Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To everyone that helped me, in whatever way, achieve this year's various creative flourishes, I thank you.
Julius Caesar, November 2013

La Cirque de Muerta, June 2013
Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us, Big Burns Supper, Dumfries, January 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Oscar Wilde produced a collection of short stories in a volume titled The Happy Prince and Other Tales, ostensibly for children but they continue to tingle my spine so I guess they work pretty well for adults too.

Wee Stories have seized on one of these stories, The Selfish Giant, and turned it into a Christmas tale for children. Which made it onto my (grown up) Christmas theatre hitlist.

I tried my absolute best to borrow some over 5s to accompany me but the show's popularity conspired against me as I could only purchase lone tickets for all the times we could have attended as a (dysfunctional) "family". Irritating but I'm very happy for Wee Stories that their wee story is selling as well as it roundly deserves.

This is a proper children's Christmas show. Lots of audience participation. Yesterday's audience was replete with children. (Lots of "Is that the giant? Is that the giant, mummy?" pre-curtain-up. And my favourite: "did they make that?........Mummy! Did they make it? Because it's quite good.") And as ever, with child audience participation, any errant reactions add only to the cuteness. One precocious child persisted with his "no's!" when expected to say yes. But the precocious one saw straight through the slight duplicitousness of the invitation and gave the answer that really, we grown people all suspected.

The narrator, Iain Johnstone, does a cracking job. Absolutely perfect diction, I couldn't help but notice. Which isn't to say that his delivery wasn't entirely on the money. I hope I won't cause any offence or break any unprepared hearts when I say he'd make a marvellous grandfather. Imagine the story telling.

The accompanying music is delightful. I particularly liked the creaking sound effects. They disconcerted me just enough to wonder if the theatre was about to fall down.

And the dancing - and the magic daffodils - is and are lovely. Jack Frost stole my show. The audience participation with the (spoiler alert!) re-arrival of Spring came a close second.

The original story features children, rather than animals, being excluded from the garden. And in actuality, I suspect I would have uncontrollably sobbed, being a soft hearted fool, if the boy that the giant reluctantly grudgingly helped into the tree, had featured. And if you play the story out to its original conclusion, well, it veers suddenly into godly territory and I can quite see why Wee Stories might steer away from this. For an audience of over 5s and Christmas-wearied parents, I suspect the tactful revision is far more palatable.

So thank you, Wee Stories. White Christmas was glitz and glamour and spangles. The Selfish Giant is surreptitious gently sparkling Christmas charm with a healthy dollop of childish wonder. Just as it should be. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

White Christmas. The musical version currently showing at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh.

Is a silly story. Two dear friends, bonded in times of (second world) war, forging a career in opportunistic post-war days as (musical) performers. One is charming and has women circling as a matter of course. One is cynical and socially uneasy.

They hear of two sisters producing a new show locally. Predator decides they should go as Cynical might find love with one of the sisters.

They go. And what do you know? They BOTH find love with a sister each. Two for the price of one. 

Except Cynical instantly hates Ginger Haired Sister where Predator instantly loves Blonde Haired Sister. So Predator and BHS have to lure Cynical on a rogue train to Vermont, surprisingly struck with No Snow this Christmas, where they happen upon their aged General who's running a guest house into rack and ruin through good intentions and wishful thinking. 

They decide to put on a Christmas show in the barn to come to the rescue of ageing wishful General. And in the process, despite a variety of terrible Mills and Boon worthy hiccups, Predator and GHS realise they are In Love after all. 

So far, so unremarkable. But this is served up with such a deal of spangles and costumes and unapologetic grinning and rousing musical tappy numbers from the tireless if spindly cast that you'd be a hard hearted person to remain unmoved. 

Particularly if you have the absolute pleasure of sitting through it next to an 11 year old who is fair bursting with the excitement of impending actual Christmas. And loves the theatre and a spangle and a tap shoe to boot. She sat enthralled, eyes wide as wide things, with an expression of absolute delight that was almost enough to make you think that Christmas actually mattered a lot.

So between that, a sheepish for most but enthusiastically heartfelt for us (from even the rough voiced B S) collective rendition of WC and Cari's expression when The Remarkable Thing happened at the end - it was a White Christmas worth dreaming of.

Monday, December 09, 2013

I was in some sort of employment with a school. Or maybe I was just enthusiastically helping them out. 

I'd just finished directing one show. Despite all the small inconveniences thrown at me during the rehearsal process, including a last minute musical let down which had been rescued at the eleven and a halfth hour by an obliging teacher with a talent, the show had been a great success. Pupils full of enthusiasm, parents saying nice things, teachers wishing the next one would come along soon to maintain pupil morale.

Another show was afoot. Some sort of modern day nativity. It promised to be wonderful. But - catastrophe - it had a musical requirement and the obliging rescuing teacher with a talent had just announced that she was 11 weeks pregnant and wouldn't be able to help this time as the show would overlap with the (huge rehearsal period!) birth.

I woke in a panic.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk at Temple Studios. (Paddington. Not not not not not the National Theatre.)

All I shall say is wow.

And when I grow up, I want to make theatre like that.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

She knew she was pretty. Well, beautiful would be more accurate. She couldn't help it. She'd always been the prettiest child. The one strangers stopped in the streets to coo over. The one who always got given far too many presents at birthdays and Christmas just because people couldn't help themselves. The one who was always conveniently placed front centre in photos to elevate domestic scenarios to something rarefied and important.

And the one who was always surrounded by people. Because the beautiful obviously attract not just the beautiful but those who wish they were beautiful too. They weren't to know - and she was a kind girl so she didn't ever mention it - that just hanging around with someone attractive wouldn't automatically make you attractive. No. Good looks came from within. From having a beautiful soul. And that radiated out through cheekbones placed just so, eyes with an inbuilt mischievous twinkle, hair as lustrous as a chestnut thoroughbred (probably more lustrous as a thoroughbred's hair is probably quite coarse in actuality) and a body. Well, let's just say a body that wouldn't be disgraced if it were sculpted from marble. Which had been promised to her, incidentally, by numerous busy-fingered boys over the years.

It was pretty inevitable that she'd end up with MA. The smartest recruit to officer training college that year. Impeccable academic credentials (not that she was interested in any of that but she was told that it was important), a born leader, charming as the day was long. Their eyes met across the ballroom, flooded with gold braid after the passing out parade. (This wasn't chance, incidentally. She'd spent the night until that point shrugging off approaches and prowling around the dance floor like a cat, waiting for an appropriate opportunity for this catching of eyes. She'd instantly figured out that he was the alpha male in the room. People swirled around him in exactly the same way that they swirled around her when she was out of an evening.) He made a beeline for her. "I don't think I know you." His eyes guzzled up her perfectly toned physique, encased in royal blue silk (chosen tactically to denote royalty, even though her parentage couldn't remotely be described as anything so illustrious). "You don't know me," she replied, modestly casting her eyes down to the floor. She'd waited her whole life for this moment. "Yet."

The photographers were circling the Senate building when they left - and one smart arse managed to snap his hand loitering on her posterior. Front page of Salve magazine the next day. But that suited her down to the ground. If he'd had more than a second of doubt after a carefully calculatedly torrid night of passion, he'd have talked himself out of it when confronted with the collective euphoria of the press.

Being the golden couple - the Antony and Cleopatra of their day - was all she ever wanted. For several years. She lunched. She got her nails done. She had full body wraps of exquisite Arabian seaweed to try and preserve the svelteness of youth. She drank carrot juice. And gin and tonic - only 33 calories a portion. She sporadically clutched onto his arm when he needed to appear 2.4 children socially acceptable in public. Which was increasingly less often as time went on. And she waited for him to come home.

"You're with him again, aren't you?" she found herself shrieking with disappointing frequency. She hadn't known until this point that she was capable of shrieking. Beautiful people shouldn't need to shriek. She'd thought.

"He might come in useful," he'd reply, with a steely finality. "He's the heir to the throne if anything - untoward - happens to Caesar. We'll both benefit if we keep on the right side of him." He was pretty, young Octavius. She had to concede that. But a little empty headed, she thought. And she knew that for her to notice that, was quite something.

She was waiting in the foyer for him one night. She'd been downgraded to "official accompanier home" rather than actual companion for the evening. Which, let's be honest, she found depressing. But she still got her lunches and her manicures and her seaweed wraps. And the designers still badgered her - let me design this for you - just wear these for me. So she thought she should probably take the minor personal emotional inconvenience on the chin. So she'd arrived at the back entrance, in just enough time to catch his arm when he strode out of the busy fray and exit through the front door to a strategically placed taxi.

When she heard a "I'm sorry, you know. He's a bit of a"

"No, I shouldn't say that."

She turned. A man dressed in black lurking at the back of the foyer, fiddling with a cigarette, black eyes, black hair. Looked like he had never quite fit anywhere but he didn't wholly care.


We've not met."

He chuckled. "A hundred times. We've met a hundred times. But you've never noticed me."

"I'm sorry, I don't"

"It's alright. I prefer it that way. The people who need to know who I am."

"A man of mystery."

"Not that. I just. Can't be a

Can't be bothered with small talk. That's all."

"I hate it too." She allowed herself a half smile, even though that risked showing off her gums. But it was 2am. She'd not left the house for the whole day previously as she didn't want the natural pollution in the air to tarnish her glowing skin. And she thought she might allow herself a moment to kick back and be herself with this mysterious stranger in black.

"You must be fed up of this."

"No. I."

"I've watched you, you know. You're very faithful. Very obliging. Eager to please, I suppose. But he's really taking the p


"I'd do anything for someone I loved. Really loved." She held his gaze. Brazen. The more gins and fewer tonics suddenly made her feel a little bit dizzy.

"I don't believe in love."

"You don't believe in love??" She was aware of herself opening her eyes very widely and - maybe accidentally - fluttering her eyelashes, like the cartoon princess in Enchanted when she's trying to make all the woodland creatures come to her window.

"It's a lot of romantic bollocks. Invented by Salve to sell more copies. It's not real. True love is loving but not telling someone because you think you'd scare them off. None of this posing for the papers flashy showy off nonsense. True love is what you feel here." He thumped his fist into his stomach.

And she felt something in her stomach flutter in sympathy.

"I'd do anything. Really anything. For someone I loved. Really loved." Conscious again of the gin. "I'd shout it from the rooftops. I'd get it tattooed on me. Their name. Here, on my chest, for always. I'd "

She paused.

"What? What would you do, fair lady?" said the man in black.

She faltered.

Beautiful, yes. Once commended, at any rate. But no-one had ever called her a lady.

She tried to speak. Her voice caught in her throat.

"Tell me." And now he looked frightened. Or rather, frightened at how much he was interested in what she would say next.

"I'd - I think I'd - (watch the gin) I'd (oh bugger it) I'd give myself a voluntary wound in the thigh."

His eyes met hers. Where previously, she'd only seen reserve - apprehension - now she saw. What? A little 'trust me'. A little 'let me in'. A little 'I'd like to really like to would I? yes. really like to get to know you a little bit better' lurking somewhere way back there in his dark dark diffident shy eyes.

Her hands shook as she fumbled in her purse for the once so quickly depleted and now rarely touched stocks of her contact details card.

"Call me." And she turned on her heel, stalked out of the foyer alone, into the waiting taxi and was driven off into the night.