Dec 112017
 

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

Following a thrilling, but ultimately unsuccessful, swordfight arch-villain Abanazar is thrown upon the mercy of the audience.

“What shall we do with him now?” cries Widow Twankey.
A young voice from the front stalls cries out “Kill him! Chop off his head.”

Quick as a flash, Twankey replies “We can do pretty much anything in Panto, but the one thing we can’t do is kill Jimmy Osmond.”

Indeed, the Christmas Pantomime at His Majesty’s Theatre delivers everything from death defying stunts to innuendo laden humour and, of course, gloriously costumed entertainment suitable for children of all ages.

As the undoubted star of the show, Jimmy Osmond’s Abanazar exudes a suitable mixture of evil and cunning as he schemes to steal Aladdin’s magic lamp before, in the second act, delivering a stunning medley of familiar Osmond 70’s classics. As the show progressed the US born star dipped a brave tongue into the Doric, endured several inevitable references to his ‘Long-haired lover from Liverpool’ 1972 hit and generally endeared himself to the audience.

There were flying carpets galore, an impressive Bush-of-Truth stunt, a flying Jordan Young and, perhaps surprisingly, an ethereal appearance – as the Voice of the Genie – by Elaine C. Smith.

Costumes of course are at the core of Panto and although Alan McHugh’s Dame Twankey outfits outshone most in that department, Emperor Ming’s jewel-laden headgear really took the biscuit for ponderosity. Indeed, it’s a wonder that Billy Riddoch’s head remained upon his shoulders throughout the performance.

Irreverent humour is of course the mainstay of any Aberdeen Panto and inevitably both Trump and the Scottish Parliament took a bashing. The Trump reference took the form of a not-so subtle ‘trouser cough’.

As for ‘Hollyrude’, well it would be unfair of me to give away the punch-line but let’s just say that it involves the Bush-of-Truth.

Special effects are to the fore in this production and the overall entertainment quotient is a massive 5 stars.

Add in Jordan Young’s Aladdin on the Ladder sketch and a few comedic references to Echt, Tillydrone, Mintlaw, Balnagask, Ellon, Buchan, Tarves and Oldmeldrum and you have a winning combination of belly-laughs and completely splendid entertainment. Indeed, at the end of the night, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and for all the right reasons.

I did wonder why Inverurie failed to get a mention though.

With the pupils of Aberdeen Academy of Dance, written by Alan McHugh and directed by Tony Cownie, Aladdin plays at HMT Aberdeen until January 7th.

Nov 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Hedda Gabler @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

A room, filled with other people’s flowers with a smoking gun-cabinet in the corner pretty much sums up the mood. A bored ‘proud daughter of a dead general’ pretty much sums up the heroine.

‘Life for Hedda is a farce which isn’t worth seeing through to the end’ pretty much sums up the plot.

Hedda and new husband Tesman have just returned from a six-month working honeymoon and clearly things are not fine in honey-land.

Finances are on a tight-rope and expectations are, not to put too fine a point on it, stretched. Hedda tries desperately to manipulate those around her as the world she thought she owned disintegrates with every passing breath.

A small cast work a simple set.

There are no Aspidistras here and certainly no inklings of a dusty bygone era; for this is a new production of the Ibsen classic brought to the Aberdeen stage by the National Theatre. Plastic paint-pots house the flowers and an anguished Hedda tries frantically to mark off her territory with a staple-gun before resorting to much more desperate measures.

There is no happy ending here, and this is a harrowing play make no mistake about it.

Bordering on the demonic at points and at others pathetically sad, Lizzy Watts’ extraordinary portrayal of the doomed Hedda reaches deeply into the heart of the matter. Hedda does not own Hedda. Only everyone else owns Hedda. And there is no escape route.

In this age of quickie-divorce, there are still plenty of Hedda’s around. Trapped behind closed doors in strangely loveless marriage, they still seek solace in the gun-cabinet. Ibsen may have penned Hedda Gabler in a previous century, but the issues exposed remain completely relevant to a modern audience.

By Henrik Ibsen in a new National Theatre version by Patrick Marber, Hedda Gabler plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 25th November 2017.

Nov 082017
 

Sunset Boulevard @ HMT Aberdeen – A review by Duncan Harley.

Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre until Sat Nov 11.

A compelling study on how to grow old disgracefully this tale of manipulation, madness and obsession seems doomed from the start to have no happy ending.
As ageing silent-star Norma Desmond’s insanity blossoms, the tension builds to bursting-point whilst all around the gloomy interior of Sunset Boulevard the world moves on relentlessly to greater things.

Having failed to make the transition from silent-screen to talkies, Ria Jones’ Norma Desmond pens a clunker of a movie-script in anticipation of a return to those heady days of stardom.

Danny Mac’s Joe Gillis takes on the task of re-writing the ageing diva’s version of Salome. There are no renditions of ‘bring me the head of John the Baptist’ here though. Indeed, phrases such as ‘All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up’ might be mistaken nowadays as a prelude to an innuendo laden casting-couch moment, and Norma Desmond’s deadpan comment ‘I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!’ leaves little to the imagination.

Norma is of course ‘Mad about the boy’ – and where have we heard that before – in this case the boy is Joe. And, predictably perhaps, he is strung-along by mad Norma until he can take no more.

The tale is told from his viewpoint and his journey through Norma’s celluloid memories is at times a difficult watch.

Ria Jones’ powerful portrayal of Norma eclipses all on stage and rightly so. The deeply flawed Joe Gillis must come a close second. Danny Mac’s Joe is clearly on a treadmill to oblivion from scene one onwards and this portrayal of a kept-man on the road to nowhere leaves little to the imagination.

For my money though, Adam Pearce’s Vettriano-like singing butler, the scowling Max Von Meyerling, gets top marks. Suitably servile when it suits him, sternly efficient and quietly loyal to the very end; Adam’s Max lurks quietly in the shadows and perhaps his story, when finally revealed, is the saddest tear-jerker of them all.

Animal lovers might just shudder at the understated chimpanzee funeral but, in the big scheme of things, Sunset Boulevard presents as an entertaining and powerful musical melodrama graphically portraying the, sometimes wickedly distorted, dream-factory that is Hollywood.

Fast-paced throughout and with a wild car-chase worthy of no-glory San Francisco cop, lieutenant Frank Bullitt, this classic stage musical is well worth the seeing.

Directed by Nikolai Foster with Musical Direction by Adrian Kirk, Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday November 11.

Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

With just a few days to go before the round one pound coin ceases to be legal tender, a leading north-east cancer charity is urging people to donate their old coins.
CLAN Cancer Support is encouraging people to clear out their piggy banks and hunt down the back of sofas and support the charity in the process by donating their old coins.

The new 12 sided £1 coin was brought into circulation in March 2017 and has security features to combat counterfeiting.

From October 15 the existing coins will no longer be legal tender but can be given to charity or handed into banks or Post Offices.

Fiona Fernie, Head of Income Generation and Business Development at CLAN Cancer Support, believes donations received from £1 coins stored in people’s piggy banks and car gloveboxes could help make a real difference in the coming months.

She said:

“The Government estimates that £1.3bn worth of coins are stored in savings jars across the country, about a third of which are £1 coins. If just a fraction of that total was donated to charitable organisations it could make a huge difference.

“We are encouraging people to have a look in all their old purses and wallets and down the back of sofas and donate what they find to CLAN. Each £1 we receive will help to support people affected by cancer in communities across north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

“By donating just £25 you can help to fund breakfast for one day for everyone staying in CLAN Haven, our bed and breakfast facility which provides accommodation for people travelling to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for cancer related treatment.

“Every single donation we receive helps us to continue to provide valuable wellbeing and support services for people affected by cancer.”

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort, support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. CLAN has a presence in Ballater, Banchory, Elgin, Inverurie, Fraserburgh, Lossiemouth, Peterhead, Stonehaven, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

For further information about CLAN Cancer Support please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, PR and Marketing Manager at Think PR.

Two young professionals based in the North East have launched an entirely new approach to people and asset resourcing, which they believe has the potential to provide massive cost savings to the oil and gas industry.

Having recently won the backing of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Leximo is the brainchild of Alex Crossland and Simon Patterson, both of whom are passionate about facilitating a cultural shift in employment patterns, how company assets are maximised and how innovators collaborate.

Leximo comprises three online platforms.

LexiResource is helping businesses and individuals improve their workforce and career flexibility; LexiEdge adopts the key characteristics of the Circular Economy, enabling companies across a wide range of sectors to communicate asset requirements and availability, including equipment, tools and facilities; and Lexi-X will provide clear visibility of company and industry innovation challenges, providing the opportunity for companies and academia to collaborate in order to focus resource and expertise to deliver commercially viable solutions.

Leximo co-founder Alex Crossland describes the impetus behind Leximo:

“Simon and I have spent several years realising that there are flaws in restrictive traditional resourcing models whether the requirement is skills, assets or ideas. A fundamental lack of communication is hindering some obvious cost efficiencies. With that in mind, we are in talks with a number of oil and gas industry bodies, all of whom are keen to adopt and promote the Leximo approach.

“We’re all familiar with the process of online connection between a requirement and an offering – think airbnb, or any online retail system for example. In the context of the North Sea oil and gas industry, Leximo is allowing businesses to survive downturns and maximise upturns, by gaining access to resources and expertise that may not previously have been possible due to costs or lack of contacts.”

Aberdeen-based ITCA Training is amongst the first companies to adopt the Leximo approach. Managing Director, June Jones explains:

“We are excited to have ITCA’s course and resource availability already published on Leximo and look forward to starting our pre-apprenticeship learners on their career journey by engaging them with the platform. Leximo is an extremely forward-thinking innovation for marketing all types of resources, which has great potential to meet business and individual needs.”

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of Nuart Aberdeen have made a ‘call for walls’ to identify city centre sites for new street art murals to be developed when the festival returns in 2018.
The international award-winning festival made its debut earlier this year and a team of globally acclaimed artists showcased their talents by producing powerful murals attracting large crowds over the Easter weekend.

Nuart Aberdeen was brought to the city by business organisation Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council, and was supported by main sponsor Burness Paull LLP.

In anticipation of the festival returning next year, work is already underway to find prospective new walls to use next year and the festival project team are keen to hear from property owners and business that would like to be involved.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Nuart Aberdeen festival and it has been truly transformational, attracting significant footfall over the summer months. 

“We are delighted that the festival will be coming back and the festival team has started work to identify prospective new walls in the city centre for street artists to use next year. I’d encourage property owners and businesses in the city centre who would like to be considered to contact us.

“Already we have noted interest from city centre businesses, however we want to maximise this opportunity to shape Nuart Aberdeen 2018.”

Held in the Norwegian city of Stavanger since 2001, and widely regarded as the world’s leading celebration of street art, Nuart Aberdeen was the first overseas version of the festival.

Martyn Reed, director and curator of Nuart, said:

“The artists, team and partners had an incredible first year in Aberdeen, a truly remarkable event that we took a lot of credit and accolades for alongside our partners, Aberdeen Inspired.

“It’s always a little humbling taking credit for Nuart, because the reality is, the event is a huge collaborative undertaking between so many different talented and passionate individuals and partners. This is where our ‘call for walls’ comes in. It’s a truly democratic way to have the public and local businesses involved in where the art might be placed.

“We can’t wait to see what comes in and to get feedback from artists who will be with us next year. We’ll be in town shortly to scout locations, and the more options we get the better.”

Shaun Hose, Assistant Director of Rockspring, which owns Aberdeen Indoor Market, which was the centrepiece of the inaugural festival has encouraged property owners to come forward.

He said:

“Rockspring have been fortunate enough to work with Nuart on three artworks which exceeded our expectations. The art is now an integral part of the Indoor Market space overlooking The Green and the trendy Merchant Quarter.

“We are proud to have worked with Aberdeen Inspired and Nuart by providing them with a canvass to enhance the urban landscape and breathe life back into our building.

“We and the stakeholders of the Merchant Quarter have benefited from Nuart Aberdeen and look forward to working with them again on other projects whilst continue to invest in Aberdeen.”

The call for walls comes as discussions with Aberdeen City Council are ongoing to secure Nuart Aberdeen for the future.

Councillor Jenny Laing, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, said,

“Aberdeen City Council was both proud and delighted to be the joint delivery partner for Nuart Aberdeen this year.

“The festival showed the very best of the Granite City and this is reinforced by the overwhelming response to the festival by residents and visitors alike. It is therefore right that discussions with partners are continuing as to how the council can best support this very special festival going forward.”

Walls must be in a good condition for paining and interested parties should contact the Nuart Aberdeen project team via: 01224 566291 or email: callforwalls@aberdeeninspired.com

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute. Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district.

For more information about the Nuart Aberdeen Festival, please visit: www.nuartaberdeen.co.uk

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of Aberdeen Comedy Festival have hailed residents and visitors who have flocked to see their favourite comedians and urged people to enjoy the final weekend of shows.

Now in its second year, the eleven-day festival, which is delivered by Aberdeen Inspired, started on Thursday, October 5 and will run until Sunday, October 15.

Festival organisers have urged comedy fans not to miss out on the final shows over the weekend as the comedy extravaganza culminates with a final show at Aberdeen Arts Centre at 8pm on Sunday evening with Paul Tonkinson.

Best known for his presenting work on The Big Breakfast and the Sunday Show, Paul will be joined by guests, Mick Ferry, Carey Marx and Ray Bradshaw.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival has attracted large crowds to stand-up comedy shows at a number of city centre venues.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, is delighted with the response from the public who have turned out in numbers to enjoy the shows.

He said:

“Support for this year’s comedy festival has been fantastic and feedback from customers, volunteers and city centre venues has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many of the shows have been attracting strong numbers or even selling out which is very pleasing and shows there’s a very strong demand for a comedy festival in the city.

“Though we’re entering the last few days of the festival it’s not too late to enjoy some comedy gold at one of Scotland’s top comedy festivals. We hope people join us over the weekend as the festival draws to a close at Aberdeen Arts Centre on Sunday evening.

“It’s great to see that people are travelling to the city from Aberdeenshire and further afield to see their favourite comedians on stage. They’re giving a welcome boost to our city centre businesses, restaurants and hotels, which is one of the main aims of the festival.” 

Tickets for Aberdeen Comedy Festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, can be bought at The Lemon Tree or HMT Box Offices as well as online via the Aberdeen Box Office website or: www.aberdeencomedyfestival.com/whats-on/

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Oct 132017
 

Sheena Mann with her father, Alex Mann who passed away Feb 21 2017.

By Sheena Mann.

‘The Alex Mann Memorial Event’ will take place on 20 October 2017 in aid of Diabetes UK, to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes.

I am organising the event because my father passed away in February of this year from complications arising from type 2 diabetes.
He was only diagnosed five years before his death, but like most people he unknowingly had it for many years before this.

The complications associated with diabetes are many and symptoms are few if any until the disease reaches a dangerous level. Many people are unaware of how dangerous and deadly a disease this actually is and many are unaware of even having it.

People who are affected or are at risk need to be educated, along with doctors and nurses they need to know what to look out for, they need to know what can happen and the speed in which things can happen when it becomes too late to treat.

Diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, weight loss, amputations to name but a few. My father needed an amputation of his lower leg to save his life but he was too ill and frail for such a major operation, he passed away four weeks after being admitted to hospital.

We had his 81st birthday in hospital on the 16th of February and he passed away on the 21st.

The Diabetic Association was set up in 1934 by novelist HG Wells and Dr RD Lawrence – both of whom had diabetes. It became the British Diabetic Association (BDA) in 1954 and Diabetes UK at the turn of the millennium.

Radical from the beginning, the charity aimed to ensure that everyone in the UK could gain access to insulin, whatever their financial situation. Its mission statement was:

“to promote the study, the diffusion of knowledge, and the proper treatment of diabetes in this country.”

The Association campaigned for the creation of the National Health Service and argued that people with diabetes should take an active role in managing their condition. In 1939 the first diabetes voluntary self-support group was set up. There are now over 400 local voluntary groups, providing support and information to people with diabetes across the UK.www.diabetes.org.uk 

The event called ‘The Alex Mann Memorial Event’ will take place at Nigg Bay Golf Course, St Fitticks Road, Aberdeen from 6.30pm, entry is free.

We will have various retailers present including; Usbourne Books, Forever Living Products, Creepy Robot Collectables, Beauty and Jewellery, a reflexologist doing facials, Lily’s Dough pizza van, also Glitter Tattooist Cat on the Moon, a photo booth by Niall Bain Photography and more.

There will also be sideshow games including a tombola with prizes from North Link Ferries, His Majesty’s Theatre, Flash Photography and many more.

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Oct 132017
 

Managing director of Zenith Energy, Martin Booth.

With thanks to Donna Ross, Senior Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

An Aberdeen-based well engineering and project management company has marked five years in business by opening new
bases across the globe to meet growing demand.
Zenith Energy, which provides a range of services to the oil and gas sector within the UK and internationally through its Aberdeen headquarters, has opened offices in Abu Dhabi and Perth, Australia, following contract wins with major names in the industry.

The specialist firm has built its client base to more than 34, with continued repeat business, since its establishment in 2012, going from a two-man business, to a global organisation employing 23 people.

The firm provides specialist expertise for the complete well life cycle from the conceptual design phases through to field development planning, well operations, well intervention and well abandonments, using both rig and rig-less solutions.

During the first quarter of 2017 Zenith expanded its client base and successfully completed work in the UK, Italy and Equatorial Guinea for new and existing clients.

All projects were delivered on time and on budget, with zero HSE accidents or incidents showcasing the company’s ability to deliver the correct technical and commercial solution for our clients. 

Managing director of Zenith Energy, Martin Booth (pictured), said:

“Zenith Energy was set up with the intention of creating an Independent Well Engineering and Wells Project management company, and over the years we have diversified our services to meet demand.

“We have experienced the highs and lows of oil price and one of the longest, worst recessions in the oil industry that most of us remember. However, five years later we are still here, growing and developing our company and capabilities.

“We are now looking forward to the next five years from a position of strength in the market and an ability to deliver in a low cost environment.”

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

An Aberdeen sports facility is the first in Scotland to achieve the highest possible standard in the leading UK sports and leisure quality scheme.

Aberdeen Sports Village, which is based on the city’s Linksfield Road, is the first facility in Scotland to have passed the toughest assessment offered by Sport Scotland’s leading national quality scheme, Quest.

Quest is the best-known improvement programme within the leisure industry and its rigorous assessments challenge all leading leisure centres in the UK.

ASV has achieved Quest Stretch, which is only available to high performing centres, and is the highest possible achievement.

In order to qualify for a Quest Stretch assessment, centres must have been rated ‘Excellent’ in their previous Quest assessment. To achieve the top award, ASV went through a two-day assessment plus a mystery visit. To make the process even tougher, managers were not informed when the assessor or mystery visitor would be arriving.

ASV was particularly commended by Quest on its programme for older people, Evergreens, which helps participants remain active for longer, as well as its opportunities for children and disabled people.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO for ASV, said:

“Everyone at ASV is dedicated to providing the best service and facilities for all of our customers. We are delighted to achieve this award, as it is a testament of the high standards we strive to provide.

“Quest is an ongoing programme, which looks not just at our customer service but also the important work we do developing sporting opportunities in the community. Congratulations to all staff and volunteers at ASV, this award is very well deserved.”

Quest’s operations director, Caroline Constantine, said:

“Quest Stretch is the highest accreditation that can be achieved and as such it is an extremely demanding process. By meeting Quest Stretch’s very high standards, ASV has shown its commitment to providing quality facilities and service to its customers. In these tough economic times it is more important than ever that local leisure facilities can demonstrate their value, and Quest Stretch accreditation helps them do just that.”

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