Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh Playhouse’


© 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

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Rod Jones © 2010 The List

Listen here

Leith Tonight went BIG TIME on Wednesday night with an hour long session from ROD JONES (Idlewild) playing songs from his debut solo album ‘A Sentimental Education’.

Rod is looking ahead to the release of a special collaboration album for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. And the two October gigs to celebrate its release.

Five-piece funksters ‘SHELIA WHO‘ play their brand new tune ‘7′ LIVE and punt their upcoming gig at the HMV Picture House for the Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble’s 10th birthday party (with Stanley Odd, Jakil, Dirty Modern Hero, Sideloc and Run/lucky/free…for £5!).

Rob and Flavia from Tightlace Theatre discuss new play ‘The Dress Affair’…in corsets! YOWZA! (Check out the photos on our Facebook page)

Paco Pena's Quimeras © James Christie

Leith Tonight’s new photographer-in-residence JAMES CHRISTIE shares his experiences from the Edinburgh festivals. Sample some of his snaps on the Leith Tonight blog.

Fin reviewed Paco Pena’s Quimeras at Edinburgh’s Playhouse, the last outing of Leith Tonight to the Edinburgh International Festival

© Annabel Cooper


©James Christie

Paco Pena’s Quimeras comes from a good place.

It’s a dance-off between West African and Flamenco dancers.  Each showing the best their culture can offer, woven around a theme of African immigration to Europe.

It is about people risking their lives, getting on rickety boats, carrying their hopes and dreams in their body and souls then meeting suspicion, rejection, aggression and death (an estimated 4,000 people have died in the Atlantic crossing since 1997)

Paco Pena, the guitarist and musical conceptualist, famed for taking top-class Flamenco productions around the world, says:

Dead immigrant on Spanish beach ©Javier BAULUZ

“In the past Spain has sent its people across the world in search of a new life. Now a modern prosperous country, Spain itself is the aspirational home for many immigrants from poorer countries.

Quimeras brings to life the journeys of migrants and refugees, reflecting both good and bad aspects of their dreams, the reality of their lives and their connection with the people on the other side of the frontiers they cross.”

The three extra-ordinary Ghanaian dancers (Victoria Dzivenu, Michael Nii Amon Neequaye and Gilbert Yaw Cofie) show love, devotion and honour through acrobatic, vigorous, agile and masterful moves and play out the story.

© James Christie

It’s a theme that allows both cultures to show their best and satisfy the ‘Oceans Apart’ theme of the Edinburgh International Festival as well as thrill the audience with exhilarating and sensual Flamenco dances.

I was enjoying it very much.

However, a very unfortunate thing happened on my way to the ice cream parlour at half time.

I chatted to an elegant Morningsider sitting next to me.  We exchanged views on what we’d seen, loved and hated.  Surprisingly, she hadn’t enjoyed Gospel At Colonus.  “Because the main characters were too old for the parts.”

I disagreed.  But as the second part of Quimeras began, I began noticing all the “too old” parts of Quimeras.

Madonna

The Flamenco dancers, despite all their incredible grace and agility, were too old to be sexy.  There was no appeal in watching old ladies with bulging guts or tremulous bingo wings playing the lead sexy role.

Dont get me wrong, these women were beautiful but there comes a time in life when your joie de vivre and sexiness has to be toned down a bit.

It was like watching a drunken old Auntie kicking up her heels and raising her skirts at a formal wedding.  Or watching Madonna make her scrawny re-entry into the charts writhing around in a skimpy leotard.  The expression “Put it away, luv” sprang to mind.

© James Christie

The blokes, despite incredible physical prowess and execution, looked like Dads at a Disco wearing crinkled corduroys and cuban heels like wannabe lotharios but who actually prefer taking their kids down the park and having an enjoyable family picnic.

At one point, Angel Munoz, an amazingly lithe dancer, was giving it lalldy toreador-style.  But one’s eyes were drawn to the non-moving, sassy, soulful, hand-clapping, foot-stomping singer Antonia Nogareo.

She was young.  The Ghanaian dancers were young.  The male singer, Jose Angel Carmona, was young.  My eyes were wrapt.

Am I totally evil and prejudiced about older dancers performing sensual dance routines on the international stage?

Despite all this prejudice, it was a thrilling, intense and dynamic performance with tremendous sound and visuals.

These blogs are totally interactive.  Go for it!

Check the video of Quimeras and interview with Paco Pena

© Fin Wycherley


The Gospel at Colonus

Last night’s performance of The Gospel At Colonus at the Edinburgh Playhouse was absolutely, comprehensively, quite righteously brilliant.

Technicolour lighting, kitsch Da Vinci-on-acid backdrops, elegant Greek forum staging, uplifting gospel singing, enthusiastic standing ovations, all laid over a 2,500 year old text by the Greek philosopher, Sophocles.

There were stand-out performances by the Blind Boys of Alabama, who collectively play the part of Oedipus, particularly Jimmy Carter, who shook and grooved and beckoned the audience like  Stevie Wonder meeting Ray Charles aged 80.

There’s only one problem.  I am thick and uneducated.

In fact two problems.  I am also perturbed by slavery.

Come to think of it, three.  God doesn’t do it for me.

Despite the performance being utterly wonderous, it left me wondering what it was all about.  Unfortunately, I only got Higher English and we never studied the Greek tragedies.  I’ve dabbled in them since then but found them too hard-going for bed-time reading.

Call me an idiot, and I know you will, but I just didn’t get it.

The Stage

The overall story of Oedipus marrying his mother, killing his father, fathering his sister/daughters and brother/sons, then blinding himself as an act of contrition is fine.  The part about him going to another city, away from home, and finding peace with strangers through forgiveness and remorse is great.

But I didn’t get all the storyline bits between.

I know, I know, I’m really, really stupid.  It took me almost 20 years to get into Shakespeare.  But the good news, is that when I eventually ‘got it’ I was dumbstruck by his brilliance and now become ‘Livid of Leith’ when actors don’t do it justice.

Jimmy Carter and Carolyn Johnson-White

So there’s my ignorance problem: despite the fact that The Gospel At Colonus was moving, sorrowful, poignant, tragic and joyful, I couldn’t understand what was going on.

Then there’s my problem with slavery.  The origins of Gospel music came from slavery mixed with christianity during the ‘pure’ slavery days from 1619 until 1865 when it was eventually abolished in USA.  Gospel continued to develop under the more refined form of slavery: the Jim Crow Era in American history from 1870 till 1968 where black people lived an apartheid existence in the land of the free. This period was then followed by the Prison Industrial Complex till the present day where 1 in 14 black men are currently in prison.

I could not get over the fact that every single member of the cast is still touched by slavery.

A very close relative of mine is a slave.  He has no legal or political rights.  He cannot vote.  If he is assaulted, he cannot get justice.  If his employers underpay him he cannot sue them.  His job requires him to work 60 hours per week and he is taxed at 40% despite earning minimum wage.

So to relieve the stress of his existence, he goes to the gospel churches, here in Edinburgh, for 3-hour services and sings his heart out.  Sometimes he prays to be rich, sometimes he dreams of going home and sometimes he wishes he were dead because ‘this is not a life’.

I was reminded of him while being thrilled by the spectacle at the Edinburgh Playhouse.  The history and roots of gospel, and ‘negro spirituals’ come from the real life cultural insanity of slavery.  But slavery is not a thing of the past.  It is alive and kicking right here and now in our Western capitals across the globe.

Antigone and Ismene

In America currently, one in of three black men are destined for prison.  Despite being only 13% of the population, black people represent nearly 80% of the prison population in New Jersey and other states.  In America, the 13th Amendment to the constitution states that no man shall be a slave unless he be in prison.

There are over 1 million people without status living and working in the UK.

This means that every single member of the cast is cursed by at least one of their family being a 21st century slave.

Plus I know many African performers at the Festival who signed their employment contract in Africa with white impresarios and are consequently paid £50 per week for 9 two-hour performances a week, sell-out shows with standing ovations in top venues around the city.

Then there’s god.  Okay, so he’s a great solace for the downtrodden and the poor but does he have to be the conqueror’s god?

The Edinburgh International Festival 2010 is about colonisation, oceans apart, the New and Old worlds and cultural diversity.  What pains me is that Jonathan Mills, director of the Festival has done it so well.

Gospel at Colonus

I have been tortured and uplifted by the cross-cultural stagings, multicultural casts, tragic messages of hope and the intimate look into the soul of the colonised and coloniser’s mind.

If I am troubled by the cornucopia of a programme that has been dished up for me and the punters, then the Edinburgh International Festival has most certainly exceeded all my expectations. I have been moved.

To be troubled and inspired by art, despite one’s abject ignorance, is the sign of a great artistic mind at work.

©finwycherley


Parabelo

This writing about art milarkey is a beast.

How to describe a work of high art without sounding like a right pompous git: sprinkling metaphores and 4-syllable words round the place like you know what you’re talking about?  Grrr, rather you than me.

Yesterday, I was dreading it all day long.  ‘A Brazilian fusion of classical ballet with Brazilian sounds, music and moves’ sounded brilliant to watch.  But before Grupo Corpo‘s performance at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre last night I was sweating buckets of dread.

I hurried to the Playhouse an hour early so that I could swot up on the brochure which might help me build some sort of a narrative, or an angle.  But no, a whole lorra big words with massive sentences and paragraphs.

Grupo Corpo

It was a packed house and all the great and good, and funky dance afficionados were there in full force.  Then the lights blacked out entirely during the whole show, except for soft, vibrant blasts of colour on stage.  Argh, I was going to have to take notes in the complete dark!

Grupo Corpo - Parabelo

You should see my notepad.  There’s about 3 swirling sentences per page all sloping downwards at a 45-degree angle.

By the time I got to the last act though, I had worked out a brilliant system of note-taking by using my thumb as a guide.

I would like to thank my thumb for all its generous support in composing this review.

Paneiro

The show was a gift for a fledgling writer.  Within minutes I was awe-struck by the sensuality and discipline of the dancers and the pulsating rhythms and sounds of Brazil.

Berimbau

You should listen to Tom Ze’s MySpace while reading this.  He was one of the 3 composers (Veloso, Visnik and ) who had written theLatin post-classical original music for Grupo Corpo.

Gilberto Gil was a great inspiration for the composers as well as lazy grasshoppers, driving faxes, sleepy bottle-blowing, football whistles,  miaoling cats, birds in the rainforest, trilling pan flutes, sawing violins, harmonic mandolins, Capoiera instruments, (Berimbau, Pandeiro, Attabaque, Agogo, and Rasp), urging African voices and not tap, but slap shoes.

Latin Experimental and micro-tonal Baile Funk at its very sizzling best.  Musically alone, I was blown away.

Grupo Corpo

The dancing was precise, disciplined, structured and graceful, following the strictures of traditional ballet.  Plus it was sensual, violent, cheery and soulful according to the rigours of Brazilian movement.

The dancers were thrown around aggresively, tucked under arms foetally, pranced playfully in group folk steps, coaxed mischieviously by mythological tricksters, made love with tenderness and violence and crawled painfully into creation with bone-wrenching moves.

Grupo Corpo

If you want to know what it is like to live in Brazil, go swot up on a tourist guide.  If you want to know the sounds of Brazil, check out the many musical websites across the internet.

But if you want to know what it feels like being Brazilian, go see Grupo Corpo.

There, that wasnt too bad, was it?  I dont have an editor here in my wee flat in Leith.  Please feel free to suggest improvements to these works of artistic endeavour, ha.

©finwycherley

Grupo Corpo has  brilliant website where you can experience multimedia extracts of both dance pieces: Parabelo and Onqoto.  Check www.grupocorpo.com.br

See 7 mins of Onqoto on www.youtube.com And here.

To see extracts of Parabelo: click through here. And here.