Posts Tagged ‘ Fringe 2012 ’


Just An Observation Friday April 5th


The arrival of Spring-I’m being the eternal optimist here-this week also saw the most draconian overhaul of the benefits system in recent years from a government who consistently inform us ‘we are all in this together’ but probably more so if you are on the lower end of the social spectrum. Whilst a sense of perspective is required- a ridiculous list of  taxes which didn’t exist 100 years ago did the social media circuit as a form of protest without taking into consideration that neither did a National Health System or Benefits of any sort- the so-called Bedroom Tax defies any logic whatsoever.

Especially as we still support a family who are allowed to have various palaces left standing empty at our cost and it would appear that Muslims are exempt if they keep a spare room for prayers. Whilst I have no problem with other peoples beliefs it does seem more than a little like political correctness gone mad and hardly reinforces the doctrine of us all being in it together.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the Michael Philpott case this week and a lame attempt to tie it in with benefit scroungers. Whilst there are some people out there who choose and manipulate the benefits system as a way of life treating it as a career – and do very nicely out of it- the vast majority have no choice and live on the measly amounts handed out to them whilst still putting themselves forward for every job available in a frustrating attempt to improve their circumstances. People like Philpott only represent the small minority who use any means at their disposal- children and illnesses (real or exaggerated) seem to top this list- to defraud the system and tarnish the reputation of the genuine claimants.

People such as him do not see them as benefits but an entitlement and know how to work the system. The fact that six of his children died in his latest scheme to frame someone else has nothing to do with him being in receipt of benefits and everything to do with him being a reprehensible and vile human being. It did however give George Osborne and the Daily Mail fuel for the fire to ignite further animosity towards any other benefit claimants and in the week when the system had an overhaul this went beyond opportunistic and came across as cheap, petty, vindictive and spiteful. How very unlike this government!

Elsewhere sad news was received concerning the revered Scottish author Iain Banks who announced via his website he was suffering from terminal cancer. Apparently the author of ‘crow Road’, ‘Complicity’ and ‘The Wasp Factory’ has been given only a matter of months left to live. It is however warming to learn that he is out there making the most of his time left by living the high life on his honeymoon in Italy- after a proposal which went along the lines of ‘Will you do me the honour of becoming my widow?’ in typical Banks macabre humour-and intends to fight his illness for as long as is possible. Our thoughts are all with this man who has been one of the most revered and successful authors in recent Scottish literature.

Out at the cinema the best film on the circuit at the moment has to be Compliance. Based on a true story-aren’t they all these days- concerning a case at a McDonald’s in Bullitt County the film focussed on how compliant- and utterly stupid it must be said- people become when faced with an authoritarian figure. In this case the authoritarian figure is little more than a voice on the end of a phone that claims to be a police officer and offers no evidence whatsoever to authenticate this claim. Having always had a flagrant disregard for authority I watched this film with a mixture of disbelief and discomfort. It is a very unsettling but also compelling film and surely already a contender amongst the best films of the year so far. A full review is here. I do have high hopes for the latest Ryan Gosling offering ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ due out on April 12th as pre-publicity and trailer have done their work of sparking my interest.

The big news this weekend however has to be the opening of The Breakfast Club-occupying the site formerly known as Negociants- in Edinburgh. Promising a much needed breath of fresh air its proprietor, Warren Deighan, already has impeccable credentials and having enlisted the services of a young crew with their eyes and pulses on the zeitgeist his experience and their nous look like creating a winning combination. A full look at this exciting venture can be found here.

I am now off for a weekend that will start at the Breakfast Club this evening and very likely find me up back there on Monday morning. What will have happened in between is anyone’s guess


Black Mirror


Admittedly I had only seen half of one episode in Charlie Brooker’s one off dramas during its first series and being decidedly non-plussed never bothered investigating any further. However last week on a rainy day I decided to check out the first episode of the second series- social media, twittering etc. had, ironically as it turns out, piqued my interest- and was pleasantly surprised by an episode which was eerily disturbing-not unlike a 21sttcentury update on the seventies classic series, fondly held in many hearts including my own, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’- which raised some thought provoking issues as well as asking us to look at ourselves and the way we live our lives today. The black mirror of its title is presumably the reflection we would see if we actually looked at ourselves properly rather than simply gazing at the contrived self conscious image we hope we reflect to others.

The opening episode ‘Be Right Back’ told the tale of a self satisfied couple. Ash and Martha, whose lives and careers are trundling along very nicely indeed although Ash’s addiction to social media infuriates Martha no end, to the point she even throws something at him to ensure he is ‘still solid’. This proves prescient as soon after he is killed in a car accident and overwhelmed with grief she discovers she can obtain a replicant replacement clone-shades of Bladerunner here- who not only looks the part but actually behaves however she wants him to.

The downside is all his responses and reactions are created by his social media profiles-one part how he actually is to nine parts of how he wants to appear- and he becomes the perfect boyfriend; even sexually as his viewing of porn makes the replicant Ash a far superior lover to the real thing who often preferred the self satisfaction followed by the old roll over and snooze routine, but eventually this inevitably becomes frustrating.

It was an intriguing story which not only showed how our emotions are now controlled by how we want to be perceived and learnt rather than felt. It was a sympathetic treatment which constantly lulled the viewer into a false sense of security whilst raising several questions as to where society is heading.

If ‘Be Right Back’ eased the viewer into Brooker’s observations then the second episode ‘The White Bear’ pulled no punches and moved at full throttle  never letting up throughout its duration.

Entering a seemingly totalitarian world where a  girl wakes up from a hazy nightmare where she is pursued seemingly with malevolent intent whilst a crowd films the whole proceedings on their phones. Terrorised and in fear for her life she escapes and is caught time and time again until eventually it transpires that she is actually a prisoner who has been involved in a child’s torture and slaying therefore the confusion, uncertainty,disorientation, pain and terror she is experiencing is perhaps indicative to the horrors she herself has previously inflicted and this is a new form of justice being meted out.

It was certainly an interesting observation on how we have all become voyeurs- Big Brother and The X-Factor auditions immediately sprang to mind- and our entertainment resembles a Coliseum where humiliation is our ritual. It also brought the recent paedophilia allegations concerning Jimmy Savile as well as others such as the Moors Murderers very sharply into focus and showed how we are sickly fascinated and attracted by the ghoulish whilst questioning how and why it has ended up this way. Perhaps it is time to put down our phones, switch off our laptops and relearn basic human emotions again.

Brooker has created an inventive series with ‘Black Mirror’ and although I was initially sceptical have since realised he is putting questions on our screens which don’t really have an answer or a solution as he is presenting things-albeit exaggerated for effect- just as they are or at the very least how they are going. I am not sure what the third episode of ‘Black Mirror’ has in store but guaranteed I am tuning in next Monday just to find out.


Just an Observation Friday January 11th


Welcome to 2013! And what a mild start it has been to the year with almost spring like temperatures. I am never sure why so many complain about the January blues as I usually find it one of the most enjoyable months of the year with a round of parties and events which far surpass the build up to Christmas in December. It may be the fact I generally avoid becoming too involved in the festive build up which means I have some energy, not to mention money, left over which allows me to enjoy this month which so many others despise. Then again it could be I am just typically out of sync with the mainstream so, in which case, no change there!

In my final column of 2012 I bemoaned the lack of youth input in rock and roll whilst noting that most of the best albums of the year were made by those of pensionable age and over. Well as if to confirm this 2013 has kicked into gear with perhaps the biggest star of his generation usurping all their efforts as well as showing the youthful contenders how to make an entrance that manages to capture the eyes and ears of the world whilst making global headlines by merely releasing a single unannounced: Welcome back, centre stage, Mr. David Bowie!

Whilst it may not seem such a great achievement to simply release a single-on his birthday so double whammy there- what is amazing is that in our world of Twitter and Facebook where every rumour or simple movement is detailed intimately, one of the biggest stars on the planet can make such a bold move with nobody aware of what he is up to. In one smart move Bowie debunked the sham of celebrity bullshit which pollutes and stunts the creative arts and turns them into an industry.

It is not the first time he has done this however, as at the height of Ziggy Stardust’s reign he retired his doppelganger only to re-emerge several months later as a fully fledged soul singer. After this move had made him a huge star in America he flew that country-after a sojourn in L.A. saw him nearly lose what was left of his fractured psyche- to take up with the then little known Iggy Pop and debunk to Berlin.

It is to Berlin he returns on the new single ‘Where Are We Now?’ in reflective, melancholic and elegiac mood, melodically reminiscent of ‘Fantastic Voyage’ from 1979’s Lodger. It is a grower of a single which has divided opinion-everybody seems to have one which shows that a Bowie record is still a major talking point- but repeated listenings reap rich rewards as it is a lushly instrumented ballad which shows a man we are so used to hearing looking forward into an uncertain future gazing back at his past and drawing strength from it.

Some have commented that he should have come back with something more dynamic but, come on, the man is sixty six and to hear him attempt a quasi ‘Jean Genie’ or ‘Rebel Rebel’ would have been embarrassing. Just look to the Rolling Stones if you want to see a band that has not progressed musically in forty years. Instead by adopting the stance of a narrator who is perhaps the opposite of the one in ‘Drive In Saturday’, which detailed a near future world similar to the one we live in, is perhaps the most sensible and least expected option from a man who has kept us guessing over the last five decades.

Even the cover of the new album- ‘Heroes’ with the lettering blanked out and the title The Next Day in a white box obscuring the iconic portrait of Bowie-  has split opinion whilst at the same time has also already unleashed a rash of pastiches on the internet .  Bowie is definitely back then and make no mistake 2013 could be his most significant year in decades. A full appraisal of the single can be found here.

Another significant re-release from fellow oldie Marianne Faithfull –also sixty six and going strong- out this month is her classic Broken English. Unlike Bowie, Faithfull has never really enjoyed mainstream attention since she was the consort of Mick Jagger back in the Stones’ most creatively significant period in the late sixties through to the early seventies. What happened to her in the intervening years after their split and 1979 when this album was released makes up the bulk of subject matter on this landmark album.

Whilst never as influential as some of her contemporaries Faithfull is seen as some thing of a grande-dame and guiding light to younger musicians who queue up to work with her, recognising her credibility as truly iconic rock and roll figure. Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey. Beck, Blur and Jarvis Cocker are among those who have paid homage by showing their respect in worthy collaborations. A full appraisal of the record which launched a new career path for this sixties icon who many had written off or simply forgotten about can be found here.

A new film Gangster Squad starring Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin is out this weekend. It is not a great film however but I must confess to thoroughly enjoying it and it is certainly the best pick of what is an exceptionally dull collection of January showings at the cinema. A full review can be found here.

The Oscar nominations were also announced this week and they are as predictable as the films that are nominated. Lincoln, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Paybook and Les Miserables-the clue is in the title for that one- are all dull contenders with only the French inclusion the true to life Amour showing any imagination or integrity and therefore emerges as an outsider with little chance of winning.

It is reassuring however to see Searching For Sugarman nominated in the documentaries section as it is one of the mose re-affirming films I have seen in years and deserves all the recognition it receives. To read more about this film simply click here.

Out in Edinburgh tonight there is the official launch by Sir Chris Bonnington for one of my new favourite shopping emporiums Tippi in Bruntsfield. If you haven’t visited this shop yet then I suggest you do as it houses many items to brighten up ,what so far, has not been that much of a dark and miserable January. The weather is about to change however and the mild start to 2013 promises to give way to some wintry weather which will give us all something to moan about.


Just an Observation Friday 19th October

Three weeks on and still the number of Jimmy Savile’s victims seems to grow daily with the story showing no signs of abating.  Quite contrary to this it  seems to have opened up a whole can of worms and thrown up so many questions as to why it has taken so long for these accusations to emerge. Now up in the hundreds there is no way some form of cover up or collusion has not been in force and the BBC is under investigation –even by some of its own employees- as to how one man used his position under their protection and on their premises to become what is fast becoming recognised as the most prolific child abuser this country has ever known.

Whilst it is reassuring that some of the others involved are being brought to task  and face prosecution it still sickens me that Savile managed to escape unscathed and with his reputation intact during his lifetime. What makes it worse is that all the old footage on display shows that he was carrying out his indiscretions in plain view of everyone- still managing to remain unchallenged- and what some regarded as harmless fun actually reveals itself as something far more sinister in hindsight. Hopefully his victims are attaining some form of belated resolve by actually being listened to after years of being ignored and in some cases disbelieved.

Out this weekend is the new James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ and I am off to see it in a few hours hoping it will be better than 2008’s ‘Quantum of Solace’ which threatened to undo all the credibility and re-invigoration the Daniel Craig tenure started with the impressive ‘Casino Royale’. Early reports are favourable with some even going as far as to say it is the best Bond movie ever but I will reserve judgment and expectations until I have actually see it although most Bonds have something to recommend them and with Javier Bardem on board as his latest adversary the signs are already looking good .

Also out on Halloween the Filmhouse is showing a new version of ‘The Shining’ with twenty eight minutes of previously unseen footage and it is definitely worth catching on the big screen as opposed to TV re-runs- usually with atmosphere destroying adverts- or DVD showings. A full review and re-appraisal can be found here.

Talking of Halloween it seems to become ever more Americanised with each passing year. Trick or Treating has slowly been replacing the more traditional ‘guising’ of my youth to the point that a younger generation are no longer even aware of what the latter term even means. Oh well! Something else lost in the way of transatlantic tradition and so called progress I suppose.

Neu! Reekie have their second outing at Summerhall tonight and a line up which includes poetry from John Hegley and Douglas Dunn, music from James Yorkston and Craig Lithgow with no doubt so much else also on display. Starting at 7 pm if it is as busy as the last outing it would be advisable to get along early as it does tend to sell out quickly. There is also a follow up gig in Glasgow at the Poetry Club tomorrow featuring the wonderful Teen Canteen which I am unable to attend but if you are in the vicinity then get yourself along as it promises to be one not to be missed.

Also last week I went to see the bizarre, brilliant and totally bonkers Sparks. Featuring just the two Mael brothers in a keyboards and vocals set up it was as close as we will get to a Sparks ‘Unplugged gig although the synth led ‘Number One Song in Heaven’ was a moment of blissed out perfection but the whole gig was  astounding. A full appreciation can be found here.

I am not sure what it is about these oldies who should by rights be sitting back relaxing in their dotage but instead insist on leaping around a stage with all the verve and attitude sadly lacking in some acts a third of their age. I put it down to an unswerving belief in the currency of what they are doing and actually placing themselves somewhere within their art rather than being mere product. Last month Patti Smith turned in an amazing show which electrified not only the audience but the night air outside also. Grace Jones, three years ago, put on one of the best shows I have ever seen and several of this year’s best albums – Mark Lanegan, Jack White, Richard Hawley, Dr. John, and Smith- are from those hardly in the first flush of youth. Even local band Opium Kitchen is made up of stalwarts on the scene and their energy comes from an inner belief rather than youthful flourish. I guess it’s the old age rampage.

Young artists such as Grimes have shown some innovation and her serious competition Laurel Halo- according to a friend she, harshly in my opinion, reveals Grimes to be no more than a ‘twee pussypop merchant’- is playing Edinburgh’s Sneaky Petes tomorrow night at a gig I hope to get along to if I can fit it in.

Keeping things brief today as I have a midday appointment with Daniel Craig and his superhero doppelganger  and anyone who knows me will also be aware that I rarely do anything before this hour or at least anything which involves actually leaving my bed. In fact between the clocks going back this weekend and next March when they go forward it is hard to get me to do anything without at least three weeks warning and weather checks as I slip into hibernation mode.


Just an Observation Thursday October 11th


 This week offers up a few interesting options from the norm as far as going out in Edinburgh. Summerhall has several new exhibitions, The Institute have a collaborative film and live music evening and Opium Kitchen- a band made up of stalwarts on the musical scene- finally unveiled the fruits of a year of intensive rehearsals at a strong and extremely well received preview of their upcoming gigs. Certainly enough there to prevent having to resort to watching the X-Crement Factor in the name of entertainment although the new series of ‘Homeland; still makes a fitting finale to the weekend as essential Sunday viewing even if the storylines are becoming even more far fetched and Claire Danes’s interpretation of a post electric shock therapy, bipolar former CIA operative is even more highly strung and, on occasion, irritating than it was in series one.

Up at Summerhall though the new exhibitions are spearheaded by a collaborative venture by Jonathan Freemantle and Frode Bolhuis named ‘Collective Dreaming’. Aesthetically beautiful and skilfully executed the differences between the pair’s works are immediately apparent but somehow seamlessly link and connect together to create an exhibition of power, strength and beauty.

Freemantle’s offerings feature some exquisite prints and evocative paintings which are extremely pleasing on the senses whilst simultaneously capturing something both pure and sensual at different times. Bolhuis’s works consist of some striking sculptures which vary in size and strength and perfectly complement his friend’s paintings and photographs which was their combined intention; a search for the real, the immediate, the quietly reverberating sublime The exhibition is only showing until the 16th of October so this weekend is probably the ideal time to se it as there is also an artists talk taking place.

Also at Summerhall is a room full of Johnny Cash memorabilia, a collection of Bob Dylan photographs from his artistically evolving and essential ‘Judas years’ as well as ‘Punk, Politics and Posters’ which is exactly what it says as it features works from the Rock Against Racism and Anti- Nazi League causes of the late seventies as a reaction to and against the rise of far right viewpoints as exemplified by the National Front.

Over at the Institute an evening of Musique Concrete ‘Envelope’ is taking place on Friday at 7.30pm onwards. Featuring silent films as well as some specially made by Gavin Evans alongside musical accompaniment by guitarist Danny Apollinari and violin virtuoso Richard Moore, both moonlighting from Fringe sensations Andy and The Prostitutes, it is an interesting idea which if it takes off- which I imagine it will- is likely to become a regular weekend feature at this venue which constantly offers up something new and exclusive. It is also BYOB- with a small corkage charge- and is likely to fill up quickly so it is probably advisable to get there early.

Earlier this week I attended the open rehearsals of Opium Kitchen. Formed by stalwarts of the Edinburgh Music Scene Robert King (The Scars), Jo Callis (The Rezillos/ Human League) Russell Burn (The Fire Engines/ Win), Colin Whitson and relative youngster Will Baird. The band was so tight they could  possibly only be separated by a blowtorch. With such a wealth of experience and musical chops behind them the fact they were good was hardly surprising but what was surprising was just how good they actually were. Certainly able to give bands half their age- and with barely a modicum of their talent- a run for their money the signs are excellent for a couple of gigs next month.  A more detailed report and information about the band and their upcoming gigs will be on these pages in the very near future.

So a weekend of art, film and music lies ahead. How I do not miss the X- Factor, but like a bad smell on your fingers which you cannot help yourself going back for a sniff at I am sure it is only a matter of time before the controversy, the intrigue, the kiss and tells as well as fixing allegations draw me back in. Then again sarcasm has always been my favourite form of wit!

‘Collective Dreaming’ runs from 10th to 16th October 11am -6pm daily. Other Summerhall exhibitions are showing until November 24th.

‘Envelope’ is at the Institute, 14 Roseneath Street, Marchmont. Friday 12th October at 7.30pm

Opium Kitchen will be performing live at the Citrus on Friday November 16th with other dates following.



OWWO Exhibition- Summerhall opens 11am daily and runs until 27th September.


 This exhibition has already been mired in controversy due to the decision by its curator-Sarah Wilson – to make it a show exclusively showing female artists and for, the first three weeks, only to other females. There has been much criticism of this in other factions of the press about this brave decision- I myself did not initially understand it and am generally resistant to segregation– and a bulk of hostility has arisen mainly from other women; so much for the solidarity of sisterhood then.

The initial premise was that it housed many works and subject matter which women may feel more comfortable viewing then later discussing away from the penetrative male gaze which has critiqued and censored their work –harshly on occasion- for years. The fact that women have been excluded from so many sections of society, including the chauvinistic and male-centric art world, for centuries and have only managed to gain some inroads in the last few decades to be taken seriously as valid artists seems to be getting ignored..

Surely therefore they could have just one thing to perhaps call their own. Especially as it was only for several weeks and at the same time in a city which has literally thousands of other cultural experiences on offer where both sexes are more than welcome. I have heard it said that this exhibition is operating as some form of segregation- which may be one take on it- but I see it more as some form of elitism and exclusivity and that goes on in many other business and social circles without an eyebrow or objection ever being raised.

Let us not delude ourselves that equality as anything more than a concept exists in our society. Whilst attending a party over the Festive period the gender divide could not have been clearer as the men took over one room discussing football and business, drinking bottles of beer. Meanwhile women were exiled to the beautifully modernized kitchen and talked of schools, their children and fashion. Both factions fell into their own roles quite willingly and submissively and this scenario caused me more discomfort than Wilson’s aims of banning men from her exhibition for whatever reasons. At least she was vocal about what she was doing and it did not fall into the so-called ‘natural’ order of things. Personally I cannot see what all the fuss is about and as Wilson will happily declaim in typically irreverent manner ‘I’m a conceptual artist so just get over it!’

So what about the art then?

With the exhibition now open to everyone I am pleased to report there are some very worthwhile pieces of art on show. Wilson’s own work involving collages of ceramics and other mediums barely contained in frames and actually quite fun. A million miles away from the radical feminist exploits you would expect after some earlier press reports. The jacket with false breasts by Jill Skulina that Wilson wore for press shots- and elicited some sexist and derogatory comments along the way- hangs on a wall and is another piece that contains humour whilst still sending out a serious message.

A series of paintings by Beth Fisher showing one woman’s diagnosis of breast cancer and the impact this has on her life and those around her is evocative, touching and quite beautiful. Jannica Honey’s gritty portraits of strippers is as bleak as it sounds and none the less impressive for this fact. A room with three screens showing different sets of women moving around to music is captivating. Val Atkinson’s shots depicting the mind and thoughts of women is also amazing especially the piece which operates as a modern day take on Medusa with winding serpents signifying the mental turmoil.

There was also a piece of performance art but as I am not over 6’6” I was unable to capture any of it but apparently it involved nudity, water splashing slapping of thighs and dripping honey. With that description I can’t say I will cry myself over not seeing it and performance art of this type sets things back a few decades further than barring men from the show. Mind you it gave the men something to gawp at and one of the reasons I couldn’t see was it was mainly the taller elements present-mostly males then- who crowded round the front and afterwards a lot of talk revolved around how sexually-or not- arousing the piece was. Maybe Wilson had a point about originally excluding them after all.

Wilson has been extremely brave with this exhibition and has used the space very well. No stranger to controversy-her Axolotl gallery also provoked a hostile response with a particular show last year and her decision to make it women only still escapes me but it was only for a short time. Usually I am against any form of segregation and believe wholeheartedly in the blurring of gender and making it more non-specific as opposed to specific. It has not however done the work any harm and whilst it deals with serious subjects very cleverly it also maintains a sense of feminine sensitivity and fun while not disappearing up its own conceptual arse as so many others wished it had.


Just an Observation Saturday 25th August


So the last weekend of the Fringe 2012 is upon us –rather swiftly I must add-and as it will probably not be the one remembered as producing the greatest or most innovative art it may be more fondly remembered as the one where it didn’t rain everyday. In fact it has hardly rained at all and has been unseasonably warm and pleasant. It may also be the year referred to as the one where the whole thing never actually kicked in.

Several factors are being blamed for this not least the Olympics but personally I feel that people have had enough of half arsed shows at full scale prices. Comedy ,in particular, has had a hard year of it-many of the big names played to half full auditoriums and I was offered review tickets, usually refused, with a plus one if I wanted which I never bothered taking- and it is not before time in my opinion. Many of these names can be seen on television on an average weekend peddling the same tired act and stretching it out for an hour is usually beyond most of their capabilities. Therefore twenty quid for a ticket plus about a fiver each drink is just an unnecessary expense not many can afford at the moment. Also I may be old fashioned but I actually like my comedy to be funny and make me laugh rather than just wonder why everyone else finds it all so hysterically funny. Usually I find myself dismissing it as Pinot Grigio comedy for people who really need to get out more.

On the other hand there has been some outstanding dram on offer, Razing Eddie, Big Sean, Mikey and Me, Glory Dazed and Half a Person, My Life as Told by the Smiths are all worthy of your attention if you have time to spare and want to see a show this last weekend. If dance or physical theatre is more your bag then the new production of A Clockwork Orange or Knee Deep are simply stunning pieces of work. My personal favourite act of the Fringe has to be Andy and the Prostitutes who are playing their last two nights in the Phoenix bar in Broughton Street tonight and tomorrow plus an extra show at the Institute in Marchmont tonight at 10pm. Last weeks visit to the Institute precipitated one of the most brilliantly bonkers nights out I have had in ages and captured the true spirit of the Fringe.

Tomorrow the much discussed and controversial OWWO exhibition at Summerhall has an opening to which all are welcome. The exhibition has previously only open to women and due to this fact has been the subject of much debate. I won’t enter into that debate until after I have seen the work but even though I originally had my own misgivings about such a project but having seen the reaction-mostly hostile- I feel that the curator Sarah Wilson made a brave decision by forging ahead with it and it is an interesting concept.

Back to the Fringe then and other things I have noticed including the rudeness which seems to overtake most people’s personalities at this busy time of year. I have been pushed, shoved and moved out of the way by people who-mistakenly- thought they were more important. I have sat in front of someone who answered their phone during a show, carried on a conversation and then turned around to their neighbour and related the contents of that conversation to them. And if this year is to be remembered as the ‘Death of Comedy’ then I only hope next year will be the ‘Death of the Flyer’.

Why in this day and age are we still bombarded with these useless bits of cardboard so relentlessly? I was waiting in the Pleasance one afternoon-queuing seemed to consume at least one third of my time in August- when I was approached and offered a flyer which I refused but was then told they would just put it on the table in case I changed my mind. Within thirty seconds another employee came up with a binbag and asked if I wanted the flyer I had just refused. When I responded that no I didn’t she picked it up along with all the others which had been left lying and shoved it onto her refuse sack. A pretty pointless exercise-and total waste of money- to have someone follow someone else around clearing away flyers which people have already said they didn’t want.

Now that the Fringe is over and Edinburgh settles back into being itself there are still some worthwhile things going on. The Picasso exhibition at the Scottish Nationa Gallery is a definite must see and so much more enjoyable now that a large proportion of tourists have departed. Also this week there is the last Neu! Reekie night at the Scottish Book Trust and after this it will relocate to a new base in the burgeoning Summerhall complex. It is sure to be an emotional night as it is an event which has grown over its duration mainly through word of mouth and by attracting a coterie of individual and like minded souls.

As for my last weekend of the Fringe I have the Andy and The Prostitutes gig tonight followed by a showing of The Audition-both at The Institute. Then tomorrow the OWWO exhibition at Summerhall followed by two parties is on the agenda. After that it is a couple of days of decompression before preparing for the Autumn round of events. There is also the return of the X-Crutiating factor for me to express my weekly disgust and disdain for the lowest form of human life known to man in the entertainment industry. Bring it on!


Me Before Marilyn- The Space UK, 4.10pm


The story of Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe is a familiar one but one that also keeps evolving and is subject to change, even now fifty years on from her mysterious death. Still an icon to new generations she is still one of the most recognizable faces of the twentieth century. The legend is kept alive by the mystery shrouding her demise and also down to the fact Marilyn was obviously a compulsive liar during her short life. Even her original name fluctuates from being either Norma Jean Baker or Mortensen- Mortensen is more widely accepted as the genuine article- and her early years as related to various psychiatrists takes on many different perspectives depending on who she was relating her tale to.

Capturing the fractured psyche and the schizophrenic nature of Marilyn/Norma Jean this play opens with various voices zooming in from different areas of the small theatre throwing questions at the doomed star. It then moves onto her first marriage to James Dougherty which was merely a ruse to prevent her from going into further foster care. Ending the marriage whilst her husband was serving in the second world war Norma Jean then bleached up her hair, perfected her wiggle, pout and impossibly sweet breathy voice  to re-invent herself as Marilyn Monroe.

The play continues by detailing her marriage to American hero and baseball star Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio which only lasted nine months and ended in acrimony and tales of domestic abuse. Following on from this she was ‘rescued’ by photographer Milton Greene and his wife Amy who helped instil her with a sense of self worth which had previously been lacking.

However as always with Marilyn the Greenes were shunned and dismissed from her coterie after she met and fell for the great American playwright Arthur Miller. This marriage lasted longer than the Dimaggio debacle but was also doomed from the outset. What followed after they divorced remains cloaked in scandal, intrigue and confusion and the truth will probably never be unearthed now as all the major players are dead.

This production by the young and aspiring Innovative Theatre Company Caged Theatre is an extremely adept effort by four actors who take on various roles. The central performance of Marilyn- Lucy Snowden- captures not only the legend’s beauty and poise but also her fragility. The other performances are also well executed and by not attempting American accents they have not allowed anything to detract from the performances by rendering it mere impersonation. The use of white clothes hanging on a black background showing footage of scenes of the stars life being played out was both clever and effective. I could have done without the Dire Straits soundtrack but that is a personal dislike and probably unnecessary griping.

All in all a valiant production and the only major flaw I could find was that at just half an hour long it was rather short. However they did cram a lot into that half hour without it ever feeling rushed.



Joyced –Assembly 4.45pm


There are two separate and very different schools of thought when it comes to James Joyce’s uber-novel, Ulysses, in twentieth century literature. One is that it is the greatest book ever written and changes the reader’s whole attitude to how books should be written and read whilst the opposing view is that it is an impenetrable bore and merely a dictionary in the wrong order. I subscribe to the latter view and was forced to read the damn thing during my tenure as a student and this play was a means of seeing whether I had perhaps judged it too harshly.

I have attempted to read it since the time I was force fed it to see whether it became any clearer, but to little avail and seeing this show was a way of discovering whether its prizes would eventually reveal themselves to me. Unfortunately the theatre this production is set in is the very lecture theatre where I sat and found more interest in the plain walls and an errant crack in the ceiling than Joyce’s stream of consciousness discourse.

Written by Donal O’ Kelly ,directed by Sorcha Fox and performed by Katie O’Kelly Joyced is a swift flight through Dublin in 1904, the year Ulysses is set in. On her journey which begins with Kelly in a very fetching pair of black wings she takes in a whirlwind tour of the city encountering the people who became the basis for the main characters in Ulysses as well as Joyce , his wife Nora-the inspiration for Molly Bloom- alongside other members of his family.

Kelly gives a great performance dipping in and out of characters seamlessly and capturing the essence of them intuitively. It is clear she has studied her subject matter and can imbue the characters with their defining nuances and conjure up something totally believable.

The dialogue is delivered at a breakneck speed and I must admit I found it hard to follow-much like Ulysses- and eventually gave up and submitted to just enjoying the performance without having a clue what was going on. Devotees of Joyce will love this show and there were many gathered outside before the performance discussing the book and the whole Joycean myth. Unfortunately it merely convinced me that despite a desire to get to grip with the book this show convinced me that perhaps I should continue to read literature I actually understand and enjoy and leave Ulysses to these converts and scholars.



Truth-Underbelly –10.25pm


 This latest offering from Australians Slow Clap is a freeform storytelling show which has frantic shifts of pace and characters and, at times, is exceptionally funny. Hinged on the talents of Vachel Spirason who carries this show virtually single handed with only the smallest of assistance from fellow creator-or conspirator if you prefer- Stephanie Brotchie it is fast paced and slightly surreal collection of different tales which for most of the shows duration feel as if they are not connected at all.

Billed as a storytelling show-a point hammered home by Spirason continually for the first five minutes- it appears to bear very tenuous links to any storytelling you may have previously encountered. Instead we are introduced into different scenarios including naked men, being stranded on an island and probably the most surreal version of Copacabana and its star Lola you are ever likely to see. Probably the best of all is Juan-‘The Juan and only’- a flamenco dancer like no other. Attired only in his double layered underpants, white vest and a rose between his teeth Juan is a great comic creation and probably the strongest point and highlight of the show; so good he re-appears again later for a further appearance.

If the show does have a flaw it is that it seems to be stretching itself out a little and therefore goes on about ten minutes too long. The night I attended it actually exceeded its one hour duration so perhaps it had overrun on this occasion. It definitely has some extremely funny moments and Spirason is an extremely charismatic performer even if the crazy dancing routines become a bit predictable. It is worth seeing however simply for the ‘Juan’ sections alone.