Tag Archives: Edinburgh

WHAT’S ON OCTOBER: Love Song to Lavender Menace at Platform

Love Song to Lavender Menace, will be at Platform, Easterhouse on Sunday 29 October 2017.

On Edinburgh’s Forth Street in 1982, two friends – Bob and Sigrid – open their new LGBT and Feminist bookshop, Lavender Menace. A trailblazing venture that began life in the cloakroom of a gay club, the shop quickly becomes the beating heart for Edinburgh’s LGBT+ community.

Image: Aly Wight

Now, on the final night of the shop’s existence, sales assistants Lewis and Glen take a look back at its origins, its importance, its celebration of queer culture, how things have changed…and straight away, the arguments begin.

Image: Aly Wight

Love Song to Lavender Menace is a love story, in which two guys wrestle with their feelings for each other, for books, and for the changing world they find themselves in. It is a beautifully funny and moving exploration of the love and passion it takes to make something happen, and the loss that is felt when you finally have to let it go.

Image: Aly Wight

Playwright James Ley says: “Writing a play about a bookshop could have been really dry, but the people behind the scenes of this iconic place have made telling this story anything but. This little-known slice of Scottish LGBT+ history has fascinated me as I’ve probed into the story and the world of early 80s Edinburgh. The energy, passion and senses of humour of shop founders Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen, and all the people they worked with on this groundbreaking venture, is what fed the drama. I wanted to show the ingenuity, determination, and anarchy of working in the shop. What I’ve arrived at is a bit of a love story between two young guys working in the shop, debating its history and their individual, and shared, futures, on the last night of the shop’s existence. I’d like everyone in Edinburgh and across Scotland to see this play, whether they identify as LGBT+ or not, as I think we’ve got an unique history we should all be proud of that is at times joyful, at times painful, but through it all, you can always find the humour and the love.”

Director Ros Philips says: This is the right time to be telling this story. The argument in the play around capitalism versus community is what attracted me to it, along with the exploration of the feminist roots of Edinburgh’s LGBT activism. Love Song to Lavender Menace also alerted me to Rita Mae Brown, author of Ruby Fruit Jungle, and I’m very excited to share her and all the other characters with a Lyceum audience.”

Matthew McVarish, playing David, says: “I’m very proud to be a part of this play. As a gay Scotsman, this play has taught me incredible things about my own history that I’d never heard before. I’m sure many generations will be grateful to James for cataloguing these significant events in such a beautiful and fun play.”

Love Song to Lavender Menace By James Ley Directed by Ros Philips Starring Matthew McVarish and Pierce Reid.

Platform, Glasgow – 29 October at 2:00pm

Ticket Office: 0141 276 9696 (opt 1) or http://www.platform-online.co.uk

 

 

INTERVIEW: Gina Isaac star of Rapture Theatre’s Streetcar Named Desire

Gina Isaac is currently starring in Rapture Theatre Company’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire as Stella. I caught up with Gina just before the final week of the production at Edinburgh King’s Theatre.

A Streetcar Named Desire is an American classic, for those who are less familiar with it could you tell us a little bit about the play. 

It’s a story full of the heat and vibrancy of the city where it is set, in New Orleans. Blanche and her sister Stella, who is married to the brutish Stanley, find themselves thrown together and the story unfolds from there. You see the old world and the new clashing up against each other in the various characters in the play. There are too many spoilers in there to go into detail but it’s a wonderful story.

And your role…

Blanche is a fading Southern Belle who is desperately trying to hold onto a world that no longer exists. Like all of Tennessee Williams characters she is deeply flawed and yet striving with hope for something more.

How much preparation and rehearsal time did you get before the tour started? 

The rehearsal period was four weeks, with a week of sitting around a table discussing and then ‘getting it on it’s feet’. Streetcar is a very complex play with layers upon layers for the actors to discover. It was a very intense but satisfying process.

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations? 

We’ve had a really terrific reception from all of our audiences, and every audience is different of course. The play is quite ‘light’ in the first act, and the story is very engaging, which seems to invite the audience in and they are really with us. Come the second act, things get dark pretty quickly but by then the audience seem to have really invested in the characters and you can hear a pin drop…with the occasional rustle of sweet packets.

What is life like backstage on tour? 

I wouldn’t know on this job as I never leave the stage or the wings. I’m pretty sure they’re having a good time though. It’s normally a strange mixture of high and lows on any tour – it can be quite an intense experience working in such a bubble for months at a time.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh and look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night? 

Touring actually really helps to keep a performance/play feeling fresh. Every venue and auditorium is different with it’s own set of challenges, so you never really ‘settle’, which is great. You learn to listen to your body as an actor, as it will always let you know if you’re burning the candle too much. Some parts that you play will demand you look after yourself more than others…it’s a delicate balancing act but common sense really.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one? 

I used to watch a lot of the old MGM movies when I was a kid and I guess that’s what sparked things for me. I was lucky, in that I never wanted to do anything else so I was quite a clear about the path I wanted to take. I studied drama at school and attended a group at weekends. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to go to a drama school as opposed to university and I spent three years at the Central school of Speech and Drama and then entered the industry from there. The hardest part about being an actor is once you’ve graduated and become part of a very big, very competitive industry. You learn quite quickly if the life of an actor is for you.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I guess one of the main things I have realised, is that every job you do informs and moulds you as an actor. You are constantly learning as an actor, always. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it for. You take something from every job, the good ones and the ‘not so good’ ones. Also, always brush your teeth and if you’re on an OK wage, get a round in now and then.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where can we see it?

Because ‘Streetcar‘ is the most brilliant story…and everyone loves a good story. It’s totally engaging from the off and I think you really care about the characters and what happens to them. This is our final week at The Kings, Edinburgh, so do yourself a favour and come see it.

Gina will be appearing in Rapture Theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the King’s, Edinburgh from 3 – 7 October 2017.

TRAILER:

NEWS: Variety stars to shine at the Festival Theatre this October

Marie Duthie, June Don Murray and Doreen Leighton-Ward are three women from the golden age of Variety.  Aged 94, 90 and 85 respectfully, they are all still dancing. Brought together by director and choreographer Janice Parker these consummate dancers are guaranteed to both awe and entertain.

In early 2016 Janice was approached by the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh to contribute to their engagement programme.  Interested in the idea of authorship, agency and the legacy of older performers in today’s dance world, she put out a call looking for dancers from the Variety era who had at one time or another performed on the stage of The Empire, now Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.

Marie Duthie (nee Pyper) was born in 1923 and trained in Edinburgh. She first danced publicly as a toddler at her father’s amateur concert parties where she met her dance teacher Constance Gabrielle. By 1930 she was also training in ballet, tap and acrobatics with another Edinburgh teacher, Marjorie Middleton. In 1932, at the age of 9, Marie performed the dying swan solo and was noted by Edinburgh’s Evening Dispatch newspaper who said, “memories of Pavlova are brought to mind”. By 1940 she toured the country with The Ganjou Brothers and Juanita. Acrobatics was her speciality and in 1942 she became one half of The Raymond Sisters, extensively touring the UK on the renowned Moss Empire Circuit with her double act, which ended with them in mini kilts singing and tap dancing to Macphersin’ is Rehearsin’ to Swing.

Janice Parker Project – Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Marie  herself says: “I’ve been dancing from the word go. My mother used to say whenever there was any music on I was twitching and moving, always dancing and doing my own version. I feel so at home the minute I put my tap shoes on”.

June Don Murray was born in 1927 into a theatrical family in Scarborough, the daughter of performer and theatre manager Roy Don Parker and dancer Phyllis Ward and grand-daughter of renowned Variety performer, Happy Tom Parker. The family moved to Edinburgh when June was three and her father became manager of the Palladium Theatre. June began her formal training at Madame Ada’s dance school and went on to perform across Scotland and the UK with the Adaline Calder Girls, the Hamish Turner Dancers and then with the Moxon Girls. In 1955 June became the assistant to Australian illusionist The Great Levante, taking part in disappearing acts, bullet tricks and was regularly fired out of a canon.

June says: “Oh, it’s a laugh a minute, we love it, but nobody knows what goes into making a show, the time it takes, how hard we work, the precision”

Doreen Leighton-Ward was born in 1931 in Edinburgh and began her dance training in Madame Ada’s Dance School in Picardy Place Edinburgh as one of the Calderettes. At the age of 15 she becomes a Calder girl and toured in pantomime across the country before becoming head girl with The Hamish Turner Troupe. In 1953 Doreen attended an Equity meeting, initiated a strike, and successfully challenged and changed the working pay of dancers in Variety theatre. She appears as an unnamed mystery woman in a photograph of that meeting in The Scotsman. Doreen went on to dance in musical theatre and to appear in many TV dramas. She was recently choreographer for The Last Post, directed by Susan Worsfold as part of the Made In Scotland Showcase 2017.

Doreen says ‘’Ours was a small piece of a large jigsaw from which other dance styles evolved. I’ve a renewed sense of worth in the work we did 65 years ago. This is exciting, heady stuff.”

Director Janice Parker commented: “These women have never stopped dancing and continue to transmit their love of the art form and for the act of dancing. They have so much knowledge, skill and passion. True forces of nature. For a year now we have been working together a day a week collecting, gathering, exchanging and dancing. We have two young dancers in their 20s in the company, Katie Miller and Daisy Douglas, who are learning choreography and technique from Marie, June and Doreen. They are also learning about the life of these women and its relevance and contribution to dance now.

We are three generations of dancing. I turn 60 this year and long to give agency, authorship and relevance to older women dancing, to their continuing possibilities and to the stories our bodies tell.

There is so much to share. At the peak of their careers Variety dancers were in the main unnamed.  Some weeks they were doing 13 shows a week and travelling to the next venue with their costumes, sheet music, and the occasional dog and kangaroo. And all on their day ‘off’!” An Audience With… is a way of giving voice and recognition and a means to share the energy and vivacity of these dancers.”

The live events take place, aptly, in the Festival Theatre’s Empire Rooms. Structured loosely around a guided tour. An Audience With… is a live and virtual experience with six dancers, from three generations who share their dancing lives, past, present and future.

Marie, June and Doreen say: “We dance. We talk about dance. We talk about the profession then and the profession now. We talk about ourselves. We’ve danced in the studio, the dressing rooms, in the theatre bar, in the foyer and back on the main stage Janice, Katie and Daisy are learning to tap dance. We do the five positions of ballet. We work on portable tap mats and sometimes ballet barres. We experiment with seated dance, and a bit of creative contemporary. We teach class. We talk about dance not just as the mastery of steps but also as the ‘feeling’ of movement, swinging, hanging loose and feeling the music. We know the importance of rehearsal and repetition. We choreograph. And we think about what it means to be an older dancer, what it feels like to not be able to do what you once could and did do, and what it means to do it differently.”

Paul Hudson, Forget Me Not Co-ordinator says: “To actually have people in-residence in the building has brought our history and our stories alive and gives perspective on what we are doing now. The staff love watching these women dance and hearing about their time on the Empire stage.”

In 2018, An Audience With… will also produce a book and a film, and the dancers will continue meeting weekly. They are also interested in meeting other dancers from that era.

An Audience with… will be at the Empire Rooms in the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on Saturday 21, Thursday 26 and Saturday 28 October 2017  from 3pm to 4.30pm.

The venue is wheelchair accessible and guide dogs are welcome.

Images: Greg Macvean 

NEWS: First look pictures of The Band – The Take That musical

New photography has been released providing a glimpse of what fans can expect  from this brand new musical, which kicked of its UK tour earlier this month in Manchester. David Pugh, Dafydd Rogers and Take That’s UK Tour of Tim Firth’s The Band, with the music of Take That, got underway at the Manchester Opera House on Friday 8th September.

Advance box office for the tour has now topped a record-breaking £10million and is set to entertain audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The Band charts the story of what it’s like to grow up with a boyband.  For five 16 year-old friends in 1992, ‘the band’ is everything.  25 years on, we are reunited with the group of friends, now 40-something women, as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes.

The Band will be played by AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon, who, as Five To Five, won BBC’s Let It Shine.

Glasgow King’s 26 – 30 June 2018

Edinburgh Playhouse – 10 – 14 July 2018.

All Images copyright Mark Crockett

 

REVIEW: Auditions – Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Inspired by creator Michael Sharmon’s personal experience and seemingly hugely influenced by A Chorus Line, Auditions is a somewhat clichéd take on the much-dreaded audition process.

The hugely experienced cast of four, play out a series of vignettes on ageism, sexism, racism and nepotism to name a few -isms, each accompanied by a tune or two. Those tunes, though competently delivered (to a taped backing track) and mostly pleasing to the ear, lack the necessary oomph to elevate this above being just a pleasant way to pass an hour. The lyrics suffer particularly from their reliance on hackneyed rhymes and the lack of electronic amplification means that the singers feel as if they are constantly holding back.

There’s no particular narrative thread, each scene playing as an individual vignette, the dialogue is short, acts as a build up to a song, then it’s a case of cut, paste, repeat. At no time does it scratch much below the surface.

While delivered by an undeniably talented cast, it needs more grit, more original staging and direction, and greater dramatic variety to make it the musical it could be, rather than the cabaret it is at the moment.

Runs until 13 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

Originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Aaron Calvert: Awaken – La Belle Angele, Edinburgh

The lure of the stage rather than the stethoscope has led trained doctor Aaron Calvert to Edinburgh for his second stint at the Fringe. Inspired as a child by feats of human strength and the US Intelligence services’ selection process, Calvert presents a combination of psychology, hypnosis and ‘telepathy’ in Awaken.

Calvert’s show isn’t exactly treading new ground. With king of mind-control Derren Brown touring the country and new star on the block, Edinburgh’s own ‘forensic mind-reader’ Colin Cloud (who is also appearing at the Fringe, and currently a finalist in this year’s America’s Got Talent), the public are used to a lot more pizzazz and showmanship than the clinical Calvert. Brown’s Svengali-like persona and Cloud’s Steam Punk persona and psychological mischief, lead the audience to believe that their shows are going to be magical, mysterious events. There are undoubtedly impressive psychological skills here, but Calvert’s act seems terribly out-dated, like an end of the pier variety show from another era. He’s a handsome, suited and booted young man, but there’s a coldness to his delivery that’s hard to like.

The set up for the hypnosis section of the hour-long show takes an interminably long time, especially for the non-participants and the pay-off, while faintly interesting, doesn’t reflect the time taken to get there. You can tell that a lot of time and thought has gone into the technical aspects of the show, but this needs a huge injection of personality to take it from the cabaret circuit to the big time.

Runs until 27 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

Originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Alexander Fox: Ringo – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

It’s the moments of pure storytelling that resonate most in Alexander Fox’s debut solo hour of original comedy: Ringo.

In 2006, a then teenaged Fox, met and began a pen-pal correspondence with the world’s most famous drummer, The Beatles’ Ringo Starr. What follows is an at times surreal, biographical tale, with appearances from the Cadbury’s gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and Pingu; references to drumming movie Whiplash, as well as a whole lot of audience participation and good-natured banter.

For all the mad-cap antics it’s the moments of stillness and genuine emotion that are the most successful. Fox is a natural storyteller and easily grips the audience. He should be confident enough to rely on his considerable skills without resorting to some of the nonsense that litters the tale and takes it off on unnecessary tangents. There’s real potential here: the subject matter alone is enough to draw an audience, keeping the path of the narrative a little closer to the key material (or if the silliness were a bit more on-theme) could make this a universal winner.

Fox is genuinely charming and it’s easy to warm to him and he provides plenty of laughs throughout. He is naturally ebullient, but this is as much a negative as it is a positive, his youth and exuberance playing to the time-wasting interruptions from the audience rather than keeping it tight and on-point.

With a little bit of work, Alexander Fox: Ringo, could have a long life beyond an igloo on the green at The Pleasance for the Edinburgh Fringe.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Soft Subject (A Love Story) – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

Chris Woodley takes us back to the classroom to tell his poignant, playful and practically perfect tale of love, loss and survival – The Soft Subject (A Love Story).

As an ex-drama teacher, Woodley frames his autobiographical work as a lesson plan: Aim; Introduction; Starter Activity; Main Task; Evaluation, and for any teacher or pupil it’s a familiar and effective device. There are also incidental lessons on theatrical devices: subtext, narration, montage, hot-seating and visualisation, thrown in for no extra charge.

Woodley is irresistibly warm and only the hardest of hearts would fail to be both engaged and moved by this heart-on-your-sleeve story. He challenges societal assumptions about the tale that he, a gay man, is telling. He reminds us: “this is not a coming out story”, “it’s not a tale of homophobia” what it is, is a universal tale of love and loss: “just a love story”, and it’s all the more touching because of that. It tells of falling in love for the first time, the joy of a stable loving relationship, it’s devastating breakdown and the psychological path back to ‘normal’ and the effect a loving and caring family can have on that.

It’s rare that a production comes to the Fringe, so perfectly formed: this is well though through, there’s space for the words to breathe, there’s no filler and each element of the story lands on its mark. The fact that Woodley is so utterly lovable, so assured in his storytelling skills, makes this an absolute winner.

This is an absolute shining little jewel of a production and I defy anyone not to leave with a little tear of joy in their eye.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Ongals: Babbling Comedy – Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Following on the heels of the K-Pop phenomenon, Korean comedy troupe Ongals, bring their old-school with a new twist slapstick to the Fringe after successful runs in South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia.

Clad in eye-popping toddler outfits, the rosy-cheeked, Three Stooges-haircut foursome combine magic, circus, mime, physical comedy, juggling, bell-ringing, breaking wind and beatboxing.

Intending to transcend the language barrier, the dialogue, as the show title suggests is ‘babbling’ and the child’s-eye view of the world with which it’s presented, appeals to the very youngest members of the audience. While this is an entirely laudable effort on the part of the Korean man-babies, sustaining interest in this level of full-on, fart and bum joke mayhem, throughout an hour-long performance is problematic, the kiddies are enthralled, many adults are reaching for the headache pills.

Family-friendly, Ongals put an updated slant on familiar material. Being stylistically different than much that’s on offer at the Fringe is a plus point, it provides something out of the norm, and there’s no doubt that the level of physical skill here is remarkable, but you need a high level of tolerance for silliness and stupidity, and the gibberish wears thin after a while. It harks back to another era, (despite the highly skilled beatboxing) and I’m not sure there’s an appetite in the British public for a type of performance left behind on seaside piers decades ago.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Bare Skin on Briny Waters – Pleasance Bunker One, Edinburgh

This reflective story from Maureen Lennon and Tabitha Mortiboy, is both personal and universal to the generation of Millennials, promised so much, yet largely failing to forge their own path in the world.

On a spare playing space, furnished only with a wooden bench and a floor scattered with shards of mirrored glass, Annie and Sophie tell their intertwining tales. Annie (Charlie Sellers), a Media Studies graduate is five years out from Leeds University, living with her boyfriend Joe and working in fish processing. Sophie (Maureen Lennon), married to a controlling husband, comforts herself by telling the tales of Scheherazade ,and reflecting on her previously happy life with her mum, dad and little sister.

Annie’s tale is all-too familiar: starting with high hopes on leaving university, to taking that job you didn’t really want but you’ll use as a temporary stepping stone until your dream job comes along, only to find five years on you’re still there. The money is good, and while it’s not what you want, it’s undemanding and it’s paying the bills. It’s the same with your boyfriend, he’s nice, it’s easy but it’s unremittingly boring and while society is pushing you towards the inevitable commitments, you feel your dreams being squashed and the noose tightening around your neck.

Sophie’s tale of quiet control and abuse, loss of self, inability to escape and descent into pure misery, is depressingly just as familiar.

Both Sellers and Lennon turn in beautifully judged performances that stay firmly on the side of believability, restrained and perfectly controlled.

Where the production falls down is in its perfectly controlled, restrained, calmly told, and at times lullaby-like presentation. It’s quiet, it’s delicate, it’s gently paced, it conveys its message well, but this all renders the piece very one-note. With a one hour running time, and little to stimulate visually, the interest wanes. There is value in what the writers are trying to say, but it’s largely predictable and needs greater contrast between the characters and a variation in pace and tone, to really hit home. With some minor tweaks it will be one to watch out for in the future.

Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub

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