Posts Tagged ‘ GILDED BALLOON ’


Willie and Sebastian

Directed by Sam Kane this comedy drama about flamboyant dandy Sebastian Horsley and the equally flamboyant Willie Donaldson has something of the panto feel about it; only with a hell of a lot more swearing. As both Grant Stott and Andy Gray are stalwarts of that scene and the script is by Rab C. Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison this can be seen as something of inevitability and its over the top performances may appeal to those who are partial to that sort of thing.
Based on the true life romantic entanglements of triumvirate made up of Sebastian, Willie and the object of their desires, Rachel, the play looks at how the two men compete for her favours whilst also indulging their prodigious drug habits-both men were long-term crack addicts although not being the exclusive types other drugs were also consumed. Insults, epigrams and world-weary decadent faux philosophies abound nearly as much as the endless stream of profanities and mountains of drugs.
Along the way Horsley’s infamous crucifixion and well documented sexual exploits in Amsterdam are discussed in an attempt to bring some depth to the character but really at the end of the day both men come across as shallow, competitive, indulged and indulgent. Both had mother and abandonment issues and no amount of wealth can apparently compensate for them.
There are some elements of farce in this production and although Michelle Gallagher gives a more restrained performance in her role as Rachel the over the top delivery grates after a while. The audience-mainly of an older generation admittedly- seemed to love it however and laughed uproariously at every expletive as if they had never heard one used before but unfortunately I was distinctly unimpressed and more than a little disappointed.
Willie and Sebastian is on at the Gilded Balloon until August 31st(not the 17th) at 8.15pm


Bette Midler and Me
I suppose if you are a fan of Bette Midler then this show is almost heaven-sent featuring her life story told to her greatest show-stopping numbers and tales of how her life has inspired that of the show’s creator Sue Kelvin. Personally I like and admire Bette Midler but there is no way I could ever describe myself as a fan and although I appreciate her talents and enjoyed parts of this show I must admit that much of it left me cold.
Its main flaw for me is also what I feel is Midler’s greatest flaw, in that it often feels as if it is trying too hard: too hard to be funny, too hard to be outrageous and too hard to impress.
Kelvin however is excellent in her role and she is more than ably supported by actress and singer Alex Young alongside musical director Sarah Travis who helps her negotiate her way through standards such as ‘New York, New York’,’ The Rose’ , ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and of course, the mawkish standard which aims itself to bringing a tear to a glass eye ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ which is preceded by a puppet show of the film it came from ‘Beaches’.
Never having seen the film in its entirety- a couple of attempts were made but I gave up pretty early on- I can’t really comment but from all accounts it is tear jerker of epic scale. The puppet show did make me want to cry slightly I must admit.
‘Bette Midler and Me’ is a fast paced show which never lets up but it seems to have fallen prey to what many others have in this year’s Fringe; it lasts about ten minutes too long. Some editing might have made it more palatable to me but I must say that the audience around me were in thrall to every utterance and song which came from the stage and they are all appeared to be aficionados of the Divine Miss M. So perhaps if you are like-minded in your opinions of her then this show will suit you, if however you are only mildly acquainted like me I doubt very much that this will convert you and help you to see the light!
Bette Midler and Me is on every night at 9.30pm until August 31st at the Gilded Balloon.


This fast paced and introspective comedy is perfectly pitched for its lunchtime time slot. Essentially a two hander between the writer of the work Andrew Hollingworth and Oriana Charles who break the fourth wall to inform the audience of their characters inner thoughts whilst saying something completely different to each other. This is an effective tool which not only highlights the comedic aspects but also draws attention to the more serious issues at hand.
Focussing on a series of events which Ian (Holligworth) thinks are fate but the more reluctant and introspective Eliana (Charles) considers a series of unfortunate accidents the tale revolves around a car crash-the bump of the title- which leads to a hilariously scripted and choreographed sexual encounter. Although Eliana considers this to be a one off Ian has more serious intents and against her better judgment the couple start dating on a more regular basis. However matters take a completely different turn when she finds out after only a few weeks that she has fallen pregnant and the dichotomy between the pair widens even further.
It is at this point that the pace slows down slightly and the couple have to look into themselves and at each other to what it is they actually want. These sequences are as well handled as the quick paced comedy of the drama’s early sequences with no loss of energy.
Part of this work’s success is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and try and overplay any of its intentions. There is very obvious rapport and chemistry between the two players who handle their roles more than capably and make them both sympathetic and believable. The direction by Michael Woodwood is tight with not a movement wasted nor word surplus to requirements. Bump is an extremely taut, convincing and enjoyable show which manages to deliver on all levels.
Bump is at the Gilded Balloon at 12.15 until the 15th August and at 11.00 thereafter until the 31st.



Returning to the Fringe after three successful years and sell out shows- Big Sean, Mikey and Me, Boxman and Bath Time– Ruaraidh Murray teams up with Megan Shandley in the title role of Allie for 2015’s offering and rest assured it is as impressive, if not even more so than previous offerings. The tagline ‘Revenge is best served radge’ more than sums it up.
Just as intense and complex as previous works Allie also utilises Edinburgh locations and reference points to great effect but whereas his previous writings saw Murray delve in and out of characters with consummate ease this very dark comedy sees him concentrate his energies into just the one persona: the damaged and abusive Bobby Warren.
Starting with the bold and brassy sounds of ‘Big Spender’- which is used to punctuate crucial moments as the drama twists and turns- the piece begins with Allie introducing us to the charms of Scotland Yard, a park in the Canonmills area of the city, where she meets locally renowned bad boy Bobby Warren in auspicious circumstances. Being a trusting fifteen year old Allie is initially impressed by Bobby’s braggadocio and smart arse attitude. This rather swiftly lends her to falling for his patter and pretty quickly finds herself pregnant.
It is at this juncture that the swift humorous rapport between the two shifts from being playful into something far more sinister and deeply complex as the realities and responsibilities of the situation they are now in starts to reveal itself as something serious. Bobby’s reaction to this is to lash out at anything in his vicinity which more often than not turns out to be the defenceless and eventually worn down Allie.
Things go from bad to worse very quickly and just as it seems Allie has little chance of extricating herself from her impossible situation Bobby conveniently provides her with an escape. Or does he?
Murray and Shandley work excellently together in this extremely competent piece of high tension drama which shifts and changes pace excellently making you both laugh and cower away almost simultaneously. The dialogue is outstanding, the humour raucous, ribald and totally believable whilst the darker moments are brilliantly handled; never do you not believe in the characters or the drama unfolding. The challenge of a bigger theatre space and having someone onstage to spar with has lent Murray the power to develop his writing in a more intense and concise manner and Tim Stark’s direction is spot on. Once again Ruaraidh has provided us with one of the Fringe highlights. In fact this could very well be THE Fringe highlight!
Bump is at The Gilded Ballon at 5pm every day until the 31st August.


Just an Observation
Although the Fringe doesn’t start officially until next week it would seem the weather most traditionally associated with this event is already with us. In fact it seems to have been with us since the winter. Cool temperatures, drizzle, daily rain and cloudy skies are weather traits more usually associated with winter-my heating has actually been on and I NEVER put my heating on unless it is freezing- and they seem to have been with us since, well, the winter if I am honest. Some might say this is consistent but I consider it more to be ongoing…and ongoing a little more. At least it can’t get any worse although those snow predictions for up north seem to dampen even that glimmer of hope.
Discounting the weather it already feels as if the Fringe has already begun: the Royal Mile is crowded, street performers are every where and the city is changing its shape to accommodate this festival which draws tourists from all over the world. If disruption and busy streets only serve to annoy and irritate then I suggest avoiding the city centre as much as possible until the first weeks of September- this is possibly the most idyllic and refreshing time in Edinburgh in my opinion- as much as is possible. Not that the Fringe is confined to the city centre any longer as it has migrated north into Leith which used to provide a safe haven and south onto the Meadows, where Underbelly are setting up camp.
As far as shows are concerned I have at last managed to navigate through some of the density of the bland and unfriendly programme and picked out some shows to start me off on my reviewing schedule. Top tips and must sees- based on my prior knowledge of contributors- are Rhuraid Murray’s ‘Allie’ at the Gilded Balloon(5pm), Fiona Soe Paing’s ‘Alien Lullabies’ at Summerhall (10.35 from August 12th), ‘Trainspotting’ at Assembly (8.30), ‘Balletronic’ at The Pleasance (9.30) and former Warhol acolyte Penny Arcade at the Underbelly(8.50).
Other shows also on my agenda include the musical ‘Lennon’, comedy with Tina C and ‘Her Story’, Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas’, ‘Raz’, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, ‘Bette Midler and Me’, physical theatre in ‘Dolls’ and a musical offering based on the music of Annie Lennox called ‘Sweet Dreams’. The latter is a bitter-sweet pill as much as I love early Eurythmics I loathe and despise their later work and much of her solo repertoire.
Mind you the good thing about the Fringe is discovering new things and every year there has been someone or someone who has made a huge impression so I am hoping to be similarly captivated this year. It could be by some newcomer or it could be someone who has been struggling around the fringes and finally hit their stride. This is the beauty of the Fringe and not the burger vans on every corner or the busy streets or the never ending queues.
If nothing else it beats yet another night in staring vacantly at the television. Not that there has been much of note on recently and certainly not much that could be called entertainment. However I did catch’ Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia: Gay and Under Extreme Pressure’ last night and it did make me think that although we complain how bad things are here- a prime minister who refers to migrants desperate for asylum as swarms only scratches the surface- they are always worse elsewhere.
It would seem that under the auspices of Putin being out and proud is something that is no longer possible in what is supposed to be modern day Russia. A particularly interesting moment arose when the amiable Yates desperate to understand the motivation behind such rampant and aggressive homophobia hooked up with a knife carrying young man called Victor who insisted that if a homosexual approached him he wouldn’t necessarily use the knife but wouldn’t hesitate to ‘smash his face in’.
Taken aback by this level of anger and aggression Yates asked him to take him on traditional heterosexual Russian male pursuits. The first of these involved going to a sauna, getting naked then engaging in some light flagellation with some sort of floral whisk akin to the bunch of gladioli Morrissey used to swing around his head in such a heterosexual manner back in the eighties. Next up, dressed in traditional dress resembling a smock Boy George would slim down to fit into, they went off to a traditional folk dancing club. Yes all very straight and no underlying gay oppression, repression or anything else for that matter. None at all!
Taking advantage of the miserable weather I am heading off to see the modern day western ‘Slow West’ starring Michael Fassbender today. A bit late to the party on this one but it came out around the time of the Film Festival and I was a bit filmed out so gave it a miss. After that it is the Fringe all the way so see you on the other side!


cutting_off_kate_bushCutting Off Kate Bush

‘Cutting Off Kate Bush’ is that weird anomaly, a show wherein its greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. Built on the flimsiest of premises involving an obsession with Kate Bush-insert your own icon of choice here if Bush is too much for you to bear- which the lone protagonist of the piece Cathy, after her musical and counterpart in ‘Wuthering heights’ of course, relates the Bush experience with the highs and lows of her life.
Written and performed with undeniable verve and gusto by Lucy Benson-Brown the musical pieces rely generally on Bush’s recorded output – therefore ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Red Shoes’ and ‘The Man With The Child in His eyes’ are some of the impressive canon offered up- and this is no bad thing. At first Benson-Brown’s whirling arms and flailing limbs routine seems based on parody but as she carries it through to its logical conclusion it becomes clear that her performance and study of the moves is extremely competent, bordering on reverential.
The narrative darts around the fact that it is Cathy’s 27th birthday and as a dreamer, who has suffered the heartbreaking loss of her mother a few years before, feels it is time to put her life into perspective and order. Outside influences are encouraging her in this path also but Cathy seems as fixated on following the guiding light of her heroine’s music as a means of living her life.
This fixation on celebrity as spiritual guru is basically the play’s central premise and it is indeed an interesting one where we are surrounded by celebrity and faux-celebrity everywhere we look. Bush though is an entity all her own and has waged her own way through life on her own terms and in her own fashion seemingly untroubled by outside influence. Perhaps, by choosing someone as iconic and independent as Bush this is no bad thing after all in Cathy’s mind.
Another great thing about this play is that although the central idea is quite flimsy it seems to recognise this and doesn’t hang around long enough for you to notice this. It finishes without trying to resolve the issues at hand and this works in its favour considerably. Oh, and the music was fabulous. Of course!
Cutting Off Kate Bush is showing daily at Gilded Balloon at 1.30pm



This show features a regular cast-Andrew Doyle, Adam Riches, Camille Ucan and Zoe Lyons- but also features a guest star which changes every performance. On the day I attended this guest was Jo Caulfield whose contributions fitted seamlessly and it is hard to tell as the cast refer to scripts throughout. It focuses on the process of ‘coming out’ amongst gay people –although it does state quite falsely in its blurb that this is something every gay person goes through although I would hotly contest that assertion through first hand experience, but this is minor quibbling- and how it affects those coming out and those they come out to.
Families, friends and lovers all figure in this entertaining show as do celebrities, sportsmen, transgendered people and those who attempt a heterosexual lifestyle as a means of postponing the inevitable. Mind you there are many who never make that transition and spend a lifetime in denial of their true sexuality.
Fortunately there are none of those in this show which takes real and imagined scenarios to concoct a varying and varied look at different approaches to the coming out process and the different reactions it engenders. Obvious celebrities such as the most famous of recent times –Tom Daley- are held up against others such as Justin Fashanu-the footballer who stood alone within the football world as gay and was eventually found hanged in his garage-, Rock Hudson and Boy George. Ellen Degeneres are also notable ‘out’ celebrities but the question still lingers as to why there are still so obviously-especially within football and other sports- many others who are still uncomfortable about speaking about their sexuality. Surely in the twentieth century they cannot imagine it is career suicide anymore as society as a whole has progressed-of course there are those who are not so accepting but they are becoming more and more of a minority. There is also the belief that it is no-one’s business but their own and whilst I agree with this thinking and right to privacy I also feel it can only become less and less of an issue, and therefore a matter of interest to muck-rakers who use it as a means of salacious gossip, if more people come out and remove the stigma further.
An interesting show which deals with some serious issues with moments of humour and pathos. I hope for the day when such matters are no longer wortgy of debate and discussion and someone’s sexual orientation should not be in question. There are a lot more obvious things we need to worry about in the world-including other sexual predilections- other than whether someone is gay or straight!