Love poetry

Brighde Caimbeul

Love poetry is the only poetry that exists.

Love poetry that speaks of people, places and times.

Love poetry that speaks of loss, malevolence and libido.

Love poetry that unites poets who love poetry enough to celebrate the muse.

The 20th Anniversary of the Shore Poets encompassed riotous rhyme and rhythm.

A veritable feast of words, music and song was had by the congregated poets and poetry lovers.

Outstanding Scottish Love Poets

Huge Scottish love poets were there, ranging from Christine de Luca, Stewart Conn, Brian McCabe, Ian McDonough, Jane McKie, Ken Cockburn, Angus Peter Campbell, Margaret Christie, Stephanie Green, Gavin Jones, Paula Jennings, Tony Lawrence, Jim C Wilson, Gael Turnbull, Angela McSeveney, Ken Cockburn, Brian Johnstone and Nancy Somerville.

Music was the palate cleanser between the words. Spectacular musicians like Minnow, The Kitchen Stools and Jim Glenn used rhythm, harmonies, soul and lyrical poetry to engage and entertain. And little Brighde Caimbeul breathed love and life into giant squaling pipes.

As the Chinese Proverb goes: We’re all fools whether we dance or not. So let’s dance.

A word dance proceeded throughout the poetry feast with love poetry making fools of us all.

Notes from the Love Poetry Notebook

The love poetry was too enormous to quote. I can only give murmurs of phrases that fell on poetry love’s ears.

Breezes in Highland cadences

Dancing is like dreaming with your feet

Ken a’ they things ye never kent

Jim C Wilson, and the C stands for no nonsense

Shore Poets is like the Hotel California – you can check out any time you like but you can, never leave.

Quantitative Easing – love poetry for bankers

Looking Across the Firth from the Pig Farm

The Sharks of Whigtown Bay

The Child of Brecken Sands

The Lewis man loved his wife so much … he almost told her

In Uist, nothing falls down

My son’s Archipelago

When We Have Nothing To Concern Us

The Enormous Lion

Love Poetry to Finish

A sample of the poetry of love, life and loss to finish, from Angus Peter Campbell …

Scottish Kids experiencing some African culture.

The Hub as viewed from the Lawnmarket during t...

The Hub (Image via Wikipedia)

Harry Gooch and Jamie Macdonald

If you fancy doing something a little bit different this Festival, try The Edinburgh Comedy Tour.

Walking Heads is literally a hysterical walking tour of Edinburgh using your MP3 or Android / iPhone clamped to your lugs with buckets of laughter thrown in.

Starting at The Fringe Office, the tour takes you around loads of comedy haunts including the Royal Mile, the Assembly Halls and Bristo Square with wit, anecdotes and historical facts thrown in.

Your joke-drivers on the tour are Jamie Macdonald – the blind, accident prone historian and guide, along with his eyes for the day, Harry Gooch, who ‘has to help Jamie as part of his community service after being found guilty of a misjudged act of heroism.’

The surreal pair are ably enabled by top Scottish comedians, Bruce Morton and the divine Susan Morrison.  For example, Susan will crack you up with descriptions of Edinburgh’s Pubic Triangle and some of the colourful characters that can be found limbering up for The London Olympics 2012.

The ultimate destination is The Stand Comedy Club, in York Place, the comedy mecca for wise-crack-addicted audiences and their entertainment dealers of a comedic bent.

Edinburgh has been the launch pad of many a must-see comedian. They’ve all suffered and relished in the drollery and hoopla of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  In fact some of the venues have been fighting for official titles over who launched whose comedy career.

This is a comedy event / product / series that will tickle any amateur or professional comedy fan’s fancy.

In fact, it’s already won funding from the Scottish Enterprise Tourism Innovation Fund because Walking Heads promises to take people off the beaten track to reveal the true grit of the place.

Dougal Perman from Walking Heads comments:

“We’re very excited about launching our first downloadable walking tour during the Fringe. The Edinburgh Comedy Tour is quirky, funny and full of surprises so we’re starting as we mean to go on – introducing the character and personality that will make our tours stand out from the crowd.”

So if you happen upon some random tourists cackling away to themselves and pointing at odd statues and monuments across the city, you’ll understand they’ve been plugged into a brilliant new comedy tourism product.

Your Challenge

Know any other wicked walks and tours in Edinburgh?

Here’s a short list off the top of my head but I’m sure I’ve missed out a few:

  • The Edinburgh Photography Tour here, by a great guy and brilliant photographer, James Christie
  • The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour here
  • The Edinburgh Ghost Tour here (Auld Reekie Tours) and here (Mercat Tours) and here (Cadies & Witchery Tours)
  • The Edinburgh Trainspotting Tour here
  • The Edinburgh Rebus Tours here
I’ve not been on any.  Have you?  Any views?

London, August 2011

My sister called me yesterday looking for perspective on all the gnashing of teeth and condemnations  over the English riots.

“There are so many haters, racists and folk screaming moral opprobrium into the ether. I feel that they are wrong but I don’t have the facts.”

I thought I’d share the conversation, with you.

Looting is part of this society’s culture.  It has always been so.

From the asset stripping of the British Empire (most former colonies, to this day, do not own their natural assets eg. industries like gold, cocoa, palm oil, diamonds, minerals, etc) to the recent looting of Iraq under the smoke screen of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction‘, looting is an institutionalised part of British identity and psyche.

And it doesn’t stop at the international front door.

  1. The banks asset-stripped the public purse and looted almost every major country’s treasury in the global economy
  2. The politicians got caught with their hand in the till through their illegal expenses claims – that’s looting the public purse
  3. The media looted the phone information of murdered children’s parents for no other reason than that it was profitable
  4. Tony Blairdrew a veil of secrecy over the BAe £1 billion bribe to Saudi Arabia, ensuring an investigation never took place by slapping it with a ‘Threat to National Security’ label – that’s corruption for profit ie. looting

    Tony & Dave

These are all middle-class, white collar, white person crimes. Does anybody ever ask those same searching questions about poor policing, poor parenting, poor discipline in schools and a general lack of morals, ethics and values?

Did anybody ask Lord Hanningfield, Rupert Murdoch or Tony Blair what made them dispense with morality, cast off their responsibilities as leaders and reach for the till?

Of course not. Instinctively, the general public understands that these individuals do not operate alone, but within an institutional framework that encourages and supports individuals who display those gain-seeking tendencies.

And when it all goes tits up, these same supporters will duly call them ‘bad apples and unrepresentative of the whole’, then choose a more moderate leader for a while … in order to passify the baying mob.

White collar crime is usually punished less harshly by the courts than blue collar, or working class crime.  The idea being that these are victimless crimes.

The argument is that you can’t point to a particular person who has DIRECTLY suffered from the crime, whereas you can with assault, theft or murder.  This is why it is always challenging for the courts to prosecute soldiers who are perpetrating an illegal war but at the same time following orders.

But ask any parent of a child who has been killed in Iraq and they will tell you Blair and Bush should be in jail for the 654,965 deaths they caused.

There will be 100s of youths locked up for criminal damage, breach of the peace, arson and looting but is it anywhere near the scale of what their role models and leaders in society have done?

The white collar criminals are busy huffing and puffing sentiments of moral outrage and bleating with righteous indignation over the mess in the English cities.

But the problem is that they can’t even police their own.

If everybody’s got their hand in the cookie jar, then what’s to stop the most disadvantaged in society?

In Part II, I will share the black perspective on what’s going on, particularly re the scandal of the huge percentage of black people with degrees who are either unemployed or working in menial labour, particularly in Scotland.  And ask, What’s Not To Riot Against?

Scandinavian and Nordic folk stars visit Scotland

Anders Aasber, winner of Eurovision Choreography Prize 2009

1. Very hot male dancing

Anders Aasberg, winner of the Eurovision 2009 Choreography Prize will perform a Halling dance, a mixture of folk, breakdancing and streetdancing from Norway’s top dance group, Frikar

2. Norway’s sensational Folk Musician of the Year 2010

Sigrid Moldestad performs a range of exciting music, from Western fjords folk and blues to translations of Robert Burns songs.

“The songs are about love: the love you have experienced, the love you wanted to experience and of course the love that never happened!” Sigrid says.

3. Danish Folk Music Award 2009‘s Debut Album of the Year and Composer of the Year

Hal Parfitt-Murray (fiddle & voice) and Nikolaj Busk (keyboard / accordian) perform thrilling contemporary Danish folk from their award-winning ‘Hal & Nikolaj

4. Pushing forward Nu-Nordic collaborations

Fribo is a unique collaboration between Norwegian singer Anne Sofie Linge Valdal, Scottish fiddler Hannah Read and English born Ewan MacPherson on guitar. Described by Celtic Connections Festival as

“…one of the freshest and most inventive acts on the emerging ‘Nu-Nordic’ scene, exploring and creating links between British and Scandinavian traditions, with a deft peppering of wider contemporary influences.”

5.  A New Twist to Classic fiddle tunes and the nyckelharpa

Celtic Nyckelharpa Project will be performing tracks from their recently produced first album of Scotish and Irish dance music using the unique sound of the nyckelharpa (a Swedish keyed fiddle, similar to the hurdy gurdy) to produce a sound that is ancient and yet revolutionary.

Sigrid Moldestad

6. Danish Dancing, old school and new

The Dancing Danes will be showcasing competitive Danish male dances as well as couples dancing both contemporary and with old school flavours.

7. Ever fancied learning the Jew’s Harp?

Two-Hour Jew’s Harp Workshop with Ewan Macpherson one of the first ever students from Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

8. Curious about Halling?

Halling Norwegian Male Dance Workshop with top dancer and choreographer Anders Aasberg

9. Superb Slavic and Norse folklore for kids

Children’s Folklore Session with James MacDonald Reid (artistic director of the Drumalban Folk Ensemble) who will lead this Slavic and Norse folklore story-telling hour, for ages 5+

All performances at the Pleasance, Edinburgh on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd April (Sunday performances in Glasgow at Glasgow University Union)

The Northern Streams Festival is part of Ceilidh Culture,  Edinburgh’s annual traditional arts festival which finishes with a street fair in Castle St and Princes St between 22nd and 25th April.

All tickets from Usher Hall, Lothian Rd, Edinburgh or or on the door.

For more information and times, see here

Jonathan Mills

Jonathan Mills is an Aesthete.  An international one, at that.  [Noun: A person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty].  You know the type: lofty vowels, airy arms and wafting sibilants.

Their buzzword bingos are ‘exquisite’, ‘engagement’ and ‘occupying spaces’.

I haven’t met one of those in a long time.  There aren’t many down Leith.

If you spot one, they’re normally being bundled into a cab outside one of our 5* restaurants, inhaling a lung-full of harbour before they fly off.

They are such a rare species I get twitchy frissons every time I encounter one.  How do they get like that? Is it years of training or do they breed them just so?

So I asked him.  I had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Mills at the launch of the Edinburgh International Festival‘s 2011 programme at The Hub. The large hall was full of international arts press and festooned with giant dahlias and chrysanthemums on enormous plinths.

The exotic flowers were obviously in keeping with the front cover of the programme, although it did look a lot like an international drug dealer’s funeral.

Jonathan Mills delivered a brilliant presentation on the up-coming programme for this year, took questions deftly from the press then took individual interviews with a select few.  Obviously an accomplished media conductor.

The Programme 2011

He reminded us that opera was not simply a western genre and enthused about experiencing ‘The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan‘ – a Chinese opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet which is a sweeping, symbolic dance, graceful singing, subtle mime and compelling marital arts. (No jokes about Zennadine, the prince of football, please)

Wu Hsing-Kuo's King Lear

King Lear is also a must-see. Written, directed and performed by Wu Hsing-Kuo, with a cast of one, Mr Mills described it as “a very solitary play and a tour de force” where Wu Hsing-kuo depicts all the characters, including his own identity as the actor.

Shen Wei was the principle choreographer behind the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is now based in New York.  His ‘Re-Triptych‘ is a ballet which takes a “distinguished look at life lived at a distance” using inspiration from Tibet, Cambodia and China’s Silk Road.

Another piece that looks pretty darn stunning is ‘One Thousand and One Nights‘ in two parts, performed by actors, musicians and a creative team from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Paris and London.  It’s a new erotic, brutal, witty and poetic production which is not suitable for kids.  That’s my type of art, that is.

I’ve only mentioned four pieces out of the 95 you can choose from.  Do have a look at the programme and expand your eyes and ears for 2011.  High art may seem irrelevant when remortgages, repossessions and reactionaries can be one’s sole preoccupation (see, these ‘ones’ are infectious) but there’s a very good reason to go.

Experiencing great art is like eating at a 5* restaurant.  You may not like individual flavours and concoctions but the process and challenges of savouring the exquisite professionalism and skill that have gone into presenting the fare explodes your senses in a way that fish and chips art can’t.

The Interview

I had to wait hours but it was worth it.  Up close and personal, he’s a likeable kinda guy but I was very nervous and very, very star-struck.  After all, the Edinburgh International Festival has always played a large part in my life.  Whether just the fireworks, the crowds, the congestion, the packed jolly bars or just the crazy eccentric people you can sometimes loathe and sometimes adore.

Here, in the flesh, was the impressario behind all the summer madness.  The curator of Edinburgh‘s cultural capital. The capo di capo of the international arts scene.

At what age does one decide one’s ambition is to be an international festival director? (Do excuse my language, there are a lot of ‘ones’ in Aesthetia. Trust me, I talk Aesthetish).

Never.  I am first and foremost a composer.  I was a composer before embarking on this.  When I finish, I will go back to composing and conducting.  I happened to start a little festival while at University and it just grew from there.  I was invited to do this as an artist, not as a project manager.

Mr Mills demurs though. He also holds a degree in architecture and is an authority on acoustic design.  Mr Mills began his artistic career studying composition in Australia and then piano and composition in Italy before becoming Melbourne’s Festival Director.

What is the significance of the Shamrock Chrysanthemum you have chosen to front your programme?

When working with our designers, we wanted something exotic and exquisite, which symbolised the Far East and the cross-over.  We wanted gorgeous flowers that are unfolding and poignant. We wanted fragrance, particularly in the atmosphere, where the audience can be enveloped and cherished, loved, and loved too briefly, before they are lost.

When somebody makes statements like that, for me, unfortunately, there are only two options.  Either I come over all jaiksey and say:

“likes-eh, you nevuh thocht aboot usin the thistle, likes? Cos it’s wur ain, and I’m sure they’ve goat sum doon yon Silk Road too, aye?”

Or, I get swept along by the pungent prose and exquisite enthusiasm.  Thankfully, I got with the latter.

When making the selection for the programme, you are basically reading the artistic runes of the international community? What influences those decisions?  Is it other arts festivals?  Funding?  Politics?  Or is it all pure art?

I am an artist. I choose what’s good, exciting, challenging and sublime. I travel around the world and experience much art.  If it’s brilliant, I select and bring it to the Edinburgh and international audience here.

So, how do you measure your success?

I don’t. I want an engagement with the audience. The ideas should reflect and challenge themselves.  Artists are given the opportunity to occupy space reflective of our and their ambitions.

What’s been your greatest failure, and how did you learn from it?

I’ve never had failure.  The Edinburgh International Festival is a roller coaster where there’s no getting off.  Of course there are a myriad of small things that go wrong, and likewise an infinite variety of things that go unexpectedly well.  There are surprises both ways.

But ultimately it’s never about MY success.  It’s the artists’ success.  I’ve passed them the envelope, they’ve stepped onto the international stage and allowed their art to thrive.  When that happens, that’s what I call success.

Shamrock chrysanthemum

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 12th August till 4th September 2011.  Tickets start at around £10 but with discounts can be even cheaper and booking starts on 2nd April 2011.

© Fin Wycherley

You can also read this post, with some ever so dainty edits, on the Guardian Edinburgh site here or go to

© Richard Campbell

Marilyn‘ at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre, is the story of being famous and the things women had to do get there in 1960’s Hollywood.

Or, as Marilyn succinctly quips, “I guess girls like us spend a lot of time on our knees – that’s Hollywood.”

By focussing closely on the story of the world’s most famous ‘sweater girl’ and Simone Signoret, the sophisticated, intellectual actress of the day, Sue Glover‘s brilliant script provides an illuminating insight into women “working for The Studio – we all work for The Studio ultimately.”

During the summer of 1960, Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret live in adjacent apartments of the Beverley Hills Hotel. Thrown together while Monroe films the movie ‘Let’s Make Love‘ with Signoret’s husband, Yves Montand, the pair form an uneasy friendship, plagued by jealousy and insecurity.  Under the watchful eye of Patti, hairdresser to the stars, it becomes a relationship that tests their deepest beliefs and threaten to destroy them both.

Marilyn, as played stunningly by Frances Thorburn – even the singing is worth the ticket price alone, never mind the rest of the scintillating, vivacious, driven, cookie and disturbed performance – is portrayed as being the most ambitious of the two.  When talking about actresses of the past, she calls them “Dead, or their careers have gone dead – which is the same thing.”

Marilyn’s character twists and turns with insomnia – “Sleep – how do you do that again?” – and jealousy of her more sophisticated new friend Simone who is adored by “le tout Paris”.  She offers two renditions of “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” emphasising her ultimate devotion to the man, the studio, the cash and her ambition over friendship and loyalty.

She oscillates between wanting to Be Marilyn, the uber-pouty, pin-up girl: “I just can’t go through that door until I feel like … look like … Marilyn” and being taken seriously as a proper actress “Big ass, big tits, big deal”.

Simone, Marilyn and Yves

Even Simone, the stylish intellectual, puts all her energies into her man while her career takes a dip, waiting for the right script “You must never do stupid movies.”

Finally, when she doesn’t get the adoration she craves from her friend who ultimately wins the Oscar, Marilyn steals the one prize Simone adores above all, her husband.  But Simone’s character, as played brilliantly by the French actor, Dominique Hollier, is also hoist by her career.  At a critical point between staying to prevent Marilyn getting with her husband and flying off to a great part, she chooses to take the long-distance role.

Her anguish is palpable: “I can’t go out. If I open my mouth, it howls” and her anger towards Marilyn vitriolic: “You are milk, froth, cotton candy.”

Both characters are overseen, soothed, jollied and cajoled by the incredible down-to-earth Patti, played utterly convincingly by Pauline Knowles who ultimately lies, cheats and keeps her head down because she too works for The Studio.

The set is pure 30s glamour and glitz – silver art nouveau ornaments with white luxury cushions – and a blown up photo of dead Marilyn on the side wall.

The production (a co-production with Citizens Theatre, Glasgow) zips along with passionate intensity until Marilyn puts an end to her tortured life and is escorted into the sunset by – and here’s the curious thing – the black actor / stage manager who has been dotting in and out, moving furniture and props, clasping her shoes unto his breast tenderly and exchanging knowing smiles with her.

All along the piece, it seems like his role will develop.  He is dressed as a servant; it seems like he’s playing a role of silent black observer; as caught up in the chains of working for The Man as Marilyn, yet always operating in the shadows as her secret black companion, perhaps lover and comforter.  But the role just fizzles out.  Worse, he is conspicuous by his absence at curtain call.

When turning to the programme, he is name-checked as Barry Ford in the ‘Cast List’ but no biography or production credits are available on either the Cast, Creative Team or Staff Lists at The Lyceum or The Citizens Theatre websites or programmes.

In this post-Stephen Lawrence era, one would hope that black actors are not still being stereotyped into servant / gangster roles or worse, failing to get credit for their contributions in theatre.

Are we to believe that black people are as invisible in Scottish theatre as they were 100 years ago, or more (bar the exceptionally rare roles written by the bard and a few others)?  Are we to advise young black Scottish hopefuls that there are no jobs or roles in Scottish theatre?

On enquiry, the Lyceum Theatre states:

“Barry Ford is an Assistant Stage Manager at the Citizens Theatre. When the show was rehearsing at the Citizens the director Philip Howard decided they needed an ASM to be onstage to move the props around. Barry was available as an ASM to fulfill this for the production, and then the transfer to the Lyceum. He was in costume, in keeping with the play, which isn’t unusual as we have done this in numerous productions. The ASM aren’t included in curtain calls as they are not cast.”

Developing News

The Citizens Theatre states:

“Further to the statement made by our co-producing partners, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, we would like to re-iterate that both companies are equal opportunities employers. Barry Forde has been an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) at the Citizens Theatre for the last 3 years, having been recruited to the theatre through our trainee scheme. The ASM role is a technical position as part of the backstage production team. In addition to technical duties, ASM’s are frequently requested to move props on stage and take part in group scenes.  This often involves them being in costume to fit in with the action. The Director of the show requested that the ASM be involved in key scenes of Marilyn where props were required to be moved.  Whoever was the ASM on the show would have fulfilled that role. In this case it was Barry Forde and he continued in that role when the show transferred to Edinburgh.”

I would also like to explain that it is standard practice for ASM’s to not take curtain calls with the Cast as they are part of the technical team.  At the Citizens Theatre, Barry was credited as Assistant Stage Manager in our Citizens Company full staff list.  As it was not appropriate for him to be part of the Lyceum’s staff list, it was requested that he get an acknowledgement elsewhere within the production credits of the programme. That is why his name appears as it does in the Lyceum programme.  If this confused or misled we can only apologise and reiterate again that Barry is very much part of the technical team on the show.”

Yet he was clearly labelled as Cast in the programme.

What do you think is the issue?  Is it harder to get a job in theatre as a black person in Scotland?

Spencer the Painter - now a bus driver

Rodd Christensen, a Scottish-based black actor, won a BAFTA for Balamory but now drives a bus. Check here and here

© Fin Wycherley

You can also find this review on STV Edinburgh here

Show: Marilyn, Venue: Lyceum Theatre Run: 15th March – 2nd April 2011

Times: Evenings: 7.45pm Tuesdays-Saturdays Ends approx 9.40pm Matinees: 2.30pm Wednesdays and Saturdays (16, 19, 23, 26 Mar and 2 Apr) Ends approx 4.25pm

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Mother, A La Carte

Two scintillating theatrical pieces were served up in Edinburgh to celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day.

One homely and intimate, set in the cosy Word of Mouth Cafe. One political, rousing and set in the grand Lyceum Theatre.

Mother, A La Carte‘ is a delightful one-woman show beautifully set in a tiny café off Leith Walk. A woman bakes bread, brews a pot of tea and contemplates being a woman.

Simple, emotional and stunningly powerful.

Liberty Des Roches-Dueck, the writer and performer, serves up lashings of “stewed spears of shame and a bittersweet pudding of regret and apprehension.”

She wraps herself up in clingfilm to keep her marriage exciting, wails about her mother’s constant injunction for perfection and yearns for the wild joy in her life – a bit of madness with reason.

There are cracking lines such as: “My cup runneth over but it’s leaving a stain on the carpet”, “My mother is like the process of tea: once time-consuming and fussy, now ritualistic and refreshing” and “My boobs melt like ice cream under my armpits into the mattress.”

The audience helps pass props from around the cafe, the counter becomes an earthy kitchen worktop and a surprising amount of eyes are dried at the final applause.

The audience reaction after the show was fulsome: “I called my Mum. It had been ages since we had a proper chat”, “I cried all the way home. That was good though, I really needed a good cry” and “I went to buy a tea pot. I’d forgotten how much I like making a proper cup of tea.”

All in all, a heart-warming offering from the exciting new ‘theatre of the oppressed’-inspired theatre company Strange Theatre.

Next performance is on Mother’s Day, funnily enough.

Cat And Mouse

Cat and Mouse‘ by Ajay Close was a rehearsed reading for an audience of women with a couple of token, but I’m sure very welcome, blokes.

The abridged reading follows the true story of Scotland’s suffragettes on hunger and thirst strike in Perth Prison. But not so closely that it loses dramatic impact.

Instead, it concentrates on the power-play relationship between strident, upper-class lady prisoner, Arabella Scott and the brutal, jumped-up working class Dr Ferguson Watson in charge of force-feeding.

Although still a work in progress, the quiet contempt of Phil McKee‘s doctor was chilling. The casual nature of torturers convinced they are treating the underclass was convincingly drawn throughout the 50 minute performance.

It was also refreshing to see women as terrorists on a main stage.  Albeit upper-class ones in the main.

Disappointingly in women’s history, working class women did not get the vote until 1928 and there were few terrorists involved in that struggle.

But that story, perhaps, is for another day.

You can re-read this article on STV Edinburgh here, if yer that way inclined.

© Fin Wycherley

Stop The Press

Due to incredible demand, Mother A La Carte will also be performed on Monday 4th, Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th April at 7pm.  Tickets: £6 / £5 (conc.)  available from at Word of Mouth Café 0131 554 4344

Running time 45 minutes and not suitable for children.

The café will open at 6pm. The kitchen has to close for the performance so last orders will be taken at 6.30pm. Please arrive early.

With social and political movements arising across the Middle East, and International Women’s Day looming, The Age of Arousal is a very timely production about the early feminist revolution at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre.

A brilliant cast with some cracking laugh-out-loud lines, had the full house tickled by the bristling wit and political humour of the play.

“I want to run from the stink of lavender, sweat and … something with yeast.”

“I foresee the day when we can weep for a kitten and oversee transactions worth millions.”

“I am half lady, half shop girl.”

And blithely, “We want passion, not penetration.”

The play by Linda Griffiths is ‘wildly inspired’ by George Gissing‘s 1893 novel The Odd Women.  Mary Barfoot (Ann Louise Ross), an ex-militant suffragette, and her lover Rhoda (Clare Lawrence-Moody) are determined to make women rich by teaching them to master the new invention that will gain them freedom – the typewriter.

They recruit the three Madden sisters (Molly Innes, Hannah Donaldson and Alexandra Mathie) to their pioneering secretarial school.  The sisters have been suffering from ‘genteel starvation’ and pinning their spinsterly hopes on the youngest securing a suitable marriage to save them from certain destitution.

Pour into the mix the sensuous Evrard (Jamie Lee), a new man practising ‘free-loveism’ and supporting the liberation of women, and you have a heady concoction of intense female characters ranging from terrorists and alcoholics to cross dressers and mothers.

This sets in motion an odyssey which explores Jealousy: “the hierarchy of beauty offends me”; Love: “Your love is worth £400 per year”; and Idealism: “typing is the way to liberty”.

Linda Griffiths writes about her ‘philosophical ancestors’, the women in the suffragette movement who fought to be liberated from the chains of legalised prostitution, aka marriage, through economic empowerment, aka getting a job.

A stunning skeletal set is wheeled on and off the stark fabulist stage.  Sublimely surreal Victorian costumes are worn with wire stays on the outside along with tubular, dragon-scaled bustles.  Three lamp-lit Remington typewriters on wheels act their socks off as tools of liberation, enjoying a music-hall waltz with the characters.

The Age of Arousal makes devastating use of ‘thought-speak’, a way of conversing in an appropriate manner and yet in continual asides belying the real passions that lurk beneath.

With it’s stylized lighting, witty banter and high ideals, the play scored highly in all areas.  With one big but.  The script allowed little more than a political affinity with the characters’ conditions and stood in the way of true emotional engagement.

Nevertheless, a stellar production with fiesty quines and one very fine loon.

Show: The Age of Arousal by Linda Griffiths. Venue: Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Dates: 18th Feb – 12th March 2011. Tickets: £5 – £28.  Times: Tues – Sats 19:45. Matinees: 2:30pm Wednesdays and Saturdays (23, 26 Feb and 2, 5, 12 March)

© Fin Wycherley

Check this article on STV Edinburgh here

© Robert Day

Bursting with energy and sing-out-loud tunes, Footloose – The Dance Musical explodes into life at Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre.

Filled with classic 80s anthems such as Holding Out For A Hero, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and the title track, Footloose, the audience were dancing in the aisles long before the final curtain call.

The original film, (which made a star of Kevin Bacon) was based loosely on the true story of a small town in Oklahoma – Elmore City – that had banned dancing for almost 100 years.

In 1979 the 11 high school kids wanted to have a prom but it split the rural town apart. Eventually in 1980 the kids triumphed and inspired the first in a long line of high school musicals.

The musical story follows the classic tale of teen rebellion and repression. City boy Ren (Max Milner) tries to fit in with the hick town ways but gets into a lot of trouble for being an outsider and refusing to accept the town’s ordinance banning dancing.

Ren’s love interest, Ariel (Lorna Want), the daughter of a preacher man (Stephen Pinder) is going out with the town bully (Matt Willis) and becoming wayward due to the spirit of repression.  She eventually gets beaten up by her boyfriend and threatens to leave home since her relationship with her father has broken down.

© Robert Day

Harmony is finally restored when the town accepts they have to get with the times and embrace the challenges of modernity.

The cast were all obviously selected because of their outstanding singing talent.  With brilliantly close but individual renditions of the old classics, Jodie Jacobs (Rusty), Lorna Want (Ariel), Max Milner and Keisha Amponsa Banson (Urleen) turned in stupendous singing, dancing acting and comedy performances.

Giovanni Spano (Willard) entertained the crowds with his corn-sucking, slow-witted comedy character. The choreography and transitions were breath-takingly tight and the harmonies, duets and individual solos were some of the sweetest voices heard for a long time.

A brilliantly joyful show with toe-tapping tunes and a heart-warming cast.

Looking forward to the film remake due for release in October 2011 starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid.

Show: Footloose The Dance Musical, Venue: The Edinburgh PlayhouseDates: Mon 14th – Sat 19th February 2011, Tickets: £16 – £36, Times: Mon to Thurs 19:30, Fri and Sat: 17:00 and 20:30

You can also see this article at the new STV Local Edinburgh North site here.

© Fin Wycherley