Arts News!

Andy Gray a reflection.

Andy Gray:

Starting this article hurts, finding the words to sum up one of our countries greatest comics, actors, writers and his crowning achievement King of Pantomimes just a day after his untimely passing was announced still feels surreal and palpably untrue.

On Screen:

As “Chancer” in BBC Scotland’s “City Lights”

Andy Gray is gone at 61 and looking back at his life it’s a rich legacy of man who was born to perform and made the arts world his life. Starting out his career in his native Perth working at Perth Rep and Borderline along with connections to 7:84 and other ground breaking companies of the late 70’s and early 80’s . Andy rose to national promise thanks to his stints on BBC’s Naked Video which led in 1987 to the creation of “Chancer” opposite the Late Gerard Kelly in “City Lights”. Andy also put in spirited cameos in other Comedy Unit productions for the BBC including Rab C Nesbitt. Although the bulk of Grays Career was spent in his true love, the theatre, nothing matched the thrill of a live audience. Andy returned to our Screens in BBC Scotland’s “River City” as the beloved “Pete Galloway” in 2016. It was in River city that viewers got to see the depth of Andy’s acting skill. Although “Pete” had a strong comic element there were powerful scenes as the character battled mental health issues and Andy shone as the consummate actor, tears of laughter replaced with tears of raw emotion.

In the Theatre:

The Cast of ” I Dreamed a Dream”

In the theatre mention the name Andy Gray and instantly people connect him to Pantomime and rightly so, but Andy had a varied career in the theatre including Straight drama, Musicals and classical theatre parts not to mention his stints performing in the Edinburgh Fringe.

Stints at all the major theatres across Scotland beckoned for Andy including “Werewolf” at the Traverse in Edinburgh, a rollicking performance as Nicely Nicely in Kenny Irelands acclaimed 2001 production of Guys and Dolls at the Royal Lyceum opposite his friend Elaine C Smith. 2002 saw Gray team up with his “City Lights” co star Gerrard Kelly for a production of “The Odd Couple” at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews which would then go on to tour the country.

Gray would return to the Royal Lyceum for Kenny Ireland in 2003 for Yasmin Rez’s “Art” performing with James Macpherson and Forbes Masson. Their combined timing was a reflection of perfection in modern theatre.

Later years would see him rack up credits in west end hit “Stones in his pockets” playing opposite his panto partner Allan Stewart. “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” and “I dreamed a dream” the Susan Boyle musical both with Elaine C Smith along with a spell in “A midsummer’s night dream”. Andy’s pedigree in the theatre will never be matched our indeed surpassed.

On The Fringe:

Publicity Shot for “Kiss Me Honey Honey”

Andy became a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe popping up in 1999 in Theatre Archipelago’s “Communicado” although far from a smash hit success it gave Andy the taste for working in the constraints that the Fringe brings. 2005 saw him begin a long tenure with Gilded Balloon appearing Bob Steiner’s “A limited Run” at the Gilded Balloons Teviot House. It was to the Gilded Balloon in 2013 that Andy would return to team up with his Panto pal Grant Stott for a series of fringe adventures. 2013’s “Kiss me honey honey” written by Philip Meeks which was the runaway success of that year’s festival and returned in 2014. In the 2013 season Andy did double duty also performing in “God Bless Liz Locked” earning plaudits for both. 2015 saw Andy and Grant back in the Gilded Balloon Teviot for the darkly funny “Willie and Sebastian” in which Andy won the Stage Award for performing excellence. 2017 saw the pair move to Gilded Balloons new Space “The Rose Theatre” and there greatest success with “Double Feature” This play truly showcased how the partnership of Gray and Stott had matured working comedy with ease and pathos laden drama with equal skill it was a joy to watch. In 2018 Andy and Grant were scheduled to return to the Rose for Ruaraidh Murray’s “Junkies”. Andy completed one performance only as his diagnosis of blood cancer saw the cancellation of the run. Andy’s fringe adventures spanned over 25 years and the festival will be forever enriched by his contributions.

Pantomime:

The Golden Trio of the King’s Panto during “Mother Goose”

Andy’s true love and the part of his legacy he will be remembered for most is Pantomime.  Especially his long tenure with the King’s Theatre Edinburgh. Taking to the Stage of the King’s first in 1999 playing opposite Allan Stewart’s buttons and Dorothy Paul’s Fairy Godmother in Cinderella it was the start of something uniquely special. The following year local radio and TV personality Grant Stott joined the cast for Dick Whittington and Stewart donned the frock as Dame Aunty May and the Golden Trio was born. 2006 saw the King’s mark its centenary with Cinderella once more gracing the stage as it had 100 years before. The curtain down of this season would see the start of what Andy himself would call “his wilderness years”. Gray would miss 2007’s Goldilocks, 2008’s Aladdin and 2009’s Robinson Crusoe panto’s at the Kings. Panto never left him though during those years appearing in London at the Barbican as Dame for Jonathan Harvey’s Pantomime and in Glasgow King’s panto opposite his old friend Gerard Kelly. Ultimately the King’s Edinburgh was always home and a rejuvenated Andy returned to the Kings in 2010 for Jack and Beanstalk dawning the crown as King Crumble. It was the King’s Edinburgh that Andy would spend the rest of his Pantomime life. 2018 saw the Kings announce Beauty and the Beast as that year’s panto. Andy was announced in the casting, but following his diagnosis, a great deal of soul searching and on the advice of his doctors he reluctantly took the year off. However he made an unscheduled appearance on stage during the curtain call near the end of the run, the raw emotion flowing over the footlights Andy then knew just how much he was loved by the Edinburgh audiences and what he meant to them. It fueled Andy for his comeback to panto in 2019’s Goldilocks and the three bears. Arriving on stage in a glitzy production number adorned with a Top Hat, the show stopped for a sustained standing ovation, Andy beaming in the spotlight, he had come home once more. Alas that’s the lasting memory panto audiences will have of him, that and his ability to latch onto a single word, balloon, banana or umbrella all words that on their own aren’t funny but give them to Andy, comedy joy was created. Andy Gray truly is and always will be the King of the King’s Pantomimes.

 A Personal Reflection:

Andy Gray and Grant Stott performing “Double Feature”

The greatest attribute of Andy Gray was his humanity, love and compassion regardless of how you met him, taxi driver, stage door keeper, fellow performer, journalist or even audience member you felt you knew Andy; he was a friend and a trusted one at that. For me I met Andy several times over the years at Panto and Theatre press nights, sharing many a laugh and glass or two of prosecco. In 2017 I ended up sharing a dressing room with Andy and Grant during that’s years Fringe, I was performing two musicals in rep which ran back to back with Andy and Grants “Double Feature”. The Captivate cast would be well into the second act of our shows when Andy arrived, to take up his space in the dressing room, it was always joyous, nothing got him down and the laughter would ring out as would the odd story of his adventures across his career which the younger members of our cast would devour. He and Grant were true professionals through and through, as we took our curtain call Andy and Grant would be on the stairs behind the stage waiting to get access to set up for their show. They spoke to every single cast member who passed them, saying well done and great show and you could tell by the sparkle in Andy’s eye he truly meant it. To share such an intimate space with Andy across the period of the festival was a true gift that’s left memories that will last a lifetime.

Thank You

Andy Making a curtain call appearance During Beauty and the Beast

Andy Gray, comic, actor, writer, performer, father, grandfather, family member and friend you have been taken far too soon and the irony of your beating cancer with humor and good grace you were renowned for does not go un-noticed only to be taken so soon after that victory. None the less we say thank you, for all those years of joy, laughter and memories you’ve given to audiences across Scotland. You were a true gentleman filled in equal measure with compassion, love and talent. We shall never see your likes again, but we will always remember you, standing in the spotlight on the Kings Theatre Stage taking in the adulation you so richly deserved.

All at Scotsgay arts send our love to Andy’s Partner Tamara, Daughter Clare and all his family. Also to Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and the entire team at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh Pantomime.

Until we meet again,

Brett

Editor, Scotgay arts.

Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The Curve, Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home

***** 5 Stars

“ As if we never said Goodbye“

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s undeniable masterpiece of filmic composition will always be Sunset Boulevard. Telling the story of faded silent movie star Norma Desmond (the utterly divine Ria Jones) who longs to reclaim her stardom when studio writer Joe Gillis (the gorgeous Danny Mac) happens upon her mansion thus leading to a story of love, forgotten dreams, broken hearts and lives forever changed.

The show came to life in 1992 in Webbers Sydmonton festival with then unknown Ria Jones performing the role of “Norma” to great success but due to her youth she never travelled to Broadway or the west end with the production. Fast forward over 25 years and following a stint covering for Glenn Close in the Colosseums famed 2016 production, the original star Ria Jones returns once more to reclaim the greatest role of all and succeeds in style.

The Curve originally produced this show in 2017 and toured it extensively in 2018/19. To accommodate social distancing the production was to be revived for socially distant run, however the closures of theatres to audiences led to a change in plan and Director Nikolai Foster working with Crosscut Media have produced a filmed version of the show that is truly Astounding.

Using every inch of the theatre, including the auditorium, fly tower and lighting rigs this is an astonishing tour de fore production that is the perfect blend of live theatre and motion picture which is enhanced by Douglas O’Connell video and projection design. Ben Cracknell’s Lighting design is everything and more from sweeping vistas of the balcony to a stunning moment in the spotlight for Norma.

Jones performs with consummate grace with a voice that soars through the lens of the camera and into the heart of the viewer, especially during numbers such as “with one look” and “as if we never said goodbye. She grips the audience with her utter conviction as Norma, her’s is the Ms. Desmond for all time, played with style and class she grips from the off and never let us go, her descent into madness is both thrilling and breathtaking

Danny Mac also delivers spectacularly, imbuing Gillis with wisdom, corruption, and an honesty the role demands and possess a powerful voice and understated charm the character needs. Special mention must also go to Adam Pearce as Max Von Mayerling his voice is thrilling for his depth and warmth. Completed by a strong supporting cast and a large 16-piece orchestra, Director Nikolai Foster has delivered the most awe-inspiring production of the show to date.

Whilst we still await being able to sit in the darkness of theatre auditoriums once more The Curve have achieved the almost impossible, delivering the thrill of live theatrical performance for audiences at home, this production truly does teach us all new ways to dream, unmissable, thrilling and delivered with love. Sunset Boulevard has never shone brighter.

The Curve Leicester presents Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The run has been extended to Sunday 17th of January to book tickets for the live stream go to: https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/sunset-boulevard-in-concert-at-home/

Arts News!

2020 Years End:

Reflecting on a year like no other:

As the hours tick away to the clock striking midnight and heralding in 2021, we as we do every year look back at the 12 months just gone. I think we can all agree 2020 is a year like no other, our arts industry and the entire world beyond it have changed beyond recognition.

Since March Theatres and arts venues across Scotland have remained closed, the Edinburgh festivals were cancelled, concerts of all shapes and sizes didn’t take place and the rebirth of Drive in Cinema became the norm. Further afield theatres did reopen in England then got caught in the yo yo of ever-changing rules and regulations from a clueless government.

The fight to secure funding to carry on is a fight far too many companies and venues have lost and most heartbreakingly it’s the vast swave of freelancers who have born the brunt. That said its also been a humbling experience to see how people view the arts and value it, the quantity of online content and the overwhelming desire that no matter what, Theatre and arts will survive and prosper once more.

We at Scotsgay Arts published our last review in March before a substantial break and introducing our Theatre vs Covid series of news items, we were truly blessed to publish a few more reviews just this month including the London palladium pantomime.

Theatre matters, The Arts Matters and the burning light of creativity will never go out, so to all those productions we did manage to review we thank you for allowing us to cover your work. To all those in the creative industries from performers to technicians and beyond, the curtain will rise once more and we are so excited to be there and see the lights come one again.

To Mary Woodward thank you for your ongoing contributions, to our readers, we wish you a Happy, Peaceful, Prosperous and Healthy New Year. May 2021 truly be better for us all.

Mary Woodward Preview

Scottish Ballet film The Secret Theatre, Preview

The Secret Theatre

Available on Scottish Ballet’s website from 6pm Monday December 21

tickets free, bookable up to 5pm December 24

It’s been a long hard nine months – I can hardly believe that the last live performance I went to was Choice Grenfell at the Brunton theatre at the beginning of March.  As we move towards the shortest day, and out the other side, Scottish Ballet have given us the perfect antidote to the darkness, and something to help lift our spirits as our earth turns once more towards the light.

A young boy clutching a football walks through crowded streets.  He notices an imposing door, which is slightly ajar.  Silently it swings open, and he tiptoes through to discover an empty theatre foyer.  Moving forward he enters the auditorium – dark, empty, all the seats sadly waiting for an audience.  He hears a noise, sees a light, and crouches down to avoid the torch beam of the security guard.

Then suddenly the lights come on, the tabs go up, and the boy is drawn onstage.  Exploring further, he is mesmerised by the costumes, ‘heads’ and all the props lying around, just waiting for the performers.  Suddenly a big hamper’s lid opens, and out comes…

The Secret Theatre wascreated by Scottish Ballet’s CEO and Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and long-term collaborator Lez Brotherston and directed for screen by Jess and Morgs, using music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.  Anyone familiar with Scottish Ballet’s recent Christmas shows will recognise characters, choreography and music from previous works, and have fun identifying characters and situations.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I was delighted to get another look at some of my favourite parts of the Snow Queen and the Nutcracker.

What I found fascinating, and what for me is one of the huge advantages of a show that was conceived and directed for the camera, is the possibility of close-ups of the dancers and an ‘all-round’ view of some of the movements.  Even more attractive because usually impossible was the engagement of the dancers with the camera lens – seeing real people rather than fairy-tale characters remote from everyday life, interacting with each other and particularly with the young boy, superbly played by Leo Tetteh – just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence coupled with a keen sense of fun and enjoyment of this magical world into which he’s suddenly been catapulted.  All the incredible dancers in the company were given the opportunity to show off, and they did so with a right good will – though I noticed that the girls rarely got to show off quite as athletically and exuberantly as the boys did – but that’s ballet for you, eh?   

I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of a press screening, and will cheerfully watch the show again, probably more than once, in the run-up to Christmas, as it’s a perfect antidote to the gloom that can so easily settle around us in these challenging times!

The Secret Theatre will have its public premiere on Monday 21 December at 6pm. It will be available to watch until 11.59 on 24 December. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance via Scottish Ballet’s website, and can be booked up until 5pm on 24 December (all times are GMT).  The film will be accompanied by a series of talks and workshops tailored to the communities Scottish Ballet tours to, delivered in partnership with venues – check the website for details. 

And that’s not all – there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021, including a brand new short film The Swan, inspired by the stage production of Swan Lake; a new programme of adult and children’s ballet classes presented on Zoom and a range of health resources, including dance classes for those living with neurological conditions, and movement resources for NHS staff and keyworkers.  In addition, a free membership scheme has been launched so that audiences can stay connected with Scottish Ballet.

As Christopher Hampson says, Dance is a medium that brings people together and now, more than ever, we need to connect with each other. By bringing new artistic and engagement work into people’s homes this winter, we celebrate the benefits and importance of creativity in all its forms.

Thank goodness for Scottish Ballet and all the other companies that are working so hard to keep our spirits up and help us look towards the time we can once more enjoy live theatre.  If you’d like to support the making of The Secret Theatre please consider donating. Thank you.

If you would like to make a donation online, you can do so here

Alternatively, you can donate via text:

Text SBXMAS 5 to 70450 to donate £5

Text SBXMAS 10 to 70450 to donate £10

Text SBXMAS 20 to 70450 to donate £20


To donate by text, you must be 16 years or older and in the UK. Texts cost the donation plus one standard rate message. Please make sure you have the bill payer’s permission before donating.

Mary Woodward

Brett Herriot Review

A Christmas Carol, The Dominion Theatre, London Review

A Christmas Carol:

**** 4 Stars

“ A Classy Classic Christmas Treat“

A Christmas Carol is a musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens. The musical is based on the classic Dickens  novella of the same name. The show went on to become an annual festive treat at New York City’s Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden from 1994 to 2003.

It was adapted into a TV film in 2004 for NBC America before arriving in London’s west end at Christmas 2016 at the Lyceum Theatre and returned in 2017 and 2018. Its now back once more for Christmas 2020 for a socially distant run in London’s massive Dominion Theatre, well it was until the Pandemic put paid to the run-on December 15th.

The age-old tale of the Mizer Scrooge played with Craggy understatement by Brian Conley, who values money above all else is taught the errors of his as he is visited by 4 ghosts over the course one long night on Christmas Eve. A Tale of love, family, and redemption its message has never been more fitting for the restricted Christmas we are all facing.

This new production is a staged concert and features the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and 40 strong company. The decision to use the Dominion has paid off as they borrow the set from the resident production “The Prince of Egypt” wrapping the orchestra around the back of the stage and forcing the actors to use the front of the stage whilst remaining totally socially distant from one another.

Menken is acclaimed for his work especially the Disney Classics Aladdin, Beauty, and the Beast amongst others. Christmas Carol is not as strong as those but does remain nevertheless utterly charming and the music captures the child like wonder of Christmas crossed with the emotion of musical theatre.

Performances are uniformly excellent especially from the Principals, Conley delivers in style, he usually spends his Christmas in panto, but he has allowed his locks to go silver and inhabit a shrewd and emotional Scrooge but also knows how to mine a laugh from a line. Matt Jay-Willis (yes he of Busted) plays Bob Cratchit to wonderful acclaim  he has a real talent that’s been hidden by the trappings of the pop world for too long. The same is true of former EastEnders Jaqueline Jossa as old hag/Emily/Ghost of Christmas Future. She has a rich strong voice and a beguiling honesty in her performance.

The ensemble cast are also excellent and inhabit the Dickensian world  with ease. It does feel as though more could have be achieved from the staging, its often feels more concert than staged concert. That said the clever use of projection really opens up this classy Classic Christmas treat, and the audience can’t help but be whisked along on the emotional journey.

Speaking of emotion, the curtain call to a resounding standing ovation in the Dominion was totally deserved as Brian Conley said himself the cast feel lucky and blessed to have been able to perform for just 11 performances, they have proven that theatre can be done safely during a pandemic. They did this by working as a tight family fuelled by the love of performing. They will all be back in a theatre as soon as the time is right.

London’s west end once again sits in a calm silence lit only by the Ghost Lights, it is apt that A Christmas Carol should be the show to lower the curtain, whilst the Government may not care Dickens Tale has stood the test of time and theatre and indeed the Arts will too, Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today. This production while indeed live long in the memory until perhaps next Christmas.

Freddie Tapner and Gary England Present A Christmas Carol, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.