Category Archives: Uncategorized

Six Inches of Topsoil, and the Fact it Rains

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Birnam Institute, Dunkeld
10th May 2018

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Melody Grove (2).jpegThere’s a story about a farmer who meets a traveller on the road and the traveller asks what the people in the next village are like. The farmer asks how the traveller found the people in the last village he came through. “Oh! They were a rough lot. They were mean and ignorant!” replies the traveller. “Well,” says the farmer, “the people in the next village are even worse!” A little later the farmer meets a traveller coming in the opposite direction to the first. This traveller asks the same of the farmer as the first (this being a folk tale) and the farmer asks the same question as before. “They were the kindest of people” answers the second traveller. “I am only sorry I could not have stayed there a little longer.” The farmer grins, “Well I think you’ll find the people in the next village to be even better than that.” Farmers often embody a wisdom that would seem to be at odds with the ‘fashionable’ ways of the urban world. They literally are a source for playwright Kieran Hurley’s most recent work ‘Six Inches of Topsoil and the Fact it Rains’.

Last Spring, Hurley and Perth Theatre’s artistic director Lu Kemp went round Perthshire interviewing rural people, asking them how living on the land in the present-day compared with how it was twenty years ago. They asked what their hopes and fears for the future were, living as we all are in a time of great political, social and environmental change. The responses were distilled into this entertaining and thought-provoking little one act performance played by Melody Grove and Aly Macrae. In a recent interview with the Mumble, Hurley gave his own take on the research process;

Kieran-HurleyThe idea for the show started with Lu wanting to make a piece for and about rural Perthshire. The idea of doing a verbatim play came about because we’d worked together on another verbatim piece, still in development, for a theatre down south and we’d both gotten a lot out of it. Verbatim theatre basically just means a play based on real life materials, usually interviews. So we made this piece about the farming industry, basically by driving around rural Perthshire, following leads and speaking to people. Farmers, mostly. But also food campaigners, journalists, seasonal workers, storytellers… It might sound quite narrow, talking about farming but the amazing thing is becomes a jumping off point for such a broad range of issues. Talking about the food industry means talking about climate change, about Brexit, about how we use and share this land that we all have to live off, how we produce enough food for us all to be able to eat. Really big, fundamental stuff. And because it’s a verbatim play it’s full of this distinctive voices and witty and unique perspectives.

The Birnam Arts Centre was packed out on Thursday night to see Grove and Macrae. The audience sang along to familiar songs and music and possibly recognised some of the local characters Macrae and Grove so artfully brought to life in this wonderfully intimate venue. There was a real sense of a community celebrating itself throughout the performance, hearing itself talking to itself about what, to it, is important.

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Macrae and Grove presented a host of voices, explaining what they love about farming, how Brexit will affect their ways of living and what their fears are for how farming will have to change in order to respond to climate change, migration and overcrowding. This was interweaved with songs and music, all performed by the duo. Some of the voices give contradictory opinions and present opposing views of the challenges of the future, and one would expect that from a vox pop style of production. But through the multitude of opinions and stories there was a sense that, thankfully, farmers take the long view. Things will have to change. Our politicians and landowners may have some sleepless nights and difficult choices ahead as we pull out of the EU and have to think about how land gets used to feed a population instead of being used by a privileged few for huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’. However, the relationship to time and to the land would seem to some of those things that remain steady through these changes. “Live as if you were going to die tomorrow” says one of Macrae’s characters, “but farm for a hundred years.”

‘Six Inches of Topsoil’ is travelling round Perthshire venues at the moment. If it is near you and you want an evening that will make you laugh, smile and also think a bit about some serious questions, then make sure you see it.

Review: Mark Mackenzie
Photography: Fraser Band

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An Interview with Lindsay Corr

LEITHEATRE are bringing their production of Harold Pinter’s ever effervescent THE HOMECOMING to Edinburgh this week. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the lady who plays Ruth…


Hello Lindsay, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Lindsay: I was born and raised in Belfast, then moved to Edinburgh to study drama at University and just never left.

Treading the boards, as they say, is not your day job, can you tell us what is?
Lindsay: I’m Marketing and Communications Manager for TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) which is based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. TRACS brings together networks of artists and cultural organisations in collaboration, to showcase and improve the knowledge and practice of Scotland’s traditional art forms. I am lucky to work in a beautiful venue which is welcoming and inclusive, with a wonderful variety of events showcased year-round, plus TRACS presents regional opportunities to engage with traditional culture, live.

Have you found your Celtic roots in Ireland have helped you to slot into the Scottish cultural scene?
Lindsay: Well, my maternal grandparents were Scottish, so a lot of the culture was immediately familiar to me. I was lucky enough to be raised with two siblings amongst a large family unit, with memories of everyone taking a turn on the hearth with a story, tune or dance at weekly gatherings at granny’s, so traditional folklore, music and dance has always fascinated and intrigued me. There’s a shared and intangible heritage between Scotland and Ireland, which is probably why the move across the water was an easy transition.

How do you find living in Edinburgh?
Lindsay: What is there not to love about this city! I could be negative and go on about Tramgate, student housing overload, lack of decent music venues, a Starbucks on Leith Walk and endless road works/closures, but that all pales in comparison to the culture available on your doorstep. I love the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern that makes up Edinburgh’s landscape, the shadow of Arthur’s Seat and the countless pockets of green spaces still available to soak up some nature. You could literally fill every day of the year with a cultural event or activity and that still only scratches the surface of what’s available.

Can you tell us about Leitheatre?
Lindsay: Leitheatre is an amateur theatre group based in Edinburgh, just off Easter Road, that was founded in 1946. They usually produce three full-length productions each year, performing at The Studio and Church Hill Theatre, plus a show during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at St. Serfs. They also take part in the Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA) One Act Play Festival, with a consistently good record for places and wins in the competition. It’s a wonderful company to be involved with, plus the talent and enthusiasm amongst the members, in all areas of theatre involvement, is infectious.

Do you & the cast socialise outwith rehearsals?
Lindsay: If we aren’t too shattered! It’s a great way to unwind, get comfortable in each other’s company and discuss details of the show that there isn’t time for in the rehearsal room.

You are about to play Ruth in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. Why this play?
Lindsay: It’s the director Lynne Morris’ favourite play and she’s wanted to stage it for ages. I am a fan of Harold Pinter’s work too, so knew I wanted to audition, and Ruth is an enigmatic character who intrigues me, so the opportunity and challenge of bringing her to life appealed.

That agelessness translates because Pinter never moralises or resolves situations, you’ll leave with questions buzzing in your head about the characters, their past and their future

Its been 41 years since The Homecoming won the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway in 1967. How well has the play aged, especially the themes around the violence and exploitation of women?
Lindsay: I think in a lot of ways Pinter’s work is timeless because he’s a master of studying human interaction through the mundane. He is remembered as an outspoken social commentator, renowned for his witty put-downs, both in his real life and writing. Plus, it was nominated for a Tony for Best Broadway Revival too, showing its subject matter still resonates. That agelessness translates because Pinter never moralises or resolves situations, you’ll leave with questions buzzing in your head about the characters, their past and their future. In regards the views of exploitation and violence, that’s one interpretation but there’s many more scenarios possible in the reading and viewing of the piece. Pinter probes enough to make a conclusion of sexist and degrading or feminist and empowering both valid, the desire being to engage the psyche and start conversations. If anyone thought it inappropriate, I would argue that recent events make The Homecoming even more relevant for a contemporary audience to acknowledge issues of sexuality, exploitation and power. Plus look up Pinter’s own thoughts on the matter.

How will you know & feel when you have just given a good performance?
Lindsay: Well Ruth is a brilliant character to step into and forget being me! The rest of the cast are wonderfully talented, making it easy to play off them and get lost in the action as it’s happening. We’ve had a few rehearsals, with Leitheatre members observing, when everything “clicked” and you can feel the change in atmosphere, so when I sense that tingle, I’ll know the audience are enjoying this fascinating sixtet of characters with very real and often darkly comic traits.

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Lindsay Corr & Leitheatre?
Lindsay: Leitheatre are straight back into the rehearsal room to prepare this year’s Fringe show, The Steamie by Tony Roper. This affectionately loved and hilarious comedy will be brilliant and the cast are brilliant. I am looking forward to being involved in the chorus for the show. Apart from that, it will be the day job for me, enjoying some concerts and festival events over the summer and making some time to visit my four adorable nieces.


THE HOMECOMING

Edinburgh’s Festival Studio Theatre

Wed 16 – Sat 19 May

Tickets £12 (£10) from Festival Theatre Box Office: 0131 529 6000

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BUY TICKETS HERE

Hot Water

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
7th-12th May

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It’s taps aff in Glasgow’s Oran Mor. Not the ritual removal of shirts, T or otherwise, due to the arrival of the long overdue good weather but because the bath is full and Annie’s for a soak. She doesn’t like a smelly soak, involving exotic lotions, potions and bath bombs gifted by family and friends (are they trying to tell her something), though she does enjoy a long immersion, with nobody banging at the door asking her to hurry up, as they are needing in.

IMG_7655i.jpgA solitary woman, her idea of bliss is to leave the splendid isolation of her nice wee terrace, visit the library, come home and spend an hour in the tub with Radio 4 playing on the wireless. It’s a great place to reminisce, remember past exploits, like using her concession card to travel to the East Neuk of Fife, swim the chilly waters along the shore at Crail and lose her clothes. There are other, more philosophical matters to consider, such as her relationship with god and where exactly, she would like to be buried at sea. Her only worry, for the moment, is not to bathe too long in case she suffers pernicious pruning…

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Steven Dick has written a splendid play about a woman who has reached a stage in life where isolation is, the not unpleasant, norm. Yet as we hear her expansive thoughts on the state of skin, from exfoliation to rigor mortis, we realise she has tremendous resources of wit and wisdom that really should be shared.Janette Foggo portrays Annie as a woman we all recognise, strong, independent, capable of taking life’s vicissitudes on the chin and getting on with things. The actress mixes stand-up type zingers to the audience with lengthy, humorous, existential monologues and ends her performance by displaying, for our entertainment and enlightenment, an impressive piece of recollection, worthy of the nerdiest schoolboy (or girl). A slam-dunk success.

David G Moffat

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Eddie and the Slumber Sisters

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Haddington Corn Exchange
3rd May, 2018

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The Catherine Wheels Theatre Company & The National Theatre of Scotland have teamed up to bring us an entertaining & innovative play by Anita Vettesse. The Mumble sent in two of our youngest reviewers to see what all the fuss was about…


Eddie and the Slumber Sisters from the start was a charming production. As soon as you walk in, The Slumber Sisters greet you in character, and when everyone is being seated they realise that they themselves are a part of the set, as the slumber sisters put on their show by traveling around the stage and portraying the distinctive characters.

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The seating arrangements were very unusual, with an assortment of chairs, stools, armchairs and a bed. Some were lucky and were seated in an armchair, bed, or a plain old chair. However, the others and myself were seated on the less desirable stools; yet this is my only complaint as the acting was on point.

The crew was a key component to the production as there were crucial cues that tied the show together. One of my favourite parts was the slow-motion affect they created with a clever use of lighting. The performers managed to incorporate singing into the piece, yet I would not say it was a musical, which is rare.

As to the acting… absolutely fabulous. They all sell the characters extremely well and sang beautifully throughout. This was a brief summary of my opinions, but I will now pass you over to my 8-year-old sister, Roxana for her thoughts:

I for one enjoyed the singing and the setting was excellent. And the pilot was great. So good. I was a little disappointed with the timing, and felt there should have been a break in between the show. I agree with Ivy that the acting was amazing. My favourite character was Robin.

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Reviewed by Ivy & Roxy Oakman

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Eddie & the Slumber Sisters is currently touring Scotland, with tickets still available for the following dates only

12 May: Raasay Community Hall, Raasay

14 May: Macphail Centre, Ullapool

18 May: Mareel Theatre, Lerwick

23 May: Clarkston Hall, Clarkston

27 May: Castle Douglas Town Hall, Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival

30 May – 3 June: Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

 

 

An Interview with Robin Cairns

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A new play by Robin Cairns, The Life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is coming to Glasgow. The Mumble caught a wee blether with its creator.


Hello Robin, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m fae Clydebank, I live at Shawlands. I spent my days in Govan.

You ran your immensely popular poetry event in Glasgow – Last Monday at Rio – for ten years. There’s been a sea-change recently. Can you tell us what transpired & why?
The Last Monday at Rio poetry night put more than 1000 voices on the stage over ten years. From total beginners to established names. Almost to a decade after we began though the bar was sold to people who felt they could do without 50 odd paying customers in their place on a Monday night. By chance I was asked around the same time to run events in Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street. So we now do Last Monday at Waterstones every month, with up to twenty open mikers and a headline poet doing a full set.

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You are quite a stalwart of the Glasgow artistic scene. Can you tell us about it & how it compares to the rest of Britain?
Glasgow’s arts scene is more grounded than most other cities in Britain. We have people doing literature, art and music who have not necessarily emerged from the university blanding process and maybe have a more immediate sense of life’s precarious vertigo.

You’ve been washed up on a desert island with a solar-powered DVD player & three films. Which would they be?
Three films would be “Under Milk Wood”, “Pinnochio” and “The Warriors”

I know you more as a poet, but the theatre has always been a great passion of yours. Can you tell us about Stage Dialogue, for example?
I drifted into theatre around 1980 after answering an ad in a cafe looking for actors. A couple of years on I started writing and producing shows, in Glasgow, Edinburgh Fringe but mostly London. We had some success with shows such as “John Dillinger, From Sepia to Cinema” (with real machine guns) and a staging of the dram when Orson Welles panicked America with his broadcast of “The War Of The Worlds”. Stage Dialogue was the name of our company, a mix of rather brilliant actors and the pushy, punky, young version of me, telling stories in fractured narratives, always wanting shows to be lively and powerful. I had a loyal bunch who tolerated my idiosyncracies – can’t think why!

You are a classic creative polymath; but today we shall be concentrating on a forthcoming play of yours. So, what for you would make a good piece of theatre?
Good piece of theatre has to tell me plenty I don’t already know, so with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh play I read a shelf on the subject, visited almost all the sites, then read the shelf again. Theatre’s got to be gripping, funny, inspiring, tragic, it’s an entertainment and as a writer you must never, ever preach to your punters.

CRM Poster Govanhill Baths.jpgCan you tell us the back story behind the creation of your new play, The Life of Charles Mackintosh?
I’ve been interested in Mackintosh since I visited The Hillhouse in Helensburgh one teenage day when I had nothing else to do. I read and investigated over the years. People knew I had a fair knowledge of the subject so, when an experienced tour guide wanted to retire from showing bus parties of posh people round the Mackintosh sites he asked me to take over. The research for this galvanised me to write the play. And I wanted to concentrate on Mackintosh’s mentor/enemy – John Keppie. I feel that it is in delving into their relationship that I have added something to the diligent work of all the other authors on the subject.

The venue you have chosen for the performance is interesting. Can you tell us more?

Govanhill Baths is a fine small theatre space – in a building which is a hotbed of knitting, swimming, radicalism and community rescue.

What do you think your audience will feel when they are watching your new play?
I believe my audience will feel fulfilled by a grand scale telling of Charles’ life, but the ending is very sad and there’s no getting away from that. Like all tragedies though you know that the bad thing is coming, it’s just a question of how you hint at it and let the knowledge build.

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What does Robin Cairns like to do when he’s not being creative?
I like kayaking. I’ve got a red one and can be spotted at Loch Lomond, Lochwinnoch, The Clyde, The Sea. I wear a hat, usually a homburg.

Will you be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year?
I’m doing a full run of 22 shows at The Fringe this summer. “The Weegies Have Stolen The One O-Clock Gun” – the tale of a posh bloke called Morningside Malcolm whose lovely daughter has married into a family of Glasgow gangsters. I’m at The Outhouse at 6pm each night, Broughton Street Lane. Tickets from The Fringe Office – £7.


You can catch The Life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Govanhill Baths, Glasgow
Saturday 12th May @ 7.30pm

An Interview with Lu Kemp & Kieran Hurley

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Perth Theatre’s artistic director Lu Kemp and playwright Kieran Hurley have created A Six Inch Layer of Topsoil and The Fact it Rains, a lively piece of ceilidh theatre based on conversations with Perthshire land dwellers and owners. It will be starting its rural tour in a few days, & The Mumble was lucky enough to catch a wee blether with Lu & Keiran


Hello Kieran, so what for you makes a good piece of theatre?

KIERAN: Wowzers, I dunno, I feel if I could answer that in one neat answer in a piece of preview press there wouldn’t be much mileage in the artform and I probably wouldn’t be giving my life to it. Theatre’s an incredibly varied thing. I’d say in general I like work that genuinely tries to speak to people, work that values its audience. I don’t like theatre is self-important or self-involved. Theatre’s real advantage over other forms is it’s liveness, and I like to see shows that make a virtue of that – the fact that we’re all here together in the same room.

Hello Lu, so when did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
LU: By accident largely, but I was interested enough in them to find work at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as one of my three student jobs. I worked on box office with a young bloke – now the playwright Robert Alan Evans – and to kill time we started sending bits of writing back and forward between us. And then we decided to make a play together, which was a terrible idea and complete hell, but somehow it did well and we ended up taking it to the National Student Drama Festival, and then someone offered me a job, and I didn’t have a better offer at the time, and so it goes on!

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Keiran, are a relative newcomer to the Scottish theatre scene, but have arrived with a bang. How did you find the success of your Fringe First-winning HEADS UP, played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016 and 2017, which also won the Best New Play at the Critics’ Awards 2017 for Theatre in Scotland?
KIERAN: Am I newcomer? Cool. I feel I learn something new about myself every time I answer one of these things. I’ve been doing this professionally for about ten years now, and was just beginning to feel like I couldn’t trade on “newness” any more so I suppose it’s nice to have faith in my relative newness restored. Heads Up was a great experience, though a bit of a whirlwind. We made the show very quickly, and on very little resources. At the time a lot of my work was tied up in commissions or screen work and I really wanted to re-capture the sort of DIY spirit of some of my earlier work and make something that would immediately meet its audience. So we got together the bare minimum of what we needed and just did it, We called it “three chord punk” which was really just a fancy way of saying we’ve got no cash, and to be honest when we opened I had no idea how it was going to be received. I was delighted with the audience and critical response, of course.

You’ve also toured HEADS UP a couple of times, how do you find the experience?
KIERAN: I love touring because I love the chance to take the work to people. As a writer or theatre-maker you really just want the work to be seen widely. When you’re performing you’re own work it can be tricky though. I love performing, but unlike other shows Heads Up toured with just me on the road and that can be a bit of a slog. And I’ve got a family now and that limits how long I can take it out for. So it was very different from any other tour I’ve done in that sense, but no less valuable.

What does Lu Kemp like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
LU: Cycle around.

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Lu, you are just about to launch your creation with playwright Kieran Hurley, A Six Inch Layer of Topsoil and The Fact it Rains, can you tell us about the play?
LU: We wanted to make a piece that felt relevant to Perthshire now. Last year, before the theatre opened, we drove around Perthshire meeting lots of people and talking to them about what’s changed in Perthshire over the past 20 years and how they feel about Brexit and what they think is going to happen next. Kieran and I had worked on a similar project about the state of education for the Royal Shakespeare Company the year before. We thought it would be dry as a biscuit and were really surprised by how bloody and funny it was.

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Can you tell us something of the research process behind A Six Inch Layer of Topsoil and The Fact it Rains?
KIERAN: The idea for the show started with Lu wanting to make a piece for and about rural Perthshire. The idea of doing a verbatim play came about because we’d worked together on another verbatim piece, still in development, for a theatre down south and we’d both gotten a lot out of it. Verbatim theatre basically just means a play based on real life materials, usually interviews. So we made this piece about the farming industry, basically by driving around rural Perthshire, following leads and speaking to people. Farmers, mostly. But also food campaigners, journalists, seasonal workers, storytellers… It might sound quite narrow, talking about farming but the amazing thing is becomes a jumping off point for such a broad range of issues. Talking about the food industry means talking about climate change, about Brexit, about how we use and share this land that we all have to live off, how we produce enough food for us all to be able to eat. Really big, fundamental stuff. And because it’s a verbatim play it’s full of this distinctive voices and witty and unique perspectives.

Could you describe your working relationship with Lu in one word?
KIERAN: Nope.

Could you describe your working relationship with Kieran in one word?
LU: Good.

Have you grown as a person after the experience of meeting with & talking to so many members of the agricultural community?
LU: I’ve certainly learnt a lot. And it’s made me think about things in a way I didn’t have reason to before. Mostly about milk. I’ve thought a lot about milk recently.

You have quite an interesting itinerary coming up; Perth, Aberfeldy, Birnam, Crieff, Blair Atholl, Alyth , Blairgowrie & Kinross Who is the brains behind the tour, & will they be managing the affair?
LU: We want to be touring in Perthshire as a theatre. Perth Theatre isn’t, and shouldn’t be, just about the venue in the centre of Perth. And we had a ball last year going to all the different venues with And Then Come The Nightjars by Bea Roberts (also about farming). People behave differently in their local venue to the way they do if they come to a theatre, it feels like a community night out.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
KIERAN: It’ll be a really good night out. It’s going to be full of thought-provoking stuff that’ll sure to leave you with lots to discuss and think about afterwards, and all entirely relevant to rural Perthshire. But more than that, it’ll be a braw evening’s entertainment. We’ve two of the finest performers in the country in Melody Grove and Aly Macrae, both incredible musicians as well as being beautiful actors. Spending an hour or so in their company in this intimate setting will be a joy for any audience.

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What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
LU: I hope it will entertain them, and that there are enough contradictory ideas in the piece that it will make people go to the pub and debate over a drink! Hopefully they’ll go home humming the tunes as well.

These rural tours are a great theatrical asset to this part of Scotland. How well do you think they are received?
KIERAN: Every time I’ve toured rurally in Scotland before it’s just been a joy and a privilege, and I wish I had the opportunity to do it more. The last time I did a proper rural tour was with a show called Rantin for the National Theatre of Scotland in 2014. We went all over the place, and audiences were just so appreciative and warm. It’s long been a part of the fabric of Scottish theatre, rural touring, and really needs people committed to making it happen if it’s going to continue to survive and thrive – which is one of the reasons it’s so brilliant that Lu has committed to touring rurally in Perthshire with Perth Theatre.

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Lu Kemp?
LU: Sleep. I hope.


For tickets and info for A Six Inch Layer of Topsoil and The Fact it Rains in Perth Theatre visit www.horsecross.co.uk or call Box Office on 01738 621031. Tickets are also available from the venues.

Wed 9 May: 7.30pm
Aberfeldy Town Hall

Thu 10 May: 7.30pm
Birnam Arts Centre

Fri 11 May: 7.30pm
Strathearn Artspace, Crieff

Wed 16 May: 7.30pm
Blair Atholl Village Hall

Thu 17 May: 7.30pm
Alyth Town Hall

Fri 18 May: 7.30pm
Blairgowrie Town Hall

Sat 19 May: 7.30pm
Loch Leven Community Campus, Kinross

Where’s Lulu

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
30th May-5th April

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For people of a certain age it’s hard to forget Britain’s early entries to the Eurovision Song Contest (‘Sing Little Birdie’ by Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson, from 1959, anyone?) but we should try. The nascent competition favoured a particular type of perky, bouncy melody with simplistic lyrics and not a lot had changed by 1969, when a troubled Lulu faces singing ‘Boom Bang A Bang’ in Franco’s Spain. Has her voice gone or is it all IMG_7587i Stephanie McGregor Sarah, McCardie,Romana Abercrombie.jpgpsychosomatic?

Danny McCahon’s play is set in the singer’s dressing room before she takes to the stage to represent her country. Lulu (Stephanie McGregor) has concerns that go beyond pleasing the audience; she has seen the future of music and it is not MOR. This isn’t what her manager, Marion (Romana Abercromby) wants to hear. She’s more interested in pleasing the BBC and getting future TV shows commissioned. Lulu’s mother Betty (Sarah McCardie) reminds her daughter she’s been performing and charming people since she was four years old and tonight will be no different. Certainly the marshmallow pink dress that Lulu is compelled to wear, looks like it was designed for a four year old but she is assured it will look splendid on the relatively novel, coloured broadcast.

IMG_7609i Stephanie McGregor.jpgMcGregor’s Lulu bears a remarkable resemblance to the pop star, visually and vocally. The fluttering spider eyelashes, the head tilts and hand gestures are all spot on. When she speaks, the slide from the extended vowels of her adopted English to the guttural consonants of her native Glasgow, are delightfully half and hawf.  McCardie’s Betty has a brash confidence and belief in her daughter that is tinged with just a hint of envy that Marie (as she calls Lulu) got out, and got on. Is her green dress trying to tell us something? Abercromby’s Marion is elegant in patterned culottes, with a beehive that’s a testament to the power of hairspray. Her well spoken tones are a template for Lulu’s acquired, Received Pronunciation.

Complex issues of identity, ambition and coming of age are thoughtfully addressed in this play about a young woman seeking to find her own way in the music business. McGregor’s performance of ‘Boom Bang A Bang’ is something to shout about.

David G Moffat

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The Persians

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
23rd-28th April

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What have the Persians ever done for us?

Well they developed the first modern economy, including the introduction of paper money, instigated the first postal service and invented algebra. But surely all these achievements fade into insignificance, when measured against their contribution to problem solving major decisions. Those determining the outcome had to agree when they were drunk and still agree later, when hung over.

IMG_7552i Meghan Tyler, Liam  Brennan, Irene Allan.jpgIn Tory Ian Wellesley’s Westminster office there’s only Earl Grey, muffins and a political hot potato on offer, when fellow parliamentarians, Kirstin Thompson and Mary Rodgers, join him to discuss a petition in favour of the reintroduction of capital punishment. Agreement proves impossible and in an effort to calm the growing turbulence, Ian breaks out the fortified wine, well any port in a storm. Soon the women are shoes-off drunk and dancing to tunes from the office laptop while Ian struts his stuff to the strains of ‘Macho Man’. Wheels oiled, the ideas on how to handle the tricky petition start to flow fast and thick. There may even be time to sort out Mary’s Northern Ireland too! In vino veritas for sure; what could possibly go wrong?

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The author of the drama, Meghan Tyler, plays Mary, a fiery young DUP member dressed in a crisp white blouse and royal blue trousers that wouldn’t be out of place behind an Ulster, Lambeg drum. Her language is as strong as her fundamentalist belief that ‘Dinosaurs are lies’. Liam Brennan’s Ian is a grey suited Conservative, very much the professional politician, all for consensus – if it makes problems melt away. His voice has the resounding, practised tones and rhythms of chamber debate, in contrast to his circumspect manner with his colleagues. Irene Allan’s Kirstin is power dressed in black with dark hair scraped back from her forehead. Sensible, practical, conscious of what it means to represent Scotland, she’s a politician with an eye on the future.

There are energetic but nuanced performances from all three cast members in this enjoyable, cautionary tale of parliamentary pitfalls. Exit polls say yes.

David G Moffat

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Passing Places


Dundee Rep
17th April – 5th May

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Passing Places is twenty-one years old this year. It says much for the play-writing skill of Stephen Greenhorn that this ‘road movie for the stage’ which first entertained Generation X also had the Millennials laughing out loud at its comic sparkle throughout the opening night at the Dundee Rep.  This wee gem of a play retains not only its wit but the power to engage audiences with issues of Scottish identity, the Scottish experience of class divisions and the clash of the rural and the urban. At heart, though, Passing Places speaks of the divide in each of us between what we have become and what we could be, if we have the courage to take the road less traveled.

DSC_4759 Martin, Emily and Eleanor _ For Press
Small-town boys Brian and Alex embark on a road trip from Motherwell to Thurso in a broken-down Lada, with a stolen surfboard tied to the roof rack. They encounter on the road an assortment of characters who have tumbled their own way north, among them the beautiful and free-spirited Mirren (Eleanor House), who becomes the catalyst for a series of changes for the two callow youth.  In pursuit is Brian’s boss, the owner of the surfboard, the psychopathic Binks, hot for some revenge to extract on thepair’s kneecaps.

Dundee Rep’s revival of this much-loved play evokes the thrill of travelling in a landscape at once strange and yet familiar. Reading from a map the place names of the west coast, Alex enthuses about the magnificence of the Scottish hinterland to an aesthetically illiterate Brian, more intent on the destination than the journey. Actors Ewan Donald and Martin Quinn are physically and comedically effervescent as Brian and Alex. They delightfully riff off each other at points in the dialogue, making for some cracking comedy that hasn’t dated one bit in twenty-one years.

The image of a leather-clad biker rolling into town on a pouffe displayed real comic inventiveness and still makes me laugh to remember

A counterpoint to the sympathetic portrayal of the main characters is provided by Binks, played with real comedic relish by Barrie Hunter. Binks takes the Scottish ‘hard-man’ trope to its absurd (and literally insane) fulfillment, raining down total destruction in his quest for retribution. The image of a leather-clad biker rolling into town on a pouffe displayed real comic inventiveness and still makes me laugh to remember.

DSC_4830 Barry, John and Taqi _ For Press

How well does a twenty-one year old comedy about nineteen-nineties Scots youth finding their futures on the road speak to the present day? Well, they don’t use Google maps to get to where they want to be. I dare say that’s something Generation X still does better – reading a map. But you don’t need a map or even google maps to know when you’re lost. Passing Places still charms because we all feel lost sometimes and there’s no map for that journey. There’s just going further where the road takes you. As a road movie for the stage Passing Places puts a charming Scottish thrill on a well loved genre. Time’s passing hasn’t aged it. There’s not a mobile phone in sight. But hey, who ever gets a decent signal that far out anyway, right?

Mark Mackenzie

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Eulogy

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
16th-21st April

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This week Oran Mor hosts a service of Remembrance, in loving memory of the dearly departed Sandy Alison Munro (1963-2018). Sandy left explicit instructions as to how the occasion should pass-off; this may explain why the traditional Scottish purvey of flaccid, lukewarm sausage rolls was replaced by Scotch pies. There was a full house of the bereaved which would have surely have pleased the deceased. Sandy’s big brother, the Reverend Andrew Munro, tall, dark, slim, like Guinness in a test tube, emceed the event, leading those gathered, through a list of his wee brother’s dubious achievements, while photographic slides of Sandy in happier times (obvs) appeared on a screen above the coffin.

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Rob Drummond’s play is a dark comedy about the life and hard times of Sandy Munroe, a man who found joy difficult to come by in life so is determined to find some in death. He has left detailed plans that involve his brother Andrew (Benny Young) singing a pastiche of Candle in the Wind as part of the Eulogy. Try as the good Reverend may to put a gloss on Sandy’s life, the truth will out (including an obsession with a certain red headed, BBC Scotland, news presenter). Former wife Anne (Joyce Falconer) is vilified as a rank bad-yin for legging it to Cyprus with a sailor but there are two sides to every story and she is adamant hers will be heard. Callum Cuthbertson provides Sandy’s video message from beyond the grave.

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There are songs, plenty of belly-laugh moments and more than a few buried truths to keep the audience engaged.

Young’s face is wonderfully immobile and gloomy while delivering hilarious stories about the past but his long, energetic arms and legs eat up the stage, taking him out of I.M. Jolly territory. Falconer gives us a more solid, determined character. A formidable woman, a rock to build on, or crash against, the choice is yours. There are songs, plenty of belly-laugh moments and more than a few buried truths to keep the audience engaged. The pace did seem to slow at the end, where perhaps a bit of judicious dialogue trimming would not have gone amiss. That said, dead good.

David G Moffat

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