Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

North-east artists have been adding their own splash of colour to Aberdeen city centre as part of an annual project to promote arts and culture. Aberdeen Inspired’s Summer of Art programme is already in full swing this year with a range of creative projects being held across the city centre, including the Painted Doors project.

The project will see artists work on decorative paintings on doors of local businesses, shops and other premises on Langstane Place, Windmill Brae and around Aberdeen Market until the end of the month.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The Summer of Art programme is about working in partnership with local artists to make art accessible to all, as well as being a fantastic way to utilise and brighten the city centre.

“Our Painted Doors project is underway again following a very successful debut last year. Several new doors have already been completed and there are more in the pipeline to be completed before the end of August.”

As part of Summer of Art, plans are also being developed for the city centres first outdoor creative space which will allow artists to use a wall in the near Aberdeen Market at the East Green, as a canvass to create their own colourful murals following the successful Nuart Aberdeen Festival earlier this year.

Mary Butterworth, Summer of Art Curator, said:

“It has been an amazing year for art and culture in Aberdeen, it’s been a joy to see it all so well received by the public and the creative community is buzzing. 

“Last year’s Summer of Art was a catalyst for change in the city and I was proud to curate the Painted Doors project with Aberdeen Inspired. The project recognised our city’s artists and put stunning artworks on the street for the public to enjoy. Public appetite for street art is overwhelming and this was demonstrated by the success of Nuart Aberdeen.

“Aberdeen’s own creativity, sometimes overlooked, has always been here but now we can see it every day, in our doorways and on our streets.

“This year we’re adding new doors and artists to the Painted Doors line up, building upon the foundation we laid last year. Seeing art and all forms of creativity and culture on the streets is a vital part of the energy and atmosphere of any city. 

“We have worked hard on creating some new initiatives for this year’s Summer of Art, including developing plans for a creative space, to inspire the public to get involved and unleash more of that local creative energy.”

Aberdeen Inspired is also now reviewing applications for its Grass Roots fund which was launched to support the delivery of local and independent creative arts projects and interventions in the city centre over the summer.

The programme aims to cultivate and support ideas and talent in Aberdeen whilst enriching the heart of the city with street and visual arts as well as music and drama this summer. Applications were sought from individuals and groups for grants in three categories: up to £500; up to £2,000; and more than £2,000.

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID 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. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Aug 112017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – at HM Theatre, Aberdeen.

The last time I reviewed Curious I was over the moon.
A complete blast from beginning to end, the production enthralled, captivated and amazed.
Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the audience experience.

It’s more of an immersive introduction to the reality of not being able eat the yellow portions of a Battenberg cake – the pink squares are OK –  and finding that the toilet is out of bounds because a complete stranger has used it.

Based on the book of the same nameThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time highlights some of the issues faced by those who come into contact with those who differ markedly from the norm and of course many of the issues faced by those who are by nature quite different.

The book’s author Mark Haddon comments that:

“Curious is not really about Christopher at all, it’s about us.”

He may have a point.

Christopher, played by Scott Reid, exhibits what can really only be described as mind-blowingly challenging behavioural traits. He cannot bear to be touched, he becomes unbearably swamped by external stimuli, he cannot use a stranger’s toilet, he cannot tell a lie and takes everything completely literally – the list goes on and inevitably ticks all of the diagnostic boxes.

The play presents as a reading of Christopher’s own written thoughts, read aloud in segments mainly by his mentor and school-teacher Siobhan, played beautifully by Lucianne McEvoy. The unfolding story takes place within a high-tech multi-media cuboid-set representing a gateway into Christopher’s consciousness. The drama literally takes place in Christopher’s head.

When Wellington, the next-door neighbour’s dog, is found impaled; fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician with some pretty complex personal issues, turns sleuth.
Emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, he must solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ pet and absolve himself of complicity.

After a long and often painful journey, including the realisation that Holmes was in fact a fictional detective, he solves the crime and is absolved. However, in the course of the exhaustive investigation he discovers skeletons galore in the family cupboard.

At times funny, often terrifyingly intense and always challenging, Curious is a superb production and Scott Reid’s performance as Christopher is both electrifying in its intensity and engaging in its complexity.

There are lighter moments. Animal lovers will drool over the cute Andrex Puppy.

They may even take a fancy to Toby, Christopher’s pet rat.

David Michaels and Emma Beattie excel as the long suffering and often desperate parents, kindly neighbours peek into his life and at one point a cheerily upbeat railway policeman takes time out to help him on his quest but it has to be said that this is essentially a stage show all about Christopher.

The technical aspects of the production are worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and have to be experienced to be believed. Aboyne born video designer Finn Ross has worked on everything from Festival Fringe through to Broadway and his expertise in combining live and pre-recorded imagery takes this live performance into exciting new realms. Lighting, sound and set design are likewise superb.

Ultimately this play examines the nature of abnormality and the challenge of defining limitations. Having solved the gruesome dog murder and dismissed lingering doubts regarding his mathematical ability Christopher asks teacher Siobhan “Does this mean I can do anything?”
She does not reply.

Somehow, Aspergers will never quite seem the same ever again …

Directed by Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 12th August.

Words © Duncan Harley and images courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Aug 042017
 

Peacock Visual Arts present Ignore the Management, an exhibition by Michele Horrigan and Sean Lynch. With thanks to John Morrison, Marketing & Communications Manager, Peacock Visual Arts.

For some years now, through both artistic and curatorial activities, Michele Horrigan and Sean Lynch have investigated the multifaceted nature of the public realm. With a focus on their native Ireland, their activities find and develop models that challenge the societal measures and institutional values that aim to manage and orient human behaviour in our increasingly technocratic world.

Sean Lynch presents two videos at the W OR M project space in Aberdeen’s historic Castlegate.

Latoon focuses on an unusual story of a whitethorn bush close to Lynch’s studio in Limerick. In 1999, folklorist Eddie Lenihan campaigned to have a multi million-euro roadway redirected in order to save the bush, which he had argued was an important meeting place for fairies – the bush’s destruction would lead to supernatural havoc on the new motorway.

Years later, Lynch interviewed Lenihan at the site about the dangers of fairy culture, the incessant march of progress and the hope that the bush will somehow survive this onslaught.

Also on exhibit is Campaign to Change the National Monuments Acts, a video that investigates the legal status of metal detectors in Ireland.

Following national controversy around the finding of the Derrynaflan Hoard, a medieval treasure trove uncovered in the 1980s, the state hastily placed a blanket ban on the public use of all devices used to search for archaeological objects – this legislation effectively destroyed any fledgling metal detectorist community.

Lynch advocates for a change in these authoritarian laws, where ideas of nationhood, individual freedom, and the need for new forms of community-led heritage are explored in a journey narrated by his long-time collaborator Gina Moxley.

For several years, Michele Horrigan has been following an exploratory trail of investigation around the mineral ore bauxite. Imported from Guinea in Africa into Ireland’s largest industrial complex in Horrigan’s hometown of Askeaton, bauxite is then refined and smelted to become aluminium, the world’s most versatile metal used in computer parts and engines, drink cans and airplanes.

Amongst her collection of archival and photographic material relating to this process, Horrigan presents two disparate gestures, an aluminium sculpture and a dance performance, each further questioning the role of the personal in relationship to the pervasiveness of global manufacturing.

Working at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Aberdeenshire, Horrigan made an aluminium replica of the apex of the Washington Memorial, remembering the shape given to the Masonic all-seeing eye of imperialism made from what was the world’s most precious metal in 1884. Then, in a field close to a refinery with chimney stacks divulging a steady stream of smoke, Horrigan is seen glibly re-enacting dance scenes from the 1983 movie Flashdance, where a heroine works in Pittsburgh’s mills while at night pursues her real dream of dancing.

Here, the title of Horrigan’s artwork, Stigma Damages seems pertinent. Used as a legal term to describe possible loss or suspected contamination due to environmental circumstance, both her actions seem to exist as a consequence or personal reaction to the rest of material on show, as a sensibility borne out of the disaffection of the individual against global flow and capital.

Sean Lynch and Michele Horrigan have exhibited throughout Europe and North America, including the Venice Biennale. Since 2006 they have organised Askeaton Contemporary Arts in southwest Ireland, initiating artist residencies, exhibitions and publications with over one hundred artists from around the world. During their time in Aberdeen, they will present several workshops as part of Free Press, a new publication project curated by Peacock Visual Arts, in partnership with Station House Media Unit and Aberdeen University Library Special Collections.

Exhibition: Ignore the Management // Michele Horrigan and Sean Lynch
Date: 9 September – 21 October 2017
Opening: Friday 8 September 2017, 6-8pm. All welcome.
Location: the W OR M, 11 Castle Street, Aberdeen

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub.

Organisers of Aberdeen Comedy Festival have signed up several new venues across the city centre as they announce a new and improved format for this year.
A total of ten new venues have signed up to host stand-up shows in the Granite City later this year, bringing the total number of venues to 27.
Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, this years’ festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday,
October 15.

The eleven-day festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, will feature national and international comedians performing across the city centre.

New venues for 2017 include, the Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, Sing City, La Lombarda Basement Bar, The Shack, The Wild Boar, Spin, NOX, Lemon Tree, and the Wee Glen situated in Glentanar Bar.

Venues for the festival now range from a capacity of 30 seats at the Wee Glen to 350 seats at Aberdeen Arts Centre, giving organisers venues around the city centre to suit to suit any act or audience.

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub and the Belmont Filmhouse will screen several comedy movies throughout the festival, including Airplane! and Wayne’s World.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival will comprise over 50 events, including five free stand-up shows, comedy workshops for children and adults, kids shows, and local talent showcases.

The festival format has been changed this year to include a selection of solo performances as well as shows with several comedians taking to the stage.

Shows will also be staggered so comedy fans have the opportunity to attend several without having to choose between events starting at the same time.

Described as the Canadian Billy Connolly, Craig Campbell will headline the launch of the festival at the Lemon Tree in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA).

Scottish comedian Fred MacAulay, who performed at the festival last year, will make a return alongside other comedians, including Patrick Monahan, Gary Delaney and Shazia Mirza – who have all recently featured on a range of panel shows on TV.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome our new venues to Aberdeen Comedy Festival this year. It’s great to have more businesses involved after the festival’s very successful debut in 2016.

“It really captured the imagination and people turned out in large numbers for shows across the city centre which had a positive knock-on effect for businesses. As well as Aberdonians, we welcomed people from the wider north-east area and beyond who were keen to see comedy shows.

“The full line-up will be announced soon and we hope people will take the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic range of comedy which will be performed on their doorstep.”

More than 3,100 tickets were sold during the laughter filled extravaganza in 2016, as well as over 1,500 tickets from APA and Beach Ballroom promoted events.

Gavin Paterson, general manager of Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, said:

“Aberdeen Comedy Festival is a fantastic opportunity for businesses in the city centre to showcase their venues and host stand-up shows for the public.

“When we saw how successful the festival was in its first year we were very keen to play our part in 2017 and we are delighted to be hosting both Australian comic Damian Clark and the returning Billy Kirkwood who really impressed Aberdonian crowds last year.”

Colin Farquhar, Belmont Filmhouse cinema manager, added:

“We’re very excited to be involved in this year’s Aberdeen Comedy Festival. It’s another great string to the city’s cultural bow and we’re delighted that as well as screening some classic comedies, we’re able to host a few stand-up performances too.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID 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. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

With over 40,000 different types of plants in bloom this summer, Pitmedden Garden is more than used to hosting colourful spectacles.

But nothing could prepare the historic country house for the vivid display of lycra and sequins worn by ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest-running ABBA tribute concert.

As classic hits like Waterloo and Dancing Queen ring out from the stage and the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine wafts through the air, the captivating show on Saturday, July 29 will be a true assault on the senses.

The elegant renaissance garden in Aberdeenshire, which is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, will be one of the more unusual venues that ABBAMANIA has graced.

However, it’s a stage that the band members have been looking forward to all summer – and one which they believe the original line-up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngsta would have loved.

Scots singer Sharon Fehlberg – who has the alter ego of Anni-Frid – says,

“We have performed there once before and it is an absolutely fantastic venue. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, so fingers crossed the sun will shine for us again.

“People still love the music of ABBA after all these years because they created timeless pop songs. You just don’t get music like that now.

“The film and stage show Mamma Mia has introduced a new generation to their music, but we have always seen people of different ages in our audience, from five-year-olds to grandparents.

“We love playing in the north because audiences get so into it. The audience reaction is always the same – no matter what the age, they want to have fun and enjoy listening to great music. That kind of enthusiasm lights up the whole place, and as a performer that feeling is amazing.”

ABBAMANIA features the Eurovision winners’ most memorable hits from Winner Takes It All to Take A Chance. The group, which also includes Ewa Scott, Adam Robertson and Steven Galet, focuses on recreating ABBA gigs as audiences would have seen them in the 1970s.

That means that, unlike other tribute acts, there are not scores of backing dancers and complex dance routines. The ABBAMANIA show brings the energy of the performance, but focuses on vocals, musicianship and musical arrangements.

It’s an approach that has resulted in the act, which has been going since 1999, touring all over the UK, Europe and the Philippines, and a trip to the States is also on the cards for 2018.

Sharon Fehlberg of ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest running ABBA tribute act.

Sharon (36) joined ABBAMANIA four-and-a-half years ago after fending off competition from dozens of other hopefuls at an open audition.

She was writing dance music in the studio at the time, but never regrets her decision to don catsuits and capes every weekend.

Some might say that she was destined for a career in showbusiness. Her father is a musician and her mother – Lorraine – was lead singer in the 1970s pop group Middle of the Road, best known for their hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

She was just three-years-old when she entered a recording studio for the first time, and spent much of her childhood on the road touring with her mum when she was not at school.

Sharon says,

“Music is in my bones and I knew the very first time that I put a microphone in my hand that I wanted to sing. I never thought of doing anything else.

“However, the music business is very, very tough. My mum was quite well known but that meant nothing: I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face and a lot of disappointments over the years.

“But eventually your time comes and I was over the moon to join ABBAMANIA. It’s like a dream come true and I have loved every minute of it. I’ve always been a fan of their music, probably because I grew up around that European poppy harmony sound.

“My favourite ABBA song, ever since I was a little girl, is Dancing Queen. It is such a feel-good song and I never get bored singing it. Audiences love it, and it’s amazing to look out and see people enjoying themselves, singing along and dancing.”

ABBAMANIA at Pitmedden Gardens is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, the country’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

Pitmedden Gardens is an outstanding example of a Scottish renaissance garden and the parterres at its heart are a masterpiece of intricate patterns and colour. It also has six miles of clipped boxed hedging.

The original garden was built in 1675, and it was recreated by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1950s based on designs found at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Fancy dress is, of course, optional at the ABBAMANIA show, but all are advised to dress warmly. Audience members are encouraged to take a picnic and a rug – or low seating – and some marquee seating is also available.

Tickets are priced £12.50 for adults and £6.50 for children, and are available at www.nts.org.uk. Gates open at 6pm with the show getting underway at 7pm.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Jul 212017
 

Blink 182 plus support at AECC. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

US pop-punk veterans Blink 182 returned to Aberdeen with a slick arena show filled with confetti canons, pyrotechnics and flamethrowers which pleased their fans old and young alike.

First band up on the three-band bill, however, were New Jersey band The Front Bottoms. 

Despite the Viz-like nature of their name, which has you suspecting they are less than serious proposition, the band play an introspective, but goofy, indie rock that is appreciated by the early arrivals in the arena.

Frontman Brian Sella formed the band nearly 10 years ago.

He stands stage front, strumming an acoustic guitar.

He engages with the crowd and endears himself with comments of wishing he could have lived his life in Scotland and a tale of getting hit by a golf earlier ball that day.

Flanked by his bandmates there is also the somewhat unusual spectacle of a couch on stage on which a couple of guys are sitting.

Their contribution to the set seems to involve nothing more than tapping away on their mobile phones and taking swigs from bottles of beer – nice job if you can get it, it must be said!

There are no couches or mobile phones on stage for the next act however as Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls take to the stage.

Bahrain born Turner had a seemingly un-punk upbringing – the son of an investment banker who went to Eton and studied alongside Prince William; his grandfather – a “Sir” no less – was the former chairman of high street store BHS.
But despite this privileged upbringing it’s hard to deny that Turner has paid his dues, moving from small toilet venues to arenas over the years whilst playing a socially conscious and politically charged brand of folk-punk that has gained him a loyal band of followers.

He commands the audience well tonight.

The sight of him getting the crowd to sit down and jump up in unison was quite exciting and he also brings one lucky young fan out of the audience, hands her a harmonica and has her play a mouth organ solo during one track.

He ends his set by crowd surfing in the audience which has security scrambling to get hold of him as the crowd go wild. It would be fair to say he would have won over a few new fans this night.

Finally, at 9pm sharp, Blink 182 take the stage. Starting the set behind a curtain with a picture of their logo imposed over a Union Flag, whilst the haunting electronica of the Stranger Things theme tune plays, it drops to rapturous applause and pyrotechnic explosions as the band blast into opener Feeling This.

The backdrop at this point is the rather unsubtle word FUCK in huge flames at the rear of the stage.

But, let’s be honest, Blink 182 are not in a band that deal in subtly much.

There are fleeting moments of introspection though – the cello-drenched and catchy I Miss You is a touching tale of lost love and the title track of last year’s California album is a nostalgic missive to their home state.

It’s the unsubtly of the show that provides the arena rock experience though and there is plenty of spectacle and show that has the crowd in raptures – a huge screen flashes behind the band, flame throwers spit high into air from behind the drum riser, confetti canons fire and drown the crowd in ticker tape whilst pyrotechnic explosions bellow smoke into the venue and test the fire alarms to their limits.

And this day-glo stramash of sound and vision isn’t just on the odd occasion – it’s in almost every song the band perform.

There is another exception to this sensory overload though as they perform one track in the dark, lit only by hundreds of mobile phones in the crowd.

Highlight of the set for the crowd is first track of the encore their big hit and probably best known song All the Small Things. Released over 17 years ago, it is older than a good proportion of the crowd here tonight, all of whom go wild to the raucous, three-minute classic of the US pop punk genre.

And then, after a couple of more tracks, it’s over – 22 songs in a compact, and slightly short, 75-minute set. All that’s left is for drummer Travis Barker’s teenage son to play out as the crowd head out into the early evening.

As was said, Blink 182 are not a band that deal in subtlety but if high adrenaline, slightly juvenile, slick, over the top arena shows are your thing then this would have made you very happy indeed.

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Jul 212017
 

With thanks to Kieran Booth.

Following her hit 2015 show, Miss Myrtle Throgmorton OBE (pending) is returning to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new production.
The critics, in 2015, stayed away but the audience came in droves and through word of mouth, a brief stint with the Really Terrible Orchestra and some energetic flyering, the show was sold out most nights – and everyone had a hoot! [“Very, very funny” – STV]  

So the game old trout, ancient heckler and exuberant enthusiast for all things Scottish, is back, Stuffed and Mounted, mad-rabbiting on about the delights of a long life – giddy aunts, Burns, beards, Creamola Foam, Zimmer Zumba and much more.

Myrtle is created by former BBC Comedy producer Jennie Campbell / Chalmers, and has been developed over many years although Jennie admits that the original bag-for-life is now, worryingly, more ‘ego’ than ‘alter’.  Since her Fringe debut, Miss Throgmorton has been making appearances across the North East of Scotland at charity gigs, Burns Suppers and two sell-out runs at the Haddo Arts Festival.

Myrtle’s accumulated years are off-set by the youthful vigour of baritone, Colin Brockie and pianist, Richard Bailey who join her for the three-week run at the Fringe. The production could also be unique on the 2017 Festival as the cast and crew all come from rural Aberdeenshire: Colin from Ellon, Richard from Udny, and Jennie, Kieran and Mary from Barthol Chapel.

Myrtle is still chairman of the Surrey Association for Lonely, Misplaced Or Non-Domiciled Scots [ALEX] but has been rusticated from her sheltered housing scheme [a minor misunderstanding over a game of sardines with her friend Midriff Bulge] and now lives as the permanent resident in a once–grand hotel.

The audience will be her ‘fellow diners’ and much conversation and banter will ensue as she shares her opinion on pretty much everything [advanced age is so liberating], punctuated by live and original music from Richard, some ‘proper’ singing from Colin and a little nifty hip work from Myrtle herself.  

Once again, every show will end with a surprise guest joining Myrtle for cheery chat over the coffee and mints. The audience is completely unaware who the guest will be – indeed Myrtle herself may not be entirely up to speed until just before the off.

2015 guests included Rory Bremner, Arnold Brown, Lieven Schiere and Alan Cumming. 

It could be a TV celebrity, an acclaimed author, the face of a familiar radio voice, a rising star, an unknown character with a story to tell, someone with a great, undiscovered show or the joker from the café on the corner…  A truly potluck surprise, in the spirit of the Fringe, and every one a guaranteed delight!

After a brief career as a London lawyer, and a briefer one cleaning houses, Jennie Campbell joined BBC Radio Comedy as a producer of such programmes as Week Ending, The News Quiz and The Edinburgh Festival Compilations, scouting the Fringe in the 80s for hungry new young talent.
On moving to Scotland, she switched from satirical news to the real thing and has been variously a radio presenter [Newsweek Scotland], news and current affairs producer, director of theatre, opera and musicals, drama teacher, arts organizer, serial committee member and session clerk.

With Myrtle Throgmorton, Jennie makes a long overdue return to her comedy roots.

Venue: Mint Studio | Greenside @ Infirmary St. [Venue 236]                   
Dates: 4th – 26th August [not Sundays]                     
Time: 18.25 [55 mins]                                                          

Tickets: £10/£9/£5 

Box Office: edfringe.com / 0131 618 0758
Website: www.myrtleproductions.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/myrtlethrog
Twitter: www.twitter.com/myrtlethrog   (@myrtlethrog)

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Jul 062017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Some of the most popular stand-up comedians from UK and beyond will return to the Granite City later this year for the second Aberdeen Comedy Festival.

Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, this year’s festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday, October 15.

The eleven-day festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, will feature national and international comedians performing at more than 20 venues throughout the city centre.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival will comprise around 50 events, including five free stand-up shows, comedy workshops for children and adults, kids shows, local talent showcases and comedy films screened at the Belmont Filmhouse.

Described as the Canadian Billy Connolly, Craig Campbell (pictured) will headline the launch of the festival at the Lemon Tree in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA).

Scottish comedian Fred MacAulay, who performed at the festival last year, will make a return alongside other comedians, including Justin Moorhouse, Gary Delaney and Shazia Mirza – who have all recently featured on a range of panel shows on TV.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We’re delighted to launch the second Aberdeen Comedy Festival following its tremendous success last year. It really captured the imagination and people turned out in strength for shows across the city centre which had a positive knock-on effect for businesses in the area.

“As well as Aberdonians, we welcomed people from the wider north-east area and beyond, and a group even travelled from Norway to see their favourite comedians perform on stage.

“Our aim is to provide the best comedy for both residents and visitors to Aberdeen to enjoy. We have some fantastic comedians already confirmed and the full line-up will be announced soon.

“We hope the public will take the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic range of comedy which will be performed on their doorstep.”

Alan Aitken, Operations Director of McGinty’s, added:

“As a local business, it’s great to welcome cultural events like the Comedy Festival to our city and following the success of last year, we’re really delighted to support the event again.

“It was great to see the people from Aberdeen and around the north-east out in force and enjoying a laugh, and we hope to see even more this year.”

More than 3,100 tickets were sold during the laughter filled extravaganza in 2016, as well as over 1,500 tickets from APA and Beach Ballroom promoted events.

Aberdeen Performing Arts’ director of programming and creative projects, Ben Torrie, said:

“We’re very excited to be supporting the Comedy Festival and we are looking forward to kicking things off with the gala launch night here at The Lemon Tree.”

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. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Jun 302017
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Chess – The Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre. 

Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017.

Chess – The Musical comes to the HMT stage this week courtesy of Aberdeen Opera Company Productions in collaboration with Scott School of Dancing and despite the slightly clunky original storyline and often clichéd characterisation this production of the pop-opera easily transcends the limitations of the scrip and delivers a powerful and entertaining take on the politics of the Cold War era.

It’s Friday night and the lights are low. Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same.

In fact, “Nobody’s on nobody’s side” and those long daggers are drawn for all to see. For those who missed out on the Cold War, welcome to the dark world of international chess seventies style.

A musical game of stealth, dark deals and exploitation takes the theatre audience on a wild trip through the murky and mysterious world of international pre-internet gaming. As the USSR and the USA battle it out in icy Merano and steamy Bangkok, Indian Attacks and Paris Gambits are to the fore as the grandmasters battle it out.

Essentially a love story, Chess features a love triangle subjected to some pretty cynical manipulation by the forces of politics and commerce.

Scott Jamieson’s brilliantly dysfunctional grandmaster, the aptly named Frederick Trumper, loses both his title and his lady to Gavin McKay’s dignified Anatoly Sergievsky. As the minders look on and the manipulators take charge, Florence Vassy, played by Rachael Watson, switches sides and seizes the starring role with powerful numbers such as ‘Heaven Help My Heart’ and, in duet with Amanda Massie’s Svetlana, ‘I Know Him So Well’.

The Chess-set is utilitarian verging on the Brutalist, the music ranges from rock to light opera and the choreography is, to say the least, fast-paced and razor-sharp. The tournament scenes are simply spell-binding and stage-lighting is simple but stunning!

Fresh from the 2016 hit production of Sunshine in Leith, the AOC theatre group has once again delivered a triumphant piece of entertainment. A must see.

Directed by Judith Stephen and based on an idea by Tim Rice with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017

Words © Duncan Harley. Images © Rhea McKenzie Photography

Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the city returns in September in what promises to be an entertaining weekend. True North, now in its’ third year, has announced another strong line up over the weekend of 7 – 10 September. Kicking off proceedings are highly acclaimed act Public Service Broadcasting

With their new album released in July their date at His Majesty’s Theatre on Thursday 7th September is sure to be a sell-out.

The album, entitled Every Valley, depicts the history of industry in Wales, chronicling the rise and decline of the country’s coal industry.

Following previous concerts at The Lemon Tree, this is Public Service Broadcasting’s biggest date in Aberdeen and, as anyone that has seen them before will testify, they are sure to put on another memorable performance.

If one gig isn’t enough on Thursday night, then be sure to pop past the Lemon Tree afterwards for a late show by art-rockers Wild Beasts. The band are scheduled to release a new album – Boy King – in August so this will provide an early opportunity to see them perform tracks from it.

Friday night again offers two bills in two venues –  cult Scottish indie band Arab Strap at The Tivoli whilst The Lemon Tree plays host to art-pop quartet Dutch Uncles.

The recently reformed Arab Strap recently sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom and at forthcoming events at the Kelvingrove Bandstand. The more intimate settings of The Tivoli will provide a perfect setting for the band’s unique storytelling and singular musical vision.

Manchester band Dutch Uncles take musical inspiration from Low-era Bowie, Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, East European Techno and, they claim, “some slightly less fashionable records belonging to their Dads”. With inspirations like that how could you afford to miss them?

Saturday night at The Lemon Tree also provides the opportunity to stay up late as Lost Map Records main-man The Pictish Trail, better known to friends and family as Johnny Lynch, brings his unique blend of folk, electro and humour to the stage there once again. Guest DJs will also be on hand to spin tunes into the wee small hours.

It’s His Majesty’s Theatre that provides the most intriguing performance of the weekend – a full band interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s legendry album Rumours. Start to End provide the musical backing and they will be joined onstage by musicians from Pronto Mama, Fat-Suit, Admiral Fallow and a few special guests still be announced. This should again prove a big draw and will appeal to fans of all ages.

Rounding up the weekend is a double bill of two Scotland’s most talented young performers as The Tivoli plays host to Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison and Kathryn Joseph, who was the winner of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year.

On top of the main performances there’ll also be a Fringe festival over the course the weekend at venues such as The Lemon Tree and intimate sessions at the Maritime Museum.

Tickets go on sale for all concerts on Friday 23rd November – http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/truenorth