Wednesday, September 30, 2009

With a wild rebellious defiance, I'm quite enjoying petulantly ignoring my blog at the moment. Although you'll notice I couldn't ignore its siren call altogether.

I set off from Sydney tomorrow for Port Douglas (thieves and blackguards, note that I've left my house full of wolves, dingos, Tasmanian Devils and mother in my absence) where I expect to feel less of a nagging pressure to rush about seeing as much as I can in a tiny short space of time. So perhaps I shall return to minister to the blog then. In the meantime, clearly fooling myself about my digital divorce, I am of course still busy courting twitter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My friend Mr Neill sent me the most superb audio send-off. It almost made up for the personalised card that he didn't get me to wish me luck for Antigone. (I would not have noticed had it not been for the rather fine felicitation given to The Child.)

Anyway, I tried to upload it here but the software didn't like it so the rest of you shall have to remain in suspense.

And I should go to bed rather than sitting here drinking celebratory gin and tonic and eating blueberries. I don't suppose my non-existent jet lag preparation will be aided by the juniper.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I foolishly went back to see The Beggar's Opera again yesterday. I think I should perhaps have let the magic live on, untouched by second opinions. For much as it was still spectacular second time around, Joyce's scathing words echoed about my head as I watched it and I thought that hmm yes, perhaps the dialogue was a little clunky and primitive. Perhaps the band did rather dominate proceedings. Perhaps it was a triumph of spectacle over substance. And looking at the programme notes (thanks, Ross) fuelled my scepticism. Devised piece, ofren devised in silence. Well, that would explain the dialogue.

Having said all that, it still did look beautiful. They had adjusted the sound levels so you could actually understand the smoking man and the band didn't drown out most other audible sound. I was sorry about this last point actually as I'd unnaturally enjoyed the giant volume first time around. I was not, however, sorry that I'd settled for a slightly restricted view in the front seat of the first shelf. The Grand Circle I think it's called. I saved three precious pounds, got to see it from above and realised that the better view is indeed delivered in the stalls. You live and learn (and I should learn - again - not to get drunk before I go to the theatre).

The evening saw us viewing Martin McDonagh's rather fine Beauty Queen of Leenane. Which is a cracker of a play. It was on - one night only - at the Brunton, produced by some touring theatre company. It's such a great script - packed with enough bleakness to keep me more than happy - that it feels like it would be hard to go wrong with a production, assuming you get the accents right.

They did. They had a lovely little box set with artfully raggedy walls and what appeared to be a fully working kitchen (cue a laborious discussion between Siobhan and Ewan about how you could make the taps appear to work...). A suitably downtrodden Maureen. A witchy (but is she really witchy?) mother. An effervescent errand boy and a hard-lifed sad-eyed gentleman caller.

I hadn't ever seen it staged before and look forward to seeing the Lyceum take on it in February next.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I had a brilliant conversation with the chief exec of the company I work for yesterday. I was outlining the 'secret' plans for the festival show next year to him and he was very taken by the idea and started muttering about Trainspotting, about collaborations with Irvine Welsh, about writing being provided and me directing. (For I can see Irvine signing up to that...) I suggested (in wickedness) that he ask his friend and one-time neighbour Zinnie Harris to write something for us. He thought indeed she might be able to dash something off. We shall see.

Le soir, I went to see Fish Tank, the much heralded follow-up movie from Red Road girl, Andrea Arnold. Red Road I found fairly unrelentingly bleak, even by my standards. So my expectations were not overly high from an uplifting point of view. But I figured it was one of these movies you must grin and bear for the sake of your filmic education.

But having seen it, I wonder if she has grown into her misery. Yes, it was hopelessly bleak. Dysfunction abounded. Why have a discussion when you can have a shouting match? Why have any kind of life prospect when you can live hopelessly, without kindness or consideration as your ten year old daughter lies smoking and bitching on the sofa? But peculiarly, for me, it was peppered with (albeit exceedingly infrequent) moments of such magical sweetness that it won my heart. Lots and lots of tears for this one. Luckily, Siobhan was too polite to comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I spent my Sunday incidentally at the IRN-BRU Can Clan on Glasgow Green. The sun obligingly mostly stayed out. Much more importantly, it did not rain. Here is the evidence.

You'll be delighted to know that the new Guinness World Record for simultaneous can-canning is indeed now set.
Well well well. Mr Dibdin and I could not be in more violent disagreement.

Twiddley art-school pop. Just my cup of tea!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I saw a quite spectacular production of The Beggar's Opera on Saturday night at the Lyceum. What I can't work out is whether it was spectacular because I had low to no expectations of liking it or whether it was genuinely a pretty impressive show.

As Caroline (farewell, my pretty) wisely observed in the pub afterwards, it's a show she's never fancied seeing as the title puts her off. "It sounds a bit grimey." I agree wholeheartedly. It sounded to me like a less palatable and more worthy version of Les Miserables. But Mother got tickets for the preview and it seemed uncharitable not to attend with her. And my interest was half piqued by the fact that it was a co-production with Vanishing Point. Not that I can remember anything much about what they've done previously but they would feature quite highly in my list of theatre companies to keep an eye on (benevolent - I should have lived three hundred years ago and been rich. I'd've been an excellent patron).

Anyway, it was amazing. They'd updated it to a I don't know what dystopian means so it probably isn't appropriate but a bleak anyway future. MacHeath was a skinny but charismatic Robin Hood type gangster robbing from the beautiful people up above to sustain the worldy grimey needs of those below. The Godfather gang leader happened to have a gorgeous daughter (and a frisky though alarming wife) so I guess it was, in true story tradition, a minor inevitability that love would blossom. But that was bad because MacHeath was bad and what a hopeless prospect for pretty daughter. But perhaps you all know the story anyway and it is only my innate ignorance that meant it was a surprise to me.

There were two particularly lovely things they'd done with it. The set was absolutely stunning. Maybe I shouldn't spoil the surprise as Ross is going on Saturday but it completely outdid The Last Witch which, in turn, was one of the finest sets I'd then seen for a long time. And then the band. I can't remember their name. I should have brought the little flyer with me. But they'd been clothed in this raggy post-apocalyptic uniform of the gang members, lurked on stage throughout and did they croon popular tracks from today's tinny pop culture or was it specially composed stuff (curtain call aside which, at least, I recognised). I foolishly didn't get a programme so cannot be sure either way. But - sound levels which badly needed some tweaking but it was their first night aside - it made the whole thing into a lovely riot of sound and pretty pictures and of course slightly pantomimey but seductively engaging performances. I loved it.

Mother hated it. But we were three rows from the front so she was forced to sit through most of the songs with her fingers in her ears. Dark days.

I'm wildly thinking I might go and see it again to see if it's really as good as I think it might be. There's a tiny little clip here so you can begin to judge for yourselves.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I daresay I shouldn't say why at this stage but I'm investigating rules and regulations about making somewhere into a festival venue. So I faithfully downloaded the Fringe 'Guide to running a venue' and have been scanning through it.

My favourite portion to date concerns health and safety info and the use of scaffolding to support audience seating. It says, quite reasonably:

The safety of the audience is paramount. It is both your responsibility and in the interest of your ticket selling to stop and think: would you pay money to sit on this structure without life insurance?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Because I take my commitments very seriously, I ate two meals tonight. I signed up the Guardian's 10:10 campaign a couple of days ago and as one of my pledges, I must vow not to waste food. Well, I had half a lasagne left from the sisters' weekend plus a big pile of duck courtesy of Siobhan that was due to expire today. Rather than waste one prize meal, I thought I'd better stuff them both down. So I continue to do my bit to reduce carbon emissions...

And it seems only fitting to talk about 10:10 on this, the day of 9s. Or sixes if you're Derren Brown. I had a lovely day on this day of 9s. A train to Aberdeen, a group of more or less mute 16 year olds (complete with cute Mena Suvari lookalike) that meant I caught my return train in glorious time having stuffed myself first with mini Babybels in the first class lounge at Aberdeen rail station (hmm, maybe I should consider the gym tomorrow morning). My journey to the platform was accompanied bizarrely by a male choir urging me to buy their wonderful roses. I think - according to my taxi driver at any rate - The Flying Scotsman was 'docking' in Aberdeen station at the time, hence I suppose the middle-class entertainment on the concourse.

And then, screaming child aside, I had a lovely leisurely journey back to Edinburgh courtesy of my favourite train service, National Express, as the sun set rather picturesquely over the East Coast.

Anyway, all I was really meaning to say here was that last night's cinematic pleasure was District 9. And it was a true cinematic pleasure. Some may say the parallels with the political situation in South Africa were heavy-handed but fresh from my South African empathy in Fiona's The Island, I was ready for parallels as heavy-handed as necessary. And in fact, I think the film makes a much wider point about how spiteful people can be to each other.

As Russell pointed out, it's a crying shame to end up weeping helplessly at a screen covered with CGI creatures. I take it more as being a sign of my large and empathetic heart.
The final festival review sweep up. Peculiarly pleased with the ones he chose, particularly for Stars on the Ceiling. Maybe they got an audience of more than 6 in their final few days.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm gorging rather on cinema at the moment. I went to see Broken Embraces last night. Though it sounds infinitely better in Spanish: Los abrazos rotos.

Almodovar's latest, it's actually been fairly well reviewed. Like 4 stars well reviewed. So I expected both pretty and fine things.

In actuality, I think it was rather style and angst over substance. That's perhaps unfair. It did look gorgeous. And the plot was as tortured and convoluted as you'd expect from an Almodovar movie. Same old story, it wasn't helped by the fact that I slept deeply in the middle of it and woke up with very little idea of what film I was actually seeing. But I think I managed to pick up the threads of the plot again fairly successfully. It seemed that there were as many holes as I'd suspected when I discussed it with Brie afterwards.

And I feel it's a sad indictment of the film that I stayed awake for 500 Feeble Days of Summer but not for this art. But maybe I'd just had a hard day at work...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Well, a gloriously frivolous weekend was had by all.

A night of half educational wine drinking on Friday. A day of cinematic (Time TraveLer's Wife which wasn't half as bad as I expected it to be) and musical (Neil's band, The Stantons, who were excellent. What a talented boy he is) delights on Saturday.

And the same again on Sunday in fact. This time, 500 Days of Summer which had the heart of a Hollywood movie but dressed in the clothes of an indie flick. An interesting and not entirely charmless combination. And then the magic of Portyfest. And wonder of wonders, managed to catch Colin Steele on stage. Along with a few other odd but strangely engaging acts. The sun almost came out. We spied a sliver of blue sky once.

And there was a glorious moment when I observed the poor man that owns the pub that I'm sure is ill-attended along the sea front from me and commented to Sister that I felt sorry for him as I found him in the local supermarket one day picking through reduced items. And she replied, sharp as a dart, "isn't that what you do?" Can't argue with that.

Friday, September 04, 2009

I love how the British, kings and queens of avoiding eye contact unnecessarily, are drawn together at last during these terribly weathered days.

I am (mother-like) slightly fixated with grinning at people disconcertingly in the street. Usually, they're not even looking at me. Why would you, after all?

But on this, the wettest of mornings, many rueful looks sneaked out from under umbrellas. Maybe it should be lashing with rain for days on end more often...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Still harping on about the festival, Joyce MacMillan gave The Girls of Slender Means four stars. I didn't like it much at all so gave it a grudging 3 stars. Complex and demanding for sure, but none the better for it.

So I was delighted to speak to Christelle at last night's monthly meeting and establish that she thought it was rubbish. A much more valid opinion!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My final day of Fringe frolics consisted of little culture, either national or international.

I had admirable notions of at last catching the entirety of Chronicles of Long Kesh which, brilliant though it was, fell victim first time around, half way through in an obliging two minute pause for air, to my first night festivities. But worthy though my ambition was, I managed to talk myself out of it with all sorts of nonsense about supporting smaller groups and educating myself about plays more practical for our performance purposes than a very physical play full of Irish people.

So instead I attended Don Juan in Soho, a Marber adaptation of a Moliere play. It was produced by a pack of mostly pretty young things and was very energetic and very sweet. A cracking script that was far too lewd to recreate here. And I couldn't possibly consider directing something of its ilk - but maybe I'm just getting prudish in my old age...

I then took a long interval and drank. Which was all very nice and civilised and made me think that actually there is great delight in doing not very much when you're with such a very nice group of people.

And then my suprise outside contender for at least top three Fringe shows. A piece of more or less complete nonsense but done with such verve and youthful delighted enthusiasm that it was utterly delightful. Tap Kids. So I staggered in half-drunk with about 30 seconds to go before curtain up to find there was some kind of glitch with the computer system so glory of glories, clearly very smiley gods looking down on me, I got in for free.

It was a nothing show in many ways. High School Musical retold in the medium of tap, in effect. Eight New Yoikers. Lively, young and gorgeous all. Pretending to be school children and pranking about inconsequentially. And topped off with a graduation scene where they swept all their potential into their mortar boards and cast them airbound in that crazy American movie cliche. But somehow it was poignant and adorable. Or I was just drunk.

And that was my festival.

They're dismantling all the pretend venues just now. Bristo Square was a heap of timber when I flew past on the way to this month's committee / general meeting this evening. The Tap Kids venue in the Freemason's Hall was naked scaffolding when I journeyed past last night en route to Coco before Chanel.

It's a sad (and rainy) day.