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“The Lightness of Being” – Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron – delicate, decorative paper and glass artwork at the Birch Tree Gallery, Edinburgh

Birch Tree Gallery , Edinburgh

The Birch Tree Gallery opened on Dundas Street, Edinburgh in March 2017 specialising in showcasing the fine art of Craft.  The gallery name represents the simple yet effective  image of the texture of bark to denote the wider world of nature as represented through art.  A range of regularly changing exhibitions feature a diverse selection of artists who specialise in natural materials, creatively working with textiles, wood, glass, ceramics, paper, porcelain, metals, silver, gold, gemstones, as well as linocuts, mezzotints and screen prints.

“The Lightness of Being” currently showcases the innovative work of Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron, who specialise  respectively in Paper and Glass.

At Art College, Alison trained first and foremost as a sculptor, forging a career in metalwork, constructing and casting in steel, bronze and iron. But after a decade or more, the heat, heavy weight and hardness of the work and materials ceased to be an inspiration, and she wisely turned to learning about and experimenting with the delicate art of paper-crafting. Paper can be made from any plant, and Alison uses the fibres from cotton and linen and locally grown Scottish flax.

Another Month of Sundays – Alison Simpson

Around the gallery is a series of beautifully framed, white and gold, textured, decorative Paper squares. “Through Trees” shows what seems like a woodland of tall slender trunks, with perhaps the glow of the moon beyond. It is meticulously crafted, to reflect the light-as-a-feather, literally “paper-thin” material of the delicate fibrous fabric.

Through Trees – Alison Simpson

Around the gallery is also a marvellous display of sculptured paper ornaments such as a linked chain of bluebells with pretty petals, shapely shells and tiny birds.

Blue Ten – Alison Simpson

Alison lives and works on the Moray Firth, where the natural environment of the sea, beach, changing light and weather is all a rich stimulus in her creativity. As she explains, “When I make a piece of art, I want the viewer to stop struggling to understand, just to stand, to breathe, to rest the eye.  The complex and miraculous properties of paper allow me to do this, creating sculptural pieces that weigh little in comparison to their visual impact. ”

Large White Shell – Alison Simpson

To complement Alison’s enriching papercrafts, Amanda Baron is exhibiting an enticing collection of decorative glass and jewellery. She studied Architectural Glass at Edinburgh College of Art,  later Artist in residence here, and worked for many years as a conservator of stained glass.

Cloud Study – Amanda Baron

This exhibition features stunning framed works of kiln-fired enamel on mouth blown glass. The theme of the environment is inspired from a visit to the Isle of Eigg where along the Singing Sands and Laig Bay Beach, Amanda observed the sky, clouds, rock pools, ferns, lichen and sand patterns created by the tide.

Sand Movement – Amanda Baron

In such meticulous craftwork, “Sand Movement”, “Cloud Study”, and “Rock Pool,” the soft shades of blue, white and grey shapes almost appear floating in the transparency of the glass.

Rock Pool – Amanda Baron

Here are circles, discs, ovals and patterned shapes to represent the impression of shards of light and droplets of water,  grains of sand, shells, seaweed – fragments of the seashore recreated as imaginatively composed works of art.

Oval line – Amanda Baron

As Amanda describes the process: “I make paintings on glass that reflect my research into elements of Scottish landscape. I highlight the qualities of glass using traditional painting, staining and enameling techniques that are relatively unchanged since the medieval period. The work is hand painted using kiln fired glass paints and can have up to six firings to build up surface layers. They embody and crystallise my response to the craft of the material and the beauty of landscape”.

The result is a masterly effect of landscape painting and botanical illustration inspired by traditional stained glass.  See also her collection of jewellery, such as exquisitely polished and perfected orange, gold and green glass pendants.

This is truly a most inspirational and imaginatively curated exhibition, where the beauty of Scottish land and sea, from the Highlands to the Hebrides has been translated into such finely crafted artworks composed in paper and glass.

The Lightness of Being – Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron

6 July to 1 August, 2017

Birch Tree Gallery 23a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ

www.birchtreegallery.co.uk

 

Rose Strang – Moonscapes: Isle of Harris @ Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh

I first came across the beautifully crafted and atmospheric landscapes of the Scottish Borders by Rose Strang when she exhibited her work at Whitespace Gallery, Howe Street, Edinburgh in July 2015.

At the time, I wrote:  “There’s a distinctive sense of physically being outside in the open air as you study each canvas; it’s the subtlety of thin shards of sunlight through leaves as well as such a realistic perspective of each landscape”.

Moffat Hills, Rose Strang

Rose is clearly inspired by the sense of place, the outdoor natural world and wide open spaces.  This exhibition of new paintings, entitled Moonscapes, is based on her journey this summer to the Isle of Harris, the Outer Hebrides…..certainly a painterly destination for a breath of fresh air and stunning scenic views of mountains and seashore.

Before I describe the artworks, this is a fascinating story.  Take a look at this photograph.

West Beach

The white sands and gently lapping turquoise sea at Kai Bae Beach, Thailand looks like heaven on earth.

There is just one problem. The photograph is actually of West Beach on the beautiful, but slightly cooler, island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides.  Instead of sending a photographer to Kai Bae, Thailand tourism simply Googled images of idyllic beaches and borrowed one of Berneray. The sand dunes and calm azure water may look tropical, but distant Harris hills and a lack of coconut palms is not Thailand!

The diverse scenery around Harris is simply stunning and certainly an artist’s paradise.

Traigh Luskentir, Harris – Rose Strang

Take a tour around Harris to view the lush, languid beauty of Luskentyre Bay with its iconic undulating dunes of pure white sand, etched with wild machair grasses along the shore.

Luksentir Sea – Rose Strang

A totally different terrain is experienced on the east coast of the island where you’ll find a rugged, rocky, raw and wild seascape. Rose must have studied each place for hours to capture the change of light from dawn to dusk. As the title suggests, there are delicate scenes of lochs and distant hills bathed in soft moonlight.

Harris Moon – Rose Strang

What is especially creative is the method by which thick brushstrokes of oil, perhaps with the addition of grass or sand added, (similar to the masterstroke by Joan Eardley) to create a realistic aspect to denote the texture and tone of the natural environment on the canvas.

Harris Twilight – Rose Strang

Colour palette is muted but again, natural, with blends of turquoise and navy blue to show the shallow and deep water of the sea, matched by the bracken brown and sage green shades of wild flowers and foliage.

The paintings range from large landscapes to miniature vignettes, but all composed with extraordinary detail, especially the study and movement of waves and clouds.

What I admire about Rose’s briskly painted, sketchy style of land and seascapes, is that they are purposely not photographic.   A Kodak or digital image represents the accuracy of a scene, but not the atmospheric mood, the gentle graduation of light and shade.

Na Buirgh Beach, Harris – Rose Strang

This is the work of someone who is totally absorbed by what she sees, and with the astute eye of an artist, is able to present a fresh, impressionistic clarity of vision.

Just like her paintings of the Borders, here again you really feel that you are standing there on the beach or wild moorland on the Isle of Harris. Catch the whiff of the salt sea air, the warmth of the sun or chill breeze of  late evening –  as you walk around the gallery.

Moonscapes: Isle of Harris by Rose Strang

14 – 20 July, 2017

Whitespace Gallery, East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ

If you cannot visit the gallery this week, do take a look at her website for images and information:

http://www.rosestrangartworks.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A re-booted, re-energised, reinvented Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival for 2018

On one of the sunniest, hottest day of the summer so far in Edinburgh, it seemed slightly incongruous to attend the media launch at Mansfield Traquair of the Hogmanay Festival 2018.

Underbelly, which stages Edinburgh Fringe productions from Cowgate to Bristo Square, and UK wide outdoor events year round, has been chosen as the new creative management team., taking over the reins from Unique Events.

Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood present their Festival programme

Directors, Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood, have brought together a crack creative team under Executive Producer, Martin Green. For five years he was Head of Events for London’s New Year, oversaw the 2012 Olympic Games celebrations, and is currently the director of Hull UK City of Culture, 2017.

From the programme line up, they are certainly starting their first year with a colourful spectacle and big bang.

An underlying theme is to take the New Year celebration back to its roots of the old Hogmanay parties at home, when revellers would tour around to “first foot” family and friends, with gifts of coal, shortbread and whisky.  Edinburgh’s Hogmanay  2017/2018 will present an enormous “House Party”  to bring local residents and international visitors together for a modern remix of the traditional Hogmanay.

Once again, it will be an exciting, colourful three day Festival starting with the ever popular Torchlight Procession on 30 December, when thousands of people will create a river of light down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Queens Park.

Torch Procession on 30 December

As 2018 is the Year of Young People, a special project will bring kids and youngsters together to select one universal word, the #ScotWord to illustrate what Scotland means to them.

Another innovation in welcoming Festival goers of all ages, is a special event, Bairns Afore,  a Hogmanay party for families which children in Princes Street gardens with their own mini firework display at 6pm.  Then the bairns can be packed off to bed before the adults can go out again and party.!

Several years ago, on 30 December there was the regular “Night Afore Fiesta” with a parade of street theatre, music and entertainment, stilt walkers and giant puppets along George Street.  When this ended, it was sorely missed. However, this style of Fiesta is back even bigger and better this year.

On Hogmanay, 31 December, the gates to the famous Street Party will open at 7pm. This will be a dramatic, exciting, new revamp to the usual event, with a fabulous Carnival of street theatre, acrobats, dancers and a spectacle of light and sound. Along and around Princes Street there will be three stages for a diverse range of musical entertainment.  There will also be a Ceilidh in the Gardens, and the annual Concert at the Ross Bandstand – further details on bands and singers will be announced soon.

The famous Street Party on 31 December

At midnight, the Fireworks will have an impressive and extended display to bring in the New Year with sparkling light, fizz, crackle and pop to delight the crowd of 60,000 revellers.

Fireworks explode from the Castle Rock

The festivities continue on 1st January when the brave or foolhardy can take a trip to South Queensferry to join in the traditional Loony Dook (or Daft Dip) in the Firth of Forth. Fancy dress encouraged!

Loony Dook in the First of Forth on 1 January

After a rousing  Hogmanay rendition of Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns, the New Year will continue in literary mode,  to celebrate its status as the first UNESCO City of Literature, and inspired by Burns’ poem, “Sketch New Year’s Day. ” Message from the Skies will feature a unique murder mystery written by best selling crime writer, Val McDermid in collaboration with director, Philip Howard.  Taking city residents and visitors on a journey around the city, the short story will be projected around the streets and landmark buildings each evening from 1 – 25 January, Robert Burns’ birthday.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2018 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first ever Princes Street Party, an event which gradually developed into a three day, world famous Winter festival.  It is extraordinary to realise that it was Edinburgh which led the way to herald in the New Year with dazzling Fireworks from the Castle. This later inspired London, Sydney and Hong Kong and other cities to light up the skies at midnight.

Join in the party, the fun, fireworks, #Scotword, stories, songs and the fiesta spirit at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2018.

Say to the World: I WAS THERE.   

“…. this is not the end of a year, 

but the beginning of a new. 

We will clasp the hands of every stranger, 

Because this belongs to all of us. 

This is our New Year. 

This is ‘the’ New Year.

We’ll leave as beacons, shining lights

That say to the world: 

I – WAS – THERE. 

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. 

It’ll leave its mark.”

For more information:

http://www.edinburghshogmanay.com

Join the world famous party at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

 

 

 

 

“Post-Truth” – the intimate world of Street Kids, Selfies and Social Media as observed by Artist, Alex Hain

Post-Truth

an exhibition of paintings and sketches by Alex Hain. 

Dundas Street Gallery,  6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

23 – 28 June, 2017, open daily 10am – 5pm.   http://www.alexhain.com

There must be oil, acrylic and pencil lead flowing through the veins of Alex Hain as both his parents went to Art College – he shares a studio with his father, Rob Hain, who specialises in colourful, animation-style prints of Scottish scenes.

Alex is clearly a talented, refreshingly exciting, young artist from the Scottish Borders with quirky, comical observations on today’s cool, contemporary Youth “Yoof” culture. This exhibition, entitled Post-Truth (Word of the Year 2016 and Trump’s fave saying), is an interlinked series of portraits and figurative studies, illustrating the global craze of the Selfie in oil on canvas.

#Whatever

Here is the twittering,  symbolic, shorthand manner of communication through #hashtag, SnapChat and Instagram, where today’s teenagers share, by text and photograph, the most intimate details of their life and loves on social media.

Walk around the Dundas Street Gallery to observe a truthful snapshot of the new kids on the block, wild girls out on a Saturday night, cheeky chavs with their back-to-front baseball caps and hoodies, and brash, street wise guys partying down the pub, drinks in hand.

#Lads

There’s a great sense of filmic movement and energy in such works as “#Lads,” three guys showing off with gleeful gestures and grimaces, and three blondes as high kicking clubbers, posing for the camera lens in the Ladies Loos.

Subjects range from the playful to the political: as well as these vibrant oil paintings depicting the fun and frolics of modern social life, there are simple, black and white caricatures such as “#Jungle”, showing the fear and confusion on the face of a migrant child, perhaps at the Calais camp.

#jungle

“#Legs” shows the tall, skinny limbs of (faceless) migrant parents with their two tiny toddlers, staying close to Mum and Dad. Their slightly distorted facial features reflect a sense of sadness and loss in this new alien environment, far from home.

#Legs

These are reminiscent of the evocative images by Joan Eardley who was fascinated by the poor, grubby, mischevious kids playing outside her studio in Townhead, Glasgow in the early 1950s.  As she wrote,

“I like the friendliness of the back streets, which mean almost entirely screaming, playing children … the noise of children”.  She concentrated on drawing the large Samson family (12 children)  focusing on their hand-me-down clothes, cross-eyed girls with messy hair, as well as the urban squalor of this neighbourhood, living in slum tenements with graffiti walls.

A few of the Samson children (Joan Eardley)

Alex is also fascinated by capturing an incisive glimpse of today’s cool kids whose behaviour, looks and language are led by the fast changing, Internet-driven, global life and times of the Millennial generation. This is a bold,  unique painterly vision and,  like Eardley, Hain is a true social commentator through his art.

#Chavs

#Forever

If there was an urban pop soundtrack to this inner city lifestyle, it would be a rousing, raucous rap by Tinie Tempah, Will.i.am or Eminem: perhaps a flavour of hip hop, gangsta tunes could be played in the gallery to capture the musical mood and beat of the street.

Girls Like – Tinie Tempah (featuring Zara Larsson)

Now everyone I go people want a photo
I could make a honey give away her last rolo
Then I say sure, yo, you know how I roll
All the girls like
I know what boys like
I know what they want
They want that good thing
They wanna get some
(All the girls like)

“Tranquil Destinations” by Jamie Primrose: an evocative, artistic journey around France and Italy

I have just returned from a fabulous, leisurely voyage on board the gleaming, glamorous new Silver Muse.  Setting off from Villefranche, near Nice, the ship circumnavigated all around the Italian coastline to sail into Venice for a magical three day stay during the Venice Biennale. The six week itinerary covered no less than nine countries around the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Ionian Seas.

Mediterreanean voyage

Back home this week just in time to visit the Dundas Street Gallery for a new exhibition, “Tranquil Destinations”,  by Jamie Primrose who takes us on a sunny Continental journey.

In recent years, (amongst a diverse range of places), Primrose is renowned for his meticulous cityscapes, capturing the historic architecture of Edinburgh, but also the scenic beauty of the East Lothian where the beach meets the sea beneath a stormy sky.

So where has he travelled this time?  The French and Italian Rivieras – Cote d’Azur, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Provence – Tuscany and the incomparible city of Venice.

As you step through the door, one of the first paintings you will see is of Portofino, a charming town which curves around a half moon bay, the harbour lined by super yachts, motor launches, ferries and fishing boats, beside a row of shops, bars and restaurants.

Jamie Primrose, “Portofino”

The soft pastel colours (ochre, peachy pink, lemon yellow) of the stonework are reminiscent of Tobermory, Mull – but in the blazing heat of the Italian sun!  Having been here a few weeks ago, I was transported back to this idyllic spot, with the buzz of visitors wandering along the waterfront, stopping for a glass of Prosecco, a seafood lunch or browsing for a bag in Louis Vuitton.

Jamie Primrose spent last summer with his family exploring the Ligurian Riviera while staying in Sestri Levante another delightful little town, a favourite with Milanese residents many of whom own holiday homes here. This once quiet fishing village has slowly turned into an attractive resort.

Jamie Primrose, “Impressions on the Bay of Silence, Liguria”

The quietly composed painting, “Impressions on The Bay of Silence” neatly illustrates a scattering of anchored boats, the sweeping promenade along the beach, where at the far end, a statue of a mermaid commemorates the Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson who lived for a time here in Sestri.

The coastal region of Cinque Terre winds its way through five distinctive villages, perched along the shoreline and up dramatic high cliffs. “Late Afternoon in Manarola” depicts the extraordinary shape and symmetry of sky high higgledy-piggledy houses leading up to terraced vineyards above.

Jamie Primrose, “Late Afternoon at Manarola, Cinque Terre

Jamie Primrose “Vineyard near San Gimignano”

Heading inland to Tuscany, here too are several exquisite views of San Gimignano, the iconic town with its Medieval skyscraper towers. From the artist’s standpoint looking across a patchwork quilt of green fields, see shifting light patterns, from the clarity of early morning to the soft afternoon shadows.

This artistic journey takes us around Italy to the most romantic, most beautiful city in the world, La Serenissima – Venice.

“ Venetophilia is a wonderful affliction. Venice captivates the heart, stimulates the senses and enriches the soul and mind. Exploring this jewel in the crown is a truly pleasurable and rewarding experience…”  Gillian Angrave ~“Venice: The Diary of an Awestruck Traveller”

With Gillian’s personal, and most informative, travelogue to hand, on my recent visit to Venice I meandered along cobbled alleys, criss-crossing a myriad of canals over ancient bridges, across flagstoned Campos lined with cafes and Ristorantes, to reach the breathtaking, never-changing sight of the Grand Canal.

This majestic vision can be experienced in a series of paintings detailing in fine precision the panorama of stunning architecture along the wide waterway.  Jamie Primrose spent a week in Venice, finding a perfect position on the Accademia Bridge, to capture the same view from early morning after dawn to richly vivid sunsets.  He makes sketches en plein air, takes photographs and notes on the colour palette to take back to his studio to work on the final compositions.

“Last Light on the Grand Canal, Venice” is given pride of place on the right hand wall, to allow the space to stand back and study it at a distance.

Jamie Primrose “Last Light on the Grand Canal, Venice”

Here are the grand, gracious Palazzos with their arched windows, in subtle shades of terracotta, sand, daffodil and cream. Spot the Peggy Guggenheim museum in the centre, and the domes and spires of distant churches.  The dappled water shimmers in the soft light before dusk.

This large painting took three months, on and off, to complete and it was only just last week when Jamie added a final glaze to the lower right corner to create a soft shadow, which is most effective to draw the viewer’s eye upwards and along the narrowing length of the Canal.

Canaletto “Grand Canal”

Painters have flocked to Venice over the centuries to capture the mesmerising. poetic beauty of this island city – not least the classic works by Canaletto, Belotto and Turner.

JMW Turner “The Grand Canal, Venice”

But from a contemporary perspective, Primrose brings a refreshing, pure, impressionistic view of this famous scene. With a touch of artistic licence, the Grand Canal is devoid of vaparettos, boats and barges, to show the tranquility and timeless, magical sense of place.

Other Venetian scenes show the Rialto Bridge, the Campanile di San Marco and a row of gondolas at sunrise.  Around the Gallery, continuing on south we reach the Cote d’Azur which as the name implies, here is the clear azure, turquoise water of the French Riviera –  Nice, Eze, Villefranche, St Paul de Vence and on to Provence with verdant vineyards and fields of purple lavender.

As well as original oil paintings, there is also a selection of Limited Edition Prints, (framed and unframed),  made to order using fine quality parchment-style German paper, manufactured by Giclee Ltd at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

Having viewed Jamie Primrose’s work over the past decade, “Tranquil Destinations” is a most impressive exhibition and clearly demonstrates his creative, crafted development as an accomplished and mature artist.  Visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to experience an evocative “voyage” around France and Italy (with a side trip to London), as observed in this superb collection of modern masterpieces.  Canaletto, eat your heart out!

The Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ

“Tranquil Destinations” runs from 9 – 17 June, 2017   

for more information:

http://www.jamieprimrose.com/latest/index.html

www.jamieprimrose.com

 

 

 

 

 

“Funny Girl the Musical” comes to the Edinburgh Playhouse: Sheridan Smith is a shining superstar in this fabulous 5 star show

It is extraordinary how the storyline of many Musicals is about the fine art of show business.  “ A Star is Born,”  the hit movie about an aspiring actress, Esther Blodgett who arrives in Hollywood to make her name;  “42nd Street”  tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a talented young performer with gets her big break on Broadway;  “Cabaret” where Sally Bowles tries her luck in a Berlin nightclub; “A Chorus Line” dramatising the tough audition for 17 hopefuls to be cast in a Musical …. the list is endless.

Fanny Brice

“Funny Girl” is based on the true life of Broadway star,  Fanny Brice (1891-1951), who was born Fania Borach, daughter of Jewish Hungarian immigrants, from the lower East side, New York City. When she was just 13 years old, she won a talent contest at Keeney’s Theatre, soon leading to a long, successful career on the Vaudeville stage.

The premiere of “Funny Girl” opened on Broadway in March 1964 with Barbra Streisand as Fanny,  a dazzling performance which won her an Oscar as best actress in the film version. After phenomenal 5 star reviews for the recent revival of the Musical in London, Sheridan Smith brings her equally dazzling performance as Fanny in this touring production at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice

The action begins is 1927, in Fanny’s dressing room at the New Amsterdam Theater, New York. Sitting in front of a brightly lit mirror, she reminisces on her long journey to stardom.  We travel in flashback to her childhood home, where her mother observes the young Fanny, in pigtails, baggy sweater and knickerbocker pants, day-dreaming a life in showbusiness. But Mrs Brice believes this is out of her reach.  “Fanny, when people buy a ticket for the theatre, especially the male element, they want something to look at, …. if a girl isn’t pretty, like a Miss Atlantic City, all she gets is pity and a pat.” 

But undeterred, she has a passion for life in the spotlight: “That’s where I live, on stage,” says the young wannabee,  “I’m the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it.”

Fanny Brice trying to join in the dance ensemble

At an audition for a show, compared to the prettty, slender, size zero chorus dancers, Fanny is smaller, plumper and ungainly, as she attempts to join in a slick ensemble number. Sheridan is simply marvellous, with flailing arms and clumsy footwork, her dance steps are out of time and kilter.  But she has a cookie, quick witted talent as a bright, bubbly comedienne.

“Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn’t get serious with people. They don’t expect it from you. You’re a clown.”  Fanny Brice.

The narrative follows her struggle on and off stage, trying to be treated seriously as an all round  Burlesque – Music Hall performer at Keeney’s Theatre, Brooklyn, then moving on to be leading lady at the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.   Her unconventionality as a natural entertainer warms her to Producers and audiences alike.

Fanny (Sheridan Smith) and Nick (Darius Campbell)

She also attracts the dashing Nick Arnstein, a successful (or so it seems) gambler dealing in cards, dice and the horses, brilliantly portrayed  by Darius Campbell as a sophisticated, suave, smooth operator. In an hilarious seduction scene,  Fanny tries to escape his clutches on the velvet “casting couch”,  but quickly falls for his charm, reflected in a deliciously romantic duet “You Are Woman, I Am Man.

The entire company is excellent with some delightful cameo character roles (e.g. Mr Ziegfeld, Mrs Brice and her card sharp friends, Mrs Meeker and Mrs Strakosh),. Slickly directed and crisply choreographed, the fast paced scene-changes are neatly done, from restaurant to railway station, with luggage, tables, sofas and  stage props magically sliding on and off, with a wardrobe of glamorous costumes shifting through time from c.1910 to the late twenties.

Fanny and Nick with the company

From the opening bars of the Overture, the melodious score flows along  with several well known numbers such as ‘People”  and the stunning torch song, ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’.  While Fanny’s story is dramatised as a light and frothy comic caper, the heartfelt songs bring a truthful poignancy, unveiling the mask of a clown to show her private feelings through a lifetime of memories.

Centre stage is the brightly shining Sheridan Smith, who  acts, dances, sings, and makes us laugh out loud.  This very Funny Girl is utterly flawless, an incomparable actress, comedienne and musical superstar; Sheridan Smith is the new Judy Garland of our age.

Funny Girl,  Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 April, 2017

http://www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

UK Tour

http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk/uk-tour/

 

“The Man & the Monarch” – Sir Edwin Henry Landseer unveiled @ Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is synonymous with the powerful depiction of animals, from Queen Victoria’s hounds and horses to lions and polar bears. However, more than any other animal, the Highland Red Deer is most associated with his art, notably ‘The Monarch of the Glen’, painted in 1851.

“The Monarch of the Glen” Sir Edwin Landseer

This majestic portrayal of a royal stag against the moody backdrop of misty mountain peaks led to numerous reproductions, engravings and marketing images from whisky to shortbread and even butter,  spreading the image worldwide.

An early advertisement for Dewar’s Whisky

Shortbread tin

This iconic image of Scotland’s wild, natural landscape encapsulates its sense of tradition, heritage and romance.  As one critic noted, ‘Landseer may be said to have mastered other animals, but the deer mastered him”.

Having been on loan for seventeen years to the National Gallery of Scotland, in 2016 the owners Diageo, decided to put the painting up for auction through Christie’s, which sparked the very real threat of a sale to an overseas gallery or collector.

Following an urgent appeal by the NGS to save the Monarch for the nation, Diageo agreed a partnership deal offering a £4 million purchase price, half its market value. Financial support came from Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, Scottish Governnent,  private trusts and an international fundraising campaign (#loveitdeerly), with generous donations from art lovers around the world.

On 17 March 2017, it was announced that Landseer’s famous Stag had been secured, now in public ownership to remain in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Scotland.

To celebrate this extraordinary painting, an exhibition entitled “The Man and the Monarch” is on display throughout April in a pop up gallery at the Peacock Alley, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.

The Art Consultancy firm, Artiq advises on and selects works of art for private homes and public spaces.  Companies and clients can also lease artworks on a regular revolving basis. It is the perfect opportunity for restaurants and hotels to enhance ambience and decor for the benefit of guests:  “In the hospitality industry, a great piece of art can leave a lasting impression and resonate on a deeper level than any other aspect of design or service.”  Hotels which have collaborated with Artiq on art collections include London Heathrow, Marriott, and Gleneagles, Perthshire.

Katie Terres, art consultant, with Franck Bruyere, Deputy Manager, Waldorf Astoria, delivering a Landseer painting to the hotel.

Kate Terres, an Art Consultant from Artiq,  is the enthusiastic curator behind this fascinating showcase of prints, photographs and portraits with works by Landseer, John Ballantyne, Albert Mendelssohn and eclectic range of contemporary artists.

A stunning, stark photograph is “White Stag” by Kristian Bell. Perhaps snapped at dusk, the pure white of its coat illuminates the soft tones of green and brown foliage with the two central deer staring directly at the lens.

White Stag, Kristian Bell

As Kristian explains “I had heard a few rumours of a white stag hanging around the Arne RSPB in Dorset so was pretty pleased when we came across a group of deer including two white stags…. they were flighty and this was the closest I could get.

The award winning London-based German artist, Alma Haser specializes in carefully constructed portraits using imaginative paper-folding techniques which distorts the face, Picasso-esque style, such as in her series Cosmic Surgery.

“I hope that people find them beautiful but at the same time are taken aback because they are so awkward and weird. I just want them to look closer.”  Alma Haser

Thistle Face, Alma Haser

Haser also alters the shape of a head and facial expression with decorative adornments in a series entitled Brainstorm, and here you can see her powerfully enigmatic portrait “Thistle Face,”  showing  a man’s face obscured by the flower of Scotland.   Landseer suffered bouts of depression throughout his life and this vibrant image of sharp, spiky leaves and purple tone, subtlely reflects the blocked mind and dark thoughts of mental illness.

To complement a fine print of “The Monarch of the Glen” itself, there is also “Scene in Braemar – Highland Deer”.  In 1888, this Landseer painting was purchased  at Christie’s for 4,950 guineas by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, remaining in the family, (on loan to the National Gallery of Dublin) until sold to a private collector over a century later. The dramatic painting, nearly 9ft high, portrays the artist’s most familiar subject, the Red Stag, surrounded by young fawns and a cute little hare with a soaring eagle overhead against menacing grey storm clouds.

‘Scene in Braemar, Highland Deer” Sir Edwin Landseer

This small yet comprehensive exhibtion captures the essential spirit of Landseer’s life and work: a violent scene of eagles attacking three swans, portraits and photographs which illustrate his close association with Queen Victoria (who commissioned numerous pictures), and his epic project to model the lion sculptures for Trafalgar Square.

It would have been fantastic to have also included a print of Sir Peter Blake’s own striking interpretation, “After The Monarch of the Glen” (1966), hanging side by side Peter Saville’s dynamic tapestry, “After, After, After The Monarch of the Glen,” (2012).

Within the former Caledonian Station concourse, the Peacock Alley is a most elegant Salon for hotel guests and non residents to relax over afternoon tea or a coupe of champagne. The Bartender has invented a special Scotch Whisky, Earl Grey and orange-flavoured “Monarch” cocktail, the perfect tipple as you browse around this artwork.

It makes you wonder that if Landseer were alive today, he would be invited to work for fashion houses and jewellers to create promotional advertisements .. you can just visualise Landseer’s Stags, dogs and lions joining Cartier’s Panther as a symbol of artistic style and luxury.

Peacock Alley, The Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh, The Caledonian,

“The Man and the Monarch” is on show until the end of April 2017

The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Princes Street, Edinbugh EH1 2AB.   tel. 0131 222 8888

http://www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com

“Hay Fever” at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh: a sparkling, sassy, social comedy of (bad) manners.

“”Hay Fever” is considered by many to be my best comedy .. and is far and away one of the most difficult plays to perform.  To begin with, it has no plot at all, and remarkably little action. Its general effectiveness therefore depends upon expert technique from every member of the cast.” Noel Coward

Hay Fever, 1925 premiere with Marie Tempest as Judith.

Set in the 1920s at a country house near Cookham, Berkshire, this is a comedy of (appallingly bad) manners in the company of the eccentrically Bohemian Bliss family – Judith, a recently retired stage actress, her husband David, a reclusive novelist, and their grown up, over- indulged children, Simon and Sorel.

The pared-down timber design features the shabby chic lounge with piano, gramophone, drinks cabinet, staircase and garden backdrop.  A battered Chesterfield sofa is the focal point for a series of intimately dramatised scenes, starting with the two siblings curled up amicably, sketch pad and poetry book in hand respectively.

Rosemary Boyle (Sorel), Charlie Archer (Simon)

With her blonde curls in a virginal white dress, Sorel is a vain, pretty young thing, while Simon in his stained pyjamas, vest and old socks expresses a lazy, louche personality.  It transpires that both have invited a friend, an older lover, for the weekend, much to their mutual annoyance.

Gliding serenely in from the garden, Judith blooms like a herbaceous border in a flowery, orange kaftan, floaty palazzo trousers and straw hat,  not forgetting green welly boots.

Susan Woolridge as Judith.

Hearing that the scullery maid has toothache, she responds with egoistic vagueness,  “Who is Amy?”  before revealing that Sandy, her latest admirer, is coming to stay.

Judith, Simon and Sorel

To cap it all, David emerges from his hideaway study to announce  that Jackie, his literary muse, will soon arrive at the station.

The Japanese Guest room is beginning to look a tad crowded.!

Each guest is “greeted” at the front door with a disdainful glare by Clara, the housekeeper (well played with grumpy dourness by Myra McFadyen),  and carefree abandon by other family members.

First of all is the elegant Sandy in brown and white spats, expecting a romantic tryst with the unattached Judith. “My husband – he’s not dead, he’s upstairs, ” she admits, leading him out to the garden.

Simon (Charlie Archer) and Myra (Pauline Knowles)

Then the glamorous, bob-haired Myra, struggles into the house complete with suitcase, hat box and tennis racquet. She is soon ravenously embraced by Simon, portrayed with languid pout and poise by Charlie Archer, his matinee good looks and camp manner, reminiscent of a youthful Rupert Everett.

Richard Greatham, Sorel’s “suave, polished, debonair diplomatist “  arrives at the same time as Jackie who are left standing in the hallway, with no option to sit down and make small talk.

This exquisitely stilted scene succinctly pinpoints the precise nuance of language, attitude, accent and astute observation of social class.  To the diplomat’s volley of comments about the beauty of Spain and Italy, the sweet, young ingénue is like a rabbit in the headlights, quivering with nerves, her cheeks turning bright pink with embarrassment at her cultural ignorance of world travel. A trip to Dieppe, she realises to her shame, does not quite compare.  Hywel Symons and Katie Barnett create a masterly comedic double act with subtle gesture and perfect timing.

Hywel Simons as Richard, Katie Barnett as Jackie.

Expecting a quiet weekend in the country, the four guests unwittingly become embroiled in the family’s private world of make believe; orchestrated by Judith, life is a masquerade where reality slides easily into fiction.  Enter this artistic household to find that “All the world’s a stage,  And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and their entrances …”  

Parlour game after dinner

An after-dinner parlour game of linguistic Charades, performed strictly to family rules, confuses the guests while the hosts relish the role playing, which spirals into exaggerated emotional outbursts with melodramatic flair. As Sorel tellingly admits, “We none of us every mean anything”.

The sequence of outrageous antics, frivolity and fun around the house is choreographed by director, Dominic Hill like a fast and frantic eightsome reel as they each swing around between partners, an  innocent bedroom farce acted out behind the closed door of the library and the shrubbery in the garden.

Eccentric, unconventional behaviour perhaps, but Coward based the Blisses on the life and loves of close friends, visiting Hambleton Hall for weekends to be entertained by Mrs Astley Cooper, her equally dotty husband Clem and artist son Stephen.  He would jot down snippets of dialogue, which inspired him to pepper the conversation in “Hay Fever” with such lines as “People have died from hiccups, you know.”  and “This haddock’s disgusting!,‘ during an hilarious breakfast scene.

Laurette Taylor

Judith is also very much modelled on the American actress, Laurette Taylor, who was sharply witty, intolerant and entirely devoid of tact; her family played parlour games on Sunday nights, disapproving of any self-conscious guest who didn’t play their part.

Susan Wooldridge is meticulous in combining Judith’s winsomely warm personality with her cool, capricious nature hidden behind broad smiles and hearty laughter.  Her tone of voice shifts from high pitched merriment to a deep throated growl to express feelings of delight and anger.

With a performance in similar vein to Sybil in Fawlty Towers, she likes to be a centre of attention and ignores her husband David,  played by Benny Baxter-Young as a quietly idiosyncratic intellectual with nonchalant charm.

Teatime at the Blisses

Each member of the cast is spot on – a character parade of studied demeanor and facial expression – creating a slick, quick, energetic ensemble.  A wardrobe of beautifully authentic costumes from summer frocks to glittering ballgowns and Tuxedos all adds to the vintage period with stylish aplomb.

The bamboozled guests soon realise that their hosts are “artificial to the point of lunacy .. I believe they’re all mad!”   and decide to take matters into their own hands and plan the great escape with hilarious results.

A sparkling, sassy and sophisticated revival illustrating once more Coward’s inimitable talent to amuse.

Hay Fever by Noel Coward

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh 10 March – 1 April, 2017

The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 5 – 22 April, 2017. 

 www.lyceum.org.uk

www.citz.co.uk

(Production photographs – Mihaela Bodlovic).

Judith, Simon and Sorel

 

 

“Moments” – Seascapes, Still Lifes and Portraits capture a sense of time and place at Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

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Three artists from Fife – Colin Joyce, Roy McGowan and Ken Young – have curated a joint Art Exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery, from 18 February to 25th February, 2017.

Covering Scottish seascapes, travel journeys far and wide, portraits and still life, there are around 60 original works of art, representing their individual style and subjects. The attractive, well lit basement gallery is an ideal space with separate walls and sections for each artist.

Describing himself as a realist artist Ken Young specialises in painting boats and harbours along the curving coastline of the East Neuk of Fife.  The picturesque fishing villages of Pittenweem, Crail and Anstruther are a painter’s paradise.  There are some colourfully evocative paintings here, such as “Still Water”  where you can almost feel the salt sea air.

Ken Young - Still Water

Ken Young – Still Water

As Ken describes the artistic process for this work,  “This is Dysart Harbour on a quiet evening as the light fades. The water is very still, reflecting the colours of the sky. I was aiming for a forlorn atmosphere  .. at the end of a day.”

I am also impressed by his Still Life paintings such as the detailed texture of glistening glass and crimson cherries.

Ken Young - Cherries and Glass

Ken Young – Cherries and Glass

After taking early retirement from work in the financial business, Colin Joyce is now relishing a new mid life career as an artist. He also writes articles for Leisure Painter magazine and teaches art on cruise ships.

I love to travel – my sketches and photographs recall the sounds and smells of the place.  I often create a painting on location, “en plein air” inspired by light, the way it changes the landscape day by day, hour by hour.”

Colin Joyce - North Bridge, Edinburgh

Colin Joyce – North Bridge, Edinburgh

Painting in either Watercolour or Oils, there is great clarity in the cityscapes of Edinburgh, a sense of movement of buses and cars on a rain drizzled street; the iconic shape of the Bass Rock and the towering structure of the Forth Bridge; in contrast are charming views of Venice, with the bright sun on dappled water and ochre stone.

Colin Joyce - Light Effect, 5pm, side canal, Venice

Colin Joyce – Light Effect, 5pm, side canal, Venice

Roy McGowan returned to his love of art later in life, having enjoyed painting in his youth. For thirty five years he never picked up a paintbrush which he regrets but is clearly making up for lost time in the studio today.   His collection of oil paintings cover his eclectic interest in seascapes, figurative studies and still life.  My eye was particularly drawn to his exquisitely drawn “Blue Jug and Apple,” reminiscent of Cezanne.

Roy McGowan - Blue Jug and Apple

Roy McGowan – Blue Jug and Apple

Like his fellow artists here, Roy is a master at depicting the atmosphere of a quiet seashore and distant horizon with painterly precision.

Roy McGowan - a charming seascape

Roy McGowan – a charming seascape

Meeting Ken, Colin and Roy, three seriously talented artists from Fife, reminds me of the classic comic tale, “Three Men in a Boat(to say nothing of the dog)”, by Jerome K Jerome. The boating adventures of Jerome and two ship mates, cruising along the River Thames from Kingston to Oxford and back again, was intended to be read as a serious travel guide.

three-men-in-a-boat-500x650

I can just imagine these three friends taking a similar trip – perhaps a barge trip along the Caledonian canal, or a cruise around the Hebrides, with their sketchbooks in hand to capture loch and sea views, beaches, boats and wildlife en route.

Following in the footsteps of Jerome and his friends, on such an artistic journey would make a fantastic exhibition and indeed a stunningly illustrated book!

For more information on this exhibition and the artists:

http://www.kenyoungart.co.uk   http://www.colinjoyceart.com   http://www.dunfermlineartclub.co.uk (Roy McGowan)

Rent the Musical – La Boheme re-imagined for the Aids generation on 20th anniversary UK tour

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Rent the Musical, with book, lyrics and music by Jonathan Larson,  opened off Broadway in February 1996, running for two months before it transferred to Broadway where it ran for 12 years.  Tragically, Larson died of an aortic aneurysm shortly after the dress rehearsal for what would become a hit show, winning four Tony Awards including Best Musical, the Pulitzer prize for drama.  The New York Times called it an “exhilarating, landmark rock opera.”

Jonthan Larson

Jonthan Larson

This 20th anniversary UK touring production roared into the Festival Theatre this week, attracting a large fan base, who applaused the energetic cast with a standing ovation.

The show,  inspired by Puccini’s romantic opera, La Boheme  (1896), about a group of Bohemian artistes in 19th century Paris, with the plot shifted to New York a century later. In a run down loft apartment in the East Village, Manhattan, a group of friends struggle to make a living due to homelessness, unemployment,  drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, social and political unrest.

The towering, multi-storey, industrial scaffolding stage set, with flashing Café and Don’t Walk signs, represents the Urban Jungle where life is rough and tough for the junkies, druggies, drop outs and bag ladies,  as envisioned by Jonathan Larson:

“In these dangerous times, where it seems the world is ripping apart at the seams, we can all learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and we should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.”

Puccini’s characters have been re-imagined for the late 20th century: the poet Rodolfo becomes Roger, the songwriter, Marcello the painter is now Mark the filmmaker.  Tom Collins a gay anarchist is based on Colline the philosopher, and Schuanard is now Angel Schunard, a transvestite street drummer.  Musetta is Maureen, a bisexual performance artist and Mimi, the poor, TB-stricken seamstress is cast as an exotic, erotic dancer. (Perhaps a fashion designer would have been more apt!).

Billy Cullum as Mark. (photo, Matt Crockett)

Billy Cullum as Mark. (photo, Matt Crockett)

The narrative opens on Christmas Eve and relates the lives and loves of this group of housemates over the next year, which Mark is capturing on film for a social documentary.

December 24th, 9pm, Eastern Standard time, from here on in, I shoot without a script.. first shot Roger, tuning his fender guitar he hasn’t played in a year”. 

There’s plenty of drama for Mark to film, first reporting on Roger, who is HIV positive and trying to compose a significant song as his legacy, and their neighbourhood rent strike against the landlord now planning to evict them.

Phillippa Stefani as Mimi (photo credit, Brian Roberts)

Phillippa Stefani as Mimi (photo credit, Brian Roberts)

Lying on a mattress upstairs in this squat is Mimi, a tiny doll of a girl, diagnosed HIV positive through drug abuse.  Frail and vulnerable from lack of food, desperate for heat and light, she asks Roger to “Light my Candle”, their brief encounter leading to a rocky, romantic affair.

Living an impoverished existance on the edge of society, the friends exist from day to day.  In a rousing choral anthem “Seasons of Love,” they reflect on how to measure the 525,600 minutes in a year. “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife, how do you measure a year in life?

Seasons of Love (photo Matt Crockett)

Seasons of Love (photo Matt Crockett)

Another theme the musical explores is the discrimination of artists, homosexuals, and others whose lifestyles go “against the grain, going insane”, as described in the song “La Vie Bohème.”   There’s some vivacious dancing throughout such as a fabulous Tango sequence with Mark and Joanne strutting their stuff with pin point precision.

However, as this is a through sung musical, there is no dialogue, and the over amplification from the stage band drowns out most of the lyrics. Without the essential narration,  it is extremely difficult to follow the plot and to empathise with the characters and their individual dilemmas.

La Bohème oozes with the life affirming notion of love and romance, despite the students’ hard times.  In contrast, Rent portrays a permanent dark mood which is angry and negative.  Twenty years on since the premiere, the tragic plight of the Aids generation today appears rather dated.   What is missing in this rather raucous rock show, is a true sense of emotion.  Following the self-destruction of several characters, it’s hard to connect and feel sincerity and truth behind their sad, wasted lives. At its core, there is little heart.

Les Miserables managed to bridge the gap turning the story of The Glums into a richly dramatic, heartfelt musical.

mimi-and-roger

More akin to Puccini’s  “Che gelida manina” (Your tiny hand is frozen) is Roger and Mimi’s soulful duet, “Another Day” – “There is no future, There is no past, I live this moment as my last, There’s only us, There’s only this, Forget regret, Or life is yours to miss, No other road, No other way, No day but today”

These lyrics more than any other sum up the underlying theme of Rent, and punch home Jonathan Larson’s prophetic message, Carpe Diem, seize the day.

Rent the Musical, 14 -18 February,  2017 – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. http://www.edtheatres.com

UK tour dates until 27 May 2017- http://www.rentonstage.co.uk/