Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Company of Wolves (Seven Hungers) First thoughts

Christmas Time

I think I ought to visit my family at Christmas. They might have moved since the last time that I saw them - I am quite bad at keeping in touch, sending text messages and that kind of business.

If I do visit them (and they haven't moved to the south of France), there are some things I might like to catch in London. I am not saying that I only go and see them because they are convenient for a trip to the theatre in the Big Smoke. But they are usually glad to see me piss off for a few hours after the first few hours.

Or, if I go this weekend, I could see this. Cos I am all about the science bit (is that Clinique? Or 'because I'm worth it? I don't really know, but I have started shaving again, so maybe I ought to find out).

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wozzeck, part 2

The Real Dissolves

The Citizens gets a spring in its step...

The Critics greet the news of the new season

Oi oi, Mad Cyril ere. Ready for the latest news from the Citz? Thought so.

Appy Birfday to the ol' fella in the Gorbals - 70 years young taday. An they've sent us all a press release. Let's ave a peek at wat they are up ta. 

· A new production of classic twentieth-century Scottish favourite
ga-ken wan
The Slab Boys, written and designed by John Byrne and directed by and featuring David Hayman in the cast.

Ayman's alright by Cyril. Did a tasty piece - two ov em - in the Fringe and as a passion fer the polemical art. Ee did Lear with Dom Ill a bit back, and ee's got those sweet actin chops. Byrne's shown is moves wiv a couple of translations of Chekhov in the past year. Nice. 

· A major new play by Douglas Maxwell, Fever Dream: Southside, a hallucinatory comic thriller set in Glasgow’s Southside.

Sarfside Massive shout out. Maxwell's got a free pass if ee's talkin baht my manor.

· Into That Darkness, an adaptation by former Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Robert David MacDonald of Gitta Sereny’s interviews with SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl.

Nice... here's one for Anselm Henrich off Glasgow Uni. Ardcore.

· Return visit by theatre company Headlong with The Absence of War, David Hare’s state of the nation play focusing on the Labour party.

Sweet, bit of a modern classic.

· A radical re-imagining of Macbeth by Filter.

It betta be very radical. Frickin Shakespeare. Still, Filter'll rip it like ya jaw on a sovreign. 

· Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 hit Lippy by young Irish theatre company Dead Centre.

· The Garden, an opera by Zinnie and John Harris and David Leddy’s Long Live the Little Knife in the theatre’s Circle Studio.

John Harris is sound. Zinnie is cool. Baht time they teamed up. 

· Top names on the UK comedy circuit including John Shuttleworth, Henning Wehn, Simon Amstell, Jon Ronson, Susan Calman and Des Clarke as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.

A bunch of jokers, eh?

Announcing the new season Artistic Director Dominic Hill said

"This season honours the Citizens’ long-standing tradition of bold and daring work that speaks to Glasgow audiences. As well as welcoming back old friends and showcasing some exciting new talent, I'm particularly looking forward to directing Douglas Maxwell’s new work, set in the Southside of Glasgow and exploring universal themes of parenthood, community and belonging."

Aving all of it, big style...

Wozzeck, BBC, SSO @ City Halls

Thomas J Mayer as Wozzeck at City Halls, Glasgow 2014. Photo BBC, Alex Woodward.jpg
There are many matters to consider in Buchner's unfinished script
Whether it is tragic, melodramatic or simply badly clipped
So the action is uncertain and the main protagonist
May be a dirty villain or just violent when he's pissed.

Other questions spring to mind, when listening to Berg:
Is this the beginning of theatre that's absurd?
Where life has no meaning and a painful godless despair
Is the legacy to which every man is heir?

Then there is the matter of the message that it brings.
Is Maria just a slut or victim of the men who pull her strings?
The main man in the meantime has a life that is a wreck,
Worst of all the problem of how you pronounce Wozzeck.

The music is atonal, experimental avant-garde:
(That's a way of saying that it is very hard).
Berg provides a soundscape that is harsh and frantic
But in poetic fallacies it recalls the late Romantic.

The SSO put it on, they call their approach 'semi-staged'.
This is, the singers act a bit, like when Wozzeck gets enraged.
An outline of a larger version which they could have produced
But despite the lack of scenery, this concert does not feel reduced.

The protagonist himself was done by Thomas Mayer
He portrayed a feckless man whose girlfriend is a player.
The pompous drum major seduces her in no time
We watch Wozzeck's descent to death despite he did no crime - 

Expect, of course, for taking to her throat a knife.
To pay her infidelity, she sadly lost her life.
Poor Wozzeck doesn't get away without punishment:
He is the victim of the carelessness of the establishment.

The music is Wagnerian in the way it works.
It provides subtext behind the singing as it menacingly lurks.
Wozzeck in the army is a lowly grunt:
He feels a fear of nature when goes on a hunt.

The orchestra's heavy and the musicians tight
They rumble in the darkness and rage during the fight
Between Wozzeck and his lady's lover.
And the sense of doom does always hover

In the scenes where his son is ignored by his dad:
Even the lighter moments have the threat of the bad.
Wozzeck claims that being poor means no morality...
He is paid back by his bird's disloyalty.

The SSO take it in their stride, 
whether roaring in the violence
Or bringing nuance to the glide
From the party scenes to the final death
They conjure an absurd world
Where misery comes with every breath.

It's not the triumph of the will
It's a Gesamtkunstwerk
Where words and music come together
To illuminate the story hidden in the murk
Of a world that does not care
About the human doings
And a man who wouldn't dare
To think above his station.

In the final doomy scenes
When poor Wozzeck comes to his end
The doctor who had him eating beans
Strolls past with his general friend.
They hear the drowning man
As he accidently dies
They stroll past chatting
And ignore his cries.

It's a magnificent piece
Given energetic show
By a sharp piece of playing
By the SSO.

We may talk of the triumph, the glory
Of the will and the soul
Of the music and the story
And recall the majesty of Sophocles,
But beyond all this, the man of the day
Is the conductor Runnicles. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Galerie Pascal Cuisinier to unveil cult pieces at Design Miami: The music video for A Band Called Quinn's track Forget About It

The video was directed by Scottish filmmaker Uisdean Murray & produced by Scottish production company Tromolo Productions. The song is from the show & album Biding Time (remix) which was part of this year's Made In Scotland showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Watch the video here:

Club Noir 2010

The oldest and largest burlesque show in the UK

While many other burlesque nights have faded away, Club Noir keeps going strong. A loyal party crowd, its willingness to expand beyond burlesque – recent collaborators include Scottish Opera – and high quality costume have ensured that Noir has held its market position throughout the revival and into the New Burlesque Order.

Club Noir
strives to be more than just a series of routines: it regularly features bands (this time it was the Seventeenth Century, a group of young men who take their cues from both folk and the Godspeed You! Black Emperor school of emotive indie dynamics) and fetish inspired acts, linked together by glamorous women and camp men stripping. It is certainly trying to be far more than just burlesque: the atmosphere and the audience are crucial parts of the evening. The presence of Jim Gellaty behind the decks made the club evening even more crucial to the entire evening.

As burlesque emerges from being a revival to being part of the entertainment establishment, the challenge becomes how to keep the style fresh: tonight's entertainment was kicked off with the aforementioned Seventeenth Century, took in a dominatrix making a reindeer's Christmas wish come true, a fire act that moved onto arc-welded sparks showering the performer and a old school burst of elegant dance, Gene Kelly style.

The striptease itself is heavy on the costume and concept, holding true to the contemporary burlesque preoccupation with recreation of vintage glamour and tentative narratives: champagne is poured across semi-naked bodies, a man strips between awkward, ironic balletic leaps. There is a ritualistic edge to burlesque, a familiarity that is perhaps at odds with its erotic potential.

Equally important, however, is the participation of the crowd: dressed up either in fancy dress or fetish club style, they greet the performers warmly and dance into the late hours. It is a reminder that the neo-cabaret revival is as much about community as it is about performers.

Club Noir at Halloween

Sometimes, because it has established itself so completely, I forget about Club Noir. It is the biggest burlesque club in the world, and has notched up a decade of major events in Glasgow. And they collaborated with Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

When I interviewed Tina Warren for my survey on Glaswegian performance, she was pretty clear about what makes the event distinctive. 

'Club Noir is a bloody brilliant event that brings the most diverse groups of people together,' she noted. 'It brings the freaks and uniques out of the woodwork. And allows audiences to be creative. We have consistently introduced more people to the highbrow arts, the likes of ballet, opera, classical music than any other organisation I can think of.'

Then I noticed that Empress Stah was on the bill for the Halloween special.

Here's what I said about Stah in The Skinny.

Stah was one of the first artists to make the link between burlesque, Live Art and fetish culture. Star of the Edinburgh Torture Gardens, Stah perverts the coy eroticism of most burlesque towards aggressive and cutting comments on sexuality and gender. Supported on the Saturday show by Maleficent Martini, a former ballet dancer corrupted by hard rock and alternative glamour, and on the Friday by broken glass maestro Missy Macabre, Stah is the leader of a new wave of cabaret that genuinely celebrates technique, alternative sexuality and glamour, retaining a sharp intelligent critique of taste and beauty.

Headliner Empress Stah not only shocks by toasting the audience with her own blood, but reveals superb aerial skills

Kabarett will be living up to its reputation as an alternative to the alternative: fresh from performing at Torture Garden and for Damien Hurst comes Empress Stah. Stah is a trapeze artist, another example of how cabaret is hybridising genres and inventing something new and deliciously wicked. Of course, cabaret revivals are inevitably the consequence of financial austerity, an aesthetic response to the failure of politicians. Yet with such urgent creativity, it will hopefully take more than an economic recovery to stop this ferment.

Saturday 1st November 9 p.m. till 3 a.m.

O2 Academy Glasgow, 121 Eglinton Street, G5 9NT

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Goffman denies Free Will

The Life of a Critic: Chapter 43: The Critical Theory Years

Dinner is Swerved++++=

Dinner is Swerved++++=
Late Night Party Time
Last year, *3Dinner is Swerved *2was served in the dark, and the pleasure depended heavily on the nearest fellow guests not being monumental bores. The company, perhaps recognising this, have made this year's version brighter, with party games, meditation, genial interludes for conversation and a tighter focus on the audience experience.

Equal parts slumber party and spiritual retreat - the show begins with a spot of mindfulness - *3Dinner is Swerved*2's new incarnation is about fun and shifts of perception. A trippy video is followed by quiet time, then the appearance of a tree bemoaning environmental devastation. If the food is less important - although there is plenty of it - there is a beautiful 'naked lunch' moment when the audience feats on chocolate as the tree, behind a curtain, meets a chainsaw. A silliness makes this funny rather than disturbing - the crew have a light touch - but it marks an attempt to use the bonhomie created to consider serious matters.

Although there is plenty of performance, including a lullaby that turns into a nightmare and a complex ritual of earth worship, *3Dinner is Swerved*2 highlights the importance of the audience as co-creators in a production, encouraging play in the space and peppering the event with inspirational or funny perceptual twists. Gentle, warm and generous, it shares with Red Bastard is an insistence that everyone gets involved, without being quite so terrifying.

(Gareth K Vile)

C, 0845 260 1234, run ended

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Three from MC Mad Cyril.

Sorts an geezas, Mad Cyril cummin atcha
Like the re-animated corpse of Margret Thatcha.
Top tips fer the arts and assorted shows,
Got more tunes than Mike Reid's calypsos.

First up this week, wun from the con-serv-a-toire
That's the place gone royal with a capital R.
If ya taste is fer actin motion
The poster's got a pictah of a tasty ocean.

If a night o featre ain't ya fing
I got somefing else might make ya swing.
Classy birds in corsets and a fella eatin fire
Gotta make it worth ya while to visit Ayr-shire. 

Dahn in the smoke, they got a cheeky lil treat
That one off Brookside in a meet and great.
He swings a coupla numbas, champagne, meal and show.
Ee don't look old enuff to be let in a casino. 

Touring Network Announced

It is a problem: stuck here in Glasgow, I never need to leave the city to see plenty of art. But thanks to Vision Mechanics, I went on a tour of Scotland last year, and realised that there were plenty of cool places further north (and south - I love the Borders), and that the evolution of folk music owes a great deal to the isolated places of creativity that don't turn up on my mental map. There was this one time in Stornoway...

Fun Makes Good 

Touring Network's Facebook page.

Karine Polwart said: "The folk music scene in Scotland has been invigorated and sustained by performers, promoters and festival organisers in the Highlands, islands and northern isles. Some of my most treasured memories as an artist have been of performing in places like Tobermory, Stromness, Colonsay, and Ullapool."

Sam Eccles said: "We wish to reach out to local, visiting and tourist audiences and, in doing so, provide prominent and practical event information. Today gives us all the opportunity to highlight the world class theatre, music, dance, comedy, circus and kids' shows happening from Shetland to Campbeltown, Birnam to Skye.

"These small-scale venues, set amid some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, bring audiences up close and personal with the very best performers from Scotland and beyond. For both audiences and performers, the intimate stages, at the heart of small communities, offer a profound connection with landscape, with place and with people."

I shall think on this. There is something about the context of art that goes beyond tourism... where the music belongs, or the theatre makes sense... the connection made by touring companies, like troubadours moving across the nation.

The Traditional Circus makes a comeback

It has been said that satire died the day that Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, but UKIP's Traditional Circus Roadshow has become a handy reminder that British humour has always balanced on the razor's edge between sea-side postcard sauciness and anti-establishment vitriol. Taking their name from a pair of radical live artists, The Kippers are bringing back the beloved clowns of the English circus and adding a rough hewn acrobatic energy.

Moving away from the Big Top was a bold move, but TCR has
Private Eye wins
become a roving side-show, heading to towns that have not seen such tomfoolery since the 1970s. Their use of venues more commonly associated with political discussions serves as a reminder that most parliaments have become rest-homes for the delirious, a sanctuary for men who would otherwise be shouting about conspiracies on the corner of Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street and smelling of sweat and piss. And in a culture defined by the short, sharp snatch of soundbites and Youtube, The Kippers recognise that 'street theatre' needs not be invisible nor undocumented.

The ringmaster, Nigel Farage, announces the circus open by arriving in an aeroplane, which swiftly crashes into a field. This integration of the spectacular and the absurd reveals a sensitivity to the importance of Hollywood Blockbusters, giving the audience a big banf before the action has even begun. Less successfully, the attempt to explain immigration through the old 'too many clowns in the car trick' fails, mainly because the clowns forgot to read the instruction manual to make the doors fall off properly.

The magic of TCR is the post-modern pastiche and collage of out-dated genres: Mike Read tries to appropriate the calypso in a revival of the aesthetic from The Black and White Minstrels, while the MEP for Scotland recalls Frankie Howerd's self-deprecating monologues, apparently forgetting his lines. Farage himself picks up on Charlie Chaplin's memorable impersonation of Hitler, but adds his own twist: his speeches use totalitarian rhetorical techniques to challenge totalitarian power. It a meta-layer worthy of Ontroerend Goed.

Families invited to The Monsters’ Ball

Unlike Lady Gaga's Monsters' Ball (I think that was the name of one of her tours), this one is from Children’s Classic Concerts (CCC) and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). So it will be good, and have less of the pottymouth. 

Sat 1st November 2014, 3.00pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Sun 2nd November 2014, 3.00pm, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Apparently, they are transforming the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Usher Hall, Edinburgh into spooky ballrooms for a children's introduction to classical music. 

This ought to help me in my attempts to learn about classical music. Only it is recommended for ages 4 to 12. 

It's got those two off  the CCC, too: 'Owen Gunnell and Olly Cox will be dusting off their dancing shoes and inviting the audience to come dressed in their freaky finest for their latest Halloween-inspired celebration.'

Cox says “This is a Hallowe’en concert with a difference because we have a dancing theme. Not only will we have live dancers joining us, but the audience will be invited to get up on to their feet too. We have some fantastic pieces that will all contribute brilliantly to the spooky atmosphere.”

Among the musical treats will be a scene from Prokofiev’s Cinderella (it's ballet music, so I know it) as well as the mighty Montagues and Capulets theme from his music for the ballet of Romeo and Juliet (and that rocks). Grieg will contribute some tricky trolls from Peer Gynt and a specially commissioned Medley of Monsters will feature some scary characters from the cinema. I hope that Ultron is included.

Gunnell chips in. “We are particularly looking forward to telling the story of Robert Burns’ Tam O’ Shanter, with its scary dance scene in Alloway Kirkyard. I am going to play the role of Tam, so my horse Meg and I have been in strict training in order to escape the witches.”

And the RSNO are going to dress up in costumes, too. And there is a star prize for the best dressed audience member. I'll be entering this, no doubt banishing the opposition with my 'creepy critic by himself at children's concert' outfit.

Monsters’ Ball full concert programme:
Khachaturian Sabre Dance from Gayaneh (fast and rocking)

Prokofiev The Montagues and the Capulets from Romeo and Juliet
(a bit metal in its density)

Grieg In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt

Arnold Tam O’ Shanter

Johann Strauss II Pizzicato Polka

Arr. Andrew Cottee A Medley of Monsters
Debussy Clair de Lune (the sweet edge of the avant-garde)

Prokofiev Waltz and Midnight from Cinderella

Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre (well scary)

Richard O’ Brien The Time Warp (er... okay)

Conductor Jean-Claude Picard (I hope he dresses up as Jean-Luc)
Presenter Oliver Cox
Presenter Owen Gunnell

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Embrace @ Botanics

Vision Mechanics are firmly in the 'visual theatre' school: using puppetry and video alongside live performers, their site-specific Embrace is a gentle, comforting essay on the importance of environmental awareness that preaches softly while guiding the audience around an area of rural beauty.

At Edinburgh's Royal Botanics, the promenade takes in the night-time sights and sounds of cultivated horticulture, but questions the human relationship with the wild. Using the historical story of Amrita Devi as the basis for a meditation on how humans have opposed environmental destruction, director and performer Kim Bergasal leads the audience through an episodic spectacular.

Despite an opening scene in a protest camp - a line of tents containing conversations between the protestors and sketching out the range of environmental discussions - the politics are clear: humans ought to respect nature, and throughout history have maintained this respect in the face of aggression. Devi herself was killed hugging a tree, but her death inspired the introduction of protected woodland. The appearance of wood-spirits (aerial artists in day-glo glory) evokes the more spiritual corners of Green thought, but is performed with charm and finesse so that sentimentality never overcomes the performance.

Vision Mechanics' promiscuous use of approaches (a video from Robbie Thomson, an Indian dancer, an audio tour berating over-use of social media) ensures that there is a meandering narrative line that encourages reflection rather than emotional engagement. Bergasal does express comic worry that the police are on their trail, but Embrace  is too good hearted to dwell on the violence and conflict between protesters and businesses. Rather, it aims for the warm, if fuzzy, sentiment for nature's unspoilt value and the possibility that humans can respect it. 

First Love @ arcola w/Gare St Lazare

Oh la, I did want a bad romance.

After the Lady Gaga debacle, you'd think I would have learnt that pop music doesn't live up to its hype. I went along to the SECC Hydro on Sunday night, optimistic that if Gaga didn't integrate the aesthetics of Jeff Koons, as per her tour image, and Marina
Abramovic, with whom she hangs, I could throw a massive temper tantrum and spend 500 hundred words exposing the empress' new clothes.

Sadly, it was just another pop arena show, made notable only by Gaga's pottymouth and predictable poses in various musical forms. She just managed to deaden the pop thrill of her singles, by having heavy duty slap bass dragging the beats down into the abyss of empty virtuosity and getting a few solos that sounded like they fell off the back of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Gaga does follow in the footsteps of David Bowie, in that she constantly changes her identity. Yet these changes are so frequent that they suggest not a fluid, open sense of a sensual self, but a panicking teenager who can't work out which mask to wear to the prom.

The only claims Gaga seems to have towards the edginess I thought she had came during her shouted interludes at the audience. It's funny how different her voice sounds when she is not singing - and she did have a moment or two when she had the vocal chops that Madonna has never mastered. Sadly, one of those moments was in the introduction to that one about The Edge of Glory, and it is a load of 1980s cod-rock bullshit.

Anyway - the shouted interludes made a great deal about how she was all for LGBTQ rights, and anyone in the audience who isn't is on the wrong side of history, and everyone in the audience agrees and if they don't then they can get out and... is it just me, or is this a colossal act of appropriation? And in a week when the Pope tried to force the Curia to accept homosexuality, making a big play for gay rights is... kinda acceptable and safe?

Unlike Gaga, I can still remember a time when Derek Jarman got more than pelters off the newspapers for doing a film about Edward II which played up his sexuality. I remember the homophobic headlines in The Sun. And I don't see them anymore. I see politicians falling over themselves to be inclusive. And when some clown (usually from UKip) decides to be homophobic, everyone shouts at them.

And then there was that bit when she was standing there in a bra and thong and shouted that her talent and her fans had helped her in the 'misogynistic music industry.' The only ironic moment in the whole thing...

I am obsessed with working out why certain genres work (like, rock seems to be based on a balance of aggressive and vulnerable sensibilities, the feminine and the masculine, if you will). I was hoping Gaga would have something to say about the nature of pop, but the music was a grinding mess of rock and electronics, and she seemed more interested in shouting naughty words than inciting anything like a conversation with the audience. 

The support act (not the first one, Breedlove, who was just out of place) Lady Starlight played techno that was exactly like the stuff I used to love in about 1994 - bleeping, relentless and sounding, frankly, well out of date. Starlight paused in her set to say how Glasgow had had many important musicians... 'but more importantly,' the crowd looked fabulous. That was probably a revelatory moment.

And it wasn't a rave, either. 

The Piano in Glasgow

Being a theatre writer, I proudly march into other areas of performance and shout that I understand exactly what is happening here. However, that review I did of Beethoven's First when I spent 500 words complaining that some guy got in the way of the orchestra and kept waving a stick at them might have destroyed my musicological credibility. Consequently, I now try and sit next to David Kettle and copy his notes at the interval. 

Anyway, if you want to see me make a fool of myself, the City Halls are putting on their annual Piano festival (it's year four and counting). I'll be somewhere at the back, hoping that there isn't too much of the difficult stuff... then I look at the programme and realise I might be okay...

Saturday 8 November

Judith Weir Arise! Arise!

Adès Piano Quintet
Schubert Notturno in E flat major, Op.148 (D.897)
Adès Darkness Visible

“Artistry incarnate – that was Beatson” Sunday Times
An outstanding pianist himself, Tom Adès writes wonderfully for the piano and his Piano Quintet is fantastical and brilliant. Not short on references to the grand Romantic tradition of piano quintets – Schubert, Brahms, Dvorák – it bristles with new ideas and possibilities. The wonderful young Scottish pianist Alasdair Beatson joins Hebrides Ensemble for this special performance.

Well, I am sure to spot the references.

Recital Room, City Halls (unreserved seating)
Haydn Sonata in D, Hob.XVI:24
Schubert Sonata in D major, D.850
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

“flawless technique, combined with a healthy musical approach, intense lyricism and a beautiful touch.” Trouw (The Netherlands)

Denis Kozhukhin is no stranger to Glasgow having thrilled audiences with his stunning performances of Prokofiev and Rachmaninov concertos in recent seasons. We’re delighted to present his debut recital of Classical and Romantic favourites, with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition delivering a mighty climax:
“… in Kozhukhin’s hand it rose to the final peroration with magnificent, unforced grandeur.” Daily Telegraph

I thought I would be okay with Haydn and Mussorgsky (they use Pictures to introduce classical music to the kids, sometimes). But I have no idea what a peroration is. David?

Grand Hall, City Halls (reserved seating)



Scarlatti Sonatas in F minor Kk.466, E Kk.380 and B minor Kk.377

Janácek In the Mists

Schumann Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op.26

“a profoundly gifted artist” Gramophone

A prizewinner at the Scottish International Piano Competition, Apekisheva has forged a multi-faceted career as soloist and chamber musician. This solo recital juxtaposes the brilliance and poise of Scarlatti with Janácek’s passionate miniatures and Schumann’s Viennese Carnival scenes.

Recital Room, City Halls (unreserved seating)


Shostakovich Piano Sonata No.2 in B minor, Op.61

Beethoven Quartet No.11 in F minor, Op.95, ‘Serioso’

Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.57

“The popularity of mercurial Elisabeth Leonskaja… has never been higher, perhaps because she is one of “the last of the great Russian school”” Sean Rafferty, Bach Track

Hang on, is there really a magazine called Bach Track? 

One of the world’s greatest pianists teams up with one of the greatest quartets for an unmissable pairing of Shostakovich and Beethoven. Georgian pianist, Elisabeth Leonskaja was rewarded with a standing ovation in 2012. Here she plays music very close to her heart due to her strong association with Shostakovich and his music, not least his hugely popular Piano Quintet.

I'll be fine here: I like Shostakovich. I can hunt for clues about the pressure of Soviet censorship during the quiet parts... and he is one of those relatively modern composers who can do all the fancy technical stuff, but still likes a good tune. A Russian tune, so pretty tough, but I can dig it.
Grand Hall, City Halls (reserved seating)

This is just the first weekend. I am going to continue you this as soon as I find my Idiot's Guide to Classical Music.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Theatre Royal Ghost Tours Return

Bigger and better minds than mine have tried to answer this question. Even saying 'it is what happens in a theatre' is no good, because some bugger thought up 'site specific events' and put on plays in any disused warehouse they could find. I usually end up getting confused and deciding that theatre is something to do with 'performing on purpose' for an audience. Hence my attempts to define the dramaturgy of lap-dancing.

Anyhow, this is so happening in theatre, it has got to count...

Back by popular demand, be prepared to be scared on a haunting tour of the Theatre Royal Glasgow. An empty auditorium, a lifeless stage, out of hours, after dark – is your mind playing tricks or have you caught a glimpse of the resident ghost? Theatre Royal Ghost Tours is an atmospheric experience of stories and suggestion that will bring you out in goose-bumps.

As a fan of live art, this probably won't scare me. I've been in plenty of empty auditoriums, and I challenge ghosts to be as scary as Ron Athey. However...

The Theatre Royal has a chequered history. As the building stands it dates from 1895, having replaced earlier theatres built on the site in 1867 and 1888 - both of which were destroyed by fires. In 1969 tragedy struck once more and the building was again engulfed in flames. But who really knows the personal tragedies of the staff, or those performers who simply refuse to accept the curtain, for them, has well and truly fallen?
I bet it is going to be those actors who knew 'dear Larry' and insist on declaiming at the top of their voices: the sort that think Hamlet is the best script ever because nobody can say hello without prefacing it with a poetic description of some geographical location they enjoy. Either that or the back-stage crew who were ignored in life and want some payback...

What’s On Stage: “For thrill seekers, it offers a tense and at times terrifying night of horror and history. For theatre fans, it offers an exclusive opportunity to experience the inner-workings of a grand theatre, visit its most inaccessible corners and enjoy a private tour of a very public place. The result is an unforgettable theatrical experience which both stimulates and scares.”

If you dare...the tours take place immediately after the evening’s performance. Patrons are asked to meet in the foyer where an usher will take you to the Ambassador Lounge for a safety briefing before the tour moves backstage. The tour will last approximately 45 minutes and is strictly for ages 18 and over.



27, 28, 29, 30, 31 October, 9.45pm – after Dangerous Corner

2, 4, 5, 6, 7 November, 10.00pm – after Black Coffee

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 December, 10.30pm – after Top Hat
Tickets: £12 (plus bkg fee)

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (bkg fee)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Assessment @ The Arches

Jerome Bel's Disabled Theatre in 5 Lists of 5 Points

Five Instructions Bel Gave to the Performers

  1. Stand in front of the audience, alone, for a minute.
  2. Introduce yourself and your job.
  3. Introduce your disability.
  4. Perform a solo dance to music of your choice.
  5. Explain how you feel about the production.
Five Interesting Things the Performers Said on Stage
  1. I want to make people laugh.
  2. So what?
  3. I am sorry.
  4. I am an actor (all male cast members).
  5. I am an actress (all female cast members).
Five Cool Moves during the Solo Dances
  1. A Michael Jackson style pelvis thrust.
  2. A wild, almost heavy metal style whipping of long hair.
  3. Taking off a track suit top.
  4. Spinning around a chair on one leg.
  5. Making a scarf wave like the sea.
Five Questions Asked of The Audience (implicitly)
  1. Do you realise that each of these people are talented on their own terms?
  2. Do you realise that this is a patronising question in itself?
  3. Are you treating the cast like performing seals or something?
  4. Does this remind you of exploitative shows like X-Factor?
  5. How does this challenge your idea of yourself as an audience member at a show called Disabled Theatre?
Five Reasons that Disabled Theatre was Astonishing
  1. It refused simple ideas about the nature of 'disabled dance.'
  2. It gave space for the cast to show off and interact with each other.
  3. It revealed personalities on stage without sentimentality.
  4. It asked tough questions about how theatre and authenticity work.
  5. There was lots of loud music with strong beats.

A Manifesto

Political Musings (Again)

I hate writing reviews of shows that I did not like. I force myself to do it out of a sense that if I just ignored them, my blog would be a load of churnalism and cheer-leading. I was especially upset to dislike the NTS' production of In Time o' Strife because I enjoyed the dancing, liked the cut of Graham McLaren's direction and Michael John McCarthy, who provided the musical arrangements, is an excellent musician and composer. I really admire the people involved, thought that they were poking at interesting areas, and still, somewhere in my soul, believe that theatre can address Political issues.

I don't review to persuade audiences to see, or miss shows: I write because I have to express what I felt. It's that compulsion, selfish, perhaps, but not so selfish as to think my opinion is definitive. Quite clearly, In Time O' Strife has its fans. Even some of the less positive reviews say that it has a place - as an historical piece, perhaps, or saved by the obvious energy of the cast and the relevance of the Politics (the death of the mother, for example, would not happen once the NHS was in place and, sadly, that seems to be under threat). It could be that this production is a warning against a return to the bad old days - although the mining industry, and the unions, are sadly long since defeated and don't provide a contemporary resonance.

I am also concerned that I have discovered a dogmatic position on Political theatre: I was always troubled by the gap between content and process (that is, whether the politics espoused on stage are matched by the way the production was created), or the actual Political impact theatre might have. Brecht's critique of Aristotle's description of tragedy kind of gave me an explanation.

Because of this, I am always glad when people disagree with me. I might laugh at them behind their back, or argue with them on Twitter, but I would hate it if my unhappy review was the only voice - or part of a consensus. I don't like being contrarian (much), but, like they say: there are three sides to every story: mine, theirs and the dialectic synthesis.

Having said that, anyone who says something is the 'best piece of theatre that they have ever seen' needs to see more theatre.

Friday, 17 October 2014

In Time O' Strife

Although Graham McLaren strives intelligently to revive Joe Corrie's red flag-waving melodrama written both for and about striking Scottish miners, In Time o' Strife comes on like a perfect justification of my suspicions about Political theatre. Unsubtle, repetitive and predictable, it attempts to lend the struggle of the unions a tragic majesty, yet presents their defeat as inevitable and provides a middle-class audience with the perfect opportunity to purge those difficult emotions. 

McLaren's direction - and Imogen Knight's stompy choreography - go some way to rescuing Corrie's script from its weaknesses. Interspersing the routine loop of tragic incidents (mother's ill, the men want to give up, the boyfriend wants to be a scab, mother's ill, the men are determined, mother's dead, son's sent to prison, husband takes to drink, the boyfriend is a scab), McLaren's allusions to subsequent miners' strikes - the voice of Thatcher is as reliable as Vincent Price's voice for that authentic note of sinister horror - lend the tale a contemporary relevance. Knight's dance interludes convey the emotional tensions far more eloquently than Corrie's fake arguments, and the introduction of Corrie's poems cut to a more vigorous and immediate socialist anger.

The cast shakes a leg and the band beefs up the poems with rock arrangements - the savage The Common Man strays into punk rage, despite the polish of Jenny Reeve's vocal - and the final recitation of The International leaves no doubt as to the play's intentions. Yet it is clear from the first scene that the miners are going to lose: along with Corrie's atrocious characterisations (Jock is a worried about Bolshevik infiltration, then is suddenly shouting for a Soviet style revolution), dramatic tension and political rhetoric are drained of vitality. 

It is possible that McLaren's reworking of the script has left it so slight - he has adapted the script heavily and transferred the action from a house into a public bar - but his question in the programme 'if writers like Joe Corrie... had been encouraged... would Scottish theatre be different?' is left unanswered. Yet the trailer distils the ferocity of moments that suggest McLaren gave the production what fire it has. 

Pop-Up Migration Museum

I have doubts about the role of political theatre. Sure, my general sense that politicians have become increasingly disconnected from the rest of the country doesn't help (I mean, I just don't understand the foundation of most Conservative policies or how Nick Clegg can handle the horror of having hobbled his party's electoral hopes for the next generation). And I don't trust any media outlet, after reading Flat Earth News but... I used to believe that political theatre (in the sense of Politics, as in issues) had an important part in public debate.

It's Brecht who switched me onto the idea that the theatrical format contains the danger of presenting events as inevitable - or by exciting and purging emotions, like Aristotle says it does, actually pacifying an audience to accept injustice. Political plays, preaching positions I support, might prevent me from engaging more deeply, and usefully, with actual Politics.

Events like the Feast Your Eyes! cabaret have a political aim - supporting a food bank - but their line-up has no explicitly political acts. Of course, all art has a political edge in so far as it talks about power relationships, but unless Leggy Pee and Charlie are a parody of the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood, I don't see any issues in the routines.

Then again, Snookie Mono does swallow a sword, which does remind me of how it feels when I see the latest Tory opinions on the NHS or disabled people working at less than the minimum wage.

So - Feast Your Eyes does not bother me: it encourages the audience to do something (donate food) in exchange for some fun. It's clear and avoids the Brechtian critique that theatre presents a facsimile of life that is, somehow, given power by a passive audience's belief in it.

Here's another event that intrigues me.

UNTITLED PROJECTS presents Pop-Up Migration Museum
Curated by Untitled Projects featuring work by Rachel Thibbotumunuwe and Tawona Sitole.

Untitled Projects are on fire lately - they have got Slope in Glasgay! and Paul Bright is rocking the world on tour. And Tawona Sitole is the poet behind the Seeds of Thought events... a charming and articulate man. The idea of a museum exploring an issue sets the audience in a different position. 

The Glad Cafe
1006a Pollokshaws Road, Shawlands, Glasgow, G41 2HG
26th Oct 2014, 6-8pm

Plus, it is in my local....

Inspired by the diverse cultural populations that make up Scotland today as well as in response to Scotland’s colonial history; artists Rachel Thibbotumunuwe and Tawona Sitole have created an artistic interrogation of colonial and post-colonial migration to Scotland.

Scotland has a loaded colonial history. The nation, and specifically parts of Glasgow, prospered due to its position in the transatlantic slave trade notably the role of Glasgow merchants and plantation owners. Scotland’s role in the British Empire continued in the imperialism of African nations, India and parts of the Caribbean.

The absence of a permanent museum which specifically explores and depicts the Commonwealth diasporas in Scotland was all the more prevalent when the Commonwealth Games took place this summer. This pop-up Migration Museum creates a platform where the artists’ work seeks to foster discussions about creating a more permanent museum or centre of this kind.

Working in close collaboration with the Glasgow Open Museum Resource Centre, the artists have had exclusive access to their collections and have created new work in response to some of the artefacts. The artists’ work will be exhibited with other items from the Glasgow Open Museum’s Collections. There will be Museum assistants on site who will also have a couple of objects which members of the public can examine in more detail.


Rachel Thibbotumunuwe creates artworks and projects that are part of her enquiry into icons of ethnicity and cultural identity, both historic and contemporary. She is fascinated by the history and consequences of photography; its birth at the dawn of industry; subsequent rise of its abundance in mass culture; photography's innate representational quality and our perceptions of it as a medium to create narrative, documentary and referential meanings. 

 As well as working with photography, Rachel also makes short films, installations, audioworks and books.Rachel graduated from Glasgow School of Art's department of Fine Art Photography in 1998 and has exhibited in Scotland, Norway, Japan and Germany.

Tawona Sitole is a Glasgow based writer, poet, storytelling and educator. Since moving to Glasgow from Zimbabwe, Tawona has shared his heritage through using traditional influences such as spoken word and mbira music. 

Tawona is the co-founder of Seeds of Thought non-funded arts group which brings together creative writing, performance, music and art through collaborations with other artists. Tawona has worked with many diverse organisations including Glasgow School of Art, Ankur Productions, The CCA, and the Scottish Book Trust. Tawona is currently the poet in residence at Glasgow Refugee and Migration Network at the University of Glasgow.