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Aug 122018
 

Duncan Harley reviews  Far, Far From Ypres at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

It’s difficult to adequately classify Far, Far From Ypres.

Described as “the story of the Scottish war effort during World War One” with “its excitement, hope, suffering, endurance, humour, fear and disillusionment in the face of horror told through the eyes of fictional, prototypical soldier Jimmy MacDonald” this ambitious multimedia production sits oddly – and please excuse the pun – with its feet astride two camps.

A strong documentary-styled historical narrative, delivered by veteran broadcaster Iain Anderson, frames a broad range of popular song from the period whilst overhead a mix of trench imagery combines to add poignancy to the performance.

We are told that the fictional Jimmy is from any town or village in Scotland and that when issued with his tin hat and his rifle, he heads off to the continent in search of medals for the victory parade and of course for a great foreign adventure.

An acceptable figure for Scottish war dead has yet to be calculated – some put it at between 100,000 and 146,000 – and the enthusiastic Jimmy is portrayed as one of those who did not return.

Killed in France or Belgium, not by bullets nor by shells but by an influenza better known as Spanish Flu, he certainly died in uniform but is probably not numbered amongst the roll of the war dead.

Based on a Greentrax double album of WW1 songs, “Far, Far From Ypres” is laden with familiar and not so familiar song.

Within the context of the narrative, most are a good fit for the performance and most are delivered strongly by a cast of largely familiar folk-figures. Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Alan Prior, Tam Ward, Ian McCalman and Mairi MacInnes are just to name a few.

In fact, there are around 27 performers on stage at any one time making for a crowded performance space and indeed a difficult place for the soloists to excel in.

It was perhaps the male dominated chorus which brought the intent of the production solidly home. Decidedly appropriate and atmospheric of the era, Pack up your Troubles and When this Bloody War is Over vied with Tipperary and Armentieres to tug the heartstrings.

All in all, this is a largely successful attempt to track and trace changing perceptions during the course of that First War to end all wars through the songs of the day.

From hopeful beginnings through to eventual despair, the song list bravely traverses some four years of the bloody history of that hundred-year-old conflict in which young men could take the boat-train to the continent, stick a bayonet into the skull of a youngish man from a neighbouring land and, if he were lucky enough not to be stuck in his turn, return home with a medal in time for the local victory parade.

At the close of the night and indeed during the performance, not a few tears were shed.
Stars: (4/5)

Following last night’s performance at HMT, Far, Far From Ypres heads off to Oban, Skye, Ullapool, Stirling, Inverness, Dumfries and Edinburgh.

Aug 122018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Iron Maiden at AECC. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

One of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal returned to Aberdeen for the second time in just 18 months to perform an exclusive Scottish date in front of a sold-out audience.
With the larger Hydro venue in Glasgow being used as part of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the Exhibition Centre provided the bands only date north of the border in what must count as an intimate show for a band more used to headlining stadiums and festivals.

For metal fans in the North East, Glasgow’s loss was Aberdeen’s gain as the AECC hosted the most extravagant, theatrical, over-the-top, and, arguably, one of the greatest performances ever seen in the arena.

However, before they were treated to Maiden’s powerhouse set they also had one of the leading lights in modern Metal to contend with. Killswitch Engage have been around since the turn of the century and provided an energetic, pulverising set that’s rarely delivered by headliners, let alone a support band.

The Metalcore band from Massachusetts stormed through a dozen songs in their all-too-brief set. From opener ‘Strength of Mind’ to the closing cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ the band were relentless in their energy.

Pausing briefly only to praise the “beautiful city” of Aberdeen – and to speak of his hatred towards our wasps! – the bands set was a masterclass in arena heavy metal that would have blown many a headliner off their own stage.

However, Iron Maiden are not of that many. With four decades of touring and recording behind them they are consummate professionals and masters of the stage – despite all of the band now nearing what most normal people would consider retirement age.

Fortunately, Maiden are anything but normal and retirement seems a long way off as the six band members show energy and stamina on stage that would leave people half their age gasping for breath and begging for a rest.

With no new album to promote, the tour is thematically linked to their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ video game which gives them a good excuse to trawl through their back catalogue and pull out some deep cuts, old favourites and tireless classics.

Opening with ‘Aces High’ from 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ LP, the stage is, quite literally, set for a show of epic proportions as a near full size Spitfire is dangled above the band as they power tirelessly through the opener.

Singer Bruce Dickinson comes tearing onto the stage as the track opens and jumps, leg wide open, in the air for a number that’s quite epic, even by their standards.

After the song has finished, and the spitfire has retreated into the stage and out of sight, a quick one-two of old classics ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ follows before Dickinson addresses the crowd for what he says will be the only time during the bands marathon set.

Referring to the spitfire, he praises the “brave men, a third [his] age” that were fighting Nazis and fascism.

It’s a thought provoking and humbling monologue that holds resonance in the current climate of fear and uncertainty and the rise of the so-called alt-right.

He then introduces the next song and how much of an honour is to play it in Scotland before the band play their Scottish themed track ‘The Clansman’.

From then till the main set closer -the eponymously titled ‘Iron Maiden’ – the music is left to do the talking.

However, the band’s theatricality is given full reign during most of these tracks – the bands mascot, the giant zombie-like figure Eddie, comes onstage to engage in a swordfight with Dickinson during ‘The Trooper’.

Dickinson lugs a lit-up cross around the stage whilst performing ‘Sign of The Cross’.

A giant demonic head appears at the rear of the stage during erstwhile classic ‘The Number of the Beast’ and Dickinson fires flame throwers at a giant winged angelic figure during ‘The Flight of Icarus’.

At any other concert such theatrics would be in danger of falling into Pantomime.

But Maiden perform it with a knowing wink and a nod to their fans who are lapping up every move on stage by the legendary six piece.

The band wrap up the near two hour long show with a triple song encore of 1987’s ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and a couple of early 80s classics ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Run to The Hills’.

Despite the length of the set and the energy sapping heat, there’s no doubt that the band and their fans – many of whom have travelled from all over Europe to watch them – could have happily went for another couple of hours of, what surely, must be one of the greatest stage shows in Maiden’s history.

Jul 282018
 

The Granite City’s Urban Festival ‘True North’ Announces 2018 Bill. By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the heart of the city returns for its fourth year this September for a weekend of unmissable music.

The festival, running from the 20th to 23rd September, has announced an eclectic and exciting bill of talent for what promises to be another triumphant event.

His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre will provide performances from Mogwai, Tracyanne & Danny, The Magic Numbers. Mull Historical Society and Glasvegas, among others, whilst a further programme of artists and free events in unique locations across the city will be announced soon.

The events announced so far are:

  • Tracyanne & Danny – The Tivoli – Friday 21st Sept.
  • The Magic Numbers – The Lemon Tree – Friday 21st Sept.
  • Mogwai – His Majesty’s Theatre – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • David Bowie Tribute (Curated by Camille O’Sullivan) – His Majesty’s Theatre – Sunday 23rd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Sunday 23rd Sept.

The Lemon Tree will also host the opening concert on Thursday 20th September with a soon to be announced bill featuring some of the country’s leading new rock bands.

Tickets for each event can be purchased online at http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/, in person from The Lemon Tree or the Box Office, HMT or by phone on 01224 641122.

Read the Aberdeen Voice’s review of the 2017 event here.

View a gallery of photographs from 2017 here.

Jul 282018
 

By Duncan Harley.

To my complete surprise and astonishment that’s a short story of mine heading towards the Aberdeen stage in a few weeks. And I have to say that I am humbled.

A call for entries came via Rachel Campbell at APA and after a day or so I got to thinking that, although I have no realistic idea regarding how to even pronounce Ypres, I do have an intimate store of first war recollections albeit at second, third or even at fourth hand. 

A grandfather, now long missed, left a family story regarding his first war experience.

A regimental quartermaster, or so he had us all believe, he recalled only that following a long and muddy march through France and then Belgium he played some football then marched all the way back to Glasgow. 

I have his war medals and one at least appears to be a military medal plus bar from his Black Watch experience.

Based on a Greentrax double album of WW1 songs, Far, Far from Ypres is an acclaimed production of songs, poems and stories, following the terrifying journey of a Scot to “the trenches” and back. 

A Scottish squaddie heads off to the continental adventure and is given a tin hat and a rifle in anticipation of heroic deeds and victory over the unwholesome Hun. Told largely in songs of the day, the performance lays bare the squalid fate of the boy next door who marched off to adventure amongst the jaws of death.

I concluded my recent book – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire – with a tale, not of the trenches, but of the unexpected bombing of the Garioch by the young men of the Kaiser’s Zeppelin squadrons and Ann Wells of gov.scot seems intent on sharing my tale.

She writes:

“Many thanks for sharing this with us.  I knew about the Edinburgh raids but had never heard tell about those further north.  Enemy or not these guys were incredibly brave to venture up in those things.

“I would like to add this into the programme for the performance at Aberdeen and possibly Dundee and/or Inverness.  Is that OK?  We are starting to get quite a few stories in now, really interesting tales, but this one is slightly different.”

Naturally I replied in the positive and my tale of the 1916 Zeppelin night-time terror-bombing of the Garioch features somewhere in amongst the programme for the night.

The blurb for the performance informs only that:

“The show features the large screen projection of relevant images throughout the evening, enhancing greatly the audience’s understanding of the story unfolding before them. The format of the evening takes the form of two fifty-minute halves with an interval.

“It has a cast of ‘folk singing stars’, who remain on stage throughout the performance, singing the ‘trench’, ‘marching’ and Music Hall songs of the time. From that chorus, groups and soloists come to the middle of the stage and perform songs, both contemporary and traditional, about the Great War.

“The narrator, Iain Anderson, brilliantly links the songs with stories about the hero of the show, Jimmy MacDonald, who was born in “any village in Scotland”. It tells of Jimmy’s recruitment and training then follows his journey to the Somme and back to Scotland.

“It would not be a Scottish tragedy without laughter, so there are also stories of humour and joy that take this production well away from the path of unremitting gloom.”

Produced by Ian McCalman and with a huge cast of performers including Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Mairi MacInnes, Dick Gaughan, Ian McCalman, Iain Anderson and Professor Gary West, Far, Far from Ypres plays at HMT Aberdeen for just the one night – Thursday 09 August 2018. 

Seats are becoming scarce for the Aberdeen performance but can still be had via the Aberdeen Performing Arts booking site @: http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/events/far-far-from-ypres

Do go, if only to hear about the Zeppelin bombing of the Aberdeenshire villages of Insch, Old Rayne and of course Colpy.

Jul 042018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews ‘Enjoy’ music festival at Hazlehead Park. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

Enjoy Music festival returned for the fourth year on a fun packed, sun soaked weekend that drew the crowds, had some big name artists and will have left punters looking forward to next year’s event.
After three years of successful one day festivals the organisers took the brave step of making this year’s festival a two day affair.

And, after a bit of rain last year, also took the decision to make the main stage inside a giant 3000 capacity big top, rather than outdoors – but, typically, the Scottish weather conspired to make it to one of the hottest weekends of the year with not a cloud in sight.

Gates opened at 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon, when a lot of attendees would still be at work, school or college. But those that did make it early were treated to electric sets by Fat Hippy Records signings, the Scottish indie band Miss Lucid and Manchester band Alias Kid, who are signed to Creation Record’s Svengali Alan McGhee’s management team.

After the up and coming bands had warmed the crowd up it was time for the big names to take the main stage.  Mark Morris, frontman of Britpop band The Bluetones, played an acoustic set that was well received by his fans.

With The Bluetones numbers such as ‘Slight Return’ and ‘Cut Some Rug’ he had no trouble commanding the stage and warming up the crowd for the next band on the bill – another Britpop band with a string of Top 10 hits behind them.

The tent is rammed for Cast.

They do not disappoint those in attendance.

Pulling such hits as ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Finetime’ and the ballad ‘walkaway’ out of their back catalogue has the tent buzzing.

But it’s their debut hit, ‘Alright’ that is the highlight with the crowd signing along word for word.

Completing the bill on the Friday, is a headlining set by dance legends Faithless.
The band’s keyboard player and writer, Sister Bliss, is behind the decks and delivers a high tempo, energetic set that has everyone dancing.

Filled with classic dance tracks, contemporary floor fillers and a healthy dose of Faithless’ biggest numbers she brings the crowd to a frenzy and closes off the first day of the festival in style.

Saturday brings in a bigger crowd and has more stages and family entertainment for all.

With amusements from Codona’s, bungee trampolines, Nerf Wars, craft workshops, a storytelling tent, face painting and much more there’s plenty there to keep kids entertained whilst their parents enjoy the music.

Performances in the family big top prove to be popular and with Love Rara providing walk around characters from Disney and superhero movies there’s a lot of happy youngsters on site. On the main stage, the music provides a wonderful soundtrack on a hot, sunny day.

Blues influenced rockers Full Fat play some engaging, competent blues influenced rock, whilst local band The Capollos storm through a frenetic indie rock set that has earned them a strong following locally and across Scotland.

Another Aberdeen band that are making waves are Cold Years. No less a publication than rock magazine Kerrang! described them as an ‘Aberdeen five piece [that] prove beyond doubt that rock ‘n’ roll lives’ and it’s certainly a sentiment that those who watched them that would agree with.

Glasgow band Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are, quite possibly, the perfect festival act and will have gained a lot of new fans today.
An explosion of colour, the band engage the audience and make them part of the performance.
‘Dance Off’ is exactly what it says it is with children and adults alike strutting their stuff. The entire audience are led around the tent by a band member carrying a lollipop man’s sign to ‘Cross the Road’ and there’s a minor stage invasion by redheads to ‘Ginger Girl’.

Their eclectic mix of brass, disco, rock and humour is perfect for an event such as this, uniting old and young in one happy, joyous collective.

Dodgy singer Nigel Clark follows them with an acoustic set that includes hits such as ‘Staying Out for The Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’ to a rapt audience.

Welsh rap heroes Goldie Lookin’ Chain provide a humorous set with ‘Guns Don’t Kill People (Rapper’s Do)’ proving a popular highlight.

Over in the dance tent things are really hotting up – a day of beats and breaks is finished off with a couple of big names that have the tent rammed. The talented producer and DJ James Zabiela has the crowd dancing to a frantic and energetic set before handing over to one of the biggest names in dance music – Basement Jaxx.

The dance duo are no strangers to big stages and working large crowds as headlining performances at Glastonbury and Rockness with a full band prove.

In a smaller environment such as this they are flawless – with a back catalogue stretching back over 20 years they have no trouble at all and have the crowd eating out of their hand.

Meanwhile, the main stage is closing out to a couple of eclectic big names.

With 5 albums behind them, Starsailor have no problems working the big stage and pulling out some major hits. ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘Good Souls’ are particular highlights and has the crowd singing along in rapture.

After their set there’s a change of tempo as drum and bass act Sigma end the evening. Hidden behind a cloud of dry ice and flashing lights the duo gives a sensory overloaded set closing the festival in euphoric fashion.

With 10,000 people through the gates over the weekend, some stunning entertainment and beautiful weather Enjoy Music can only be declared a success yet again – here’s to next year and to another bill that will put Aberdeen firmly on the festival map.

May 252018
 

By Charlie Abel.

Aberdeen’s own National Karate Institute had more than just the luck of the Irish behind them on their recent trip to the Emerald Isle. Dedication and perseverance paid off.

They were representing the city on the world stage during the Belfast Open World Karate Championships held in Northern Ireland, on 29th of April 2018.

While many of us folks back home were tucking into our Sunday lunches and firing up the barbecues the Aberdeen athletes were burning off the calories and fighting their way through some really tough competition to win a staggering 34 medals.

The self-funded NKI enjoyed some great results bringing home 12 gold medals against fierce competition from the Irish and other countries. There were 16 different Karate Federations taking part.

Team coach and chief NKI instructor Ronnie Watt (9th Dan) (O.B.E. & Order of The Rising Sun) said:

“Our team were outstanding. I’m absolutely delighted! It’s a fantastic result. All the team have been training really hard, some since the age of 7. To get so many medals against such fierce and overwhelming competition from around the world is remarkable.

“We were heavily outnumbered and underfunded, but these results show we were not out-classed.

“For such a small club from a small country we proved we have what it takes, against all odds, and I am so proud we can deliver for Aberdeen and Scotland.

“It goes to show that Karate training really brings the best out of people. All our students were first class in my eyes. Medals or not. ”

Invitations for the NKI squad to perform and teach Karate have been coming in from around the world.

The NKF squad are back in training now and are aiming for success at the next festival, The International Karate Festival, which they will host themselves in Aberdeen this Summer.

Anyone interested in training Karate should call Aberdeen 734607 for more information.

The club meet in Aberdeen, Cults and Inverurie.

Ronnie Watt adds:

“We are always keen to attract new members of all ages.”

RESULTS:

Gold    12           Silver   15          Bronze  7         Total  34 Medals!!
 
Individual Senior Kata, Br/Black:
3rd – Grant Conroy.
 
Team Kata U14 Male Female Mixed:
1st – Kai Dark, Sophie Johnston, Nikita Kevra. 
 
Individual Kumite, 14-U16, -57kg:
3rd – Benedict Bruce.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Male 16-U18, 65kg+ :
2nd – Connor Davidson.
 
Team Kumite Men Seniors:
2nd – Stuart Odell, Curtis Thornton, Ian Wallace.
 
Individual Senior Women Kata, Br/Black:
1st – Nissara Kirk.
2nd – Chloe Calder.
 
Team Kata Cadets Female:
1st – Yasmin Parsa, Leah Provan, Charlotte Walker.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Female 14-U16, -55kg:
1st – Yasmin Parsa.
3rd – Keira Cormack.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Female 16-U18, -57kg:
2nd – Leah Provan.
 
Team Kumite Female Cadets:
2nd – Yasmin Parsa, Leah Provan, Charlotte Walker:
 
Individual Kata, 5-U14, Br/Blk:
3rd – Kai Dark.
 
Team Kumite Seniors Female:
2nd – Chloe Calder, Nissara Kirk, Emma Stuart.

Senior Women Team Kata:
1st – Nissara Kirk, Chloe Calder, Emma Stewart.

Senior Female Ippon:
2nd – Chloe Calder.
3rd – Nissara Kirk.
 
Individual Cadet Kata, 14-U18, White – Orange:
2nd – Keira Cormack.
 
Individual Kata, 5-U10, Green – Purple:
1st – Cameron Smith.
3rd – Harry proud.
 
Individual Kumite Female Seniors, +63kg:
2nd – Emma Stuart.
 
Individual Kumite Female Seniors, -63Kg:
3rd – Nissara Kirk.

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May 172018
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Kite Runner @ HM Theatre Aberdeen

The brutal rape of young Hassan by sociopath Assef and his cohorts sets the tone of this touring stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel.

And the child-rape is not the only gut-wrenching scene from the book to be splashed all over the stage in front of the theatre audience.

An execution by the Taliban, a bone-crunching beating or two and tales of death by landmine are intermingled with implicit references to paedophile driven child abduction and the stoning of adulterers.

Not that the above events appeared gratuitous. Indeed, they are central to the telling of the tale. It’s just that they are shocking. The rape may well bear allegorical significance in relation to the 1979 Soviet invasion and death by landmine is described as a good way for an Afghan to die.

As for the stoning of adulterers and the abductions, well, these simply add to the overwhelming uneasiness which this production induces. Indeed, at the end one audience member was heard to comment that she was going home to have a few unpleasant dreams.

Is there a point to The Kite Runner? Well, as a tale of betrayal, guilt and eventual redemption the answer is probably a resounding yes. And as a short sharp introduction to a brutally immersive style of theatre, again the answer is probably a yes.

Its not that we actually see the rape or indeed the landmine deaths. But we can almost smell and taste the drama of it all. And that is no easy thing for an audience intent on seeking out an evening of entertainment.

The story, narrated directly to the audience by Amir – an Afghan refugee living in California, concerns the period surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the plot leads us relentlessly through the harshness of the early Taliban period.

Amir’s childhood betrayal of his loyal friend Hassan is central to the plot and his quest for redemption is the final goal.

A simple set comprising bare dusty boards with a backdrop of a giant kite, split in two halves provides stark setting for the action.

Raj Ghatak’s Amir both participates in the drama and leads us through what is in essence the tale as told in the novel, filling in the gaps with lengthy monologues and generally doing a splendid job of compering the unfolding drama taking place all around him on stage.

At times though, he perhaps has far too much to say and perhaps that is the danger when scripting the play of the film of the best-selling novel. Sometimes less is better.

Hassan is played admirably by Jo Ben Ayed and also plays his own son Sorab much later in the performance. At times, and this is no criticism, resembling an organ-grinders monkey he dutifully covers for his friend Amir even unto death at the hands of the Taliban.

All is not angst and wringing of hands however.

There are lighter moments such as the scene where Amir’s dad Baba, Gary Pillai, politely informs Amir and Hashim that in point of fact John Wayne does not speak Farsi and has probably never even been to Iran. Now that is indeed a revelation.

With live music by Hanif Khan, The Kite Runner is directed by Giles Croft. Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini the production plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday May 19th 2018.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 032018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Legally Blonde – The Musical @ HM Theatre Aberdeen

There’s a little bit of line-dancing, a couple of very camp cupids and a lot of pink in this musical and I mean a hell of a lot of pink!

In fact there’s enough pink to tempt Barbara Cartland back from the grave.

Indeed honey sweet romance, or at least the very prospect of it, is at the core of this tale of girl meets boy Hairspray styled musical.

Not that Legally Blonde lead Elle Woods in any way resembles the heavy set high-schooled Tracy Turnblad.

But the plot treads that familiar path of redemption in the face of adversity. Except of course that, in lieu of Hairspray’s ‘Corny Collins Show’, Legally Blonde – The Musical relies on the medium of a trad-clad Harvard Law School to get the message over.

And not that Legally Blonde takes itself too seriously. The opening line ‘OMG you guys, enjoy the show!’ pretty much sets the tone.

This is a show to enjoy and not one for deep analyses.

The sexual politics are perhaps somewhat dated and, although the pink-laden message of emancipation is central to the story, there is really nothing new here.

Splendidly camp lines such as “Is he gay or European” and “Depending on the time of day the French go either way” kind of give the game away.

The storyline pretty much follows that of the film of the book. Based on the 2001 movie, the plot convolutes around the downs and ups of Malibu blond Elle Woods who gets dumped by would-be senator boy-friend Sheridan Smith the third.

Smith is off to explore the ivy leagued portals of Harvard Law School. Against all the odds, and in a determined effort to stalk the poor man, Elle worms her way into the hallowed institution and takes up the cudgels of the law.

Along the way we meet Bruiser the Chihuahua, a lovable hairdresser called Paulette and Elle’s various Harvard classmates.

Cute Chihuahua’s aside, Lucie Jones’s Elle pretty much steals the show although soap veteran Rita Simons’ portrayal of the romantically downtrodden Paulette runs a pretty close second.

Paulette’s ‘Bend and Snap’ slapstick comedy turn with the hunky UPS man is pretty slick although the accompanying line dancing routines seemed somehow superfluous.

Male lead-wise, it’s pretty much a no-contest.

Bill Ward’s Prof Callahan dominates and commands the stage during both the Harvard and the courtroom scenes; that is of course until the courtroom escalates into a hilariously Cabaret themed farce.

The music and the lyrics are well delivered but are maybe not particularly memorable, relying perhaps a ‘tad’ much on OTT costumes and energetic choreography to woo the audience. However there are splendidly classic musical moments to be had. Watch out for Elle’s love-sweet duet with David Barrett’s Emmett.

As an all singing and all dancing musical, Legally Blonde is a whole lot of fun and if last night’s stand-up applause is anything to go by then the show delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

Choreographed and Directed by Anthony Williams. Musical Director James McCullagh, Legally Blonde – The Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday May 5th 2018.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © Robert Workman

May 032018
 

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Arkells and The Homeless Gospel Choir @ The Garage, 20th April 2018. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, as announced by the man himself from the stage.

However, for the venue, there’s only one number of gigs that matters tonight – and that’s zero. That’s how many are left at The Garage once Frank exits the stage after his encores.

It came as a shock to many of the Granite City’s gig goers and clubbers when it was announced that the venue was to close early May after 6 years of being one of the mainstays of the Aberdeen live music scene.

However, any notions of this being an evening of mourning are dispelled as soon as the first act takes to the stage in front of a healthy number of fans, despite the 6:30pm stage time.

The Homeless Gospel Choir is the nom de plume of Pittsburgh born folk-punk singer Derek Zanetti.

The punk aspect of his music is influenced by Green Day and the 90s explosion of US day-glo stadium acts rather than the original ’77 spirit of punk however.

By his own description, he’s an ‘overweight rock singer’.

With lyrics revolving around politics, mental health and angst, but delivered with a jokey aside he proves to be a popular draw, particularly to the younger members of the crowd.

Canadians Arkells are a different proposition – the lyrical themes may be similar but live they are much more polished and professional stage performers than Zanetti’s looser style.

Lead singer Max Kerman has the looks, moves and attitude that have been honed to perfection on larger venues in North America rather than the small stage he finds himself on tonight. In fact, the stage isn’t enough for him as it takes him only a few minutes to find himself on the barrier hanging over a willing audience who succumb instantly to his charms.

And the very notion of crowd and audience is blurred completely on a couple of occasions during their 40-minute set.

Only two songs in and he has pulled a young female fan out of the audience to play guitar quite competently alongside the band.

And another fan is hauled onstage for the final song where he sings with the band perfectly.
It’s possibly a bit gimmicky and cliched but it’s also quite touching and endearing and it will have won them new fans tonight and provide unforgettable memories for the young fans that performed with their idols.

Arkells play an energetic and fun set that serves to ramp the crowd up into even more frenzied anticipation for the night’s main act.

Frank Turner is another polished live act. After a couple of thousand gigs in venues of all shapes and sizes, festival stages and stadiums he’s a man with no fears treading the boards and honed the skills to the work the crowd into a frenzy.

Not that the crowd really require worked up – the sold-out venue is boiler room hot with a packed floor full of devoted Turner fans, almost wilting in the heat.

His new album – his eighth – ‘Be More Kind’ might not be released for another couple of weeks but that doesn’t stop four of its cuts getting an airing tonight, all of which go down a storm with the devoted crowd.

The rest of the set spans the full gamut of his career – reaching as far back to 2007’s ‘Sleep is for the Week’ as the track ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ is given as a solo performance by Turner during a 3-song acoustic interlude in the middle of the set.

The crowd aren’t here out of curiosity – this is a crowd of devoted fanatics of all ages here to see their hero. They know every word and sing along to every song, fully immersed in his performance.

It’s an unusual sight and sound to see 700 people hollering ‘There is no God so clap your hands together’ – they might not engage in worshipping a holy deity but, then again, there’s maybe no need to tonight whilst they worship at the altar of Frank Turner.

So, gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, and it’s a roaring success for him with a sweaty, joyous crowd fully immersed in his 100 minutes on stage.

But, by the time the clock reaches 2155, The Garage is emptying slowly as the night concludes and live music at yet another Aberdeen venue ends for the final time.

Turner would not have reached that amount of live performances if not for venues such The Garage.

So it not only leaves a gap in the Aberdeen scene, but in the UK scene as a whole. If venues keep on closing where will the next Frank Turner learn their trade and spread their message?

Apr 192018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fittie Fittie Bang Bang @ HM Theatre Aberdeen.

Broad Street may not quite be on a par with Broadway, but if this year’s Aberdeen Student Charities Campaign production of the brand new musical Fittie Fittie Bang Bang is anything to go by, then theatre-wise at least, the Granite City is well on the way to becoming the Manhattan of the north.

Previous productions have included titles such as ‘An American in Powis’, ‘A Midstocket Night’s Scream’ and of course last year’s musical extravaganza ‘Michty Mia!’.

However, this year’s production of ‘Fittie Fittie Bang Bang’ must surely take the biscuit.

Bond writer Ian Fleming was a keen follower of motor racing and the original Chitty tale evolved from stories involving a series of monstrous aero-engined cars funded by the richly eccentric ‘Bentley Boy’ speed-king Count Louis Zborowski in those far off roaring twenties.

In the subsequent Hollywood production, the Chitty story involved one of Zborowski’s racing cars being rescued from the scrapyard by a gang of cheerily red-faced middle-class school-children.

Fast forward to this week’s student production of Fittie Fittie Bang Bang and a dastardly plot involving the consignment of Aberdeen’s old folk to the scrapyard takes to the HMT stage.

With electoral fraud firmly to the fore, Trump look-alike Lord Provost Dean Fine plans to revive the ailing fortunes of the Granite City using a series of sinister measures intended to clear the streets of the elderly inhabitants of the city.

A suitably evil ‘Grunny Catcher’, ably played by Callum Anderson, is set loose and before long the city’s OAP’s begin to disappear. Provost Fine, played by Reece James Duncan, announces plans to build a border wall around Torry while in far off Fittie the search begins for the missing old folk of Aberdeen.

Enter Bradley Phillips as Dick Van Dyce, Becky Hossick as Provost’s daughter Effie Fine and Victoria Barvinko as the Provost’s trophy wife Nadine Fine.

Will the red-haired Lord Provost succeed in his dastardly scheme? Or can Dick and his merry gang rescue the imprisoned OAP’s from a fate worse than death in Aberdeen’s Marischal College Premier Retirement Home.

Add in a flying fish-van plus some splendid musical numbers and, judging by last nights full-house, last years total of £92k raised for local charities looks likely to be well on the way to being exceeded.

A 5 Star must see!

Musical direction is by Matthew Rose with choreography by Sophie Hamilton Pike and stage management by Graeme Shepherd.

The musical, Fittie Fittie Bang Bang plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 21 April 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © HMT Aberdeen