Archive | September 2019

Visit the new sassy, sophisticated Cocktail and Champagne Bars at Le Monde, Edinburgh – cheers!

Le Monde, George Street

The World came to Edinburgh thirteen years ago ..

Well to be more accurate, the quirky, cool and ultra contemporary boutique hotel, Le Monde opened on George Street.

This was a really exciting concept when it launched, offering guests the choice of eighteen superior bedrooms and suites each inspired by the world’s most cultural and cosmopolitan cities, from Barcelona to Rio, Berlin to Reykjavik, Casablanca to Sydney.  In 2006, my partner  Ken and I stayed for a review visit, jetting off (as it were) to Los Angeles, a Junior Suite, in the process.

Los Angeles, Le Monde – a suite set amongst the Hollywood Stars

This really oozes Hollywood glamour, featuring dozens of portraits of famous movie stars, stunning white leather sofas, bedroom, bathroom with a round tub designed for two.

Le Monde was named Scottish Design Hotel at the Scottish Hotel Awards in that first year of of opening, as well as a runner up for its Paris Bar and as a Boutique Hotel.  Its international themed décor and design lead all the way around from bedrooms to the Bars, Brasserie and Shanghai nightclub.

Fast forward to September 2019

Le Monde welcomes drinkers and diners to experience the revamped, restyled Bars and Restaurant following a major £1 million, four month renovation project.  The original, traveller’s tale around Le Monde has been enhanced with great imagination to take you on a culinary and cultural journey.

Just beyond the entrance hall is the ab fab Champagne Bar with velvet draped booth seating and high backed claret-coloured stools around the half moon Bar.

Just the place to stay awhile and sip a glass or two of Laurent-Perrier, the House Champagne, served by flute, bottle and magnum, as well as other sparkling wines and champagne.

It’s not the wizard’s yellow brick, but follow the colourful zig zag, marble road through to the Cocktail Bar with an amazing Island Bar in the centre, where you can sit on tan leather stools all around. Smart and spacious, it’s rather like a First Class Airline Club Lounge and ideal choice of seating for either couples or a party of friends.

The Cocktail Bar, Le Monde

Let’s have a taste of what’s on offer …

At a sneak preview, Ken and I had an inspiring tour around to sample a few innovative cocktails and tasty tapas.  Generation X & Millennials might think cocktails were invented in the 20th century, but 2019 is celebrating the centenary of the Negroni invented in 1919 Florence, named after a Count who concocted the tipple.

Count Negroni and his own now legendary Gin & Campari cocktail

A book entitled “Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them” of 1896 features a recipe for Martini, which resembles very much the classic we love to this day. The decades from World War 1 to the 1930s was the era of the cocktail, as Cole Porter would sing about in 1924 with his perfect talent for rhyming:

"Too many parties and too many beaus
They have found that the fountain of youth
Is a mixture of gin and vermouth .."

Cocktails at Le Monde, inspired from global cities

It’s departure Time at Le Monde Cocktail Bar – remember it’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world so time for a drink.  Browse the enticing menu of fancy drinks inspired by classics and cities around the world: “Saintoge Sidecar”, the classic was invented at the Ritz Paris – the version here is a blend of Tequila, VS Cognanc, Cointreau and fresh lime juice with a dash of  champagne.

Cocktails inspired from cities around the world, jazzed up with a modern twist

“S’Bigliato” is a famous drink in Milan and means The Mistake. The story goes that a barman was trying to make a Negroni with Martini rosato, Aperol,  Campari and Prosecco, rose vermouth and bitters, creating a rather different pink drink.

Also try the “ Gin Gin Cosmo” a celebration of hip New York cocktails, the Cosmopolitan, Clover Club and Gin Mule, with Gordons Pink Gin, Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur with fresh lime and cranberry juice.  I think Carrie & the gals would love it.!

Cocktails for the Sex and the City girls

Imaginative re-mixes and shake ups of cocktails too from Casablanca, Rio, Havana and Berlin as well as Cocktail pitchers for a group. And of course, fine wines, champagnes, Prosecco, spirits, draught and bottled beers.

The Brasserie, Le Monde for casual dining day and night.

Around the corner from the Bar, there are comfortable banquette seats for dining.  The new food menu is ideal for a romantic dinner a deux, or a night out with friends, sharing a few Tapas such as Chorizo & Cheese Croquettes,  Aubergine Bruschetta,  Roast Pepper and olive salad, Battered Haddock bites (like posh fish fingers), Serrano ham with broccoli, Sweet potato fries.  Also a range of steak, burgers, vegetarian and vegan dishes, sides and desserts.

Appetising lite bites and seriously good food for the modern traveller – breakfast, brunch, lunch and supper.

Sharing plates, tapas and bites – fresh local, seasonal seafood, meat and veggie food

Travel the World

Thirteen years since it first opened, this major design facelift has transformed Le Monde into a glamorous getaway in the city, perfect for any occasion.  The refurbishment was created by RYE Design, an Architecture and Interior Design Studio. The original classic Georgian features are juxtaposed beside the new cool, contemporary plush, luxe décor.

And of course you can stay overnight.  Each styled bedroom and suite, whatever the standard, has a 42” plasma TV screen, air conditioning, minibar, bathrooms with rainfall showers, Scottish toiletries, bathrobe & slippers, a safe, refreshment facilities and complimentary WiFi.  Select your favourite city to enjoy a themed experience with well selected photography, art, fabrics, books, lighting and cultural style.

New York, Le Monde

Marrakesh, Le Monde

The Dirty Martini, upstairs is a Bar and Salon for private parties, festive celebrations and corporate receptions, and downstairs, is the popular Shanghai Night Club.  Le Monde certainly is an all singing, all dancing international venue for drinking, eating, sleeping, leisure and lifestyle

Commenting on the re-opening, Darren Scott, the General Manager, said:

‘Le Monde has been a favourite venue in the heart of Edinburgh for many years now, and we’ve taken that wonderful idea of a trip to glamorous and exciting places and reinvented it.  The newly refurbished bar and restaurant exude the warm cosmopolitan glamour and relaxed luxury that make you want to while away the day or evening.

Our food and drink menus delve into the culture, customs and cocktails of cities around the world to create a very special selection.  Every dish and drink has been devised, blending global inspiration with ingredients in Scotland.

Celebrate a new era of Le Monde with us.’

Darren Scott, General Manaager, Le Monde

Reviews from happy drinkers and diners who have visited in September 2019 :

A girls’ weekend in Edinburgh and came here for cocktails – so good we came back a second night! Highly recommended.

Luxurious setting. Love the idea of small plates allowing to try many dishes. Not a vegan but the decorative beetroot dish was to die for. Cocktails from around the world were fab.

The new cocktail menu is impressive, themed on different cities around the world. Looking forward to trying out the new champagne bar!  Ching ching.

Take a trip to Le Monde soon to discover a world of possibilities in its new era with a sassy new look,  classy, classic cocktails, delicious dining and luxurious interior – a place to eat, drink, sleep and party the night away.

Le Monde – Bar, Brasserie, Hotel, Nightclub

16 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PF  –

Le Monde for cool cocktails, champagne and drinks galore


The cult Sci-Fi novel “Solaris” by Stanislaw Lem is imaginatively staged as a chilling thriller at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Original book cover, of Solaris, 1961

Let us take you with us to Solaris, planet of mystery, embodiment of man’s latent conflict with the unknown. Man, face to face with his conscience, and with his past.”

The philosophical science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem was published in Polish in 1961, (English translation, 1970), a timeless masterpiece as a dark, emotional exploration of the human psyche.

Poster image for the 1972 Movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

The Movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, 1972, and the remake in 2002 by director Steven Soderbergh was turned into more of a romantic drama starring George Clooney.

David Greig has now adapted the narrative from page to stage, set in a Space Station orbiting the planet Solaris which is surrounded by a swirling, stormy ocean.  Kris Kelvin, a psychologist has just arrived to investigate the work of the research team and complete the mission, following the death of the director, Dr. Gibarian.

Fode Simbo as Snow and Polly Frame as Kris as she arrives at the Space Station

Kris is welcomed by Dr. Snow on arrival and and then meets Dr. Sartorius when the three scientists, dressed in their green khaki uniform of T shirts and combat trousers, later that evening. It’s a surreal social occasion as they chat and share a bottle of wine, as if Kris is visiting a friend for supper, back on Earth. But soon Sartorius is distant and reclusive while Snow is quietly watchful in the company of this new intruder. As if traumatised by something, what are they hiding?

Polly Frame as Kris and Jade Ogugua as Sartorius

The white, box like set is more minimalist, domestic Scandi design than Star Trek /Tardis spacecraft: smart, sleek and functional, hideaway work desks, kitchen table and beds all slide, silently in and out of the walls in a series of short, snappy scenes.

Kelvin is mesmerised by her first glimpse of Solaris, as we also view a panoramic seascape film of wild, rolling waves on screen – this drops down at frequent intervals, immersing us into the black-out of Space.

The night stared me in the face, amorphous, blind, infinite, without frontiers. Not a single star relieved the darkness behind the glass.” from “Solaris”

A collection of video tapes recorded by the late Gibarian are personal messages for Kris to explain that the planet is believed to be a sentient, brain-like organism. The crew have all been haunted by hallucinatory figures, known “visitors” from their past lives. “We are not alone” is his shocking warning.

A Message from the dead: Hugo Weaving and Polly Frame as Gibarian and Kelvin –

While asleep, she has a visitation herself, waking up to find Ray, her deceased lover curled up in bed beside her. Initially fearful, she needs to understand more about this humanoid manifestation, apparently drawn from her dreams, memories and feelings of loss, guilt, regret.

Kris, Sartorius and Snow with their new visitor “Ray” – the subject of scientific study.

Although irrational, Kris, as a psychologist, tries to rekindle an emotional attachment to find out the truth of their relationship and his death.  This strange encounter is well dramatised – Polly Frame captures the lively energy of a youthful Kris, while Keegan Joyce as “Ray”, expresses a cheeky, childlike personality with bursts of manic, manipulative behaviour unsure of his identity.

The characteristic trope of classic science fiction illustrates the first contact with alien life.  Stanislaw Lem felt that the 1972 movie of his novel failed to capture the extraordinary physical and psychological “alienness” of Solaris.

A view of the alien ocean planet, Solaris from the 1972 movie.

Theatre can, however, create a tangible sense of realism. With an undercurrent of dramatic mood music, bold lighting and dreamlike visual effects, the mysterious, menacing planet is an omnipresent “character” as an invasive extra-terrestrial force.  As the scientists attempt to communicate with Solaris, this ‘thinking’ Oceanic brain is able to access their subconscious and identity as a mirror to their souls.

How do you expect to communicate with the Ocean, when you can’t even understand one another?”  from “Solaris”

Inventively designed and directed with a subtle, slow growing tension, the white, stark, sterile setting creates an ice-cold, claustrophobic atmosphere.  The classic cult novel “Solaris” has been re-imagined with cool, composed performances, up close and personal, as an electrifying thriller, which chills to the bone.

Solaris, a new play by David Greig.

Directed by Matthew Lutton. Cast: Polly Frame, Keegan Joyce, Jade Ogugua, Fode Simbo, Hugo Weaving

This is a co production between the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne and Lyric Hammersmith, London. 

The first performance took place at the Malthouse Theatre on 28 June, 2019 

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (

12th September to 5th October, 2019

Lyric Hammersmith, London (

10th October to 2nd November, 2019

Lanzarote Retreats come to the rescue of stranded Thomas Cook travellers with a warm-hearted spirit of hospitality

Thomas Cook World Tours, founded 1841

The much loved holiday firm Thomas Cook, was founded in 1841, starting with a successful one-day summertime rail excursion for just a shilling per person travelling from Leicester to Loughborough. From these humble beginnings launched a whole new kind of tour company, devoted to helping Britons see the world.

The tragic news of the company’s sudden collapse, ceasing trading today has now required the urgent repatriation of Thomas Cook customers – the largest to be organised in peacetime.  More than 150,000 British and around 400,000 international travellers on vacation around the world are now seriously affected by unpaid hotel bills and cancellation of return flights.

Thomas Cook plane, Arrecife, Lanzarote

It was therefore most heartening to hear that ‘Lanzarote Resorts’ immediately rallied around to assist all stranded travellers.  This is the welcoming message they sent out this morning, Monday 23rd September, 2019.

 All available accommodation will be gifted to any families left stranded in Lanzarote by the collapse of Thomas Cook.  We are happy to provide our services and all available accommodation to any visitors, free of charge, who have been left stranded as a direct result of Thomas Cook no longer trading.

In addition, once Lanzarote Retreats has no further availability, we will try and help by contacting other providers here to do the same for anyone we cannot accommodate. “

Launched in the mid 1980s by Michelle and Tila Braddock, ‘Lanzarote Retreats’ is now a well established family business. Their son Joshua has the marvellous dual role of General Manager and Surfing Instructor!.

Villa, Lanzarote Retreats

There’s an enticing choice of holiday accommodation with well designed  villas, cottages, apartments, and their innovative Eco Village “Finca De Arrieta”  is a model for sustainable, responsible tourism.

Ocean View Penthouse, Lanzarote Retreats

Staying in environmentally-friendly yurts, cabins, cottages and surf shacks sounds like the perfect getaway, just a stroll away from the beach. The Braddock family and staff can certainly assure a truly personal service with their local knowledge to plan a relaxing break, outdoor sporting adventures or tours around the island.

Eco Surf Yurt, Lanzarote Retreats

Following the news about Thomas Cook, Michelle Braddock, explains why ‘Lanzarote Retreats’ immediately wanted to help visitors and the future of the island’s tourism industry.

” This is a devastating blow to the tourism sector in Lanzarote and we feel it is vital that the entire sector rallies here to ensure the minimum damage to the reputation of Lanzarote as a favourite destination for family holidays. As a trailblazer in eco holidays our ethos has always been based around the welfare of our island, its inhabitants and especially the environment on which we all depend.

 If we cannot extend this to visiting guests then what would that say about us?!”

Compared to the usual tight-fisted, profits-first, capitalist, corporate attitude of many airlines, hotels and travel companies, their warm-hearted hospitality and generosity of spirit is to be applauded.

A winter sun trip to the Canary Islands would be perfect when you can expect mild temperatures of around 20 – 23°C and the eastern island of Lanzarote is warm year round with the best surfing between July and mid-December!

To plan your visit to Lanzarote Retreats, take a look here:

The Centaur, a beach sculpture, is their symbolic protector of Finca de Arrieta



“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis: a theatrical book launch by Golden Hare Books at the Royal Scots Club

Mary Paulson-Ellis – Edinburgh has been her home for 32 years

Mary Paulson-Ellis received an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and also won the inaugural Curtis Brown prize for fiction in 2009.  Her debut novel, “ The Other Mrs Walker”, was Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year, 2017.  Her second novel, “The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” was launched last week at the Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh, a most apt location for a narrative inspired by memories of the Great War. This private club in the New Town was founded in 1919 in honour of 11,162 men in the Royal Scots Regiment who died in the First World War.

The Library, Royal Scots Club

Organised by Mary and Golden Hare Books, there was a theatrical ambience to the wine reception with staff dressed in army uniforms, a medley of vintage wartime songs, the chance to gamble with matchsticks and buttons, and cheese and crackers served from a vintage tin box.  If this didn’t take us on a moving and nostalgic trip to the trenches, nothing would.

Afterwards, guests were invited to the theatre downstairs for the meet the author event.  Julie Danksin of Golden Hare Books, welcomed us all and introduced Mary Paulson-Ellis.  It was also a timely celebration for Golden Hare which was named Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards 2019.

Golden Hare win the Award for the Best Independent Bookshop in the UK, 2019

They were up against eight regional winners but it was Julie of Golden Hare Books who was presented with the award by Ian Rankin at the ceremony in May.

Mary Paulson-Ellis is certainly interested in complex dual narratives, linking past and present.  “The Other Mrs Walker” has been described as neo-Victorian mystery, set in the Edinburgh winter of 2010, when the death of an elderly woman starts the research into her life story.

Mary explains that the saga of Solomon Farthing inhabits the same territory as Mrs Walker – the theme of identity and no known next of kin.  It begins in the present day, when an old soldier passes away in an Edinburgh nursing home which sparks the search for his descendants and delve into the past to follow a link back to the battlefields, France 1918.

The story was inspired by “Heir Hunters”  the BBC TV series which follows the investigations of legal cases when someone dies intestate. Apparently 60% of people do not make a Will, such that the inheritance of their Estate can be claimed by the closest living relatives.

Solomon Farthing is an Edinburgh heir hunter who has been given the responsibility of finding the rightful owners of a pawn ticket and an amount of cash, just a few belongings of the deceased soldier.  But his journey of discovery also reflects on his own troubled life and lost links with his family.

The novel also explores the morality of inheritance – how do we know where the money comes from as it passes hand to hand. We may be left a gift, valuable property, an investment but was it the result of theft or gambling. ?

Julie then asks Mary about the other character in her books, Edinburgh.  As she has lived here for 32 years, (born in Glasgow), it is her homage to the city, although, of course, a great deal of fiction is set here.   She also explains that it is not a novel about World War I as other writers have covered the subject most comprehensively, including Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” Trilogy.

The narrative of Solomon Farthing focuses on the life and death of men and soldiers – indeed it was not men, comments Mary, but boys who were called up aged 19, who then had four weeks training before heading off to fight for their country.

There is a most poignant quotation printed at the beginning of this novel:

“ The First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row.”   Harry Patch .

Before he died in 2009, aged 111, Harry was the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War and known as “The Last Fighting Tommy”.

On the front cover of “The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” is a quote from Val McDermid:

“A richly rewarding literary novel that’s also a gripping page-turner.” 

“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis – part modern mystery and part heroic war story – is clearly the perfect time-travelling, Winter’s tale.

Perhaps visit the Golden Hare Books to pick up your copy.

Golden Hare Books, St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh

“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis is published by Mantle Books, an imprint of Pan MacMillan


Encounter: an exhibition of paintings, photography and drawings by Sophia Pauley & Nancy Nightingale – cool, crafted artwork with a sense of stillness and harmony

“They don’t teach drawing in art schools anymore. It’s criminal. Teaching drawing teaches people to look.” —

David Hockney, 2014

Fortunately, the Edinburgh College of Art introduced, inspired and instilled in these two young artists the fine ability to draw and paint intricate, cool, crafted compositions.

Sophia Pauley graduated in 2018 with a 1st class Honours degree in Art and now specialises in large scale, bold, colourful abstract paintings on canvas or wood, screen printing and painted sculptural installations.

Tangent ii, Sophia Pauley

Dominating the vast concrete floor and expanse of white wall is the Tangent series of paired diptych canvases in which Pauley brings a flowing wave of swirling colour, curving shape with linear precision; she is inspired by water from natural landscape to manmade structure, from lake and sea to swimming pool.

Tangent, i, ii, iii, Sophia Pauley

Of course, Hockney was also attracted to paint the sunlight on dappling blue water of Los Angeles pools of luxury Hollywood mansions.

Acrylic, spray and gloss paint is used to create a Tiffany-blue grid which certainly reflects the shimmering, cool water of a pool, surrounded by red, green, pink and blue boomerangs and stripes.

Tangent, part 2, Sophia Pauley

The painterly pattern, bold palette, parallel lines, squares and rectangles bring Mondrian’s decorative designs clearly to mind, and reflect an underlying mood of quiet contemplation.

Viewing Sophia’s work on her website, there are other installations and canvases – splintered triangles, oblongs and diagonal shapes with an explosion of colour, dynamic energy, rhythm and movement.

Nancy Nightingale also graduated from the ECA in 2018, specialising in painting, but also trained in drawing, film and photography, to observe exterior and interior worlds.  Whatever the subject, she combines these diverse skills, such as creating a filmic quality within a painting with extraordinary dexterity, tone and texture.

Rise, Nancy Nighingale

Most evocative is the realistic ambience in “Rise” illustrating the tangled tumble of an unmade bed with the quality of an almost out of focus, sepia tinted, photograph.  Alison Watt is renowned for her depiction of the flowing folds of fabric, and here too Nightingale’s delicately composed oil painting captures the soft draping swathe of duvet and sheet with a masterly touch.

Rise (close up image), Nancy Nightingale

Like a voyeur we are drawn in, trying to see if that is a person, or perhaps a couple, lurking half hidden in the shadowy sunlight. This creates a boundary between abstraction and figurative art, with just the suggestion of human presence within the beautifully crafted “portrait” of this intimate setting.

Tracey Emin’s best known installation, ‘My Bed’, (1998) was her artistic response to a relationship breakdown – her own bed with a scattering of her personal things across the crumpled sheets.  The enigmatic work was re-sold at Christies in 2014 for £2.2 million. “I bought “My Bed” because it is a metaphor for life, where troubles begin and logics die.” Count Christian Duerckheim.

The digital print, “Ghost”  with its architectural perspective, has the immediate appearance of a black and white sketch, again showing her technique to combine a photographic study with the artistic eye of a painter.

Ghost, Nancy Nightingale

Along the corridor and back room salon, see a selection of drawings on paper by both artists as well as photographic prints and a short film.  Nancy won the Best Film Award 2018 for ‘At First Light’  in collaboration with Louis Caro (Movie Production Society at The University of Edinburgh).  There are also postcards, prints and risographs for sale.

Encounter – Selection of drawings, prints and photographs

Patriothall gallery is the ideal industrial warehouse space for Pauley’s expressive, experimental paintings, enhanced by the light flooding in through the high windows to great effect.    Walk around to view Nightingale’s paintings and prints at a distance, and then see the detail in close up, light and shade of the detailed draughtsmanship.

From geometric abstracts to architectural sketches and prints, this joint collection shares their innovative exploration of place, space and time to reflect artistic harmony with a subtle sense of serenity and stillness.

Encounter – Sophia Pauley & Nancy Nightingale

Patriothall Gallery,  Patriothall,  Hamilton Place, Edinburgh EH3 5AY

6th – 21st September, 2019

Tues-Fri, 2pm-7pm; Sat & Sun, 10am-5pm – closed Mondays

For more information:

[Photographs of the exhibition by Murray Orr and the artists.]

Patriothall gallery, the perfect industrial open space for this exhibition, Encounter

The smash hit Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is heading to Edinburgh

“The King and I” 1956 movie (Deborah Kerr & Yul Brynner)

For lovers of the glamorous and richly romantic show, “The King and I”, you would be mistaken to think that Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the book and lyrics, created the storyline.

In fact, it’s a true story, based on Margaret Landon’s semi-fictionalised novel, “Anna and the King of Siam”, (1944), inspired by the real life memoirs of a British school teacher. In 1862, Anna Leonowens arrived at the Royal Palace Bangkok to be the tutor to King Mongkut’s 39 wives and 82 children, her experience related in “The English Governess at the Siamese Court.”Premiered on Broadway in March 1951, “The King and I” ran for three years, winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. The latest revival of this smash hit show at the Lincoln Center Theater, New York, has recently had a sell out season in London and is now coming to the Edinburgh Playhouse, from 17th to 26th October, 2019.

Leading a company of 50 performers and a full scale orchestra are Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as The King.

There was a sneak media preview this week, at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian in the luxurious Castle Suite, garlanded with flowers.  Annalene and Jose describe their roles and story of this lavishly staged production, which won four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.

Jose Llana and Annalene Beechey at the media launch  – “Shall We Dance?”

This classic, heart-warming narrative, while set in the 1860s, is still so relevant to audiences today relating the story of an unlikely friendship between two headstrong personalities from very different backgrounds and cultures, where East meets West.

Annalene Beechey and Jose Llana in The King and I

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s enchanting, romantic tale is perfect for families of all ages to enjoy together. Children will be inspired to see young actors of their age, on stage singing and dancing. In fact, following a local audition, sisters Perrie and Nikita Wong, aged 8 and 6, were selected to join the ensemble of Royal Children for the run in Edinburgh.

Anna and the Royal children

Annalene recalls performing in Les Miserables at the Playhouse in 1994 (“I was very young at the time!”, she says with a laugh).  Anna is a dream role for an actress, wearing the most gorgeous dresses with one ball gown weighing three stone. This is the costume for the number, “Shall We Dance,” when Anna and the King perform a polka. Jose Llana is impressed that she can twirl across the stage in this heavy dress, dancing backwards and in heels.

Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as the King

Theatre goers can certainly expect elaborate costumes and an opulent Palace setting, with 22,000 hand made flowers, two miles of fabric and 250 metres of gold leaf.  Eight trucks are required to transport the set from city to city on this UK tour.

Annalene Beechey

We are treated to a few of the familiar songs from the show, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Puzzlement” & “Getting to Know You, “ performed with such clarity of the lyrics and joyful charisma.

Jose Llana

The reviews say it all, from Broadway to the West End – “I doubt I’ll ever see a better production in my lifetime’ said the Wall Street Journal;  “Five stars for a sumptuous “King and I”. Book now. It’s a hit,’ was the verdict of The Times.

So, perhaps this appetising taster of the show has tempted you to book your tickets soon!

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I”

17th to 26th October, 2019 @ 7.30pm (matinees, 2.30pm).

Tickets: £19.50 – £110

The Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Edinburgh EH1 3AA    Tel. 0844 871 3014

[“The King and I” press launch images, Photo credit, Rob McDougall 2019]


100 x 100 is the theme of this year’s exhibition in the aid of charity at Saorsa Gallery, Stockbridge, opening on 27th September and running to 13th October 2019.

This showcase of 100 bright, bold and beautiful Scottish landscapes by Tommy Fitchett will be priced at a very reasonable £100 (some artwork for a little more) – 25% of which is donated to Cancer Research.

“I am a landscape artist whose work is predominantly abstract inspired by nature, by the Scottish landscape and by the changing light of the seasons. My art is most fluid and expressive when working directly onto glass – I achieve a depth of tone and colour, a freedom of expression and wielding of light.  Tommy Fitchet

Tommy Fitchet with a selection of his unique, oil on glass, Scottish landscapes

Saorsa Art Gallery is located in the heart of Stockbridge, Edinburgh and since 2016 Tommy has presented an annual art event for charity, raising in total over £10,000.

Saorsa’s popular annual showcase of art in aid of charity

For the 2017 show, he gave himself the challenge of completing a small work every day, resulting in the gallery walls being hung with 365 paintings.

These are stunning abstract land and seascapes .. with his palette of oils, from rainbow colours to cool monochrome, an extraordinary energy and atmosphere of the outdoor air is captured.  The effect of oil on glass creates a gleaming, glossy layer with soft, shimmering shades of light to reflect marvellous images of sun and sea.”

From my exhibition review of ‘365 paintings by Tommy Fitchet’

Once again this year, you can expect to see an evocative collection of stunning, small scale, (22 x 22 cm) paintings and other larger panorama landscapes.

Purchase one (or more!) of Tommy’s mini masterpieces to brighten your home while giving a valuable donation to Cancer Research.  Be warned, this is a popular event so get there promptly to browse and buy.

Saorsa Art Gallery

100/100/2019  Fundraising Exhibition of paintings by Tommy Fitchet

8 Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1LY

Friday 27 September – Sunday 13 October

Thursday & Friday, 12 noon – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday, 12 noon – 5pm.

tel. 0131 343 1126 –

Tommy Fitchet at work creating unique, original abstract land and seascapes

Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns @ The Torrance Gallery: vibrant, dramatic landscapes and poignant, peaceful portraits.

The Torrance Gallery, 36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh

When it first opened in 1970, The Torrance Gallery was the only contemporary art gallery on Dundas Street. Nearly 50 years on, this is the address for the crème de la crème of the city’s independent galleries.   Fiona McCrindle, the owner of the Edinburgh Drawing School, has recently taken over the baton to preserve the legacy of this New Town gallery.

Fiona McCrindle, the new owner of The Torrance Gallery

Year round, there is a regularly changing showcase of a diverse range of artists with either solo, duo or mixed exhibitions, as well as ceramics, crafts and jewellery. The current exhibition brings together land and seascapes by Julie Dumbarton with portraits and life drawings by Kelly-Anne Cairns – a contrast of genres but sharing a bold, colourful expression.

Posed and poised, Kelly-Anne captures a genuine sense of  character in her series of portraits of young women, each so natural and relaxed as if in quiet contemplation.

Maria, Kelly-Anne Cairns

With titles such as Sunday, Forget-me-not and Promise, these are like snapshots, a moment in time, with an underlying dark, dramatic mood in their perceived sadness and solitude.  What are they thinking, who are they thinking of?  Their facial expressions give little away.

Rosemary, Kelly-Anne Cairns

Yellow is a dominant colour together with a recurring motif of birds, (especially swallows) and flowers. A stunning self portrait, “To Belong,” features Kelly-Anne in a pretty bird print frock, eyes closed as of in meditation.  She paints herself with the use of a mirror, so this is a reflection, as she sees herself.

To Belong, self portrait, Kelly-Anne Cairns

Several gallery visitors on the opening day suggested that Kelly-Anne should design this as a dress material. Well, fashion is all about beautiful, wearable art!.

The domestic settings of a home are exquisitely brought to life through richly patterned fabrics, cushions and wallpaper backdrop within which we have a glimpse of an interior space, both physical and personal.

Drifting, Kelly-Anne Cairns

This most evocative image, entitled “Drifting” focuses on a girl falling asleep on a bed, her hands drooped down over a blue sheet, which is symbolically dripping down the canvas. As a voyeur of this intimate scene, we cannot help but be drawn into her private, secret dreamland.

Most impressive too is a series of black ink sketches, “All the Young Nudes,”  four exquisitely composed figures. There is a delicate touch here in the fine, flowing representation of the soft, youthful, rounded contours of the slender female body; these clearly emphasise Kelly-Anne’s masterly talent at the classic artistry of life drawing.

All the Young Nudes (series of four), Kelly-Anne Cairns

I love to recreate subtle skin tones in oil paint and manipulate the model’s pose to create an atmosphere and elusive narratives within the composition.  I am inspired by the human form, capturing the flowing lines and layers of muscles, tendons, and skin, capturing and suggesting emotions through body language.” Kelly-Anne Cairns

Julie Dumbarton lives in Langholm and the wild natural expanse of the Scottish countryside is central to her work. Her dramatic, vibrant colourful land and seascapes enhances and exaggerates the rich hues of flowers, heather hills and sunsets.

Scottish Sunset, Julie Dumbarton

A red sky at night, a shepherd’s delight – here the clouds burst with a flurry of fireworks in shades of gold, crimson and salmon pink.  Through thick brushstrokes, the tone and texture gives a multi-layered surface and depth to the perspective.

These luminous landscapes clearly bridge the gap between realistic views and bold, brash expressionism.  The swirling water in “Waves” depicts both the rising, rolling sea as well as a row of whitewashed cottages on the shoreline beneath the calm, cool golden embers of an evening sky.

Waves,  Julie Dumbarton

With painterly precision, a dark, melancholic mood pervades this seascape of “Orkney”: with this whirlwind of yellow, coral and mauve clouds, there is such hidden beauty in this wild, unspoilt beach scene.

Orkney, Julie Dumbarton

Moving over even more to the complete abstract, “Autumn Waterlilies” is a stunning, surreal composition where a scattering of white petals can just be glimpsed within a flurry of pink, blue and green. A most attractive floral design which would be ideal for fabrics and decorative designs.

Autumn Waterlilies, Julie Dumbarton

“I like to explore the same themes and images, the tension between abstraction and representation. I’m obsessed with colour, and strive to show the subtle details that we all see but often go unnoticed. As a landscape artist,  I endeavour to inspire and nurture our love of the natural world.”  Julie Dumbarton

The Torrance Gallery

Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns

31st August to 15th September, 2019

36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN

Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm; Sat, 10.30am-4pm.

Coastal Bay, Julie Dumbarton