Experience a wonderfully, Wicked musical adventure over the rainbow to the Land of Oz @ Edinburgh Playhouse
Wicked has been seen by over 55 million people around the world since its premiere on Broadway in 2003, winning a Tony Award, now in its 12 year in London and is one of the most successful musicals of all time. This 2018 production is flying around UK & Ireland and has arrived for a month long residency at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
118 years ago, L Frank Baum wrote the children’s whimsical fairytale, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” which turned into a series of 14 books about the colourful characters and animals of the land of Oz. This magical world was perfectly adapted for the screen starring Judy Garland and her cute dog Toto in the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” – you don’t have to have seen it to enjoy this show, but it may help.
The inspiration for the imaginatively conceived Wicked (written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman) is based on “Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire, the untold story of Elphaba and Glinda.
Scene one: the Munchkins and Glinda The Good Witch are celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, who tragically dissolved when a farm girl threw a bucket of water over her. We are then taken back in time to follow the lives and loves of two students after they arrive at Shiz University. The question posed at the start is “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” The perennial Nature or Nurture debate.
As a glamorous young blonde, Glinda is perceived as a spoiled, Paris Hilton styled socialite used to getting her own way, with only two concerns – to be beautiful and popular, catching the eye of the most handsome guy, Fiyero.
In contrast the shy, diffident outsider, Elphaba has endured an unfortunate childhood, dysfunctional family, a disabled sister, Nessarose, and not least, she was born with green skin. But beneath her vulnerable façade, she is a sharp cookie with a bright intellect.
Shiz University is soon revealed as a Hogwarts-styled Sorcery academy for those with secret bewitching powers: Elphaba and Glinda are inspired by the charming goat, Professor Dillamond, (brilliantly played by Steven Pinder with gentle poignancy) until the motherly, yet domineering Headmistress Madame Morrible claims that “animals should be seen not heard”.
The dark, dastardly plot is peppered with quick witted humour, jokes and puns from “The Wizard of Oz,” through all the quick changing scenes, colourful costumes and pantomimic fun and games… not least the rather terrifying, flying monkeys. The spirited choreography is spot on from the energetic ensemble with the action flowing along by the melodic score, powerful ballads, romantic lyrics and chorus numbers.
Leading the cast are Helen Woolf as Glinda – (so reminiscent of Reece Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, with a lot of hair tossing and fabulous frocks) – and Amy Ross – on first encounter – as the evil-eyed, green- tinted Elphaba. As they unwittingly become room mates and best friends, it’s gradually revealed that Elphaba has a kind heart as a freedom fighter for social and moral justice.
These are roles which require strong dramatic and vocal talent and they both shine throughout as stars of the musical stage with real passion and sensitivity through all the romantic twists and turns of the narrative.
While many of the lyrics may not be singalong classics, the performances are superb. No One Mourns the Wicked, Popular, I’m Not that Girl, Defying Gravity and As Long as You Are Mine are all showstoppers.
Grab your glittery red Dorothy shoes and broomstick and rush off to see this spectacular, wonderfully wicked show – pure magical entertainment for all ages – from around 8 to 88.
18 – 22 Greenside Lane, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 8th May to Saturday 9th June, 2018
How to book Tickets:
Tel. 0844 871 3014
Groups – 0333 009 5388
FOR A GREAT NIGHT OUT
Before the show, enjoy a relaxing supper at Mamma Roma, which offers a warm welcome, superb, authentic Italian cuisine, bar drinks and friendly service.
After a delicous meal, it’s just a two minute walk across the road to reach the Playhouse in good time for curtain up.
Good value Pre-theatre and A la Carte menus with wines by the glass, carafe and bottle.
Mamma Roma, 4-7 Antigua St, Edinburgh EH1 3NH
Phone: 0131 558 1628
Lennon-Art is a most welcoming gallery in the cultural (and culinary) hub of Stockbridge, Edinburgh, founded by the artist Alan Lennon. The current collection Taking Shape very much celebrates the birth of Spring with a refreshing cocktail of colourful paintings and prints by Stephen Holmes, Alan Martin and Alan Lennon, interlinking a theme of abstract artwork with both lighthearted humour and thoughtful insight.
“The world doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?” Pablo Picasso
Stephen Holmes studied Graphic design and has been influenced by surrealism, wildlife and children’s book illustrations for his cool quirky images of animals, people and places which primarily focus “on the relationship between free-form shapes and colours.”
With sharp edged red, blue and orange cubes and triangles like a traditional Harlequin’s suit. his painterly style echoes the modern masters – Mondrian, Picasso and Miro – but which is in no way a blatant duplication.
In his own refreshing manner, Holmes captures the naivety and innocence in childlike images of cats, houses, city park and caricatures of people which will make you smile.
A vivacious “Red-haired girl does a drunken dance” evokes rhythm and energy while his rather sombre “ Self Portrait” is, of course, most revealing, akin to Joyce’s literary version, “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.”
Whatever the subject matter, there is pure inventiveness in each picture depicting an enchanting landscape with a wild and wondrous imagination.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso
Moving down the route of abstraction, Alan Martin presents a patchwork of geometric shapes around curving lines described as Doodles using mixed media, mainly acrylic with pen and coloured pencils on card or canvas.
While he has a strong interest in archaeology, astronomy and the seashore, he says, “ I find it hard to talk and explain about individual paintings … I simply enjoy playing with line, colour and shape … manipulating the randomness that can result from using collage.”
There’s a two-dimensional flatness over the canvas and the bold compositions would also be ideal for cushions, rugs and Fashion design too – the swirling patterns and bright prints by Emilio Pucci and Jonathan Saunders are perfect for flowing silk and soft fabrics from floaty summer dresses to swimwear.
The diverse range of Martin’s work also covers a porfolio of birds, fish, people and still life with a darkly, dramatic, Dali-esque narrative.
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards, you can remove all traces of reality.” Pablo Picasso
Alan Lennon’s oil paintings specialise in figurative work with a recurring theme of a thoughtful, philosophical mood. Through a series entitled Essence, Substance and Silence, he has gradually developed a less representative dimension along the lines of Picasso’s manner of fragmentation.
These reflect a hidden depth of emotion and spirituality handled through facial expression and subtle gesture of crossed hands and feet such as in “Reflection” and “Aspiration”.
Lennon admits his figures are not based on people he knows. Instead through his own imagination (and perhaps subconsciously adding an aspect of himself), presents a quiet, joyous Zen-like beauty of the world. He is also a fine sculptor especially constructing a face, eyes and furrowed brows depicting sadness or love with extraordinary poignancy.
“Taking Shape” is a well curated showcase of three artists who complement each other with their individual approach to reconfiguring the notion of the everyday, life and humanity with imaginative vision.
“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place, from the sky, from the earth, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web” Picasso
Catch this exhibition if you can before it ends on 10 May … but whenever you visit there is always a varied collection of paintings, prints and sculpture throughout the year.
Taking Shape: 13 April – 10 May, 2018
Lennon-Art, 83 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH 3 5BE
Open Mon-Sat, 12pm – 6pm.
Tel. 0131 556 6888
“Crazy for You” – a vivacious, vintage rom-com musical with heart @ Edinburgh Playhouse (and on UK tour)
The 1930 musical Girl Crazy, with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin – with Ginger Rogers in her first leading role and Ethel Merman making a stunning debut – launching such hit songs as “I Got Rhythm,” “But not for Me” and “Embraceable You. ”
It was later adapted as a movie, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
Fifty years later, wanting to recreate this golden age of Hollywood and Broadway, Ken Ludwig revised the show, selecting a collection of those classic songs to devise a new Gershwin musical comedy, “Crazy for You.” This Broadway smash hit ran for 1,422 performances and won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Musical.
Frank Rich, New York Times theatre critic, known as “The Butcher of Broadway” for his damning reviews, was seriously impressed: “When future historians try to find the exact moment at which Broadway finally rose up to grab the musical back from the British, they just may conclude that the revolution began last night at the Shubert Theater, where “Crazy for You” uncorked the American musical’s classic blend of music, laughter and dancing with a freshness and confidence”.
After a successful run at the Watermill Theatre last Summer, this revival of ‘Crazy For You’ is now touring the UK. This romantic comedy embraces the typical Show within a Show narrative, (Funny Girl, Cabaret, A Star is Born et al) in which Bobby Child, a wealthy New York banker has a dream of swapping the Waspish world of Wall Street for the glittering limelight of showbiz. Desperate to show off his talent, he gives an impromptu audition to the Hungarian producer, Bela Zangler, gleefully pirouetting across the stage in a bid to join the Follies show.
Disillusioned with work, life and love, he seems trapped between two strong minded women, Irene, his fiancee of five years, and his domineering mother who insists he goes on a business trip to a one horse, mining town in Nevada. Given the ultamatum by Irene, to choose between “Me and Deadrock,” he decides to leave his troubles behind and escape to the mid West. This is the era of the Depression and times are rock bottom in Deadrock – the Gaiety Theatre is being forced to close by the bank and that Bobby Child is on his way to end the family business run by Everett Baker and his daughter Polly.
The split level stage set is brilliantly designed, shifting from the Zangler Theatre, NY to the run-down Gaiety, complete with ornate decor, box “ashtrays,” curtains, lighting rigs, costume rails and props. The backdrop neatly switches from skyscaper buildings to the barren, sun-drenched red rock Nevada desert. In his pin-stripe city suit, Bobby looks a tad out of place when he arrives, parched and panting, in Deadrock to find a local posse of dungaree clad, gunslinger cowboys lining up the Saloon.
He’s immediately attracted to Polly, a tough talking, ‘Calamity Jane’ kinda gal who quickly shows off her beer bottle skills in an hilarious slick slapstick scene at the Bar.
As she clearly won’t be seduced by his dastardly deeds as a banker, the only way to win her over is to plan to save – not close the theatre. Exit Bobby Child into the wings and enter the suave, thickly-accented Hungarian, Bela Zangler, fooling Polly by his impersonation. The pop up Producer then magically entices the Zangler Follies to take part in a spectacular show and bring the Gaiety back to life.
So that is the crazy plot, a sugar sweet, spirited cocktail blending farcical comedy, mistaken identity, romantic entanglements, the narrative interlinking with the gorgeous Gershwin lyrics.
The ensemble of cowboys and chorus line is also the onstage band strumming guitars and banjos, playing alto sax, flute, clarinet, double bass and piano with gusto, to add an extra dynamic to the performances. Costumes are all very colourful with the Chorus Line swiftly changing from short frilly green outfits to slinky silk pink, mauve, blue, orange and gold gowns.
Nathan M Wright’s inventive choreography throughout is exquisitely mastered with pace and precision, moving seamlessly from jiving jitterbug and lively Lindy hops to clickety click tap shoes. Perfectly cast as Bobby, Tom Chambers, renowned for Strictly Come Dancing and his dazzling performance in ‘Top Hat,’ captures the enthusiasm, boyish charm and exemplary, all round showmanship as actor, singer and dancer.
Charlotte Wakefield brings out Polly’s complex personality, a gutsy cowgirl with a sweet natured, feminine vulnerability. Her voice is smooth as silk with a rich creamy depth for such beautiful ballads as “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Spine tinging moments too in the duet, “Embraceable You” and Bobby’s soulful solo, “They Can’t Take that Away from Me.”
Centre stage, Chambers and Wakefield express the similar, unique chemistry of the Astaire –Rogers double act in a graceful, embracing waltz and vivacious show stopping numbers, “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and the fabulous “I Got Rhythm” tap dancing routine.
Talk about energy! Bobby throws himself into scary stunts, sliding down spiral stairs and abseiling a pillar with acrobatic high flying flair.
Sharply, smartly directed by Paul Hart as a fun, frolicking comic caper, the dialogue is peppered with witticisms: when it’s suggested the Gaiety could be used for gambling, the barbed response is “who would travel all the way to a casino in Nevada!” And a couple of British tourists, dressed in safari shorts and hats, are in Nevada to write a guide book – their name? Patricia and Eugene Fodor.
It is curious that the cameo role of Irene, Bobby’s glamorous girlfriend (played with vampish style by Claire Sweeney), is listed as a leading lady. This is a small, underwritten character, mainly as a foil to pretty Polly (in her old fashioned gingham frock), to illustrate their contrasting lifestyles in New York and hillbilly country.
From the opening clarinet solo with the opening melody of Rhapsody in Blue to all the vintage classics, this is a spectacular celebration of Gershwin’s timeless, emotionally charged music. The lyrics say it all – “I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man, who could ask for anything more?” – in this deliciously zany, totally crazy show. Imagine “The Waltons” blended with “42nd Street” and you’ll get the picture.
Edinburgh Playhouse : 3 – 7 April, 2018 http://www.atgtickets.com
UK tour until 9 June 2018: http://www.crazyforyoutour.com/
Jeffrey Corland Jone, from Ohio, USA and Michael Craik based in Fife, Scotland, have been brought together in this innovative exhibition of their finely crafted Abstract paintings, which complement each other perfectly. Courtship (Second Still), J C Jones
Jeffrey Cortland Jones, who lives on a small farm in Southwestern Ohio, received a Masters of Fine Art from the Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Tennessee. As well as working as a painter and curator, he is Professor of Art at the University of Dayton. He has exhibited in solo and group shows across the USA – Dallas, New York, Miami, Cincinnati and Europe – Amsterdam, London.
Michael Craik studied Fine Art at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen before completing an MA in European Fine Art in Barcelona. Based at his Sea Loft studio in Kinghorn, he is a full time painter as well as enjoying gardening, and busy family life. A major award winner, his work has been exhibited throughout Europe, from Berlin to Barcelona and is represented in several corporate companies, including The Fleming Collection, Mastercard, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coopers and Lybrand.
Twenty five works of art by both artists are well displayed together across the two light filled rooms at & Gallery, rather than separate shows. It is so impressive to compare and contrast the styles, colour and media. Jeffrey specialises in enamel on acrylic panel and while, on first inspection, they appear to be very simple blocks, the actual geometric shape and subtle shade of each composition is meticulously handled.
In such works as Slayer (With Desire) and Courtship, (Second Still), the integrated sections and squares, some almost invisible, feature the softest tones of white, cream and grey. Also most striking is Surface (Ritual Veil), with architectural dark and light rectangles, visually most pleasing in its patterned structure. Surface (Ritual), JC Jones
There is a deft use of colour in his work too which give more of a representational aspect: X (Variant Parts) with moss green streaks of paint which could almost depict a grassy meadow beneath the sky. Fever (Death Bells) in soft shades of lime is like a Gin cocktail with ice and a slice! Seawaves, JC Jones
Given a more detailed title, Seawaves captures the distinctive blending of glossy grey, glistening green and watery wavy blues. Creating sheer, transparent tones and palest pastels, apparently, he has acquired the reputation of being an artist who paints white on white.
Then shift your gaze to the unique minimalist paintings by Michael Craik. Using acrylic on aluminium, this Vestige collection features a series of squares (20, 28 or 50cm) which appear to be one colour, across a palette of mauve, turquoise, pink and yellow, but this is almost an optional illusion.
In close up, you can detect the layers of paint and graduation of colours such as Vestige 2016-12, where the dominant lilac-blue has a border of vibrant crimson-plum, seaping and splattered like dried blood underneath.
From golden corn to dove grey, the colours are perfected like Farrow & Ball paint charts (given such quirky names as Nancy’s Blushes, Elephant’s breath and Dorset Cream.) Here is Vestige 2017-21, a fluid, fuschia block underlaid and surrounded by a decorative navy blue “frame” Vestige 2017 -21, Michael Craik
Due to the painstaking layer by layer painterly concept, each one can take around two months to complete. The result? A shining, shimmering texture enhanced with a beautifully translucent, glassy glow.
Standing in the centre of the back room gallery, in particular, you can view the distinctive work of each artist side by side. These cool, calm Rothko-esque compositions with a pure sense of light, shade, shape and structure create an amazing sense of peace and solitude. A most inspiring, imaginatively curated exhibition. Go see!
Michael Cortland Jones & Michael Craik
3 – 24 March, 2018
Tuesday to Friday: 10am-5pm Saturday: 10am-4pm
& Gallery, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QG
In the 1960s, when Variety Theatres began to close, the Bingo Halls took over as a major attraction for women of a certain age for a good night out with friends – more entertainment than pure gambling. Today, over 300 Bingo clubs across the UK entice over two million players each week – a new 1,000-seater venue recently opened in Southampton. The idea for Bingo! a new Musical Comedy was sparked by Jemima Levick, (Artistic Director, Stellar Quines), who was introduced to Bingo by colleagues when working at Dundee Rep. Whilst they rarely won anything she was hooked.
The makings of a drama were all there – a distinct community, family & friends, all hoping that a Jackpot win will change their lives. Written by Anita Vettesse & Johnny McKnight, with music by Alan Penman, Bingo! is an innovative co-production by Grid Iron and Stellar Quines.
The curving thrust stage at the Assembly Hall is meticulously designed with half a dozen tables and chairs, the Bar complete with spirit dispensers, Fruit machine, walls painted bright blue and glittering pink with matching striped carpet. At the side, the Ladies Loo with two cubicles (one, Out of Order).
The show opens with a heartfelt song about a windfall of Lotto cash, wishing that their “worries will disappear .. .. just a couple of hours to get out of debt.” Getting ready for the evening session are Betty, the Caller, and her best gay friend Danny the Barman in their corporate purple uniforms.
First to arrive are Ruth, a new mum, looking dishevelled in casual T shirt and trackie bottoms, and Danielle, a travel agent, in a smart navy dress, her hair piled high with blonde extensions. Sorting themselves out with red wine and Red Bull, they are clearly up for a fun time.
Striding purposefully through the double doors comes Mary, bold and brassy from hair to voice, dressed in a sequined top and black trousers. She selects a chair at the central table, drink and lucky mascot to hand, virtually ignoring the two girls – Danielle is in fact her daughter but clearly not on speaking terms.
Act 1 kicks off with a series of laugh-out-loud, short, sharp Variety-style character sketches. Jo Freer is brilliant as the frazzled, frantic Ruth describing in graphic detail, the pros and cons of breast feeding.
On the phone to Davy, her helpless, hapless partner Davy, she is apoplectic with rage when she hears he can’t find the chicken in the fridge and has fed the baby Nutella.
Darren Brownlie as Danny minces around, all swaying hips and cool camp charm, handing out Pink Stetsons to the Gals for Betty’s much anticipated Hen Do trip to Las Vegas. But in the Ladies loo, shamefaced and shaking with guilt, Danielle admits to Ruth that she’s spent their hard earned holiday funds with which she was entrusted. She can only pray that she is Lady Luck tonight.
But first a surprise visitor, Joanna, in twin set and pearls carrying a large bag and Henry the Hoover, her prize possessions after being sent packing by her adulterous hubbie. Barbara Rafferty captures her disoriented (and later rather tipsy!) state to a T, as she is welcomed warmly and invited to join in.
The Game begins as a battle of wits and a flurry of dagger-dabbing pens as bubbly Betty (Jane McCarry) calls the numbers at speed while Mary attacks two Bingo books at once to double the chances. To illustrate the tension, the scene is choreographed in slow motion, with facial gestures and raised hands frozen in time, before they hit the next number with energetic glee.
Sound effects of chatter and clinking glasses give the realistic impression that a few dozen players are packing out the Club. Danny is bemused at the hysterical ladies, their desperate plight to win, win, win in “ A sea of hope and Primark.” After the comic banter, we are drawn into a surreal and shocking scenario. Talk about Women behaving badly with brutal, bruised results, reminiscent of the macabre tales of “Barney Thomson”, the barber with a scissor-sliced body on his hands.
Here in the Bingo Club, while a spicy Bloody Mary would have been the perfect cocktail, the shrieked order at the bar is for a double voddy with full fat coke. As the crime drama intensifies each character reveals personal secrets, regrets, hopes and dreams. Louise McCarthy as Danielle neatly portrays her Jekyll and Hyde persona, from cool and confident to a desperate, emotional wreck.
As a Musical Comedy, the plot is interlinked with a smattering of sassy songs, ranging rfrom country and soul to raunch rock. Wendy Seager as Mary gives a spine tingling rendition of “Cold House”, reflecting on hard times while the ensemble raise the tempo in such rousing numbers as “Pay it all back” and “Viva Las Vegas”
Described as a cross between “ Miss Marple & The Steamie,” throw in a blend of River City & Casualty into this musical mash up of Soap Opera, Burlesque and Black Comedy which explodes into a boisterous, far fetched Farce. The narrative could be tightened up to speed up the action with a couple of false, show stopper endings for Act 1. Performed with sparkling energy and astute characterisation, the cast deliver the quick wit, bawdy banter and bittersweet songs with panache and a sharp bite.
The focus of Bingo! is not the lingo of Legs Eleven et al, but about the close knit community of players taking part. This Bingo Club is about camaraderie, motherhood, friendship, falling out and forgiveness. At a time of personal crisis and despair, loyalty speaks louder than words, with a Spartacus-style generosity of spirit. A good night at the theatre? You bet!
Assembly Hall, Edinburgh: 6-7 March 7.30pm (previews) and 8-17 March 7.30pm (not Sunday 11th), 10 & 17 March 2.30pm (matinees)
Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling: 22-23 March 7.30pm, 23 March 2.30pm (matinee)
Ayr Gaiety Theatre, Ayr: 27-28 March 7.30pm
The Brunton, Musselburgh: 31 March at 2pm and 7.30pm
Tron Theatre, Glasgow: 12-14 April at 7.45pm
Eden Court, Inverness: 19-21 April 7.30pm, 21 April 2.30pm (matinee)
For more information and booking tickets:
Production Photography: Mihaela Bodlovic
The Juniper Collective @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh: a shining showcase of refreshingly innovative artwork
The Juniper Collective is a new group of five women artists who became friends and creative collaborators having met while studying at Edinburgh College of Art and Leith School of Art. Their joint exhibition this week coincides, by chance or design, with International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March. This global event, which began in New York almost a century ago, celebrates women’s achievements, calling for gender equality in all aspects of education, work, society and politics.
It seems extraordinary that it was in 1924 when William McDougall founded the Scottish Society of Women Artists to assist his daughter, Lily McDougall, a talented painter who, being female, was not recognised by or able to join professional art associations.
So most timely to celebrate the most impressive work of Vibha Pankaj, Sara Nichols, Sarah Winkler, Jo Scobie and Kirstin Heggie who have formed the Juniper Collective and, despite the “Beast from the East” which swept into Edinburgh. But these artists were determined that the show must go on, transporting their work through the snow, to open the exhibition on Saturday 3 March at Dundas Street Gallery.
This spacious venue is ideal to showcase such a diverse range of work around the walls. I wandered slowly around in a clockwise fashion beginning with the richly textured landscapes bv Vibha Pankaj. A lover of the countryside – Flotterstone, Pentlands and Loch Tay – she re-imagines the hills and shoreline as an Impressionistic image, working in multi-media, (egg tempura, acrylic and plaster of paris) to depict the rough terrain of sand and rocks.
The layered media creates a most impressive 3D collage effect, with vibrant gold, terracotta and yellow tones to capture the shifting tones of shade and sunlight.
Sarah Winkler also presents a colourful series of landscape paintings which depict extraordinary realism such as “Lichen on Rock Seam, Arisaig” and “Seaweed algae, Silver Sands of Morar.” Detailed geological and botanical representations of a seashore where you almost feel you could touch the soft moss and salty slimy seaweed on the sandy beach.
There are also fine linocuts, and her watercolour & ink sketches of barren hills and snowy mountains may look as if they have been scribbled at speed, but this is delicately crafted, skilful art.
Having trained as a designer of jewellery, Kirstin Heggie has recently turned her attention to landscapes and abstract figures. With luggage labels for each title, and smart thick white frames, her acrylic paintings show cool coloured beach scenes and distant horizon.
Placing a hazy figure or couple in the picture adds perspective and a filmic quality where the shimmering shades of clouds and waves are created with thick smears of brush strokes across the canvas. Most atmospheric.
Bringing a glimpse of Springtime to the Dundas Street Gallery are the pretty flower paintings by Sara Nichols – soft pink hydrangeas as seen on the coastline of Massachusetts, a place which has inspired the subject of her work. These decorative watercolours could certainly be used on fabric for lovely home furnishings or even fashion.
Most inventive are her collage paintings, adding scraps of found paper such as the timetable of the tides to bring a true sense of place, the changing of force of the sea and our natural world.
All things bright and beautiful is the theme for Jo Scobie’s bold, brash abstract compositions. She studied textile design at Duncan of Jordanstone and her love of colour is clearly illustrated in these patterned paintings.
Each one is Untitled, so the viewer can observe and quietly contemplate to detect any particular “meaning” or subject.. but that is not the point. This is pure abstract art to express mood and movement, like a firework display or a rainbow bursting open with splashes of purple, red, orange, green and blue.
Vibha, Sarah, Kirstin, Sara and Jo may not (yet) be the Famous Five of the Edinburgh art scene, but they all portray such refreshing, distinctive, creative talent. Do visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view the exciting debut exhibition of the Juniper Collective.. With affordable prices (from around £60 – £250), you may well be enticed to purchase one of these impressive works of art.!
The Juniper Collective @ Dundas Street Gallery,
6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Saturday 3 -Thursday 8 March – open daily 10am – 6pm.
Re:Colour & Re:Shape – Ian Frank and John Taylor present a showcase of dynamic designs and aesthetic vision @ Upright Gallery Edinburgh
The Upright Gallery overlooking the Meadows at Bruntsfield was founded around a year ago by graphic artist and designer, Ian Farmer, and specialises in a diverse selection of contemporary art. This tall, narrow, split level townhouse, previously an Antique shop, has two exhibition spaces with open staircases to allow the light to flood in from the high windows.
In 1998, the French playwright Yasmina Reza won a Laurence Olivier award for her comic-drama, ART. Twenty years on, the international smash hit is being revived on a UK wide tour.*
The narrative focuses on the purchase of an expensive white canvas which its proud owner Serge is unveiling to his friends Marc and Yvan. Is it beautiful or just blank? Pure white or with a touch of grey, perhaps a vague stripe? In their heated debate over this abstract painting, the ingenious play is a masterpiece in itself as it questions the role of the artist, the essential value and meaning of art.
The current exhibition at Upright entitled Re:Colour – Re-Shape showcases the work of two artists who specialise in Abstract art.
On the ground floor are the impressive paintings in both monochrome and bold colour by Ian Frank. At first glance they appear to be a deceptively simple series of squares and rectangles but as a former architect, these are based on geometric shape and precise proportions.
“Interlocking Squares” is a striking work, with an arrangement of black and blue squares linked by a sharp diagonal ‘dagger’ of bright yellow which draws the eye to the centre of this cool, crafted composition. The intricate detail of measurement and structure is the basis of Frank’s designs which emphasise the solid flatness of shape and form across the canvas, such as in “Black, White and Green Rectangles.”
A group of minimalist monochrome works include “Black Square on White” and “White Square on Black” is a delightful double act, to be purchased together.
Developing this theme, “Exploding Square” is a delicate paper-craft, origami style, bursting open like the bud of a flower.
Another more de-constructed work “Primary Colours” represents thin stripes and thick blocks in black, blue, red, yellow on a white ground. Instantly reminiscent of Mondrian’s precise grid method, here too is that sense of symmetry, balance and spatial cohesion.
Smartly textured and sharply architectured, Ian Frank’s stylistic designs create a fine sense of peace and harmony.
Then head downstairs to view the Prints and Artist books by John Taylor, whose visual language through shape, form, colour and line is most imaginative crafted with meticulous detail. Formerly a landscape gardener, there is an underlying yet subtle theme of the natural world.
“Ancient Marks” based on cave paintings, is a patterned print on cotton, a swirl of curving crescent moons in shades of olive green and soft blue dotted with black ink calligraphy: one could also envisage a sketchy layout of a garden with borders and ponds.
In “Coloured Streamers like Flowers” the imagery is more realistically representational than other more abstract designs such as these floating. light as air, balloon circles in Alignment.
These immediately remind me of the Omega Workshop artwork. Established in 1913 by Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister), and Duncan Grant, this experimental collective brought avant-garde art into domestic designs for decorative rugs, linens, ceramics, furniture and fashion.
As Dorothy Parker wittily commented, the Bohemian Bloomsbury Group “Lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles!.”
The fact that Taylor’s artworks are printed on cotton, the pretty patterns would be perfect (and popular!), for designer homeware fabrics – blinds, curtains and also wallpaper – in the innovative manner of the Omega workshop.
Taylor is also interested in the layering approach of paper crafts, enjoying the complex construction of Artist Books depicting colourful geometric shapes from miniature scale to an extended cardboard concertina of pages like a child;s pop up picture book.
This neatly curated, inspirational exhibition contrasts Frank’s dynamic designs with Taylor’s quietly composed prints, as well as complementing their distinctive, decorative styles and aesthetic vision. As in the play ART – beautiful not blank!
Upright Gallery, 3 Barclay Terrace, Edinburgh EH10 4HP
Re:Shape – Re:Colour runs from 17 February – 8 March, 2018 Mon-Fri, 11-5; Sat-Sun, 11-4.
For art and theatre lovers:
* UK Tour of ART by Yasmina Reza https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/art-touring
Miss Saigon – spectacular wartime drama + passionate love story = a majestic, modern Pop-opera @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
“The chopper has landed. “Miss Saigon” has finally arrived in New York. That’s one giant step for Cameron Mackintosh. Big, ferocious, raw, in-your-face from start to finish, and it’s here to stay.” Variety, April 1991.
Such was the verdict in April 1991 at the Broadway Theater for Miss Saigon which wowed the press and public, grossing $286 million over a ten year run. From the premiere in 1989, it was also a smash hit at Drury Lane, London with awards on both sides of the pond. A revised, rebooted revival of the show has opened in NY and heads off this month on a USA-wide tour, while a major new UK production is currently on the road.
And now, the chopper has landed at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, staying here until 17 February.
To follow up Schönberg and Boublil’s great success with “Les Miserables,” the inspiration for “Miss Saigon” came from a photograph in a news magazine; it featured a Vietnamese mother leaving her young son in the departure lounge at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to board a plane to the USA with his father, an American GI – the ultimate sacrifice to provide a better life for their child.
Tying in neatly, the plot is also loosely based on Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly, about Cio Cio San, a young Japanese girl who falls in love with American naval officer Pinkerton, with devastating consequences.
Butterfly’s tragic tale is transported through time and tide to Saigon in 1975, two years after the peace agreement was signed to end the devastating Vietnam (aka American) war. The last of the US soldiers still in residence are demob happy at a local Bar, the raucous downtown dive, Dreamland. Just as in World War II, the GIs were “overpaid, over-sexed and over here”.
“The heat is on in Saigon
But ’til they tell us we’re gone
I’m gonna buy you a girl” ….
.. goes the song, as Sergeant John offers a midnight treat to his best mate but Chris just wants a cold beer. In charge of “entertainment” at the bar, is the loud, lecherous, lascivious Engineer. His posse of pretty girls are treated like pawns to be sold and swapped as they parade about scantily dressed, flaunting their wares.
A newcomer is 17 year old Kim, an orphan and outsider, who is visibly appalled by the behaviour of the outrageous Gigi who wants to be crowned Miss Saigon as top showgirl. But she’s merely playing along, while she dreams of dollars, New York, and the new world. Na-Young Jeon captures this gritty character with a powerful voice as she belts out “Movie in my Mind,” accompanied by the girls as a spotlit backing group.
Chris observes the vulnerable, virginal Kim and decides to protect her from the other Marines, who pick up girls, quite literally, throwing them over their shoulder, at the Engineer’s nightclub with extras. He escapes with Kim to an upstairs bedroom with open air terrace where their one night stand turns into a sweet brief encounter. She explains it’s her first time. He realises she is The One, as he sings the plaintive ballad “Why God Why?”:
“ I’ve been with girls who knew much more
I never felt confused before
Why me? What’s your plan?
I can’t help her – no one can
I liked my memories as they were
But now I’ll leave remembering her.”
Ashley Gilmour is perfect in the role as a tough Army Sergeant softened by gentle, boyish charm. Expressing their love for each other, he promises to return and take her back home.
But during the frantic, final days of the war, with the US Embassy being evacuated, time runs out. As we follow Kim on her emotional journey, Sooha Kim is a remarkable young actress and singer, who transforms from timid, terrified teenager to mature young woman, coping with the responsibilities of motherhood.
Through fast paced, neatly choreographed scenes, the narrative is told, operatic style through the lyrics. Schönberg and Boublil’s soulful score is clearly reminiscent of “Les Miserables”, a blend of spine-tingling music and richly-layered, romantic songs.
The drama is brilliantly achieved through well rounded lead characters, exceptionally fine singing, slick set changes, (creating a real sense of place and time), superb lighting, (tropical crimson sunrise and sunsets), and sound effects. With the arrival of the helicopter, sitting in the dress circle, a low rumbling sound was heard behind us, rising in volume as it moves overhead and speeds over the stage with an almost deafening roar. So realistic, you feel you were taking part in an action movie!
A moving scene is in Atlanta 1978, when a collection of vintage photographs show the penniless Amerasian children on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City as “Bui Doi” is performed by John and the ensemble at the Atlanta Convention, September, 1978
This gets to the essence of the story – the bui doi, “dust of life” kids with American fathers and Vietnamese mothers, either the result of rape, born through prostitution, or like Kim, through loving relationships. With the fall of Saigon, many women hurried with their children to be being airlifted out of Vietnam. Some children made it. Many did not.
By focusing on the personal, private plight of Kim and Chris, we can observe all around, the bigger political picture. Miss Saigon offers a most important history lesson for those who missed out on the now forgotten facts and figures, the dreadful human tragedy of the Vietnam war, when ordinary, innocent people were caught up in the horrific conflict. And history repeats itself, putting into clear perspective current news reports of the boat people drowning at sea en route to Greek shores and the Syrian refugees.
Other stand out performances include Zoe Doano as Ellen, elegantly poised yet appearing fragile and alone, understanding too well that her husband’s heart has been left behind in Vietnam. Taking centre stage in a couple of show stopping numbers is the cool, charismatic Red Concepcion as The Engineer – the sleazy Hustler, like the camped up MC host at the Kit Kat Club in Cabaret, as he cavorts with his Dreamland dancers.
Far removed from typical light, frothy, sing along musicals, and similar to “Les Miserables” and “Evita”, this a serious theatrical drama, performed with electrifying energy, ensemble dancing, marching and glorious music.
Apart from hard hitting wartime action and hovering helicopters, this is a passionate love story, a modern Pop-opera, which resonates its tragic true-to-life tale as strongly today as it did nearly 30 years ago.
17 January to 17 February. 2018
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – www.edtheatres.com 0131 529 6000
UK Tour dates:
THE OPEN – SSA & VAS Together 2018 at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh: 29 January to 8 March, 2018
The Open is a collaborative exhibition between two of Scotland’s renowned arts organisations, the Society of Scottish Artists and Visual Arts Scotland celebrates the very best in contemporary art, presenting commissioned work, established artists, emerging talent and young graduates, a total of over 166 artists selected from over 2,000 submissions from around the world.
The rich heritage of these two prestigious art organisations is quite extraordinary, featuring a roll call of the most genre-busting, ground-breaking artists of the late 19th and 20th century.
The Society of Scottish Artists was founded in 1851 with the aim to show controversial and unexpected art as well as promote new artists. In 1913 Post Impressionist paintings by Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and Van Gogh were on show and around a decade later, inspirational work by Picasso, Daumier and Degas. In 1931 the SSA exhibited, for the first time in the UK, twelve canvases by the highly controversial Edvard Munch who then became a member of the Society.
Today the SSA has a network of 800 members and continues to reflect the spirit of its founders, showcasing innovative work at its Annual Exhibition as well as events and artists’ residencies.
Visual Arts Scotland is also a major group of national and international artists; it was originally founded in 1924 William McDougall as the Scottish Society of Women Artists to assist his daughter, Lily McDougall, a talented painter, who was not recognised in professional art circles because she was a woman. The Society encouraged arts training and showcase work by women.
In the late 1980s it was renamed Scottish Artists and Artist Craftsmen, but then a few years later changed to the more inclusive, Visual Arts Scotland. Over the decades, artists have included Joan Eardley, Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frink.
More recently Rachel MacLean has exhibited with VAS, and who recently gained major reputation when she represented Scotland at the 2017 Venice Biennale. (For those who weren’t able to visit Venice last year, MacLean’s dramatic installation will be exhibited at the Talbot Rice Gallery from 24 February to 5 May 2018.)
Today VAS is a multi-disciplinary organisation for painters, textile artists, sculptors, ceramicists and photographers.
“For the first time in our long histories we have joined forces, combining our expertise and experience, to create one cohesive and carefully conceived show, which we believe to be the very best in contemporary art and design. OPEN 2018 is the best possible showcase for our members, collaborators and visitors.
We believe strongly that we have created a show which everyone can be proud of: dynamic, forward thinking, courageous and beautifully presented.”
Sharon Quigley, President SSA and Andrew Mackenzie, President VAS
OPEN – SSA & VAS Together will draw together a most diverse range of contemporary Fine and Applied art: paintings, drawings, multimedia work, decorative design, crafts, glassware, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, prints, photographs, video and installation projects.
Highlights include OBSERVER CINEMA, the premiere of a commissioned multimedia work by international artist and filmmaker Sven Werner. It tells the story of a man who finds he is able to recognise and inhabit the blind angles of people’s attention so he becomes an invisible man, perhaps inspired by the novel by H. G. Wells.
This year’s Graduate Award showcase presents ten young artists from Scotland’s five leading art schools, such as sculpture by William Braithwaite, colourful kinetic jewellery by Isla Christie, product designs by Natasha Duda and Kasey Hou, painting by Annie Mulvey and printmaking by Calum Wallis. painting by Annie Mulvey and printmaking by Calum Wallis.
Funky colourful ear-rings, Isla Christie
Làrach is a collaboration between the SSA and An Lanntair arts centre, Stornoway, a project by artists from Lewis and Harris focusing on how the landscape links closely with the language, identity, culture and history of the Hebridean islands.
This collection of artwork representing an atmospheric sense of place, is complemented by Jessica Danz’s re-scoredIcelandic documentary, Ísland í lifandi myndum.
The inaugural Inches Carr Mentoring Award offers a valuable bursary to an artist developing their career to assist them pursue new directions, as well as providing funds for a mentor to encourage their project.
Visual Arts Scotland together with Craft Scotland, celebrates the ambitious work of three distinctive glass artists, Andrew Horsely, Carrie Fertig and Jeff Zimmer.
Engramme, an organisation in Eastern Canada promoting contemporary printmaking, works in partnership with the SSA and Andréanne Gagnon from Quebec will be featured as part of an exchange programme. “ My practice focuses on the borders between various artistic disciplines….the ambiguity.. at the limits of drawing, engraving and photography.”
This showcase of Scottish and International artists offers an extraordinary opportunity to view the most imaginative, innovative and perhaps, controversial, artwork being created today. And browsing around this carefully curated selection, you might spot a modern masterpiece akin to exciting, enlightening modern art – from Gauguin and Matisse to Eardley and Frink – exhibited by the SSA & VAS for around 170 years.
The Open – SSA & VAS Together 2018
29 January – 8 March 2018
10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday
12 noon – 5pm Sunday
Royal Scottish Academy
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
N.B. Please note that a few of the images are included for illustrative purposes but may not be part of this exhibition to promote these artists – Carrie Fertig, William Braithwaite, Alex Boyd, Isla Christie, Andreanne Gagnon.
Alexander Moffat and John Blackburn: a joint masterclass in portraiture and abstract art: Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh
To celebrate the publication of “Facing the Nation: the portraiture of Alexander Moffat” with text by Bill Hare, (Luath Press), the Open Eye Gallery is showcasing a fascinating collection of portraits of eminent Scottish writers, poets and artists of the 20th century.
Around the walls one can “meet” a very dapper Richard Demarco (1988), in a blue linen suit, and the crème de la crème lady of letters, Muriel Spark (1984) – most apt to view this charming, youthful portrait as we celebrate her centenary year.
“Attempts to capture the spirit of the place are rarely fortunate; it is wiser to point to its literature as the embodiment of a thousand subtle and vagrant traditions”. John Buchan
Following Buchan’s view that arts and culture reflect the beating, emotional heart of a nation, Alexander Moffat has long been at the forefront as a social and political commentator – the subject of his book, “Arts of Resistance: Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland.”
During the early 1960s, he studied with John Bellany at Edinburgh College of Art, both strongly committed to reinvent portrait painting for the vibrant modern age. As Head of Painting and Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art, (1992 – 2005) he encouraged a fresh resurgence of figurative studies, inspiring a talented group in particular – Peter Howson, Steven Campbell, Ken Currie and Adrian Wiszniewski – all of whom went on to experience flourishing careers in their individual ways.
This quartet, the “new Glasgow Boys” are all illustrated here as eager young students, such as Campbell and Wiszniewski captured in a simple pencil sketch, like a quick painterly “snapshot,” taken in 1987 at Nico’s, no doubt a favourite haunt.
Giving people a sense of place, Moffat’s iconic masterpiece, “Poets’ Pub” (1980, National Gallery of Scotland) is an imaginary vision of the leading, late great Scottish poets and writers gathered around Hugh MacDiarmid, set in their regular Edinburgh drinking dens, Milne’s Bar, Abbotsford and Café Royal.
In this exhibition, the poet also takes a central role, viewed as a soulful philosopher, no more so than the Gaelic bard, Sorley Maclean. The lithograph of MacLean, against a Hebridean mountain peak, portrays the man as well as his land and language, so engrained in his work.
In a soft shadowy portrait, the Orcadian poet and novelist, George Mackay Brown presents a thoughtful gaze with a sense of sadness in his gentle blue eyes.
Unlike a photograph, it is the art of the portrait painter to draw out hidden depth through gesture and facial expression. This masterly portfolio of well known movers and shakers of the Scottish art and literary scene, past and present, captured with clarity in oil, pencil or charcoal, reveal a moment of silence, and private reflective mood.
“There is more power in telling little, than in telling all” Mark Rothko
On the other side of the hallway at the Open Eye, there is also a stunning exhibition of “Paintings from the Studio” of John Blackburn, selected by Dr. Ian Massey. After studying at Margate School of Art, in 1954, Blackburn decided to leave post war Britain to travel in search of new horizons in New Zealand and then (following in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Gauguin) to the South Pacific. Returning to England in the early 1960s, his work was exhibited at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (alongside William Scott and Roger Hilton) and was soon critically acclaimed as an abstract painter of originality, invention and vision.
Through a purely abstract vocabulary of shape, structure, colour and contour, Blackburn’s minimalist approach is far removed from realistic representation of a figure or landscape. Take time to wander around the room to study these cool, crafted and composed images to let the space, tone and texture convey its underlying meaning about place and time.
“John Blackburn is an artist who relates strongly to the raw experience of human life, and although ostensibly abstract, his paintings are rooted firmly in life as it is lived on a day-to-day basis. … with a deep sense of empathy in a wider sense.” Dr. Ian Massey
An essential aspect of his work is the use of found objects and disused materials – old nails, scrapings of rust and varnish – to combine physical aspects of the past and present; as the artist describes his working method ..’using stuff that has been used before gives the picture a life before the picture is started.’
The colour palette is quite enchanting, a blend of ochre, grey, black, brown, juxtaposed with a sudden splash of green or soft pink, across a richly patterned geometry of squares, ovals and circles.
Titles are sometimes humorous, such as “Two Forms (Lemon Meringue)” or an enigmatic, “Untitled”, but across this marvellous retrospective, there is a tangible sense of peace and contentment to reflect the artist’s philosophical view of humanity and our place in the world.
Also on display around the gallery, there is an evocative selection of paintings on the theme of the sea by Chris Bushe, John Bellany, Donald Provan and Archie Dunbar-Smith, as well as a range of prints and jewellery.
Book Launch: Alexander Moffat and Bill Hare will take part in a discussion on “Facing the Nation” at the Open Eye on Wednesday 24 January. Reservations essential – contact the gallery for more information.
January Exhibitions – Alexander Moffat & John Blackburn (and other artists)
10 – 29 January, 2018.
Monday to Friday: 10am to 6pm; Sat. 10am to 4pm.
The Open Eye, 34 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE – tel. 0131 557 1020