Nov 152019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Cabaret @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

This unfolding story of the demise of the Weimar Republic is seen through the eyes of young American novelist Cliff Bradshaw – played here by Charles Hagerty – and is loosely based around Christopher Isherwood’s classic 1939 novel “Goodbye to Berlin”. 

A central focus is the doomed love affair between English cabaret performer Sally Bowles, played here Kara Lily Hayworth, and Cliff who has come to Berlin to complete a novel but soon finds himself involved in other distractions.

Alongside his pursuit of Sally, a serial manizer, Cliff soon finds himself involved in money-laundering for the fascists and is witness to a moral decay which will ultimately destroy the easy-going morality of a city known by many at the time as the Babylon of Europe.

Much of the action takes place in the Kit Kat Club – a place where ‘Here there are no troubles … Wilkommen, Leave your troubles outside … We have no troubles here! Here, life is beautiful.’

John Partridge plays the magnificently camp Emcee at the Kit Kat. And while budding storm-troopers prowl the streets, paying customers can look forward to an evening of sleazily decadent bondage-inspired entertainment. All of the dancers, both girls and boys, he says are virgins.

‘But you can try them if you like!’

Replete with both a rich tapestry of flesh and a familiar stable of songs: ‘Wilkommen’, ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’, ‘The Money Song’, ‘Perfectly Marvellous’ and many more; the plot moves awkwardly between club, street and Fraulein Schneider’s apartment building.

The club scenes are deliciously believable. The rest, less so. It’s not as if the shocking street violence or malevolent menace of fascism is out of place. It’s just that the dialogue in places is somehow dated.

The marketing hype describes ‘Show-stopping choreography, dazzling costumes and iconic songs’ and while this is genuinely the case, the spoken lines often lack lustre and the underlying politics – the elephant in the room – is perhaps understated for an audience distanced from such events by a curtain of some 90 years.

Technically splendid – the set, songs, choreography and lederhosen are magnificent – this electrifyingly camp production sets a high bar which it fails to quite reach.

Stars: 3/5

Directed by Rufus Norris, Cabaret plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 16 November 2019

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT

Nov 152019
 

Catfish and the Bottlemen @ P&J Live, 7th November 2019. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The rise of Catfish and the Bottlemen has been nothing short of remarkable.

In about six short years they’ve graduated from small local venues, such as The Tunnels and Café Drummond’s, to the vast expanse of the new P&J Live Arena with what seems relative ease.

To their credit they look like a band that’s been headlining festivals and playing arenas for years as they gave a slick and well-honed show brimming with confidence and self-belief.

Lead singer, the poetically named Van McCann, has especially taken on the mantle of stadium rock god with consummate ease. He’s a whirlwind of movement – wielding his guitar flamboyantly whilst simultaneously waving the mic stand around the stage, never standing still, never not playing up to the crowd.

What’s noticeable about the crowd is how young they are. The majority are teenagers, hungry for excitement on a wet Thursday night in November. A vast amount of them would have been too young to have seen the bands Aberdeen debut at Café Drummond in 2014.

But Catfish and the Bottlemen is not a band about the past, they’re a band about the here and now. They’re about living for the moment, the visceral thrill of the being young, of being free and not having a care in the world.
And that feeling is what the crowd want, and what they give back.

They’re excited, they’re emotional, and they are fanatical.

This is not a jaded seen-it-all before crowd, this is a crowd seeing it for the first time and loving it. This is a crowd cheering roadies doing mic checks,.

This is not a crowd that care that there’s an outtake of ‘Helter Skelter’ by The Beatles used as the intro tape, Catfish and the Bottlemen are their Beatles.

Looking around the arena, you’re struck by the lack of t-shirts being worn displaying the logos of any other bands, the type of thing you normally see at gigs. The only t-shirts seem to be of Catfish and the Bottlemen themselves. And most seem bought from the merch stands that very night.

Catfish’s set is exclusively drawn from their three albums – ‘The Balcony’, The Ride’ and their latest effort, ‘The Balance’, which was released in April.

There are no cover versions or fillers punctuating their set, there’s no bloated solos to pad the set out. They have confidence in their own material and have an audience that knows every song they’ve recorded word by word. From opening track ‘Longshot’ to the closing ‘Cocoon’, 8000 voices sing in unison.

Where Catfish go from here will be interesting. This is not a band that will rest on their laurels, or do nostalgia tours playing anniversary shows of past albums – they are already headlining festivals such as TRNMST and they’ll be aiming for headlining stadiums.

And this crowd will be there with them and, as they did tonight, they will love it.

Catfish & The Bottlemen Set list:

Longshot
Kathleen
Soundcheck
Pacifier
Twice
Fallout
Anything
Sidetrack
Encore
Homesick
Conversation
Overlap
Rango
Basically
2all
Outside
Hourglass the (Van McCann acoustic)
Fluctuate
7
Cocoon

Nov 082019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Happy Mondays/Fat Cops at The Music Hall – 24th Oct.

Madchester legends the Happy Mondays rolled back the years and brought the spirit of baggy and the halcyon days of the Hacienda Club to the Music Hall in an enjoyable and entertaining set.

The evening’s mood was set with an interesting set by support act, Fat Cops.

Their name may not be familiar but some of their faces were – comedian Al Murray was on drums and the guitarist, Bobby Bluebell, is the writer of Scottish pop classic and number 1 hit “Young at Heart” by The Bluebells.

And, just to add to the surreal line up, the keyboard player is originally from Huntly. Oh, and he and happens to be married to Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Fortunately, their music is decent enough to fend off any accusations of a mid-life crises. Their blend of funk, rock, soul and dance music is catchy and memorable.
Tracks such as ‘Rock Star’, ‘Dehydrated’ and ‘Hot Tub’ quickly draw a healthy crowd through from the bar and earn themselves a few new fans in the process.

With the house lights dimmed and thumping dance music playing in the half hour after Fat Cops leave the stage, the atmosphere for Happy Mondays is reaching boiling point by the time Happy Mondays come on.

Bounding to the lip of the stage and engaging in his signature “freaky dancing”, Bez is the undisputed star of the show.

Not quite as svelte as he used to be, he still manages to dance non-stop throughout the set whilst engaging with the crowd – whether posing for photos wearing a bucket hat that has been thrown on stage or reaching up to the balcony to shake hands with punters.

Lead vocalist, Shaun Ryder, is much less animated but still as compelling as ever.

Hidden behind dark sunglasses and a baseball cap he’s a lot more enigmatic. However, his between song banter is casual and relaxed – although he seems to be constantly looking to a video prompter for lyrics and to find out what song is next.
His voice may not be as it once was but he still has that star quality.

The rest of the band, including Shaun’s brother Paul on bass, is tight, with original backing singer Rowetta making up for any slight misgivings in Shaun’s vocals through her powerful performance.

The set list is comprehensive and trawls through the Mondays classic catalogue – ‘Dennis and Lois’, ‘Kinky Afro’, ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Loose Fit’ are all given an airing.

Undisputed highlights, however, are ‘Step On’, ‘Hallelujah’ and a banging ‘Wrote for Luck’.

A great performance by a great band who, despite their well-documented years of excess, still have the energy and enthusiasm to get the crowd excited.

Nov 082019
 

Duncan Harley takes a tour of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery

It rained and there was a bag search on the way in to the gallery space, but fortunately we had arrived late and there was no queue. The drenched security operatives cheerfully let me through since I had no bag and just a stick.
A cursory glance into my companion’s crowded handbag convinced them that she was no una-bomber and off we went to see the pictures.

It was day one of the re-opening of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery and a tiny sense of foreboding clouded the event – the renovation had included the discovery of plague skeletons – there were 92 of them.

And the original quite splendid white-marbled staircase had it seems been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Clutching our, now soggy, Eventbrite passes we made our way into what might once have been a familiar space.

Various dog-tagged staffers welcomed us into the new space. Commemorative tin-badges were handed out and a quite splendid map detailing the various new gallery spaces immediately made clear that the old, and perhaps dowdy, gallery space had gone to that dusty place where such things go to die.

Seven years and £35m in the making, the new interior is quite breath-taking.

Where the staircase stood, there is now an open central space linking three floors.

Not an atrium in the true sense but not far off in terms of lighting, and acoustically splendid.

Opening morning was accented by a set of coloured musical notes titled ‘The Big Picture’. By Judith Weir – a formidable composer with Boston Symphony and various operas under her belt.

Conducted by John Horton and directed by Roger Williams, the celebratory piece, written specially for the opening of the gallery, took the form of a synaesthesia where listeners were invited to experience five colour-themed movements (Green, Blue, Gold, Red/White and finally Colour) in a cantata for two choirs plus an instrumental ensemble spread amongst the gallery floors.

The resulting sound experience was quite breath-taking, especially when heard for the very first time in a public space.

As Judith’s Big Picture gently reverberated around the building, we headed for the upper floor before making our way down the staircase and through the various new gallery spaces.

There are thankfully a few familiar images amongst the thousand or so exhibits. Eric Auld, Joseph Farquharson, Glasgow Boys and Monet feature. But in the main, the new space is full of new pleasures and a somewhat brave set of decisions.

Photography is allowed – and why should it not be. Accessibility has also been splendidly addressed and the artwork on display boldly embraces most tastes.

Tracey Emin vies with George and George. Martin Parr vies with the old masters who painted Finzean sheep and Victoria’s kilted Albert. And a multitude of previously unseen works inhabit the walls, Dick Turpin amongst them.

And the justice on the cake? The new gallery is free to enter and as often as you like. All we need now is an Aberdeen Museum.

  • Duncan Harley is author of two books about the North-east of Scotland. Both – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and The Little History of Aberdeenshire – are available from Amazon.
Oct 302019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Alice Cooper / The Stranglers / MC50 @ P&J Live, Aberdeen

It was a night of firsts in Aberdeen as the new P&J Live arena held its debut gig. and rock legend Alice Cooper visited the city for the first time in his near half century career.

Also celebrating 50 years are opening act MC50. This is the current name for original MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer’s touring act which is celebrating the seminal US proto-punk classic album ‘Kick Out the Jams’.

The band is a who’s who of underground and alternative rock legends – as well as Kramer on guitar and vocals there’s Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and on vocals, Marcus Durant of the band Zen Guerrilla who have released albums on feted records labels such as Alternative Tentacles and Sub Pop.

If the line-up of the band is jaw dropping then the music is even more so. Rock staples such as ‘Rambling Rose’ and the aforementioned ‘Kick Out The Jams’ are electrically charged and life affirming.

In these politically charged times it’s essential to have politically aware bands and MC5 are the originals.

It’s an honour to see them. Essential listening for anyone not familiar with these classic Detroit rock legends.

Middle of the three band bill is another legendary act. The Stranglers need no introduction; such is their legacy and body of work.

It’s a tight, 11 song set lasting 50 mins they perform, filled with classics.

Massive hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’ pepper the set, along with rockers such as ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ and ‘Hanging Around’ and their cover of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk on By’.Dressed in black and minimally lit the band give a masterclass in understatement that provides a suitable juxtaposition to the headliners performance.

There’s no subtlety or understatement in Alice Cooper’s performance – its pure overblown theatre from the moment he walks on stage.

Dressed theatrically in top hat and leather he strides on stage in front of a giant castle wall backdrop.

The show is pure pantomime and schlock horror, bombastic and supersized.

Giant babies stride the stage; corpse brides interact with Alice; slasher flicks are performed; canons are fired and, in an elaborate set piece, Alice himself is beheaded on a guillotine.

It’s an elaborate stage show – pure theatre. The horror is, thankfully, tongue in cheek and is well staged without being too bloody or trying too hard to shock.

It’s a fun crowd pleasing show that would have got everyone talking.

Fortunately, however, there’s some good music behind
it.

Tracks such as the brooding ‘Poison’. the air-punching ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ and the raw rock of ‘Under My Wheels’ are catchy and melodic.

‘I’m Eighteen’ is a singalong anthem; and the closer, ‘School’s Out’ is such a rock staple that even non-Alice Cooper fans must know it.

His band are virtuosos – expert enough in their playing to be able to ham it up and add to the theatrics whilst simultaneously providing a tight musical performance.

Guitarist Nita Strauss is particularly eye catching as she plays stunning guitar solos and flings her guitar around, looking every inch the rock god(ess) and living up to her nickname of Hurricane. It’s a fun show and it’s one that every rock music fan should catch at least once.

As for the new venue, it is also a success – it’s large enough to not feel crowded but not large to feel dwarfed; queues to get in are handled well and getting food, drink or merchandise is easy.

It’s going to be hard to top the opening night for P&J Live but with Lewis Capaldi, Liam Gallagher, Catfish & The Bottlemen and The 1975 all booked to perform in coming months, there’s certainly going to be a few trying.

Oct 292019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Gary Numan at The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, 27th Sept 2019.

Pop legend Gary Numan made a long overdue visit back to the Granite City to celebrate his (R)Evolution 40th anniversary tour.

It’s been over 35 years since he last played here and his wide-ranging set made up for the missing years by covering material from a vast amount of albums released in that time.

Ranging from his imperial phase 80s synth pop chart hits to the more brutal Nine Inch Nails inspired electro-gothic nihilism; his set provided a fascinating and diverse showcase of his talents.

Where before he seemed slightly withdrawn and deliberately robotic his stage presence has in the intervening years been honed and crafted to the point where is now a full blown rock god, at ease with himself and with his adoring crowd.

On stage he was never still – contorting his body and throwing shapes with his hands, conducting and leading the maelstrom of sound around him.

The choice of songs wide ranging – from the slow burning electro of ‘Absolution’, the industrial ‘sturm und drang’ of ‘Here In the Black’ or the surprising addition of an acoustic guitar to perform ‘My Breathing’ and final track of the night, Tubeway Army’s ‘Jo the Waiter’.

But it’s the big hits that most mainstream music fans will know him for and these are performed with aplomb and to rapturous appreciation by the crowd. His chart topping no.1 hits ‘Cars’ and ‘Are “Friends” Electric’ bring the house down and rightfully so.

Later 21st century period material such as opener ‘My Name is Ruin’ and ‘A Prayer for the Unborn’ receive the same amount of reception from the crowd as classic Numan cuts such as ‘Metal’ from 1979 album ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

At 61 years of age, Numan displayed the energy and commitment of someone half that age.

Here’s hoping that he returns north sooner than another 35 years’ time whilst that energy is still there.

Set list:
My Name Is Ruin
That’s Too Bad
Desire
Films
Metal
Absolution
My Breathing
Down in the Park
The Promise
Cars
Here in the Black
We Are Glass
Call Out the Dogs
A Prayer for the Unborn
Are ‘Friends’ Electric?

Encore:
My Shadow in Vain
It Will End Here
Intruder
Jo the Waiter

Oct 212019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Now in its 5th year Aberdeen’s True North Festival has long since proved itself to be the most entertaining, eclectic and rewarding event in the music calendar for the North East of Scotland.

Its wide range of events and artists have started to draw in the crowds from afar. 

Saturday night headliners, The Twilight Sad in particular attracted fans from across Europe and even as far afield as Australia, albeit via England.

Events kicked off with the now traditional Thursday night performance at the Lemon Tree – one which, quite literally, blew the roof off.

It’s a night of punk attitude and organised chaos as London alternative rock band Shame and hotly tipped up and coming Glaswegian band Rascalton entertained the crowds. Rascalton’s set is an engaging and entertaining blast of no-nonsense Clash inspired garage punk, soaked in Buckfast and Glaswegian street attitude.

They’ve already been hotly tipped by the NME as well as local and national press and it’s not hard to see why as they snarl, shout and pound through a adrenalin fuelled opening set. They’re back in Aberdeen on the 14th December at the Cellar – miss them at your peril.

Headliners, Shame share the same punk ethos backed up with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

The band are championed by the likes of Radio 6 Music DJ Steve Lamaq and contemporaries of bands such as Idles and Fontaines DC.

Frontman Charlie Steen is a blur of energy as he stalks the stage and dives into the crowd on numerous occasions.

And it’s on one of those occasions that he inadvertently brings the roof down by knocking tiles off the ceiling and into the crowd. The tiles are clutched like trophies by the hyperactive mosh pit as they lose themselves in a great energetic set.

Friday –thankfully – starts in a more laid back and relaxed fashion at the wonderful Tivoli Theatre with an opening set by the equally wonderful Martha Ffion.

The Irish born, Glasgow based songwriter runs through a set that’s influenced by classic songwriting, stirring dream pop and the shadow of Glaswegian indie stalwarts such as Belle and Sebastian.
Her melodic, catchy songs would have won a few new converts on the night.

Wick rock band Neon Waltz are next up. They’ve already played True North in previous years so will not be strangers to a lot of the crowd.
In that time they’ve matured in style and poise and have honed their stage craft, no longer naïve youngsters from the North of Scotland but a band capable of International appeal.

Headliner, Bill Ryder Jones is quite the veteran by now with over 20 years of experience at the still young age of 36.

He started playing with Merseyside rockers, The Coral as far back as 1996, when they formed, and was their guitarist for 5 albums, leaving in 2008.

Since then he has become an accomplished solo artist, standing on his own merits and releasing 5 solo albums and even scoring the music to a few short films.
His sound is dreamy and expansive recalling, at times, the sonic adventures of shoegaze whilst still displaying his song writing talents.

From the Tivoli, it’s a quick walk up to the Lemon Tree for the evenings other main performance.

Originally to be headlined by BC Camplight, he had to pull out the day previous due to illness.

Fortunately, local treasure Kathryn Joseph volunteered to step in and perform a short opening set which allowed original opening act The Ninth Wave to step deservedly up to headliner status.

Kathryn should be no stranger to anyone in the Aberdeen music scene, or even to those further afield.

She cut her teeth locally working in The Lemon Tree, performing in bars and venues such as the Tunnels.

Her sparse, haunting minimalist music, consisting mainly of piano and vocals, has led to critical acclaim, winning the 2015 SAY awards album of the year, and to recognition by her contemporaries and her musical influences, even appearing on the bill for The Cure’s feted 2018 Hyde Park concert at the behest of Robert Smith.

As usual she doesn’t fail to deliver with an inspiring set of melancholic songs and her now trademark swear word heavy between song banter. A joy to behold, as was expected.

Headline band, The Ninth Wave transport the crowd back in time to the early 80s New Romantic Blitz Club, whilst pushing forward with their synth heavy retro-futurism.

Their sound and style may not be for anyone old enough to remember the likes of Soft Cell or Japan but their ice cool demeanour and ability to engage the crowd provides an entertaining and enlightening set.
.

The weekend brings out the bigger events with both Saturday and Sunday’s early evening performances taking place at the newly refurbished Music Hall.

Headlining on Saturday is Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad.
It’s a triumphant gig for them, almost a homecoming as lead singer James Graham is no stranger to the area, having members of his Mother’s family staying in the North East.

He looks and sounds genuinely thrilled to be performing at the Music Hall, telling stories of passing it as a youngster and promising to his Dad that he would play there one day.

The band have played various smaller venues in Aberdeen in previous years – working themselves up from the Tunnels and the late, lamented Moshulu through the Lemon Tree and now to here.

Powering through a set heavy on tracks from latest album ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ and featuring an touching cover of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, it’s an emotional and powerful set that steals the weekend.

Opening for The Twilight Sad are Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert.

This is the penultimate performance of their collaboration before they return to their solo careers.

To be honest, the two of them can do no wrong whether together or apart and tonight’s show is a wonderful showcase of their respective talents, their eye for a melody and the lyrical genius of their songs.

As much as it’s great they’ll be back performing solo you have to hope that there’s a reformation in a few years which produces new material of an equally high standard.

Late night at the Lemon Tree is more dance orientated the euphoric rave of Free Love and the Electro pop of Self Esteem.

Free Love are an entertaining and engaging live act, refusing to be constrained behind a bank of synths and mixers like most acts of this style.

Flanked by a pair of ladies in robes and holding flowers, lead singer Suzi Rodden throws herself completely into the performance, dancing barefoot into the crowd, writhing on the bar and spreading the gospel of Free Love’s high-NRG utopian dance music.
.

No less restrained, but less likely to bump into you and spill your pint whilst you’re at the back of the venue, are Self Esteem. The new project of former Slow Club singer and multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Lucy Taylor, the band is a move from her former indie folk act and into pure pop.
Complete with choreographed dance moves, matching red outfits and loads of hooks and melody she easily wins over the Saturday night crowd and keep them dancing well past midnight.

There’s one more gig at the Lemon Tree and that’s late on Sunday night as Ibibio Sound Machine take to the stage.

Fronted by the colourful and flamboyant singer Eno Williams the band perform an impressive set of West African funk and electro. The clash of styles works well and their visual, eye catching style lends to the occasion, giving a cosmopolitan and worldly flair not usually seen in Aberdeen on a Sunday night.

Before that, at the Music Hall, the stars are out in force for a run through of Scottish rock and pop classics under the banner of Rip It Up Live!

Taking their name from the classic Orange Juice track and influenced by the 2018 National Museum of Scotland exhibition, an array of talented Scottish performers, both established and up-and-coming, run a through a 25 track set that covers everything from the Cocteau Twins to Simple Minds; Garbage to The Associates & from the Eurythmics to The Proclaimers it’s an entertaining and rewarding through Scottish pop history.

Curated by Radio DJ Vic Galloway, the all star cast includes TV presenter and frontman of The Skids, Richard Jobson, actress and legendry frontwoman of Altered Images, Claire Grogan, Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie, punk pioneers The Rezillos and many, many more.

Credit again for the festival must go to Aberdeen Performing Arts who have made it yet another weekend to remember. See you again in 2020!

Oct 142019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Tessa Williams’ ‘Hotels of the Stars’.

Months ago, at least it seems like it, I was sent a copy of Tessa Williams’ ‘Hotels of the Stars’. Described in glowing terms as featuring ‘A-list Haunts and Hideaways’ the book, amongst others sat amongst my pile of promised reviews.

Inevitably some never make it to the top of the pile and kindness occasionally precludes that promised review. In the case of Tessa’s tome, a bit of illness got in the way and now that I am much better, I thought it timely to pen a few words.

A journalist by trade she is no stranger to the content having spent a portion of her life penning for the likes of Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue.

There are no Holiday Inn’s or Travelodge’s here and nor should there be.

With an introduction by Albert Roux this book reveals the inner details of that cosseted world of the super-rich and those super-famous-folk who inhabit the likes of London’s Dorchester, Fort William’s Inverlochy Castle and L’Hotel Paris. Raffles, The Chelsea Hotel and the various Ritz’s also feature alongside The Rock at Gibraltar and that iconic Kempinski in Berlin.

Not that I have visited many of the establishments on this list, well maybe – The Balmoral – but, in the big scheme of things, after ruffling amongst these pages, I feel that I have at the very least an understanding of how the other half live.

Replete with quotes such as ‘Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolates in one go’ – Truman Capote and ‘When I was growing up, I had three wishes. I wanted to be a Lindbergh-type hero, learn Chinese and become a member of the Algonquin Round Table’ – John F. Kennedy, this is much more than a coffee table trophy.

In all, there are around 37 featured hotels – each with a historical narrative. And each illustrated with iconic images to salivate over.

For my money, the piece featuring Claridge’s on P48 gives full flavour to the intention of this book. Alongside a descriptor ‘The hotel was also a home for the Hollywood Royalty … including Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Cary Grant’, we learn that Spencer Tracy described the place in glowing terms:

“When I die I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.”

You really couldn’t make it up!

Hotels of the Stars by Tessa Williams is available from Amazon @ £35 in hardback.
ISBN-13: 978-1909399983

Oct 042019
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Crucible @ HMT Aberdeen

The last Scottish witch met a fiery end at Dornoch in 1727 ending what some saw as the domination of the devil in local affairs.

Smeared with tar following a short trial, Janet Horne was burned alive in a barrel following an accusation of consorting with the forces of darkness.

In 1950’s America however, the devil-incarnate took the form of McCarthyism – perhaps best defined as the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.

Many intellectuals, artistic folk and politicians fell afoul of the new inquisition. And Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible took an allegorical stab at that modern-day witch hunt against those accused of the crime ‘Un-American activities’ using the medium of the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century.

And now, this no-holds barred portrayal of the overly-righteous paranoia that was McCarthyism is subject to fresh interpretation by Scottish Ballet.

Shocking in its intensity, this exquisite take on the witch-trial agenda dwells on the currency of falsely framed accusations, fearsome events and the power of inquisitors over life and death and morality.

Penned in the 1950’s and set in 1692, the familiar story is set among the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts. A backdrop of infidelity, a declaration that god is dead and a smidgeon of pagan ritual leads to accusations of witchcraft. And within a short timeframe events have spiralled terrifyingly out of control.

Alongside Peter Salem’s hauntingly edgy new score, American Helen Picket’s choreography shatters the myth of Puritanical purity.

Adolescents dance naked in the moonlight, farmer Proctor – Nicholas Shoesmith and servant Abigail – Constance Devernay frolic in the farmyard and voodoo makes an unwelcome appearance.

Nothing is as it seems and the fault lines of a wildly dysfunctional community are soon tested to destruction.

Simple staging accents the rawness of this tale of persecution and David Finn’s choice of gloomy lighting adds poignance throughout. This is no over-bearing stage-set.

Stark and poignant, this adaption of Miller’s play for dance sets a high bar indeed.

Choreographed by Helen Pickett and based on the play by Arthur Miller, The Crucible plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 5 October.
Stars: 4/5

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

Sep 262019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

On one side of the pond people are waking up to the shenanigans of the Trump empire.

Donald J Trump is being impeached with some six congressional committees looking at a myriad of potentially serious crimes he’s committed.

In Aberdeenshire however, where – despite ‘oversight’ by planners two SSSI sites were irreparably damaged at Menie – the council voted today 38-24 in favour of him building 550 homes.

David Milne, Menie Estate resident, issued an impassioned, logically and legally compelling video days ago as to why the permission should not be given.

“Overall, it’s devastating.” he told Aberdeen Voice.

Hundreds have watched it so far – it can be found here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntztSr6_K1w&list=FL3ali7Onfmv9EXPrkrCdiqQ

Only three letters were sent in supporting the controversial application; people wrote to the shire to object in their thousands.

“I can confirm, I voted against. I am sorry not more councillors agreed with me,” councillor Vicky Harper posted on the Aberdeen Voice Facebook page,

“I wish we could have done more. I am sorry to the residents who will feel the biggest impact.”

Cllr Harper is not wrong.  Anthony Baxter’s first film in his trilogy of all things Trump and golf show the absolute environmental devastation of the first golf course being built.

Not over yet.

None of the campaigners against Trump’s development have run out of steam, not by a long shot.

“I’m not one to give up,” David Milne said.

And there is something of an ace in the hole, or ace in the bunker to be specific.

The road to the Bunker.

Councillors have forgotten the attempt made by the Trump organisation to buy the residents’ properties by stealth:  in other parts of the world this would have been prosecuted as an attempt to defraud.

To refresh memories, Neil Hobday, using an assumed name (based on his middle names) visited several of those who refused to sell their homes and pretended to be an average American tourist.

His story was that he and his wife ‘fell in love’ with the area and wanted to buy their home – at a price which was far below what the value of homes wanted by a huge developer would be. No one fell for it.

Did the police pursue this crime? They were too busy arresting Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney for ‘a breach of the peace’.

The two journalists, working on You’ve Been Trumped, had simply gone to the site office and asked when the Forbes family would get their water line, broken by Trump contractors, repaired. They were thrown in cells.

The underhanded behaviour by the Trump organisation in trying to get that land made people take an in-depth look at the estate’s land ownership.

A fly in the ointment was found which may yet prove a stumbling block and today it seems more important than ever.

The Bunker.

Land ownership can be a complicated thing, and as a supreme act of campaigning, Tripping Up Trump has quietly had an ace in the hole: ‘The Bunker’. 

On the estate, the land fondly called The Bunker by protestors is a small patch of land. It may be relatively small:  but it is now legally owned and registered to a staggering, unprecedented ten thousand – yes 10,000 people.

As the Tripping Up Trump website advises:

“The Tripping Up Trump campaign acquired some land right at the heart of Donald Trump’s planned private housing and leisure development.

“The reason TUT has done this is to help protect the families who have forced eviction (by means of Compulsory Purchase Orders) hanging over their heads.

“The families of Menie have again and again stated they do not wish to leave but still Trump and Aberdeenshire Council won’t withdraw the threat of using CPOs if the families don’t agree to sell ‘voluntarily’.”

If someone wanted to buy that land, if the government decided to try a compulsory purchase, legally it must contact all of the owners.

Every. Last. One.

Aside from occasionally having a Mexican flag flying over it (an act of solidarity from Trump’s prejudiced attack on Mexicans), the bunker has not been hugely used.

Read more about the Bunker here:
http://www.trippinguptrump.co.uk/the-bunker/

Perhaps it is time for the owners to start making better use of their land?  Just a thought for Tripping Up Trump – and 10,000 people. Time for a party? Building application – perhaps a refuge for refugees?

Don’t Mess With Mother Nature.

The sand dunes may be nearly stabilized – but if Trump International Golf Links Scotland is banking on a coastal property in North East Scotland being immune from the elements, they have short memories.

The photo (of me on my first visit to Menie) shows part of the course wiped off their little course map. A winter storm – and by far not the worst one Scotland has ever seen – ruined the place.

Keen-eyed visitors will notice that the greens are fighting the sands, constantly blowing through the course.

The keen-eyed visitor will also notice that a fair amount of the fairways have been dyed a sickly blue-green colour.

There will be more showdowns between Trump and Mother Nature – place your bets on the eventual winner now. Sadly, the new homes mean the displacement of wildlife if they are ever built.

The End- not.

There may be some smug congratulatory words at the clubhouse today, and some champagne corks popped.

But the celebrations are premature: Trump is not likely to last his presidency, may well be jailed, and as happens – his property could wind up being seized if it is found to be purchased with laundered money.

If Scotland’s crime task forces could start investigating now, that would be nice – it’s not as if they haven’t been asked and presented with evidence.

The bunker however, is now a bunker and a beacon. A creative, proactive and canny move, it may well throw a spanner in the works.

Here’s hoping – and here’s to making it so.

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