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 062017
 

The Big Moon made their debut in the Granite City with an intimate and wildly appreciated show at the Lemon Tree. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

The female four piece have been together for less than three years and are already signed to Fiction Records, home of The Cure, Elbow, Snow Patrol and more.

Their debut album  was released last April and made the shortlist of finalists for this year’s Mercury Music Awards.

Walking on to an intro tape of Robbie William’s ‘Millenium’, a choice that shows the band’s pop sensibilities , the band then proceeded to perform a strong 15-song set that was met with adulation by their young fans.

Highlights of the set included recent singles ‘Formidable’, ‘Cupid’ and set opener ‘Silent Movie Susie’.

The band are chatty and friendly between songs – bassist Celia Archer engages with one gig-goer about her Louis Theroux t-shirt after only a couple of songs. Lead singer Juliette Jackson also tells the tale of her former housemate Marco, who was from Aberdeen, and his strange habit of eating scrambled eggs from a mug all the time.

But it’s the songs that people are here to listen to and there’s plenty of them to keep them entertained – from the slow ballad ‘Zeds’ (“Time to get it on if you came with a date tonight” says Jackson) to the galloping rhythms of ‘Eureka Moments’, all of which are expertly crafted, catchy pop-rock ditties.

The song that had everyone talking about is a cover, not an original, however. Introduced as “A karaoke banger” by Jackson, the band blast through a faithful cover of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of The Heart’ to the appreciate audience.

And that sums them up really – they play catchy, accessible rock but are not afraid to play pure pop and are definitely not a band to take themselves too seriously.

Touring as support with The Big Moon are another young band making their debut in Aberdeen – Get Inuit.

The band’s half hour support slot brings comparisons to britpop rockers Ash or American alt-rock legends Weezer. In fact, singer Jessie Glass even sports the same style of thick black specs that Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo wears, making the comparison not only audible but visual too.  

Their Facebook page biography describes them as making “dirty pop music” and this is as valid a description as any I can think of. The tunes are fuzzed-up, raw garage rock with memorable hooks and melodies.

Judging by the reaction of the crowd, and the amount of t-shirts of both bands being sported by them, then both acts are destined for bigger things and all manner of success in the future.

Sep 222017
 

Review and Photography by Craig Chisholm.

As the darker nights draw in at the start of September, there was still time for one more music festival in Scotland. But, unlike your TRNSMT’s, Enjoy Music’s and Electric Field’s, this was one that didn’t require waterproofs and sunscreen as it wasn’t outdoors but in the more comfortable surroundings of His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre, right here in the heart of town.

True North is now in its third year and has drawn at eclectic range of artists over the years – from Tom O’Dell to Richard Hawley, King Creosote to Laura Mvula, a Neil Young Tribute to a night of Kate Bush songs.

This year continues that eclectic mix with sets from Arab Strap, Pictish Trail, Public Service Broadcasting, Wild Beasts and 2015 Scottish Album of The Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

And this year’s tribute? A evening of Fleetwood Mac songs that included a full live performance of their classic, mega selling 1977 album ‘Rumours’.

Pictish Trail at The Lemon Tree.

As well as the main headlining sets the festival also offered a range of fringe events for all ages – acoustic performances at the Maritime Museum by Pictish Trail and Neon Waltz; gigs at local record shop & bar, Spin, by The Great Bear, Willson Gray, Katie Mackie, The Sea Atlas and Leanne Smith; talks and panel discussions at the Lemon Tree and, most impressively, a Sunday afternoon gig for children aged 9-12 at the Lemon Tree featuring Be Charlotte and Findlay Napier – one that even provided a day care crèche in the bar downstairs for adults whilst the kids rocked out upstairs.

Lunchtime sessions at The Lemon Tree also had The 101, Harmonica Movement and The Deportees play sets for those that like a bit of music whilst having a drink and bite to eat.

It’s the headline events that are the big draw though – and these kicked off on Thursday evening at the grand environs of His Majesty’s Theatre as Public Service Broadcasting and BDY_PRTS played to a large crowd of theatre goers and rock fans.

Support act BDY_PRTS, dressed in matching eye catching yellow and green outfits are a beguiling mixture of indie pop tunes mixed with Bjork style weirdness and some nifty choreography.  

The female duo, consisting of former Sparrow & The Workshop singer Jill O’Sullivan and ex-Strike the Colours musician Jenny Reeve – who has also guested on tracks by artists such as Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section, Idlewild and Snow Patrol among others.

With a new album, due later in the year, you’d be wise to check the band out as their infectious, quirky songs will see them go from strength to strength in time.

Headliners Public Service Broadcasting are no strangers to Aberdeen, this being their fourth visit to town.

However, the crowd at His Majesty’s Theatre is much larger than the previous concerts at The Lemon Tree.

Not that this daunts them – they’re a much more polished act, used to the big stage and more confident than the they were on earlier visits, three or four years ago, when promoting their debut album.

Since their last visit, they’ve released a further couple of albums – 2015’s ‘The Race for Space’ and this year’s ‘Every Valley’, which is a concept album based on the Welsh Mining Industry.

If that seems to be quite a dry and boring idea for an album then you’d be wrong, as the band mix spoken word samples from old film and radio with a light, Kraftwerk-esque, danceable pop sheen.

There’s a pathos and depth to their music that can be sometimes be lost by instrumental electronic bands. But you can dance to it as well – although in the all seated environs of HMT there’s no real rush to do this by all audience members. But, by the end, the crowd are on their feet in rapturous applause as the band power through set filled with tracks such as ‘Progress’, ‘Go!’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Everest’ from their three studio albums.

Special mentions must also go to the horn section and the spaceman that appear onstage with the band for their own individual brand of enthusiastic dancing.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we see them back in town.

The night isn’t over yet though. For the brave, foolhardy and those without work the following day, there’s still a late-night gig at The Lemon Tree to attend.

Those quick enough to hot foot in down from HMT would have hopefully been able to catch the bulk of C.Macleod’s opening set. Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, the singer songwriter is alone on stage with only his electric guitar and rootsy, raw vocals to fill the space.

And it’s the voice that grips you – a deep rasp that has hints of Springsteen, the authentic roar of heartfelt Americana and the raging howl of the seas of his native shores in there. It’s a voice that has no business coming from someone so young – it’s the sound of experience and age. Check him out now before he goes on to bigger things.

Headliners Wild Beasts are a different proposition – flanked either side of the stage by banks of keyboards, the band are an exciting mix of indie synth pop and art-rock cool.
Singer Hayden Thorpe is a confident front man, standing centre stage commanding the crowd. Unlike opener C.MacLeod, his voice is a high falsetto that fits well over the band’s music. He jokingly interacts with the crowd and engages them in a friendly, jovial manner that endears him to them.

It’s well after midnight when the band finishes but the night is not over yet as a late-night set by Hot Sauce DJs keeps the stragglers entertained well into the wee small hours.

Friday night and it’s down to The Tivoli theatre and a double bill of Geordie folk singer Richard Dawson and Falkirk’s finest miserablists, the mighty Arab Strap.

Calling him a folk singer doesn’t do Richard Dawson justice – he’s a much more bamboozling and entertaining performer than that. Singing either a cappella or accompanied by a guitar that constantly goes out of tune he is a revelation, winning over new fans in his 30-minute set.

Apparently inspired by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his vocal range is enormous – from low depths to soaring highs, all in the space of verses and choruses of the same songs. The music is traditional but also experimental and Avant Garde – accessible but difficult, impenetrable but melodic.

Between songs, he is funny, self-depreciating and, quite truthfully, a bit mad. Random tall tales include staying at the ‘doggy hotel’ and getting showered down in the yard, about how in the future babies will be made on spaceships by computer and of confusion as to the fate of Judas Iscariot (Dawson preferred the gorier version of this particular tale).

And, to top it off, he introduces his last song by saying that after it he’s then going to “get drunk…. And have a poo”. And that sums him up really – there’s no boundaries to him or his music.

Arab Strap at The Tivoli.

Not many performers have trod the boards of the Tivoli and opened with the couplet “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen / But you’ve no idea where that cock has been” – but, then, not many performers are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap.

A year after the bands reformation, vocalist Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton have finally made it up north, a full 11 years after their last performance here. Good things come to those who wait,
however, and Arab Strap are a good thing tonight
for sure.

Moffat, stage front and centre, is an amiable and friendly frontman and he’s in a buoyant, good humoured mood tonight with his between song tales. One highlight being a story of buying a parachute jump as present for a girlfriend who he subsequently found out was cheating on him so they finish. Next time he sees her she’s on crutches – after breaking her legs doing the parachute jump.

But it’s the songs that are Arab Strap’s greatest strength, as they should be. It’s a great feeling to hear classics such as ‘Girls of Summer’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ live once more. But it’s set closer ‘The Last Big Weekend’ that’s their stone cold classic and it’s still as thrilling and exciting nearly two decades after it was first released.

Late night at The Lemon Tree on Friday offers up another double bill of live acts as well as Radio Scotland DJ Galloway spinning tunes till late at night.

The opening act are Indigo Velvet, a young band from Edinburgh who first made a splash on the scene by playing T in The Park’s T Break Stage last year. Headlining are Manchester band Dutch Uncles.
It’s their first time in the Granite City and, according to singer Duncan Wallis, “It’s very grey”.

A lone voice pops up from the crowd to say “Aye, 50 shades of” to his bemusement.

It’s Wallis that’s the centre point of the band – his bendy legged dancing and high pitched, androgynous vocals proving to be quite a talking point.

Come Saturday and it’s time for the main event of the weekend at HMT as a stellar line up of guest vocalists perform Fleetwood Mac’s classic magnum opus in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Previous years have seen similar tributes to Kate Bush and Neil Young and proved to be a great success and this was also to be the case tonight.

Backed by musicians Start to End, the singers include luminaries such as Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Be Charlotte, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Martha Ffion and last year’s compere and band leader, Emma Pollock.

The first half of the night comprises of a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits set with cuts such as ‘Rhainnon’, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Tusk’ and more given an airing.

After the interval, it’s straight in ‘Rumours’ from beginning to end with a different singer taking each song before everyone takes to the stage for an encore of ‘Everywhere’.

It’s a fun experience that drew a mixed crowd – older HMT regulars that you wouldn’t necessarily see at the Lemon Tree gigs; gig regulars that are there to see the singer of their favourite band and, of course, Fleetwood Mac fans that are at the venue for the first time that might not be going to any other event.

I’m generalising slightly, but it’s good to see such an eclectic mix of punters and it’ll be interesting to see which singer or band gets the tribute next year.

Once that is over, it’s time to head to the Lemon Tree for the True North After Party, with headliner Pictish Trail and newcomers Neon Waltz.

Neon Waltz are tipped for big things – and it’s easy to see why.

The band are based in Thurso and John O’Groats and were subject of an article in The Guardian just days after their appearance here.

They have the looks – and the adoring female fans – that will take them places. Their sound is reminiscent of The Verve, Stone Roses, Oasis and Britpop – a pleasant, keyboard drenched indie sound with 90s influences and the polished sheen of current pop.

Behind the dry ice and red lighting singer Jordan Shearer could pass for a young Tim Burgess of The Charlatans – hunched over the mic in a similar fashion with that distinctive bowl cut.

This will probably be their last support slot in the Lemon Tree – they’ll be headlining it soon enough.

Headliner Pictish Trail is no stranger to this venue, having played it numerous times. And if you’ve never seen or heard him before then you’ve missed out.

His music is folky, electronic and rocky – sometimes all in the same song. Between songs, he could pass as a comedian, such is his wit – droll and downright funny. He has a toy plastic horse on stage and changes into what can only be described as a psychedelic orange dress.

Oh, and he has a large beard and is wearing sparkly makeup.

All of which would mark him as a novelty act but he is anything but. Tracks from albums ‘Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2’ and the recent ‘Future Echoes’ sound fantastic tonight – especially the wonderful and haunting ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ written about “The greatest film ever made” according to the man known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch.

The movie is question is ‘Fargo’ incidentally. There’s a good chance he’s completely correct as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see him live and tonight was no exception.

Despite this being the festival after party, there’s still one major gig to come on the Sunday night at The Tivoli theatre – and that’s a double bill of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and Frightened Rabbit front Scott Hutchison.

Hidden behind her piano with a glass of red wine and accompanied by percussionist Marcus Mackay, Joseph is first on stage.

Her songs are objects of beauty – her whispery voice plunging the depths of despair and depression whilst floating poetically over the haunting music.

She genuinely takes you places sonically and emotionally, with tracks that are, at turns, poignant and angry but somehow comforting and warm.

Soul baring lyrics are sung with a whisper, but are an inner scream to her fragility, to her openness and to her wounded soul.

It’s easy to compare her to Kate Bush or Tori Amos but such comparisons are superficial and lazy – based purely on her voice and her gender. But her music, and her words, transcend gender and classification – she may not sound like Nick Cave or Tom Waits vocally, but these are good comparisons. There’s a Gothic bleakness in there, beneath the melodies, and subjects so weighty that no 3 minute could do them justice.

The crowd are rapt – silently trapped in her songs, only taken back to reality by her whispered between song monologues.

Her next Aberdeen date is on December 28th at The Tunnels – don’t miss it.

Headliner Scott Hutchison has an equal depth to his words and emotions – something that can sometimes be hidden when backed by a loud rock band.

But tonight, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the emotions are there to see. His music, and musings, make a perfect accompaniment to Joseph. As well as similar themes and emotions the two share a genuine friendship and camaraderie as shown by their joking conversations during the gig as he talks to her in her seat on the balcony.

His acoustic renditions of Frightened Rabbit songs are equal to, or in some cases better than, the originals.

If there’s any complaint, however, is that his band have sold out both the Music Hall and Beach Ballroom in recent years but tickets remain for tonight. Sorry, but if you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you weren’t there then you genuinely missed something special.

And after Hutchison leaves the stage that’s it all over – the gig, the weekend and the wonderful True North Festival. It’s been an overwhelming and impressive few days and praise must go to the attendees, the artists and especially to the unsung organisers behind the scene who have made it a fantastic weekend of music and song.

Here’s to next year and to more of the same.

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Sep 222017
 

With thanks to Jill Lerner, James H Soars Media Services.

Neville Staple, also known as The Original Rudeboy, is credited with changing the face of pop music not only once but twice.

He is a living legend, and his band, The Neville Staple Band are appearing at The Assembly, Aberdeen on Friday Oct 7.

Neville Staple’s thirty-five year career in the music business is well documented, from the early days with The Coventry Automatics, The Specials and Fun Boy Three in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, to The Special Beat and various other collaborations during his solo career from the ‘90s up to the present day.

Neville’s 2-Tone legacy is huge. 2-Tone fused traditional ska music with punk rock attitude, energy and musical elements. The movement helped to transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain.

The actual imagery of 2 Tone has become almost as famous as the music itself. The famous black and white chequered design has become synonymous with ska.

About his musical legacy, Neville Staple comments: 

“The way we brought it was mixing Jamaican music with the English style, which was actually punk at the time. Now most people are into ska, they listen to all the people that we talked about that they might not have listened to before… This has happened again and again with the different waves of ska.

“I am hearing lots more young bands now also putting their own spin on ska – some with dance music and some with a rock beat. It’s all good. The music just makes you want to dance. Even when singing about tough times, every-day things or bad things, the beat and the rhythm makes you want to move!” 

Neville’s autobiography, THE ORIGINAL RUDE BOY, was published by Aurum Press in the UK in May 2009. It is an amazing story that tells of Neville’s interest in music in the early ‘60s, his relationship with Pete Waterman (record producer, songwriter, radio and club DJ and television presenter) who he met at a club in Coventry and his rise out of hell into stardom.

“Out on his own, still pretty special” – Record Collector

Neville has a way with people, he cares about his audience and wants to give them a good time. In return, the crowd are word perfect on every song and each event turns into a party.

“Nothing came close to the sensational Neville Staple Band who really got the party started and had the masses dancing along” – Anita Merritt – Exeter Express & Echo.

Reviews of the latest album release Feb 2017 – Return Of Judge Roughneck:

“For me, ska and reggae has to be spot on to really work. Yes, I am a snob! Life’s too short. The proof is that, once you listen to ‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’, you will be smiling, nodding and indeed a-grooving round your lounge. It’s fun, but he means it”.  Martin Haslam, Uber Rock, Feb 2017.

“it is a joyous concoction of ska, reggae and dub, featuring intriguing remixes and fascinating bastardisations of old favourites. Add to the mix a few choice cover versions, and unexpected ones at that, and what you get is a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish”. Loz Etheridge, God Is In The TV.  Feb 2017.

 The Neville Staple Band

The Assembly,
3 Skene Terrace,
Aberdeen.
AB10 1RN.

Doors: 19:00  
Tickets: £20.00  
Venue: 01224 633336

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Sep 222017
 

Elizabeth Pittendrigh, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Therine Henderson at the Fraserburgh & District Older People’s stand.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson was a guest speaker at the annual Celebrate the Difference event in Fraserburgh on Saturday.
The popular event which brings together the varied cultures and people who call Fraserburgh home and provides an afternoon of Music, Entertainment and Food as well as a showcase for the local voluntary and charitable organisations to meet with local residents.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to have taken part in another successful Celebrate the Difference event at Fraserburgh College this weekend”

“It was good to meet people from around the world who chose to live in the Fraserburgh area and to learn a little about their heritage and culture, as well as our own. Events such as this show the fantastic community spirit we have in the North-east and I would like to thank Margaret Gault and all of the organisers who work tirelessly to make this annual event a success”

“As well the food song and dance, Celebrating the Difference provides many local organisations and voluntary groups an opportunity to highlight the important work and services they provide to the local community, after all when we celebrate the difference, we also make a difference.”

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Sep 222017
 

Take the plot of a 1968 Italian-shot slap-stick Hollywood sex-comedy, add in a big bunch of ABBA hits and what have you got? That would-be Mama Mia! of course.Duncan Harley reviews.

The original Hollywood story-line involved Gina Lollobrigida as Italian housewife Mrs Carla Campbell who, following a short but ultimately successful war-time tryst with three US servicemen, tries to frantically to maintain a cover story which has led to three separate sets of child-support winging their way across the Atlantic for the past 20 odd years.

The film was titled Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, Carla Campbell was named after a famous soup brand and the alleged fathers included Phil Silvers and Telly Savalas. You really couldn’t make it up.

Mama Mia! the Musical of course is set in the 70’s, involves a bunch of liberated ex-back-packers reunited at a Greek wedding and, instead of highlighting benefit fraud, focuses more on female emancipation and freedom of action. Laudable sentiments indeed.

Basically, the musical begins on an Aegean Island. Single-parented child Sophie Sheridan, played by Lucy May Barker, is due to marry fiancée Sky but has no dad to walk her down the aisle. Fortunately, Mum’s secret diary has been compromised and bride to be Sophie has invited three paternal candidates – Sam, Bill and Harry –  to the wedding. Seemingly dads in Sophie-world are like buses, you don’t see one for a couple of decades and then they all come at once.

Unfortunately, ex-pat taverna owner mum, Donna –  Helen Hobson – is not amused. Elements of farce follow; closely interspersed with a jukebox-full of Dancing Queens, Super Troupers and Voulez-Vous. Unsurprisingly, the wedding does not go off as planned.

Entertaining from the word go, this colourful and extravagantly costumed musical punches high. Fans of high-heels, wide-flares and Lycra will not be disappointed. Nor will aficionados of dancing men in dresses or indeed dashingly athletic men in wet-suits and flippers.

Yes, there is an occasional bumpy moment where the transition between the dialogue and the musical numbers appears just a smidgen contrived and yes there is that panto-land-parody climax where everything really seems awfully rushed and everyone is suddenly getting hitched.

But in the big scheme of things this is simple good old-fashioned entertainment on a grand scale and it works surprisingly well.

Jukebox-wise, the show squeezes in around twenty Benny and Bjorn numbers. Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Dancing Queen vie with Thank You for the Music, SOS and Winner Takes It All for prominence alongside that ABBA classic Mamma Mia.

The Broadway version of Lollobrigida’s Buona Sera Mrs Campbell seemingly stalled at the box-office but no such fate awaits the touring version of Mama Mia!
This is a show which will have you rummaging frantically through your cupboard looking for those long-lost dancing shoes.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday October 14th.

Sep 152017
 

Members of Kintore United 2007 with Coach George Boyd (left) and Cllr Glen Reid (right).

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

East Garioch councillor Glen Reid is delighted to announce that he has reached agreement with Aberdeenshire Council to open the superb 3G all weather football pitch at Midmill School to local youth sports group. The school was opened in November 2016, but the brand new pitch has been locked up and unavailable to anyone after the school day finished at 3.15pm.

Commenting, SNP councillor for East Garioch Glen Reid said:

“Today is a great day for the community with the opening up of this pitch. It is one of the reasons that I decided to stand for election in May. As a local resident and a member of Kintore Community Council, I had raised this matter repeatedly, but had no joy. Since being elected, I have campaigned tirelessly for this facility to be accessed by our children, and it’s great to welcome the footballers of Kintore United 2007s here to the inaugural training night.”

Kintore United, who have boys and girls age group teams from primary one right through to academy years, will have access to train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6.00 until 10.00 pm initially on a trial basis until the end of the year.

Continuing, SNP councillor Glen Reid said:

“If the trial is successful, then we will be looking at adding further dates and opening the venue up to school football teams as well. I wish to thank the Aberdeenshire Council officers who listened to the frustrations of the community. The local grass pitches can be a nightmare during the winter months and even other times of the year, so this facility now offers the children guaranteed training every week in an excellent environment.”

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Sep 152017
 

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

Sir Clive Woodward and Scott Kerr Mintra Group CEO.

The global energy industry can learn from training techniques used in the professional sports arena, according to rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Leading energy industry training provider, Mintra Group, hosted Sir Clive at its Aberdeen training facility on Carden Place for the company’s Raising the Bar event during Offshore Europe on Wednesday, September 6.

Sir Clive, whose theories and techniques helped conquer the rugby world in 2003 and drive Team GB to their greatest success to date at the London 2012 Olympics, addressed more than 100 guests about what makes a champion and how to create a winning culture.

During his presentation, Sir Clive covered themes including the ability to learn, performance under pressure and how marginal gains can lead to success.

Sir Clive said:

“The energy industry has rightly focused on training and competency solutions to improve performance and develop winning teams at all levels.

“Investing in these areas can make a significant impact on the success of any business and it’s clear to me that the sector could learn a lot from what is being done in the professional sports training arena where we are constantly pushing to improve.

“Even small improvements add up, and these marginal gains can make a big difference for companies looking to stand out in a competitive market.”

Mintra provides eLearning courses as well as training and competency management solutions to the global oil and gas and maritime industries.

Scott Kerr, CEO of Mintra Group, said:

“We were absolutely delighted that Sir Clive joined us for our Offshore Europe event in Aberdeen which proved very popular with guests.

“It was very interesting to hear about Sir Clive’s experience in training and performance improvement in sport and many of the techniques he highlighted could be adopted by the energy industry to improve performance, ensure competency and build a winning team.”

Mintra Group is owned by private equity firm, The Riverside Company, and has Norwegian roots. The company is a result of a recent merger between Mintra Trainingportal and OCS HR.

Mintra Trainingportal was established in Oslo in 1997, and specialised in tailor-made eLearning courses for the energy and petroleum sector.

OCS HR was founded in Bergen in 1983, and has since then grown into a leading international provider of HR, payroll and crew management for the offshore and maritime sector. Mintra Group has offices in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Aberdeen, Dubai and Singapore.

Sep 072017
 

Old Susannah returns, less feeling her age than feeling her rage. By Suzanne Kelly.

I wish we could ask the late Ian Bell, award-winning Scottish columnist who died in his late 50s, what he’d think of an award in his name that excluded anyone over 30.

Awards and prizes are a great help for upcoming journalists who need to be acknowledged and employed. The NUJ which is involved in this award with Bell’s family, have decided that young writers need encouragement. Over 30? You need not apply.

Not everyone who emerges from a degree course or NCTJ training is under 30. Many people decide to change their careers by choice or force.

Aberdeen has seen 60,000 oil industry jobs go in the latest downturn. Anyone who loves Scotland as Bell did will be concerned for the future of these people, more than a few of whom are older than 30 or, believe it or not, some are even older. 

Many people take up journalism after spending decades watching politicians and stories come and go. Older people have personally experienced more of how the political pendulum swings and have seen more scandals, triumphs and failures than their younger writing counterparts. Serious journalism students of all ages will of course read deeply into historic issues and great writers. 

Sadly, I’ve met fellow students who don’t for instance have any idea who the late great Paul Foot was.

William Faulkner said:

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

It seems the organisers of this Ian Bell award have prioritised these three traits for us.

Faulkner left out the fact writers need to earn money though, and that is a major factor as to why writers apply for awards. Any journalist going for awards who does so just for the temporary food, praise and trophies these dog and pony shows provide for the ego is not going to get far (unless they are related to someone famous in this world where nepotism extends through every sector from music and the arts through to the Oval Office).

The NUJ is part of the problem in this situation. If this were a completely private prize, then the organisers are free to stipulate that the contestants must all have blue eyes, wear Ancient Weathered MacKay and have been born in Edinburgh in 1988 if it pleases them. But when the National Union of Journalists proudly promotes a competition that excludes a sector of society over a trait they have no control over such as their age, it is discrimination.

Substitute ‘under 30’ in the competition literature for ‘black’ ‘straight’ ‘white’ ‘French’ ‘gay’ ‘over 6′ tall’ – if you need the discriminatory nature of this award spelled out to you, and you will begin to see why this is so very wrong. It’s a union and it’s saying only those under 30 need apply. Is this behaving like a responsible, equitable union?

Sectors of our culture and the media are obsessed with youth. In some sectors happily this is changing. Modelling agencies specialising in older talents realise we have a growing older population.

Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers

If an industry based on outward appearance acknowledges that older people have a great deal to contribute and are to be hired and rewarded, why on earth is a sector based on the mind’s ability to synthesise and create excluding such a rich seam of talent?

What would Bell, who was born in 1956, say about excluding people who are younger than he was when he passed for an award in his name?

His passion for Scotland – is this something he felt only the young could share? The family and the NUJ have indicated that young people may be more likely to write in Bell’s style. They are welcome to explain if that means those under 30 are sharper, better writers, more concerned with issues, and better than their older counterparts trying to break into journalism. We should be told.

The NUJ reps replied fairly swiftly to early complaints about this ageist competition. They have been asked to supply a statement on their position on ageism but have not done so yet. When they do, it will be published here.

The deadline is 15 November. Doubtless a dinner will be held for the finalists, a happy winner will make a speech, and everyone will go home after a feeding and watering, some with new job leads. Everyone who participates is saying they agree with age limits on prizes to writers. Sadly that includes family members who should know better, and the NUJ, which has really compromised itself this time.

There seem to be many awards for writers under 25 or under 30. Many of these are for specific disciplines. This is not discriminatory; it makes sense to look for the best people in specialised fields. What does not make sense is telling people over 25 or 30 that it is acceptable to exclude them. The message is clear: you are not valued if you are not young. 

The NUJ and Bell’s family are applauded for commemorating a great writer. It is however a pity how they decided to do this while shutting the door on so many others.

On a personal note:

This week I found out I passed my NCTJ exams and am now qualified to write. I’ve been writing for many years about Scottish issues from cases of corruption, ineptitude, conflicts of interest, Trump’s involvement, environmental issues, animal welfare, people abused by ATOS and the system.

I’m 56. If continuing to fight against discrimination puts me at odds with a union I’ve just joined so be it.

The people who inspired me to get involved with Aberdeen Voice (an independent, not-for-profit apolitical online publication) were all over 40. We happily took submissions from people in their teens through to pensioners. Am I wrong to expect the same level of integrity and inclusiveness in the NUJ as I do from Aberdeen Voice? It would seem so. 

If this essay seems like sour grapes, it is not myself I am thinking of any more than when I’ve tried to champion Menie resident, ATOS-persecuted people, pensioners and others discriminated against. I am possibly better placed than other upcoming older journalists to find that important first job than many of them are – this kind of bias makes me fear for their futures. 

This is about a union’s responsibility to all of its members, to fighting ageism and treating it as seriously as I would any other form of discrimination. This is about hundreds of older writers who should be considered for this and other prizes. There are forces that would turn journalism into a workplace for young people only – there is a national I know of that unofficially only hires those under 25.

Youth is a wonderful thing. It is also just a bit coincidental that you can pay younger people less than older people in some situations. If your news source seems to be dumbing down, you might want to look at its inclusiveness policies – if any.

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