JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation

So let’s begin with Theresa May dancing into the abyss…
What a pleasant moment that was for a second and so much more appealing than the image forever burnt into my retinas as she ‘danced’ onto the stage to the strains of Abba’s Dancing Queen for her speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Luckily I was never a particularly huge fan of Abba so that song hasn’t been ruined for me the way it must now surely be for so many others; Abba themselves have said they are displeased with the song being used in a political context and without permission but how unlike the Tories is it to pilfer whatever they want for their own gain with scant regard for anyone else?
The last question was purely rhetorical by the way.
I think worse than the dancing-yes there is worse than the dancing as that is merely a distraction and a failed attempt at self-deprecation- is the fact that May took to the stage like some conquering hero who has something to celebrate rather than admitting that she has ballsed up just about everything she has touched since taking office; on a gargantuan scale to boot. Therefore the faux bravado was as insincere as everything else that emanates forth from her.
Aside from half-arsed dancing, insincere posturing and pathetic sniping at each other not much else came out of the Tory party conference other than the fact that austerity is over –or nearly over it wasn’t very clear- which I am sure will come as a relief to the many still languishing in poverty and an uncertain future with Brexit hanging over their heads which, incidentally, is supposed to bring in its stead at least fifty more years of austerity.
Confused?
Me too!
I suppose as always things are worse over in America where this week Trump saw fit to mock a female rape victim and claim that it is a worrying time for young men in the USA when they can be accused of such heinous crimes. I’m sure the backward logic works to those of a backward nature and ultimately they don’t come more backward than Trump.
On a more positive note there is a huge independence march in Edinburgh this weekend which at least offers those living in Scotland a glimmer of hope of extricating themselves from the mess that is the UK at this moment in time. Apparently upwards of 30,000 are expected to attend and even the attempts to ban a rally in Holyrood Park has been overcome and replaced by traditional and legitimate events such as picnicking, performing the Highland Fling, tossing the caber and folding the flaps-something to do with potato scones I am reliably informed- so if an afternoon of folding your flaps next to someone tossing their caber appeals then this is the place to be this Saturday afternoon.
Not much happening on the music scene this weekend after last weekend’s highlights which included the Nightingales and the Shamanic experience. The latter featuring such luminaries as Fay Fife, Martin Metcalfe and Kid Congo Powers accompanied by the real-time painting of artist Maria Rud projected onto the amazing backdrop of the Old College Quads building ranks as one of the most impressive events I have attended for years. Even the chill of an outdoor September evening could not detract from the artistry and talent on show here.

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

So that is the Fringe and festival departed for yet another year and it feels as if the city is actually inhaling then physically exhaling with a huge sigh of relief. Of course the inevitable claims about it being the busiest year yet have already emerged although I am more of the belief that what they really mean is has been the most profitable year yet as money rather than art or culture seems to be at the very crux of the whole event with each passing year.
It certainly was busy though as I witnessed last weekend when I made a misguided attempt to head into the centre of town and lasted less than half an hour as trying to negotiate my way through congested pavements which periodically spilled onto traffic filled roads just proved too much to bear.
The council in their infinite wisdom have proposed that more pedestrian thoroughfares are the answer-banning traffic from city centre routes- forgetting that actual residents, many of whom have to work in the fringe and Festival, still have to get to their work and the existing delays are bad enough without exacerbating them any further.
Then again when did the council ever pay any attention to its residents when there are tourists and students to cater to?
At least the weather has improved which it seems to do every year as soon as the whole shebang concludes; still not sure why this is but the skies clouded over and the rain poured down as I was on my way to the opening parties and remained for most of the days and nights as I was out.
I must admit I lost interest in the whole thing and stopped reviewing shows about two weeks in as I could not bear the forced atmosphere, the awful weather, the overcrowded streets and the general feeling of commercialism overruling culture. There was also a general feeling that no-one actually seemed to be enjoying themselves and the ever expanding reliance on alcohol and pop up bars has rendered the whole thing into one long over-extended stag and hen party!
Very cultural!
I was saddened to see the Sikh temple in Leith was attacked this week as bigotry is not the sort of thing usually associated with integrated Leith which is generally very welcoming to all types. The community hit back and showed solidarity and support however and this is heart-warming.
Likewise the Save Leith Walk campaign seems to go from strength to strength despite opposition and disinterest from the Council, who seriously need to start listening to their populace I believe.
The hot topic on everyone’s lips this week has been Theresa May’s totally inept attempts at dancing on a tour of Africa. Not really sure what to say about this as the two videos already out there are hilarious and cringe worthy in equal measure and if dancing comes from the soul then it is quite obvious that. just as many already suspected, she is not in possession of one; the videos recall the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz meets Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
It really seems as if she is dancing for a trade deal to try and sort out the Brexit mess but her dance moves are not going to convince anyone of anything other than the fact that she is incompetent at absolutely everything she turns her hand-hips and feet also in this case- to. She really is a national embarrassment.
It is now of course safe for the locals to go out now that the Fringe is over and a good place to begin would be with Run Into The Night a great Glasgow two piece band who are playing at Leith Depot this evening as part of a tour to promote their debut single. Well worth catching this band and support from The Raptors ensures a great night all round. Next week also sees Matt Johnson bring The The to Glasgow’s Barrowlands and Royal Concert Hall on two consecutive nights which is also essential viewing. There is also Fresh Produce who are back next Thursday 6th September at Sneaky Pete’s with a great line up.
For nights in The Bodyguard by Jed Mercurio who also wrote the fantastic Line Of Duty is essential viewing and a great way to round off any weekend as we make our way into Autumn.
All this and the weather has definitely improved. Bring on the Autumn!

FREEMAN

Freeman

This powerful and visceral production attempts to tell the story of racial prejudice at different points of history ever since the first slave to break free of his mater’s control took the name William Freeman at the moment he believed he became a free man. However this huge step forward was only a beginning and as is shown time and time again during this cleverly performed collaborative drama between Strictly Arts and Camilla Whitehill his free status was perhaps not as free as he had assumed nor has it automatically been delivered to black people since that moment; not even- probably especially- today.
Cleverly utilising a cast of six who slip in and out of roles as quickly as there is a time shift the story is easy to follow as it focuses on prejudice, violence and inequality therefore the names, places and dates don’t really matter as it is an ongoing problem with possibly little hope of any real resolve.
Great performances and simplistic backdrop allow the stories to speak for themselves and the lightning pace of direction and nuanced dialogue reveal a talented cast who can slip in and out of characters and somehow manage to inhabit them simultaneously.
Freeman is definitely one of the most captivating, intense and powerful thought provoking productions on the Fringe this year. If you get a chance it is one not to be missed.
*****
Freeman is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 5pm until August 27th

AD LIBIDO

Ad Libido

Fran Bushe wants to talk about sex; fixing sex, having sex, fulfilling sex, her vulva and sex, masturbation and sex and let’s not forget about dolphins and sex.
During the one hour duration of her show , Ad Libido, she discusses all these topics and more and even manages to include a self penned song or two along the way.
Bursting onto the stage in a maelstrom of glitter, with shiny curtains- even the metaphors are sexually derivative- clad in a sequined top and the obligatory, for 2018’s Fringe anyway, dungarees the show manages to take in extreme wackiness, quieter contemplative moments and even a diagram of her vulva complete with a missing set of keys!
It is all highly amusing and well thought out and even if there were times I felt the wackiness was a bit too full on and contrived Bushe’s amiability and persona compensated.
Tales about a sex camp which led to disappointment and a conclusive view that sex is an issue for most of us and generally we all think others are having a better time with it than we are ourselves. The real question is why are we so obsessed with beating ourselves up over it?
Bushe is quite a force of nature onstage and as I said before she certainly knows how to hold an audience’s attention. The script was well thought out and very cleverly delivered; as were the musical interludes.
Definitely an amusing show that is worthy of your attention.
***
Ad Libido is on at Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August at 3.30pm

ICONIC; A BRIEF HISTORY OF DRAG

Iconic: A Brief History Of Drag

The title of this show is slightly misleading as it barely touches on the history of drag unless it is the personal history of Ian Strouighair aka Velma Celli and the drag that influenced him. There is however recognition of the crowning moments in drag culture such as the Stonewall riots and David Bowie draping his arm around Mick Ronson in the legendary 1972 Top Of The Pops performance of Starman. However the latter tale is somewhat diffused as it is followed up by a version of Under Pressure which came out at a time when Bowie was trying to re-heterosexualise his image so,for me, the song lost its impact.
Along the way we are treated to Velma’s other favourite moments including Queen’s I Want to Break Free, the Rocky Horror Show’s Sweet Transvestite, something from the musical Rent and Gloria Gaynor’s I Am What I Am which was swiftly followed by an encore of I Will Survive.
Loughair certainly does have an impressive set of lungs on him and his voice is expertly matched with the musical theatre leanings of his material. Likewise his band is tight and sync in with his act perfectly.
It could more realistically be called Drag for Beginners however as it barely touches on the themes of drag as performativity as Loughair so often steps out of his character as a means of attaining a knowing laugh.
All in all it is more than an adequate show if you are a fan of light cabaret with musical theatre leanings.
***
Iconic: A Brief History Of Drag is on at Assembly Checkpoint until August 26th at 9.30pm

Cock, Cock…Who’s There?

Cock, Cock…Who’s There?

An ambitious outing, Cock, Cock…Who’s There? is Samira Elagoz’s personal documentation on the complex relationship between violence and intimacy after being raped by a partner she had previously trusted.
It is an experimental audacious piece which uses social media and video documentation as Elagoz embarks on her own brand of catharsis and discovery to try to endeavour how men actually see her but putting herself in situations where she has set them up to be observed. Recording their reactions to her femininity and whether they see her as strong or vulnerable and whether she can only ever view from subjective rather than objective perspective.
It is an intense production which resonates after the show as it puts a lot of energy into trying to understand how men view women and how the male gaze is still prominent within society.
Elagoz does a good job of seemingly being simultaneously involved and detached from her findings and the videoed events unfolding on the screen behind her as she watches impassively. It is not ‘entertainment’ in any traditional sense nor does it even masquerade as such but it is a deeply personal experimental piece that has some resonance with a sympathetic- or even empathetic- audience.
****
Cock, Cock Who’s There? is on at Summerhall until August 26th (not 20th) at 6,45pm

Bottom

Bottom

This one man show performed and conceived by Willy Hudson is a humorous and insightful look into the gay community and how its internalized homophobia is as restricting as any other form of homophobia.
Beginning with Hudson rushing onstage clad only in a pink towel and asking an audience member to pass him his dinosaur print underwear once he is decent the show proper can begin.
What follows is an exploration as to how as he has defined himself as a ‘bottom’ in the bedroom whether this transfers to him being a bottom in the rest of his life also-ie is he always going to be the one who gets screwed.
Certainly there is a vulnerability about Hudson’s character which suggests this might be so and when he finds himself on a third date which takes a strange turn when he discovers that his paramour is also a bottom he ponders whether such restrictions are binding and how often do they get in the way of any real relationship development.
The show is fast paced with slower moments of introspection and there is a lot of referencing Beyonce including an over-extended dance work out to her Love on Top which frankly I felt overstayed its welcome somewhat.
Despite this the show is an amiable expose of the restrictions the gay community imposes on itself and how once labeled as one thing it is hard to be taken seriously as another. Hudson does a good job of drawing attention to just how ridiculous this is and showing there is no point of coming out if you are prepared to jump straight back into another box.
Definitely a show worth seeing and Hudson is a confident stage presence who uses his vulnerability to great effect.
****
Bottom is at Summerhall until August 26th(not 13th and 20th) at 4.25pm

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