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
Edinburgh is a hotbed of genius
Shows So Far – 17
Hangovers – 2
Wandering the festival seeing all these shows reminds me of travelling around India. Every day is a state & every venue is a town. Both Darjeeling & Chennai have a central shopping area as all the Fringe venues have a stage, yet all are very different in size & content. However, of all these stages, there’s is only one where the acting takes place in an actual restaurant, & that is the FAULTY TOWERS DINING EXPERIENCE (4-30 / 13.30 & 20.30) at the B’EST RESTAURANT on Drummond St. Waking up rough as a nun’s chuff I shook VICTOR POPE into consciousness, who I gave my second (forty quid) comp to as a thank you for his infinite generosities. We got to the restaurant not long after, with VICTOR overdressing completely, as if he was going for a job interview. The audience all mingled outside & were treated to Basil Faulty & Manuel bantering with each other & us, setting the scene & seating us at our tables inside. What followed was two hours of hilarity as scenes from the series’ were renacted about us as we ate our three course meal; such as Manuel losing his rat under the table. The Company is Australian, led by its Sibyl, & is 13 years old now, but still seems as fresh as a daisy – I guess that the timelessness of such classic comedy. God bless John Cleese!
Next up was THESUES IS DEAD (9-14 – 16-29 / 18.15) – at the C SOCO on Chambers Street. The company are called THE EFFORT, & are based in Brixton Hill, south London. Now, I know Brixton quite well, & have had many a madcap night down the 414 club on Coldharbour Lane, Britain’s most dangerous street. The last thing I expected to find coming from such a ketamine-soaked country was such high brow theatre as this. The story was first crafted by Euripides, then modernized by Racine, before Robert Bruce Boswell’s 19th century English adaptatioin. Finally, the Effort – led by the BBC’s young Jonathon Rowe – radically morphed all this into a fast-paced psychological thriller – but done in classical verse. The story is set in the age of King Minos, before even the Homeric Mycyneans took control of the island – a mythological story older than Moses! Back in the modern day, there was no breath between the scenes played out passionately by the four young actresses & a Hektor-style actor. You can tell the women outnumbered the men as the colours of costume, lighting & bewitching stage design were co-ordinated wonderfully. It was a treasure to be treated with such consummate maturirty from such a young ensemble.
My next show was an absolute wonder. I’d been given two tickets to see FLAMENCO FLAMENCO (9-14 / 16-29 – 20.10) the EDINBURGH COLLEGE ART & being on my todd, a young lady behind me was lucky enough to get the other ticket. Her name is Gabby, from Melbourne, who’d just hanging out at the festival getting culture before going to study in France. She’s already majored in English Literature, which was an added bonus. Anyhow, the theatre was impressive, with statues in the hallway & epic paintings draping the walls, & the show itself was diamond. The guitarist RICARDO GARCIA, was as able as a master sitar player, & his two dancers were equally as powerful – a classicaly trained Nicole Kidman & handsome Javier Barden, whose hair swirled like a dress as he whirling dervished round the stage. The effects that Flamenco music can create, with only one guitar, castanets, a soapbox, body-slapping & foot-stomping can on occasion feel like a vast orchestra is playing. Couple this to the elegant swirling of the lady & the powerful bull-like strength of the man, & its one show & a half. The penultimate section saw our musical matador perform a series of solo dancers, incraesingly in complexity & energy. You could literally hear the quickening of the ladies’ hearts in the room – especially cos the guys pants were so tight you could make out every contour of his bum crack. Honestly, the way the women were gasping & sighing it was just like being down the bingo. At the very end, after a standing ovation, we were told the Spanish Consular-General had honoured the performers with a visit. This was cool, but as I absorbed the show I imagined a small Spanish village, with a young beauty dancing in her mother’s dress, while a ten year old girl watched on mesmorized – for this is the true roots of Flamenco. Ole!
Completely buzzing after the show, I took Gabby on a wee guided tour of the town, from a mixed doubles poetry slam at the FOREST CAFE, to WHISTLE BINKES, where my mate Cameron hosts the monday night open mic. I even played a few songs to help him get things going, gaining a free beer in the process. The place was packed, actually, a great central drinking hole that has always felt like an international youth hostel. On bidding Gabby farewell, I set off for my last show, but was caught up by the energy created by this band playing outside THE TRON. They & those about them were proper jumping & it was nice to stay awhile. It tunrs out they are called TRELESE, & hark from Kansas City USA. This is the fourth time in a row they’ve been over here & they just busk themsleves around town. I Like them so much, I gave them a gig supporting my live disco on Thursday, which I guess I’d better start promoting (see end).
My last show of the day, DEBBIE DOES MY DAD (5-27 / 23.00) at the BEDLAM THEATRE, was also American. Apparently Bobby Gordon’s dad was a porn star, who’s early advice (to an 8 year old Bobby) was ‘Grab yer dick son!’ & thought if all men would just grab their dick there would be an en to all the world’s problems. I found myself sat at the back of the theatre as Bobby’s fiance was filming the show. He’s a handsome chap I guess, in his mid 20’s, whose show grew out of performance poetry in Los Angeles. It is rather like a coming of age movie, as we are shown several scenes from his early life, revolving around the sole stage prop of a bed. In some way every scene is connected to dicks & sex, concluding with him coming furiously at the same time with an invisible girlfriend in a very realistic manner. It was kinda weird, tho, as his missus was right behind me, sniggering away at her man pretend-fucking on the stage. Only in LA!
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
Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming back home
Shows So Far – 11
Hangovers – 1
Its amazing how, during Festival time, so many otherwise obscure spaces are metaphysically turned into theaters of dreams. This morning’s world of illusion was at the CABERET VOLTAIRE, a night club just off the Royal Mile. The bouncers there do mi nut in, but the only guy standing outside the door early this afternoon was Chris Coxen. He’s a Bostonian who’s spent the past year or two on & off down London, working his comedy magic. I had a nice chat with him, observing the little black dots above his Freddie Mercury moustache which indicated its fakeness. Once inside the venue I was pleasantly surprised to find just four comfy leather mocha couches next to the bar facing a great black curtain. There were about ten of us all together, including the barman, a sound guy & Chris’ comedian mate TOM WEBB who was Mc-ing the show. This was the spelndidly titled SPACE CLONE AUDITION (6-28 / 14.30), the idea being that the audience had to choose which one of Chris’ comedy carachters should be cloned by the US government to send to space to represent mankind. Thesse were a groovy Bermudan club singer & his hairy chest, an expert on motivation, a guy who loved thunder (!?) & an agressive karate expert. Oftentimes bonkers I was guffawing on many occasion, tho was gutted when my favorite, the Bermudan Club Singer, was beaten into second place by the Karate expert as the audience applauded their votes. It was a comfy way to start the day, from the squidgy couch to Tom Webb’s homely bantering with the audience. Nice guys!
& today’s winner of the space cloning competion is… Danny Morsel
While I was watching the show the heavens burst open, the weather turned Autumnal & the game of spot the tourists bagan – ie, shorts, t-shirts & sunglasses with the coat at home in Inverness! I had a couple of hours to kill til my next show, so I had a pint at the Counting House, with one eye on the outside stage there & a young lassies singing to a few soggy drinkers, & the other on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, where the English football season had just started. Down at Turf Moor, on the day the Clarets legend Jimmy McLLroy received his MBE, Watford sailed into a 2-0 lead. However, 2 debut goals in the last 13 minutes, from Charlie Austin & new-boy Keith Treacy saved Burnley (& me) from the opening day blues. Talking of football, Hearts have just drawn Spurs in the Europa league, which means Edinburgh’s gonna get even busier come August 18th.
My next dose of culture was at ZOO SOUTHSIDE, on Nicholson Street, & a one-man performance of Shakespeare’s poem, THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (6-14 / 16-28 – 17.15). The theater was a largish square room draped completely in black, chairs ringing three sides. This added a quais-globe-like aspect to GERARD LOGAN’S recitation of Shakespeare’s poem. Our immortal bard had written it early in his career, deviating from the stage in order to makes his name as a proper poet & maybe make a little cash. The story tells us how a woman of ancient Rome, Lucrece (rhymes with peace) is raped by a certain Sextus Tarquinius & unable to bare the shame kills hereself in front of her husband. The performance was compelling, & vast swathes of time were swirling about the room; We witnessed a 2000 year old story, the pure, unadulterated words of Elizabethan England dancing off Logan’s masterly tongue, & the atmosperic lights & soundscapes of the modern stage. It was lovely closing one’s eyes from time to time & letting the magic of iambic pentameter conjure up the same visions our illustrious poet saw seer-like 400 years ago. The bard within was really enjoying the versification of Rime Royal, a poetic form of seven lines (rhyming ababbcc), one of the few forms I havent employed in my own work. Here’s an example from the Rape;
O, that is gone for which I sought to live,
And therefore now I need not fear to die.
To clear this spot by death, at least I give
A badge of fame to slander’s livery;
A dying life to living infamy:
Poor helpless help, the treasure stol’n away,
To burn the guiltless casket where it lay.
The heavens were still drenching the city as I slip-slopped home. Luke was doing VICTOR POPE’S sound tonight, freeing me up to go home to do some writing. After finishing this blog, & with my hangover ever present & it still fucking chucking it down, Im just gonna cook up some grub, catch up on mi Eastenders with BBC iplayer & wait for the Burnley goals on The Football League Show… what festival?
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
With there being no Fringe this year,
We are revisiting DBB’s Daily Blog of 2011
I felt at home five minutes after my arrival in Edinburgh
Charles de Gaulle
Shows So Far – 2
This morning, & a rainy one at that (welcome to Scotland folks), I pottered down to Leith to do a bit of banking. While there I remembered a company called GEORGIAN ANTIQUES had placed a couple of entries in the fringe guide, so I drifted along to their warehouse at Pattison Street just at the start of the Leith Links. I was soon met with 5 gallery-like floors of posh bric-a-brac :- crystal chandaliers, Welsh dressers, grandfather clocks, stag-heads, model galleons, military uniforms, rocking horses, chaise longes & the such like. They have set up an exhibition there called MADE IN SCOTLAND where one can wander around the warehouse orienteering style, finding the rare treasures & reading about them as you go. The theme is that they are all 100% Scottish, such as Orkeney Chairs & pieces from Whytock & Reid. For me the coolest were these very elegant porcelain carpet balls. Find the hidden sweeties for wealthy adults, yes, but great fun all the same. On the third floor one finds a small but bustling display on golf, for it was on those very links that the games first recorded rules for ‘Gowff’ were written down in 1744. The jewel of the antiquities was this large solid silver club with silver golf balls hanging off the shaft, a modern replica of the prize of that same 1744 tournament. The slight whiff of dusty stuffiness that permeated the place only served to enhance the experience of olde-worldiness.
With the rain still falling I joined the massed ranks of brollys & macs for another hike up the Royal Mile. The Flyer-gangs were still out in full force, but the make up on various painted faces was definitely smudging to nothingness. Toward the top of the mile, on Johnstone Terrace, I came to C AQUILA’S ROMAN LODGE & one of the most amusing shows I’ve ever seen. If yesterday’s bunch of kids averaged about 6 years old, this bunch were all toddlers, escorted by their young & scrummy mums. Wondering what I’d let myself in for I took my seat in the corner & awaited events… & was soon laughing my ‘ead off. The show is called HURRY UP & WAIT (4-15, 17-29 – 14.40), from Queensland, Australia, & is apparently for kids. Theres a kid in all of us, however, & the Beano style antics of the two carachters perched on their stools either side of a big red clock had me in stiches. The idea is they are passing time thro increasingy daft episodes, Norman Wisdom stylee, all mimed to a wicked soundtrack. Honestly, the show’s appeal is universal & practically perfect for a member of the chemical generation, especially the full on psychadelics of the show’s finale. The adults were laughing as hard as the kids, whose giddy laughter reminded me of one of the kural mused 2000 years ago by the Tamil Saint Thiruvalavar;
Voices of giggling children
Lovelier than flutes
Come evening it was time for Victor Pope’s opening show at the JEKYLL & HYDE… lets just say we are in a heightened state of unpreparedness. As his sound engineer I was panicking through the first song, twisting nobs & dials furiously in an attempt to get his acoustic guitar working – only to find he’d forgot to turn it up. Half way through the show I found the light box, which helped things a little, but the show wasnt the greatest he’s ever done. Still, a good chat over beers diesecting the show & searching for improvements to costume, banter & song order & we’re off – & like a horse stuck temporarily in the box at the Epsom Derby tomorrow we’ll be joining the field. It was a nice vibe down the Jekyll – lots of ‘free fringes’ circulating, handing out flyers & mingling in anticipation of the marathon to come. Of them we caught the act who was on before Victor, called JAMES LOVERIDGE & OTHER LOSERS (4-27 / 5.35-6.35). He’s a young cockney comedian & is gonna be supported by his fellow cockney comedian mates.
Another touch at the Jekyll was this guy giving out free tickets to a show called DRY ICE (4-28 / 22.40) by award-winning poet & playwright, SABRINA MAHFOUZ, who seems to be doing quite well on the London circuit as these quotes can testify;
‘An invaluable theatrical voice’
Ryan Romain, Associate Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East
‘Her poetry is startling, provocative and thought provoking’
Suzanne Gorman, Connect Director, Soho Theatre
‘Sabrina is seamlessly at the cutting edge of spoken word’
‘A stand alone voice amongst the gaggle of the live literati’
Here’s her poetry – http://www.thepopuppoet.com/
Anyhow, me & Victor set off through town, passing Dobby from Peep Show in the street (shes doing a one woman show) & she looked a lot cuter than on the telly – I think she’s lost weight! We eventually reached the UNDERBELLY, a corporate theatre-monster that has taken over one of Auld Reekies nightclubs, filling the caverns with stages. The performance of DRY ICE took place in a stony arched chamber, lit darkly with about thirty seats climbing over a square, black stage. It was a sultry way to end the day & Sabrina was wicked, taking on the role of a young stripper shpieling off anecdotes about her life with a mixture of poetry & dialogue that was apparently assisted in development by David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends). She effortlessly took on the voices of carachters from dodgy black sex-seekers to posh birds at a dinner party. With her shock of scarlet hair, clad in tight leather black pants, bottomoed off with emerald green boots, she was very hot indeed. Her best angle was when she led on the floor between the legs of her white, plastic chair, the audience looking down on her dusky eyes, perfectly curved nose & peachy-pumpkin cheek bones. O yeah, her show was great as well, a real talent!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
With there being no Fringe this year,
We are revisiting DBB’s Daily Blog of 2011
The most beautiful town in the world
At about 5AM this morning I was woken by the unwitting heralds of the Edinburgh fringe festival. They squawked me to consciousness those gulls of the Forth, flitting over the rooftops of Leith on the search for food left by last nights revellers. For a moment I thought why dont I get up, march to the top of Calton Hill all pagan style & take a photo of the rising sun to summon the muses & gods into the very spirit of the forthcoming festivities, like my own private Beltane. Then I thought sack that & went back to my kip…
Waking up at a more reasonable hour it was time to go & see my first show. Interestingly it was just round the corner from where I live at OUT OF THE BLUE on Dalmeny Street – between Easter Road & Leith Walk. Its one of those community spaces full of artists studios, with a wicked cafe to boot. Also based there is Diamond Events Services, who actually employed me on & off for several years putting marquees & carrtying steel rigging & stuff like that. The boss John Diamond’s an ambitious lad & this year, with the help of an old uni friend Natasha Lee-Walsh, has turned the Drill Hall into a proper venue – LEITH ON THE FRINGE. Its cool to see the Fringe still growing & moving out of its traditional Old Town heartland. Using his years of setting up every body elses events, Diamond has built a cool venue, with a wide spacious stage that was fully made use of by the first show Ive seen – & perhaps with its 10.15 AM start time the first show in the entire fringe. This was an ariel adaption of JM Barrie’s timeless tribute to childhood, PETER PAN.
3 – 28 August 2011 (Not Mondays)
10:15 (60 mins)
13.30 (60 mins) 4, 5, 6, 9th, 14, 16,18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28 August
The audience was a nice cross section of age groups, – with some of the kids sat on mats right underneath the action. This involved 5 pretty women swinging, somersaulting & twisting on ropes with a couple of guys in the wings handling the ropes & making occasional cameos. The costumes were wicked – redskins, pirates, the ticking crocodile & two garish wonderful mermaids who controlled their flapping tails with strings on their wrists. The backdrop was a great screen, which sometimes sillouhetted the action behind it, a wonderful effect providing the highlight – for me – of the show. It was a gravity-defying dance between Peter & Wendy, with Peter behind the screen & Wendy before it, the pair of them waltzing like a couple of spiderwomen. Sometimes we had a conventional play without the ropes which trundled the story along. A very visual affair, it was a cross between a rope access course & ballet, with a very cute Captain Cook. One for the kids definitely.
After typing all that up back at mine I thought I’d have my first sauunter into town to check out the vibe. En route I swerved to Gayfield Square at the top of Leith Walk, where this art installation is supposed to be at a place called WHITESPACE. I couldn’t actually find it (I think it starst tomorrow) but instead I discovered that next door, at Edinburgh’s Framed Gallery, my ex (see last blog) is doing an exhibition later on in the festival! Apparently she’s now Scotland’s premier time lapse photographer! Elsewhere in the WHITESPACE I stumbled into a technical rehearsal of a play called ELEGY (4-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-28 – 20.30), a story about gay Iraqis I think, directed by Douglas Rintoul (Barbican, Dundee Rep, Complicite) with music by award-winning Raymond Yiu. The floor was covered in clothes, like a sea of cardigans, & after a wee chat with the producer I think I scored some comps – good karma!
From there I headed up for my first saunter up the Royal Mile, & the sensory riot of colour from the flyer-flinging companies. They are mostly fresh from drama school or university & I love the way they are dressed up in costume, or sporting ‘team’ t-shirts with the name of the show emblazoned upon them. As one can set off through London with pockets full of cash & find them empty on completing the traversal, one sets off up the Royal Mile during festival time with empty pockets & finds them full of flyers upon exiting that excited street. Among them I received this from a bunch of giant Korean babies in boxer shorts grinning & gesticulating wildly behind some knee-high dancing puppets;
Just off the Royal Mile is the National Library of Scotland where I am typing this right now. Alongside Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Aberystwyth & the British Library in London, it reveives a copy of every book published in the UK. It will be a great central base for me during the fringe, just a stones throw from most of the venues & an oasis of quiet in which to write. I need it really, as Ive got a lot to see & turn to words & being here will keep things nice & fresh. Whilw here Ive done a wee spot of study & came across the Gobleki Tepe, an 11,500 year old temple from the dawn of civilization. It seems that this was the first (known) time that people left their little packs of hunter-gatherers & came together in force to create a piece of worship-art. Our neolithic ancestors would probably have gazed upon quality carved animals such as boars, cranes, foxes & scorpions in the very same way me & the half million or so due in Edinburgh sit in silence before the godlike performers of the Fringe; or as the 19th century German philosopher Nietzche once wrote;
Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher community: he has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances. The enchantment speaks out in his gestures. Just as the animals now speak and the earth gives milk and honey, so something supernatural also echoes out of him: he feels himself a god; he himself now moves in as lofty and ecstatic a way as he saw the gods move in his dream. The man is no longer an artist; he has become a work of art
Toward sunset me & Victor Pope went up to the COUNTING HOUSE on West Nicholson Street for the Laughing Horse Free Fringe performer’s party. Last year they gave away unlimited Kopperburg, but this year, to account for the massive influx of new acts, it was just a wee sample in a small glass. Still, they did have plenty of prawn cocktail wraps! The Laughing Horse started in 2004, with three acts playing for free in a single bar. This year there are 352 different acts spread out over 16 venues across town! Whats happening now is what happened with the ‘official’ fringe, which began as an alternative option to the International Festival (of high culture) started in 1946 to a cheer us all up after the austerities of WW2. Over the years the Fringe would turn into a coroprate whore, charging high prices to both punter & performer. Its good to see the Free fringe blossoming well & making culture affordable to all – you basically chuck your cash in a bucket at the end of the show! This year’s fare were all gathered in this far too small a room, fanning themselves with their own flyers to counter the steadily increasing sauna-like temperatures. Before I scarpered, streaming sweat, I caught three comedians (whose names I didnt catch) doing 5 minute plugs of their shows, the best jokes being;
I told my German mates I want to move to a nice part of their country – they said why not try the Black Forest – I said I dont want to live in a gateaux
I dont go to Thailand for the sex trade, the weather or the food – I go for the free shoes – you find loads of them outside the temples
Cooling down in the fresh night air I set off home, stumbling on a guy who was chalking FREE MUSIC TONIGHT on the pavement. This led me the the Captains Bar on south college street, where mi mate Mike Breen (he’d starred in my musical Alibi in 2007-08) was playing guitar & singing to the accompaniment of two fiddlers. A nice way to finish off this first day of the Fringe, sat next to me a middle aged Antipodean couple on their first visit to Scotland, checking out the traditonal vibe. While at the Captains I noticed they had their own finge line-up – paid poets in the morning (9AM-10.30AM / £5.50 with a coffe & a cake) & poets, writers & musicians every night for free from 7.30. My interest was piqued, actually, because Owen Shears – the only poet Ive connected with of my generation – will be there on Saturday 13th August. I didnt intend to pay for a ticket this fringe, but I might make the exception just that once – he’s a fellow poet after all & the lad has to eat! Its all rather apt really, as the great Scottish poet William McGonnagal died next door! He’s not to every one’s taste, but I think I’ll finish today with a couple of extracts from one of his babies about Edinburgh itself;
Beautiful city of Edinburgh!
Where the tourist can drown his sorrow
By viewing your monuments and statues fine
During the lovely summer-time…
…Beautiful city of Edinburgh! the truth to express,
Your beauties are matchless I must confess,
And which no one dare gainsay,
But that you are the grandest city in Scotland at the present day!
Joke of the Day
An Englishman, Irishman & a Scotsman enter a bar – the bar man goes, “Is this some kind of a joke?”
The Counting House Blackboard
By Damian Beeson Bullen
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
With no Edinburgh Fringe this year, The Space have continued undeterred & are presenting a three-week online festival. The Mumble caught up with one of the companies involved.
Hello Nia, nice to see you & your wonderful company, Three Chairs and a Hat, again. If only by Zoom! So, last year you brought your brilliant Verity to the Fringe, how did you find the experience?
Nia: Hello! Nice to see you too! Last year was our debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it was an amazing—and exhausting!— experience. It was so great to be part of that buzzing energy and activity, and to have access to so much original and inspiring theatre; and to perform every day with the wonderful Verity team was an absolute privilege. The build-up to our first Fringe was a bit stressful, and I was probably a tad grumpy and preoccupied at times, but the team were unfailingly patient and positive and enthusiastic from the word go. And we couldn’t have had more help and support from the venue, theSpaceUK, and the Fringe organisers. They were so friendly and always ready to advise. So I’m now looking forward to going back as often as possible, with as much work as I can produce!
Hello Wayne. As the Creative Director of Nia Williams’ musical ‘Melody’, the cancellation probably hit you hard – how did the group take it at first?
Wayne: As a company, we were disappointed not to be able to take Melody to EdFringe, but we’ve all been very pragmatic about the situation; using the opportunity to create something for the online festival. We are determined that Melody will appear in person once the festival is up and running again, and the venue has been wonderfully supportive.
Hello Jane. What do you miss most about being in a more tactile environment with Three Chairs & a Hat?
Jane: Performing together is such fun, sparking off each other as the show progresses so that every performance is unique. And of course, we all miss the audience with their reactions and laughter (when appropriate!). When recording something, you have to imagine the audience’s response.
So how did the announcement of the three-week online festival inspire you to get busy, Nia?
Nia: Three Chairs and a Hat were booked in to the Space on the Mile for a week’s run of my new musical, Melody in August, and it was hugely disappointing for everyone, of course, when the 2020 Fringe was cancelled. We fully intend to go back in 2021, but in the meantime, theSpaceUK’s three-week video festival Online@theSpaceUK has kept us busy and creative, and given us all real momentum. It’s also been a great chance to involve more people and more new writing, as we’re able to contribute four videos: HAUNTED (available from 8 August); LADY M; THE SINGING LESSON (both from 15 August); and PAMELA DRYSDALE’S LOCKDOWN (from 22 August). Learning about video-making has been a mix of terror, frustration and fun, but it feels really good to be on this steep learning curve, and I’m now starting to think more about the potential of video for future projects and promotion.
Hello Alice, you’re directing one of the videos, Lady M. You’ve got lots of experience directing larger cast shows like Into the Woods and Pinocchio. How have you found directing a one-woman video, and doing it at a distance?
Alice: Directing at a distance is definitely a challenge, but at least with a one-woman video I’m able to focus on the characterisation and detail more easily than I would have with a larger cast using physical theatre! Susanne, who plays Lady M, is very responsive to direction and she has primarily developed ideas in isolation, which we have then discussed and expanded upon to shape the structure of the piece. After reading the script and discussing staging ideas with Nia and Susanne we quickly realised how suited this piece is to a video format. The monologue takes us on a journey through one woman’s experience of living life as an outsider and never truly feeling accepted. Her attempts to coach others, in a virtual world where she never has to face her own reality, lead her to reveal her own vulnerabilities and a past she cannot wash away with sanitiser. Through rehearsals and recordings Susanne has brought to life this troubled and quirky character and we have tried to highlight the contrast between her mask of Lady M, an online self-help guru, versus the unnamed woman who feels devalued and irrelevant.
Wayne again. Can you tell us about the Sergeant Pepper’s project you were involved in?
Wayne: In 2017 I was commissioned by The Oxford Beatles, in conjunction with ElevenOne Theatre, to write a play script to be performed around a live performance of The Beatles’ album ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The album was celebrating 50 years since its release, shortly before The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, died from an accidental overdose. The show followed Brian through his final year; from the recording and publicity of the album, through to his feeling that the band were slipping away from his guidance. In order to create the spectacle of the album, the show featured the four Oxford Beatles and their musical director, a 12-piece orchestra, two Indian instrumentalists, and four actors playing six parts.
You’ve done a lot of work with local theatre groups, Marilyn, what is it that appeals to you about that world?
Marilyn: I have always loved live theatre but had to make a choice when I was growing up to either train for a career in the NHS or apply to drama school. Needless to say, my parents encouraged me to take the safer option where employment would be guaranteed. However, I could not let the opportunity to perform pass me by and so I auditioned to join a local group. Amateur theatre has allowed me to play so many wonderful parts that I may never have been able to on the professional stage. I have escaped to the diverse lives of Mrs Anna in the King and I, Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Ruth in Pirates of Penzance and many more. I have witnessed the joy of many people as they fulfil their dreams of playing certain parts in local theatre and the pride of their families as they watch their loved ones grow in confidence and ambition. Local groups cater for all ages, on stage and behind the scenes, and allow people to explore their talents whilst holding down a day job.
Hello Susanne. How have you found performing and rehearsing LADY M, given that it’s just you and the camera?
Susanne: It’s been a new challenge! I’ve very much missed rehearsals and working collaboratively in real time with Nia and Alice. That said, it’s been a pleasant surprise to experiment with a camera and lighting to try and convey different moods. Its also been a good medium to try and convey nuances of character, though the immediate feedback from watching your own performance takes some getting used to!
A question for anybody now. What have you learnt about yourself & your art during the Lockdown period?
Jane: I have learned that I have had to be resourceful in finding new interests whilst being furloughed from work and how enjoyable this has been for me. I really enjoyed writing PDL (and two subsequent short stories that followed). Without the Lockdown (and encouragement from Nia) I would never have started writing and I’m so glad I did.
Susanne: In this unusual time I, like I’m sure many others, have realised how important music and drama is to me. As a means of social interaction, a way to be creative, and a mechanism to explore new things, art is essential for a colourful life. We must preserve it at all costs.
Alice: Interestingly I started lockdown feeling optimistic about acting more quickly on creative urges and embracing new challenges, believing I’d have so much time to indulge my own projects, but the drain of ongoing uncertainty and hours spent with children needing education and entertainment, have slowly chipped away at my creativity! I’ve learnt that my relationship with theatre is very much a response to a need for human stories in my life. My lockdown narrative has been banal and average and I think myself very lucky to emerge without a ‘story’, but I have been truly moved and inspired by the global humanity shown through this pandemic and that is an outcome in itself. Knowing we can be touched and affected by what others are going through is one of the most incredible gifts of being human and in my opinion argument enough for an arts-based culture to be given validity and worth. It is vital to the re-emergence of society that we can offer a stage for these stories to be shared.
Wayne: I have found that the quiet solitude has actually helped me to create, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support available from other artists who’ve been willing to share their work and offer online mentorship. It really does go to prove that the show must go on!
Hello Guy. In The Singing Lesson, you play flamboyant singing teacher Evangeline Gibson; you also play this and many other roles in Melody, the show that’s the basis for the video. How did you approach both tasks and how do they compare?
Guy: In the full show I play 12 or 13 different characters and have to change quickly between them all. I try and find a different physicality for each one; this informs the way I move, stand, walk and my body position. At one point I play Melody’s mother, I imagine her to be quite short, slightly stooped and worn down by life, I play her in a slightly apologetic way by wringing my hands a lot. Evangeline Gibson is very different! I imagine her to have a large bosom, with a lot of theatrical waving of hands and more than a touch of Hinge and Bracket thrown into the mix. I also like playing with accents as this helps me make sense of the different characters, I play Melody’s boss at one stage and for some reason it seemed to make complete sense to me that he should have a Birmingham accent; again this informed everything about the way the character behaved, he’s a bit pompous and talks out of the side of his mouth, he struts around like a jumped-up peacock!Reducing Evangeline to a Zoom lesson has been tricky because she’s very flamboyant in all her movement. Trying to capture that theatricality on screen meant doing a lot more close camera work and trying to ensure my hands were always on view. Having a swivelled office chair helped give me a range of movement that was different than when we see her standing, but lent itself to some fun theatrical shenanigans.
So, Nia, tell us about HAUNTED.
Nia: HAUNTED is a story about isolation, jealousy and obsession, and the way our minds can go around in circles and play tricks with our sanity, when we’re on our own. It follows the thought processes of a woman who’s helping her brother move in to a new house, and it could be a ghost story, or a story of paranoia and guilt. I decided to make it a dramatised narrative, rather than just tell it straight from the page, so I then had the challenge of finding ways to create the right mood and atmosphere using only what I had to hand in the house. It was also a bit of a first for me, as I’m not an actor, but I really enjoyed it—though by the end, I did start to understand that filming is a very slow, fiddly and tiring business!
You’re also the writer of LADY M – what’s it about?
Nia: I started writing LADY M after thinking about the way ambitious women, without any means to power, are so often portrayed as flawed characters or out-and-out villains. That led to imagining what Lady Macbeth would do if she were alive now; and the whole video format lent itself to portraying her as a life coach, giving out advice to herYouTube followers. Susanne and Alice and I are developing this as a stage show, which sees Lady M start to indulge in confessions about her own dodgy past. I’ m hoping this video will inspire people to come and see the rest of her story, when we’re able to get back to rehearsing and staging live theatre.
Hello Marilyn. Can you tell us something about The Singing Lesson, and what it was like creating a video?
Marilyn: The Singing Lesson is a glimpse of the life of Melody Smart, whom I play in Nia’s musical ‘Melody’. Melody is a hotel receptionist with a big secret that gradually unravels during the course of a singing lesson which she won in a raffle. She has always wanted to sing, and her meeting with Evangeline Gibson gives her the opportunity and confidence to analyse her life choices as well as sing. Creating the video was initially daunting and scary but it gradually became great fun. It was a wonderfully different way to portray Melody and her growing relationship with Evangeline. It also taught me how to lip sync. and sing a duet without being in the same room as the other person.
Susanne, how do you manage to balance your work as a doctor and your performing?
Susanne: Obviously it’s been a challenging time for lots of people including those working in hospitals. Having an absorbing project to come home to that is so completely different to my day job has been a welcome release.
Guy, can you tell us about your work with the Music Youth Company Oxford, and about the recent recognition you received for your work in education and the theatre.
Guy: I’ve been working with the Musical Youth Company of Oxford (MYCO) for the last 17 years and became their resident creative director about 10 years ago. We specialise in musical theatre and have staged a huge variety of shows over the years, as well as winning a number of awards. So far my favourite show with MYCO was our 2018 production of Godspell, set in a dystopian wasteland, into which comes a character who changes everyone’s lives. Most recently I was directing and choreographing their new production of Chess the Musical, which sadly had to be postponed 3 weeks before we were due to go up because we went into lockdown. We’ve rescheduled for March next year at the Oxford Playhouse. It was doubly hard as Chess is one of my favourite shows and I felt deep down that this was some of my most innovative work.I was honoured and very humbled to be made an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List. The citation was for services to education and community in Oxfordshire. My work in children’s, youth and adult theatre was heavily cited as well as voluntary work I do, training teachers and other public sector workers in tackling LGBT bullying. I was especially glad that my dad was able to see me receive this honour at Buckingham Palace: it made him really proud and sadly, just over a year later, he died of pulmonary fibrosis.
Jane, can you tell us about PAMELA DRYSDALE’S LOCKDOWN?
Jane: Pamela Drysdale’s Lockdown is the story of a woman tempted to a titillating weekend away with Kinky Keith from the office. But a weekend becomes weeks in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown. Can her passion be sustained?
So Wayne, how have you found working on The Singing Lesson, and what have been the particular challenges of Lockdown directing?
Wayne: Overall, this has been an uplifting experience of turning a potential negative into a positive. At first the four of us – the two actors, Guy and Marilyn and the writer and musician Nia – just stared at the squares of faces, wondering how this might work. But we all quickly realised that a singing lesson does actually lend itself well to something that could be done online as, I think, a lot of music tutors have discovered. Some aspects of the show require a certain amount of intimacy; for instance when the singing teacher, Evangeline, holds onto Melody to show her where her diaphragm is; and another point where there is an element of implied threat. So, to imply this over-familiarity, I suggested that Marilyn and Guy come very close to the camera at certain points, so that the audience experiences a feeling of invasion of personal space. It also adds comedic value too, as you will see from the trailer when Melody is trying to look into the camera to ‘see’ if anyone is there!
The Mumble: Well good luck everyone—I hope you enjoy this alternative fringe experience, and look forward to seeing you all in Edinburgh soon.
LADY M—running from 15 August
THE SINGING LESSON—running from 15 August
PAMELA DRYSDALE’S LOCKDOWN—running from 22 August
Six new plays will be premiering online next week
Presented by Scotland’s Short Attention Span Theatre.
Audiences will be seeing double next week as a pioneering theatre company serves up its latest innovative slice of culture in quarantine. Short Attention Span Theatre (SAST) will be streaming six double-hander plays online and free of charge from Thursday 25th June – featuring some of Scotland’s best up-and-coming creatives. It follows the success of the company’s virtual shows in May, which featured 12 magical monologues – watched by hundreds of viewers ‘live’ and later on YouTube, as well as SAST’s own website. The next show will present six short plays – written, acted and directed by talents from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Moray … and even further afield.
Each will star two actors – filmed from a virtual distance to adhere to lockdown restrictions, using a variety of dramatic techniques. They will be available to view from Thursday (25th June) onwards. The plays will be:
Through the Door by Leanne Cameron
Lucy has locked herself in the bathroom and is refusing to come to her Dad’s 60th birthday party because she’s fed up being compared to her sensible sister, Jess. Jess is trying to convince her to come out and that everything will be ok, but not before going through the emotional roller coaster that is sisterhood. Will Lucy come through the door?
Smells Like Cheap Spirit by Jamie Graham
Mandy is spending another night in front of the TV and has treated herself to a takeaway pizza and a bottle of gin. She’s feeling a bit down in the dumps after recently losing her job and still not having anyone special in her life. But the evening takes an unexpected twist – and it’s not just the lemon in her gin.
Rats by Karen Marquis
A make-up tutorial takes a horrific turn…
Acquiesce by Alan Muir
Two men. Two prisoners. One wall.
For years they’ve been kept captive in neighbouring cells, forced to share their fears and secrets with each other – and the stone between. But now there’s a chance at escape. For one of them at least. The problem is, freedom comes at a cost. It always does.
The Curse of Griffin Cottage by David Bratchpiece
Aspiring writer Sarah receives an unexpected message from young actor Eddie after he gets locked down in some spooky surroundings…
We Keep Going by Rachel Flynn
David and Zoe had a one-night stand that lasted a whole weekend just before lockdown. Now they actually have to get to know each other without sex, can they keep their intense connection over video chat, without the ability to touch? Or will they realise they’re not the people they thought they were?
The actors are Grant McDonald, Sarah Meikle, Stephen Will, John Michael-Love, Derek Banner, Catriona McAllister, Elle Watson, Emma Findlay, Paul Kelvin, Rebecca Wilkie, Stephen Kerr and Kirsty Florence. The directors are Karen Marquis, Daniel Gee Husson, Max Chase, Daniel Orejon, Rebecca Riddell and GR Greer. The June show will premiere on Thursday 25th June from 7.30pm. You can watch via YouTube and theSAST website.
Tom Brogan, Co-founder of SAST, said: “The reaction to our online shows has been extremely positive. We can’t wait to bring audiences six new virtual two-hander plays – all streaming free to your computer or device. Like everyone, we’ve had to adjust to the ongoing pandemic and it has presented a unique challenge creatively. I’m delighted with the innovative ways our writers, directors and actors have worked together – many miles apart – to produce new works to help lift people’s spirits during this testing time. Once again there’s a range of subject matters and genres, with something for everyone. Please tune in. Don’t worry if you can’t watch ‘live’ on YouTube or via our website – all the plays will be available to view again afterwards and you can catch up on previous shows too.
Here at SAST our goal is to encourage, support and inspire early-career writers and theatre makers. The online shows are a way of continuing that work, while hopefully entertaining people sheltering out the coronavirus storm at home. There’s no cost as such, but if anyone wants to buy us a ‘virtual cuppa’ then we’d be delighted to accept. All donations will help to fund future work.” Tom added, “Hopefully – all being well – we will be back on stage in the autumn with live shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Until then, please stay safe … and enjoy the shows.”
So far, SAST’s April show has had nearly 800 views, with May’s plays racking up nearly 1,000 views. SAST was established in 2015 by Karen Barclay and Tom Brogan, and is now run by Karen, Tom and Mairi Davidson. It was set up to enable first-time and early-career writers to experience their work being dramaturged, directed, rehearsed and performed in front of a paying audience. Prior to lockdown, SAST had mounted 24 live shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayr – producing the work of more than 100 writers. It receives no funding so if you want to help support future work please consider buying the company a ‘virtual cuppa.‘
After the completion of the Leithology quintology – which will soon be on sale on all platforms – & the composition of Viriathus & Malmaison, I felt THE FLIGHT OF THE WHITE EAGLES was going to be a real statement-maker. If I really do wanna emulate Shakespeare, I need definitive works with meaty bodies – a bit like Hamlet innit – & so turned to Napoleon’s infamous retreat from Moscow as the first of my major conchords. There’s a hell of a lot of drama obviously, & when it comes to stagecraft the visual deterioration of the soldiers will be a wonderful story to tell.
With five acts of seven or so scenes each, all bubbling with blank verse & containing both original songs & songs drawn from the period itself, WHITE EAGLES definitely marks a placement of my muse on a Parnassian plateaux of sorts. No looking back now – ten down, 27 to go!
I began researching WHITE EAGLES last year after reading the fabulous ‘Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne.’ From this first catalyst – I was very verteux at the time – I began to research other memoirs up in the National Library of Scotland, such as those of Caulaincourt, & set to work on the composition period not long after my return from Provence sometime in mid-February. Then the Lock Down happened. I don’t need to rattle on about it, everyone’s experiencing it. I’m lucky tho’ – I walk dogs with my girlfriend which meant I could to & fro between my places in Edinburgh & East Lothian for ‘work that cannot be done from home‘ – the dog numbers had drastically plumetted, but there was enough to make it valid & of course meant I could compose pretty much anyway I liked – from the Lammermuirs to Leith Links. Here’s a Walking East Lothian post I created during the Lock Down.
Musically, WHITE EAGLES has been something of an educational dream, help’d along by my house-mate’s keyboard playing. By February I had a couple of tunes, but then began to write more & add local colour so to speak, translating from the French lyric into the English. Of my new songs THE BALLAD OF BORODINO is really beautiful I think, & THE GREAT NAPOLEON really fun – the Herod moment – my house mate incorporating the Tetrislike theme tune into via some techno rave from the 90s via Hicksy & Sharky. He also fell in love with Plaisir D’Amour & Compere Guillere.
The full list of songs is below, with astersks denoting my own compositions)
The Sable Raven – English version
Marlbrough is Going To war – English version
Parisienne Skies (*)
On Va Leur Percer Le Franc
The Blood of Borodino (*)
Pomme de Terres (*)
Compere Guillere – French Version
Song of the Loricated Legion (*)
My Handsome Husband (*)
Soarin’ Home (*)
Chant du Depart
Crossing the Bridge (*)
The Great Napoleon (*)
Compere Guillere – English version (*)
Au Clair de la Lune
Le Depart Du Bologne
The March from Moscow (*)
Theatrically, there are a lot of parts – three main bodies of 8-10 characters; Napoleon & his entourage, Bourgogne’s company & the Russian partisans. There’s also another 20 or so walk-in parts, plus the crossing of the Berezhina bridge to depict – but whenever WHITE EAGLES does get performed everyone’s gonna JUST love it!
Artistically, WHITE EAGLES is the bag daddy to Malmaison, but together they form a very good account of Napoleon’s life. Like I said at the start, it also represents the foot-scrambling heave onto the plateaux from where the rest of my conchords will be composed.
The first of this new bunch is GODS OF THE RING & I’m extremely excited about it. The principle subject is the four fights between Ali, Foreman & Frazier, & all the dramas before, during, after & between the fights. The names of these epic combats have gone down in history – THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, THE SUNSHINE SHOWDOWN, THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE & THE THRILLA IN MANILLA. Like White Eagles I’ve already got two tunes in the bank, a theme tune & the sublime, best song I’ve written in ages, BLACK POWER. I’ve been compiling the notes in the past few days, the bulk of which were studied for in the National Library just before the Lockdown. I’m gonna print out the first notes today & get composing soon after.
With White Eagles taking just over three months, & June the 1st on the horizon, I’ve got a feeling that every new conchord is gonna take a season – so Gods of the Ring is the conchord of the summer of 2020 – the weird summer, the one where the theatres were closed. For me, I think I’ll be spending some of it hopefully in Greece, where the next of these windows into my workings will be composed.
THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO
“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”
The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse