Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Early Days (Of a Better Nation) @ The Arches

I had to have the last word.

Early Days is not a play: it is a big role-playing game that gets the 'audience' to pretend that they are part of a 'unity' parliament, in the future, in the imaginary nation of Dacia. Divided into three competing groups, the 'audience' get to decide on the path that this country takes after a civil war. 

Quite who fought the civil war is unclear - there was this nasty dictator who got kicked out, and a vague 'world government' is offering aid. But the main event consists of people having a good old shout at each other, with the 'actors' noticeable in their enthusiasm for antagonistic positions.

I think I got the last word: after we decided where we'd spend Dacia's resources, there were a series of questions, gauging how the event had been experienced. The final question - who is going to vote in the upcoming (real life) elections - led to me sitting all by myself as the only 'no'. So I got to explain why I was sitting on the opposite side of the room to an 'audience' who had been practicing their shouting for the previous two hours.

Apart from giving me the chance to voice my anarchist objections to representative democracy (it is a commodification of activism, actually), Early Days was all about presenting an experience: how would you behave if you were in a position of political responsibility?

Apparently, I'd sit about on my arse and watch other people shriek. 

Early Days, in spite of the second act, which is performed in darkness, and the bonhomie of the actors, is tremendously earnest. It's good fun if you like pretending to be the victim of a civil war, or voicing pseudo-feminist systems of hierarchy. It seems to intend to say something about the difficulties of resolving conflict, or maybe something about the economic foundations of civil society. 

Matt Trueman has plenty to say about it. I don't. It sets up a situation that may or may not reflect the reality of a post-civil war society, encourages the audience to pretend that they have a stake in something, and asks the kind of questions I would ask my standard grade students after a role-play session. 

I actually wonder whether turning a situation which has been fairly familiar over the past century into a board game for theatre students is immoral. Encouraging an empathetic understanding of civil strife seems like a good idea, but encouraging people to pretend they lost their kids in a famine leaves a bad taste. 






Tuesday, 28 April 2015

HighTimes: Hansel and Gretel

Opera is not always regarded as an easily accessible art - perhaps
because of its theatrical complexity, or because the old audience tend to be aging enthusiasts, who freight the medium with ideas about its 'importance' as high art. However, a new professional opera company HighTime has been founded which 'actively seeks out those who might not currently have access to opera'.

Co-founder and stage director Felicity Green is passionate that audience development is a core aspect of the company's agenda.

'I feel that a lot of companies are driven by the aims and ideas of the artists rather than considering the audience's wants and needs,' she says. 'Whilst this approach works for some, we felt that because so many people feel that opera is not 'for them' we needed to spin this on its head, and put the audience at the centre of the company, in terms of tackling audience development head on and the development of the artistic product itself.'

The tension between artists and audiences, at least in terms of who gets to decide what defines 'quality art' is a problem that emerged most clearly in the nineteenth century, when Romanticism encouraged the artists to act like they were gods. This got worse during the twentieth century, when the avant-garde (supported by occasional guest on this blog, Adorno) decided to climb up its own arse. 

Green is more charming than I am in explaining why Hansel and Gretel is a good choice for  HighTime's first production. Using a tale more usually associated with fairy-stories, it can be suitable for all ages.

'It's an opera for and about children, but for and about adults too. It functions like all excellent storytelling - like a Disney Pixar movie - it works on two levels - children and adults will both get something out of it, but they might not be the same things.'

Working with a new translation of the libretto, this production adds a new character: in place of the witch, a Ringmaster becomes the villain, bringing a new angle to the story.

'The development of the Ringmaster was really a move away from the traditional stereotype of the witch being an old ugly woman,' Green adds. 'A villain who is glamorous, who is appealing to an audience, is far scarier in some ways, as it plays on your fears and your sense of judgement. To be seduced by a villain is much more unsettling than to dislike them outright!'





Caledonian battle with the Roman Empire inspires North-east artistic project


LATITUDE IS PROUD TO REVEAL THEATRE, DANCE AND CABARET ACTS FOR 2015!

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LATITUDE IS PROUD TO REVEAL THEATRE, DANCE AND CABARET ACTS FOR 2015!




FARAWAY FOREST
FOREST FRINGE | DASH ARTS | PENTABUS THEATRE
THE FLANAGAN COLLECTIVE | THE ROUNDHOUSE & INVISIBLE CIRCUS
HANNAH PIERCE | ARWC | CLEAN BREAK
WALRUS THEATRE IN ASSOCIATION WITH NSDF | HOME LIVE ART
LEEDS BECKETT SCHOOL OF ART, ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN

LIVE ART HOUSE
OLD TRUNK | SH!T THEATRE
LOOK LEFT LOOK RIGHT AND YOUNG VIC TAKING PART
PANDORA’S PLAYGROUND
LATITUDE, GDIF, LYRIC & WATFORD PALACE THEATRE PRESENT THE HUMAN ZOO  
DANCEEAST
SETH KRIEBEL

LITERARY ARENA
DIRECTORS SESSION: WITH JAMES GRIEVE FROM PAINES PLOUGH

CABARET
DUCKIE FEAT. FABULOUS RUSSELLA WITH DISC JOCKEYS READERS WIFES, LUCY MCCORMICK, THE LIPSINKERS, JENNIFER COLEMAN, CHERYL DOLE,
DEREK MCCLUCKIE AND THE DUCKIE DHSS ALL STARS
JONNY WOO & LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT
DICKIE BEAU | SCOTTEE | BOURGEOIS AND MAURICE | DIANE CHORLEY
MISS BEHAVE'S GAMESHOW WITH SPECIAL GUESTS CAPTAIN KIDD, FEZ FANAANA, IVAN BRACKENBURY, RAYMOND & MR TIMPKINS AND THE TWO WRONGIES
DOUG SEGAL | STUART BOWDEN
ON YER BIKE - THE MAGGIE THATCHER GAME SHOW!

SUZANNAH GONZO PRESENTS MUSICAL BINGO

It's Magic (No Wigs allowed)





On the night, Rafael performs a wacky, surreal, gothic take on the fictional nightmare figure that is Dracula; blink and you'll miss four-time World Champions of Quick Change Illusion Sos & Victoria with their modern take on the art of Transformation; Cirque du Soleil star Xavier Mortimer has a reflection that isn't just confined to the mirror; Taiwan’s Mike Chao performs one of the most striking manipulation magic acts in the world; Men In Coats take you to their world of cartoon madness on a conveyor belt of nonsense; Scotland’s Colin Cloud returns with a brand new show predicting your behaviour; ‘Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year’ John Archer, recently hired by Derren Brown for his Dad's birthday, returns to wrap up the Magic and Variety Gala Show. MagicFest Artistic Director Kevin McMahon will also present the 4th Great Lafayette Award during the evening.

For those looking for a sense of adventure, Tower of Illusion transforms the beautiful world of Camera Obscura into a realm of unnatural creatures and treacherous mysteries. Lord of the Rings meets the Crystal Maze for this unique treasure hunt. Returning to Lauriston Castle after two years of sell out shows, The Secret Room travels back in time to explore clandestine laboratories and hidden passages as three of Scotland’s finest magicians animate the castle’s intriguing past with stories, performances and illusions.

At Summerhall, this year’s festival will feature four main theatres, a magic shop, interactive illusions, a ceilidh as well as events in the Summerhall courtyard. Krispy Kreme have this year become Principal Venue Sponsor, supporting the events taking place on site. The festival has been awarded a 'New Arts Sponsorship Grant', funded by the Scottish Government, and delivered by Arts & Business Scotland to further develop the relationship with Krispy Kreme.

Italian photographer Barbara Scerbo brings her breath-taking 'Illusion' Exhibition from Rome to Summerhall, making striking use of mirrors to disturb and fascinate the imagination. 10 by Mark Elsdon is an entirely new kind of immersive live performance, 10 magic tricks in 10 minutes with 10 words for just 10 people at a time.

MagicFest hosts a number of one-off special events and lectures this year. Scotland's best close-up magicians choose magic to match your meal, giving you a real appetite for illusion at Magic à la carte. Kevin McMahon’s Quantum Magic is state-of-the-art magic fused with incredible science; you’ll understanding Quantum Physics in four minutes, have your thoughts projected into reality and witness an impossible levitation just inches away.

Professor Richard Wiseman explores the new science of sleep and dreaming. Find out how to get the perfect night’s sleep, decode your dreams and bring more magic into your life with The Magic of Sleep and Dreaming.

Feature length documentary Our Magic by R Paul Wilson (BBC 'The Real Hustle') reveals the art of magic as seen by thirty of the most respected performers and creators of magic. Followed by a Q&A with Paul, audiences can ask about the real secrets in magic and find out why mystery is important and wonder is essential. For those who want to learn more about the art of magic, R Paul Wilson’s How Magic Works is a lecture for everyone, and teaches how to perform incredible effects and to recognise magic as an essential part of life.

This year’s festival offers world-class mentalism and theatrical magic from some of the world’s best illusionists. Finland’s Robert Jägerhorn’s Waiting for Hitchcock is a charming, light and playful hour, bubbling with mimicry of silent movies, chaplinesque slapstick, excitement and magical disappearances. A MagicFest first, Flemish circus company Cirque Cirqulaire’s Working Class doesn't just demonstrate magic illusions, but interweaves them beautifully into a poetic story. This is a compelling, wordless performance in which the impossible is seemingly obvious.

Witness jaw-dropping escapology, Derren Brown-style mind-reading feats and fabulously dexterous close-up magic from a master of his craft Ali Cooks’ The Art of Astonishment. Described as the closest thing in the word to a real life Sherlock Holmes, Scotland’s Colin Cloud is potentially the most dangerous man in the world! He will deduce everything about you and, quite literally, get away with murder in Kills.

Micromagic, close-up magic or sleight of hand is still the most performed style of magic in the world. ‘Magic Circle Close-up Magician of the Year’ and consultant on Wolf Hall and Hugo, Dr Houstoun pulls back the curtain on some of the most incredible magicians of days gone by in A Compendium of Curious Characters and Exquisite Marvels too Strange to be Believed. Discover unbelievable sleight of hand illusions and con games with the world expert R Paul Wilson in Intimate Miracles, an immersive, engaging and personal way to experience magic in the company of a true master.

MagicFest’s new late night events promise to entertain, intrigue and have you squirming in your seat. Creating a moment of magic takes practice and effort and Edinburgh’s Ricky McLeod’s Trixology for adults uncovers the secrets behind several killer magic effects. Luke Eaton’s The Late Night Horror Magic Show invites you on a tour of the dark side with his menagerie of misfits; it’s bizarre, disgusting and totally insane!

Magic School was created six years ago to teach and inspire children to perform incredible magic for their family and friends. This year Kiran’s Trust, who support Young People in the Arts, Music, Writing and Sports, are thrilled to be championing the magic workshops for children. Magic School’s wizardry workshops offer 7-10 year olds the choice of either a 2.5 hour workshop or a 5-day course with fun show for parents. Street Magic Master Class led by ‘Magic Circle Close up Magician of the Year’ Will Houstoun, gives 11-15 year olds the chance to learn some mind-blowing techniques and the secrets behind sleight-of-hand. Admission to Magic School is selective, Squibs need not apply!

Time travelling Victorian magic duo Morgan & West unload another boxful of bafflement and impossibility in Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Show For Kids (and Childish Grown-Ups)! Witness a mountain of mysterious magic, a hatful of hyper-reality, and of course a truck full of tricks and tea. Why not fight a dragon, solve mysteries and thwart peril at every turn in Magic Quest. Testing memory, agility, sixth sense and card throwing skills with six devious challenges, teams of five will need to work together to prevail in a fast moving, magical 'Crystal Maze' environment. MagicFest Top Hat Ceilidh celebrate the life of Aberdeenshire magician, and inventor of the 'Rabbit from the Hat' trick, John Henry Anderson. Spin, stomp, twist, snap your fingers, vanish, reappear and saw your partner in half until the witching hour!

MagicFest has championed and supported up-and-coming talent in the world of magic since launching in 2010. The War of the Wizards Under 18’s and Open War of the Wizards competitions are hotly contested and continue to promote and reward a new generation of magicians to perform jaw dropping magic.

Sam Gough, General Manager of Summerhall said: “Summerhall are buzzed that MagicFest has chosen us are their hub and centre of magic this summer. We are excited by the prospect of the festival and look forward to welcoming audiences and magicians to the venue. We hope this will lead to a long term partnership with the team behind the festival.”

Edinburgh International Magic Festival runs from 26 June - 4 July 2015. Full details of the 2015 programme can be found at www.magicfest.co.uk. Tickets for all events can be booked online via the website, in person at The Fringe Box office, 180 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1QS or by calling the box office on 0131 226 0006.

LEE MILLER AND PICASSO @ SNPG




Over the course of their friendship Miller photographed Picasso more than a thousand times, and the artist, in turn, created a remarkable series of portraits of Lee. Lee Miller and Picasso has been organised by the Lee Miller Archives, and will include 100 photographs, as well as Picasso’s striking Portrait of Lee Miller as l’Arlesienne, painted in 1937.  

Highlights will range from intimate snapshots taken on the beaches of the South of France in the late 1930s, to memorable images of the Picasso’s famous visit to Britain in 1950, when he stayed with Miller and her husband Roland Penrose at their Sussex farm. A touching photograph taken on the liberation of Paris in 1944 when Miller, a war photographer with the US forces, was reunited with Picasso, is one many images in the exhibition which capture the artist amidst the chaos of his studio. Miller continued to make regular trips to visit Picasso until the early 1970s, and her studio shots offer a fascinating insight into the working methods of this restlessly creative genius.

Lee Miller was born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1907. Interested in photography from a young age, she became a fashion model and found fame as a cover-girl for magazines such as American Vogue. On moving to Paris in 1929 she sought out the photographer Man Ray, and became involved with the Surrealist movement with which he was closely associated. Miller spent three years working alongside Man Ray as his muse, model and studio assistant, quickly becoming an accomplished photographer in her own right.

Lee left Man Ray in 1932, and established her own successful studio in New York.  She first met Picasso in the summer of 1937, when she travelled to Mougins in the South of France with Penrose, the British Surrealist artist. The pair had recently met in Paris and become lovers; they would marry ten years later. Picasso painted Miller six times during her stay, creating works such as his Portrait of Lee Miller as l’Arlesienne, which Penrose bought for Lee for £50. Picasso also featured prominently in Miller’s photographs of the trip, along with Man Ray and his new partner Ady Fidelin, and other Surrealist friends such as Eileen Agar, the poet Paul Éluard and his wife Nusch. Intimate photos show the group, who were all staying at Picasso’s villa, enjoying a relaxed picnic lunch, smiling on a sunny terrace, as well as Picasso playing in the sea with his toddler son Claude.

In 1942 Miller became one of only six accredited women war correspondents, and the only woman photo-reporter active in European combat areas during World War II. She contributed war documentary stories and photographs to Vogue, including photos of the London Blitz, dispatches on the battles in Normandy and the liberation of Paris. Arriving in the city with American troops she found herself outside the studio still used by Picasso, whom she had not seen since before the war, and immediately visited him. The remarkable photograph, published in Vogue in October 1944, with the title “Lee Miller,Vogue photographer, arrived, went to see old friends”, shows Miller in uniform, and the pair smiling at each other in delight at their unexpected reunion. Picasso had declared “This is marvellous, this is the first Allied soldier I have seen, and it’s you!”

In 30 April 1945, on the day that Hitler committed suicide, Miller was with some of the first forces to enter the death camps of Buchenwald and Dachau. Later that day, she and fellow war photographer David E. Scherman found themselves in an empty flat in Munich which turned out to be Hitler’s. Scherman captured Miller washing off the horror of the day in Hitler’s bathtub, her muddy combat boots on the bathmat, in a shot that has since become iconic. The traumatizing experience of photographing the death camps would haunt Miller for the rest of her life.
Miller and Penrose married in 1947 and their son Antony was born a few months later. In 1949 they moved to Farley Farm in Sussex, where they were frequently visited by friends and key figures in the art world, including the artist Max Ernst, Alfred Barr (director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York), and of course Picasso. During his 1950 stay the artist developed a particular bond with the three-year-old Antony, which is evident in a remarkable series of photographs taken by Lee.

Lee Miller and Picasso will also feature a selection of rare archival material, including telegrams sent by Miller to Penrose from Germany in May 1945, and the couple’s wedding photo.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “This engrossing exhibition allows us to explore the intimate and creative friendship between two extraordinary figures: the greatest painter of the twentieth century and one of the most inspiring and adventurous photographers. Providing insights into their private and public lives, it will, we hope, enrich appreciation in particular of Lee Miller’s achievement and her amazing career. The exhibition is a major contribution to the increasingly ambitious programme of photography projects at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.”

Antony Penrose, Director of the Lee Miller Archives and son of Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, said: “My parents’ friendship with Picasso was a central part of their lives. Beginning from the camaraderie and ideals shared on the beaches of the Côte d’Azur it developed rapidly into a love and creative collaboration. Roland Penrose became Picasso’s biographer, the curator of key exhibitions and regarded as “The Picasso Man”. 

Lee Miller lovingly chronicled the men and their achievements. It is fortunate she loved them both as much as she did. A lesser devotion would not have allowed her to tolerate Penrose’s obsessive passion for Picasso. My family’s connection to the National Galleries of Scotland goes back many decades, and this exhibition gives me a particularly deep satisfaction. Its inclusion of brilliantly chosen objects from The Roland Penrose Archive, situated in Modern Two, brings us much of the intimate back story behind Miller’s photographs in a way never shown before, and takes both Picasso and Miller’s work to a new level of understanding.”

Live classical music experience for Scotland’s under-twos

Starcatchers and Scotland’s National Orchestra tour a theatrical live music experience for little ones aged 0-24 months.

Starcatchers, an organisation which specialises in performances and creativity for babies, toddlers and young children, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) have devised a new classical music experience for babies under 24 months. Co-created by Starcatchers Associate Artist Hazel Darwin-Edwards and Musician and Composer Abigail Sinar, Hup combines live classical music, with a heart warming storyline in a performance for babies, toddlers and their carers.

In this new theatrical performance a trio of musicians will perform an original score composed by Abigail Sinar, intertwined with a non-verbal narrative presented by Hazel Darwin-Edwards, which will take the audience on a journey in pursuit of the story’s lead character, a very inquisitive raccoon.


The setting for the music-led story is a forest (designed by Theatre Designer Karen Tennent) with the audience seated on set, drawing them into the story and breaking away from traditional ways of enjoying both theatre and classical music.

“From the moment we walked in there was a sense of calm. We loved how the children could get close to the musicians and feel the connection with the music.” 
Nursery practitioner


The concept for Hup was inspired by the delivery of the Arts and Business Scotland People Award-winning Nickum residency project, piloted by Starcatchers and the RSNO in 2013/14 and supported by TOTAL E&P UK Limited and Vibrant Aberdeen.



During the Nickum project, Hazel and Abigail worked in two childcare settings in Aberdeen for six months, with babies aged 0-24 months. Through this process they simultaneously developed a classical score and a new play for babies. The original work toured nurseries in Aberdeen in 2013/14.

With funding secured from Creative Scotland in 2014, the original work was developed, with fresh input from established director Xana Marwick and learning taken from the initial mini-tour.

The original music, composed by Abigail Sinar and recorded by the RSNO, will be given to audience members as a free memento.


Starcatchers’ Chief Executive Rhona Matheson said: “Starcatchers’ work is focused on producing high quality arts experiences for the very young. Research proves that engaging in creative activity such as drama and music in the first few years of life helps significantly in a child’s mental and social development, so we are delighted to be working with the RSNO on this unique project. This could be a baby’s first experience of live theatre, music and creativity and we are committed to it being a positive one.”


RSNO Director of Learning and Engagement Jenn Adams: “In October 2012 the RSNO launched its initiative to provide every child born in Scotland with a recording of music, Astar, to help them learn, rest and play. This was the first step in our goal to engage with the very youngest of audiences. Furthermore, we have been committed to provide increased access to our musicians for young audience members and their families and guardians, and since last year have partnered with experts in the field, Starcatchers, to devise a tailor-made programme for those aged between 0-24 months, Hup. Piloted in Aberdeen in March last year, we are delighted to be announcing the roll-out of Hup to many areas across Scotland. We are looking forward to welcoming our eager young music-lovers to one of our performances over the coming months.”



Tour dates & venues

29 - 30 April

Platform, Glasgow

www.platform-online.co.uk



2 May

Falkirk Town Hall, Falkirk

www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org



9 May

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles

www.eastgatearts.com



10 May

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

www.macrobert.org



12 - 16 May

Imaginate Festival @ North Edinburgh Arts

www.imaginate.org.uk



22 - 23 May

The Brunton, Musselburgh

www.thebrunton.co.uk



30 - 31 May

The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

www.aberdeenperformingarts.com



5 June

Comar, Isle of Mull

www.comar.co.uk



12 June

Carnegie Hall, Fife

www.onfife.com



13 June

Adam Smith, Fife

www.onfife.com



27 June

Perth Concert Hall, Perth

www.horsecross.co.uk



3 July

Rutherglen Town Hall, South Lanarkshire

www.sllcboxoffice.co.uk



4 July

Lanark Memorial Hall, South Lanarkshire

www.sllcboxoffice.co.uk





Starcatchers

Starcatchers is a pioneering organisation that specialises in performances and creativity for babies, toddlers and young children aged 0-5 and their parents and carers in Scotland.

We believe that Scotland’s youngest citizens should be able to engage with, and participate in, high quality performances and creative experiences that are made by exceptional artists who understand the needs of this unique audience.

As a young, dynamic organisation, we strive to put the needs of babies, toddlers and young children at the core of everything we do, while engaging with the parents, carers, families, early years’ professionals and communities who nurture them.

www.starcatchers.org.uk



RSNO

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is one of Europe's leading symphony orchestras. Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1991. Throughout its proud history, the Orchestra has played an important part in Scotland's musical life, including performing at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004. The RSNO is one of Scotland's National Performing Companies, supported by the Scottish Government. For more information, please see www.rsno.org.uk.



Biographies



Abigail Sinar Co-Creator/Composer

Abi is a freelance Community Music Practitioner and educator. She has worked for Drake Music Scotland, delivering music projects for people with additional support needs, and on various education projects for young people across Scotland. Abi is particularly interested in finding ways to make musical experiences accessible to everyone.



Hazel Darwin-Edwards Co-Creator

Hazel is a performer and puppeteer who has recently been working on the Nickum project for Starcatchers in Aberdeen. Previous performances with Starcatchers include Too Many Cooks, the Forgotten Forest, the Attic and Round in Circles. She has worked as an actor, devisor and workshop leader with companies including Catherine Wheels, Visible Fictions and NTS.



Elizabeth Lloyd Musician

Elizabeth Lloyd has been a member of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for the last 20 years. Her musical career includes playing a wide variety of music from Classical Orchestral to Jazz, Baroque to Contemporary.


Elizabeth likes the diversification playing in an orchestra affords and is keenly involved with the Education department working in schools and community centres all over Scotland to bring music to everyone, young and old.



George Smith Musician

George began learning to play the violin at the age of ten. He studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with William Chandler and Ruth Crouch. During his studies George played in masterclasses with Midori, Christian Tetzlaff, Daniel Rowland, Ilya Gringolts, Barnabas Keleman and Katalin Kokas.



George has performed across the UK and further afield as a chamber musician, soloist and Scots fiddle player. He won several major Scottish competitions, and took part in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician. Notable solo performances include a Vivaldi Concerto performance with Camerata Scotland at the Scottish Parliament, and James MacMillan's ‘From Ayrshire’ for Solo Violin and Orchestra under the baton of the composer.



George formed the Maxwell Quartet in 2010, and has since performed across the UK with the group in addition to working with composers including Anna Meredith, Sam Annand and Tom Harrold. Notable performances include Purcell Rooms, St Martin in the Fields and The Wigmore Hall in 2016. George freelances with Scottish orchestras including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Paragon Ensemble. He also plays in a String trio who perform as part of Live Music now. George regularly works with non-classical musicians, collaborating with artists including Poacher & Ghillie, Samoyed, and Architeq.



Andrew Huggan Musician

Glasgow born ‘cellist Andrew Huggan, began his musical career at the age of nine under the tuition of Angela Welsh. After studying with Angela for several years Andrew gained a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama Junior department, under the tutelage of Timothy Paxton. Andrew continued his studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly RSAMD) gaining his BMus (hons) with Rudi De Groote, and baroque cello under Alison McGillivray.



Since leaving the RCS Andrew has performed with the Scottish Philharmonic and Scottish Concert Orchestras, British Philharmonic orchestra, Scottish Ballet, Celtic Connections and in 2010/11 was awarded an apprenticeship with Scottish Opera, whom he now plays with on a regular basis. His love of opera has also seen him tour with new opera companies such as Noise Opera and Opera Bohemia. As a Baroque player he has also had the opportunity to play with the Dunedin Consort, St Patrick’s Baroque Ensemble and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Club Concerts. As an enthusiast of contemporary music Andrew has also performed for The Glasgow New Music Expedition as well as playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the last five years for Musical Theatre productions new and old. In 2010/11 Andrew played for the Citizens Theatres’ Christmas production, performing original music by Bafta nominated composer Claire McKenzie, whom he works with on a regular basis. His work in the theatre also includes recordings for The National Theatre of Scotland and for renowned dancer and choreographer Marc Brew.



Xana Marwick Director

Xana Marwick is a Performance Maker who generally leads on the authorship or creation of original work in the role of Director, Playwright or Live Artist. Xana also performs, directs, produces and works in a creative learning role for a number of other artists and organisations. Xana’s practice is intentionally diverse but a clear through-line can be seen in the focus on social engagement and work for, by or about children and young people.



Currently Xana is working as: Director for Starcatchers / RSNO co-production Hup and as Director for Lyceum Summer on Stage 2015, directing Douglas Maxwell’s Mancub.



Xana’s most recent projects include: Playwright with Birdsnest theatre co. (London / Netherlands) on their touring production for 3-6 year olds My Friend Mole (‘well modulated, perpetually in motion, theatrical playdate for the very young’The Stage) Creator / Director of Yellow Valley with Starcatchers for Culture 2014 (‘a vivid tapestry of sounds and rhythms’ The Herald) Artist in Residence at Summerhall (Edinburgh) where Xana wrote new play NESTS (mentored by Douglas Maxwell) which is soon to go into further production with Frozen Charlotte Theatre co; Associate Artist at Platform Glasgow which included writing, directing and designing Hansel and Gretel (‘Magical and truly un-patronising update of the Grimm’s Brother’s classic.’- The List).



Karen Tennent Designer

Karen is a highly experienced designer who has worked with a wide range of artists and theatre companies during her career. She has previously created the design for The Presents for Reeling and Writhing, a production that was trageted at 4-18 month old babies and she also worked with Starcatchers and Hazel Darwin-Edwards on the creation of The Attic in 2010 - 2012.

JEALOUSY AND REVENGE EXPLODE ONTO THE SCOTTISH STAGE

Scottish Opera will perform Verdi’s full-blooded and monumental Il Trovatore in a fiery production set to match the grandeur and drama of the music.

Conjuring up the spirit of the Dark Ages, a world rife with superstition and ignorance, this turbulent tale follows an atrocious chain of events set in motion by an accusation of witchcraft. The stark, brooding lines of the set combine with the atmospheric lighting to create a majestic and menacing backdrop for an impressive cast and chorus of 50.


When the infant son of Count di Luna falls ill after a visit from a gypsy woman, she is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Driven by vengeance, her daughter Azucena abducts the child intending to kill him, but, in her delirium, throws her own son onto the fire. Years later, she has brought the Count’s son up as her own and he and his elder brother, unaware of their relationship, are rivals for the beautiful Leonora. Jealousy, revenge, love and hate collide as the opera crashes towards its spectacular conclusion.


Il Trovatore features some of the most extraordinary and rousing music ever written for opera which has the power to both engage the audience and ignite the senses. Verdi’s score is packed full of familiar melodies, from the exhilarating Anvil Chorus and Manrico’s energetic ‘Di quella pira’ to the spine-tingling Miserere.


Director Martin Lloyd-Evans (The Pirates of Penzance 2013) returns to Scottish Opera to take a fresh look at the 2001 production, restaging it to tease out the psychological truth behind the characters’ extreme actions.


The cast boasts some of the UK’s most exceptional singers, including soprano Claire Rutter, who sings the role of Leonora for the first time, having made her debut with Scottish Opera in 1995. 

Claire has sung ten other Verdi heroines throughout her career and has sung the role of Violetta in La Traviata 60 times with Scottish Opera alone. In 2014, she captivated audiences as the title character in Scottish Opera’s concert performance of Puccini’s Turandot.

Making his debut with the Company, renowned Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones sings the role of Manrico, a role that he has previously sung at The Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Anne Mason, who has sung at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and who sang the role of Fricka in Scottish Opera’s production of The Ring Cycle in 2003, sings the role of Azucena. 

Roland Wood, who sang the role of Albert in Scottish Opera’s production of Werther in 2013 and Oedipus in English National Opera’s production of Thebans in 2014, sings the role of Count di Luna. 

Conductor Tobias Ringborg (Così fan tutte 2009, Rigoletto 2011) makes a welcome return to Scottish Opera.


Cast List
Leonora Claire Rutter
Manrico Gwyn Hughes Jones
Azucena Anne Mason
Count di Luna Roland Wood
Ferrando Jonathan May
Inez Naomi Harvey
Ruiz Carlos Fidalgo

Creative Team
Conductors Tobias Ringborg,
Derek Clark (4 & 6 June)
Director Martin Lloyd Evans
Lighting Robert B Dickson
Movement Director Kally Lloyd Jones
Fight Director Raymond Short

Performance Diary
Theatre Royal, Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA
Thu 7 May 7.15pm

Sat 9 May 7.15pm

Tue 12 May 7.15pm

Thu 14 May 7.15pm

Sun 17 May 4pm



Free events
Il trovatore Unwrapped

Mon 11 May 6pm


Pre-show talk

Sun 17 May 2.45pm


Touch Tour

Sun 17 May 2.45pm



Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9FT
Thu 21 May 7.15pm

Sun 24 May 4pm

Wed 27 May 7.15pm

Sat 30 May 7.15pm



Free events


Il trovatore Unwrapped

Fri 22 May 6pm



Pre-show talk

Sat 30 May 6pm

Touch Tour

Sun 24 May 2.45pm



Eden Court, Bishops Road, Inverness IV3 5SA

Thu 4 Jun 7.15pm

Sat 6 Jun 7.15pm



Free events



Il trovatore Unwrapped

Fri 5 Jun 6pm



Pre-show talk

Sat 6 Jun 6pm



Touch Tour

Sat 6 Jun 6pm





His Majesty’s Theatre, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen AB25 1GL
Thu 11 Jun 7.30pm

Sat 13 Jun 7.30pm



Free events



Il trovatore Unwrapped

Fri 12 Jun 6pm



Pre-show talk

Sat 13 Jun 6pm



Touch Tour

Sat 13 Jun 6pm

EDINBURGH’S CULTURAL VENUES ANNOUNCE NEW STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Today The Edinburgh Cultural Venues Group announces the findings of an Impact Study funded by Scottish Enterprise into the social and economic impact of Edinburgh’s larger, year-round cultural providers. 
ECVG is a consortium of the city's key publicly funded cultural organisations, which came together in 2013 to maximise the effectiveness, appeal, and reach of Edinburgh's richly diverse year-round cultural offer.


The Group currently includes eight leading organisations – the Filmhouse, Festival City Theatres Trust (the Festival and King’s Theatres), National Museums Scotland, the Queen’s Hall, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Traverse Theatre, the Usher Hall, and the National Galleries of Scotland. In addition to delivering their individual programmes of work throughout the year, all these organisations enable an even wider range of activity – working in collaboration with Edinburgh's festivals, arts and heritage organisations, community organisations and schools.

The group aims to present an authoritative collective voice for the city's year round cultural provision, serving residents and visitors with a high quality programme of theatre, dance, exhibitions, music and film. Going forward it also aims to support joint programming and promotions, business efficiencies and skills sharing, and to partner other umbrella initiatives (including Festivals Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, Desire Lines and Culture Counts) in championing the importance of the cultural sector in maintaining Edinburgh’s overall success and prosperity.

The Study documents the collective social and economic benefits of these organisations for the first time. It outlines the scale of participation in educational activity at the venues, as well as their impact on employment and talent development, and their wider commercial value to business suppliers and the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Study highlights that participating venues deliver:

§ 5,000 FTE jobs and £194 million Gross Value Added (GVA) in Scotland as a whole - of which over 3,200 FTE jobs and £156 million GVA specifically benefits the Edinburgh economy

§ 6.2 million visits to the arts venues collectively

§ 1,600 events and productions - with over 6,100 individual performances

§ almost 150 collaborations with co-producers and event partners

§ and brings an additional £129 million spent by venue visitors to the wider Edinburgh economy

In terms of return on investment, for every £1 invested by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland the group generated £4.62 for the Scottish economy and a total of £194m of economic benefit.

The study also illustrates how investment in the arts delivers wider curriculum benefits, helps to create the artists of tomorrow and builds future audiences for the arts. Participation figures across ECVG show high levels of engagement with schools as well as with young learners outside school, and with adult learners:

§ over 12,000 young people participating in out-of-school skills development

§ over 80,000 adult attendances at learning and participation events

§ nearly 120,000 school attendances



The acting Chair of ECVG, Duncan Hendry, said: “Edinburgh has world class museums, galleries, theatres and venues for music and film. This study highlights the wide range of activities that Edinburgh’s cultural venues undertake throughout the year and the tremendous benefits, both cultural and economic, that this brings to the City and to Scotland.”

Hansel and Gretel Opera for All







Co-founder and stage director Felicity Green explains why this is at the heart of the group. "It¹s fair to say that the majority people feel that opera is not for them. That reputation is still present. The barriers to accessing this art form are multiple and complex. They are social, cultural, and economic. To break these down, we need to use a range of different methods."


Working in new English translations with affordable ticket prices, the group initiates projects which actively targets those who may be missing out. 

They are working in partnership with Mind to break down barriers people facing mental health difficulties may face in attending cultural events. The company's Indiegogo campaign, which will give support for 45 local clients to attend the production, is close to its target just four days after launching. 

The company are invested in young people gaining access to opera. 60 children from across the city are being given a specially designed Introduction to Opera and the opportunity to perform in the professional production as members of the chorus.


One ever-present issue pervading the arts is the London vs the regions dichotomy. Benjamin Hamilton, co-founder and musical director, says: 'having lived in Coventry for most of my life, I was frustrated by the lack of access to good quality opera here. Our aim for the future is to actively target other regions who may be experiencing the same problem.'


Artistic quality is key to the group¹s work. Felicity continues: 'to fully democratise the art form, we have exceptional production standards. We are working with singers who have performed in some of the world¹s most famous opera houses. Our core values place imaginative theatre and choreography as integral to create exciting work fit for the modern theatre.'

Their production presents a new spin on the traditional fairy tale. In a new English translation produced with Kit Hesketh Harvey, translator for English National Opera and Opera North, Hansel and Gretel live on the outskirts of society, hungry and poor, when their mother sends them to forage for food on the mean city streets. News soon arrives that the circus has come to town, led by a very sinister Ringmaster, renowned for luring children away from their homes with the intoxicating smell of frying hot dogs.


On this reimagining, Felicity says: 'I think the production will resonate with a diverse modern audience. It¹s exciting and challenging to reimagine a story we are all familiar with. Repositioning the traditional figure of the witch as our childcatcher-esque Ringmaster, for example, is a particularly interesting shift.'
'There is lots of debate about the issue of traditional dress in opera. It sometimes seems the art form is several decades behind theatre; any vaguely innovative or risky production faces serious resistance in the opera community. But then, this production isn¹t being staged for that group. It's being built to inspire a new generation of opera lovers.'


Hansel and Gretel runs 7-9 May 2015 at the Belgrade Theatre B2.  

Thursday, 23 April 2015

pure dead mental

One of the reasons that I admire Nick Cohen is for his ability to acknowledge good - whoever it is done by. He is also capable of changing his mind – as he did in the matter of Tony Blair's involvement in Iraq. While I may disagree with his conclusions, his flexibility, combined with a determined belief in freedom of speech, and generosity are rare qualities in contemporary writing.

When he praised the Liberal Democrat minister, Norman Lamb, for putting mental health issues into the agenda for the election, he suggested that this matter was long overdue some attention. Unfortunately, his glowing portrait of Lamb is soured by the revelation that the minister has been the 'victim' of 'trolling' by activists, who regard his commitment as hypocritical. The Lib-Dems, who are currently trying to distance themselves from the government that they have spent five years supporting, have made mental health an issue because they have a clear manifesto statement of intent on the matter. The activists suggest that, actually, Lamb was part of the government that has cut back the services that he now claims to defend.

Despite Cohen's endorsement, the inclusion of mental health in the political debate is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there is clearly a problem with the current thinking on the issue. Many of the benefit cuts of the Conservatives have fallen on the mentally ill – they are vulnerable to bullying or difficult questioning in a particular way. And, as Cohen points out, it is possible that the language around mental health has encouraged a soft approach to addressing its consequences.

Yet anything that gets included on the political agenda will rapidly become a political football. Education seems to be getting a pass this year – austerity, taxation and national independence, with a side order of mild environmentalism are the hot topics. The abject failure of Labour to take the fight to the Tories (which plays into SNP and Green claims that the two parties lack any real differences in policy), has left open the debate, with side issues (note: the SNP will not be running the country in 2016, so the detail of their policy does not need a slamming, Mr Murphy) hiding the political panic that is really at the heart of party politics.

(This panic goes like this: the economic system has been exposed as a failure, in so far as the boom has turned to a bust, and no fucker managed to stop it. Trickle down economics, which is a crock, doesn't work, but we have no idea what to replace it with. So, the parties are shitting themselves, and their call for austerity is the desperate croaking of a man stuck in the bog looking for toilet paper after he has broken the flushing mechanism).


Mental health has long been a lazy plot device in theatre: not so much Chekhov's gun as Chekhov's anti-depressants. If it becomes part of political banter, it's likely to be caricatured even more than it already is, with the mentally unhealthy ending up as either the poor victims of illness who need to be cared for (as long as they accept the magical charity of the state), or a bunch of shiftless bastards sponging off the welfare state.One of the reasons that I admire Nick Cohen is for his ability to acknowledge good whoever it is done by. He is also capable of changing his mind – as he did in the matter of Tony Blair's involvement in Iraq. While I may disagree with his conclusions, his flexibility, combined with a determined belief in freedom of speech, and generosity are rare qualities in contemporary writing.

When he praised the Liberal Democrat minister, Lamb, for putting mental health issues into the agenda for the election, he suggested that this matter was long overdue some attention. Unfortunately, his glowing portrait of Lamb is soured by the revelation that he has been the 'victim' of 'trolling' by activists, who regard his commitment as hypocritical. The Lib-Dems, who are currently trying to distance themselves from the government that they have spent five years supporting, have made mental health an issue because they have a clear manifesto statement of intent on the matter. The activists suggest that, actually, lamb was part of the government that has cut back the services that they now claim to defend.

Despite Cohen's endorsement, the inclusion of mental health in the political debate is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there is clearly a problem with the current thinking on the issue. Many of the benefit cuts of the Conservatives have fallen on the mentally ill – they are vulnerable to bullying or difficult questioning in a particular way. And, as Cohen points out, it is possible that the language around mental health has encouraged a soft approach to addressing its consequences.

Yet anything that gets included on the political agenda will rapidly become a political football. Education seems to be getting a pass this year – austerity, taxation and national independence, with a side order of mild environmentalism are the hot topics. The abject failure of Labour to take the fight to the Tories (which plays into SNP and Green claims that the two parties lack any real differences in policy), has left open the debate, with side issues (note: the SNP will not be running the country in 2016, so the detail of their policy does not need a slamming, Mr Murphy) hiding the political panic that is really at the heart of party politics.

(This panic goes like this: the economic system has been exposed as a failure, in so far as the boom has turned to a bust, and no fucker managed to stop it. Trickle down economics, which is a crock, doesn't work, but we have no idea what to replace it with. So, the parties are shitting themselves, and their call for austerity is the desperate croaking of a man stuck in the bog looking for toilet paper after he has broken the flushing mechanism).

Mental health has long been a lazy plot device in theatre: not so much Chekhov's gun as Chekhov's anti-depressants. If it becomes part of political banter, it's likely to be caricatured even more than it already is, with the mentally unhealthy ending up as either the poor victims of illness who need to be cared for (as long as they accept the magical charity of the state), or a bunch of shiftless bastards sponging off the welfare state.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

TRLS @ Arika


Arbitrary scales of theatre


Breakfast at Twilight: Ruination

A year or so ago, I heard Carl Lavery give a lecture than took the absurdists and, by identifying themes of ecology within their work, demonstrate that far from dwelling in a meaningless, abstract universe, the characters in their plays were caught up in a symbolic representation of the nuclear and environmental terror that plagues the world after WWII.

(There was a great deal more to the lecture, but I am being a populist critic  today).

Lavery is also interested in ruins - he recently mentioned a great idea which I shall be distorting in the near future to my own ends.

Anyway, I'd like to suggest a fertile short story from 1954: Philip K. Dick's Breakfast at Twilight.

Isn't the title enough? Twilight, evoking Wagner and the end of times? And breakfast - isn't that a morning thing? Time is out of joint, the homely crashes up against the epic, and only three words in...

The plot is very simple. A nuclear family (mon, pop, two lovely children) find themselves flung into the future one morning. They wake up in a desolate war-zone, and are interrogated by soldiers. After hearing about the state of the USA - which is at war with the USSR - they decide to risk their lives to be sent back in time. 

Dick's writing is at its best here: the final paragraph makes it very clear that he is warning against the dangers of the Cold War (a future human says that it is impossible to say when the war started, rather 'it grew') through the metaphor of an exploding water heater. Yet it is the detail of the future that makes it so gripping - and even prophetic, to use a word that is over-used for science fiction but here is an expression of Dick's remarkable foresight.

Ruins. 
Ruined buildings. Heaps of rubble. Debris everywhere... the concrete walk ended abruptly. Beyond it, slag and heaps of rubble were strewn. Nothing else. Nothing as far as the eye could see.

Nothing stirred. Nothing moved... no life. No motion. Jagged walls, empty and gaping... Melted metal.

Against the introduction - a sweet family preparing for the day ahead, drinking coffee and getting ready for school and work, Dick's emphatic vision of nothingness is haunting. He conjures a wasteland that would do Beckett proud.

Underneath this physical disruption, time itself has been damaged: the bombs of the future have somehow dragged the family, and their house, into the future. The scale of the threat goes beyond life and limb. The fabric of the universe is under attack.

Plenty of science fiction does these tricks - in the 1950s, it is the medium for expression of American angst. Yet Dick is not finished: the future soldiers are frightened of the air, which has been poisoned - the political leader who arrives shows signs of having been sickened by it. But in the brief glimpse that Dick gives of the future society, the American Dream has clearly been destroyed by the war.

'I supervise the troops. Watch for political deviation. In a total war we have to keep people under constant surveillance...'

'I haven't seen fiction in months. Most of it disappeared. Burned back in '77'

'We can't turn our children over to them - to the Relocation Centre. To be taught how to hate and kill and destroy.'

In brief, broad strokes, Dick reveals the world at war - everything is
in a fog, and freedom is replaced by conformity, and state policing of ideas. The literal description of the fog surrounding the house becomes a metaphor for the restricted intellectual possibilities of the future.

Handing this over to Lavery, a few ponderings remain. Is Philip K Dick aware of how his work relates to Beckett and Ionesco? Are the themes of ruination and despair more easily understood in the light of absurdist scripts? And is Dick himself closer to a European tradition of writing than the rest of the American science fiction authors? 


Friday, 17 April 2015