Mary Woodward Review

LGBT History Month and Pride Saltire: Bohemian Rhapsody – film, The Brunton, Musselburgh

Bohemian Rhapsody – film

***** (5 stars)

I think this is the first time I have seen the Brunton’s cinema packed almost to overflowing – friends of mine were only able to get tickets in the restricted view area which is not usually sold for films: and almost all the audience were grey-headed.

Were they all reliving their lost youth?  Certainly, the film was a superb one for anyone who simply wanted to revel in the music of Queen: but there was so much more than just a selection of ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits’ [though there was a satisfying large number of those].  Fashion, music, social history, and a reflection of the changing attitudes towards ‘deviants’ are all charted, and for those of us who remember closet life, there’s a trip down memory lane.

Opening with a shot of Freddie Mercury preparing to go onstage for Live Aid, we are cleverly taken back to 1970 with newsreel footage of Charles and Diana showing on the screen of a TV mobile studio.  Cut to Heathrow airport with the young Farrokh Bulsara unloading luggage from a plane and refuting one of his colleagues’ assertion that he’s a “Paki” – the story has begun…   We follow Freddie as he asserts his independence from his Farsi family, changes his name, becomes involved with Mary Austin and joins Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon to form what becomes Queen.  We meet the goodies and baddies in the band’s and Freddie’s life: the goodies are mainly saints and the baddies straightforwardly bad [though it takes Freddie a long time to unmask the worst of these].  We see glimpses of the lifestyle that resulted in AIDS, but there’s nothing really explicit or shocking: there is great sadness but also much humour, and the grey-haired audience laughed a lot.  The film ends as it began with the Live Aid concert: Freddie’s decline and death are only listed on screen as the credits begin to roll.

What sticks with me?  The moment when Freddie explains to the sceptical record producer that Queen are a band of misfits who are playing for each other and for the misfits at the back of the room; the beginnings of the creation of We will rock you, with Brian May wanting to write a song the audience can join in with – stamp stamp clap silence [repeat ad lib]; a lonely Freddie standing in the rain after dismissing the man he’s finally realised is the snake in the grass; and the incredible warmth coming from the audience to envelop the band wherever they played..

Oh yes, and the music – which is brilliant, of course; the incredible portrayal of Freddie by Rami Malek which has, rightly, already won him a Best Actor Bafta and Golden Globe – surely an Oscar awaits.  I was impressed by the equally outstanding Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as May, Taylor and Deacon: either they are all superb musicians or exceedingly talented mimics!

It’s visually gorgeous, a film which I’d gladly see again and again: it may not be 100% truth, but if it’s a lie it’s so well told that it can be forgiven… This is the first film in the Brunton’s series celebrating LGBT History Month: don’t miss A Fantastic Woman on February 20th and The Miseducation of Cameron Post on 27th.

LGBT History Month and Pride Saltire: Bohemian Rhapsody – film, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Run ended but go to: https://pridesaltire.org.uk/lgbthistory.html For Further schedule performances.

 

Preview

King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Amdram Preview:

Scotsgay Arts was delighted to have been invited to pop along on a  chilly January evening to an exclusive preview evening of the Local Amateur Dramatic companies that will be performing on the hallowed boards of the King’s Theatre Edinburgh. Hosted by local directing legend Andy Johnston whose comedy asides gave the evening true charm, it was a joy to get just a small taste of what’s on offer across the season so lets have a little look!

Starting with SLO and My Fair Lady:

slo fair lady

My Fair Lady sparkles with wit, elegance and romance, telling the story​ of an Edwardian cockney flower girl’s transformation into the pride​ of London society. Southern Light’s beautiful new production will​ transport you from the streets where you live to the flower markets of​ London, the racecourse of Ascot and to the glittering heights of an​ Embassy Ball where everything is ‘Absolutely Bloomin’ Loverly’.​

Musical numbers include ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE, GET​ ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME, WOULDN’T IT BE LOVERLY,​ WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK and I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED​ TO HER FACE.​ My Fair Lady is a jewel in the crown of the great American musicals,​ written by Lerner and Loewe (Brigadoon, Camelot and Gigi) and based​ on George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’.

For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/myfairlady

EDGAS presents The Mikado

Edgas

Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the company who brought you H.M.S Pinafore last year, present the timeless G&S classic, The Mikado. Widely regarded as the greatest comic opera ever written, The Mikado has delighted audiences across the world for more than 130 years.

Discover intrigue and romance in the Town of Titipu, where flirting is punishable by death. Nanki-Poo attempts to escape from the formidable Katisha and into the arms of Yum-Yum. However, Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner has other ideas – avoiding his own decapitation being one of them!

Featuring a five-star cast and orchestra, and packed with world-famous musical numbers including The Sun Whose Rays, Three Little Maids from School, and Tit-Willow, make sure to put this stunning production of The Mikado on your list – it’s certainly not one to be missed!

For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/mikado

The Bohemians Present The Wedding Singer.

Bohs Wedding singer

Join New Jersey’s favourite wedding singer Robbie Hart, sweet natured Julia, her best friend Holly and Wall Street bad boy Glenn in the 1980’s party of the year – with a musical that promises to get you up dancing faster than your Dad at a wedding, packed with songs which capture all the fun and energy of the Adam Sandler smash hit film.

For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/weddingsinger

Our taster of all three productions showcased the wealth of talent that comes together from across the city to make these shows possible, and the joy and enthusiasm flowed across the footlights, so why not book those tickets now for a real of show and do your bit to support the theatrical life blood of Edinburgh.

 

 

 

Preview

SQIFF: Shorts on Tour: Preview.

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival has announced it will tour a hand-picked selection of LGBTQ+ short films to venues across Scotland over the coming months.

SQIFF: Shorts on Tour opens at CCA Glasgow on 9 February before visiting a host of communities from Hawick to Inverness.

Headlining the programme is VISIBLE, created by Campbell X and Kayza Rose, who explore QTIPOC (queer, trans, and intersex people of colour) histories, challenging mainstream perceptions and sanitisation of legacies, and celebrating complexity, multiplicity, myths, gossip, and legends. Director Campbell X will be in attendance at several events for a Q&A. Other films refelect the diversity of queer stories from around the world, from a portrait of Nicola Stevens, who played in the first professional Australian Football League women’s game in 2017 to Abraham Naim aka drag queen Medulla Oblongata relating their story of escaping persecution for being gay in the Maldives and finding acceptance and community. The Glasgow screening will be followed by a panel with STUC’s LGBT+ Committee about their work and LGBTQ+ rights. The tour is supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network.

Helen Wright, SQIFF Coordinator, commented: “It is really exciting for us to be able to share our Opening Night programme with a wider range of audiences around Scotland. We are priorisiting making connections with LGBTQ+ community groups in different areas to give them access to queer cinema and the chance to meet filmmakers and take part in discussions about issues the films raise.”

Sambrooke Scott, Film Hub Scotland Manager, said: “We are delighted to be able to support SQIFF to screen their short film programme at venues across Scotland. SQIFF is a vital film festival and have built a reputation over the last four years as an organisation who are forward-thinking and prioritise inclusion, diversity and representation. We hope this tour will allow a broader section of audiences in Scotland to engage with LGBTQ+ stories and take part in an exciting programme of films.”

Tour Details

CCA, Glasgow in partnership with STUC LGBT+ Committee, Saturday 9th February, 1pm. Tickets offered on a sliding scale of free to £8.

Dundee Contemporary Arts, Wednesday 13th February, 6.15pm. Tickets £5-7.50.

The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews part of Queerfest with Saints LGBT+, Friday 15th February, 6pm. Tickets offered on a sliding scale of free to £8.

Cornucopia, Hawick in partnership with Scottish Borders LGBT Equality, Saturday 23rd February, 4pm. Free,

Ayr Town Hall in partnership with Ayr Film Society and Ayrshire LGBTQ, Sunday 24th February, 6.30pm. Free,

50 George Square, University of Edinburgh with MSc Film, Exhibition and Curation, Tuesday 26th February, 7pm. Tickets offered on a sliding scale of free to £8.

Macrobert, Stirling in partnership with Stirling University LGBTQ+ Society, Friday 1st March, 7.30pm. Tickets £6.

See www.sqiff.org for more information and to book tickets.

 

Brett Herriot Review

ART, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

ART, 

**** 4 Stars

“A Comedy Acting Masterclass”

A quarter of a century since its debut and 23 years since it came to prominence in London’s Wyndham’s Theatre staring the recently departed Albert Finney Yazmina Reza’s story as adapted into the English language by Christopher Hampton returns on a UK tour starring the sublime trio of Nigel Havers (Serge), Denis Lawson (Marc) and Stephen Tompkinson (Yvan)

The comedy, which raises questions about art and friendship, concerns three long-time friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan. Serge, indulging his penchant for modern art, buys a large, expensive, completely white painting for £200,00 Marc is horrified referring to it as “Shit” and their relationship suffers considerable strain as a result of their differing opinions about what constitutes “art”. Yvan, caught in the middle of the conflict, tries to please and mollify both of them. This is story not so much about Art and its values but friendship what bonds us through life’s journey.

The play has been a critical success for many theatre companies over the proceeding 25 years including its first Scottish production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in April 2003 starring King’s legend Andy Gray, Forbes Masson and James Macpherson. This 2019 touring production revives the Old Vic Original directed by Matthew Warchus and sharpened and retooled by current director Ellie Jones.

The production lies totally on the shoulders of the three actors cast in the roles and combined Havers, Lawson and Tompkinson give a Comedy acting masterclass that won’t be topped. The snappy pacing of this 1 act play ensures the audience is swept along. The only criticism that can be levelled is sometimes they need to let the laughter settle before moving on to more dialog as many of the starting lines become clipped and inaudible.

ART occupies a unique place in the pantheon of theatre driven by its success and life span and the plethora of Acting talent that has inhibited the roles of the last twenty-five years, the current trio are exceptional as one would expect from talent of there calibre and truly make an evening at the theatre a real pleasure.

ART also holds a mirror to our own lives and friendships we surely all see just a little of ourselves and our own friends in the characters we see on stage, we are human, we are fallible, we cry and laugh and this play unlike others allows us to see beyond the blurring of the lines and or that its well worth grabbing a ticket and getting along to the King’s.

David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers present the Old Vic Production of “ART”, King’s Theatre Edinburgh until Saturday 16th February, UK tour continues Including Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre 25th – 30th March. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/art

Brett Herriot Review

Les Misérables, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Les Misérables The International Tour.

***** 5 Stars

“The musical phenomenon that continues to transcend time”

Even after 34 years of unbroken performances in London’s west end and numerous Tours  its remarkable that Les Mis as its affectionally known continues to sell out where ever it goes, and its just done just that at Edinburgh’s grand Festival Theatre.

This the 25th Anniversary production, created in 2009 to mark the milestone, its also headed for the west end itself taking up residency in the Queen’s Theatre following renovations and the closing of the original production. This news means that the public glare is fully on this new production which draws inspiration from Victor Hugo’s Paintings, a new stunning set design and a pacier sense of direction.

Its truly a Les Mis for a new generation whilst maintaining the heart of the original and despite a running time of nearly 3 hours it remains as riveting as ever. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Ex-convict Jean Valjean ( a blistering performance from Killian Donnelly) is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Nic Greenshields, who simply redefines the role) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

This production dispenses with a turntable, and uses an automated set that brings France to life in a spectacular way, combined with projections of Hugo’s own artwork it really takes the audience inside the heart of the story and director’s Laurence Connor and James Powell have reset the pacing of the show to such an extent it zips along and the big songs are delivered to audience so captivated they watch in wrapped silence.

Performance wise all the leads excel, both Donnelly and Greenshields must be seen to be believed, especially Greenshields take on Javert, this at last a Javert that stands up to the original in every way. The same cant be said for Martin Ball’s Thenardier, which often slips out of tune and clashes a little against the excellence of the over all casting.

What really gives quality to this production is the large 14-piece orchestra under the Baton of Ben Atkinson, the gorgeous score, which has been re-arranged for the new production’s rings around the auditorium, and it’s the music that truly captures the heart, setting the audience on a journey of emotions they will never forget.

After 34 years I would be easy to think a production could run out of steam and feel dated, However Cameron Mackintosh has ensured the Les Misérables remains the musical Phenomenon that continues to transcend time. Do what you can to storm the barricades and get a ticket!

Cameron Mackintosh presents Boublil & Schonberg’s Les Misérables the 25th Anniversary Production. Festival Theatre Edinburgh runs until 16th February SOLD OUT for returns contact the Theatre Box Office. UK Tour continue. https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/lesmiserables

Mary Woodward Review

Extremely Pedestrian Chorales,Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

Extremely Pedestrian Chorales

**** (4 stars)

Well, that was extraordinary!

I imagine some people might have been sitting in the audience going “what the **** is this?  Load of rubbish!” –  as four people singly and in twos, threes and fours, hopped, skipped, jumped, stepped and strode around the acting area, each concentrating on a little book they held, and magically avoiding each other without [seemingly] being aware of each other’s presence.

I was caught in a web of sound and movement that explored twelve Bach chorales – some superbly sung by seven musicians sitting at the side of the bare performance area, some exquisitely mangled rhythmically and tonally courtesy of a laptop, and some danced silently or with single ‘instrument’ accompaniment [kazoos, cowbells, mouth organs] by a quartet of dancers – the traditional Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.  Each was engrossed in their own hand-held score:  occasionally they glanced at us, at each other.  All were furiously counting silently: intermittently they announced something [From the bottom of my heart; Out of the depth I scream to you; oh how insubstantial, how fleeting] or [increasingly as the performance progressed] muttering sotto voce or even quite audibly – and all the time, counting, counting, counting.  There were wigs: some quite petite and restrained, others in a full-blown explosion reminiscent of those in The Favourite, doffed and donned and thrown on the floor.

I think my favourite chorale was For Joy Let Us Jump, but during the whole performance I was revelling in the absurd while at the same time paying homage to the complexity of Bach’s writing, the immense breadth of his harmonic and melodic invention, and the skills and imagination of composer Matteo Fargion, the seven singers and the four dancers – Neil Callaghan, Janine Fletcher, Claire Godsmark and deviser Karl Jay-Lewin.

Many of us really appreciated being invited at the end of the performance to come and talk to the dancers and see the scores from which they were working – tiny marks for each step and its direction, derived from the notes Bach wrote for each individual voice in the chorales.  Would seeing this beforehand have made any difference to our appreciation of the performance?  I think it was quite fun to have to try to work out what on earth was going on – but also would like to see the piece again, knowing how it worked.

There was laughter at times, and richly appreciative applause at the end: a splendid way to open the Manipulate festival.

Extremely Pedestrian Chorales as part of Manipulate Festival (2 -12 February)Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Review by Mary Woodward

Brett Herriot Review

American Idiot, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

American Idiot, 

*** 3 Stars

“A Hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation”

Its hard to believe that it’s a decade since Green Days “Punk Opera” concept album, American Idiot was first brought to the stage as a sung through musical, The story, expanded from that of the album, centres on three disaffected young men, Johnny (Tom Milner), Will (Samuel Pope) and Tunny (Joshua Dowen) living in the American landscape post events of 9/11. Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. The former pair look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on a city life that seemed so appealing, joins the military and is shipped off to war with a dramatic consequence that alters the direction of his life forever. Johnny’s disenchantment with the American Dream see’s him turn to drugs and discovers a part of himself that he grows to dislike, his journey sees broken relationships and the hurt of lost love truly the angst driven centre of the story.

Green Days potent music is performed by a first-class onstage band perched high above the ensuing action and Billie Joe Armstrong’s (the bands lead singer) lyrics remain as potent as ever. However, Director and Choreographer Racky Plews has made this an incredible clean take on the show. I’ve never witnessed such healthy and tanned looking junkies. The choreographic choices also jar on more than one occasion when the story and music will carry the story then less deeply choregraphed back ground action is often better.

Tom Milner brings a stark vulnerability and endlessly watchable take on “Johnny” his decent into hard drugs has the audience in rapt silence and you can’t help but root for him to come out the other side of his dance with the devil intact. Joshua Dowen’s portrayal of “Tunny” is the ultimate dramatic counterpoint and a truly accomplished performance. His ability to convey the shattering of his Army dream and facing the harsh reality he must now face is riveting and when he performs three-part harmony with his own self is a theatrical highpoint.

Not all the casting benefits the production, the ongoing trend of casting X Factor performers is wearing as thin as the  x factor show itself. Luke Friend (X Factor 2013) has the voice to pull of an effective “St Jimmy” the drug selling demi god of the show, but he doesn’t have the acting ability to bring the character truly to life leaving a clustered comedy character that lacks any form of direction.  Sam Lavery (X Factor 2017) fares far better with a subtle character of “Whatshername”  and strong vocals.

Its during the song “21 Guns” that Sara Perkins Set design and Tim Deiling’s Lighting design truly show the depth of care given to the production and these moments appear more than once in this tight and overall engrossing production. A production which will continue to entertain both Green Day fans and Musical theatre buffs in equal measure.

As the Curtain falls, its obvious how this punk opera changed the perception of musical theatre and the expression of angst that is ever more relevant into todays “Trump” America. American Idiot the show much like its concept album before it, will always be a hope filled odyssey for a disenchanted generation. This is gripping and reality driven theatre at its potentially most potent.

Selladoor Productions, Piu Entertainment and Gavin Kalin Productions Present Green Day’s American Idiot, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until 9th February the UK tour Continues Including Glasgow and Aberdeen. For tickets go to: https://beta.atgtickets.com/show/american-idiot/edinburgh-playhouse