Archive | June 2015

The Driver’s Seat: Muriel Spark’s darkly surreal novella: the world premiere by National Theatre of Scotland

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009, Laurie Sansom directed a 5 star production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie –  Muriel Spark’s pin-sharp, poetic character portrait of her former school mistress – stylishly staged at the Assembly Hall.

Muriel-Spark-National-Theatre-ScotlandDescribed as a “metaphysical shocker,” Spark’s surreal thriller of a novella, The Driver’s Seat, has now been adapted by Sansom into an exhilarating, intimate play for the National Theatre of Scotland.

By 1937 some of my friends were getting engaged, even married. I longed to leave Edinburgh and see the world. It was on 13 August, 1937 when, alone for the first time in my life, I sailed on the Windsor Castle, to Cape Town, the first lap on my journey”  Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae.

Spark’s anti-heroine- protagonist in The Driver’s Seat is Lise, a 34 year old woman, is also desperate to experience a foreign adventure.

driversseatThe first scene opens with her sitting bold upright at her paper and file-strewn desk as a gaggle of grey suited colleagues gather for an office meeting.

Clearly she does not belong in this grey-toned environment with its daily dull routine. Slamming her hand on the stapler like a cry for help, her boss suggests she takes time out and prepare for her holiday.

The stage set is economically designed to denote an open plan office space with desks, tables, chairs, shifted in an instant to represent a kitchen, boutique, airport lounge, aircraft, hotel lobby, taxis, department store, police station.

Elizabeth Taylor starred as Lise in the film version

Elizabeth Taylor starred as Lise in the film version

We observe Lise as she purchases a summer dress arguing with the shop assistant about stain-resistant fabric – ‘Do you think I spill things on my clothes?” she barks at her.   Back home in her flat, she meticulously packs her handbag with passport and airline ticket, a faint smile playing around her lips, knowing she is about to escape.

And so her journey begins with a flight from this northern city to an unspecified destination in southern Europe. At the airport, she is fashionably dressed in her new geometric, rainbow-coloured dress and striped jacket, attracting immediate glances from passengers.

Morven Christie as Lise

Morven Christie as Lise

But then, we hear the shocking news:  “She will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.”

The action then follows the next 24 hours, like a reconstruction on Crimewatch or Countdown to Murder TV documentary. A large Perspex screen stands centre stage with the word VICTIM beside images, photographs, street maps and names of witnesses.

Multi-layered, visual staging with film backdrop

Multi-layered, visual staging with film backdrop

Flashback: now at her hotel in Italy ( Rome perhaps), she encounters Mrs Fiedke, an elderly widow whom she takes under her wing to go shopping. Lise explains that she is meeting her boyfriend later, at least will find a man who will be her type.

‘Will you feel a presence? Is that how you’ll know?’
‘Not really a presence,’ Lise says. ‘The lack of an absence, that’s what it is.”

We can sense that Lise is an unreliable narrator; her name is an anagram of Lies, a web of which she spins with carefree abandon in her distorted fantasy world.

Mrs Fiedke, Lise and Carlo, their driver

Mrs Fiedke, Lise and Carlo, their driver

Morven Christie is simply superb, her ice-cold detachment and manipulative behaviour reveal a manic, yet curiously enigmatic personality.

Her sense of glamour, vivacity and femme fatale charm attracts three men during the course of this, her final, day. Lise has a premeditated quest to experience alienation from reality as she takes over the driver’s seat on a journey of self-destruction.

The time-travelling scenario is vividly dramatised by the excellent international ensemble cast, many playing diverse roles. With live close-up cameras,  film backdrops and an electrifying, atmospheric sound track, Laurie Sansom has adapted and choreographed this bleak, satirical tragi-comedy with subtle pathos and theatrical, dreamlike vision.

Performance dates:

Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, 13 – 27 June 2015 –

Tramway, Glasgow,  2 – 4 July, 2015 –


Scottish Juniper Festival: 12 – 14 June, 2015 to celebrate World Gin Day – Cheers!

world gin dayWorld Gin Day was founded by Neil Houston, aka YetAnotherGin in 2009. It started off as a day to bring his friends together to drink gin and has grown into a global celebration.

In 2013 Emma Stokes, aka Gin Monkey took over the reigns.

The concept is simple: arrange a party to enjoy a few sparkling gins together. with events happening all over the world. A day for everyone to celebrate the fresh tasting summer spirit.

“When life gives you lemons, make a Gin and Tonic.!” 

Gin-TonicWorld Gin Day is Saturday 13th June, 2015. ( )

In Edinburgh,  head up to Summerhall on the Meadows for the Scottish Juniper Festival to celebrate the wonderful world of gins and World Gin Day.

juniper festivalMartin Duffy is the brainchild behind this fizzing fun event, with the encouragement of Geraldine Coates the lady behind, who suggested that Summerhall would be ideal place.   Last year the inaugural Festival was attended by around 800 people, and this weekend promises to be much bigger and better  ..

This year we have been able to use almost double the space to feature more Gin companies. Gin has always been a British classic but the gin scene is really thriving at the moment with so many new flavours and serves being championed by international, UK and Scottish gin brands. Over three days the festival showcases a variety of these extraordinary gins through engaging talks and mixology sessions.”   Martin Duffy

How may Gin brands do you know ?

At the Festival you will have the opportunity to sample a few of these  … No.3 Gin, Shetland, Brokers, Bloom, Martin Miller’s, Brockman’s, Crossbill, Daffy’s , Minus 33, Darnley’s View & Spiced, Burleigh’s, Edinburgh Gin and Rock Rose…

The botanicals which create Rock Rose ..

The botanicals which create Rock Rose ..

………. and also Eden Mills, Opihr, Hendrick’s, Blackwood’s, Ish, Pickering’s, Strathearn  … just add ice and a slice with a splash of tonic!

cucumber-and-hendricksEdinburgh Gin has created  a new summertime Gin in time for World Gin Day this weekend – Seaside Gin.  It features seaweed, scurvy grass and ground ivy, all the botanicals sourced from the coastline of white sand beaches and rocky coves around Edinburgh and East Lothian.   Serve with sparkling tonic or as a Seaside Martini with a platter of fresh seafood – the perfect ice-cold drink for a beach picnic or barbecue.

The new Seaside Edinburgh Gin for summer days

The new Seaside Edinburgh Gin for summer days

There are sure to be Gins you have never had the chance to taste ….for example, from the United States – Aviation and Death’s Door, or a sassy, spicy French gin, Saffron By Gabriel Boudier and brands from across the UK, Holland, Scandinavia, Spain and Ireland.

Visitors can also tour Pickering’s gin distillery which is based at Summerhall – the award winning Edinburgh brand.


Listen to a talk on Cocktails by Mike McGinty from The Blackbird in Summerhall’s 100 year old Anatomy Lecture Theatre.

The vast range of gins today has also created speciality tonics to match the different flavours of the spirit. The “Challenge of the Tonics” is an event with staff from 56 North Gin bar offering the audience a tasting session of five gin and tonics – Fever-Tree, Fentiman’s, 1724 , and the new Scottish tonic, Walter Gregors.

walter tonicThe same gin will be used each time to test the difference tonic can make to taste.  56 North offers over 200 varieties of gin, the largest choice in any bar in Scotland.

Also at the Scottish Juniper Festival you can browse around a Boutique showcasing fashion and crafts by local designers.  Pick up a bite to eat from the Street food vendors, visit the G&T bar within the Courtyard and an enticing Cocktail bar.

After having the chance to taste a few different, distinctive gins,  visit the Gin Shop to take a bottle or two of your favourite brand home.

Happy World Gin Day – Cheers!

Tickets are £21.50 with a choice of sessions over the weekend:-

Friday 12th June, 17.00 – 21.30
Saturday 13th June, 12.00 -16.30
Saturday 13th June, 17.30 – 22.00
Sunday 14th June, 12.30 – 17.30 – see Events

Facebook /ScottishJuniperFestival

gin and tonic keep calm

Matthew Bourne’s “The Car Man” – Bizet’s Carmen re-imagined. Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

The multi- award winning Choreographer- Director, Matthew Bourne must have amazing, colourful dreams, in which dance and literary classics – Nutcracker!, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Dorian Gray – are given a contemporary makeover with inspirational, artistic vision. “Swan Lake,” his now legendary, all male, wittily-camp extravaganza became the longest running ballet in the West End and on Broadway.

car man posterThe Car Man is Bizet’s Carmen Re-imagined but as Bourne admits, “I wasn’t particularly interested in the story of Carmen, the opera. I know there are parallels, but it was more the feeling of the music and the feeling of what we all know Carmen to be.”

(i.e. a seductively sexy Spanish gypsy girl in a cigarette factory, 1820, Seville).

Instead, the plot is based loosely on James M Cain’s 1934 crime thriller, “The Postman always Rings Twice”, a fever-pitched tale of an itinerant drifter who stumbles into a job, an erotic obsession, and murder.

postman 1946The perfect plot indeed for a movie (1946 & 1981) and also an intimately-staged, chilling version by Opera Theater of St. Louis which was performed, as I recall vividly, at the 1983 Edinburgh Festival.

postman 3While the audience take their seats, the cast is ready on stage as a huge Billboard screen welcomes us to Harmony, Pop, 375, a rural community, mid-west America, late 1950s.

The huge steel scaffold structure of a set, designed by Lez Brotherston, is so realistic: a neon sign for Dino’s Diner with Daily Specials menu, Gasoline station & Car repair shop, a couple of vintage cars, tyres, mechanics in vests and jeans – the boys being eyed up by neighbourhood girls in pretty summer dresses. With beer and cigarettes, it’s time to party.

car man groupAs a prologue to the passionate drama soon to unfold, the garage boys stop work and strip off to shower in the locker room/ apartment above the garage. A large sign, Man Wanted, is soon spotted by a drifter, just arrived in town, looking for work.  Luca offers his services to Dino, while his wife Lana (named after Lana Turner in the 1946 movie), observes the newly recruited Car Man with personal interest.

“Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing, but stealing his car, that’s larceny”.  James M Cain, “The Postman Always Rings Twice”

The narrative is brilliantly translated into action without words by the ensemble of dancers. Bourne’s choreography is driven, often at full speed, by the melodic music: seamless, synchronised routines with energetic acrobatics glide into graceful, balletic pas de deux sequences; a lively country & western barn dance shifts into beatnik jives in a nightclub.

When the summer night becomes Too Darn Hot, Luca and Lana, a sultry and seductive femme fatale, take advantage of Dino’s absence with lustful abandon. This is breathtaking, fast and furious, erotic dirty dancing, from floor to car hood to the table in the Diner, ( a scene borrowed from the 1981 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange).

Luca and Lana - their adulterous affair sizzles in the summer heat

Luca and Lana – their adulterous affair sizzles in the summer heat

When Dino arrives home, the climax of their brief encounter heads uncontrollably towards an act of shockingly graphic violence.  What is so powerful is the portrayal of characters, expressing such spontaneous and truthful emotion and anger.

“The Car Man” is like a multi-layered, theatrical jigsaw of handpicked pieces from classical music, Hollywood movies, hard boiled crime fiction and dance.

The stylish period glamour, dramatic tension and artistic vision is like watching a Film Noir re-enacted live on stage – a steamy hot, Hitchcockian-style thriller of a road trip. For lovers of contemporary dance, the choreography is simply electrifying, exhilarating  and exquisitely beautiful in its pace and passion.

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – 9 – 13th June, 2015.

Spring – Summer 2015 UK Tour dates:

Relish Scotland (Third Helping) is an appetising and very tasty Travel Guide for gourmands

oliver twistChild as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel and then clung for support to the copper. ‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.
‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’

Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist.

It was in 2009 when Relish Publications was launched by food lovers Duncan and Teresa Peters, a series of Regional guides to the best restaurants across the UK. Relish Scotland (2010) was followed by Relish Scotland (Second Helping, 2013).   And now, rather like Oliver, hungry for more of the same, restaurateurs and readers have asked for Relish Scotland (Third Helping), just hot off the Press – or should I say, hot off the Grill.!

Layout 1Scotland is a food lover’s dream destination. Farmland, Highland moors, rivers, lochs and sea provide prime produce which is a global best-seller – Exports to the US, Singapore, Japan, Middle East and across Europe now reach £1.1 Billion. If you add Scotch Whisky and Gin, Food and Drink exports totals over £5 Billion.

Relish Scotland (Third Helping) takes us on a road trip across Scotland, from Ayrshire to Argyll, Edinburgh to Skye, Fife to the Hebrides to the best places to stay and eat.

Here are a few of my own favourite hotels, restaurants, bars and bistros which I am delighted to say are included in this book.

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is an ancient land of wild scenic beauty, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, whisky bars and romantic hotels.

Kinloch Lodge is the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Macdonald, welcoming guests for over 40 years, with exemplary hospitality and house party ambience on the shores of Loch na Dal.

Kinloch Lodge - a G&T in the cosy lounge before dinner?

Kinloch Lodge – drinks are served in the cosy lounge before dinner

Marcello Tully, the Michelin starred Head Chef creates an innovative tasting menu of local Langoustines, Rabbit stuffed with venison and prunes, Mallaig Hake and Mussels, Chocolate Ganache, with wine or whisky flights to complement each course.  The next morning, experience a classic breakfast fit for a King. Residential Cookery courses from Lady Claire Macdonald too.

The Torridon is a former Victorian shooting lodge, surrounded by majestic mountain peaks in Wester Ross –a twice winner of the top award, Scottish Hotel of the Year.  Luxurious bedrooms,  superlative cuisine and wonderful country sports for the perfect rural retreat.

The Torridon

The Torridon

Chef David Barnett is able to source beef from the hotel’s herd of cattle, pork from their own Tamworth pigs, Estate venison and fish from Gairloch. Speciality dishes include Isle of Ewe Smoked Haddock ravioli, Roast Grouse & Savoy cabbage, Malt whisky parfait with fresh raspberries for a true taste of the Highlands.

Heading over to the Moray Firth, Boath House, is an art-filled Georgian mansion owned and personally created with care by Wendy and Don Mathieson. Based on the Slow Food ethos, the cuisine is always seasonal and local – lamb, beef, shellfish and artisan cheese. The kitchen garden supplies vegetables, herbs, salads, flowers and fruit.

Boath House - fine art and Michelin star dining

Beautiful Boath House – fine art, tranquil gardens and Michelin star dining

Head Chef Charles Lockley goes foraging for wild leaves, mushrooms, berries and flowers and bread, ice creams, jams and biscuits are home-made. A distinctive Michelin Star dining experience – and for breakfast too!

Perthshire is a wonderful county for outdoor sports, fishing, shooting and woodland walks.  Ballathie House is a traditional country house with a warm, welcoming hospitality from afternoon tea in the lounge to a G&T in the Bar before dinner.  ballathie hotel

Start perhaps with Terrine of Salmon and Sole followed by Venison with butternut squash fondant. Head Chef Scott Scorer and his team work with the gamekeeper and ghillie to source Ballathie Estate beef and lamb and freshly caught fish from the River Tay.

Scott Scorer and Chefs, Ballathie

Scott Scorer and his team of chefs, Ballathie

Pitlochry is a year round visitor destination thanks to the Festival Theatre, Erdradour Distillery, House of Bruar (Harrods of the North), and fine places to stay.

Fonab Castle

Fonab Castle

Fonab Castle is a stunning redstone turreted hotel on Loch Faskally with two restaurants, the casual brasserie and Sandemans for fine dining. Selected dishes in the book include Beef Fillet with Foie Gras & Morel mushrooms, and finish with a palate cleansing Lemon Posset and sorbet.  Head Chef Paul Burns goes foraging for wild mushrooms in the woodlands nearby and picks berries through the summer.

Table with a view at Fonab Castle

Table with a view at Fonab Castle

Look at this fabulous scenery over loch and forested hills as you enjoy a superb dinner.  Fonab Castle is the place for a time at leisure – culture, sports, touring around by day, relax in the Spa and experience fine wines and cuisine.

Set off again south to Fife an the quaint historic town of St. Andrew. The Old Course Hotel, is described as “ the home of Scottish cuisine in the home of Golf,” under Executive Chef, Martin Hollis.

As part of five venues to eat and drink at the Resort, do visit the Road Hole Bar (specialising in 250 whiskies, Scottish Caorunn gin and classic Cocktails) and the adjoining romantic Restaurant, both with stunning views over the golf course and West Sands beach beyond.

Road Hole Restaurant,  overlooking Old Course, St. Andrews

Road Hole Restaurant,
overlooking Old Course, St. Andrews

Hollis strongly advocates Food From Fife, following a seasonal calendar to serve fresh produce from crab to asparagus. Signature dishes include East Neuk Lobster and Heather honey parfait with home-grown rhubarb sorbet.

The buzzing Adamson bar and brasserie

The buzzing Adamson bar and brasserie

The Adamson is a popular place for local residents, students and golfers to St. Andrews, the decorative Brasserie now extended with a new Bar. The selected starter is Quail, Sweetcorn, Soy and Mushroom Broth, garnished with a soft quail’s egg on the top.

Explore further around Fife – eating well all the way; warmly recommended is the Peat Inn, dating back to the 1750s, now a Michelin starred Restaurant with Rooms run by Geoffrey and Katherine Smeddle – so the best plan is to stay the night, or two, after a sumptuous dinner of Warm Duck salad and Roast salmon.

Relax, eat, drink and sleep at the historic Peat Inn

Relax, eat, drink and sleep at the historic Peat Inn

Let’s now zoom south east, over to the tranquil countryside and seashore of Dumfries and Galloway. Knockinaam Lodge is the place for a peaceful getaway – log fires, antiques, lovely bedrooms, vintage bathrooms and sea views.

knockinaam on the seashore

Knockinaam Lodge located near the seashore

Winston Churchill stayed here for wartime meetings with Eisenhower. Head Chef Tony Pierce has held a Michelin star here for 20 years for his classic French menu: Galloway Roe deer, scallops, lobster, with garlic, aubergine, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, courgette flowers and peas grown in the kitchen garden.

Just outside Glasgow, on the banks of River Clyde, Mar Hall is a five star Golf and Spa Resort.  It is sumptuously furnished with original period architectural features.

The elegant Crystal Restaurant overlooks the garden.  Head Chef Jonny MacCallum and his team prepare such dishes as Roast loin of Lamb and Cranachan Souffle – modern Scottish cuisine indeed.

Grand Victorian design, Mar Hall

Grand Victorian design, Mar Hall

Edinburgh is home to several Michelin star restaurants – The Kitchin, Number One, Martin Wishart, 21212., Castle Terrace. Profile interviews with all these superlative chefs are featured in Relish Scotland.

Tom Kitchin in The Kitchin

Tom Kitchin in his newly expanded retaurant,  The Kitchin

Superb eating and drinking in Bars and Bistros around the city; On The Shore, Leith the charming old waterside pub, The Ship on the Shore is a classy place with a Champagne Bar and seafood Restaurant – Crustacean and Molluscs, classic Fruit de Mer platters, Fish Pie, Bar meals and Sunday Brunch.

The Ship on the Shore, Leith

The Ship on the Shore, Leith with champagne bar and lobster platters

In the urban village of Stockbridge, eat and drink well at the welcoming Hamilton’s Bar & Kitchen. Lunch: Salads, Burgers, Fishcakes, gourmet sandwiches & chunky chips; Dinner: Ale battered Oysters, Venison & Haggis fritters; Cool cocktails and Hamilton’s own label wine.  I am just so pleased I live five minutes walk away from here – my Local!

Hamilton's Bar and Kitchen

Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen

This new edition of Relish Scotland is an excellent, appetising guide to a handpicked selection of restaurants. Stunning colour photographs illustrate locations, interior designs and the Kitchen brigade.  It’s also a Cook Book of Recipes including suggestions for paired wines for the reader to prepare Masterchef and Michelin Star meals at home.  Pick up a copy and plan your foodie tour of Scotland soon!

Relish Publications – details of all the books @

Chefs celebrate the new Relish Scotland at the Old Course Hotel, St. Andews

Chefs celebrate the new Relish Scotland at the Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews