Archive by Author | vivdevlin

Nicole Farhi: Writing Heads @ The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh – unique, literary-inspired, mini masterpieces

Nicole Farhi is a multi-talented artist in every sense of the word.  From excelling as a world renowned fashion designer, and also a home stylist – furniture, kitchenware, accessories – today she is a sculptor extraordinaire.

Nicole Farhi

Born in Nice, she brought a chic French style and continental flair to the British fashion industry. The shift in career from clothes to clay was, as she says, “It’s like falling in love. You don’t know why .. your life is going to change.” In 2012 she turned away from the cat walk and now concentrates solely on sculpture. For Farhi it was a natural progression to study the human figure in a different perspective, to craft and shape a face, head and hands.

Nicole Farhi at work

This most impressive and inspiring showcase,“Writing Heads”  takes pride of place at the elegant space of the Fine Art Society this summer, as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival: Twenty-five immaculate miniature busts of internationally renowned authors – philosophers, travel writers, essayists, novelists, playwrights and poets.

“I started thinking of the books I had loved reading while growing up in France.. but then also foreign authors like Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith and Doris Lessing. At the end, I had a gallery of faces, all full of humour and authority ..  insight and intelligence.”   Nicole Farhi

These famous faces are lined up in rows on two long shelf-like tables, so that you can walk all the way around for a close up view.  The Heads are creatively constructed of ciment fondu ( a French invention – strong, quickly setting cement made from a mixture of limestone and bauxite) and acrylic.

This must be a most malleable combination of materials as Farhi has perfected an extraordinary likeness in each distinctive facial expression, skin tone, hair and clothing. They have such a tactile quality, one is tempted to touch (but of course would not!).

Let’s take a short stroll around to spot a few of these famous writers – I was so inspired that I have been dipping into a few of my favourite books to reflect on their literary life and work.

Toni Morrison, who passed away age 88 on 5th August, 2019, received The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.  Her novel, “Beloved,” based on the true story of an African American female slave won the Pulitzer, and she continued to chronicle the African American experience over five decades.

Here she is with her mane of steel grey, spiral curled, Afro hair and a proud sense of race and womanhood in her calm, composed expression.

Toni Morrison

A quote from her novel, “Beloved”

Ernest Hemingway, with thick white beard and craggy lined face, is wrapped up in a thick seafaring sweater as if he just stepped off his fishing boat,  reminiscent of his famous character, the Old Man.

Ernest Hemingway

“The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles I the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks” “The Old Man and the Sea” – Ernest Hemingway

Edinburgh’s own Muriel Spark is captured as a pretty young woman,  copper hair, red jacket, red lipstick. She escaped her short marriage to Sidney Spark, (his name was the only part of him she liked and kept),  to seek the freedom to write.  There would be 22 novels in total, with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, regarded as her milch cow. She was Scottish through topography and geography but European in cultural, social and political spirit.

Muriel Spark

“Hold up your books” said Miss Brodie. “If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson, …our poetry, … English grammar. Meantime I will tell you about my last summer holiday .. about the Frenchman I met in the train to Biarritz, .. and about the Italian paintings I saw.” “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” – Muriel Spark.

Another avid traveller is Graham Greene, hair slicked back, a quizzical look about his piercing, perceptive eyes. His stories located in hot and dusty tropical places such as Mexico, West Africa, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, and Argentina, led to the expression “Greeneland.”

Graham Greene

“I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour”  “The End of the Affair” – Graham Greene

One of the most innovative, modernist and feminist writers, Virginia Woolf is portrayed by Farhi with a subtle sense of quiet beauty – her angular face, severe hairstyle and gentle eyes, in thoughtful, distant mood.

Virginia Woolf

With her passion for vocabulary and language, she created her own style of lyrical poetry- prose narrative as a way to enter imagination of her characters.

“She enjoyed life immensely. It was her nature to enjoy. She enjoyed practically everything. …in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.  ”Mrs Dalloway, -Virginia Woolf

With her fashionably androgynous look of ther period, short wavy hair and masculine-styled shirt collar, the bust of Daphne du Maurier expresses her tomboyish denial of femininity.

Daphne du Maurier

The seed of the Rebecca story lay in her jealousy of her husband’s first fiancée:

“ If there was some woman in London that Maxim visited, dined with, slept with, I could fight her.. One day the woman would grow old and Maxim would not love her anymore. But Rebecca would never grow old.  She was too strong for me.”  “ Rebecca” – Daphne du Maurier

In 1954, aged 18, Francoise Sagan became an overnight sensation on the publication of “Bonjour Tristesse, ” an amoral tale of a schoolgirl’s summer romance which scandalised French society.  The sculpture here shows her shock of blond hair, with a half smile, seductively playing around her mouth.

Francoise Sagan

Always a rebel, her wild Bohemian lifestyle was mirrored in her depiction of fictional love affairs and loss.

“I do not know if the desire to attract others comes from a superabundance of vitality, possessiveness, or the hidden, unspoken need to be reassured.” “Bonjour Tristesse” – Francoise Sagan

W. H. Auden is remembered for his wisdom and wit – his first book, Poems was published in 1930, with the help of T. S. Eliot.  With a deeply lined face and furrowed brow, the sculptured image here recalls photographs of the man at work, cigarette in hand. Close friend and creative collaborator, Benjamin Britten described his startling personality and remarkably fine brain.

“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”

Funeral Blues – W. H. Auden

W H Auden

This is just a glimpse of the twenty five Writing Heads on show – all the ciment fondu sculptures are for sale (Edition of 7 with 3 APs each, and hand painted Bronze editions are available to be cast on request.

In the downstairs gallery is an enchanting selection of serene and soulful Portraits, entitled Intimate, by a wide range of artists from mid 19th century to the present day.

Do visit the Fine Art Society soon to see this remarkable, richly rewarding exhibition, an absolute highlight of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

Nicole Farhi: Writing Heads

25 July to 31 August, 2019

The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh,

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Tel. 0131 557 4050

www.fasedinburgh.com

art@fasedinburgh.com

Jennifer McRae – “Past, Present, future – tracing the female line”

Photo credits:

Nicole Farhi – Louise Long

Individual  images of “Talking Heads” – Iona Wolff

 

 

 

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An exhibition of iconic Hebridean landscapes by Ron Lawson @ Alpha Gallery, Edinburgh: tranquil, timeless islands of wild scenic beauty

The colourful Alpha Gallery, Stockbridge

Before the flurry of exhibitions opening for the Edinburgh Festival season, do visit Alpha Gallery in Stockbridge to see this exhibition of  paintings and prints by Ron Lawson, running from Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019.

A walk around the gallery will take you on an exhilarating wilderness “cruise” around the Hebrides from Barra to Tiree, Eriskay to South Uist and other islands in this archipelago off the North West coast of Scotland.

North Bay Barra – Ron Lawson

As you will see from these quirky, cool illustrations of cottages and crofts, the iconic subject matter is always recognisable as a unique Ron Lawson landscape.  Surrounded by a complete barren, emptiness of the rural setting, each building is perched beside a rocky shore, a cold splash of blue sea, machair grasses, sandy beaches ..

Arisaig Boathouse – Ron Lawson

……….or perhaps a glimpse of a lost flock of sheep.

Wandering Sheep – Ron Lawson

What is so distinctive about these panorama views is the swirling sweep of a dramatic, dark sky all around; the pure grey background accentuates the white stone of buildings, rocks and sheep, as the central focus of the picture.

Haunn, Eriskay – Ron Lawson

A thundery sky is artistic licence!   For those enticed to visit, warm sunshine is often experienced here due to the gulf stream with turquoise blue water reminiscent of the Caribbean. In fact an Asian tourism advert used an image of a Berneray seascape to promote Kai Bae beach, Thailand.!

Lawson spends a few months each Spring exploring a few of these islands, camera and pencil in hand to spot a selection of these charming wee houses with coloured slate, tiled and thatched roofs.   Whether these are empty, abandoned, working crofts, a boatshed or family home, there’s no indication of humanity, perpetuating the extraordinary wildnerness isolation of these communities.

Eriskay Cottage – Ron Lawson

With an uncanny, realistic perspective of each landscape, they capture, with real compassion, a haunting sense of Hebridean life and heritage as well as the natural, unchanging scenic beauty.  While wildlife is not a signature topic, keep a beady open for a cheeky Puffin making an appearance too.

Puffin – Ron Lawson

It’s the stunning quality and masterly craftsmanhip of Ron Lawson’s artwork which appeals to collectors both in Scotland and worldwide.   This is a most inspiring showcase of richly evocative, atmospheric scenes, island-hopping around the Outer Hebrides – a tranquil, timeless painterly destination.

Ron Lawson: A Solo Exhibition of Original Works

Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019

Alpha Gallery, 52 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 5AX

Open daily, 1100 to 1700 (or by appointment)

Tel.  0131 226 3066  E. info@alpha-art.co.uk

http://www.alpha-art.co.uk

 

Ron Lawson describing his work with art collectors at Alpha Gallery

 

The Edinburgh Food Festival 2019: 19th to 28th July @ George Square Gardens – a fun, foodie Summer Picnic Party for all ages

Edinburgh Food Festival, the annual foodie event, is back again for the 5th year, bolder, brighter and bigger than ever.  Before the Edinburgh Festival Fringe kicks off, Assembly George Square Gardens is the perfect, environmentally green location for a summer picnic from 19th-28th July 2019.

Surrounded by tall trees with the ground covered in a soft astro turf carpet, to protect the grass, it’s a fabulous place for all ages, couples, party groups of friends, family holiday time with the kids to enjoy a great day or evening out.

Food and drink for all the family in the garden

Jarvis Pickle’s Mushroom & Chestnut Pie

The deliciously appetising programme offers a feast of good food and drink supplied by 20 local producers and exciting, ethnic dishes served up around the stalls.

Tried and tested at my recent visit at the weekend are the scrumptious Jarvis Pickle Pies from Berwickshire. These traditional hand-crafted and baked  pies have a thick pastry and range of fillings, such as the richly flavoured Vegan Mushroom and chestnut with truffle. The pungent earthy scent is divine.

And to drink?  I recommend Bellfield Brewery’s gluten free, vegan Craft beers: Session Ale, (delicate fizz), Bohemian Pilsner (light, hoppy, happy), and the refreshing Lawless Village, IPA.

“The perfect combination of science and art” is the logo for Bellfield’s award winning beers – sample a few here at the Food Festival and the new Tap Room. soon to be launched at their Brewery, Abbeyfield, Edinburgh

Healthy meat-free eating is very prominent at this year’s FoodFest: FacePlant Foods travels around Scotland selling their vegan goods which you can sample at their pop up stall here.  Travel the culinary world as you stroll around the garden with such international cuisine as Mana Poke’s freshly prepared Hawain dishes such as diced raw fish and rice.

Punjabi Junction, “The food of the Punjab at the Heart of Leith,”  will be dishing up some amazing authentic Indian dishes – the spicy lentil dhal with rice is superb. Great to support this community café,  which serves traditional home-cooked dishes while supporting women from Edinburgh’s minority ethnic backgrounds.

Punjabi Junction – authentic Indian spice

Plenty of meat and fish too, of course, such as the Fox Hat BBQ experience and Alanda’s Scottish seafood and fish & chips based in East Lothian. For dessert?, Alanda’s Ice-cream of course!

Summer would not be summer without a perfectly poured, ice cold G&T.  Edinburgh’s Pickering’s Gin will be showcasing their award-winning spirit from their quirky red Japanese airport fire engine, EnGINe 47.  Sample a range of cool cocktails as well as the classic Pickering’s gin and tonic, with ice and slice.  Cheers!

Pickering’s for a refreshing G&T or cool cocktail

Whatever your taste and appetite, there’s a fantastic choice of tasty food and drink galore, from Prosecco and pizza, beer and burgers, cookies and chocolate. See the full mouthwatering list of producers and street food below!

The good news is that it is Free Entry to the garden with the Festival running from 12 noon till late so that visitors can enjoy Scottish and international dishes from brunch and lunch, to Afternoon Tea and Cocktail hour, snacks and supper.

The Masterchefs showcasing their culinary talent

Check out the special events, Meet the Producers and Chef demonstrations which include Scott Smith from Fhior, Barry Bryson at Cater Edinburgh, Jérôme Henry, Le Roi Fou, Italian-Scot, Carina Contini, and former MasterChef winner Derek Johnstone now at Borthwick Castle. These events are free and non-ticketed, but limited space so it’s first come first served. For dates and times see the website and social media links below.

With all the food stalls, beer tents and showtime marquees, experience a colourful Carnival mood and Garden Party ambience.  It’s so relaxing and fun with your family and friends selecting and sharing a summer picnic of street food,  sitting at tables or lounging on the grass.

Street food picnics at this Summer Garden Party

Rain or shine, do visit the fabulous Tree Top Bar, a unique drinking den for adults, where you can lounge about on sofas and sample a few tipples.

Finlay Wilson, the Kilted Yoga Master

Join in one or two of the Workshops – rather a misnomer as these are fun experiences!. The Kilted Finlay Wilson runs his daily Yoga classes, Hipsters and Hobos, Find, Forage, Ferment, Raw Pop Up – the fine art of “shucking” hand dived scallops, and especially for the kids, the Edinburgh Food Social Taste Adventure and Hands On Cooking Show.

The Festival welcomed over 25,000 visitors in 2018 and with this year’s event running for ten days, the number will certainly rocket. Where better to go this week with the fabulous summer sunshine.?

“We can’t wait to take part again this year with our selection of freshly caught Scottish seafood, old school fresh fish and chips and multi-award winning gelato. We look forward to welcoming more visitors than ever in 2019.”  Alanda Black, East Lothian’s Alandas Scottish Seafood, Fish & Chips and Gelato

Alanda’s Seafood & Fish ‘n Chips

Experience a taste from this banquet of fine food and delicious drinks from:

Jarvis Pickle, Chick & Pea, Poco Prosecco, Bellfield Brewery, Pickerings Gin, Face Plant Food, Mana Poke Bowls, Thinking Chocolate, Pickering’s Gin, Alanda’s Scottish Seafood Grill, Alanda’s Gelato, Paddle & Peel, Punjabi Junction, Edinburgh Food Social, Scoff, Cargo Burger, Cargo Spud, Crepe & Waffle House, Genius, Seabuckthorn Scotland, The Scottish Bee Company, Kabbabar. #CookieDough by R&G Catering. Norelli – Neapolitan Street Food, Umami Spice Girl, Fyne Ales, Moskito Bites.

Find out all about the Edinburgh Food Festival here …

Keep up to date with all news of Edinburgh Food Festival 2019 at http://www.edfoodfest.com 

Social media:  Facebook (www.facebook.com/EdFoodFest), Instagram (@edfoodfest, #EdFoodFest19) and Twitter (@EdFoodFest, #EdFoodFest19).

“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh: modern fine dining – artistic, imaginative, casual and fun.

“The essence of Mark Greenaway’s genius in the kitchen is his seemingly endless inventiveness.”  Ian Rankin

It was the week of the Big Tease back in March before Chef Mark Greenaway revealed the secret location of his much anticipated new Restaurant.  There was a relish of rumours and soupcon of social media messages: 1st March: “Goodbye New Town .. hello ??,”  followed the next day by a video clip of someone walking along Princes Street with a view of the Castle and the tag line, “Where do you think the new Restaurant will be?”

The next big hint was the enigmatic line, “Fancy a meal in the  West End?” and then finally, a quirky aerial shot of the planet zooming in to the actual location.  And what a prestigious address it turned out to be!.

Mark Greenaway outside the Walforf Astoria

On 8th March, the news broke that the Chef was taking over the former Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, with an opening date in mid April.  Having known his ingenious style of cuisine for over ten years, Ken and I recently went along to visit “Grazing by Mark Greenaway” to experience this exciting new venture.

In order to appreciate the enormous significance of this exciting venture, it would be timely to have a brief look back at Mark’s culinary and creative journey over the past 25 years.  After school, he stared his first job in a hotel kitchen near Lanark, where he persevered as a KP until given the opportunity to train as a chef.  The seed was sewn and moving on to another hotel, he mastered the art of a pastry chef, winning an award for his elaborate “Milk chocolate mousse, raspberries in caramel with lattice tuile”.  This was the springboard for adventure down under, heading off to Sydney, for a steep learning curve under a tough task master – as he relates, “every plate had to reach absolute perfection 100% of the time.”

Back in Scotland, as Head Chef at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, his imaginative dishes were rewarded with a Chef Médaille d’Or for Dinner Excellence (2009).   Soon time for change, launching his own eponymous restaurant on Picardy Place, Edinburgh, showcasing seriously inventive dishes. (Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2011).  Now as a renowned chef in Edinburgh, he was then selected, for two years. running to represent Scotland in “Great British Menu” on BBC 2.

The next bold step was the launch in 2013 of Restaurant Mark Greenaway with an intimate setting for his distinctive style of cuisine. With the honour of 3 AA rosettes, it was placed #13 in Square Meal’s list of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants and named runner up as Best Restaurant in Observer Monthly (2013, 2015, 2016). An enticing review too in the Michelin Guide, 2016:  “The well-travelled chef employs interesting texture and flavour combinations. Dishes are modern, ambitious and attractively presented.”

Restaurant Mark Greenaway, North Castle Street, Edinburgh, 2013-2018

Branching out, with a new challenge, he also opened Bistro Moderne in Stockbridge. As I wrote in my review in January 2014:  ” .. a touch of Blumenthal in this scientifically-inspired, smoke-filled, deconstructed, unique cuisine.”

With his passion for local, seasonal produce on his menus, he decided to promote the best of Scottish food and compiled his beautifully designed cook book, “Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway” (Relish Publications).  

With mouthwatering illustrations and step by step recipes, it’s aimed at the masterchef and keen amateur, with culinary tips and a list of his own suppliers so that you can create the quality of his fine dining food at home.  A few months later, much to Greenaway’s surprise, “Perceptions” was named the best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand Awards, 2017.

“Perceptions” – Best Cookbook in the World

The success of Restaurant Mark Greenaway and “Perceptions”  must have been an incredible boost to morale and further ambition.  It might be a short walk from Castle Street to Princes Street, but this is a truly impressive step up, opening his own Restaurant at the five star, Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian.  Enter either through the Hotel lobby and Peacock Alley loung, or the main entrance around the corner on Rutland Street.

The green carpet for the launch of “Grazing by Mark Greenaway”

“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” is a classic Brasserie in design with comfortable, blue banquette seating and well spaced tables with smart crimson & blue plaid chairs. Appetising suggestions for food & drinks and sharing plates are listed on blackboards around the walls.

Diners can also sit on stools at a couple of high tables at the front, or the central island bar for a quick, casual meal.

Take a stool at the Island Bar

Guests are invited to “relax, unwind and graze.  You can share a starter, main or dessert, or indulge and have something all to yourself.”   This is a fresh new concept, showcasing a blend of traditional, modern and sharing plates based on seasonal Scottish ingredients.   “Fine dining” has been reinvented here to create a casual, leisurely ambience without linen tablecloths and uniformed waiters. The attractive, welcoming space accommodates 170 for lunch and dinner as well as private dining and a Chef’s table.

The Grazing menu is well laid out and so flexible to suit all tastes and appetites, divided into various sections: Snacks, Small and Big Plates, From the Grill, Grazing for Two.  The set price for each Plate is very reasonable. As dishes are designed for sharing as well as for one person, it is wise to ask your server to explain the sizes of different portions.

BBQ Shiitake Mushrooms with truffle on toast

Under Grazing for Two, all dishes are for sharing such as Barbecue truffled Shiitake mushrooms, a cured meat and choux pastry Picnic served in a basket, and Fish Pie.  From game and haggis to seafood and steak, this is modern Scottish cooking such as 11-hour Slow Roast Pork belly with apple and mash, and a rich dessert which has already become famous, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle

So where to start and what to choose.? Our charming waiter Gwen suggests that we share a few Snacks to enjoy with a Cocktail.  As a simple twist, sip a Scottish Martini and a Scottish Negroni, both served with a Scottish Gin. (Edinburgh, Daffy’s, Rock Rose, Hendricks et al).

Cool Cocktails with a Scottish twist

Perfectly shaken and ice cold, my Martini hits the spot and  Ken’s pink tipple, (gin, campari, red vermouth) was created for Count Negoni, exactly one hundred years ago. Cheers!

Superb, artistically crafted “Snacks”

With these we were presented with four gourmet canapes to share: Puffed cod skin, Potato chip with caviar, Carrot tartlet, and Smoked Salmon mousse (in an egg shell), a light as air fishy foam, which just melts in the mouth. Each of these snacks is elegantly exquisite.

Soft Shell Crab on white, shell shaped plate

For my starter, Tempura Soft Shell Crab has an amazing delicate crunchy texture  – a generous portion but Ken was happy to sample his share, while he quickly devoured a colourful salad of Mackerel with apple and beetroot, a fine balance of salty and sweet flavours.

Mackerel with apple and beetroot

Meanwhile we sipped a glass of one of the house red wines, Cuvee, Jean Paul Syrah & Grenache, France, South West (2017), a classic Rhone with notes of rich fruit and soft spice. I could not resist the Cod Cheeks, fat juicy goujons, lightly fried. Posh pub grub!

Fried Cod Cheeks, crispy kale, green salsa

Ken selected for his main course, Heritage Beetroot Wellington, wrapped in a thick pastry parcel. We shared a side of Kentucky Fried Cauliflower with garlic aioli, and Ugly Potatoes smothered in melted gruyere. These extras are delicious, inventive veggie dishes in themselves.

Kentucky Fried Cauliflower

After this feast, no space for dessert – a tempting choice for those with a sweet tooth, Frangipane Pear Tart, Ice-Cream, Chocolate Doughnuts, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle, as well as Farmhouse Cheese with oatcakes.

No wonder that within seven weeks of opening in April, “ Grazing by Mark Greenaway” was presented with the much deserved accolade of 2 AA rosettes. As he commented:  “This is a huge achievement for such a young restaurant ..  at the beginning of our Grazing journey … a great start as we make our make in the city.” 

As 2019 is the centenary of Hilton Hotels, plenty to celebrate at the Waldorf Astoria.

Plan your visit soon for a light lunch, (Grazing Plates, £9 each. 2 Plates + 1 side, £20), a “Grazing for Two” romantic dinner,  Cool Cocktails and canapes at the Bar, or a Sunday Roast with family and friends.

As always, Mark Greenaway is a culinary genius due to his signature slant – a touch of molecular magic in the kitchen, artistic vision on the plate with a sense of theatricality for a truly exceptional, exciting and unique dining experience.

“Grazing at Mark Greenaway”

Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian,

Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

Lunch: 12 noon to 2pm.  Dinner, 6pm – 10pm.

Email: grazing.reservations@waldorfastoria.com

Tel. 0131 222 8857

Postscript: There has been a flurry of 5 star reviews from happy diners:

Great concept, lovely design and warm, professional, friendly service.

Enjoyed it so much. A lot to choose from and all made with love.  Desserts were outstanding,

Soft shell tempura crab,  divine, and the icing on the cake, Sticky toffee pudding soufflé. 

Sunday lunch: Roast beef platter to share ..the tastiest, juiciest roast beef, perfect roasties, big fluffy Yorkshire and vegetables. Amazing value at £28 for two for such quality.

Mark Greenaway outside his new Brasserie “Grazing” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian.

 

 

 

 

“The End of History” by Jack Thorne: a time-travelling, political Comic-tragedy of Manners @ The Royal Court Theatre, London

The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London

Jack Thorne and John Tiffany have collaborated as writer and director on several plays, including the critically acclaimed,“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” for which they both received Tony and Olivier Awards – it was the most awarded West End play in the history of the Oliviers.

The hearth and heart of a home is the kitchen. Alan Ayckbourn’s farce Absurd Person Singular observes the changing friendships of three couples in their kitchens at three successive Christmas Eve parties.  In similar vein, this is the ideal communal family space for a realistic homely environment in “The End of History.” It’s simply designed with a refectory dining table and bench, oven, sink, pots & pans, fridge, comfy armchair, piles of books, newspapers and all the usual clutter.  Central patio doors lead out into a garden which we see change during the seasons.

Kitchen Sink Drama – family conversations over supper

The kitchen is the constant setting for three distinctive dates in 1997, 2007 and 2017, a series of family get-togethers, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

In soft shadowy light, a short prelude shows the typical, fast paced bustle at breakfast time.  Scene one, 6pm, November, 1997, Sal, (forty-something), and her daughter Polly, a law student, discuss the complex sleeping arrangements for Carl, the older son and his new girlfriend, Harriet whose parents apparently own “half of Hampshire”.

Lesley Sharp as Sal: curry and naan bread for supper

Harriet (Zoe Boyle) in 1997

It’s an awkward first encounter; with her hands fluttering and arms waving, Sal chatters away, interrogating the shy, young girl – “What does your mother do?”  … “ As in work? She doesn’t,” is the quick, curt reply.

Initially engrossed in The Guardian, husband David joins in a humorous yet heated conversation about Tony Blair, left wing values and inherited wealth with a volley of satirical comments, bickering and swearing, much to the growing embarrassment of their “posh” guest.

But then in a moment of silence, Carl reveals some shocking news, which ricochets like a bombshell with an outburst of accusations, shame and blame.  Sal tries to pretend that all is fine, stirs the pot of curry and checks the rice for supper.

Harriet arrives to meet Carl’s family –  Polly, Sal and David

Their 17 year old son, Tom then arrives home to find that he has missed the family crisis, but happy to munch a slice of leftover naan bread.

This is the start of an emotional rollercoaster ride as we fast forward to summer 2007 to witness another revelation, an unexpected life-changing decision from Sal and David, as they wait for a Chinese takeaway.

Polly, Carl and Tom hear their parents’ decision

“Ethically, politically, pragmatically, personally” is the refrain for the family’s regular debates, or more likely arguments, revolving around parental socialist ideals.  (The kids by the way are named after Carl Marx, Polly Hill and Thomas Payne.)

Another heated family discussion in the kitchen, 2007

John Tiffany is a master craftsman of atmospheric mood, pressing the pause button at precise moments to add dramatic tension, punctuating Thorne’s short, sharp conversational dialogue with its free flowing rhythm and pace.

Dimly-lit time change sequences are delicately choreographed with a haunting music soundtrack (The Quiet by Imogen Heap), like mini silent-movies, as the calendar pages are torn off, year by year to reach 2007 and then 2017 respectively.  By the final Springtime scene, the garden is filled with colourful plants and the tall trees overhead are in full blossom, a sign of rebirth.

The impressive cast features Kate O’Flynn as Holly who matures from bolshie student to smart, savvy solicitor, while David Morrissey plays David as a thoughtful, quietly urbane intellectual.

David (David Morrissey) – avid  reader of political news

The transformation of Harriet from a frail, fragile girl, intimidated by Sal, into a strong-minded woman, is serenely handled by Zoe Boyle.

Harriet (Zoe Boyle) – a mature woman by 2007

Carl (Sam Swainsbury) is quietly serious, desperate to break free from parental control, while the youngest, nicknamed Tom Tom, (Laurie Davidson), is a sensitive, lost soul, later finding a kindred spirit in Polly.

Tom (Laurie Davidson) and Polly (Kate O’Flynn

Lesley Sharp, (who played the quick-witted, gutsy yet feminine D.C. Rachel Scott in the crime series, “Scott and Bailey”)  is pitch perfect as Sal. This is a luminous portrayal, capturing the joint roles of caring mother, loving wife and feisty feminist with a hint of thin-skinned vulnerability.  In this modern Kitchen Sink drama, Sal is an angry, middle aged woman, a proud, passionate Greenham activist, with the backbone to her political DNA only revealed in the last scene.

Sal (Lesley Sharp), mother, wife and feminist fighter for equality.

The only quibble is the over-peppering of F words throughout – is this really the vocabulary of middle class parents and teenagers in the late 90s?  Also a tendency for actors to stand stock still during conversations, rather than sitting down, grabbing a beer, making a coffee – everyday, natural behaviour at home.

The Royal Court Theatre is the ideal intimate space and from lights down, utter silence as the audience is gripped in the power of shared experience and gasping aloud in unison as the narrative unfolds.

It’s difficult to place Jack Thorne’s ambitious, astute, time- travelling new play into one single theatrical genre, as it shifts in three tight, taut scenes over thirty years, from a black comedy of (appalling) manners to a bleak tragedy.  Expect pin-sharp, satirical humour in a hard-hitting, heartfelt family drama, performed with a fine sense of realism, truth and honesty.

Production Photograph credits: Johan Persson

“The End of History  written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany

Show times:  Thursday 27th June until Saturday, 10th August, 2019.

Mon – Sat: 7.30pm. Thu & Sat mats: 2.30pm

Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS

Box Office Tel.  0207 565 5000.

www.royalcourttheatre.com

The script is available (Nick Hern Books, £9.99).

Experience a taste of modern French cuisine – with a refined Edinburgh accent – @Brasserie Prince

Simple, heritage French cooking at Brasserie Prince

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, a Rocco Forte hotel, has long been a destination to stay, eat and drink with superb hospitality at its Number One Restaurant, Palm Court and Scotch bar. If you’ve not visited for a while, the former Hadrian’s Bistro has been completely transformed into a distinctively creative dining experience.   As part of the influential Roux dynasty of chefs and restaurateurs, Alain Roux and his father Michel Roux, O.B.E. have collaborated in the launch of “Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.”

Chefs Michel & Alain Roux

To appreciate the importance of this significant partnership, it was in 1967 when Michel Roux and his brother Albert, co-founded Le Gavroche in Mayfair, London, which today remains a legendary institution with his son Michel Roux Jn. in charge.  Michel’s Waterside Inn has held three Michelin stars for longer than any restaurant in the world outside France. After training as a Master Pâtissier in France, Alain joined his father at the Waterside, taking on the role as Chef Patron.

For the past decade, Scotland has long benefitted from the family’s culinary expertise, with Albert Roux overseeing “Chez Roux” at four hotels, Greywalls, Cromlix, Rocpool and Inver Lodge.  The team of father, son and granddaughter,  Albert & Michel Roux Jn. joined by his daughter Emily Roux, also opened two fine dining Restaurants at Inverlochy Castle and Crossbasket Castle.

The Roux Scholarship, founded in 1984 by Albert and Michel, continues to be an important culinary competition encouraging young chefs to aspire and achieve excellence.  Their astute recognition of talent began with the first recipient, Andrew Fairlie who soon became a renowned chef, running his eponymous 2 Michelin star restaurant at Gleneagles from 2001 until his early death this year.

Brasserie Prince menus

Bringing his own distinctive flavour to Edinburgh, Alain Roux has the position of Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince located in a prime corner site on the ground floor of The Balmoral.  This inspirational Forte-Roux alliance showcases authentic French cooking, inspired by seasonal Scottish produce:

“This exciting brasserie will be defined by irresistibly simple, delicious food led by fantastic Scottish ingredients. I want to serve the dishes that I love to cook myself at home and seek out with family and friends when we go out to eat.  A menu informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland.’

Alain Roux, Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince

Happy Birthday Brasserie Prince

Tuesday 11 June 2019 celebrated the first birthday of this charming Brasserie and clubby Bar Prince, so time for Ken and I to check out the new summer menu.   Arrive either through the ornate Hotel lobby or the direct entrance up a few steps from the street.  With a fresh, colourful design, the first impression is of an open plan, free-flowing Restaurant and Bar.

Modern-classic interior design at the Brasserie Prince and adjoining Bar Prince

The L shaped layout neatly divides the two casual and comfortable drinking & dining venues. The interior design was a partnership between Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Director of Building & Design, and who is Sir Rocco’s sister.

On arrival at 12.15pm, we start with a leisurely cocktail before lunch in Bar Prince; (I agree with the late restaurant critic Michael Winner, who insisted that an aperitif  is essential to the dining experience!).

Bar Prince – a relaxing lounging ambience

The furnishings are akin to a traditional Lounge, with fireplace, bookshelves (with Roux cook books of course), vintage-style lamps, a sleek art deco chandelier, floral wallpaper from House of Hackney in a painterly pattern of verdant palm leaves, spacious booths and peacock- blue leather armchairs with marble-top tables.

Morning Glory

The Bar drinks menu has a wide selection of gin, whisky, wines & Signature Cocktails such as Prince Royale (Mulberry Slow (sic)  – this should be Sloe – Gin, Campari, cherry Marnier and champagne)

Classic Cocktails offer a Mary Pickford, (Bacardi, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur), Lemon Drop (Vodka with Cointreau and lemon juice),  and a Penicillin, (Lagavulin, ginger liqueur, honey water, lemon juice).  Surprisingly, with a clientele of American and European guests, there is no mention of all our timeless favourites : Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Margarita.

From this so-called choice of Classics, Ken selects a Morning Glory (Dewars, 12 year old, lemon juice, absinthe, soda water), which is light and refreshing. Going off piste, I order a spicy Bloody Mary, perfect for midday as a tasty appetiser before lunch.

This is served in a copper tankard, with a stick of celery, olives, sun dried tomatoes and there is certainly a dash or three of Tabasco to hit the spot.

The attractive Bar sweeps round the corner with a row of high-backed tan coloured stools; large communal dining tables in the centre are ideal for a quick office lunch or casual bar supper with friends.

It’s 1pm and time for lunch.  The Brasserie itself is a long, slender, elegant dining room with banquette seating all the way around, with light flooding in from the extensive windows facing North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat beyond. The extensive use of mirrors around the walls reflect the light even more and add to the sense of space.

Smart casual is the ethos of design and dress code.

Contrasting the wood panelling, the soft colour palette is a crafted balance of blue, green and pink. Art deco lighting, natural timber, soft leather and mohair wool are inspired by Scotland’s heritage and the Edwardian architecture of this grand 1902 hotel.

 A collection of artwork includes a classic travel poster, ‘North British Station Hotel Edinburgh’  depicting the former N.B. Hotel, before its re-launch in 1991 as The Balmoral.  Also watercolours of the Highlands and Islands, from Duart Castle to Loch Fyne.

Vintage poster of The North British Station hotel, now The Balmoral

Seated at a Banquette table, we are given the set price Express Menu, 2 or 3 courses (£19.50/£25), with a choice of three dishes per course. First of all, a basket of freshly baked bread with slices of soft baguette and sunflower/ poppy/ caraway multi seed,  served with a olive tapenade, as well as butter and Epoch organic olive oil.  The soft cotton Brasserie Prince napkins are like small tea towels – an innovative idea.

First of all, drinks. Scottish Speyside mineral water is the house brand and we select Spanish dry white wine, a Sauvignon/Verdejo (2017), from the Castilla Y Leon region, Vina Garedo, with the fresh, citrusy taste of summer.  The wine list offers six white and red wines by the glass, and by the bottle, the list is divided by country, from a most reasonable £ 22 – £24.  Or why not kick off your meal with a flute of Champagne Michel Roux.?

I start with a generous portion of Smoked salmon, served simply with capers, onion lemon and rye bread,  was of the utmost quality, thickly sliced and oozing subtle saltiness.

Smoked Salmon with capers and rye bread

Meanwhile Ken had chosen Parisian Gnocchi, equally large for a starter, made from Pâte a choux gougères (cheese doughballs), and covered with rocket and slices of grilled red pepper.

Parisian Gnocchi

I then sampled about half of a green mountain of Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, grilled courgette and sauce vierge.  Unfortunately, despite all the ingredients, no distinctive flavours shine through in this rather bland and gloopy dish lacking texture – rather heavy and hearty at lunchtime.

Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, & courgettes

Across the table, Ken was tasting a white as snow fillet of Monkfish à L’Armoricaine, served with Camargue wild rice and broccoli, a fish stew from Brittany cooked in wine and tomatoes, traditionally flambéed in cognac.

Monkfish Armoricaine with Camargue wild rice

A choice of three, overly sweet desserts, (Ice cream, Raspberry soufflé, Crème Caramel) so we finished with an Double Espresso instead – perhaps a selection of Fromage could perhaps be offered for those without a sweet tooth.

The Express menu is served Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 2.30pm, & 5.30pm-6.30pm. Recent selections have included Shetland Mussels, Beef Bourguignon, Lyonnaise Salad with poached egg and asparagus, Roast chicken & potato grenailles.

The extensive A la Carte menu for lunch and dinner is divided into bites, sharing platters, soups, salads and a feast of classic French dishes: Frogs’ legs, Lobster thermidor,  Steak Tartare. Each day a selected Grand-mere Special – Coq au vin, Cassoulet de canard, Brandade de moru gratinee – recipes from the family’s country recipes.

 The only quibble on this occasion, was the variable standard of service from a team of young staff with a few inexperienced waiters, (“Who’s having the salmon?), who lacked the personal, professional attention to detail.

Ken and I certainly enjoyed our initial taste of such authentic French cuisine created with passion by Michel and Alain Roux.  Another appetising aspect of the Brasserie is the Raw Bar, where diners can sit on a stool at this theatre kitchen to sample the freshest Fruits de Mer – a platter of oysters from Gigha or langoustines from the Isle of Skye.  Perfect with a chilled glass of fizz.

The Raw Bar – the place to share a dozen oysters and champagne

In case you are thinking, surprisingly the culinary French word “Roux” was not actually coined by the Roux chefs.  The definition orginates from around 1805. Roux refers to the red brown beurre (butter) created when mixed with flour to thicken a sauce.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Borrowing its name from this classic French story, ‘Le Petit Prince’ menu welcomes children to this family friendly Brasserie, where younger diners are catered for and seen not heard with colouring books and crayons.  The Balmoral has won an award for its Families R Forte facilities – kids’ passports, mini bathrobes, games and teddy turndown.

To celebrate the first birthday of Brasserie Prince there is a special Seafood Menu available for lunch and dinner from 28th June until 9th August., 2019.  Bar Prince is a classic, classy joint and if you call in on Wednesday and Thursday evening, relax with a drink with live piano music served on the side.

So this summer why not plan visit for a taste of modern French cuisine, champagne and cocktails and feel as if you have jetted off to Paris or Nice.!

Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux

The Balmoral Hotel

1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel/restaurants-and-bars/

E. brasserieprince@roccofortehotels.com   Tel. 0131 557 5000

Art Deco meets contemporary design at Brasserie Prince

A serene sense of place is captured in “Moments in Time” – by Jamie Primrose: Dundas Street Gallery, 7 – 15 June, 2019

Luminous skies towards Mull

It was in June, 2004 when Jamie Primrose, launched his first solo exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery. That inaugural showcase of his distinctive city streets and seascapes was the start of bi-annual events, which this month celebrates the 15th anniversary.

“Moments in Time” features sixty paintings selected from 2004 to 2019, as a colourful and enriching retrospective, focusing especially on dramatic observations of sky, sun and sea, day and night from sunrise to sunset.

The tranquil beauty of East Lothian is illustrated by painterly panoramas of wide, sandy beaches,  the sweep of the bay at North Berwick with the grey crag of the Bass Rock out at sea.

Afternoon clouds passing over North Berwick

“There began to fall a greyness on the face of the sea; little dabs of pink and red, like coals of a slow fire.

With the growing of the dawn I could see it clearer and clearer, the straight crags painted with sea-birds’ droppings like a morning frost, the sloping top of it, green with grass.”

 Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bass Rock from “Catriona”

This quotation so aptly describes the colour palette of pink, grey and white oils in these paintings of the Bass Rock and North Berwick.  Like RLS, I loved spending summer holidays and days out in North Berwick as a child. This peaceful seaside resort has hardly changed.

What is so impressive is how Primrose perfects meteorological realism of floating, fluffy clouds across the wide expanse of sky.

Looking towards the Bass Rock from North Berwick

Winter skies over the Bass Rock

Further along the East Coast towards Edinburgh, there are views of Portobello Beach, majestic structures of the Forth Bridges and the quaint village of Cramond.

Travel on to the North West Highlands near Oban, gateway to the Hebrides, for the great escape to the wild, empty shores of Loch Melfort, Port Appin and Lismore.

Rain clouds over Lismore

A series of stunning  seascapes depict endless skies, shimmering shapes of distant islands and the rolling hills of Mull on the horizon.  With such exquisite quality of light, streaming through stormy clouds, you can easily imagine standing there on the shore, tasting the salt sea air blowing in the breeze.

Next take a trip to the south of France – suitably known as the Cote d’Azur – where for generations of artists, from Picasso and Peploe to Primrose, the Tiffany-blue sea under a  glistening glow of light, has been a constant attraction.  Feel the warmth of the summer sun in scenes of the charming resort towns of Antibes, Nice and Villefranch, bathed in a pale pure light.

Azure reflections from Villefranche

Further along the coast is the Italian Riviera with the colourful historic towns of the Cinque Terre, such as “Late Afternoon at Manorala”  perched on the cliff top surrounded by verdant vineyards.

Late Afternoon, Manorala, Cinque Terre

Portofino, known as a summer playground for wealthy lifestyle and leisure, curves around a half moon bay, the harbour lined by super yachts and fishing boats, beside a row of designer shops, bars and restaurants.

Sunset over Portofino

The American journalist Robert Benchley sent a celebrated telegram to his editor at the New Yorker after arriving in Venice for the first time: “Streets full of water. Please advise.”  He obviously had no prior knowledge of this historic city of islands!

Early morning near San Polo, Venice

Regarded as the most romantic city in the world, the meandering, unchanging waterways of Venice have inspired writers and painters over the centuries to capture its mesmerising magic.

Last Light on the Grand Canal, Venice” is a magnificent scene composed with such clarity in subtle shades of terracotta, cream and ochre: graceful palazzos, arched windows and church domes in a perfect perspective is a work of architectural draughtsmanship.  In the centre, the Grand Canal shimmers in this quiet moment before dusk.

Last Light on the Grand Canal, Venice

“It is a city of mirrors, a city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.” Erica Jong on Venice

Here too are iconic images of the Thames flowing through London, magical, moody studies with Turneresque tones in soft shades of blue and grey.

Light falling on the Thames

This collection of oil paintings by Jamie Primrose highlights with meticulous detail, the subtle nuances of sun, light, shade and shadow, which he has developed over the past fifteen years, into his own masterly artistic style.

For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is changing in every moment, but it lives through its ambience, through the air and the light, which vary constantly.”—Claude Monet

Do visit the Dundas Street Gallery soon to experience a marvellous tour around these dreamlike destinations from Scotland to La Serenissima, each composition captured with such a serene sense of place and intangible timelessness.

The Dundas Street Gallery,

6a Dundas Street,

Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Opening hours: Daily, 11am – 6pm.

Saturday 15th June, 11am – 5pm.

For more information on this work, private commissions and prints, see www.jamieprimrose.com

Venetian Sunrise

Kinky Boots: as camp as Christmas, this rom-com musical struts its stuff at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Kinky Boots has marched majestically into town to dazzle audiences over the Festive season at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 5 January 2019 before stutting off around the UK.

The original British-American movie (2005) was inspired by real life events.  The W.J. Brooks Shoe Company in Northampton was founded in 1898, and continued as a very successful family business for the next century making 4,000 pairs of traditional shoes and employing 70 people.  But then cheaper imports from the Far East began to destroy the British shoe industry causing redundancies.

Like a fairy godmother, the owner of a shop in Folkestone requested an order of thigh high PVC boots for cross-dressers and drag queens male size and the entrepreneurial company manager Steve Pateman saw the potential of a diverse new market, and produced a range called Divine Footwear.

Steve Pateman, the original Kinky Boots shoemaker

The amazing change of fortune for W. J Brooks was featured in BBC documentary, “Trouble At The Top” in 1999.  This inspired a fictionalised version of the story for a comedy film and “Kinky Boots” premiered in 2005 with the tag line: “How far would you go to save the family business?”

Scene from Kinky Boots, the Movie

From big screen to the Broadway stage in 2013, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Kinky Boots features a lively score and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, (the legendary composer of such enduring hits as “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,”), foot tapping choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a book by Harvey Fierstein.

The reinvented storyline features Charlie Price who is the fourth generation of his family business, Price & Son, a shoe factory in Northampton, but is not keen to take over from his father and plans to move to London with Nicola, his ambitious girlfriend who wants to escape small town life. But when his father suddenly passes away, he inherits the shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.

The set is all about minimalist and flexible staging and props. A front screen shows the brick wall exterior with the Price & Sons sign, opening up into the factory with a moveable platform, boxes of shoes and a bustling crowd of staff.  Desperate to follow his father’s legacy and save the family business, Charlie finds inspiration after a fortuitous encounter with a transvestite cabaret singer, Lola who inspires Charlie with the offer of a contract to manufacture a line of mansize fetish footwear for her drag queen dancers, The Angels.

Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie in Kinky Boots

With Lola in charge of design alongside the fun and funky, Lauren, as project manager, the cobblers get into production mode  with samples selected and prototype created for sparkling knee high, latex and leather high heel boots.

Like a mash up of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” with a dazzling dash of “Sex and the City”,  it’s a heartwarming story to reveal how important fashion is in helping people whatever race, class and sexuality, to express themselves with gay abandon.

Lola and her cabaret of Angels

Don, a down to earth factory worker is steeped in tradition where men are macho and women are feminine; challenging him to a duel of wits, Lola plays a central role in illustrating how we must accept people for whom they are without prejudice and discrimination.  Charlie and Lola may be worlds apart in social background but their business collaboration transforms into a buddy buddy friendship.  Portrayed with a rather innocent boyish charm, Joel Harper-Jackson, Charlie gradually opens his eyes to see what matters most, to take a change of direction both at work and in his love life.

With gleeful energy, expect a mixture of pop, raunchy rock, torch song ballads and disco Drag Queen numbers. Slick choreography throughout is jazzed up with acrobatic flair for a brilliant scene on and off the fast moving conveyor belt.

The dynamic diva, Lola (Kayi Ushe)

Kahi Ushe stars as the dynamic diva Lola with exhilarating poise and pizzazz, tough cookie humour as well as a heart of gold.  The Angels are stunningly beautiful,  strutting the catwalk to show how these sparkling red boots are made for dancing and prancing ….not just walking.

As colourful and camp as Christmas, this high kicking, rom-com musical is a crazy antidote to the traditional pantomime – jolly, joyful festive entertainment for all the family.

“Kinky Boots” is at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Monday 10 December, 2018 to 5 January, 2019

UK Tour 2019:

http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk/uk-tour/tour-dates-venues.php

Cinderella, a modern day fairy tale: Scottish Ballet on the road this Festive season

Scottish Ballet’s Christmas Treat:  Ingredients: 1 rose, 1 kitchen maid, 2 cheeky stepsisters, 1 fairy godmother, a scattering of insects, a sprinkling of ballgowns and tuxedos, 1 Prince.  Mix together with vibrant colour, wit and magic for a delicious confection.

This recipe is not an overly sugary sweet but a cool, contemporary revamp of the classic Fairytale, relating the rags to riches journey with richly emotional and dramatic story telling.  First choreographed by Christopher Hampson for New Zealand Ballet in 2007, Cinderella was given its European Premiere by Scottish Ballet three years ago and is now touring Scotland for the Festive Season in a glamorous revival.

A prologue transports us back to a miserable, wet day as mourners gather under black umbrellas for the funeral of Cinderella’s mother. The young girl plants a solitary rose on the grave, the flower being a recurring motif throughout to represent the beauty of nature, remembrance and love.

This dark, stark image of death is a vital starting point as we then see Cinderella at work in a cold kitchen, unloved by her stepmother and teased by her two stepsisters. In her pale blue dress and apron, she pirouettes to a gypsy folk tune, highlighting her lonely existence. The bullying culture in this dysfunctional, disjointed family may seem a humorous prank, but is very much a modern message.

Cinderella, (Sophie Martin)

In a traditional Upstairs Downstairs scenario, meanwhile the sisters are in gleeful mood  as they prepare for the Royal Ball.  A flurry of dressmakers and cobblers present a flourish of frocks and shoes to sample with vivacious energy, as well as a much required dance lesson with hilarious results.

Grace Horler & Kayla-Maree Tarantolo, with Jamiel Lawrence, Dance tutor

Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Grace Horler portray the petite wee one and her gangling tall sister with fabulous, flamboyant, fun with no hint of the ugly stepsisters in a pantomimic burlesque. Trying desperately to fit their feet into the lost slipper is a scene of comic genius.

The stunning Art Nouveau stage and costume designs by Tracy Grant Lord are integral to the narrative which unfolds scene by scene like observing the dramatic action played out inside a child’s toy Theatre.  The rose bush has blossomed into a giant tree with Rennie MacIntosh–style artistry as a decorative backdrop; enter a dreamland world of wonder and magical spells, where wishes do come true.

The Silk Moths

The intricately crafted choreography is a seamless flow with perfect quick-changing tempo for a very bouncy, very green grasshopper, to a fluttering flight of silk moths and a fast spinning web of spiders.  Surrounding the Fairy Godmother is her beautiful bouquet of swirling pink Roses, her garland of girls.

The Roses

With a nod to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Ballroom scene is exquisitely staged with the Prince’s guests in slinky silk gowns, white tie and tails, waltzing in perfect unison.

The Royal Ball

Centre stage, Cinderella (the sylphic Sophie Martin) is transformed from ragged waif to regal Ballerina as she is swept off her feet by the charming Prince (Barnbaby Rook-Bishop) in their dazzling duets. Pure romance.

The Prokofiev score captures the full orchestral colours to dramatise the mood, from light to dark, quirky characterisations and lively wit through a flowing melody, harmony, pace. Shifting from moments of spontaneity to slow, slow elegant grace, it is rich in Russian, romantic sentiment, the music weaving its magic with seductive charm.

Romance blossoms at the Royal Ball

With a bold rainbow of colours, there’s a myriad of marvellous costumes for the tailors & spiders, shoemakers & moths, stepsisters, Roses, Royal Ball partygoers; not forgetting the Kafka-esque metamorphosis from delightful dance tutor to grinning grasshopper. The characters imaginatively come to life through facial expression, gesture and the fine detail of each and every dancing step.

This is a Cinderella for today, preserving the traditional magical tale with an underlying darker mood to reflect on a young girl grieving for her mother, as well as the art of kindness, finding love and romance. Fantasy meets Reality.

This vibrant, vivacious production may date from 2007, but is as fresh as a daisy, or perhaps more aptly, a blossoming pink rose.  As Scottish Ballet prepares for its 50th birthday in 2019, this kicks off the sparkling year of celebration “en pointe.”

Scottish Ballet on tour:

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 8-30 December, 2018

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 4-12 January, 2019

His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 16-19 January, 2019

Eden Court, Inverness, 23-26 January, 2019

Theatre Royal, Newcastle, 30 January-2 February, 2019

http://www.scottishballet/co.uk/event/cinderella

Sophie Martin and Barnaby Rook-Bishop

Calling all Champagne lovers: Fizz Feast is back in Edinburgh on Saturday, 17th November

A timely reminder that Fizz Feast returns to the Edinburgh Academy this weekend, an informative, inspiring event where you can sip a few delicious tipples and meet the expert winemakers to learn all about the wonderful world of Prosecco, Cava, Cremant and Champagne.

It’s the great opportunity to find your favourite Festive Fizz for Christmas and New Year parties.

So book your tickets and join in the seasonal fun at Fizz Feast 2018.

Tickets from £22.50, available from www.WineEventsScotland.co.uk

Saturday 17th November, 2018 – Two sessions, 12 – 3pm; 4 – 7pm

Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH3 5BL

Whether you are planning a family dinner or a casual get together with friends, with a few bottles off Fizz to share, it guarantees to be a sparkling occasion.  Cheers!

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