Bladerunner 2049

The eagerly anticipated- or over-hyped depending on your view of the original- sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Bladerunner like its predecessor is ambiguous in its intentions; leaving more questions unanswered than answered. This time Denis Villeneuve is at the helm although Scott’s spectral presence is in every nuanced frame and deliberately so as familiarity with the original is essential in understanding the continuing narrative of Bladerunner 2049.
Ryan Gosling’s Officer K aka Joe fills much the same terrain as Harrison Ford’s Deckard in the original; an LAPD sleuth who hunts down replicants and ultimately ‘retires’ them in a dystopian near future. Convincingly played in his usual doe-eyed inscrutable way Gosling is ably supported in his task by Robin Wright, Jared Leto and of course Ford himself who returns as Deckard giving a great performance. Also of note is Ana de Armas as K’s holographic lover who absorbs the persona in line with his current moods and desires; one minute caring and nurturing supporter the next a sultry vamp.
The characters would be nothing without the sets and cinematography though and both are visually stunning throughout. Capturing the essence of the original but not relying on either homage or impersonation; sun-drenched vast deserts, rain-soaked streets and neon skyways all compete for attention and mirror the unfolding drama.
It is the music however which is the film’s true star, swelling, soothing,building and malingering as suits the scene. It is the music which ultimately prevents the film from dragging- at 2 hours 45 minutes it could be termed overly long for some used to more action filled blockbusters.
As for the plot I am not going to reveal anything in the way of spoilers- every sequence of events in this film offers up unnecessary clues- but suffice to say it is as intriguing, complex, perplexing and intuitive as its predecessor.
Ultimately the film as a whole is a triumph. For once the hype was(almost) justified and fans of the original who have sat through various drafts-I am sure there was even a Tea Lady’s Cut at one point- will find their patience has been rewarded.



Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Glasgow, SSE Hydro

This gig was already shrouded in controversy due to Cave agreeing to play in Tel Aviv. He is not alone in this however as Radiohead, The Pretenders and of course the King of Controversy, Morrissey have all played there recently and although it is expected that some of those listed can be a little-shall we say- misguided in their principles and beliefs at times Nick Cave always seemed, to me at least, to be navigated by a moral compass which lent itself to the right thing.
I did deliberate over whether to go or not but being a huge fan of Cave I eventually succumbed.
Quite a lot has changed in the two and a half years since I last saw Cave what with personal tragedy striking him in the most horrendous way and the trajectory of his profile with the general public increasing not only because of said tragedy, which featured heavily in the mainstream press, but also the inclusion of his music in the hit show Peaky Blinders which introduced him to a whole new audience.
This transference to the mainstream was abundantly clear from the size of the venue he appeared in last night and the gulf between this cavernous arena and the sweaty club I first saw him in is immeasurable.
Opening with a trio of songs from last year’s Skeleton Tree opus – The Anthrocene, Jesus Alone and Magneto- proved from the outset that Cave and his amazing band are more than adept at taking intimate songs of darkness and mournful fragility to such a vast audience and space. The sound was amazing- it lost a little of its customary warmth but that was more to where we were positioned than any lack of musical skill- and after this low key start creating a mood he was off into Higgs Boson’s Blues swiftly followed by a threatening From her to Eternity and a rumbling Tupelo.
This was followed by a riveting Jubilee Street, a mesmerising Ship Song and a beautiful Into My Arms.
The latter however was when I first noticed the change in Cave’s approach to his audience – a few uncharacteristically witty asides had preceded this- when he held his microphone out to the audience and let them sing the final chorus. It was a very moving and tender moment but it had the feel of Gothic Karaoke about it.
Things swiftly got back on track though and drawing from his impressive back catalogue we were entreated to such delights as an atmospheric Red Right Hand, the white knuckle ride of The Mercy Seat, a transcendent Distant Sky before finishing with Skeleton Tree.
Then we were into the encores!
This is where things started to go a bit wrong for me personally…
Starting with a powerful Weeping Song things were fine until Cave decided to attempt some sort of Iggy messianic, idolatory pose and disappeared into the crowd only to reappear again in the midst of them on a platform. Decidedly shaky on his legs he went into his preacher man role – I have seen him do this many times before successfully and convincingly- and within seconds he was surrounded by his adulating and adoring public who couldn’t believe their luck and did what is now expected of such situations and pulled out their phones and started snapping and filming away. Meanwhile the band played on as Cave played up to this and seemed to be enjoying it.
Things didn’t improve much for the next song Stagger Lee where making his way back to the stage he invited several of the locals with him so the rest of us were treated to the sight of rhythmically challenged wannabe’s crowding out the stage area and any tension of the song was lost amidst the mayhem. The closing number, Push the Sky Away, saw Cave back down amongst the audience again and once again an amazing song lost much of its impact due to the cheap theatrics.
I am not sure why Cave has chosen to pursue this Robbie Williams as Redcoat routine but whilst it is good to see him having fun- if anyone deserves fun after the tragedy he has suffered then it is him- but for me personally it cheapened the music by turning it into Karaoke and diminishing its mystique. I am sure for those who were close to their idol it was a great moment but the problem with vast arenas such as this is if you only play to one small section then inevitably you lose the interest and support of others.
Perhaps this is what we can expect from Cave from now on- next step Las Vegas maybe?- and certainly if anyone deserves recognition and success for his music then it is him. Up until the encore I admit his performance was flawless but despite this I felt a little bit of him was lost last night and I only hope he manages to find it again.


Just an Observation

Bypassing summer completely this year we seem to have arrived at an early mid-autumn and all that brings with it.
On the plus side a vast improvement in films at the cinema, television programmes other than just endless sport, slightly more reliable weather in keeping with the date on the calendar and a good reason to eat comforting foods- not that the latter ever requires any reason at any time of year really.
On the minus side the slightly darker evenings are just a precursor to seemingly permanent darkness, cold biting winds and rain, endless layers of clothes in a misguided attempt to stay warm, endless chats with everyone about how awful the weather is and an insatiable appetite for comfort food!
It also means that the parliamentary summer recess is over and once again we have to reconcile ourselves with seeing politicians we despise on the news on almost a daily basis.
I had almost wiped out the sight and sounds of Theresa May from my mind when up she popped last week and reminded me once again just how insincere, annoyingly delusional and smugly arrogant she actually is. Mind you she has some stiff competition from Jacob Rees-Mogg in all of the aforementioned categories and sometimes you wonder whether there is a competition within the Tory party to see just how misguided and evil it is possible to be and still somehow manage to get people to vote for you.
I find it all quite bewildering!
Both going out and staying in are preferable ideals at this time of year and as already mentioned cinematic offerings are infinitely preferable to the blockbuster fodder served up over the summer months.
One film definitely worth seeing, possible contender for film of the year, is Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country starring Josh O’ Connor and Alec Secareanu as mismatched lovers set against the bleak but beautiful Yorkshire landscapes. Annoyingly referred to as a British Brokeback Mountain, a lazy comparison which does this tender yet brutal film a disservice as the beauty and harshness of this film has more bite, genuine emotion and gritty realism than the aforementioned Hollywood fare, which only tipped its toe in the water by way of contrast.
A moving and oddly sentimental film which refuses to drown itself in schmaltz; God’s Own Country, like Weekend before it, shows a new sensibility in gay film making which steps out beyond the gay theme at their core to show a more universal approach to relationships in general.
In direct contrast to this the other great film out at the moment is Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky which really is a product of Hollywood although it is far from being mere Hollywood product.
Featuring a virtually unrecognisable Daniel Craig, who has stepped well out of his comfort zone, alongside Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Hilary Swank it is that old Hollywood staple, the heist film. Somehow it works and although it is totally fantastical it is a thoroughly entertaining and compelling film which does not insult your intelligence. Against all the odds I actually loved it!
Even television schedulers seemed to have lightened up to the fact that after being bombarded with sport over the summer months autumn is the time to return to drama. Rellik on BBC1 has some great promise as a small screen Brit version of Memento- the story unfolds in reverse- but was marred by the BBC affliction of bad sound-why can’t they apply this whenever Theresa May is on screen?- which along with the difficult narrative structure makes it hard to follow. I watched it again on iPlayer and it is certainly worth sticking with. Likewise ITV’S Safe House with Stephen Moyer and Ashley Walters is marred by the channel’s annoying adverts every five minutes stance which ruins any sort of atmosphere or tension.
Tonight also sees the return of the worthwhile Refugee Benefit Nights at Leith Depot and what a line up there is for their return; The Safari Surfers, Mattie Collins, The Omega Corridor and the Filthy Tongues’ front-man Martin Metcalfe in a solo outing. Looks like being a great night and for only £7.50 and for a good cause what is there not to like!
Image by Liz Tainsh.



Originally at the Fringe in 2013 Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag in the interim has become a successful and quite brilliant BBC production. Although she does not appear in this updated outing the baton has been handed onto Maddie Rice who although she doesn’t quite sprint ahead with it certainly holds onto it firmly.
Differing from the TV show, this is a one woman show wherein Rice sits alone on stage with only a chair as a prop and only the briefest of recorded interjections from peripheral characters, I can’t help but feel that something is lost as the protagonist’s interactions with and reactions to others is what made that show so very special. It is still an outstanding show though and Rice’s adaptation of the spiky, confrontational and acerbic Fleabag loses none of her mettle.
Focusing on the lot of what it is to be a woman in the modern world Fleabag feels as if she has little to recommend her other than sex. In fact sex is the currency she uses on a daily basis in every situation she encounters other than with her family and even then it is still bubbling close to the surface. Raunchy, explicit and direct are the mediums she uses to get across her message and although she is obsessed with pursuing her desires there is a hint of melancholy about it all; as if she is going through the motions of what is expected of her and hasn’t really considered what it is she truly desires herself as she is so busy feeding the fantasy of others and what modern culture expects of a liberated free thinking woman. She has removed herself from one stereotype and simply created a new prototype.
Defiantly confrontational Fleabag often makes for awkward listening and to anyone familiar with the production the scenarios adapted here will already be familiar. In some ways it is the greatest hits compilation of the TV series. This is no bad thing as they were such wonderful hits in the first place!
Fleabag is on at Udderbelly George Square until August 27th.


Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending

Featuring ten real male refugees from Afghanistan, Albania and Somalia each playing fictional characters based on their real life stories Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending is perhaps not the most accomplished show on the Fringe but it must certainly rank as one of the most moving.
Exploring how escaping their homeland may dilute one problem but when they arrive here there are a whole other set of hurdles to overcome. Amongst these are visas to guarantee citizenship, education, housing and even the basic right to remain here at all. The production utilises various short scenarios to highlight the plight of refugees and the bureaucracy and prejudice they face.
Elgin, an eighteen year old Albanian, desperately wants to improve his life chances and enquires about business courses and realises that due to his asylum seeker status and the £16,000 a year tuition fees this is simply not an option open to him and therefore finds himself on child care course instead.
Akram has his asylum status refused and evenm though he eventually wins his appeal his eventual victory has been soured by the inadequate advice and help he received during the process.
Another has his dreams of being a Hollywood star dashed when a Syrian refugee wins the oart he is after as Syria is more current and on trend. Yet another finds the whole situation too much and drowns himself in despair.
The whole premise of this show won me over but it was more the message it put across than anything happening on the stage. The acting and scene changing are positively clunky and rather inept to say the least. However any sense of frustration I felt at its conclusion was more to do with the plight of those involved rather than any ineptitude in the performances. Uktimately it is theatre with a cause at its core and a message in its heart.
Dear Home Office 2: Still Pending is on at gilded Balloon at 2.30pm until August 28th.



A totally relevant and impressive piece of multi-media drama focusing on the worrying trend of online shaming written and performed by Belle Jones and directed by Allie Butler, Shame looks at how this harmful trend not only affects the person at the centre of it but also their family and friends and even, in this case, the actual perpetrator.
Keira-Sarah Miele- seems like an average sixteen year old who likes to party, enjoys a drink and has experimented already with sex but her life and that of her mum Vicky-Jones-is turned upside down when she goes to party gets drunk then allows two older boys to have sex with her; unbeknown to her though the two boys film the aforementioned act on their phones to later post online to ‘shame’ her.
It doesn’t take long for the video to go viral and along with it a whole world of hatred, opinions and criticism follows in a torrent of ill-will and malice. The force seems unstoppable and when Vicky is called into the school to discuss the matter things only worsen as under the pressure of being in such an abusive spotlight it transpires that Keira has disappeared.
Panicking, upset and blaming herself Vicky herself goes into meltdown but salvation arrives in the form of long-term loyal friend Cheryl-Sarah McCardie- who starts a new twitter hashtag ‘unshaming’ which involves posting a video of yourself reciting a tale of the most regrettable thing or mistake you have ever done and how quickly it can be forgotten becoming yesterday’s news.
Soon the ‘unshaming’ tales are more prevalent on social media platforms and it seems the hostilities and condemnation turn into voices of support as it becomes clear many others have something they are ashamed of and if they are lucky enough to escape having had it posted it on social media then it really is just luck and an escape.
Jones gives an impeccably strong performance in this show but the drama unfolding behind her on a video screen from Keira and other peripheral characters along with the constant twitter updates showing the reaction to the shaming and its subsequent fall out is just as equally captivating. A worthwhile play that has a clear message showing that cyber bullying and shaming which is such a harmful disease in the modern world, where people are so detached and physically removed they sometimes can’t envision the hurt they are causing, but that it can be fought with a thoughtful approach.
Shame is on at Assembly George Square at 4.15pm until August 28th.


Glitter Punch

Perfectly capturing the awkwardness of adolescent teenage angst and the joys and heartaches of first love Glitter Punch, by Some Riot Productions, is a convincing tale with several underlying stories which contribute to the tale as told by Molly Shannon Davis aged 16 who with frequent regularity in a self-deprecating way reminds us she ‘is shit with words and my tits are too small’. Flawlessly played by Emily Stott one thing that can be said of her character is that she ‘is shit with words’ as the dialogue is almost poetic in its delivery and articulates everything she has to say quite comprehensively.
Commencing on Molly’s first day outside college where she is having a cigarette before going inside but finds herself drawn to John- Anthony Fagan- a 21-year-old who fascinates her with his conventional footwear and ,to her at least, his posh accent. Deriving that he is not from around Salford, where the play is set, it is established that he is from London and has recently lost his father which has brought on a serious bout of clinical depression that he is trying to work his way through.
We learn most of our facts about John via Molly’s discourse as he remains enigmatic and uncommunicative meaning we only know what we know by what wants Molly to know.
The burgeoning relationship starts to develop into something more and the two inevitably fall in love. During the course of related events a sexual relationship occurs and the awkward ness and sense of achievement on losing her virginity- from Molly’s viewpoint she loses nothing and gains so much more- is brilliantly enacted by Stott.
In fact Stott’s performance is a veritable tour de force and definitely rates as one of the most impressive I have seen on the Fringe this year. Written by Lucy Burke the dialogue is equally impressive and the direction is simple but highly effective. The simplicity of complex emotions reveal a depth in this work and the twist in the story towards the end is highly unexpected.
Glitter Punch is showing at Assembly George Square at 1.15pm until August 28th