Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thinking hard about what I'm most pleased with this year (self-congratulatory) and obviously it was very wonderful that we got through to the regional final with the Pillowman even though we were subsequently robbed of prospective national success by a cheap suited adjudicator. And obviously it was very wonderful that we got a review of kindness for Antig from Mr D in the Evening News even though we were subsequently robbed of Fringe glory by, hmmm. But I think I'm more pleased by the £133 which went subsequently to Amnesty Internat. Maybe this will herald the beginning of a most charitable 2010.

Happy new year (when it comes) dear readers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Now there's a terrible film.

Me and Orson Welles was quite bad but this completely trumps it.

Nine wants to be Chicago but sadly has neither the plot nor the (relatively) brilliant songs to make it so.

Instead it has a thin plot. Thin to anorexic. A ponderous point to make - which many might feel isn't really worth making. And a collection of weird and quite terrible songs which often bear little relationship to the plot but are justified by a wistful expression crossing the relevant character's face so you know they're thinking about Something Important. And suddenly you cut to a weird terrible song.

In the midst of this, you have a collection of actors that could only be described as stellar. Judi. Sophia. Marion. Nicole. Penelope. Fergie (?). Kate (??). And Daniel Day Lewis is really quite hot - but the film was so poor that I almost didn't care.

It's a dreadful waste of talent. And it has a peculiar effect. Each performance is pretty universally excellent. There are some very lavishly accomplished song and dance routines (and some song and dance routines which verge on soft porn). Daniel is particularly marvellous. But the whole is so much less than the sum of its part that I, at least, ceased to notice individual excellence for squirming at the horror of it in my seat.

I'd be interested in the opinions of others as I was particularly foul tempered when I sat down to view it.

But as the credits started to roll at our particular showing, Mother leaned back in her seat and murmured softly and reverentially: "excellent!" So for the sake of not ruining her moment (I still haven't forgiven Siobhan for her American Beauty disdain), I kept my views to myself.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve evening and I'm as plump with Christmas spirit as I'm ever going to be.

A morning of snow helped. A turkey which cost kind of £20 but really £10 less than I expected it to also helped. An afternoon cobbling together the Christmas staple, sausage rolls, helped again.

We had a little break and visited the real world. I took Father (although strictly speaking, he took me) to see the Top Secret Prospective Fringe Festival Venue (TSPFFV). To seek his artistic and luminary (could that be the true sense of the word?) opinion. Snow-laden, it was a trifle hazardous. But we survived. And I have food for thought. I really need to state my intention - outline a real concrete plan - at the January meeting. Which gives me, hmm, let me think, about twelve days of Christmas to decide that I am - or am not - committed. So I'll go easy on the mince pies.

But for those of my readers with no such looming deadlines, eat well. Drink well. And have a very festive time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Well it was a weekend mostly turned over to Christmas admin. But I managed to duck out for two hours (along with all the hours spent fruitlessly drinking...) to see Me and Orson Welles.

Of this, I had no expectations. Russell's wise choice. I'd done no prior research. Had no idea what I was about to see. I'd even forgotten the precious appearance by young Mr Efron. But I felt the title was promising.

In fact, good title, pretty looking film, nice pretending to be Orson from Christian McKay (not that I have extensive Orson experience with which to compare it) but a thin thin plot.

Zac is pretty. He meets a pretty, quirky looking girl. He is prettily picked up on account of being pretty by less pretty Orson who desperately needs a final actor for his production of Julius Caesar, due to open that week on Broadway. Pretty hangs about looking soulful and strumming a ukulele dressed as a loot. Orson hangs about having affairs and looking angry. Pretty meets other pretty girl, less quirky, more just pretty. They speak a lot together about pretty things.

The show is shit. Boy Pretty accidentally sets off the sprinkler system. Orson is angrier. Boy Pretty cleverly avoids being sacked. Orson sleeps with Girl Pretty. Boy Pretty is angry and confronts Orson. Orson uses him to perform (masterfully) in the opening night then sacks him. Boy Pretty at last realises that the world is unjust. But luckily he's still pretty.

The end.

It looked great. Judicious use of that signature 1930s red lipstick. But I wouldn't rush to see it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A day of agreement. This time with dear Thom.

Last night saw me (and dear Susan, Gillian and Siobhan) attend the Lothian Hospitals carol service in aid of CLIC Sargent.

But it was so much more than a simple carol service.

The Lothian Hospitals choir was the first wonderful treat. This featured Jacques / Creon amongst plentiful others and was thus the main reason for our attendance.

But we also had Thistle Brass. Here I agree with Thom. Their chestnuts were the moment that I held my breath and was happy I'd dragged myself along to the Usher Hall on what was really rather an inconvenient night.

We had Nicola Benedetti playing a horrible wild shrill piece by Ravel, a nicer piece by someone else and two much nicer pieces by two other people in the second half. Wearing, as duly noted by Thom, a strange gypsy dress. She's a fine player. I believe I haven't seen /heard her play before. Her Massenet final piece - I'm such a tragic populist - was truly gorgeous.

We had some poor Scottish BBC Alba presenter who was horrifically wearing a golden dress and silver shoes.

And the undoubted show stealer was a choir of tiny children from some posh school who sang 4 raggedy carols but were adorable with it. Much as this did not seem to move Thom, maybe I had a bit of a moist eye. O The Wonder Of The Child At Christmas.

And we got to heartily sing. When we'd figured out we needed a programme which contained the words. I had low sultry Siobhan to one side of me and a woman with a horrifically shrill voice in the row behind me. Hark the Herald. Though the Hospitals Choir didn't go to town on the descant nearly so much as I'd've wished. But we can't have everything.
Read this first.

Then be aware that I agree, I agree. In such hallowed company. And thank god I saw it. Or a whole decade of my theatrical education could've been wasted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Man Who Lives Opposite has a plump bunch of flowers on his living room table. Must have been entertaining.

And I was sulking childishly at the bus stop this morning as none of the savage men were letting me on ahead of them. Too spoilt by Man At The Bus Stop, you see. When this tiny scrawny child who must have been all of eleven and looked like a dishevelled pickpocket child from Oliver Twist stood aside and gestured that I clamber on. I fakely gestured that no, he should step ahead. But he stood his ground. I immediately retracted all my dishevelled pickpocket thoughts and leapt joyfully aboard.

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where the wild things are.

It would have been so easy to butcher this film. A Disney version rather than a true to the original version.

Suffice it to say there was no butchery involved. Hats off to Spike Jonze who possibly had a fight on his hands to make it as charming as it was.

His efforts paid off. An absolutely adorable film. I want to be nine years old in a rabbit suit again.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Joyce speaks. (On Allotment.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ross and I last night went to see John Tiffany (I do so love him) and Vicky Featherstone in conversation with Joyce McMillan. Alongside a plump handful of youthful looking students and a scrawnier handful of representatives of Edinburgh's am dram trying to be professional dram glitterati.

Joyce I feel like I like more every time I see her. Though she didn't mention Brian. John, well I've always loved him since he told me I should go read this amazing new book, White Teeth, when he was critiqueing my contribution to that year's Traverse young writer's scheme. And Vicky, I've never really met so how could I form an opinion?

Joyce did a masterful if lengthy job of guiding us through the back catalogue of the NTS. I was informed and illuminated to learn (Siobhan won't like that - illuminated to learn - so wrong!) that John and Vicky have been working together for years. So their co-karaoke on Sat night was born from true love rather than the politically sensitive love you tend to develop for work colleagues. Their next projects both sound remarkable and amazing. And predictably I came away determined to blaze an (amateur) trail that a professional company could be proud of.

Interestingly, Joyce noted that Vicky has directed both crave and Tiny Dynamite in her time. So I'm quite possibly only 6 to 7 years away from being the next artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mr Cooper for The Herald is a little bit too dismissive for my liking. "The recent vogue". I feel unreasonably protective towards them!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Allotment last night, courtesy of the National Theatre of Scotland.

An inauspicious beginning. The venue is the Govan Cross shopping centre. I've possibly never been to Govan. Unless maybe to visit a needle exchange. But my hopes did not fly high as we trudged through the dark wet night to find a shabby door with an "ID may be required" sign plastered over it. Although I did not have id with me, tellingly Brian did not think this would cause us problems.

As we queued in the rain, an official looking girl came darting out, spied Joyce McMillan in the queue behind us and spirited her inside. Not sure I agree with this preferential treatment for critics.

We were let in to be greeted by a pack of apparent monks strewn about a chessboard. They held up mobile phone screens with instructions to incomers: move a square to the left, for example. Once they were satisfied (presumably) that you'd adequately completed your task, you were permitted to enter the venue proper.

Which was a big big dark room. Beeline for the bar at the far end via a table tennis table, a giant video game projection onto the floor, basketball players on a projector screen on the wall, a little space invaders console, a table football table, lots of spindly green lasers that looked like wires you shouldn't trip for fear of a trap falling on your head, some crazy green grid taped across a big portion of the floor, a video game unit with a screen on which CCTV footage of us was being relayed, a shop window with two chairs, a tiny table, two Rubiks cubes on it (this later played host to the Rubik's Cube Face Off), board games galore on tiny shelves, noughts and crosses in a grid on the wall and a curtained off area with a girl attendant who advised that Something would happen at 9.

It was amazing.

We took drinks from the bar. You were given a card with each drink which had an instruction or suggestion on the back. Brian's card suggested he should make conversation with a stranger and use the card as an excuse. Mine told me to find Gary and challenge him to a game of silent something.

We played Space Invaders, table tennis (an unbalanced game with Russell and weirdy scarfed fellow on one side and me on t'other. And I'm not that skilled at table tennis), table football, tried noughts and Xs but no chalk.

The curtained area at 9pm yielded up card tables. Each little group got a croupier. Ours was an adorable little girl who bubbled her way through their routine which posited (new favourite word) that sport spectating was only really worthwhile when you watched a match live and felt that your willpower could influence the outcome. Neatly brought to life with a game of higher and lower where the group had to agree which way the cards would go and - miracle of miracles - we guessed right every time. Magic or luck? Not sure. Maybe it doesn't matter.

So Piggy in the Middle (brilliant team name) got straight onto the leaderboard. As everybody else also did, this was a Pyrrhic victory. But it did mean we got to choose from a box of delights containing space invaders and milky way stars as a reward. A master stroke. Russell was immediately won over.

And then more drinking. The face off. More games. Karaoke. The night for me was complete when I happened to catch John Tiffany and Vicky Featherstone's rendition of "Something Inside So Strong". The one-time monks were now pacing about wearing what could have been radio-signalled headsets or could have just looked the part. I asked one who looked like he might be the leader if he might find Gary for me. He perhaps forgot or perhaps didn't care about me fulfilling my task. But I must take back anything spiteful I ever thought about Joyce M as giant hats off to her, she struck up a conversation with our very own Brian in response to her card task. A brush with an almost star. But I think he ruined any prospect that he may have had of finding love (with her) by savagely challenging her about why she never reviewed amateur theatre...

All this to a rather fine soundtrack of electronic music that beautifully was building the night to a crescendo when we darted off to catch the tube.

One final gorgeous detail. When I went to the toilet mid-evening, there was a little card fastened to the cubicle wall: call this number for a good time. Determined that this would be one detail where they hadn't followed right through, I phoned. And got a magic message saying that a good time was largely dependent on luck. But she hoped I was having a lucky Saturday night. If I wasn't, I should try these lottery numbers...

I'm sure they were making some deep philosophical point that I should puzzle and tussle over in the forthcoming week. But I suspect I'll just run round telling everyone instead that I played table tennis and space invaders. Disappointingly shallow as ever.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

This is my 600th post.

And though this isn't momentous enough for such a plump round number, I'm panicing because I'm into my last 150 pages of the Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) trilogy and I can't hardly bear to read it now because I don't want t0 it end.

Who'dda thought that six such happy weeks could be spent with three actually quite gruesome books?

As a little light relief, the great news for me (though perhaps dread news for audiences everywhere) is that it shall not be too long now before I take to the stage once more. As Fairy. Tutu-tastic!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Serious Man on Sunday.

I'm interested to see that The Guardian gave it 10 out of 10.

"Euphoric, sad and thoughtful all at once."

It was undoubtedly lovely. But I'm possibly not clever enough to get it.