Saturday, 30 May 2015

He's Gonna Blow!

Wait a minute: this might become interesting.

I might be on the verge of throwing a massive tantrum. The books are opening on what might cause a screaming fit. The only thing preventing a series of rants - without any punctuation and plenty of swears - is the doubt that I have the authority to make my complaint anything more than bad grace. 

But, criticism, really? I have dedicated a fair whack of the past decade to critique, and I am ready to throw it into the corner of my room, like the sulky toddler my friends already know I am.

In order for this rant to avoid personal insults, I am going to talk in generalities. I'd much rather back up my claims by referencing specific instances, but in many cases this would mean picking on students, and young writers, who are testing out their skills in public. And I am all for that.

It is only when these reviews appear as star ratings on Facebook that I want to burn my collection of Kenneth Tynan's essays. The problem is not that there is loads of poor reviewing on the interwebs. The problem is that positive reviews, that do little to prove that the writer has the first idea about what they were watching but blithely announce that the show was worth four stars, have become currency of aesthetic value.

Now, I am interested. I set out on this post with the attention of moaning about the reviewers. Suddenly, I realise that it is the artists who are to blame. Willing to repost anything, as long as it supports the work, they have encouraged a large number of minor websites and magazines to become the arbiters of quality.

Of course, I am not advocating a return to the old idea that certain critics - those on a proper newspaper, say - are 'accredited' and 'legitimate'. But the alternative - any opinion counts, which I do accept - is only valuable if these opinions are not reduced to star ratings.

Ach, it gets too complicated... in the olden days, there was a clear line between the company's official releases and the personal opinions of company members... now, Facebook lets personal opinion become public, and I am getting angry because a Facebook friend has expressed delight that a critic liked their show... and then I read the review and it was so tame and boring and ignorant... 

Doesn't matter... doesn't matter...

Yes it fucking does. Criticism is a vital part of the creative cycle, and deserves to be taken seriously. Writers who expect ballet when they see a choreographer in the crew list do not deserve to be given the same respect as writers who have ruined their potential career as teachers of Latin to chase after the perfect form of critique. Me. Me. Me. I matter.

Cut to the chase: I want better criticism. Not agreeing with my opinions, but arguing a case for the production's quality. And yes, I fail at this, too. 

Mad Max; an accurate depiction of the future!

Here's a surprise. The Mad Max film is not a 'feminist masterpiece.' Luckily, The Spectator has an article explaining, in detail, why not.

I am not sure anyone was calling it a masterpiece, although quite a few people told me that bit with the guy and his flame-thrower guitar was a tour de force. But the article does a grand job of dismantling the excitement that followed from Return of Kings' revolutionary attempt to explore Mad Max as feminist propaganda.

Sorry, I am doing that human centipede media thing, in which writers get excited by other writers and the object of discussion gets lost beneath opinion and counter-opinion.

But this paragraph is too good to ignore. 

Immortan Joe, the film’s antagonist, owns a citadel powered by humans. Lactating overweight women are hooked up like dairy cows, their “mother’s milk” harvested for human consumption. Joe’s “wives”, incredibly beautiful girls in chastity belts, are selected by him for their desirable breeding traits in pursuit of his desire for “perfect” male offspring. I think this is a pretty likely scenario in the event of society breaking down, and the film holds no punches in its stark depictions of biological exploitation.

While I can't vouch for the naturalism of a film which has a guy with a flame-throwing guitar without having to see the bloody thing, I am willing to bet that the economics of Immortan Joe's citadel are not explored in detail, and the likelihood of this particular social arrangement is closer to a crazy fantasy making a wearisome symbol point - or a plot device - than a considered analysis of a post-apocalyptic society.

Tracy King follows this by giving the film's feminist credentials a proper - and precise - kicking. And I don't ever want to be the person who moans that 'people are taking this too seriously' or, for that matter, discount feminist critiques of popular cinema. It's all art, and it all has a social subtext and context, and hammering these out is both crucial and exciting.

But Hollywood is never going to be the place for intelligent futurism. Besides, society has broken down, and the consequences are that David Cameron is running the UK and The Daily Telegraph is printing orgasmic streams of consciousnesses instead of opinion columns.

This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper, remember?

Friday, 29 May 2015


Listings Information:Fake it ‘til you Make it
Friday 10 July (Work in Progress) & Saturday 11 – Saturday 18 July (Edinburgh Previews)
Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room
Time: 7.45pm
Tickets: £17, Concessions Half Price
0844 847 9910,
For ages 14+

Gilded Balloon Serves Up A Double Helping Of Stand-Up Jimmy McGhie

Catch Jimmy McGhie, the warm and welcoming, fun and freewheeling London comic, in Glasgow and Edinburgh next weekend before his month long Edinburgh Fringe residency and another brand new sell out show. He will be headlining both Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate (Friday 5 June) and Gilded Balloon Comedy at The Studio (Saturday 6 June) and will have audiences at both ends of the M8 laughing hard.

Jimmy will be joined on stage by two talented comedians, Andrea Hubert and John Gavin.

John Gavin, a Hamilton father of three daughters, started off his comedy career in 2008 after his wife entered him for a stand up competition without his knowledge. A year on from this John went on to win Scottish Comedian of the Year. He offers hilarious tales of his domestic strife, essentially a 6ft tattooed man who has been subjected to far too much High School Musical and pink fluffy toys. He also takes tangential arcs away from home life to tackle the various wrongs that that confuse him and keep him awake at night like foxes, men’s health and washing machines.

"His effortless likeability and unaffected charm make his conversational set all the more engaging " - Chortle
Andrea Hubert portrays herself as an awkward loser, eking out an existence in one of London's less salubrious districts, but her slick, fluid set is rich with inventive, sarcastic gags all hung around an intriguing personality. She started comedy in late 2009, and within 20 gigs gained second place in a number of national competitions. She's since performed alongside some of the UK's best comedians at prestigious comedy clubs all over the country, been commissioned as a writer for the BBC, and won the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum at the New York Television Festival in 2013, beating over 500 other entrants.

As compere for the evening 6’5” powerhouse Scott Agnew’s easy-going, laid back delivery and friendly approach to stand up will lull the Glasgow and Edinburgh audiences into a false sense of security before he spins yarns of general misadventure that will both shock and have them laughing uncontrollably.

“Relaxed and adaptable, Scott Agnew is a consummately entertaining storyteller with a devilish eye for the absurd detail. Kind of a genius” – The List

Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate brings together the very best craft beer, fearless food for the soul and strong intelligent comedy with a quality blend of up and coming comedians and the finest established comics in an intimate comedy club.

The Gilded Balloon at The Studio at the Festival Theatre is a brand new comedy club for Edinburgh. It is staged in the exciting, intimate and flexible studio space, perfectly suited to stand up, and features a line-up of popular Scottish, UK and international comedy talent.

Jimmy McGhie - A highly regarded young stand-up and comedy performer, Jimmy McGhie performs on the UK and International comedy circuits to great acclaim. Having previously supported Chris Addison and Simon Bird on tour, co-presented the Dave Gorman radio show, provided the warm-up for ITV's Loose Women and performed the coveted stand-up slot on BBC Three’s Russell Howard’s Good News and series 3 of BBC Three’s Live at the Electric, he is the perfect little comedy package.

Andrea Hubert -

For further information on Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate and Gilded Balloon Comedy at The Studio at The Festival Theatre go to:

Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate
Venue: Drygate Brewing Co, 85 Drygate, Glasgow G4 0UT

Dates: Friday 5 June 2015

Compere – Scott Agnew, Andrea Hubert, John Gavin, Headline Act – Jimmy McGhie

Time: 20:00 - 22:00 (doors open 19:30)

Tickets: £12.50 / £11.50 conc / £10 groups of 6+

* Pre and post show dinner offer - 15% off with valid ticket - must be booked in advance * Box Office: +44 (0)141 212 8815 / or

In Person: Drygate Brewing Co, 85 Drygate, Glasgow G4 0UT

Gilded Balloon Comedy at The Studio at the Festival Theatre

Venue: The Studio at the Festival Theatre, 22 Potterrow, Edinburgh EH8 9BL

Dates: Saturday 6 June 2015

Compere – Scott Agnew, Andrea Hubert, John Gavin, Headline Act – Jimmy McGhie

Time: 20:00 - 22:00 (doors open 19:30)

Tickets: £12.50 (£10.50 conc)

Box Office: Festival Theatre - +44 (0)131 529 6000 |

In person at The Festival Theatre – 13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9FT

Lineups For Gilded Balloon Comedy Shows in June and July 2015

Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate
19/06/15 – Compere – Raymond Mearns, Danny McLoughlin, Julia Sutherland, Headline Act – Carl Donnelly

03/07/15 – Compere – Raymond Mearns, Susie McCabe, Bec Hill, Headline – tbc

17/07/15 – Compere – Scott Agnew, Chris Forbes, Jum Smith, Headline – Gary Delaney

Gilded Balloon Comedy at The Studio at The Festival Theatre

04/07/15 – Compere – Raymond Mearns, Susie McCabe, Bec Hill, Headline – tbc

Exclusive Music Hall recital by trio of Aberdeen’s top music students

Alison Ewan
Aberdeen Performing Arts’ (APA) Culture Café lunchtime series is to end the season on a high note with an exclusive recital by three of the University of Aberdeen's most accomplished undergraduate students.

All three are winners of the university’s annual prestigious Ogston Prize, awarded to an outstanding undergraduate musician, and whose judging panel this year included world-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

And taking the stage for the 1pm recital on Wednesday, June 10, will be the two 2015 winners, percussionist Ellen Smith and violinist Alison Ewan, alongside the 2014 winner, pianist Maria Vilberg.

“We are thrilled to be able to showcase the
amazing talents of these three very fine young musicians,” says APA director of programming and creative projects Ben Torrie.

“All three are outstanding in their own right, and to be able to bring them together at the Music Hall is both a privilege and an honour.”

A fourth year single honours music student at Aberdeen University, where she is an active member of the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and the Drums and Pipes of the Aberdeen Universities’ Officer Training Corps, Ellen started orchestral percussion lessons at 14, and has participated in many diverse musical ventures such as the Scottish Brass Band Championships and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s Spring Academy.

After graduating she intends to embark on a Masters course in Percussion Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

“For me, music allows a person to feel the whole spectrum of emotions, sometimes all one piece of music,” says Ellen. “It would be a privilege for me to make a career out of conveying what I feel the music says to me to audiences and allow them to interpret my music themselves.”

And Alison adds: “I love music because it opens up the soul and allows me to express emotions as well as create an atmosphere of fun and excitement in an audience. I especially love the story each different piece tells, and how every person’s imagining of that story is always so different from another.”

She began playing violin at 12, and since accepting a place at Aberdeen University to study classical violin, has continued to play traditional music, playing at various large events, including playing solo fiddle with the Scots Military Band in the Royal Military Tattoo and in her own band at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In the next few weeks, Alison will make solo appearances in Perth as a guest artist at a fiddlers rally, as well as at a youth festival in Norway to both perform and teach. 

She has also been nominated to audition for the prestigious Boise Scholarship in London, to help aid her further studies as she takes up a place to study a Masters course in traditional music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September.

From Estonia, last year’s Ogston Prizewinner Maria switched from singing to playing the piano after hearing Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor performed live.

She has participated in many competitions and masterclasses; has also performed in festivals in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Latvia and has been offered a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to start The Master of Performance degree in September.

“My main achievement to date is a postgraduate offer from Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester which implies a whole new stage of my musical education and career,” says Maria. “The biggest dream however, is performing F Chopin's Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante or his second concerto with an orchestra in front of a big audience with my mother sitting in the first row!!”

Tickets for the lunchtime recital cost £8 and are available online at, by phone at 01224 641122 and at Aberdeen Box Office at the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre.

One month to go till MagicFest 2015!

There's nothing quite like seeing magic live, close up, with no screens, Hollywood effects or fancy TV editing getting in the way of something beautifully impossible. So Awake in Wonder at the Edinburgh International Magic Festival from 26th June till 4th July.


“A theatre-maker who’s up there with the very best” Guardian on Chris Goode

Drawn from real life stories courage and conscience from ordinary people, STAND examines what makes people elect to take a stand for what they believe in. For STAND Chris Goode interviewed six ordinary people and captured stories of the extraordinary moments in everyday life that prove the power people have to change their corner of the world. 

They’re ideas about how we make for ourselves a better, more sustainable future; how we live more equitably alongside those with whom we share our planet; how we protect from harm the places that tell us who we are; how we build our families and communities and raise our kids to have an instinct for bravery and kindness. And, most importantly perhaps, how we keep moving forward in the face of greed and corruption, and our own doubt and fear.

Chris Goode & Company is a collaboration between lead artist Chris Goode, producer Ric Watts, writer and critic Maddy Costa, and a fluid evolving ensemble of makers, designers and performers with a group of associate artists at its core. 

The company’s principal aim is to make space for unheard voices. They do this by talking to ordinary people about their lives and involving people who don’t think of themselves as artists. 

They also recover and present lost or neglected work by artists whose lives and thoughts have led them to be marginalised or overlooked and create bold original work that represents queer, dissident, and politically nonconformist perspectives.

Chris Goode is a writer, director, performer and sound designer, whose work has included four Fringe First award-winning shows: Neutrino (with Unlimited Theatre at Soho Theatre and on international tour), and Kiss of Life (Pleasance, Edinburgh and Drill Hall, London), which in 2007 traveled to Sydney Opera House as part of the Sydney International Festival, Monkey Bars (Traverse Theatre) and Men in the Cities (Traverse Theatre). 

In 2008 he won the inaugural Headlong / Gate New Directions Award for his production Sisters at the Gate Theatre. More recently he was part of the international touring cast of Tim Crouch’s controversial and acclaimed play The Author, winner of the John Whiting Award and a Total Theatre Award for Innovation.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Festival Portraits II

Anne-Sophie Mutter will be performing in The Four Seasons at the Edinburgh International Festival 2015. 

Nicola Benedetti will perform Glazunov with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival 2015.

Festival Portraits

The Edinburgh International Festival is an annual gathering of some of the greatest creative minds of our time. To celebrate their presence at the heart of our programme, the Festival has commissioned video portraits exploring the artist’s experience from the point of view of five celebrated Festival artists.

The films present interviews with actors, musicians, writers and directors talking about the art that they love, and features Juliette Binoche, Simon McBurney, Nicola Benedetti, Robert Lepage and Anne-Sophie Mutter in a series of personal reflections on their art-form, the nature of live performance and the unique exchange they experience with an audience every time they take to the stage.

Highlights include:

- Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti takes a 
personal look at her own performance style, and the vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies of a musician on stage

- Actor and director Simon McBurney reflects on the intensity of live theatre and the co-dependent relationship between audience and performer

- Actor, writer and director Robert Lepage champions the cultural benefits of the theatrical experience and the role he plays in delivering it

- Actor Juliette Binoche passionately describes the importance of actors fusing body and mind when performing on stage.

- Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter discusses the
life-affirming importance of music as a way of bringing people together, and traces the influence it has had throughout her life

The video portraits build on the iconic portraits of Festival artists created by Scottish photographer Gavin Evans for the Festival 2015 programme covers, and offer audiences a greater insight into the creative talent and processes employed by great artists at the core of the Edinburgh International Festival.

The video portraits also mark a renewed commitment to develop and expand the Festival’s digital offering and increase year-round engagement with an online audience, producing rich and diverse content across multiple online platforms placing artists at the heart of Festival activity.

Festival Director Fergus Linehan said, “The role that artists and their creative talent plays is absolutely essential to what the Festival is, and we wanted to capture on film some of this year’s artists and find out why they’re so incredibly passionate about what they do. These videos give a rare glimpse inside the minds of five world-renowned artists, and I think will give Festival audiences a unique understanding of what they are thinking and feeling when performing for them this August’.

From New Zealand to your Gaze...

Performance trace, collected materials, lipstick lists, naked drawings, invented instruments,and selfies; all part of Virginia Kennard’s work You occupy my body by looking, a performance installation delving into how we look - at bodies, at women, at ourselves.

For daily performance details please refer Virginia's facebook page.

Please be aware that this exhibition contains nudity.

Image: Performance from to and fro, Artspace, Auckland 2014, Virginia Kennard, Photo by Peter Jennings.

Toi Pōneke Gallery
61 Abel Smith St, Te Aro, Wellington
Phone: 385 1929

Opening Hours:
10am – 8pm weekdays
10am – 4pm weekends
Closed public holidays.
Find us on Facebook and

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Lunatic Dramaturgy: Amy Burke and Geri Allen @ Edfringe

However, nothing goes to plan, and everything spirals into chaos and calamity. The show takes on a life of its own, and the result is an unforgettable evening (though perhaps not exactly the elegant one the girls dreamed of).

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
We began with an idea: we wanted to find a way to marry the medium of a jazz cabaret with the style of farce. We try to toe the line between the ridiculous and the glamorous, and we wanted to bring that to the show.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is unlike anything in the's such a melting pot of people creating all manner of work, plus people looking to bring that work to an even wider audience. It's the best way we can think of to get our work in front of the widest audience possible.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
We hope that they hear great music and that they laugh a lot. Our goal is for everyone who comes to our show to have a ridiculously fun hour. We also hope that they leave feeling clever, and that the show did not pander to them in any way. We always like feeling clever when we're in the theatre, so we imagine others do as well.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Creating a cabaret farce is a funny proposition: of course, in a traditional cabaret, the show is very scripted, but the idea is for it to feel improvised and in-the-moment. The best cabaret artists are like stand-up comedians in that they have their script, but they also know how to work a crowd and deal with whatever the situation throws at them in the moment. 

In a farce, often much of the comedy comes from things going wrong and the actors not necessarily being able to cope with that--in the world of the play. But because cabaret lacks a fourth wall to begin with, we have to create a world where the cabaret artists aren't able to cope with chaos at all, to allow farce to bloom. This means we have to pay close attention to shaping the show, which to me is the dramaturgy, and therefore I would say it's essential to the show working in the way we want it to.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
We are very much inspired by farce--the particular play that we refer to constantly in discussing the style of the show is Noises Off.
As far as cabaret and performance goes, we are very inspired by RuPaul's approach to the work of 'show business', and we fully embrace his mantra of 'you're born naked: the rest is drag' when it comes to the creation of our cabaret personas.

Musically, we owe a debt to Scott Bradlee and the Post Modern Jukebox, because what he does with translating modern pop music into different historical styles is just phenomenal. He's an absolute genius.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
We talk CONSTANTLY. Both of us have to hold down other jobs, both of the 'day job' variety as well as other performance work, so we don't get to spend as much time physically in each other's presence writing as we would like. Our solution to that is to essentially live on messenger apps on our phones, pinging ideas back and forth about what we want to do with the show.

Our ideas come primarily from our own lives and experiences, both in shows that we have done under the 'Bebe+Luna' banner, as well as other plays and performances we've done. Our approach is intensely collaborative, and we couldn't be doing this without each other.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?

We can't do ANYTHING without the audience; cabaret by its very nature is dependant on the audience. Of course, not every person in every audience will understand or like what we are doing, but that's okay...but without an audience, we are nothing.

'Bebe+Luna Present' was conceived after two actor/singer/musicians, Amy Burke & Geri Allen, had a cheeky dalliance in the world of burlesque. Seduced by the shameless juxtaposing of glamour with comedy, and the reckless spirit of 'YES YOU CAN!', these two women emerged forever changed. 

They took their favourite elements of burlesque and threw them in a blender with a traditional cabaret, and something exciting emerged: The Cabaret Farce. Part jazz cabaret, part play-goes-wrong, The Cabaret Farce toes the line between the glamorous and the ridiculous.**Venue
Momentum Studio @ St Stephens (Venue 166)
5-30 August 2015
22:00 (1hr) Tickets
5&6 August £5; then Mon-Fri £9.50, Sat/Sun £10.50

**Despite the burlesque roots, there are no nipples (tassled or otherwise) in this show.



Appeal against Licensing Board decision confirmed

The Arches met with stakeholders Creative Scotland and senior city officials yesterday (Tuesday May 26) to explore a number of possible avenues for the continuation of the venue’s cultural programmes and activity, following Glasgow Licensing Board’s recent decision to curtail its licensed hours.

Creative Scotland and Glasgow City Council have now agreed to provide an advance on their agreed 2015-16 funding to support The Arches in delivering its current programme in the short-term, and in gaining specialist advice to enable it to properly consider all future options.

At the same meeting, The Board of Directors for The Arches decided that, following legal advice, the venue will proceed with an appeal against the Licensing Board’s limiting of the venue to a midnight licence – a decision which would effectively close its club and have a devastating effect on its future as a cultural centre.

Lucy Mason, Artistic Director, and Mark Anderson, Executive Director of The Arches said: “The Board of The Arches is grateful for and has agreed to the funding package offered by Creative Scotland and Glasgow City Council, which provides for stability in the short-term as we look to find a more permanent solution in the weeks to come.”

“At the same time, having taken appropriate legal advice, we believe there are grounds to appeal the decision of the Licensing Board and will now proceed on that basis.”

All scheduled arts events between now and the end of June will go ahead as planned with club events moved to alternative venues.

Wed 3 – Fri 5 June: On The Verge 2015
Thu 4 – Sun 21 June: Being Human
Sun 7 June: STAND

The following events have changed venue:

Fri 19 June: Deviation: Benji B & Kenny Dope – Now at La Cheetah
Fri 26 June: Nervo – Now at O2 Academy
Sat 17 Oct: From The Jam – Now at SWG3

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Much Ado About Shakespeare

Much Ado About Shakespeare: Fascinating Book
Recounts Stratford Jubilee – the Event that “Saved” Shakespeare’s Reputation

Meticulously researched by Jimmy Hartley, ‘Much Ado About Shakespeare’ takes readers back to 1769, as David Garrick staged the first Stratford Jubilee, an event credited with saving Shakespeare’s dwindling reputation and solidifying his place as the world’s most-loved poet and playwright. But the event wasn't without its calamities and murder – as Hartley uncovers for the first time.

I knew it! I knew there was a time when Shakespeare did not rule the stage. And he needed a push, by a theatre-maker, not a literary critic, to get back at the big table.

After his death in 1616, Shakespeare’s reputation languished, with just a few minor rewrites of ‘King Lear’, ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘The Tempest’ keeping his name alive. 

As I remember, these rewrites involved giving Lear a happy ending, or getting rid of big chunks of the script. Who hasn't wondered why Shakespeare's plays are so long (it is something to do with the Elizabethan audience's social mix and behaviour at theatre)? The rewrites made the plays accessible to later audiences, just like modern versions do now.

But one event in 1769 changed all of that, rebuilding Shakespeare’s reputation to its immense present day international status which will be emphasised next year by the celebrations for Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, an occasion that will be "the biggest opportunity to put UK culture on the world stage since London 2012," according to Sir Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council.

In ‘Much Ado About Shakespeare’ author Jimmy Hartley tells the astonishing story of the Jubilee that legendary actor David Garrick staged at Stratford-upon-Avon and which rocketed Shakespeare into global status as the world's greatest playwright. "Without the Jubilee," says author Jimmy Hartley, "next year's celebrations would not be happening.

Shakespeare's reputation was in decline at the time of his death. Fellow playwrights Ben Jonson and Francis Webster were buried in Poet's Corner. But Shakespeare gained no such distinction. His reputation continued to fall with one critic complaining that his plays "disgust this refined age." 

The one event that did most to reverse this downward trend was the Stratford Jubilee, staged by the superstar actor David Garrick (from who the Garrick Club gets its name). This is the story of that Jubilee, a tale of human pride, vaulting ambition, jealousy that catapulted Shakespeare's reputation into its present day stratosphere.

“This is the first major study of Garrick’s Jubilee in fifty years,” explains Hartley, a show business veteran. “I was able to make full use of original sources to uncover the truth about an event that was as dramatic, poignant and funny as Shakespeare’s work itself. As well as being a roaring success, it wasn’t without its problems – including an actor who literally killed another during an argument over a wig!”

Continuing, “It was a far cry from the comforts of the West End and my book demonstrates just how perilous it was trying to organize an event so far from home soil. Garrick thought that the production would come together as easily as they do in the Drury Lane Theatre; he quickly thought again when the river Avon unexpectedly overflowed as his ballroom was packed with Dukes and Duchesses, Ministers and the top brass of that generation. Miraculously, the entire thing was a roaring success and saved Shakespeare for good.”

As Hartley explains, Shakespeare is about to be more than thrust back under the public spotlight.

“The British Council has just announced a “global celebration” next year, to mark 400 years since his death. There’s going to be an international festival, new high-quality education resources and a mass-participation global digital project. There will also be celebrations taking place around the world, giving this book more pertinence than ever before,” he adds.

Readers have come out in force with positive reviews. Florence Wilson comments, “This is a remarkably readable and wonderfully gossipy and amusing account of the way that Shakespeare's reputation was revived. An unexpectedly enjoyable read for what could be a serious subject and one to indulge in.”

Belinda adds, “Superbly researched, you feel the atmosphere of the times and can believe you're in the crowd. Endless informative detail. If you're interested in Shakespeare, Garrick and/or PR this is a very good read.”

Much Ado About Shakespeare’ is available now:

About the Author:
Jimmy Hartley brings to this study a deep understanding of show business and public relations based on many years’ experience in the industry.

He was a writer and producer in ITV in London and Anglia. He is a former Exhibitioner in History of Hertford College, Oxford, and holds an MA in History from Oxford University.

Britain’s Got Bhangra

Photo Credit - David Fisher

Britain’s Got Bhangra
is written and directed by Pravesh Kumar of award-winning British Asian Theatre Company Rifco Arts. Rifco’s other productions include The Deranged Marriage, Happy Birthday Sunita and Break the Floorboards.

Britain's Got Bhangra is produced by Sell a Door Theatre Company, and was originally co-produced by Rifco Arts and Theatre Royal Stratford East in association with Warwick Arts Centre. Formed in 2007, Sell a Door creates touring productions aimed at engaging young adults in live theatre. Current productions include the UK Tours of Avenue Q, The History Boys and Jekyll and Hyde.

Britain’s Got Bhangra is written and directed by Pravesh Kumar, with music and Bhangra direction by Sumeet Chopra. English Lyrics are by Dougal Irvine with Punjabi lyrics by Bittu Denowalia.

David Hutchinson from Sell a Door Theatre said: "We are delighted to be opening our autumn season at Manchester Palace Theatre with this critically acclaimed smash hit musical. The writers have created a fantastic celebration of dance and culture within the modern narrative of a talented artist aspiring to fulfil their dreams. In the reality TV age, his story taps into the aspirations of so many, against the colourful backdrop of the British Asian community. We look forward to reaching out to new and returning audiences across the UK with Britain's Got Bhangra."

Friday, 22 May 2015

Light Boxes

Using ensemble work, live music and video design, Light Boxes brings to the stage a dark yet tender post-modern fairytale, rich in lush and macabre imagery.

Light Boxes is a deeply immersive piece inviting its audience into a world of snow, balloons, mint tea and the smell of honey and smoke - sounds, smells and images that feel both familiar and other-worldly.

The ensemble of actors take on various roles to portray the book’s bizarre characters - bird-masked balloonists, moss-covered horses, beekeepers, underground children and the mysterious February himself, in a dark and sad town trapped in a long, long winter.

MJ McCarthy’s original music composed for the show breathes and sings to help tell the story.

Light Boxes marks talented emerging theatre director Finn den Hertog’s first full-scale production.

What’s Another Year? Happy 60th Birthday to the Eurovision Song Contest from LEGO

Here’s our tribute in LEGO, ‘Happy 60th Birthday Eurovision Song Contest’!

British Library's pledge to save the nation’s sounds secures £9.5 million boost from Heritage Lottery Fund

The British Library has received *earmarked funding for a £9,568,900 bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (including a £215,900 development fund) to help to save the nation’s sounds, and open them up online for everyone to hear.

The £9.5 million will enable the British Library to:

  • digitise and publish online up to 500,000 rare and unique sounds from the Library’s own collections and those around the UK which are most at risk, including local dialects and accents, oral histories and previously unheard musical performances and plays, and vanishing wildlife sounds
  • work with partner institutions to develop a national preservation network via ten regional centres of archival excellence which will digitise, preserve and share the unique audio heritage found in their local area
  • run a major outreach programme to schools and communities to celebrate the UK’s sound heritage, and raise awareness of this treasure trove of living history held in archives across the country

According to a recent directory of the UK’s
sound collections gathered by the Library, there are over 1 million sound carriers on dozens of different formats which risk being lost unless they are digitally preserved in the next 15 years.

These sounds range from underwater recordings
of killer whales made in the waters surrounding Shetland (held by the Centre for Wildlife Conservation, University of Cumbria), to a collection of sounds held in the Canterbury Cathedral archives spanning 50 years of services, choral and opera performances and other recordings, many of which are thought to be unique.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, commented:

“We are extremely grateful to the Heritage
Lottery Fund for answering the urgent need to help preserve these precious recordings. Our recent Living Knowledge vision is clear about the scale of the challenge ahead, but today's news is a fantastic vote of confidence in the project. We look forward to working with our partners across the UK to unlock this important part of our shared heritage, making it available to everyone online for research, enjoyment and inspiration.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said:

“Historic recordings have a unique quality of bringing into the present the events, sounds and voices from our past. From regional dialects to the call of long extinct birds, Heritage Lottery Fund support will ensure that the most up-to-date digital expertise will be used to rescue some of the UK’s most vulnerable and rare sound recordings that would otherwise be lost to silence.”

Sounds held by the British Library include:

  • Famous writers reading their own works, including Lord Alfred Tennyson, Sylvia Plath and James Joyce
  • Radio broadcasts going back to the 1930s, including Radio Luxembourg and long-defunct pre-war stations such as Radio Lyons and Radio Normandie 
  • A recording which helped to save the bittern from extinction in the UK, as well as many other sounds of British wildlife, coastlines and nature
  • A huge corpus of slang, dialects and accents recordings of every social class and regional area of the UK, from the 1950’s Survey of English Dialects collection which reveals just how far our voices have changed over the past century, to the BBC Voices archive containing the diverse voices of contemporary 21st century Britain
  • Previously unheard musical performances and plays, including Laurence Olivier playing Coriolanus in 1959, and full recordings of theatre productions going back 40 years
  • Life story interviews with people from all walks of life, from Kindertransport refugees, to second wave feminists and people with a range of disabilities

Five Shows Not To Miss From Made in Scotland 2015

A Gambler's Guide To Dying | Gary McNair with Show And Tell
Traverse Theatre
What are the odds of living an extraordinary life? The story of one boy's granddad, who won a fortune betting on the 1966 World Cup and, when diagnosed with cancer, gambled it all on living to see the year 2000. An inter-generational tale of what we live for and what we leave behind. 

Gary McNair returns to the Traverse after last year's award-winning five-star show Donald Robertson Is Not a Stand-Up Comedian.
August 6 – 30 (Not Mondays) Various times, see planner (70 mins) | £18, £13 conc, £8 unemployed, £12 preview, £12 preview concs (6 Aug)

McNair has established himself as Scotland's funniest non-comedian: if the subject matter looks a little darker this time (death, gambling and cancer), his dead-pan humour and charisma will lighten the mood. 
Butterfly | Ramesh Meyyappan
Greenside @ Infirmary Street
A striking adaptation of Madame Butterfly, exploring themes of love, loss and hope. Told without words, this haunting piece uses visually poetic narrative, handcrafted puppets (by Gavin Glover, National Theatre of Scotland’s A Christmas Carol) and a beautiful score (by David Paul Jones) to tell the tale of Butterfly, a kite-maker. This lush, textured, innovative piece of theatre played to sold-out audiences across Scotland, earlier in 2014.
Aug 8 – 29 (not Sundays) 20.45 (60mins) | £12, £10 concs

Meyyappan is a restless creator: he has done aerial swinging, mime and here he goes physical theatre. There's more to this than a simple retread of the opera: opposing ideals of masculinity (neither very pleasant), competing symbolisms and plenty of resonance through the open-ended nature of Meyyappan's movement vocabulary.

The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy | Stellar Quines
Each play is a story in its own right; together they form a powerful piece of theatre. Set in Quebec they follow a woman’s journey of discovery about her past.
The List: A woman struggles to adjust to an isolated new life and her obsession with lists leads to tragic consequences. Scotsman Fringe First and Herald Angel Award winner 2012
The Carousel: Nothing can stop the carousel. A woman is on an emotional journey into her past. Can she reconcile herself with her discoveries? Scotsman Fringe First Award 2014
The Deliverance: A woman struggles to fulfil her dying mother's last wish. Will her journey end in redemption?
Aug 6-31, Various Dates & Times for each part of the Trilogy, (60mins approx.)
Peak: 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 & 30 Aug £14.50, £13 concs
Off peak: 8, 9, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 and 31 Aug £12.50, £11 concs
Preview: 6 & 7 August £10
£35 peak & £30 off peak if all 3 shows purchased at same time

Words, words, words: theatre stripped back to its basics. 
Swallow | Stef Smith & Traverse Theatre Company
Traverse Theatre
Balanced precariously on the tipping point, three strangers are about to face their demons head on.
They might just be able to save one another if they can only overcome their urge to self-destruct.
Painful yet playful, poignant but uplifting, this world premiere from Olivier Award-winning writer Stef Smith takes a long hard look at the extremes of everyday life. Questions of identity, heartbreak and hope are explored with vivid, poetic intensity. Directed by award-winning Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin, acclaimed for previous Festival hits Spoiling and Ciara.
Aug 7 – 30 Various times (70mins) | £20, £15 standard concession, £8 other concession, £14 previews, £8 previews concs (Aug 7 & 8)
BSL Interpreted and Audio Described performance: Aug 22 19:30
Age Rating 14+

I like Stef Smith's writing, and it is good to see it at The Traverse!
The Garden | John and Zinnie Harris
Traverse Theatre
Set at a time when humanity has run out of resources, John and Zinnie Harris’ The Garden tells a dystopian tale of a couple at the end of their tether. Living on the 10th floor of a “high-rise block” they discover hope in the form of a strange tree growing through the floor of their kitchen.
Based on an original short play of the same name by Zinnie Harris, commissioned by the Traverse Theatre in 2009 and winning a Scotsman Fringe First Award, this new operatic version was commissioned by soundfestival and premiered in Aberdeen in 2012.
Aug 18-23, 25 – 30 15:00 and 18:00 (50mins) | £18, £13 standard concession, £8 other concession

Ship of the Ryukyu

Ship of the Ryukyu capture the island’s culture and style and portray the young couple’s passion through energetic and spirited dances of the farmers and workers as well as more traditional dances that were originally used to entertain foreign guests at the Ryukyu Court. 

Exquisitely patterned costumes (with three hikinuki – or pull-out – costume changes), so different from the kimonos of mainland Japan, with live music from the Okinawan national instrument - the sanshin – violin and percussions, create a spectacle that truly celebrates these tropical islands.

Ship of the Ryukyu is a collective of singers and dancers from Okinawa created by the Okinawa Prefecture to introduce the world to the island’s distinctive culture by showcasing the best performing arts from around the region. Says award-winning director of Okinawa Sansan, Haruo Misumi:

‘Ship of the Ryukyu sails the world sharing the treasures of the Island. With this latest piece of work I wanted to combine the passion and energy of our music and dance with the rich colours and patterns of our traditional costumes to celebrate a culture that is unique to these islands. Audiences can expect a fast-moving and sensual physicality from the 5 dancers as well as a spectacle and a fusion of the traditional and the contemporary.’

Talent Search!

Date: Wednesday, 10th June
Time: Opening presentation 10am to 11am
Open auditions 11.15am to 1pm
Where: Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

Birds of Paradise are on a nationwide search to find new deaf and disabled talent.

They want to find a new generation of artists and performers to work with them in 2015 to create a new show written by leading Scottish playwright David Greig.

If you identify yourself as being disabled and are interested in the arts come along and have a go. You could be just the person they're looking for.

If you’d like to be involved in the auditions contact or fill in their online booking form at the link below. 

If you don't wish to audition you can just come along to the first part of the day and hear about the exciting developments that are taking place in deaf and disabled performance nationally and worldwide.

Birds of Paradise, Scotland’s leading disability-led theatre company, create world class projects and performances that place disabled artists centre stage.

Lalla Essayadi

In her Bullets [and Bullets Revisited] series, Essaydi takes her creativity to another level, not only through the assiduous labour involved in the production of these photographs but also through the powerful imagery she presents. The models and their surroundings are elegantly adorned with sparkling golden fabrics and metallic materials, giving an impression of shimmering luxury. Upon closer inception, it is the military juxtapositions of carefully cut and polished bullet casings that build up these glamorous trompe l’oeil images.

Despite this apparent blinding beauty, where ammunition is even hand sewn on the models’ clothes, jewels, and beds, Essaydi uses the bullet as a disturbing metaphor for the hidden violence endured by women in some Islamic cultures. 

Talking about Orientalism, Essaydi has stated that “beauty is quite dangerous, as it lures the viewer into accepting the fantasy” yet she subverts the danger of beauty in her Bullets series by seducing the viewer in a much more perilous world, that of war and destruction raging through contemporary society with the Arab Spring.


She said: “It’s a show about impossible dreams – what do you do with your childhood dreams when you get to a certain age? I’m in my 40s - do you let them go? And why do you let them go?

“It also gives a good background to space itself, so the audiences leave with a nice appreciation of space and interesting facts about it.”

Shaw has had a diverse career so far. A professional scientist, she is also a well-known actress on Irish TV, a comedy improviser, and Artist in Residence at Blackrock Castle Observatory. But though she has a master’s degree in engineering and a PhD in science, neither of these were enough her to get into space.

Despite that, she’s making positive advances towards her dream. Prior to her Fringe run, she's going to Ohio for two months to take part in an intense NASA Space Studies programme.

“My relations with the European Space Agency are continuing to get stronger all the time as well, so I’m very confident that I’m going to do it in the next 10 years,” she said.

To Space, which is directed by Ronan Phelan and Sarah Baxter, had a highly successful run at Tiger Dublin Fringe last year and Shaw says that she was approached after the performances by the public, desperate to know if she was really going to become an astronaut.

“Audience members really want to help me get to space,” she said. “I share a lot about my dream to go to space with them and because of that I think they really understand how much I want to go.

“Even people who don’t want to go to space understand the cost of a dream, so they encourage me to continue."

· Summerhall Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Aug 10 – 30. 5pm

Mem Ferda Stars In Crime Flick Set To Thrill At 2015 Cannes Film Festival

British action star Mem Ferda is set to captivate Cannes Film Festival goers as he squares up against fellow hard man Craig Fairbrass in ultra-violent silver screen production, Gunned Down. Directed by the legendary Mark McQueen, the highly anticipated film is slick, confronting and guaranteed to have viewers gripped from start to finish.

The high adrenalin action thriller is underpinned by themes of morality and honour, which put it on par with genre greats such as Heat, Point Blank and Sexy Beast. It is classic British crime meets hard hitting cinematic swagger in a film that’s sure to have Cannes critics on the edge of their seats.

Ferda says, “I’m so excited for Gunned Down to be unveiled at the most prestigious film festival in the world. The silver screen is no stranger to action movies however a lot of the newer productions seem contrived and lacking depth. For me, Gunned Down is a gritty representation of the very real lives of violence that underworld figures lead. Craig has penned a powerful and provoking screenplay that grips audiences and relentlessly keeps interest in every second of screen time.”

The film unfolds in two key locations – Southern Spain’s debauched and sun kissed city of Marbella, and the shadowy streets of London’s notoriously dark underworld. When career criminal Jack Cregan (Fairbrass) embarks on a vendetta to solve the mystery of his father’s murder and reclaim a stash of stolen heist money, he quickly finds himself in collateral danger. 

Soon Cregan, his cousin Sammy and fellow gang members Eddie and Frank start to suspect that there is more to the mystery than originally thought. As Cregan starts to dig he must face the fact that his life is changed forever. Brains, brawn and firearms collide as the men take on a gritty world of gangland criminals, corrupt police and vindictive cover ups.

Ferda fronts the ‘baddies’ pack as notorious East-end gangster and infamous London lap dancing club owner, Lenny Moore. Lawless, ruthless and willing to do whatever it takes to protect his underground empire, Moore is a serious hurdle for Cregan and his truth seeking crusade.

While Ferda’s performance is nothing short of brilliant, his aptitude for the role is to some degree attributed to his personal experiences. Like his character, Ferda also holds a dark past that undoubtedly enhances his portrayal of Lenny Moore. 

As a child he watched his father narrowly escape an assassination attempt, as a student he was detained by Serbian border police as a suspected drug smuggler and as an adult, he’s come face to face with armed gunmen in the alleys of Istanbul. While some may have let these experiences weaken their character, Ferda has used them to pull off utterly magnetic ‘hard man’ roles.

Ferda said, “As soon as I read the script the character of Lenny Moore cried out to me. His authenticity and complexity has me riveted, and I knew I had to bring him to life.”

As well as starring alongside Fairbrass, Ferda is backed up by a talented cast of well-known names. Co-stars include James Cosmo (Game of Thrones), Steven Berkoff (Octopussy), Nick Moran (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), and Nathalie Cox (Kingdom of Heaven).


Mem Ferda was born in South West London in 1963, and started acting from a young age. This led to graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Classical Acting from The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). He went on to carve himself a successful career, landing a myriad of TV roles, commercials and films. Over the years he has taken on a notable list of ‘baddies’ roles, including Dusan (The Crew), Hakeem (The Veteran), Vladimir (ill Manors), Kamel Hannah (The Devils Double) and Ilir Duka (Dirty Money). His most recent role is Lenny Moore in Gunned Down, debuting at Cannes 2015.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Five Things about Mad Max and the MRM...

Probably saying something offensive
My Facebook status has lost its shit over a review of Mad Max by a website called Return of Kings. Apparently, the reboot of Mel Gibson's franchise is a big old feminist plot to make men weak, or something. 

But is there more to this than an argument between feminists and a fringe group of masculine menaces? Probably not.

The entire controversy works as advertising for a blockbuster film.
Clearly a still for feminist propaganda
Posing as a feminist response to a bizarre reading of Mad Max, the viral articles laughing at/critiquing the review are a really excellent advert for the film. Every time it turns up on my feed, there are comments beneath from feminists, saying that they are now interested in going to see a film that they had discounted as a macho fight-fest.

Without accepting for a moment that there is a conspiracy going on, it does seem to be the ideal way of marketing Mad Max to an untapped audience. And with feminism a hot topic just now, what better way to fill the coffers than appear to make a film that appeals to feminists?

There are worse thing on Return of Kings than this review.

I spent some time browsing their site. The review of Mad Max is considerably less disturbing than articles that appear to defend the right to rape, present women as decorative, disposal but barely human and celebrate a macho culture of power and wealth. 

Of course, I could have been indoctrinated by feminists, but Return of Kings is worrying: the behaviour they encourage is likely to cause all sorts of social problems, if anyone took it seriously. I am not sure whether it is a parody.

However, if the internet wants to lose its shit, try reading their pieces about 'the first feminist serial killer' or 'how to spot a slut'. 

Return of Kings is a small corner of the net.
I might be too generous here, but I'd say that the writers on the site are an extreme branch of the Men's Rights Movement. I am not even sure if they count as MRAs. They are more interested in putting women 'on lock-down' (something about chastity and loyalty), working out and boasting. They have a libertarian, possibly objectivist bias. 

I assume that MRAs do have a more liberal wing, and are interested less in the right to boast about their game than legal matters. Even if such the liberal Men's Rights Activist is a unicorn, I am sure Return of Kings is a minority interest. I often watch MRA videos on YouTube, and I had not heard them mentioned.

Sure, that's not exhaustive research, but a snapshot. 

It uses Cultural Criticism.
This is the best part. Usually, when an article examines the subtext of a film, or video-game, the writer is a feminist. Tropes Against Women (other examples are available) deconstructs the gender bias with aplomb. 

MRAs usually make whinging videos in response, generally expressing scepticism about any cultural critique. 

But this is different: Return of Kings is imitating the strategy of feminisms which attempt to expose the bias of media. It is an acceptance that this kind of discussion is valid. 

And this means that there is now common ground for a chat. Maybe even dialectical conversation...

The Controversy is manufactured.
The fact that it is an effective advertising campaign. The fact that there are other issues to get outraged about that have been ignored. The fact that it is such a rare example of culture criticism within the whole masculinist culture. It totally plays into big business' agenda. 

I'm not worried about that - nothing wrong with feminism being part of the mainstream. Still...