field all day, for the atmosphere during Festival time grabs you by the goolies & swirls you about toon, refusing to let go until finally, & exhaustingly, you make it to bed… good night!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Edinburgh is a real classy city
Shows So Far – 6
MUMBLING (Multi-media blogging) is the opera of literary art. Where Wagner used stage design, lighting, music, poetry & costume, the modern-day blogger has, in addition to his/her text :- photography, film, footage, flyers & probably many, many other f’s. With this in mind I thought I’d take mi camera for a spin, inspired by the visit of RICHIE LEWIS FEENIE. He’s a pal of mine from this festival I used to put on down my ex-lassie’s farm (Jock Stock), & a real sweet fella. As we were building up the festival he used to make us signs for the various zones & stages we scattered round the field. These days he’s a full on professional graphic designer & after exhibiting work all round Scotland, this morning he drove over from his home in Fife to set up some pieces in HAS BEANS COFFEE SHOP on the Royal Mile (Canongate). The proprieter there, Graham Kenny, is one of Richie’s clients & a few weeks back at a pub across the road they mutually agreed to hang up Richie’s work. The paintings were nudged into finalty by Richie seeing one of his old rave-buddies, Alison McWhirter’s work down in Dumfries. That they used to jump about the house to the Stone Roses seeps out from every speckled pore of his Pollock/Squires inspired pieces.
While waiting for Richie to arrive I thought I’d take out my primitive camera & potter up to the Princes Street Gardens, with the sun all glorious & everyone in a happy mood. Taking the first photo led me down to see the group in the corner of the first picture below, who were putting on a free performance in the park. I got chatting to the director, Andy Paris, who filled me in on their interesting journey to Auld Reekie. The company is formed from two seperate unis on both coasts of the US – from Seattle, Washington & Lewisburg, Pensylvania. They are exponents of a new form of thetare, called Moment Work, which has plenty of physical motion integrated within the story, where evry piece of furniture has a sub-plot! The play itself is called THE AMERICAN FAMILY (5-6 8-12 – 22.15 / the space @ north bridge) & consists of every young member of this large cast telling emotive stories from thier lives – ie this one guy watched his dad get beaten up by drug-dealers in his car at the age of 5!
From the Gardens I meandered up to the Royal Mile, just as Richie was trundling down it in his wee car, crammed full of paintings. As he unloaded the works I kept an eye out for the predatorial vulturesque parking wardens, then after a brief interview & photo left him to his hanging while I went off to a show. This was LIGHTS, CAMERA, WALKIES at the GILDED BALLOON (3-9 11-16 19-29 / 14.00 – 15.15), another corporate leviathan that this time has taken over the gorgeous Student Union of Edinburgh Universty on Bristo Square. I was directed to the Billiard Room & a spacious theatre, whose stage sported something of a giant kennel. It was a snappy as hell play written by young Tom Glover, a rising star in the comedy spheres – a BBC sitcom finalist no less. The story is set in Hollywood & tells us of two (invisible) dogs competing for the starring role in a movie. There were only three actors playing every part, but the excellent accents conjured the illusion wonderfully. Indeed, my favorite part of the show was their brillaint recreation of a hollywood set, a constant whirl of motion & voices as the actors toed & froed from behind the kennel playing various parts, including an incredible ‘luvey dovey’ Richar E Grant would have been proud of. A thouroughly enjoyable show full of witty one-liners with a driving plot to boot.
Quickly dashing across town I met my good mate PAUL FLETCHER, a local film-maker who’s just come back from a three year stint in Paris making love & money. We soon found ourselves in an elevator at the plush Jury’s Inn, ascending to the eigth floor. Now Paul’s one of my ‘intellectual’ mates – tho of course not averse to a mash-up – & we were absolutely delighted to be presented with the play TO HOLD AN APPLE (6-27 / 15.10) about the artist Paul Cezanne, the author Emil Zola & the German poet Rilke! It has been brought over by a bucnch of highly intellectual New Yorkers led by AS Zelman-Doring, the play’s writer. She was magnificent as the grumpy old Cezanne, mainting the Coleridgian ‘suspension of disbelief’ magnificently. Honestly, despite being a cute woman in her twenties, she pulled off the old man persona with so much aplomb as she shuffled round the stage with her walking stick, especially the facial gestures. Her two lovely assistants wre philosophizing & poeticing all teh way through the show, with the apples being painted, munched & mused over. The writing was great & well researched, mentioning the Dreyfuss Affair & even using one of my favorite texts – Rilke’s ‘letters to a young poet.’ I thought Id recognized it & asked Ms Zelman-Doring at the end if it was so, which impressed Paul no end. Twas a dream to watch & in thaty dream I watched. The play has been recently selected by Christoper Hampton (writer of Dangerous Liasons) to be performed in the Oxford University’s New Writing Festival by the way.
The next show, in an increasingly busy day, was TRICITY VOGUE’S THE BLUE LADY SINGS BACK (6-27 / 18.05) at the SPACE ON NORTH BRDGE. Boy O Boy what a show! The idea is she’s a painting of a blue woman in an art gallery & gets up to musical mischief a la Night in the Museum. Her dulcet voice sang a series of set piece numbers in differing costumes (but always blue), the best of which was her interpreatation of a golden head-dressed Indian Goddess, Saraswathi-stlye. She actually sang in Hindi & placing blue gloves on two female members of the auidence & getting them to stand behind her dancing, produced an electrifying tantric, multi-armed effect. She also look sexy as Geena Davies in thelma & lousise (the epitomy of womanhood) during her cat-tailed rendition of a song called Pussy CAT BOYS, wandering round the audience mewing & purring to their strokes. In fact, there was a lot of audience participation & she even got me up on stage (mildly terrifying), god bless her! At certain points during her show I’m like, this is the best, or at least most entertaining stuff Ive seen so far this Fringe. Unfortunatley I had to leave ten minutes early to rush across town for Victor Pope’s 2nd gig (a vast improvement on yesterday by the way), so if you’re reading this Tricity, thats why I slipped away, & not because I was hitting myself about getting up again!
After snatching some food & writing time at mine, I was out again at night for a show at C CHAMBERS STREET- my fifth of the day = sore feet – picking Paul up again on the way. This was THE DEMON BOX (3-25 – 22.20), a quarter part of the Wagner of Psychiatric Prisons, STEV HYNNESSY’s theatrical tribute to Homicidal maniacs. It is part of a quartet of plays that the actors have stored in the minds in a Kempian Queen’s Men fashion. On this occasion it was Richard Dadd, a Victorian artist who was bidded on by Osiris to murder his father, giving us the line, “Alas! Dadd’s dad is dead!”
The same four actors take part in every play, like the four elements formicng a pefect cohesive ecosystem. This particular play was highly entertaining fare, where the intricate foibles of insanity were perfectly performed. There was this sacrily cute, elegant as waterfalls bird floating about stage as a Shakesperian Ariel, whispering madness into the ears of the players, & the show employed of the best endings Ive ever seen on the stage.
After the show me & Paul joined Victor Pope & Luke (the guy who burnt down mi mates tree) & hit the toon, ending up at C Venues outside bar on the Cowgate. Now, the Cowgate’s normally full of puke & vomit, but come festival time its full of posh totty & particularly interesting chat. The beer was a slightly stepp 3.20 a pint – not quite as pricy as Ireland & three beers get you change from a tenner for two bags of space raiders (beef & pickled onion please)! But come the festival no longer does one have to go to the casinos for a drink after 3, for half the town’s open til 5AM – every night! Happy days!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH