Tag Archives: Edinburgh


After nearly a decade since the last UK tour sold out in only a few days, Cameron Mackintosh is delighted to announce his acclaimed Broadway production of Boublil and Schönberg’s musical “LES MISÉRABLES” will be at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh from 22 January – 16 February 2019.

Cameron Mackintosh said, “Since I first conceived the new production of “Les Misérables” to celebrate the shows 25th anniversary in 2009, this production has taken the world by storm – more than matching the success of the original, which can now only be seen in London.  I am thrilled that modern audiences have embraced this production as Les Mis for the 21st century and it is playing to packed houses all over the world in many languages. It also inspired the hugely successful movie version starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne.

This latest version comes hot from its recent Broadway triumph (now once again on a sell-out tour of North America) and is even more spectacular than the original.  I am very proud that this extraordinary Boublil and Schönberg musical remains as fresh, thrilling and exciting as ever – and people are still storming the barricades for a ticket.”

This brilliant new staging has scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, and has been seen in North America, South America, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Manila, Singapore, Dubai and Broadway.

Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Boublil and Schönberg’s magnificent score of “LES MISÉRABLES” includes the songs, “I Dreamed a Dream”, “On My Own”, “Stars”, “Bring Him Home”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, “One Day More”, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, “Master Of The House” and many more.  Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 45 countries and in 22 languages, “LES MISÉRABLES” is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.



edtheatres.com – 0131 529 6000


NEWS: Jurassic Park to be screened with live symphony orchestra in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall

One of the standout films of the 1990s, Jurassic Park is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a UK tour stopping at one of the UK top venues Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. The film will be soundtracked live by the stunning Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

The concert takes place on Saturday 15 September and tickets go on sale this Wednesday, 28 February at www.usherhall.co.uk and on 0131 228 1155.

Edinburgh’s iconic Usher Hall is one of the UK’s top concert halls and one of only 2 Scottish venues on the tour. The screening of Jurassic Park follows a series of live orchestral scores set to film and shown in the wonderful acoustics of the Usher Hall, including Beauty and the Beast on 25 March and Sister Act with live choir on 19 May.

The concert will see the Czech National Symphony Orchestra return to the venue following their performance as part of the Usher Hall’s Sunday Classics series on 22 April.

Also celebrating its 25th birthday in 2018, the CNSO has gained a position among both Czech and Europe’s top symphonic ensembles. Renowned for its versatility, the orchestra presents annually a broad program ranging from classical music concerts through contemporary genre, film scores, jazz, or musicals.

Listings information

Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary Tour with Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Sat 15 September 2018, 7.30pm

Usher Hall, Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Conductor: Jessica Cottis

Classified PG

Ticket Prices: £49.50 | £41.80 | £35.20 | £27.50 – Max. 8 tickets per person.

Tickets available from 28 Feb at www.usherhall.co.uk and 0131 228 1155

NEWS: Fringe favourites return as Pleasance announces its first shows for Edinburgh 2018

At the heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1985, the Pleasance Theatre Trust announce the first acts on sale in its 2018 Festival programme, including Reginald D Hunter, Colin Cloud and Showstopper! An Improvised Musical.

An entire festival in itself, the Pleasance’s programme will offer some of the biggest names in entertainment, much-loved returning acts and exciting newcomers over three sites. The first released names in this year’s line-up hint at the epic full programme in store for the 2018 Fringe, with tickets available from Thursday 1st February.

Reginald D Hunter celebrates his 20th year on the Fringe with his highly anticipated new show. Reginald’s searingly honest brand of comedy is one of the many highlights of a much-expanded programme at Pleasance at EICC, which promises the very best in comedy, circus and theatre, all under one state-of-the-art roof.

Joining the bill at the EICC is internationally acclaimed, award-winning Scottish stand-up star Daniel Sloss, who returns to the Festival with new show X, and a double dose of Fringe regular Jimeoin, who brings Result! and the late-night Roast Chicken Result!

Elsewhere, the Pleasance Courtyard remains one of the Festival’s best-loved and most familiar sites, and in 2018 there’s even more magic in the air…

Scotland’s very own forensic mind reader Colin Cloud makes a triumphant return to the Pleasance Grand after his sell-out 2017 run, with a brand-new thrill-ride of a show; Psycho(logical). Cloud has won worldwide acclaim for his astounding deductions and outrageous stunts, most recently wowing audiences on America’s Got Talent, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show and the Royal Variety Performance. He promises that for better or worse, audiences will leave altered forever. You have been warned.

Meanwhile, over at Pleasance Beyond, TV regular and Fringe favourite Pete Firman’s new show Marvel combines laugh-out-loud comedy and jaw-dropping magic.

Olivier Award-winning (Best Entertainment and Family Show 2016) West End hit Showstoppers! The Improvised Musical also returns for its 11th consecutive year. A brand-new musical comedy is created from scratch at every performance of this multi award-winning show, with audience suggestions transformed into hilarious all-singing, all-dancing productions. For family audiences, the Showstoppers team will also appear in The Showstoppers’ Kids Show – taking suggestions from kids (and only kids!) to create interactive musical adventures.

At Pleasance One, Just a Minute regular and One Show reporter Gyles Brandreth is back with a riotous celebration of all things theatrical in Break A Leg! Delivering a dazzling hour of wit, wisdom, high drama, low comedy and hilarious name-dropping, the show follows Brandreth’s last three Edinburgh appearances, all of which were five-star sell outs.

Also taking to the Pleasance stage is Hal Cruttenden, who has been (literally) filling our screens recently on Have I Got News for You and Live at the Apollo. His daughters chose the title of his new stand-up show; Chubster.

The Pleasance will continue to add to its award-winning programme, with over 200 shows still to be announced in March, April and May. With comedy, theatre, circus, magic, dance, kid’s shows and much more still to come, alongside support for some of the most innovative newcomers through artist development strand Pleasance Futures, there’s surely no better place to be this August.

Tickets available at:

www.pleasance.co.uk or by phoning 0131 556 6550.

WHAT’S ON JANUARY: Joshua Bell’s Four Seasons with Academy of St Martin in the Fields comes to Edinburgh

With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. He took up the position of Musical Director at the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2011 and is custodian of the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin.

For his Sunday Classics performance at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh he leads the Academy in Vivaldi’s well-loved Four Seasons – a work that has delighted audiences across the centuries and to which Bell brings a lightness of touch and an expert agility.

Beethoven’s Second Symphony was one of the last works of his so-called “early period”, at a time when his deafness was becoming more prominent. Characterised by unpredictability, the music shifts playfully from the melancholic to the humorous.

Bell also directs proceedings in a new work by Edgar Meyer, the American bassist, multi-instrumentalist and composer whose styles include classical, bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz. His unique compositional style was recognised when he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Award. Meyer’s new composition was commissioned by Joshua Bell and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with Bell having collaborated with Meyer since he was a teenager.

It promises to be a special afternoon of music-making in the Usher Hall.

Listings Information

Door time: 2:00pm, Concert 3.00pm, Sunday 21 January

Vivaldi Four Seasons
Edgar Meyer New Commission
Beethoven Symphony No.2

Joshua Bell Director/violin


Tickets £34, £28, £23, £17 and £12.50 (Concessions available)


Further concerts this season:

  • Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra with Valentina Lisitsa | 4 March
  • Czech National Symphony Orchestra with Pavel Kolesnikov | 22 April
  • Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with Bruckner Orchestra Linz | 29 April
  • Dresden Philharmonic with Arabella Steinbacher | 27 May
  • Maxim Vengerov with Würth Philharmonic | 3 June

Book 5 or more concerts in the 2017-18 season (8 Oct 2017 – 3 June 2018) to become a member of the Sunday Classics Club. As a member you can take advantage of the following benefits.

  • Sunday Classics Club Membership Card
  • Free Sunday Classics concert programmes on concert day
  • Complimentary tea/coffee at Sunday Classics concerts
  • Flexible ticket exchange scheme*
  • Invitation to special Sunday Classics Club Party
  • 15% discount on the Sheraton Hotel’s Sunday Lunch**
  • Complimentary glass of Prosecco when booking the Sheraton Hotel’s afternoon tea**

£1.50 transaction fee applies on all phone and online bookings.


The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s greatest chamber orchestras, renowned for fresh, brilliant interpretations of the world’s greatest classical music.

Formed by Sir Neville Marriner in 1958 from a group of leading London musicians, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church in November 1959. Through unrivalled live performances and a vast recording output – highlights of which include the 1969 best-seller Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Amadeus – the Academy quickly gained an enviable international reputation for its distinctive, polished and refined sound. With over 500 releases in a much-vaunted discography and a comprehensive international touring programme, the name and sound of the Academy is known and loved by classical audiences throughout the world.

Today the Academy is led by Music Director and virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, retaining the collegiate spirit and flexibility of the original small, conductor-less ensemble which has become an Academy hallmark. Under Bell’s direction, and with the support of Leader Tomo Keller and Principal Guest Conductor Murray Perahia, the Academy continues to push the boundaries of play-directed performance to new heights, presenting symphonic repertoire and chamber music on a grand scale at prestigious venues from New York to Beijing.

Complementing a busy international schedule, the Academy continues to reach out to people of all ages and backgrounds through its Learning and Participation programmes. The orchestra’s flagship project for young people provides performance workshops for primary and secondary school children; partnerships with Southbank Sinfonia, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Northern College of Music and masterclasses on tour further the development of the professional musicians of tomorrow; the Academy provides a creative outlet for some of London’s most vulnerable adults at a centre for homeless people; and a regular programme of pre-concert talks and podcasts create opportunities for Academy audiences the world over to connect and learn with the orchestra.


With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era.  An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 CDs garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards and is recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize.  Named the Music Director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2011, he is the only person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.

Bell’s 2016/17 season includes season-opening appearances with the Atlanta Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra and performances with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, plus the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.  Abroad he performs with the Vienna Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Czech Philharmonic.  He embarks on four international orchestral tours: To the U.K., Benelux, Germany and Australia with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; to Switzerland with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra; to Austria, Germany, Italy and Sweden with the Swedish Radio Symphony under Daniel Harding; and to Korea and Japan with the Orchestra de Paris also with Harding. He makes recital appearances throughout North America with his recital partners Alessio Bax including at Lincoln Center and with Sam Haywood in a Westcoast tour.

A highlight of the season features Bell in a week-long residency in Washington, D.C., where he will serve as 2016-2017 Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra.  Performing and collaborating across artistic and educational mediums, Bell will explore the depths of artistic possibilities examining synergies between music, dance, the culinary arts, literature, education, and technology. Featured events will include an evening with Gourmet Symphony, a collaboration with Brooklyn’s Dance Heginbotham, a recital with literature celebrating John F. Kennedy’s Centennial, and a world premiere co-commission from Anne Dudley in a family concert based on the bestselling children’s book The Man with the Violin, inspired by Bell’s incognito 2007 D.C. Metro performance.

Convinced of the value of music as both a diplomatic and educational tool, Bell is a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and in April 2016, he participated in the U.S. government’s inaugural cultural mission to Cuba.  He is involved in Turnaround Arts, a signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities led by Michelle Obama, providing arts education to low-performing elementary and middle schools.  Bell has performed for three U.S. Presidents as well as the President of China and devoted himself to several charitable causes, most notably Education Through Music, which helps put instruments in the hands of thousands of children in America’s inner cities.

In September 2016, Sony Classical releases Bell’s newest album, For the Love of Brahms, with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk.  Bell’s 2014 Sony release was a Bach album recorded with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields that coincided with an HBO YoungArts documentary special, Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass.  His 2013 release with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, featured him conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies.

In 2013, Sony released Bell’s holiday CD, Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends, featuring collaborations with Chris Botti, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Alison Krauss and others.  Other releases include French Impressions with pianist Jeremy Denk, featuring sonatas by Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Franck, At Home with Friends, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, The Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as The Red Violin Concerto, The Essential Joshua Bell, Voice of the Violin, and Romance of the Violin which Billboard named the 2004 Classical CD of the Year, and Bell the Classical Artist of the Year.  Bell received critical acclaim for his concerto recordings of Sibelius and Goldmark, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and the Grammy Award winning Nicholas Maw concerto.  His Grammy-nominated Gershwin Fantasy premiered a new work for violin and orchestra based on themes from Porgy and Bess.  Its success led to a Grammy-nominated Bernstein recording that included the premiere of the West Side Story Suite as well as the composer’s Serenade.  Bell appeared on the Grammy-nominated crossover recording Short Trip Home with composer and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, as well as a recording with Meyer of the Bottesini Gran Duo Concertante.  He collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on the Grammy-winning spoken word children’s album Listen to the Storyteller and Béla Fleck’s Grammy Award winning recording, Perpetual Motion.  Highlights of the Sony Classical film soundtracks on which he has performed include The Red Violin which won the Oscar for Best Original Score, the Classical Brit-nominated Ladies in Lavender, and the films, Iris and Defiance.

Seeking opportunities to increase violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nicholas Maw, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg.  He also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to most of the major violin concertos.

Perhaps the event that helped most to transform Bell’s reputation from “musician’s musician’ to household name was his incognito performance in a Washington, D.C. subway station in 2007.  Ever adventurous, he had agreed to participate in a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten which thoughtfully examined art and context.  The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion.  The conversation continues to this day and inspired the 2013 release of the children’s book The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dušan Petričić from Annick Press.

Bell has collaborated with numerous artists outside the classical arena and performed on television shows including the Grammy Awards, numerous Live from Lincoln Center specials and on movie soundtracks including the Oscar-winning film, The Red Violin.  He has been embraced by a wide television audience with appearances ranging from The Tonight Show, Tavis Smiley, Charlie Rose, and CBS Sunday Morning to Sesame Street.  In 2012, Bell starred in his sixth Live from Lincoln Center Presents broadcast titled: One Singular Sensation: Celebrating Marvin Hamlisch. Other PBS shows include Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse, Great Performances Joshua Bell: West Side Story Suite from Central Park, Memorial Day Concert performed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, and A&E’s Biography.  He has twice performed on the Grammy Awards telecast, performing music from Short Trip Home and West Side Story Suite.  He was one of the first classical artists to have a music video on VH1 and he was the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary.  Bell has appeared in publications ranging from The Strad and Gramophone to Time, The New York Times, People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vogue and Reader’s Digest, among many.

Growing up with his two sisters in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell was an avid computer game player.  He placed fourth in a national tennis tournament at age 10, and still keeps his racquet close by.  At age four, he received his first violin after his parents, both mental health professionals, noticed him plucking tunes with rubber bands he had stretched around his dresser drawer handles.  By 12, he was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to the inspiration Josef Gingold, his beloved teacher and mentor.  Two years later, Bell came to national attention in his debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Carnegie Hall debut, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a notable recording contract further confirmed his presence.

In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music.  His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award; he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.

Bell has received many accolades: In 2013 he was honored by the New York Chapter of The Recording Academy; in 2012 by the National YoungArts Foundation, in 2011 he received the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and the Huberman Award from Moment Magazine.  Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year, 2010” by Musical America and received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music and received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008.  He was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2007 and was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005.


In 2003 Bell was invited to perform at the World Economic Forum for an audience of global leaders and was later recognized by that prestigious organization as a Young Global Leader.  He serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, the New York Philharmonic Board of Directors, and Education Through Music.


Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.


NEWS: Miss Saigon is looking for local children to appear as Tam when the show hits Edinburgh next year

Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical MISS SAIGON is looking for boys or girls to play the role of ‘Tam’ when the show runs at The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh from Wednesday 17 January – Saturday 17 February 2018.

‘Tam’ is small, cute, confident and South East Asian looking. He is not younger than four and not older than 6.  Children must live within a commutable distance of Edinburgh.

For further information and to apply, please email Joanne Hawes on joanne.hawes2013@gmail.com including a small head and shoulders photograph.

This new production of MISS SAIGON opened in London in May 2014 to record-breaking advance sales and critical acclaim. Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph wrote, “This thrilling new production spills out beyond the theatre and speaks directly to the times we live in”. The show swept the board at the 2015 Whatsonstage.com awards winning a record breaking nine awards, the most awards ever won by a single show in the 15-year history of the awards including: Best West End Show and Best Revival of a Musical.

REVIEW: Love Song To Lavender Menace – Platform, Glasgow

It’s easy to forget about Section 28 and it’s ramifications, living life closeted in the shadows, the Gay scene largely, if not entirely underground, the height of the AIDS crisis and the fact that homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1980. While things aren’t exactly perfect now, a lot has changed.

James Ley hadn’t even heard of Lavender Menace, the Edinburgh LGBT bookshop founded by Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielson, that existed from 1982 to 1986, when he won a LGBT History Month Cultural Comission to write a new play.

But that is exactly the subject matter of his celebratory play, Love Song to Lavender Menace.

Bookshop workers Lewis (Pierce Reid) and Glen (Matthew McVarish) spend the last night of Lavender Menace packing up the remaining stock while rehearsing their “homage” to Bob and Sigrid. The dreaded ‘W’ word – Waterstones is moving to town, LGBT literature is becoming available in mainstream bookshops, and Bob and Sigrid are moving on. With every book packed away comes a memory, from the early days as a bookstall in the cloakroom of Princes Street nightclub, Fire Island, through life as a Gay man in Edinburgh in the 80s, to the spectre of Section 28, which looms on the horizon. All the while, exploring the significance of some seminal pieces of LGBT writing, and all done with humour and pathos.

This is a tiny slice of life, from a very specific time and place, and because of that, all the more engaging and relatable. While the tone can be almost flippant at times, its serves as a timely reminder of the groundwork that has gone in to raising the profile of the LGBTIQ community in the public eye. Pierce Reid is mercurial as the idealistic Lewis, Matthew McVarish endearing as the more pragmatic Glen. Pierce in particular looks to have a glittering career ahead of him.

Charming, amusing, though-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny. A worthwhile work, written and performed in such a way that it will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. It also leaves you wanting to see what’s next for playwright Ley and these talented actors.

Images: Aly Wight

NEWS: First look at new Wicked UK Tour cast

WICKED, the West End and Broadway musical phenomenon that tells the incredible untold story of the Witches of Oz, is pleased to release new production photography, by Matt Crockett, of Amy Ross as Elphaba, Helen Woolf as Glinda and Aaron Sidwell as Fiyero, who lead the cast of the spectacular, critically acclaimed and multi record-breaking UK & Ireland Tour when it returns to Edinburgh Playhouse for its only Scottish dates from 8 May to 9 June 2018.

Amy Ross (Elphaba) has most recently been starring as ‘Nicola’ in the hit musical Kinky Boots in the West End. She previously appeared in Sunny Afternoon, playing ‘Joyce’, at both the Hampstead Theatre and in the West End.

Helen Woolf (Glinda) has most recently been appearing in the London production of WICKED and was also part of the original 2013 UK & Ireland Tour company. She has played the role of ‘Glinda’ on many occasions.

Aaron Sidwell (Fiyero) recently finished playing ‘Steven Beale’ in BBC’s EastEnders, a role he originally played in 2007/08. His many acclaimed musical theatre appearances include Grey Gardens (Southwark Playhouse), American Idiot (Arts Theatre, London) and the leading role of ‘Michael Dork’ in Loserville The Musical (West Yorkshire Playhouse and in the West End).

The full cast is Amy Ross (Elphaba), Helen Woolf (Glinda), Aaron Sidwell (Fiyero), Steven Pinder (The Wizard and Doctor Dillamond), Kim Ismay (Madame Morrible), Emily Shaw (Nessarose), Iddon Jones (Boq), Nikki Bentley (Standby for Elphaba), Charli Baptie, Jason Broderick, Samantha Brown, Hannah Cadec, Grace Chapman, James Davies-Williams, Howard Ellis, Amy Goodwin, Daniel James Greenway, Jack Harrison-Cooper, Charlie Karlsen, Nicole Lupino, Stuart MacIver, Stacey McGuire, Sara Morley, Emily Olive Boyd, Georgia Rae Briggs, Paul Saunders, James Titchener, Helen Walsh, Amy Webb, Luke Woollaston and Benjamin Yates.

IMAGES: Matt Crockett

REVIEW: An Audience With…- Festival Theatre Empire Rooms, Edinburgh

A more life-affirming, moving and ultimately inspiring “happening” (in the words of the performers), you are unlikely to experience than An Audience With… Created after choreographer and dance-maker Janice Parker put a call out to dancers from the Variety era who had performed on the stage of the Empire (now Festival) Theatre in Edinburgh. Answering that call from Parker were: Marie Duthie (94), June Don Murray (90) and Doreen Leighton-Ward (85), all seasoned stars of the Variety stage.

June Don Murray, Janice Parker, Marie Duthie, Doreen Leighton-Ward, Daisy Douglas and Katie Miller

Their rich lives and legacy are the core of this promenade performance. And oh, what lives they’ve lived. Their memories of the golden age of Scottish variety are a glimpse into an almost lost world.

June Don Murray still shows the spark that served her so well as a performer. Born into a family of performers and theatre managers (one of her father’s illustrations adorns the walls of the performance space, an illustration that the theatre knew no backstory to, until June herself spotted it), she takes us through our paces in a dance lesson, performs a dying swan ballet sequence and recounts some of the hair-raising feats she performed. Along with being a Moxon Girl, Scotland’s answer to the Tiller Girls, June was Australian illusionist The Great Levante’s assistant and was shot out of a cannon into a basket in the gallery of the theatre on a nightly basis.

June Don Murray

Doreen Leighton-Ward as well as being acclaimed for her dancing skills, organised a strike to obtain a pay rise and better contracts and conditions for Scottish dancers. An act that led one spiteful theatre manager to sack her, however, this quiet, but strong woman, expresses no regrets.

Marie Duthie née Pyper, began her dancing career as a toddler at her father’s amateur concert parties. In 1932, at the age of 9, she performed the dying swan solo and Edinburgh’s Evening Dispatch newspaper said, “memories of Pavlova are brought to mind”. By 1940 she toured the country with The Ganjou Brothers and Juanita and in 1942 became one half of The Raymond Sisters, extensively touring the UK on the renowned Moss Empire Circuit, ending the act in a mini kilt singing and tap dancing to Macphersin’ is Rehearsin’ to Swing.

The Ganjou Brothers and Jaunita with whom Marie Duthie toured.

We are led through the private corridors and side rooms of the theatre, experiencing different aspects of these remarkable women’s careers. They are joined by two more generations of dancers, creator Janice Parker, and two young dancers, Daisy Douglas and Katie Miller, whom the women are teaching to tap dance.

These women have never stopped dancing, and to this day are still passing on their techniques and wisdom to a new generation of dancers. Their legacy too, is getting the recognition it deserves with a book and film due next year.

Celebratory, moving and inspirational in turn, the joy in the room is palpable. The enthusiasm they transmit for dance is measured by the scrum to don tap shoes and take part in a lesson at the end. This life-affirming production proves that love for, and participation in dance, has no age limit, it will leave you with a song in your heart and wings on your heels. Truly joyous.

There are further performances of An Audience With… on 26 and 28 October 2017 at The Empire Rooms in Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

Header image: Niall Walker

REVIEW: Hedda Gabler – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

This stark and sleek version of Ibsen’s classic play, adapted by Patrick Marber and directed by Ivo van Hove, demonstrates Hedda Gabler has resonance far beyond its time.

An ice-cold but electrifying Hedda (Lizzy Watts) returns from her honeymoon with new (but already unwanted and undesired) husband Tesman (played by Abhin Galeya as more youthful and vibrant than those that have come before him, but still more interested in his academic buddies, and still treating his wife like a trophy in a display cabinet), to the blank walls of her marital prison. Apparently lacking the means or self-motivation to free herself, Hedda sets out on a path of universal destruction.

The production plays out at a uniform pace which makes the unfolding horror all the more insidious. Hedda is a master manipulator, taking perverse pleasure in her malevolence. Whilst hurting and harming all those around her, every act of cruelty is ultimately harming only one person, Hedda herself. Her self-annihilation is uncomfortable to watch and every action, foreshadows the inevitable ending.

Jan Versweyveld’s whitewashed representation of Hedda and Tesman’s new marital home is cell-like, and despite it’s vast size, feels claustrophobically confining. The sparseness reflecting Hedda’s own view of the physical and psychological walls between which she’s trapped. Indeed, van Hove and Marber’s adaptation shines a modern light on Hedda’s actions, actions that we would now associate as classic symptoms of depression. Versweyveld’s lighting is a triumph, almost a character in itself, subtly shifting the mood in the auditorium.

However, for all that does work, there are details that jar: video intercoms, but no mobile phones, Løvborg’s precious manuscript in handwritten form only, characters discussing riding coats and whether they should call each other by Christian names while swanning around in modern dress. While much resonates, it has been robbed of much its power to shock in transporting it to the 21st Century. While it is depressing to think that over a century on, gender imbalance still exists and many women are still trapped in stifling marriages due to financial and familial pressure, but most have, or can find, an avenue of escape or support. The nagging question keeps coming to mind: “Why in today’s world, doesn’t she just pack up and leave?”

Watts is impressive in the titular role as is Annabel Bates (below) as old schoolmate Mrs. Elvsted. While an object of Hedda’s torture both in the past and present, she has much that Hedda envies, and Bates imbues her with a steely backbone hidden behind the soft exterior. Adam Best, in an uncomfortably resonant display of sexual harassment, (in light of the Weinstein allegations) is suitably abhorrent as the bullying Brack.

Despite some questionable directorial choices, Hedda Gabler, while no longer shocking, remains unnerving, and this National Theatre production deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

Production photography Brinkhoff/Mögenberg

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



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