Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Send in the clowns is surely one of the best songs ever written for a musical. Full of pathos and the inimitable cruelty of life.  It's the sort of song that you know intuitively is sad when you're young but you don't really know why. Then you get to be old and you see precisely why it's sad and it's all the more poignant. 

We trooped up to see A Little Night Music at Pitlochry Festival Theatre two weekends ago. It was a bit of a lovely day out and the show was pretty good. The main woman (Basienka Blake, I gather) was excellent and there were some delightful cameos. A real live band, apparently only consisting of three people  which is impossible to fathom, made a lovely sound. And the set was like Home Street firing on all cylinders and some. Like we could possibly make a set like that if we worked really hard for at least a year. It was pretty impressive. 

But the star of the show, in my not always humble opinion, was the song. And it spurred me on to look at the lyrics. Which, interestingly, aren't all that much to write home about.  

Isn't it rich?
Aren't we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid air. 
Send in the clowns.  

It's about a couple of one-time lovers and is sung by the girl of them. They had a sumptuous wonderful fling some years ago. He was married. She moved on. And they meet, by chance, years on. He's now married to his second wife. She's sort of single with "casual" men strewn in her wake. Their eyes meet. Th little sparkly frisson stomach leaping thing happens. They lay together. And subsequent conversation turns to how they should have been together by now. Had things been different. 

Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No-one is there.  

The lyrics lack the superficial satisfactory rhythm and pattern you might see in a song. Which is Sondheim all over. And the 'tune' is the thing that makes this thing extraordinary. Haunting and wistful and lonely and sad and bemused. 

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There out to be clowns.
They're already here.

This is the proper heartbreak. She's brilliant at her job. She's got the hang of being alive and all the stumbles and tumbles that go with it. She thought she pretty much had the measure of people and how they mostly let you down but every now and again, utter serendipity means you're in the right place at just the right time. But it takes two - and she's only one - and it turns out that life was laughing at her (us) all along. 

I mean, I weep when I hear the tune anyway but this is the final sticking the knife in moment. So very beautifully observed by Mr S. (Or maybe I'm just bitter.)

This is one performance I very much wish I'd seen. Maybe next year. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

The last days of the Fringe.

And I was spoilt. Spoilt, I tell you.

On the Friday night, I Did Good for once and helped out in a simple menial way (ticket checking) at a comedy gig (I know, right? This is still me we're talking about....). I sat through a little portion of the show itself which took place at the EICC, snickered a bit but mostly sat there like a sourpuss thinking this is why I never go and see comedy. Because I have such a weird sense of humour that I DON'T FIND IT FUNNY.

Saturday was my dose of Fringe beauty: 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures.

I'd hopes this would be lovely and it was. It was.

An extraordinarily weird premise on the face of it. Let's take four ballet dancers and four jugglers and mash them into a show. Oh - and we'll pop in a string quartet for good measure. But it was all about balance and strength and there wasn't a person of restricted growth reciting Shakespeare to a pulsating soundtrack. Beautiful.

Then then then there was Janis Joplin: Full Tilt. My dad raved about this show last year so I was eager to see it. Cora Bissett directed so of course I was going to love it. A bit of a story, a live band, a lot of brilliant music and a stellar performance from Angela Darcy. I was amused to see the production appeared at the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries earlier this year. In good company, then.

On Sunday, a neat, tidy and very well executed show called Cut. A really great premise (air hostess), a really great venue (a totally blacked out room fashioned to look like a plane cabin), an interesting and very nicely written script and another extremely polished performance from Hannah Norris. I'm happy to see she put on extra shows for the final Fringe weekend. She did very well with the show in Adelaide before she brought it here and I'm glad Edinburgh liked it too. It was just what the Fringe should be.

And then - the pièce de résistance.  I haven't cried all that much this Fringe. Hadn't. A little (quite a lot actually) at Every Brilliant Thing. A very little at the miserable Girl is a Half Formed Thing. A little more at seeing my life on stage in Swallow. A little at Max Richter's Four Seasons and quite a lot at the ever so very beautiful Sylvie Guillem.  

Tomorrow by the brilliant Vanishing Point was my time to sob. Thoughtful and careful and compassionate and imaginative and kind. Just what theatre should be. A perfect ending to the ragtag wonderful creative imagination overload of the glorious Edinburgh Fringe.
Refreshment both material and spiritual 
A Hidden Gem and a New Social Enterprise 
The Old School Café, Infirmary Street
Café open 11 am - 3 pm Monday – Friday, continuing beyond the Festivals
Real Junk Food Project - Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in August
Stars *****
The Old School Café in the South Bridge Community Centre on Infirmary Street was trialled as a Festival café last year.  With the support and facilitation of Canongate Youth, and with People’s Millions Lottery Funding gained through public votes providing sufficient capital funding for the proper fitting out of the café, it re-opened at the end of June 2015: and hoorah! it will continue to be open after all the Festival hoo-hah is over and done with for another year.
It’s a lovely space, and the food and drinks are great.  Whether you just want a quick coffee and a tasty cake or prefer something more filling, there is something for you at an extremely reasonable price – the menu is excellent and varied, with daily hot specials and salads, hot rolls, baked potatoes, soup, superb coffee and an intriguing selection of teas.   Produce is all sourced locally, either from social enterprises such as Breadshare or businesses like Findlays of Portobello and Cuttea Sark (who have produced a bespoke coffee bean for the Old School Café).
The really good thing about the café, though, which sets it apart from most other ones, is that it provides experience, training and qualifications for young people who are looking to learn employability and life skills.  Donna McArdle, superb cook and the mastermind behind the café, enthused about the successful outcomes of a project which “transforms young people who fall out of the school system and can then discover that they are really good at hospitality”, (sometimes in just one or two shifts in the café), adding that working in hospitality services is the one place where, if you are good, you are told so on a daily basis by satisfied customers.
The other intriguing project run by Donna, Charlie Hanks and Aileass Pringle, is the Real Junk Food Project, which intercepts perfectly good food which would otherwise end up as landfill and creates deliciously healthy meals which are then offered on a “pay as you feel able” basis to an ever-growing community of people.  Donna’s main suppliers in Edinburgh are Dig In, Edinburgh Community Food, BreadshareCommunity Bakery, Twelve Triangles and Fruitilicious.
As well as creating fabulous meals and an inclusive community of like-minded (and well-fed!) people of all ages, the project aims to raise awareness of the amount of food waste in this country.  The Real Food Junk Project has been putting on weekly events in a variety of places from April this year, some as fundraisers [e.g. for Nepal], and is offering food and conversation on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights in August at the Old School Café.  I had fascinating conversation and a delicious three-course meal at a ‘Mrs Dalloway’-themed evening last week [see images on the Facebook page!], and am looking forward to an entirely different evening this Wednesday.  After August, the themed gatherings will be once a week, on alternating mid-week and weekend days – keep abreast of developments at
Donna McArdle has just been appointed Scottish Coordinator of the Real Junk Food Project, has plans to start something up in other areas including both East and West Lothian.  Get in touch with her if you are interested in starting something up via email:
Dinner with a purpose – feed bellies not bins!  What’s not to like?  Enjoy!!
Mary Woodward