Friday, 28 March 2014

Cain's Book

Alexander Trocchi is one of those cult authors - never quite reaching the mainstream, but beloved and well-respected. Cain's Book  is one of those cult books - like Valis - which is seen as a grand statement of intent, embodying both Trocchi's philosophy and a bold, unflinching examination of human nature and society. He stares at his own heroin addiction, ponders the sanctity of work in a mechanised society, and recalls episodes from his childhood.

Untitled Projects, of whom we sing
Use the words like a piece of string
Pulled out long
The intent strong
Less of a play, more a whole 'nother thing

Alexander Trocchi is one of those cult authors - never quite reaching the mainstream, but beloved and well-respected. Cain's Book  is one of those cult books - like Valis - which is seen as a grand statement of intent, embodying both Trocchi's philosophy and a bold, unflinching examination of human nature and society. He stares at his own heroin addiction, ponders the sanctity of work in a mechanised society, and recalls episodes from his childhood.



Untitled Projects, of whom we sing
Use the words like a piece of string
Pulled out long
The intent strong
Less of a play, more a whole 'nother thing

At their best, they are ecstatic
The focus thoughtful and emphatic
Cerebral or dry
The meaning so wry
Fits in the box labelled post-dramatic

Alexander Trocchi is one of those cult authors - never quite reaching the mainstream, but beloved and well-Cain's Book  is one of those cult books - like Valis - which is seen as a grand statement of intent, embodying both Trocchi's philosophy and a bold, unflinching examination of human nature and society. He stares at his own heroin addiction, ponders the sanctity of work in a mechanised society, and recalls episodes from his childhood.
respected.


Three performers play Trocchi's alter-ego, Joe Necchi. Episodes of maternal love jostle with scenes from the New York drug scene. One time, children are dressed as Necchi's junkie circle, in a series of photographs set a voice-over (the drugs replaced by coca-cola bottles and their highness signified by sunglasses. It's sweet and cute).

Untitled Projects, of whom we sing
Use the words like a piece of string
Pulled out long
The intent strong
Less of a play, more a whole 'nother thing

At their best, they are ecstatic
The focus thoughtful and emphatic
Cerebral or dry
The meaning so wry
Fits in the box labelled post-dramatic

They aren't afraid to repeat the lines
Revisit the same scene several times
Dancers appear
Audiences leer
Emotion hides behind sardonic signs




He stares at his own heroin addiction, ponders the sanctity of work in a mechanised society, and recalls episodes from his childhood. Three performers play Trocchi's alter-ego, Joe Necchi. Episodes of maternal love jostle with scenes from the New York drug scene.

One time, children are dressed as Necchi's junkie circle, in a series of photographs set a voice-over (the drugs replaced by coca-cola bottles and their highness signified by sunglasses. It's sweet and cute). Slight shifts in emphasis read and reread the meanings - Necchi's desperation to escape addiction building and building as the years waste away.


Untitled Projects, of whom we sing
Use the words like a piece of string
Pulled out long
The intent strong
Less of a play, more a whole 'nother thing

At their best, they are ecstatic
The focus thoughtful and emphatic
Cerebral or dry
The meaning so wry
Fits in the box labelled post-dramatic

They aren't afraid to repeat the lines
Revisit the same scene several times
Dancers appear
Audiences leer
Emotion hides behind sardonic signs

Part three begins with a cunning twist
Guitar, bass drums in a sonic fist
The Smack Wizards rage
Music takes the stage
And anger's added to the stage

Cain's Book  is one of those cult books - like Valis - which is seen as a grand statement of intent, embodying both Trocchi's philosophy and a bold, unflinching examination of human nature and society. Although Alan McKendrick's adaptation uses film, audio, dance - alongside a gentle, story-telling style adaptation of the source text, it emphasises the dull ennui of the junkies life, using repetition and long, languid longueurs.

Trocchi's irritation at straight aside comes through both his introverted monologues and tales of his pals. The treacherous alliances of the subculture are pitched against the threat of the man. The melancholic ending slides easily from a moving memory of maternal love into a sing-along about the rising river of shit that engulfs us all.

Untitled Projects, of whom we sing
Use the words like a piece of string
Pulled out long
The intent strong
Less of a play, more a whole 'nother thing

At their best, they are ecstatic
The focus thoughtful and emphatic
Cerebral or dry
The meaning so wry
Fits in the box labelled post-dramatic

They aren't afraid to repeat the lines
Revisit the same scene several times
Dancers appear
Audiences leer
Emotion hides behind sardonic signs

Part three begins with a cunning twist
Guitar, bass drums in a sonic fist
The Smack Wizards rage
Music takes the stage
And anger's added to the stage

Ross Mann, Lou Pendergrast, Ian Hanmore
Play in turns the man who likes to score
Horse, LSD, dope
distrust, boredom, hope
Deserve the shouts from the crowd 'encore.'


Three performers play Trocchi's alter-ego, Joe Necchi. Episodes of maternal love jostle with scenes from the New York drug scene. The methodology - carefully placing each element in its own segment, so video follows acting follows dance follows Smack Wizard mini-gig - encourages a meditative, reflective reception.

I remember the first time that I saw post-dramatic theatre. I didn't really understand but I have learnt... not to the privilege emotional impact over the possibilities offered for thinking about... sliding away...







Thursday, 27 March 2014

Riddlin' Philip

 Having seen a couple of Philip Ridley's plays this year, and read a collection over Christmas, I feel entitled to make a huge pronouncement about his art. Although he has insisted that the contemporary theatre is currently asking questions about form that were posed in visual art during the 1960s, his scripts seem to employ a technique that goes back to the Renaissance.

The clue even comes up in some of his titles: The Pitchfork Disney, Dark Vanilla Jungle, Tender Napalm. Sweet'n'sour is more than just Ridley's favourite Chinese takeaway. The competing flavours battle at every level of his work (director Eve Nicol memorably defined this as 'tickles and terror). Cosmo Disney, the cockroach eating urchin in Pitchfork and Cougar Glass (from The Fastest Clock in the Universe) are seductive and repulsive in equal measure - the latter, with his taste for young boys, shares a sweet tooth with Disney's protagonists The Stray Twins. Never mind the amount of confectionary devoured by the characters: Ridley laces his treats with rat poison.

He brings chiaroscuro across into playwriting,  but his facility for the telling phrase and the extended monologue gives the impression of an almost conservative writer. He subtly undercuts the audience's understanding of events, questioning the reliability of the characters' commentaries. 

It is this mixture of dark and light, the chiaroscuro, that defines Ridley's scripts and makes the violence all the more chilling. Like a good classical author, however, Ridley doesn't revel in the on-stage representation of cruelty. The threat hangs heavy, and occasionally breaks out into a ruck, but the atrocities tend to happen off-stage or, in the case of Pitchfork, in the protagonists' dreams.

Even in his most narrative driven works (Dark Vanilla tells a story from beginning to end, albeit through a very unreliable narrator prone to black-outs), Ridley carves a reality both familiar and alien. Familiar in so far as the props and places are recognisable (chocolate, consumed to excess; stuffed birds; paedophile rings) but alien in that the characters are isolated in their own worlds. Cougar pretends he is young, so as to better seduce teenagers, The Stray Twins keep the doors locked. Even when he does get physical (Ghost from a Perfect Place has a girl-gang getting medieval on an old gangster's ass), Ridley frames it within a universe that veers violently from mood to mood, never dropping narrative for a surreal rush but always challenging the surface impression and hinting at bleaker depths.

Ridley's background - he is also a visual artist and a filmmaker - may have encouraged his adaptation of Dark Vanilla, the young woman could be either sympathetic victim or deceitful abuser (she's both) and whether she is villain or heroine is never established: Pitchfork features detailed descriptions of dreams that appear to contain elements of the play's previous scenes.


There's a lovely sense of Brecht's alienation effect at work - the characters are always distanced from the audience, ambiguous - and Ridley juggles the fundamental division in theatre (between what is actually happening on stage, and what that is supposed to represent) until it is impossible to decipher whether the scripted action is set in reality or is a more symbolic psycho-drama. Tough stuff indeed, and a reminder that the cool, searching intelligence can upset the format without losing a dramatic punch.


THREE DISCOURSES WITHIN FESTIVAL STUDIES




“Discourse” can be narrowly defined as a conversation, or as a rule-based dialogue among parties. To

Jaworski and Pritchard (2005 p,1), discourse is 'a semiotic system': textual-linguistic, visual or any other

system of signification. Foucault (1973) saw discourse as a system of ideas or knowledge, with its own

vocabulary (such as the way academics speak to each other). This can result in the power to monopolise

communications and debate and to enforce particular points of view. In this paper, discourse is taken to

mean a structured line of reasoning or knowledge creation, including theory development and practical

applications. Previous reviews and the new annotated bibliography enable identification and description of

three major discourses within festival studies. They are closely tied to existing journals, as these tend to shape sub-fields and lines of research. No doubt there are many more specific discourses that can be

detected within these.



Discourse on the Roles, Meanings and Impacts of Festivals in Society and Culture

What becomes apparent quite quickly through any literature review entailing the word “festival”, is that festival

studies is very well established within anthropology and sociology, while festival management and festival

tourism are much more recent and relatively immature. The knowledge domains for each of the sub-fields of

event management and event tourism have, unfortunately, developed without much reference to the classical

lines of theory development and research in the social sciences and humanities.

Festivals in society and culture, pertaining to their roles, meanings and impacts, is the oldest and best

developed discourse. The literature review identified the following classical themes within this discourse (see

Figure 1, (Themes in Festival Experience and Meaning): myth, ritual and symbolism; ceremony and

celebration; spectacle; communitas; host-guest interactions (and the role of the stranger); liminality, the

carnivalesque, and festivity; authenticity and commodification; pilgrimage; and a considerable amount of

political debate over impacts and meanings. There are landmark works by Van Gennep (1909), Victor Turner

(1969, 1974, 1982, 1983 a/b, 1988), Geertz (1973), Abrahams (1982, 1987), Falassi (1987), and Manning

(1983). Numerous contemporary studies of specific cultural celebrations have been published in literature

outside events and tourism (e.g. Cavalcanti, 2001). Two recent books make explicit connections between

tourism and the cultural dimensions of festivals: Long and Robinson (2004) and Picard and Robinson (2006).

Recently, scholars within and outside the traditional disciplines have been examining festivals with regard to

an increasing variety of issues: their roles in establishing place and group identity; the social and cultural

impacts of festivals and festival tourism; creation of social and cultural capital through festival production;





International Journal of Event Management Research Volume 5, Number 1, 2010 www.ijemr.org











fostering the arts and preserving traditions; and a variety of personal outcomes from participation in festivals,

including learning, acquired social and cultural capital, and healthfulness. The value and worth of festivals to

society and culture has been addressed, as well as the imputed need for festivity, but research on these

important issues has been slim. Festivals are being examined in the context of sustainability, corporate social

responsibility, and as permanent institutions. Clearly these latter issues suggest the need for pertinent festival

policy studies. Connecting this classical discourse with the ensuing structured literature review, it can be

seen that it dominates our understanding of the core phenomenon and is also highly pertinent when

considering social, cultural and personal outcomes.


Italian Crooner Seeks to Reinvent Himself with Kickstarter Campaign

Following the opinion of Sha Nazir during the Issue One panel, I abhor Kickstarter. I suppose it has some purpose - mainly for people who can't be arsed to do the hard work, but with honorable exceptions. But, as pointed out here, it does reveal the seedy side of human endeavour.

But I have a soft spot for this Kickstarter, because it reveals an eccentric passion in a pensioner. 

Romantic singer Gino Federici re emerges onto the music scene as his alter ego Don Gino, adopting a wiseguy persona for his new project.

After a seven-year hiatus, international recording star and Italian crooner-turned-jazz-singer Gino Federici – now known as Don Gino – has reinvented himself. With 43 total years of entertaining under his belt, Federici’s life has been anything but predictable. Now, with his new stage persona, Federici is utilizing a Kickstarter campaign ending April 17 to launch the music video, EP, and graphic novel of his new single, Kriminal Tango.

When Federici retired in 2007, ending a 23-year stage career in Las Vegas, he intended to live a quiet life. Instead, the real estate crisis hit his finances hard, and Federici began to dream of returning to the stage. “When you reach 74 years of age, having lost it all - including two wives to cancer – you realize life has not been as glamorous as some may think,” said Federici. Rather than calling his dream “impossible,” he adopted the motto “I’m possible” and has not looked back.

Okay. so the line about 'the real estate crisis' doesn't suggest a pure artistic intent, but this is manic pixie dust dreaming. Hold on tight...

The Kickstarter campaign is hoping to raise $25,000 to help fund Federici’s comeback – not as the romantic Italian crooner of his past recordings but as a totally reinvented persona, a retired Godfather of sorts. The stage persona of Don Gino has a whole backstory of trying to find a more honorable undertaking than the cement-and-seafood-business of his past.

This would so work as a cabaret persona. It is a bit Frank Sanazi
....

Federici’s innovative idea of a wise guy stage presence has its roots in the music of an Italian jazz composer and singer from the 1950s who happens to be from Gino’s hometown of Turin, Italy. Fred Buscaglione, an icon of Italian music and films, donned a romantic wise guy persona inspired by the New York and Chicago crime fiction stories of Damon Runyon and characters like Nathan Detroit played by Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls.

Some of Buscaglione’s most popular songs, now adapted by Federici into English, are part of Federici’s new album aptly called Women, Whiskey, and Wiseguys. Kriminal Tango is the first single off the album, seeking funding for a music video to be filmed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Funding will also help produce a graphic novel to go along with the album. “This project is truly a new kickstart to my career,” said Federici.

The only thing that worries me is that, having been in Las Vegas for so long, he probably didn't get to meet that many gangsters. 

Pitch Black

The Pitchfork Disney is a tough challenge: set either in a dystopian future, down the back of someone's subconscious or in a house two doors down from mine, it constantly flickers between moods and modes (paranoid and funny, seductive and monstrous), connecting its four characters through their barely expressed desires and shared alienation. The protagonists (a pair of twins, full grown, not identical but infantile) discover that their fear of the world outside is justified, when Cosmo Disney and his acquaintance (Cosmos doesn't do friendship) turn up and usher in sexual longing, the threat of violence and snapshots from the entertainment underworld.

Heroes Theatre make the most of Ridley's script's ambiguity. The staging is sparse - a single sofa - but colorful - the world beyond the twins' house is guarded by a shimmering tinsel curtain. Eve Nicol's direction refuses to force any additional context onto the series of disjointed, disorientating episodes, allowing the disorientating collision of dreams and fantasies to exist in a suspended reality. From here, both Alan MacKenzie (Presley Stray, the male twin) and Stephen Humpage (Cosmo) are given space to turn their speeches (described by Nicol as 'party pieces') into extended monologues of unfocused terror. Since Presley's main strategy for coping with horror is relating his fantastical dreams, even the sharp interjections of Cosmo never ground the play in a recognisable reality.

Although Ridley is strongly associated with the British neo-brutalist writers of the 1990s, Pitchfork's aggression is psychological. Pitchfork himself is a mash-up of gimp, enforcer and freak show star. Handled with menace by Patrick Stratford, he delights in exercising his power in a final comic moment, yet is manipulated by Cosmo into exploiting his disability. The tension between Cosmo and the Stray twins comes not only from Cosmo's paranoia about homosexuality - and rapacious desire for the sister - but in the conflict between their world views. Cosmo claims no parents and absolute self-sufficiency, while the twins depend on memories of their parents to define their existence.

By allowing the script to exist in a contextual vacuum, the production emphasises its various themes: Cosmos' skills as a showman become strategies to remove Presley and leave sister Hayley open to his attention; the conflation between the sentimental and savagery exposing how violence can be masked; the dreams of Presley spiralling towards an erotic fantasy of complete annihilation - and lurk at the back of it all, a fear of death through intimacy (an unsurprising trope from theatre made in the time of AIDS' emergence).

The taut direction, and largely naturalistic performances (Humpage, in particular, plays up Cosmo's street urchin distrust rather than his fairground extravagance) drives this interpretation hard and fast: Ridley's language is both poetic and littered with pop culture references, like a literary bricolage that slams together pain, hope, life, desire, lust, suppression, ghosts, fear, compassion and rage.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pitching for Fun and Horror

It is perhaps no accident that the rise of the British neo-brutalists (Kane, Ridley, Ravenhill et al) during the 1990s coincided with the last years of the Conservative government. After all the excitement of Thatcher, who pulled the post-war consensus towards a libertarian capitalism, the period under John Major managed to be both boring and corrupt. Eventually, New Labour came along and booted their arses, before descending into a mini-pops version of their historical nemeses.

Saint Sarah Kane did her best to break through the monotony to expose the horror beneath with some of the most shocking images ever presented on the British stage (and this is a tradition that includes Bond's stoning babies to death (Saved), Barker's civil war rape and execution special (Victory)). Philip Ridley is more subtle. He presents a hyper-reality that feels trapped between the dole culture of London and the aftermath of a future apocalypse, his characters more either glamorous psychotics or addicted shut-ins. The horror isn't in the body, it is all in your head...

And so, The Pitchfork Disney comes to The Tron. Director Eve Nicol is clearly a fan: 'Ridley is a greatly underappreciated writer,' she says. 'He's frequently produced in London but who needs more champions in Scotland.' Taking on his debut play - sometimes seen as the herald of British neo-brutalism - is no simple task, for the artists and the audience.

She continues: 'His lyrical barbarism can be real Marmite work - you’ll love it or hate it.' Even the name, a jarring juxtaposition of happy and brutal, provokes confusion. Beginning with the paranoid arguments of a pair of twins (adult, but stuck in an infantile obsession with safety and sweeties), it takes the post-apocalyptic scenario darker and deeper when Cosmo Disney turns up, like a satanic Godot, with his own kinky enforcer in tow.

'The Pitchfork Disney is an attractive piece for actors, huge characters with spectacular names, appearances and identities, but it is also demanding,' Nicol adds. 'All the cast have their own “party piece:” extended monologues that pop up out of the text, including a nightmarish ten minute post-apocalyptic fantasy. The play is an hour and a half straight through with little relief for either the cast or audience. But once you've worked your way through to the other end of the tickles and terror, it is deeply rewarding.'


The terror and tickles aren't just fancy technique: Ridley is a relentlessly sincere writer. 'His distinctive voice comes from a place of honesty and is fuelled by love for people and their survival instinct,' Nicol concludes. 'Ridley’s stories make your heart beat faster. You come out feeling more human and alive than you went in.'









Visual and Script and Harrower and Ridley

Although a working definition of visual theatre gets me through manipulate (roughly, it's performance that uses the image as the primary carrier of information, with slight overlaps into dance and physical theatre), there is other theatre that eschews the visual. David Harrower's Fringe success Ciara is a sprightly monologue that unfolds the interior life of a woman on the edge of Glasgow's violent underworld, performed to perfection by Blythe Duff. Unsurprisingly, it is driven by Harrower's attention to detail and facility with language that straddles the colloquial and the theatrical, but as a live performance, there is little communication through the visual dimension.

That isn't to say that Duff's performance is pedestrian, but her movements and postures evoke little beyond the script's storytelling magic. Duff's Ciara is a woman clinging to respectability, despite her family's gangster antics, but the force of the writing needs little support. Consequently, its performance in a theatre - at least in the production which wowed the Citizens - could be easily transferred into radio. The telling moments come from Harrower's unpicking of Ciara's artistic tastes and social ambitions, as well as Duff's measured, unrepentant tone.

Against this, Philip Ridley's Dark Vanilla Jungle has several key moments that rely on the movement to expose a subtext to his story of childish sexual obsession and deceit. Gemma Whelan (despite being a mature woman and familiar in all action mode in Game of Thrones) pulls off a depiction of  neurotic teenager Andrea and, at a crucial moment, falls into a twitching fit that explains why her narrative has become increasingly erratic. Whelan throws herself to the floor, exposed and vulnerable, and in the kicking of her legs expresses the severe mental trauma that has led her character from abused to abuser.


Ridley - one of that generation of playwrights who burst through in the 1990s and became known as the neo-brutalists - is concerned with the hidden depths of the psyche, whence monsters spring forth, and how violence has its roots in the previous experience of the perpetrator. Andrea is as much a victim as a criminal and her abuse of a vegetative soldier is clearly linked to her own abuse at the hands of a paedophile. This tension comes out in the jerky, uncomfortable physicality of Whelan - and her fragmented speech.

Andrea and Ciara are both clearly concerned with their public appearance (they begin by stating that this is their version of events), and both present an image that puts them in the right. It is perhaps a measure of their respective ages that their physicality is so different: Ciara can quite clearly handle herself, while Andrea runs about wild and awkward.

Like Ciara, Dark Vanilla  is a monologue. It uses the visual sparingly (including it within manipulate would be pushing the definition of visual theatre), but as an effect counterpoint to the self-justifications that make up Andrea's explanations. Conversely, it is Ciara's lack of telling physicality that adds a layer to Duff's performance, since the self-control of the character is at the heart of her tragedy (she puts up with an unfaithful spouse and the legacy of her father's gangland empire and seedy deals).

Both Ridley and Harrower are exciting writers, and it is inevitable that their vision of theatre is based in the power of language - they are the proud and worthy successors of that particularly British tradition that sets the script as the template for theatre. But while Orla O’Loughlin's direction of Ciara could make an easy translation straight into audio, Dark Vanilla director David Mercatali recognises how even limited use of the body can add a nuance and power that evokes the darker forces at work beneath the presentation of self.




Vital Bastille Killing



My recent report on the David Greig festival has spurred Tennent's forward: they have announced their headline acts for their Vital festival. Responding to the week long jamboree of Greig discussions and performances, they have lined up The Killers and Bastille for the Boucher Road Playing Fields show.

Of course, I have no idea who Bastille are ('the biggest breakthrough act of the past year, Bastille, who burst onto the scene when their anthemic single Pompeii charted at number two. It went on to become the second most streamed track of 2013, just behind Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Their album, Bad Blood, entered the charts at number one and quickly achieved platinum status before going on to become the biggest selling debut album of the year (with over 2m copies sold worldwide to date), the most downloaded and the second most-streamed album of 2013. They began 2014 on a high, picking up a well-deserved BRIT Award for British Breakthrough Act and their return to Northern Ireland is hotly anticipated').
I know The Killers, though. I lost interest when they asked 'are we human?' That grammatical and philosophical nightmare revealed Brandon Flowers to be less than a pop genius, especially when he tried to blame Hunter S Thompson. I liked all the odd fashion, and I always had a soft spot for religious people in art (He's a Mormon), but the lyrical opposition of independent thought and choreographed movement was under-developed.

'One of the biggest bands in the world, The Killers have sold over 20 million albums, headlined festivals across the globe, performed at the White House and amassed countless prestigious accolades including BRIT, NME and MTV Awards. Each of their four studio albums has topped the UK charts (the band ranks in the Top 3 of Amazon’s biggest selling artists of the past decade). Their epic, synth-driven rock ‘n’ roll and incredible energy make them one of the greatest live acts on the planet, and their highly anticipated return to Tennent’s Vital (they last played in 2007) is sure to be the hottest ticket of the summer.'

Funnily enough, this mirrors my enthusiasm for another band who did The Vital: The Kings of Leon. After three exciting albums, they wrote a song called Sex on Fire. Once again, I know what you are getting at, but it is just clumsy. Hot sex sounds like fun. Sex on fire sounds like a kink gone wrong.

Sarah Shimmons, Beer Marketing Manager for Tennent’s NI, said: “We're very excited to announce the first two artists for Tennent’s Vital 2014 today. The Killers are undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the world with a global reputation for their amazing live shows. They'll be joined on the bill by Bastille, who have enjoyed massive breakthrough success in the past year and are one of the most exciting new acts around right now.



“Tennent’s Vital brings top international and homegrown talent to the heart of Belfast and since its return in 2011, it has well and truly cemented its place as a highlight of Northern Ireland’s music calendar. We’re delighted that our partners at MCD have once again secured some incredible acts for the Tennent’s Vital bill – it’s already shaping up to be a brilliant event and we can't wait to see you there!”


Tennent’s Vital 2013 saw a top line-up including Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol, Avicii, The Vaccines and Tinie Tempah play to tens of thousands of music fans at Boucher Road Playing Fields, and this year’s event will once again bring some of the best musical talent on the planet to Belfast for an unforgettable festival experience.


Fans can get their hands on tickets for Thursday 21st August, headlined by The Killers and featuring very special guests Bastille, when they go on sale on Monday 31st March at 9am from .

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Change/Live/Reflect

Towards the end of Auslander's book on Liveness, he describes how the dominant medium (at the time of publication, it was TV) impacts on the remains of the previous dominant culture (that was theatre, more or less). The minority medium imitates the style of the dominant - in the case of performance, it tried to incorporate bits of video and whatever into the live performance.

A good example of this is that time that Scottish Opera tried to turn An Italian Girl in Algiers into a soap opera. Auslander gets into how MTV was shaping rock culture's obsession with authenticity. Sadly, less than a decade after its publication, Liveness has become a relic: the Internet is now dominant, and TV is trying to copy it (i-player, anyone?). Auslander also missed a trick, citing Eric Clapton as an example of how MTV tried to rescue itself after Milli Vanilli made everyone look stupid.  

Clapton was not a serious artist after about 1977, and MTV's attempt to rebrand by giving him a load of awards was another mistake, part of its descent to abandoning music videos for an endless stream of publicity pieces for artists with more cash than taste, or bad reality shows.

Still, the idea holds: the dominant medium dictates the pace, and sets up plenty of tropes for the minor arts to borrow. In the case of theatre, this has led to a bunch of poor plays about social media, or the occasional invitation by artists that the audience 'leave their phones on, please.'

In criticism, it gets worse. The professional critic worries about the tweets and status updates that challenge their authority - either joining in or churning out press releases to up their numbers (I am talking about myself, yes). Opinion is mistaken for criticism - a situation not helped by criticism's failure to decide decisively on its actual function.

It is generally assumed that criticism is parasitic. The host is the event, the critic feeds on the art and passes the waste onto the public. A symbiotic relationship is just as valid a reading, but lacks the possibility of making a joke about faeces. But allowing the performance to be dominant poses a question: in what ways can criticism ape its form? Is there time for a change in speak?

Cut Up Widow Gets Clean

Oh dear! It seems that William Burroughs has got hold of my email. Can you work out what productions these press releases came from, before Uncle Bill rode in on his Horse and scattered the words?

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26-29 We later their performances March thought this creative there 8pm.

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Each - productions here a performance 3. 

Our.
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Double Bill: A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity/Clean
26-29 March, 8pm
A Play, A Pie and A Pint
1 April - 3 May, 1pm & 7pm

The Traverse Theatre welcomes the return of its award-winning Double Bill production A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity/Clean this week (26-29 March), with the arrival of the annual A Play, A Pie and A Pint series to look forward to next week (1 April - 3 May). We thought you might like to hear more about both productions.

Our 5*-winning Double Bill will be taking in the lyrical dexterity of Glaswegians in A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity and the razor-sharp edge of international criminal femme fatales in Clean. This is your last opportunity to catch these splendid pieces on the Edinburgh stage before they transfer to New York later this season.

The £12 ticket includes a play, a pie and a pint of beer/125ml glass of house wine/regular glass of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, lemonade, orange juice, tea or filter coffee.

Our line-up offers an eclectic mix of themes, characters and stories to enjoy. 

With both lunchtime and evening performances, there is a time to suit every schedule.

Each performance is presented as an easily digestible 50-minute package. 

Our five PPP pieces this year bring a diverse range of stories to the stage: thematically, tonally and geographically.

Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival: Performance. Strings. Death. Despair. Puppets

In his dialogue On The Marionette Theatre, German romantic philosopher Heinrich von Kleist commented that the puppet represented the potential of the human, once they pushed through the limitations of consciousness and free will towards a state of grace. Kleist, like Plato, may have been ironic, as the puppet is more commonly seen as victim: the ballet Petrushka makes this point vividly, with a hero mercilessly punished merely for helplessly falling for a beautiful dancer. The true freedom within puppetry is perhaps in the hands of the puppeteer, who can manipulate his actors in ways beyond the fantasy of the most totalitarian director, or politician.

Manipulate elegantly describes itself as "innovative theatre arts for consenting adults," implying that their annual jamboree of puppetry, film and cross-platform drama leads straight into this particularly dark metaphor for determinism. The presence of Gisele Vienne, last seen in Scotland cheering up Tramway with a slow motion meditation on teenage suicide and drone metal, alongside Kefar Nahum, a Belgian story of Creation gone wrong, suggests that puppetry is a natural medium for bleak, aggressive theatre.
Although the festival had it roots in puppetry, Manipulate features film and performance that defies easy categorisation. The film selection emphasises the easy connection between video animation and live puppetry: the shadow puppets of the East could be seen as the earliest example of cinematic technique, using light to cast an image upon a screen, while stop motion animation clearly comes from puppetry itself.
Yet many of the live performances push at the boundaries of what can be regarded as puppetry. Mossoux Bonté, the company behind Kefar Nahum, strive to integrate dance and theatre while grappling with the implicit gender relationships between their twin directors, Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté. Rather than being puppeteers by vocation, like Scotland's Tortoise in a Nutshell, Mossoux Bonté come to the form to further their own performance philosophy.
If the bonds to a specific medium have been loosened, Manipulate is held together by certain themes. The sense of control, or lack of control, is easily invoked – Vienne's Jerk uses glove puppets in an examination of a serial killer, while 1927 evoke an oppressive, brooding city through the use of film.
Both the short film selection and French compilation movie Fear(s) of the Dark investigate the horror lurking beneath the surface of apparently mundane relationships: Fear(s) includes a contribution from underground comic star Charles Burns, another master of black and white horror illustration.
As an object, the puppet easily lends itself to hybrid creations: metamorphoses and protean creatures litter the programme, whether it is Mossoux Bonté's alarming spider deity or Matthew Robins' half boy-half fly battling to live a normal life (part of the Snapshots cabaret event). The elegance that Robins brings to his storytelling, accompanied by live folk music and told languidly, supports von Kleist's assertion that the puppet is capable of a fluidity and grace precisely because it is not troubled by human self-consciousness.
The brilliance of Kleist's essay, perched gingerly between notions of free will as positive and the problems caused by having consciousness – he did go on to kill himself – is reflected in the cunning programming of Manipulate

It is the idea of puppetry that serves as the festival's starting point, rather than any rigid adherence to a particular medium, and from this blossoms a diverse, sometimes enchanting, sometimes troubling programme. If theatre's function is to stimulate discussion, or challenge audiences to look beyond their own assumptions, Manipulate challenges the meaning of its own art form and presents artists who are willing to poke around in the darker zones of human experience.

Sigurður Jónsson

Back in 2010, I chatted (over the internet) with the then graduating artist Sigurður Jónsson. I had just seen him wrestle a huge trunk in The Arches, and, in the best tradition of live art, this apparently bizarre activity resolved into a profound meditation on man versus nature.

Aware that the phrase 'profound meditation' is a terrible cliche, I bothered Jónsson with a few questions about his art. 

The work moves between personal history and mythology. Do you feel that mythology retains a resonance for you, even in a modern age that has abandoned its traditional stories- even if they are replaced by modern myths?
From a personal point of view I think mythology resonates with most of us, or rather, we hope mythology to reflect certain truths or present us with meta-narratives that we can draw from and count on. This was an inquiry of mine throughout the process: how does my history fit into a greater narrative. 

Maybe this reflects the Icelandic part of my approach as I feel mythology is understood in a wholly different way here in the UK. Here people seem to enjoy the novelty of the myth, while it seems to have a genuine perlocutionary effect on the Icelandic psyche. Many Icelanders will tell you “I don't believe in ghosts… but I know my house is haunted,” and I think that reflects, not necessarily naivety, but a respect for these traditions and stories.
The body seems to be central to the work- in that by being naked, you draw attention to it, and the physical act of wrestling with the tree makes up an intense sequence. I'm interested in whether you see your physical vocabulary as being connected to dance, or any other performers...
By stripping down at that point, I was hoping to draw the attention away from me, the person, and to the sculptural elements of the two bodies in the space. So even though I do consider the work as a whole to be very connected to dance, I was hoping to explore the space between sculpture and choreography. How does the object inform the movement? 

A piece I took a lot from was Bruce Nauman’s Walking in an Exaggerated Manner around the Perimeter of a Square (1967-68). The way I understand this particular piece is Nauman’s seemingly simple attempt to perform a square, but there is an added element of performativity in the way he does it and so instead of just walking, he emphasises parts of the body in relation to the space. I guess I was trying to achieve something similar.

Where did you start? Do you have the objects and stories in mind, and let them dictate the format, or vice versa?
I had wanted to work with driftwood for some time but I had no idea in what way. So when my nan told me a story about this Scottish fisherman who washed ashore and came into the life of my Icelandic family some 400 years ago, I saw a connection. I tried to look up the name but like the driftwood, he seems to have lost his history. So I guess that was my starting point and I started working on lending them a possible past and future. In the beginning of the process I started to try and fit the object and story within a format I thought was apt. 

After a while, and with the help of my tutors and colleagues I realised that the object had to dictate the format. I grew tired of trying to represent something and, with some inspiration from the likes of La Ribot and Florian Flueras, I decided to simply present a series of actions with the driftwood and give the audience a porous structure where they could put their own meaning into how the three main elements interrelate.


This one's a massive question- do you see your approach as especially Icelandic?
No. I understand that people generally might read my work from that perspective but coming from the Icelandic scene, I don't see my approach as Icelandic. If I had to describe contemporary Icelandic performance work there is a certain dry humour in it, an irony that I feel I have moved away from. 

Saying that, the Icelandic scene is very young and volatile and so one particular description will never be fitting. Having studied in the UK I feel much closer to the discourse here and in Europe.














































That is great, thank you... how about I send over some (probably pretty obvious) questions so that I can work up an article?




Best wishes




Gareth





2010/3/15 Sigurður Jónsson <siggiarent@gmail.com>







Hey Gareth,




I've finally put some images on my website http://sigurdurjonsson.wordpress.com/projects/bloðeik-2010/




I you want to use any of them, please send me the name (blodeik1-8) and I will send said image in the full resolution (I have them in .jpeg and .tiff)




Photographer is Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir (www.hallgerdur.com)




Cheers,

Shakespeare Inc

Although my enthusiasm for Shakespeare has long been slaked - that one Fringe with 200-odd versions of Macbeth kind of did for me - I have a soft spot for a bit of bardolatry. There are plenty of his scripts that are served up rarely enough to retain some sense of surprise, while the big events plotted by the Royal Shakespeare Company bring attention to the theatre world in general. Besides, it is better than the whole World War I nonsense that Michael Gove wants to celebrate.

Wednesday 23 April, Fireworks - outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, after the evening performance of Henry IV, Part I
Saturday 26 April, events for the whole family in and around the RSC’s theatres, as part of the annual Birthday Celebrations
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this year with a spectacular firework display on Wednesday 23 April (Shakespeare’s actual birthday).

Taking inspiration from Ben Jonson’s ‘Star of Poets’ description of William Shakespeare, the RSC will Henry IV Part I. Emergency Exit Arts, one of the country’s best and most experienced providers of pyrotechnics, will create this special anniversary event.
launch its Shakespeare birthday festivities with a fireworks display from the top of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre after the evening performance of

Personally, I blame Jonson for bardolatry... was he trying to hitch his own talent to Billy S's star? Still, fireworks are nice.

As part of the Birthday Celebrations on Saturday 26 April the RSC will offer a range of free activities for the whole family, including storytelling sessions, stage fighting workshops and the chance to discover how fake scars and bruises are created. Visitors will also be able go on theatre tours, enjoy music in the foyer areas, and explore the 36 metre high Theatre Tower.


The Celebrations will also feature an appearance by Godiva, a six metre tall mechanical puppet, created by Imagineer Productions for the Cultural Olympiad in 2012. Godiva will arrive in Stratford on Friday 25 April, spending the night at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street before leading the community parade on Saturday 26 April. 

In the afternoon Godiva will visit the Bancroft Gardens where she will be joined by her future lifelong companion, The Humming Bird. This mechanical bird, capable of flying one and half kilometres, will make its inaugural flight in an outdoor performance. Godiva’s visit to Stratford as part of the Birthday Celebrations has been supported by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the RSC.

Puppets? I'm in. 


The RSC is also working with community artist, Georgia Jacob and four organisations based in Stratford ) to produce an exciting addition to the community parade on Saturday 26 April. Each group will produce a carnival-style prop, such as a large puppet, based on a character from Shakespeare which will be carried on the processional route. After the Birthday Celebrations the pieces will be hung in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during the summer. This activity has been enabled by funding from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s Reach Out And Help Partner Fund, and is supported by Stratford Town Trust.


Geraldine Collinge, Director of Events and Exhibitions at the RSC, said: “2014 is the 450th Birthday of Shakespeare, and I am really excited about what the town and the RSC has planned to mark this very special year. Here at the RSC we’ll be lighting up the sky on Shakespeare’s actual birthday, Wednesday 23 April, with what promises to be a magnificent firework display.

“And then over the Birthday Celebrations weekend, we'll be offering families myriad opportunities to participate in a range of practical theatre activities. If you want to find out more about stage fighting or how we create theatrical cuts and bruises, then make sure you come and visit us. I'm also delighted that Godiva will be making a trip from Coventry to Stratford. She’s an amazing sight and - along with the carnival items groups from Stratford will be making with Community Artist, Georgia Jacob - will be an exciting addition to the community parade. I am sure the town will be buzzing throughout the week, and I encourage everyone to come and soak up the very special atmosphere of the Birthday Celebrations.”


ACTIVITIES TAKING PLACE IN AND AROUND THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE ON SATURDAY 26 APRIL:


MUSIC IN THE FOYERS OF THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
From 11.15am – 1pm, and 4.15 until 6pm - FREE

Including Balkan Gypsy rhythms and English Madrigals

FAMILY CRAFT ACTIVITIES ON THE BANCROFT TERRACE, IN FRONT OF THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
From 11.30am-4pm - FREE

Simple arts activities for under 10s. Sign a birthday card our birthday card for Billy, make a simple crown and be a king, design Titania's flowers or create a Shakespeare finger puppet to take away with you.



THEATRE SKILLS WORKSHOPS FOR FAMILIES AND CHILDREN IN THE MARQUEE IN THE SWAN GARDENS

All of the sessions below are free, last approximately 45-60 minutes and tickets are available on the day, 15 minutes before the start time on a first come, first served basis.


Stage Fighting
12.00– 1pm - FREE

Learn how to pull a punch in this active workshop and demonstration of stage fighting techniques.


Singing
1.15 – 2pm - FREE

Sing your heart out in this workshop with an RSC Voice practitioner.


Movement
2.15 – 3.15pm - FREE

A chance to experience the type of movement work RSC actors undergo in order to perform on our stages.


Voice
3.30 – 4.15 pm - FREE

Take part in a simple warm up and have a go at bringing Shakespeare's text to life in a fun and energetic session with one of our voice practitioners.


WORKSHOPS FOR FAMILIES AND CHILDREN IN THE FERGUSON ROOM

All of the sessions below are free, last approximately 45-60 minutes and tickets are available on the day, 15 minutes before the start time on a first come, first served basis.


Blood, Guts & Gore
12.30 – 1.15pm - FREE

Join former RSC Head of Wigs and Makeup Brenda Leedham as she shows you the tricks of creating bruises, cuts and scars in this demonstration needing willing participants! Suitable for all ages.


Family Workshop – Henry V
1.30 - 2.30pm - FREE

A practical, fun workshop for children and their families to introduce and explore Shakespeare's play Henry V actively together. Suitable for ages 8+


Speaking Shakespeare
2.45 - 3.30pm - FREE

Want to have a go at speaking some of Shakespeare’s speeches? Come along to this fun and lively session that will have you quoting Shakespeare like a pro!


Active Storytelling - Henry V
3.45 - 4.30pm - FREE

Become an actor and tell the story of Shakespeare's Henry V. Everyone gets involved, so be prepared to make music, dress up and join in with the fun. Suitable for 3 – 7 year olds.


SONNET FERRY
12 noon-4pm, pay at the sonnet ferry across from The Dirty Duck pub on the day

Why not sit back and relax to the sounds of Shakespeare's sonnets spoken by RSC actors as you enjoy a trip across the river.



Monday, 24 March 2014

SOHO SOLO

“Sometimes, nothing is more honest and intimate than a single actor in front of an audience – we have decided to celebrate the best of the form with the Soho Solo Season. From the incredible Bitch Boxer which makes a welcome return, to the raging screams of La Merda, the six week season is set to thrill.”
Steve Marmion, Artistic Director, Soho Theatre.
Since my last look at the Soho season was a dismal failure (lots of faffing about shows I have yet to see, I am hoping to score better with a close-up look at their Soho Solo season. And first up we have... Captain Amazing, a Fringe success about Britain's only part-time superhero.

Using a funny premise as a foundation for a serious meditation on parental responsibility, and exploring the superhero as a motif in contemporary society, it would be right up my street. And I missed it. Luckily, it is also touring to the Traverse.
Wed 16 Apr – Sun 4 May, 7pm (Sat matinees, 2pm)
Soho Upstairs

Next step: La Merda. It is a show about 'a ‘young’, ‘ugly’ and literally naked woman who reveals her bulimic, revolting and intimate yet public secrets,' and inspired by Pasolini's idea of cultural genocide. Of course I have seen it. And it is also coming Scotland, via The Arches' Behaviour Festival.
Tue 15 Apr – Sun 4 May, 8.30pm (Sat matinees, 3.30pm)
Soho Upstairs






Vox Motus talk silent Dragons...

Dragon was a massive hit for Vox Motus and the NTS in 2013. It's still touring too: the magic of physical theatre is that there is no need for a translation. I managed to chat with the director, Candice Edmunds, who not only interpreted Oliver Emanuel's script that saved the companies a bunch of cash, but was warmly received by the critics and young people. Here's the full transcript...

Every Vox Motus show seems to introduce a new set of techniques! What do you have lined up for the one?

Dragon is a story told without words so it has been a great excuse to really go to town on our visual techniques. I hope it's a show that keeps surprising you with new ideas. Puppetry is very central to the story. Likewise what I hope are our trademark inventive choreographic sequences. The original music for this show - by composer Tim Phillips - is also fundamental to the storytelling. He has written a beautiful epic score to help us tell our story.


How did you involve a fellow southsider, Oliver Emanuel on script duties - and given the nature of this performance, where does a script writer come into the process?

The very first step on the journey of this production was to engage the right writer. We knew we wanted a detailed, nuanced story but no dialogue. And that is exactly what Oliver Emanuel has delivered. He has also brought a great deal of his own personal experiences to Dragon.

The script does not look like a traditional script, but it feels like it has been written just for Jamie and I.
Oliver found a language and style that really helped fire our imaginations and managed to commit that to paper. It's been a very rewarding collaboration and a very unique process.

And finally - the show is aged at nine plus, putting it in that difficult all ages category. Is this a show that will work for adults as well as teenagers, or are you aiming for a younger audience?

'Nine plus' is simply an indication that there are dark themes within the work that an audience any younger might find distressing. It is by no means prescriptive. Our protagonist, Tommy, is a young teenager, and this is a story about his experience of the world. We have found that the slick, visual style of Vox Motus' work has always appealed to teenagers and adults alike. Dragon is really an opportunity to widen our audience, not limit it.

Objections to Objectivity

In past posts, I pondered the possibility of an objection position perceiving performance. I failed to mention that objectivity does exist - it is my opinion, happily - and everyone else is objective in so far as they agree with me. The remainder of this post suggests ways in which anyone who is not lucky enough to be me can engage critically with art.

Taking the subjectivity of the critic as a given does not reduce criticism is a mere series of opinions. Like in those essays I am supposed to be doing at University, a supported opinion is more valuable than an absolute truth. The function of a critique is not to reveal the true meaning or worth of a work, but to extend the conversation generated by the work in question.

In one sense, this abandons the traditional critical analysis of performance and interpretation: the brilliance of Hayman's Lear is less interesting than the angle taken by the director in staging King Lear. Perhaps Hayman did a grand job of presenting the geriatric fool-king, but it is a support to the thrust of Dominic Hill's reading of Shakespeare's text.

Apart from a general disbelief in objectivity, acknowledging the subjectivity of the critic opens up a way of standardising an approach to criticism. Contrary to the approach at school - opinion is the last thing most subjects develop - the critic begins with that moment of connection to an art work: its emotional impact. The critical process is making the connection between that emotion and the content.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Two Comedians

 I sat next to Jim Davidson once. I was at the Pavilion pantomime, and he was wearing a pair of flashing bunny ears and getting very involved in the back and forth between the audience and the stage. It was just before his arrest, so I don't think that he is going to mention it on his new tour.

Eddie Izzard and I were once at the same gig, dressed as women. I think that is a story for another time.

However... both of them are coming to Scotland to tell jokes. Funnily enough, Jim has said he doesn't mind the idea of Scottish Independence, while Eddie Izzard's gig in Edinburgh is all about persuading the Scots to stay in the Union. Let's compare and contrast press releases.


Very few comedians could turn the worst year of their life into a resounding success, but fresh from winning the most successful ever series of Big Brother by a landslide, comedy king Jim Davidson has done exactly that. Jim will take No Further Action on a 54 date UK tour, starting at the Great Yarmouth Britannia Pier on 5 September 2014.

Better Together today announced that comedy legend Eddie Izzard will be hosting a one off gig on Friday, April 4th at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh to launch a campaign for people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who don't want Scotland to leave the UK.Please Don't Go is the title of the special gig, but also the name of the campaign that will run between now and September’s vote. The purpose of this campaign for people in the rest of the UK is to make sure that people who don't have a vote in the referendum still have the opportunity to play their part in keeping our family of nations together.

On announcing the new show, Jim said “It was an interesting time, I had a rough ride for a while, but it’s great to be back on stage doing what I love, and the best way of dealing with a nightmare is to talk about it! I always seem to find the funny side of things...even this! And then, for a finale, along came Big Brother! Wait to you hear the inside stories on that!”

Speaking as he announced the special show, Eddie Izzard said: “I won’t have a vote in the Scottish referendum. What I do have is a view and a voice. I totally respect that this will be a decision for the Scottish people but I love Scotland far too much to stay quiet about how I feel.”

Welcoming the announcement, the leader of Better Together Alistair Darling said: “I’m delighted that Eddie is taking part in this hugely important campaign. People in the rest of the UK may not have a vote in September, but they do have a voice. If Scotland leaves the UK it will have a massive impact on the whole country.”

No stranger to the limelight, having dominated prime time TV comedy for over a decade, Jim is not only one of the country’s best established comics, but one of the most popular stand-up comedians of all time. Alongside hosting much loved shows such as Big Break and The Generation Game Jim’s sell-out theatre tours and pantomimes have broken box office records and received critical acclaim.

“From Stornoway and Lerwick to Glasgow and Edinburgh, I have been lucky enough to play more venues in
Scotland than most Scottish comedians,” adds Izzard.  “As I did my marathons around the UK I felt really proud to be able to run in Scotland holding aloft the Saltire and to still feel that this was my country.”

During the 80s Jim travelled the world performing for the troops, taking his top quality entertainment to some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. For this he was made an OBE. Now his time in Big Brother has come to an end, this brilliant comedian is back where he belongs – on stage, entertaining audiences around the country.

“I’m proud to be British but I am also proud of Britain. I love the vibrant, tolerant, diverse, confident, country we have become. British patriotism is so quiet and understated that it is flexible enough to bring people together. It has always been possible to feel British while being proudly Scottish, Welsh or English. Today our country embraces Mo Farah, a Somali-born distance runner as a British Olympic hero without a second thought. We can even cheer a far-slower marathon-running transvestite comedian.”


No Further Action will see Jim tell the story of his arrest and the nightmare 12 months that followed, the clearing of his name and winning the heart of the nation all over again as a Big Brother champion. Jim will be doing all this in the only way he knows how, by entertaining people, something he’s been doing to great acclaim for nearly 40 years. It promises to be the most outrageous, hilarious and insightful show Jim has ever performed, but most of all it will be the truth.

“I think most people across the UK would feel a deep sense of loss if Scotland left. Opinion polls in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK show a majority of people want the UK to stay together. There are economic and practical reasons for sticking together. Sharing risks, resources and rewards makes us all stronger. Whether it's paying the pensions of our old people or helping young people into a job, working together across 63 million people makes sense.”
















Soho Theatre... Fleabags and Bitches

Despite my location in the distant north, I try to keep an eye on Soho Theatre. Partially because it brings back memories of my youth, when I pounded the streets of London seeking out alternative theatre in the shadow of the successful musicals, and partially because it operates as a good guide to what might happen at the Edinburgh Fringe. The mix of serious and fun performance keeps me on my critical toes - and forces me to bemoan the theatre that I have missed. 

Fleabag  is a good example. Check out the press release.

Today I am going to be a new person. No more slutty pizzas. No more porny wanks. Lots more lovely threesomes. GO.The Fleabag bites back. A rip-roaring account of some sort of a female living her sort of life. Directed by Vicky Jones, whose play The One won the 2013 Verity Bargate Award for best new play. Wed 7 – Sun 25 May, 7.30pm (Thu & Sat matinees, 3pm, Sunday matinees, 5pm)

That this was not at the top of my 'must-see' list in 2013 is further evidence that I am set to lose my reputation for catching cheeky new works. And to follow that up, another former Fringe hit (which I missed). 

Bitch Boxer

Written by 2013 Soho Six member Charlotte Josephine when she was a member of Soho Theatre’s Young Company Bitch Boxer won Soho Theatre’s Young Writers Award 2012. It has since had sell-out runs at Soho Theatre, and Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of the Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh season. As Chloe trains for Olympic boxing glory she is left winded by two life-changing events in a fast-paced show full of blood, sweat and tears. Tue 25 Mar – Sun 13 Apr, 7pm (Sat matinees, 2pm)

In my defence, I did catch Dark Vanilla Jungle at the Traverse. There is a review pending, so I can't say too much. It is worth catching, if your tastes extend to precise, provocative scripting and the gradual unfolding of a modern horror story. Besides, it is Philip Ridley, and he has a distinctive style - his fans will be already making a sinister queue at the box office, filled with hidden meanings and half-reliable storytelling. Tue 25 Mar – Sun 13 Apr, 8.30pm (Sat matinees, 3.30pm)











Monday, 17 March 2014

Dare to Care (Stella Quines on tour)

Stellar Quines And Fife Cultural Trust present the world premiere of a new work by Christine Lindsay, directed by Muriel Romanes, Artistic Director of Stellar Quines – an award-winning company who have been championing the work of women in theatre for 21 years.
Dare to Care

Stellar Quines’ mission is to be bold, relevant and brave. With this in mind we are pleased to announce the world premiere and tour of Dare to Care, an unflinching, unbiased, authentic insight into life at Cornton Vale – Scotland’s primary prison for female offenders

Arriving for a spell behind bars, where there are no secrets or boundaries, and carrying their life’s baggage, a group of women tell their stories in a sometimes crazy, often poignant insight into their lives and the price they’ll pay. Linked by common threads of hope, fear, love and survival, Christine Lindsay does not offer blame or reason but in each story highlights the difficulties faced by these women in the society of their time. Told in a chorus of words, rhyme and stand-up comedy, the collective voice of the women is heard.


Dare to Care has been created by playwright and former prison warden Christine Lindsay. She shines a light on inmates and wardens alike showing neither as angels or devils, but all doing the best they can in a system that expects the worst.

Stellar Quines first presented Dare to Care at a Rehearsal Room performance at the Traverse Theatre. The tremendous response to the performed reading encouraged Muriel Romanes to commission the play for a full production. We are delighted to be working with our co-producers Fife Cultural Trust on this production.


The opening of this production will coincide with International Women’s Day 2014, an annual celebration of women and their achievements.


Design by Keith McIntyre
Additional imagery by Jade Currie
Lighting design by Jeanine Davies
Musical Director and Arrangement by Hilary Brook
Sound design by Philip Pinsky
Additional Music Composition by Patricia Panther


CAST: Rebecca Elise, Meg Fraser, Molly Innes, Anne Kidd, Scarlett Mack and Alexandra Mathie.

Dare to Care will open at The Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy and will then undertake a tour to The Lemon Tree, Woodend Barn, Birnam Arts, Eden Court, the Tolbooth, Traverse Theatre, Cumbernauld Theatre, Beacon Arts, The Brunton and Lochgelly Centre.


PRESS NIGHT: Sat 8 March, 7.30pm – Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.
For more information and to book press tickets contact:
For Stellar Quines: Shirley Monteith sjmonteith59@gmail.com / 07737 168680
For ON at Fife Theatres: Lyn McNicol lyn@lynmcnicolpr.co.uk and t. 0797 1231238




Dates & Venues
ON at Adam Smith Theatre
Bennochy Road, Kirkcaldy, KY1 1ET
7/8 March 7.30pm
Box Office: 01592 583302
www.onfife.com


The Lemon Tree
5 West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AT
11 March, 7pm
Box Office: 01224 641122
www.aberdeenperformingarts.com




Woodend Barn
Burn O Bennie, Banchory, Kincardineshire, AB31 5QA
13 March, 7.30pm
Box Office: 01330 825 431
www.woodendbarn.co.uk


Birnam Arts
Station Road, Birnam, Dunkeld, PH8 0DS
14 March 8pm
Box Office: 01350 727674
www.birnamarts.com


Eden Court
Bishop’s Road, Inverness, IV3 5SA
15 March, 8pm
Box Office: 01463 234 234
www.eden-court.co.uk


Tolbooth
Jail Wynd, Stirling, FK8 1DE
18 March 7.30pm
Box Office: 01786 274000
www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth


Traverse Theatre
10 Cambridge St, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED
19 - 21 March 7.30pm
Box Office: 0131 228 1404
www.traverse.co.uk