Jun 032016

Dreich_Encounter_2Duncan Harley reviews ‘Dreich Encounter’ at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen,

In the classic 1945 David Lean romantic drama, Brief Encounter, Laura famously meets Alec at the local railway station and the chance encounter leads to unexpected consequences including an emotional love affair

In the classic 2016 Flying Pig’s comedy drama, Dreich Encounter, both Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are conspicuously absent.

Mither meets Faither on the sofa and then in the bedroom and then yet again in the sitting-room. Screenwriter Noël Coward would have simply loved the unconventionality of the Pig’s production.

Dreich is such a wonderfully emotive adjective. In a 2013 YouGov Plc opinion poll, which asked adults across the country to select their number one Scots word, it ranked well ahead of sleekit, glaikit and even blether; and a recent Tripadvisor review of the shortbread tin favourite Eilean Donan Castle really put the welly in when it concluded that the place was “dreich AND disappointing”.

Aberdeen’s very own Flying Pig’s latest offering ‘Dreich Encounter’ is far from dreich and certainly far from disappointing.

‘Father Ted meets Ivor Cutler’ utterly fails to describe this production adequately. With past classics such as ‘Stanley Cooslick’s Clockwork Sporran’, ‘Finzean in the Rain’, ‘All Quiet on the Westburn Front’ and ‘How to Look Glaikit’ firmly behind them; this new production elevates the Pig’s very own brand of parody-punkesque Doric humour to completely new levels.

From the moment the show opens with the startling announcement that “this evening’s performance has been sponsored by naebody” to the final sketch where Cooncillor Croonie introduces the theatre audience to the new and improved Aberdeen Town motto, no-one and certainly no public institution is safe from gentle ridicule.

As musical comedy sketch revue, ‘Dreich Encounter’ goes bravely where no-one else usually dares or wins. In fact anyone daft enough to emulate the Doric dynamos risks being put up against a wall in Broad Street and executed by firing squad.

Predictably, the Donald gets a mention, as does the Robbie Shepherd. Less predictably Anuptaphobia, medically defined as “a morbid fear of staying or remaining single” features briefly, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is sung with more up-to-date lyrics including the hilarious line “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the duck.”

There are 28 laughter-strewn sketches, featuring the likes of grand piano player Hilton John, the dulcet-toned, tartan-trewed Delmonte-jacketed Buckie Drifters, and of course Archie and Davie: this is a show which has something for everyone. Classics include the Bakery Wifies, a Doric A to Z, and Meikle Wartle TV, surely a parody of the Garioch’s very own household favourite, Kintore-based Turnip Radio.

Then there are the words and phrases. Best not repeat the punch line “I’m aff for a shite” perhaps; however lard arse, wobble-bottom and pleiter certainly make it into the non-expletive top ten.

For my money, Mither’s Happy Days and Mither’s Happy Anniversary represent the best that ‘Dreich Encounter’ has to offer. Reminiscent of Cutler’s Glasgow classic “Life in a Scotch Sitting Room”, “Mither” gently parodies the folk memories of the North east.
In fact you can almost taste that delightfully carbonated Blue Nun and those cheesy pineapple hedgehogs.

A Flying Pig Production, Dreich Encounter plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 11th June

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

Dec 032015

Duncan Harley reviews this year’s pantomime at HM Theatre, Aberdeen

Jordan Young (left), Elaine C Smith and Alan McHugh. Photo by Michal Wachucik-Abermedia

Jordan Young (left), Elaine C Smith and Alan McHugh. Photo by Michal Wachucik-Abermedia

Panto returned to the Aberdeen stage this week, with familiar faces Elaine C. Smith, Jordan Young and Alan McHugh firmly at the helm of the Jolly Roger, in this classic tale of the boy who never grew up.

The traditional story features a flying child, Peter Pan, who lives in Neverland and just likes to have fun.

Thrilling adventures unfold with the likes of pirates, Native Americans and of course a very alarmed crocodile. Faeries and Lost Boys feature, alongside tales of unrequited love and self sacrifice.

The flying child is in this case played by Scott Fletcher, who carries the role admirably, despite his obvious male attributes. Peter is frequently played by a woman.

The draft for the original 1904 J.M. Barrie play seemingly lacked both pirate ship and Captain Hook. Fortunately for theatre audiences, the author soon added both, and Peter Pan’s nemesis was born.

At Tuesday evening’s performance, and true to pantomime tradition, John Jack’s Captain Hook was resoundingly booed at points by an appreciative young audience, despite an engagingly villainous and faultless performance.

Written by Alan McHugh, who plays the colourfully boisterous Dame Maggie Celeste, this swashbuckling take on Peter Pan follows the traditional modern Pantomime route of audience engagement, plus several laughs a minute. Comedic duo, Dame Maggie and Jordan Young’s Smee work well together. Add Elaine C. Smith to the mix as the Magical Mermaid and the slapstick comedy takes off big-time!

New Pitsligo, Portlethen, Stewarty Milne and even Donald Trump take it on the chin as the often hilarious and sometimes raucous gags power on throughout this high energy production.

The 3D presentation in Act 2, although technically competent, seemed superfluous. It was more than made up for by the impressively scary Clockodile, however.

The team from Aberdeen Academy of Dance performed flawlessly, with both Aedan Dufton’s Michael Darling, and Logan Reid’s John Darling deserving special mention.

With costumes, set and special effects to die for, this is pantomime at its finest delivered by a creative team well-used to engaging with Aberdeen audiences.

Children of all ages are guaranteed a Jolly Roger of a time and the spectacle of an airborne Magical Mermaid has to be seen to be believed!

Directed by Nick Winston and Produced by Michael Harrison with Musical Direction by Captain Nemo – Peter Pan plays at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Sunday 3 January 2016.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Michal Wachucik-Abermedia

Nov 192015

ChristmasFestivalWith thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

Preparations are now underway to create a festive winter wonderland in the heart of the Granite City.

Led by Aberdeen Inspired in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Codona’s, the Aberdeen Christmas Village will open to the public from November 26 to January 03.

Union Terrace will be closed from November 21 to January 8 to accommodate the village, while the slip road between His Majesty’s Theatre and Union Terrace was closed from November 16 to allow construction of the open air ice rink to begin in the pocket park.

The spectacular rink will provide the focal point among a variety of fantastic attractions, ranging from festive fairground rides and a German style market to an entertainment marquee and festive food and drink stands.

Gary Craig, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The Aberdeen Christmas Village will be something unique and fantastic for Aberdeen and excitement is mounting as its opening draws nearer. Work will begin on Union Terrace on Saturday (November 21) and it will be great to see the village start to take shape. We believe that it will offer something different for residents and visitors to enjoy and create a wonderfully festive atmosphere in the heart of the city centre, enhancing Aberdeen’s Yuletide offering.

“Part of Aberdeen Inspired’s remit is to increase footfall within the city centre and we are sure that the Aberdeen Christmas Village will certainly help towards that. As well as building on the attractions we have put on in previous years, we wanted to create something that people would enjoy while also bringing in benefits to local businesses, restaurants and shops. It will be bigger and better than ever before.

“As with any major city centre event some traffic disruption will take place throughout the duration of its stay and plans are in place to minimise inconvenience to the public. We are looking forward to welcoming people to the village from November 26 and hope they enjoy the great variety of attractions and entertainment that will be on offer.”

Aberdeen City Council Deputy Leader Councillor Marie Boulton said:

“Excitement is really building now for the start of the Christmas Village with people from all over the city and further away having told us they’re thrilled about coming to see this unique event.

“The build for the ice rink is already taking shape and people will see a lot of work happening on the Union Terrace site to turn it into a winter wonderland. We look forward to welcoming people to our beautiful city with all the winter activities on offer.”

The line-up for the entertainment marquee has been organised by Breakneck Comedy and includes a host of talented comedians, bands, singers and choirs who have been booked to entertain the crowds. These include Best Girl Athlete, The Rock Choir, The Lorelei, Iron Broo and Dirty Shoes as well as Gary Meikle, Jordon Young and Jamie Dalgleigh among others.

The Aberdeen Christmas Village is part of the Winter Festival, which is being organised by Aberdeen City Council. A number of traffic measures will be in place for the duration of the village. Please ensure you plan ahead and for more information visit http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/

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 and driving footfall to the zone.

For further information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired visit www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Oct 152015

With thanks to Graeme Forbes, Account Manager, Tricker PR

SOSWF Whisky 1

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has become one of the leading events of its kind over the past 17 years

Speyside’s leading malt whisky producers will unite on their own doorstep for the first time – to launch a brand new ‘dramfest’ organised by the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Brand rivalries will be put to one side when Spirit of Speyside brings distillers from all over the region together under one roof in celebration of the area’s most famed product – malt whisky.

Plans for the first event – to take place in September 2016 – were unveiled at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival AGM on Tuesday.

It will offer an alternative weekend devoted to Speyside whisky in its home and heartland and complementing the internationally-renowned Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival held annually in May.

The September whisky weekend is being introduced to sate the public’s thirst for whisky-themed events in the area that is home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries.

Elgin has been chosen as the central location for this Speyside showcase, which as well as whisky, will feature other drinks – including local gin and craft beer – along with fine food and produce from the region.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has become one of the leading events of its kind over the past 17 years. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world to Speyside during the May Day weekend to savour a selection of more than 400 events, from tastings to ceilidhs, food pairings to comedy.

Many events are sold out within hours of tickets going on sale and accommodation in the region reaches capacity. Festival organisers could see scope to introduce a second – but distinctive – event to its annual calendar, which will allow people to celebrate Scotland’s national drink in its spiritual home without the need to plan a five-day itinerary.

The event will be held from September 9-11, 2016 at Elgin Town Hall, drawing visitors after the summer season and helping provide an economic boost for the area.

As well as tastings, cocktail making, a food court, and masterclasses will be part of the offering. Distilleries, businesses and partners will be encouraged to develop themes to add to the visitor experience.

Festival chairman James Campbell says,

“Our annual whisky festival has grown in size and stature to become one of the leading events of its kind in the world.

“We are now creating a brand new weekend event with the big difference that the distilleries will be together, under one roof, and that’s something that doesn’t normally happen on their home territory.

“We’ve chosen Elgin for the venue because it is central, with good transport links, and we’ll be encouraging businesses and other partners to get involved too. Further announcements on what people can expect from the new event, including its official title, will be made in the coming weeks and months.

“This is a great opportunity for distilleries and food and drink producers of Speyside to showcase their products and share what they do.

“While the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has an international audience, and overseas visitors may be among the contingent, we expect our September event to have a particular appeal to the home market, including people from the local area.

“We look forward to developing our plans and helping keep one of Scotland’s most famous whisky producing regions well and truly on the map, inspiring more visitors to develop their interest and knowledge of our national tipple.”

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival’s position as a major tourism attraction in Scotland was underlined again this year when it attracted 26,389 visits to events from a record 34 different countries.

The 2016 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – and its traditional musical arm the Spirit of Speyside Sessions – takes place from April 28 to May 2. For further information about the event visit www.spiritofspeyside.com with tickets on sale from January 2015.

The Festival is also active on social media – https://www.facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter.

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Sep 252015

Action comedy American Ultra is a novel mix of fighting, explosions and laughs, but falls short of being something you’ll remember for any great length of time. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson watches this stoner/sleeper cell mashup.

American Ultra screen

There weren’t too many people in Cineworld at the Queens Links during the Tuesday night showing, which was probably standard given that the film is nearing the end of its screen cycle. Casting-wise the composition of its starring actors is a curious one.

First you have a guy primarily known for his voiceovers as protagonist parrot ‘Blu’ in Rio and Rio 2.

On the other hand, as distinctive as her voice maybe, you have the supporting actress in the form of Kristen Stewart who is primarily pictured as the love interest pin-up ‘Bella’ in the Twilight saga.

Whilst the latter plays doting girlfriend, Phoebe, the former is dopey druggie, Mike. They reside in a small town in West Virginia where Mike works as a convenience store clerk.

It turns out there’s a part of his mind compartmentalised, in hibernation and waiting for activation. This comes in the form of a CIA operative visiting his store and using code words which at first seem just like gibberish. However, when they sink in he becomes an unlikely combat expert who can dispatch an opponent with a spoon.

It’s a tad like Matt Damon in the Bourne films, but doesn’t take itself half as seriously. The title also suggests a word play on ‘Project MKUltra’, a series of experiments by the CIA which began in the early ‘50s and basically aimed to achieve mind control.

There are two factions at war in this film. There is Mike, of the Ultra program; and members of the Tough Guy project. Good guy versus bad guys. It’s judged that Mike must be eliminated so this is done in the guise of a supposed ‘super typhoid’ outbreak, shutting down the small town completely.

There are some genuinely interesting facets of Mike’s backstory. Like how he was a ‘three strike delinquent’, volunteering for the program but having his memories erased when it was scrapped. Or how Phoebe’s an undercover agent tasked only as his handler, but genuinely falls in love with him during her assignment.

There’s also a clever little episode within the closing scenes when Mike finally proposes to Phoebe. He’s spent the entirety of the film seeking an appropriate time to do so, and this takes place in front of several squad cars. One taser shoots, crisscrossing into him, as unto her. This Romeo & Juliet are star crossed lovers, indeed.

Other than that, though, some of it was rather corny and sometimes the line between silly and serious was so blurred that I didn’t know exactly how I was meant to react scene on scene.

Having enjoyed those facets of the characterisation, don’t get wound up in them and expect any serious development, just focus on the laughs and the unlikely tools of combat. For example, the frying pan used for JFK-esque bullet trajectory.

Jul 302015

Robert Carlyle makes his directorial debut with comedy thriller The Legend of Barney Thomson, an adaption of a book by Scots author Douglas Lindsay. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews.

vuepicsqThere weren’t many people at Vue on Shiprow for the Wednesday night showing, though this was no indicator as to the quality of the film.

For a start Ray Winstone was brilliant as the ever so slightly jingoistic copper, Holdall. There’s a funny scene on the phone to someone reporting a crime to whom he replies he can’t understand what they’re saying, adding he knows damn well fine the caller’s Scottish.

He’s always simmering, even coming to boiling point walking past some ne’er do wells on the streets of Glasgow.

To be honest, when news of the film came to light it was half expected Holdall would be a fluent Glaswegian police officer and that perhaps he’d don at least a reasonably respectful Scottish brogue.

Turns out he’s does what he best, authentic Cockney.

Having said that, English actress Emma Thompson is to be commended for her performance as Carlyle’s onscreen mother, the fierce yet happy go lucky matriarch Cemolina, with a very convincing Scottish salt of the earth portrayal.

Anyway, Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle) leads an uninspired life as a barber pushed further and further away from the shop window as his colleagues bemoan his lack of ‘chat’ to customers.

He’s awkward and antisocial to the point he’s deemed almost the perfect discontented serial killer.

Only this is by accident, though. This is comedy of silly slapstick combined with some grisly gore, both elements offsetting one other.

It also turns out there is another serial killer on the loose, and that Barney’s two accidental murders, his boss and colleague, are suspected by the ever bungling police to be all at the hands of the same person.

There’s a few nice twists throughout the film, and if you haven’t read the books, like many, the ending may come as somewhat of a surprise.

Overall, it’s something different from the typical Hollywood fare. It’s got that certain British grit and humour about it.

Jul 242015

Through August, at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, ‘Myrtle Throgmorton, Ancient Heckler’ is being staged by a cast and crew all from rural Aberdeenshire. With thanks to Kieran Booth.

3O6A5178-14-Edit-2More sit-down than stand –up, enthusiast for all things Scottish and certified old trout, Myrtle Throgmorton is taking to the stage to ruminate on many splendid things: long life, comedy, gussets, Burns, decrepitude, pimping your Zimmer and so much more.

Created by former BBC Comedy producer Jennie Campbell / Chalmers, Myrtle insists she has been gently heckling at the Edinburgh Fringe since “before it began”.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so long as it is hers. Jennie has developed the character over many years and admits that the game old bird is now, worryingly, more ‘ego’ than ‘alter’.

Post- election, Myrtle has unwittingly become slightly more satirical, taking Jennie back to her comedy beginnings.

Myrtle’s accumulated years are off-set by the youthful vigour of contemporary dancer, Gordon Raeburn (“not proper dancing” MT ) and pianist, Sam Williams (“pianissimo, dear!” MT).  The production could be unique on the 2015 Fringe as the cast and crew all come from rural Aberdeenshire; Gordon from Huntly and Jennie, Sam and technician Kieran from Barthol Chapel. Only the director, David Jackson Young, breaks the mould with his Borders roots.

The show is a mix of Myrtle’s musings and her comedy ABC ( Audience, Banter, Crudités ), Dance – a thankfully brief Pas de Zimmer salvaged by Gordon’s skills, live and original music from Sam and every show ends with a ‘surprise’ guest joining Myrtle for cheery chat over the tea trolley. 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.

It could be a TV celebrity, an acclaimed author, a well-kent radio voice, a rising star ( that ‘I saw them first…’ moment ), an unknown character with a story to tell, someone with a great show and no audience 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 – Rory Bremner, Paul Merton, Arnold Brown, Helen Lederer, the Bodgers, Merry MacFun Co and many, many others.

On moving to Scotland, she switched from satirical news to the real thing and has been variously a radio presenter on 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 ( now blue-rinsed ) comedy roots.

Venue: Greenside@Infirmary St. ( Venue 236 )
Dates; 7th – 29th August ( except 16th and 23rd )
Time: 17.15 ( Duration 55 mins )
Tickets: £10/£9/£5 ( SUCD )

Available from:
Box Office:
( open from 7th August ) 0131 618 6968
or Edinburgh Fringe website at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/myrtle-throgmorton-ancient-heckler

Myrtle is also making an appearance during the Haddo Arts Festival, a six-day festival of arts for all at Haddo, including classical concerts, Scottish Opera, exhibitions, schools workshops and Myrtle Throgmorton, Game Bird.

Wednesday October 7th, 7.30 pm at Haddo House Hall. Full details and tickets are available here: http://www.haddoartsfestival.org.uk


twitter @myrtlethrog
Website: www.myrtleproductions.com

Jun 252015
The Producers UK Tour 2015 - Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and company - photo credit Manuel Harlan

Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and company.

By Duncan Harley.

It’s not often that the theatre audience gets a buy one get one free offer but in the case of The Producers that’s the deal.

This is after all a musical about the production of a musical and the resulting musical within a musical is a hilarious triumph.

When fast fading theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Cory English) and his newly hired accountant the timid Leopold Bloom (Jason Manford) realise they could strike it rich and go to live in Rio by producing the worst musical ever to open on Broadway, the search is on for a production guaranteed to belly flop spectacularly on the first night.

Bialystock, the producer not the Polish city, has a track history of theatrical flops and critical reviews include classic lines such as “by the end of the production everyone on stage was dead – they were the lucky ones!” However a dead to rights sure-fire flop is required and no chances whatsoever can be taken.

The search is on for the worst musical ever written and Springtime for Hitler by gun-toting Nazi playwright pigeon breeder Franz Liebkind (Ross Noble) appears to fit the bill in every way.

With a liberal sprinkling of swastika laden ultra-camp storm troopers, a sparklingly gold sequined Liberace pastiche of Adolf “Elizabeth” Hitler plus a few dead pigeons what could possibly go right on the night?

Adapted from the highly regarded 1968 Mel Brooks film of the same name, The Producers works well as a musical. The original screenplay initially bemused audiences who had no clear idea whether to laugh or leave the cinema in protest at the outrageously funny but uncomfortable lampooning of Herr Hitler and his entourage. Indeed a 2009 German language production of the musical at Berlin’s Admiralspalast, reputedly the Fuhrer’s favourite theatre, closed after only a few weeks.

The Aberdeen theatre audience however are left in no doubt from the very start of the production that belly laughs are the order of the day and that an evening of mad-cap comedy entertainment is in store.

This is a high energy production. The story and action literally proceed at a furious pace. Slap-stick gags, catchy songs and toe-tapping dance routines combine with spectacular lighting and a stunning set to dazzle the audience.

With big names such as Northern comics Ross Noble and Jason Manford plus veteran New York Broadway actor Cory English, The Producers is a production not to be missed.

As a bonus you get the musical “Springtime for Hitler – A Gay Romp with Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden” thrown in for free.

Directed by Matthew White, The Producers plays at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 27th June.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Manuel Harlan


Oct 202014

614717_147651478707521_945393330_oWith thanks to Mike Tyers.

Interesting Music Promotions are delighted to announce a special tribute night in honour of John
Ten years on from his untimely death, we will honour his memory and legacy by having a whole evening of eclectic music, lots of fun & a dance floor rammed full.

This Saturday 25th October #KeepingItPeel, no less than 7 local acts present great value for a reasonable ticket price, and represent the variety and that enthusiasm for the unique and unusual which John Peel will always be remembered.


Longstanding friends of IMP, “the best band you have never heard of” are utterly sublime, producing a unique post rock/electronica/dancey vibe.

Min Diesel:

Local indie band who are definitely moving out of the lofi into even more interesting music territory.

“An impatient Dinosaur jr (or) Shellac with more soul” – The Fly

Debut album out very soon.

Autumn Hang (Dub Set):

Another local who is prolific at turning out cd’s and is starting (quite rightly) to get more live shows. His set tonight will be electronic based but we will “expect the unexpected” as we always do and we will delight in what he offers up.

Kitchen Cynics (special Peel tribute):

Local music genius. There, I’ve said it. Expect something poignant and great for this special event.

Sonically Depicting:

A new experimental band featuring Haylan Jay & John Cavanagh ( he of the walking music encyclopaedia & Scottish BBC). They are so new we don’t have a link to this project…yet.

Best Girl Athlete (Minty Fresh Records / Fitlike Records):

Without doubt one of NE Scotland’s best comedy acts, they are also very fine in the music they produce. Best new duo in Aberdeen in our opinion …Simply do not miss. They have  just signed to the really cool American label Minty Fresh Records as recently highlighted in a superb review of them in the Evening Express.

Strawberry Wine DJ’s:

Spinning some Peel faves and beyond. Amazing music knowledge and depth, and always hearing great new (old) music from their nights at Cellar 35.

All proceeds after artist expenses to appropriate local or Scottish music charities to enhance musical inspiration.

Saturday 25th Oct 2014
Tunnels 1
8 till late

Early bird tickets £7.50 available from – https://www.wegottickets.com/event/277357



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May 302014

whisky kisses pitlochry book launch duncan harley 1 small fileReviewed by Duncan Harley.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer offering for 2014, Whisky Kisses, certainly cuts it big time.

A finalist in the 2007 Highland Quest competition, the now finely matured musical is delightfully full of vibrant and highly explosive energy.

Indeed the storyline and musical score tear the heart out of tartan Scotland then put it back together seamlessly.

Inspired by New York’s Tartan Week, the Moray based Rightlines partnership comprising writers Dave Smith and Euan Martin plus Edinburgh based composer James Bryce have taken Sir Walter Scott’s romanticised view of the Highlands to the cleaners.

Indeed Mairi Morrison who plays Mary, the inheritor of the cash strapped Glenigma Distillery, literally hangs Glenigma’s tartan out to dry on the village washing line in full view of the audience while an oblivious pseudo Scot looks on in the form of New York tycoon Ben Munro played by Dougal Lee.

Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster – makes a quite forgivable but thankfully brief appearance as do some empty whisky barrels and there is an oblique reference to ‘President Salmond’.

2014 is after all Scottish Referendum Year so all is forgiven.

The plot follows a brave but narrow path between tartan for tartans sake and tartan because it makes hysterical sense.

The story concerns two cash rich entrepreneurs competing to buy the very last bottle of the 100 year old Glenigma malt in the entire universe. The Scottish Government intervene unhelpfully and the heir to the family fortune must decide how to proceed with the saving of the glen.

Without giving too much away, it is fair to say that it all works out in the end. There are subtle twists of course and a few tear jerking moments including the near demise of Mr Yomo, played by Siu Hun Li, on the slopes of Ben Igma.

As with all Rightlines Productions however, there is a deeper message which in the case of Whisky Kisses is the question of how to live with heritage, how to share it, and how to enjoy it; while also knowing when to let it go, and to stop living in the past.

The opening song ‘I gotta have it’ gives way to the concluding ‘Spirit of Living’ with ‘Alcoholics Synonymous’ and ‘The Road To Love’ in between.

Set design and lighting are slick and vibrant and the Pitlochry Theatre sound is as always superb with not a word missed. Sound designer Paul Hoolihan and Musical Supervisor Jon Beales are to be congratulated.

Whisky Kisses is a polished piece and after a near decade in the making it suffers from very few issues. Perhaps the Brokeback Mountain scene is a little subtle. However all in all, the 100 year old Glenigma malt has matured nicely since its initial 2010 tour of Aberdeen, Moray and Deeside.

Directed by John Durnin and with set design by Ken Harrison Whisky Kisses performs at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until October 18th.

© Duncan Harley
All rights reserved.