Daily Archives: August 22, 2011

Back on the Ball


This proffusion of eccenticities, this dream in masonry & living rock
is not a drop scene in a theatre, but a city in the world of reality
Robert Louis Stevenson

Shows – 72
Hangovers – 8

Morven Macbeth

This time next week it’ll be all over bar the the creation of arty montages from the leftover flyers. Finally shaking off the weekend I set off out in the morning to the SUMMERHALL for HOTEL METHUSELAH (19-26 – 10.45 / 12.45 / 14.45). It was first at the fringe in 2006, winning acclaim for its cutting edge stage design & theatrics which are still fresh today. They involve a mix of film & acting, synchronised to perfection, in which the real-life is seen from the neck down & the celluoid gicing us the heads. I was invited along by my mate’s sister, MORVEN MACBETH, who gave a glorious performance (& thats unbiased) of the ghost that haunts her amnesiac ex-husband – a night porter at the hotel. The whole thing comes across very film noir, very European & very slick, a real-life graphic novel with a constant background noise of battle as if one was in Berlin April 1945, where the Germans carried on living an illusion with the Russians roaring over the River Oder. The two main protaganists are supported by the other two great actors & the whole experience is sensual in that late night Soho kind of way, where lipstick smudges on the whiskey glass & illicit sex is stolen in shadowy alley ways

My next show was by the BELARUS FREE THEATRE at the PLEASANCE COURTYARD, called A REPLY TO KATHY ACKER:MINSK 2011 (24-29 / 13.00), a thought-conjuring piece of political brinksmnaship, defiantly highlighting the oppression of the former Soviet Republic, although from the safety of a liberal Britannia! The company was formed in 2005 by husband & wife team NIKOLAI KHALEZIN & NATALIA KALIADA. This year’s show was played by a young Belorussian cast, speaking in their native tongue with subtitles on a giant screen behind them. It is something of a series of vignettes highlighting the life & times of life in Minsk, the capital of Europe’s last dictatorship. It’s actually quite brilliant, & played with an energy that can only come from real-life experience. The finale is an operatic flourish which has a pretty Belorussian woman declaring her country is not sexy, for it has no coastline or mountains, & tells us the only way they can be noticed is by going naked – which she does completely, & then gets painted head to toe with rollers before rolling on paper & making body art. A sublime piece of theatre, as contemporaneously poignant as watching Colonel Gadaffi’s compound being over-run in Tripoli at the very moment she showed us her very impressive lady-bits!

Next came a coffee with this literary agent who’s interested in my Edinad (see above). He’s come down from Perth for a wee chat & to check out the fringe, so I chucked him my free ticket for POLLYANNA at CVENUES (21-26 / 15.00). The story comes to Edinburgh from Eleanor.H.Porter’s best selling 1913 novel, via 1960’s Disney adaption with a young Hayley Mills. By 2011, the SKY BLUE THEATER COMPANY from Cambridge have turned into a musical which has up to 30 characters on stage at any one time. The costumes are absolutely top notch, from the pig-faced young ladies to the witchy spinsters, & the music rolls on with a relish. The leading lady/girl plays an enthralling Pollyanna, combating an equally enrapturing Fagin-like Mr Gripe, giving us the classic good vs evil tayle that stirs the soul. Watching this musical reminded me of seeing Bednobs & Broomsticks for the first time & is very much enacted in that spirit – twas perfect family fare!

Pollyanna in rehearsal…

Meeting Aaron

That was the last show for the day, & time to play a bit of music. After sound engineering for VICTOR POPE we piled over to the REGENTS BAR, Edinburgh’s gay-friendly CAMRA award-winning vestibule of fun & fine ales (plus free condoms & lube in the loos.) Cammy, who hosts the Whistle Binkies open mic, also has a residency here on Tuesday nights, where Edinburgh’s best singer songwriters mingle for music & meetings. Tonight was slightly different, for in the spirit of teh Fringe Cammy had got a couple of comedians to take up some of the slots. Of them I came across comedic Sonic the Hedgehog that is AARON TWITCHEN whose show is FREE TEA & BISCUITS at the VOODOO ROOMS (16-27 / 14.25), which is going to be, if his ten minutes open mic slot is anything to go by, a ball of quality campness!

The final act of the day was my own 15 minutes of ‘fame,’ & a couple of songs of my crafting, accompanied by Luke. One of them, Seminal Lives, written on the orphanage roof near Gwalior that Bonnie’s Linkey Lea festival raises money for back in 2007, I was inspired to sing by mi mate Linday. Last Friday, at the Southsider pub, she’d sang every line to me in a drunken haze, reminding me its a wicked wee track (see below). So I played it to a great response & left the pub a little after buzzing, despite my complete lack of chemicals. On the way home I started writing a tidy wee pop classic called Annie-May, & put it to chords when I got in. I guess that’s what happens when one is swirling about such a cultural cauldron as the Fringe, as people inspire us we become inspired ourselves, for the muses are far to busy oiling the wheels of performance to enact their normal duties, & for once, & for a short while, we humans become gods!

Something for the Weekend

19/8/11 to 22/8/11

The capital of Scotland is filled with strongly individual individuals
Moray Maclaren

Shows – 62
Hangovers – 5

After maintaining a daily blog for 16 whole days, my endurance finally cracked, worn down by one of those weekends I have habitually up here in Edinburgh. Its now Monday afternoon & Ive already missed 3 shows I was meant to see today. However, I have finally stirred from my ridiculously comfy bed & am ready to play catch up. It all began last friday noontime when I went to a playwrighting workshop at the FRINGE CENTRAL entitled CREATING A VIRTUAL WORLD: RHYTHM, LANSDCAPE & IDENTITY. It was hosted by NICHOLA McCARTNEY, an awardwinning & widely comissioned playwight, who oozes proffessional confidence. The thirty or so ‘pupils’ were immediately given the task of writing a piece of dialogue between somebody who keeps a secret & someone who desperately wants to find out what it is. We were then split into groups of four, & read the work aloud. I found myself with two young Cypriot girls & a middle-aged Greek lady… & with Greece being th birthplace of theatre I thought that was rather cool. From then on in McCartney proceeded to give us a lecture in plot-making, completely deriding Aristotle in the process! We then ended with another piece of writing to conclude a highly enjoyable & knowledgeable couple of hours.

Nichola McCartney

From there I went off to see an excellent piece of theatre, being THE GIRL WITH THE IRON CLAWS at the UNDERBELLY (23-28 13.35). Using gorgeous puppets, props & great showmanship, the two young women & two young men recreate the old Nordic folk tale that inspied Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. It tells us the story of a king that has been cursed by a troll-queen. This entails being transformed into a bear every day for three years, turning into a human again only at night-time Meanwhile, he has also ‘abducted’ a young woman to be his bed-mate, but if she ever sees his face the bear would be forced to marry the Troll Queen. I was literally lost in wonderment through the entire show, the star turn of which has to be a strangely sexy Troll Queen, who upon getting angry transforms through the use of puppets & props into a giant monster. A close second comes the bear & its galloping through the forest with other characters on its back. I also noticed that of the two male actors, one looked like Sean Bean & the other sounded like him. Despite being a ‘fairy tale,’ the entire audience was adult & with the stories dark sexual undertones, this seemed rather apt. A great ride, the scenes come thick & fast, full of three-fold repetitions & magic treasures, goodies, baddies & all you expect from classic storytelling!

At VICTOR POPE’S show I met mi old pal CLIFF PERRY, who agreed to join me for a bit of high culture. This was the second show of STEVE’ HYNESSEY’S LULLABIES OF BROADMOOR quartet, VENUS AT BROADMOOR (23, 25, 27 – 21.00) at CVENUES. The story revolves around the notorious ‘Chocolate Cream Poisoner,’ an amorously rejected woman who injected stycharine into chocolates & distributed them round Brighton, resluting in many illnesses & the fatal munchings of a young boy. Declared insane she found herself in Broadmoor, terrorizing both inmate & staff members with her lewdness, nymphomania & primadonna-ing. A great triumph of historical research & storytelling, this play is vey much about VIOLET RYDER, an extremely pretty & talented actress that plays the character of Christiana Edmonds with skill & energy. The Venus connection comes from her looking at Bottecelli’s Birth of Venus & imagining herself doing the same on Brighton beach, a week before she began her spree of confectionary-based daftness. There was never a dip in the telling, by the way, & the play & its pieces were timed just right… bring on the next two shows – I am now hooked!

From the play it was just a short walk to the SUMMERHALL & Bonnie’s boyfriend’s band, THE STAGGER RATS. They’re a good bunch a lads from East Lothian, & my band Saraswathi had shared the bill with them several times. The keyboardist, CALLUM EASTER, had even been in my movie-musical, CHARLIE! They’ve been recently signed up by a bunch of Hungarians, recording an album in Budapest & releasing singles & making videos (see below). I like their sound, its a brand of intellectual rock reminscent of Radiohead, but happier. The crowd was jumping all the way through the music, & afterwards all soul’s mingled happily throughout the very stylish drinking areas. One of these is in the old disecting champer of the Veterinary College, which makes for a great venue. Neon lights poured pastel colours onto teh proceedings while DJ’s played between live acts on its wee but wicked stage. Everyone seemed delighted to be at such a funky spot – as if we’d all stumbled on the El Dorado of nightspots!

The Stagger Rats

Being quite drunk at the Summerhall, I began the descent into hedonism that resulted in the lateness of this blog. First off was a wee pub crawl with pals, from the Southsider pub, through CVenues all the way to Edinburgh’s premier gay nightclub, CC Blooms. Here, to counteract my bum getting pinched by guys I was forced into getting off with this gorgeous bird. Next day – Saturday – was spent showless, as i was preparing gear & tunes for my DJ-ing slot at the Village pub in Leith. This went brilliantly by the way, & I played for an extra hour & a half after I should have done. From there a few of us hit a female friends pad for big Sunday session, watching both series of the Flight of the Conchords interspersed with numerous trips to the offy. Finally, after sound engineering for VICTOR POPE, I met Caska for a trip to the MEADOWS & the ever-endearing LADY BOYS OF BANGKOK (three times a day til the 27th). I’ve got a soft spot for the guys & girls of the show, having spent several years helping them build the complex when I worked for John Diamond. This resulted in many a free tickets for the show, born from the mind of Phil Gandy, a sound Mancunian who has taken the family circus tradition into the a new dimension. Of all the shows Ive seen, however, this particular one has been the best. As the ‘cast’ mime to popular songs from all eras we are presented a blend of comedy, costumes, dancing & audience particpiation that has no equal, & of course theres the question of which of the super-sexy women were born men. For teh crowd the highlight of the show is the renditions of teh Proclaimers’ 500 Miles by the Proclaimers, & You’ll take the High Road, which has every Scot on their feet clapping & singing along, a great source of national pride for all present, & the cabaret version of the Hampden Roar!

George Dillon

After staggering home, then, on Sunday, I found my aforementioned comfy bed & simply stayed there, only surfacing to sound engineer for Victor & teh show before it. This was THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW by GEORGE DILLON at the EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE. This was by far the best auditorium Id been to, & quite a lovely show. Its one man affair, with Dillon playing the part of Saint Matthew as he recites & acts out that particular gospel. He stalks the stage like a raving priest, both passionate & realistic, with various visuals beamed onto a great screen behind him. Its powerful stuff, & whetehr you’re a Christian or atheist, it cannot be denied how electric & eternally fascinating is the story of Jesus’ rise & fall. The how is an houyr & a half long & will be perfomred be perfomed at the SPOTLIGHTS@MERCHNANTS HALL (27th, 20.40) & twice at St John’s Church (24 & 26, 21.30) where he’ll be dropping the visuals & just lighting candles, recreating the atmosphere of its original first century recitations.

Finally, after sound engineering a good VICTOR POPE show, he was invited to the Eyrie room of the JEKYLL & HYDE for a slot in MASAI GRAHAM’S MONSTER MUNCH (to the 28th 20.15). This was for a seven minute slot alongside six other comedians & their seven minutes, a nice mix of comedians doing their best material. The final perfomer is Masai himself, who jolts us through a series of deadpan one-liners & funny punning. Great fun & the shortness of the sets keeps one’s interest at a high level, like swinging through a swingers club, but not never shooting your load.