Feb 272019
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Calendar Girls, the Musical’ at His Majesty’s  Theatre, Aberdeen.

All they ever really wanted to do was raise some cash to buy a settee for the local cancer ward but when word got out that Rylstone & District Women’s Institute were planning a Pirelli style Christmas calendar, things soon spiralled out of control.

It’s a well-worn tale. A bevy of rural friends decide to publish a fund-raiser for cancer support following a death.

John has died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and wife Angela’s pals at the Rylstone & District Women’s Institute set about creating a calendar as something for her to focus on during this most difficult time.

However, instead of the familiar Women’s Institute images of sheep infested landscapes, ecclesiastical spires and cricketed village greens, they decide to bare all.

The 1998 launch of the raunchy publication attracted widespread press coverage and very soon the print run reached into the tens of thousands. A book and a film followed along with international fame. Described as a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary, the originators were initially awarded the dubious accolade ‘Oldie Exposure of the Year’.

In the fullness of time however, the semi-naked ladies were appearing at media-inspired events up and down the country including an appearance London Fashion Week and on a Thames TV cookery programme where they were requested to bake a dish of invitingly innuendo laden Spotted Dick.

There are few extant nipples within this musical interpretation of the tale but there is plenty of humour embedded in this take on the Yorkshire events which launch the grieving ladies of Knapely onto the international stage.

All in all, this is a commendable comedy musical classic. England’s Green and Pleasant Land does feature here and there, but the essence of this play within a musical is a powerful exploration of the various stages of grief, from denial to acceptance and moving on.

Little specks of Alan Bennet – If Jesus had maybe had kids then maybe the bible would be quite different – shine through in this Barlow and Firth creation and even Larkin’s This Be The Verse gets a look in with a resounding:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to but they do.’

Songs, and there are some 20 of them, include Spring Fete, Mrs Conventional, What Age Expects and the quite poignant Kilimanjaro. Then there is Ruth’s splendidly revealing love song My Russian Friend And I.

Calendar Girls is no Full Monty.

For starters the brashness is largely absent and the bare-all scenes are all done in the best possible taste. Be sure to take along a man-size pack of tissues though. If only to soak up the inevitable tears of both laughter and sadness.

Cast on Press Night: Fern Britton, Anna-Jane Casey, Sarah Crowe, Karen Dunbar, Pauline Daniels, Rebecca Storm, Denise Welch, Richard Anthony-Lloyd, Isobel Caswell, Danny Howker and Phil Corbitt – all good.
Stars: 4/5

Directed by Matt Ryan with Comedy Staging by Jos Houben, Calendar Girls the Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 2 March.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

Jan 242019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fiddler on the Roof @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Fiddler on the Roof plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 26 January

Anti-Jewish pogroms in the not-so-far-off days of the Russian Empire were quite common and reached new heights during the period 1903 to 1906 when a series of state-sponsored ‘demonstrations’ affected many settlements in the Ukraine and in Bessarabia. Thousands of Jews were reportedly killed and many more thousands displaced as a wave of violence backed up by harsh laws targeted Russian Jews.

Tsar Nicholas II was not known for his tolerance of either dissidents or minority groups and in the political turbulence of the times the Jews made for a convenient scapegoat.

Married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria he was referred to by Trotsky as having been “more awful than all of the tyrants of ancient and modern history”. Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Magazine was more succinct when, during a state visit to Balmoral it reported that:

“When the Tsar is at home, we do not hesitate to call him a tyrant. Then in heaven’s name, why – when he visits his grandmother-in -law, should we play the hypocrite and fete he whom we at other times curse.”

The cruelty of the pogrom is one of the central themes of Fiddler on the Roof. Adapted from the Sholem Aleichem short stories about Tevye the Dairyman, Fiddler is set in the fictional town of Anatevka at the high-point of the early 20th century Tsarist inspired anti-Jewish demonstrations.

Alongside struggling with his shrewish wife, Tevye – played by Kevin Haggart – struggles with his deeply held belief that tradition should triumph over sentimentality. Faced with the spectre of five daughters who pretty much refuse to embrace arranged marriage and the spectre of a rising anti-Jewish normality he gradually has to adapt to the inevitable erosion of religious and cultural traditions in a changing world.

Finally, and this is no spoiler, the reality of pogrom rears its ugly head and the tight-knit villagers are forced to leave Anatevka for an uncertain future.

Alongside the piety and the angst there is some comedy

With a simple but effective set, and yes there is indeed a rooftop fiddler, some fifty or so players tread the boards as Kevin’s Tevye breaks open that fourth-wall to do battle with his principles and speak directly with both God and the theatre audience.

Essentially the mainstay of the whole show, Tevye has the unenviable task of marrying off his five daughters none of whom seems likely to listen to a blind word he says.

With iconic numbers such as Matchmaker, If I Were a Rich Man and the poignant Tevye/Golde bedroom duet Do You Love Me, Fiddler seamlessly blends sadness, joy and the sufferings of humanity into a memorable musical mix of hope and despair.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Alongside the piety and the angst there is some comedy. For starters there are immortal lines such as ‘If you want hair, you should marry a monkey’ and Ryan Bruce’s Rabbi has a humorous but irreverent take on the Tsar. For my money however the aptly-named Bottle Dancers take the high-road humour-wise.

Worthy of panto, the famous five – Tony Barron, Ian Baxter, Chris Cormack, Adam Huckle and Kaz Robertson – take bottle dancing to an entirely new and athletic level which has to be seen to believed

Cons, and there very few, include a couple of minor prop failures on first night plus maybe a need for a sterner and less apologetic policeman. Pros, and there are many, include fabulous choreography, splendid period costumes and a musical performance which might leave many professionals on the back-foot.

And of course, this Phoenix Theatre production of that ever-so-Jewish tragedy takes place during the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day (Sunday 27 January).

Stars: 4/5

Directed by Liz Milne and Clare Haggart, Fiddler on the Roof plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 26 January

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

Dec 172018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen. 

The traditional folk tale of how the beautiful Snow White survived the evil queen’s murderous attention has been told in many versions over the centuries.

Countries across the globe from Albania to Malaya hold versions of the tale deeply rooted in popular culture.

In an Indian take on the story, the magic mirror is portrayed as a talking parrot and an Albanian version has Snow White’s jealous sisters portrayed as a murderous duo intent on her untimely demise.

The Brothers Grimm are often credited with having collected the definitive version of the story. Featuring seven unnamed dwarfs, a glass coffin and an insanely jealous stepmother they published several versions of the tale over the period 1812-1854.

In 1937 the tale was subjected to Disneyfication and, despite Disney having trademarked the name “Snow White” in 2013, the films and the literature continue to follow the snowy-white road.

Ever popular as a pantomime theme the likes of Dawn French, Wendi Peters and even Strictly Star Brendan Cole have played starring roles over the years.

As Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs comes to His Majesty’s for a five-week run, the incumbents of the leading roles are Lee Mead as Prince Harry, Jenna Innes as Snow White, Juliet Cadzow as the evil Queen Lucretia plus of course Jordan Young as Muddles and Alan McHugh as Nurse Nellie MacDuff. Yes, that’s right – Nurse Nellie MacDuff.

Both the Grimm Brothers and Walt would have been surprised at Nurse Nellie’s staring role but, it’s all in the best possible taste; well almost.

As Alan McHugh’s take on the traditional tale rattles on through endless costume changes – Nellie appears variously dressed as a billiard table, a Heinz Beans advert, a BBQ and wait for it, a fat lady in a tiny bikini; the wonder of panto is exposed to the theatre audience in more ways than one in this production

Inuendo, double entendre, acrobatics, pyrotechnics and fast paced comedy sketches flow thick and fast as the story of the princess who was far too pretty to live unfolds.

There are no glass coffins in this version of the tale and, if Alan McHugh’s take on the story is to be believed in its entirety, the magnificent seven are named as Snoozy, Fearty, Dafty, Gaffer, Cheery, Snotty and Dreichy.

As is usual in the HMT Panto various celeb’s get to take it on the chin.

Amongst this year’s targets are Donald Trump and Theresa May with the addition of a gag or two about the AWPR, Brexit and of course Holby City – erstwhile home of Lofty AKA Ben “Lofty” Chiltern.

As panto’s go this year’s APA offering certainly delivers a good few belly laughs.

The story bears at least a resemblance to the original tale and the delivery of the traditional fast-paced monologues is, as always, second to none. However, there is a certain flatness and lack of energy about the production.

Perhaps this will pick up during the coming weeks. Additionally, Prince Harry – although pitch perfect in dialogue – appeared to be singing ever so slightly under par.

All in all, though, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a cracking piece of entertainment and should appeal to folk of all ages.

Plus of course, this year some seventy-four towns and villages throughout the North-east, including both Inverurie and Fochabers but somewhat surprisingly not Maggieknockater, get a special mention amongst the gags.

Now that must be something of a record.

Stars: 3.5/5

Directed by Tony Cownie and written by Alan McHugh, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Sunday 6 January 2019

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

Oct 182018
 

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

Margaret Thatcher once said that “If a woman like Eva Peron with no ideals, can get that far, think how far I can get” and she had a point.
The Iron Lady however took several decades to claw her way to the top; Eva took just the one.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita first took to the stage in 1979.

A film version followed in 1996 starring Madonna as Evita and Antonio Banderas as Che. With the stage version now pushing forty, the storyline remains controversial. Portrayed as a working-class girl who whored her way out of the slums and exploited the poor, her legacy remains subject to debate.

Hard to ignore however is her undoubted political prowess. Assuming control of the Argentinian Ministry of Labour in 1946, she generously handed out wage increases and promoted women’s suffrage whilst privately embracing a lifestyle lavishly populated with couture clothing and expensive jewellery.

Greats such as Elaine Page and Madalena Alberta have taken on the mantle of the lead over the years and in popular culture, parody has celebrated the role with the likes of Lisa Simpson’s Evita blasting out Don’t Cry for Me, Kids of Springfield to an international audience in the 2003 episode “The President Wore Pearls”.

Latest incumbent in the leading role of Eva Peron is Lucy O’Byrne and if last nights performance at His Majesty’s Aberdeen is anything to go by, she has thrown her heart into the part.

A Dubliner, blessed with astronomically high notes, she was recently quoted as saying that:

“Whatever people say about Eva Peron – that she was selfish, that she was a gold-digger – I am playing her in her story, and I have to make you like her.”

And, this is exactly what she does. As the backstreet girl hustles her way to the top it’s clear that O’Byrne is more than fit for the part.

The role of the new-world Madonna with the golden touch is not an easy one. Expectations are naturally high and its almost a case of the star is dead, long live the star.

But, apart from a few glitches with the sound envelope O’Byrne’s delivery of those huge songs makes muster.

A splendid counterpoint to the, often malevolent influence of Mike Sterling’s President Peron, Glenn Carter’s Che provides comic relief to what is otherwise a fairly dark tale of political intrigue and extra-judicial murder.

Che is slang in Spanish for friend or pal and dressed to the boots in Guevara style combat gear Glen’s Che represents the voice of the adoring masses and gets beaten-up by Peron’s secret police for his efforts.

All the familiar songs are there including of course Oh What A Circus, On This Night Of A Thousand Stars and of course Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. The Evita/Peron duets Dice Are Rolling and I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You are particularly poignant.

As Broadway Director Harold Prince once said, “Any opera that begins with a funeral and ends with a funeral can’t be that bad” and this touring version of Evita would meet with Prince’s wholehearted approval.

Stars: 4/5
Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, Evita plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 20th October 2018

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

Dec 082017
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

“Aaaah Grasshopper, you still have much to learn … you must first try to listen … and feeeel!”

Once upon a time there was a young man who fancied himself as the rebranded Anarcho Dennis The Menace.

Unfortunately, he did not have the means to put enough calories into his person in order to avoid being laughed and sneered at by the bespectacled Walter and his crew of ‘softies’.

So he developed a defiant, unflinching pose in order to look hard.

He got a punk band together and generally scared the crap out of folk … his relatives mostly,

Then he got a wee job doing sound for a band called Mabel Meldrums Ceilidh Band.

Working alongside his chum, and punk band colleague Frank Benzie, nephew of Mabels’ guitarist and vocalist, Ian F Benzie, the young man in question came to know and refer to the Benzies as ‘Frunk an’ Unc’ – which neither ever objected to.

But their influence on the stoic, stripey one was not only significant, but equal and opposite!

This brought about much confusion. Whilst Frunk would lead young Dennisesque astray, and goad him into strange and perilous situations, Unc would be much more a source of a calm and enlightenment – particularly with regard to the realm of music. 

Words of wisdom were dispensed freely:

“If the music is ‘at loud ye canna hear yersel think, then how d’ye ken yer actually listenin tae music?”

“The words ‘I love you’ should be spoken close up, and whispered ….. if ye scream them oot til there’s snotters comin oot yer mou’, yer likely tae get a blind date wi fower or six coppers wi big sticks in the back o’ a van”

“It’s nae jist the notes min, it’s the space in atween”

And ither such hippy stuff and fluff.

However, it sunk in eventually, to the point that young hardened cynic began to appreciate the understated and the subtle alongside the “in yer face wi a big slab ya ****” aspects of music and art.

But then, not long after, Ian F Benzie, along with Mabels’ bassist/banjo plucker Buzzby McMillan parted company with Sandie Wyles (fiddle/mando/vocs), Andrew MacDonald (keys/concertina/caller) and Ian Wilson (Bodhran/ percussion/whistle), and went on to form the notorious Old Blind Dogs.

Sandie continued playing with a new Mabel Meldrums line up with a very different approach and sound.

As for that defiant, unflinching, skinny, stoic, cynical, spikey, stripey, cartoon character wannabe, tribute act? Well that was me (still is I suppose) …. your Aberdeen Voice editor.

Which brings me to the purpose of this one off spontaneous and unusual Aberdeen Voice article.

In the last few hours, I discovered a forgotten, presumed lost (or borrowed and not returned) cassette tape which was recorded by myself and Frunkie B from the mixing desk we were charged with the task of operating … or at least, preventing teuchters from plonking/spilling their beer, or stubbing their fags out on.

And so, 30 odd years later, I decided, if I had gone to sleep when I should have … like about an hour before I found that ‘lost’ tape … it might become ‘lost’ again ….. maybe forever!

And so, instead, I lashed a load of wires and boxes together, and now have a digital copy of the whole gig, which I hope to share soon.

However, I felt, when listening to one particular track, which was not part of the band’s set, but performed ‘off the cuff’ while some technical problem was resolved, that there was a wee bit of magic which transcended the background noise and the tape hiss.

Therefore, I felt compelled to ‘splice’ it out, and with the bare minimum of processing, offer it here without any further delay. 

Westlin Winds by Ian F Benzie. Live at Premnay Hall, 86/7 … as part of Mabel Meldrums’ (ceilidh band) show.

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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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Feb 022017
 

Scottish soprano Jillian Bain Christie

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

A specially arranged version of a classic Robert Burns love song received its Burns Night debut in Aberdeen.
Local soprano Jillian Bain Christie treated guests at Malmaison Aberdeen’s annual Burns Supper to a version of Ae Fond Kiss that has been specially written for her by renowned north-east composer Professor Paul Mealor FRSA.

The song forms part of Jillian’s debut album, Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire, a compilation of 14 works penned by Scotland’s national bard, including some of his best-known love songs.

Jillian, who as well as being an acclaimed singer is also a talented visual artist, was taught by Professor Mealor while studying for a music degree at the University of Aberdeen and also sang the soprano solo in his Symphony No 1: Passiontide

To thank Jillian for her involvement in some of his previous musical projects he chose to compose this arrangement of Burns’ most recorded love song to appear on her first album.

Professor Mealor is an admired composer whose works include Ubi Caritas, which premiered at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the 2011 Christmas number one hit Wherever You Are, which was performed by the Military Wives choir.

Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire was released last year by independent Aberdeen record label Luckenbooth Music. The album, which also features pianist Catherine Herriott, is a collection of Burns songs that are sung to arrangements by contemporary and 20th century Scottish composers including Rory Boyle and John Maxwell Geddes.

Tracks include Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon, The Deil’s awa’ wi’ the Exciseman and Bonnie Wee Thing. Alongside the specially arranged version of Ae Fond Kiss, other highlights of the album include unaccompanied versions of A Red, Red Rose and John Anderson, My Jo.

Frances Milne, co-founder of Luckenbooth Music, said:

“Robert Burns is revered around the world and many of his songs have achieved iconic status.  Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire presents 14 of his songs in a refreshed and new way, providing an album that appeals to fans of both traditional Scottish and classical music

“This new version of Ae Fond Kiss is a beautiful arrangement that illustrates the skill of composer, singer and pianist.  Those attending the Burns Supper at Malmaison will be left in no doubt about the brilliance of Paul Mealor’s arrangement and Jillian’s recital of it.

“Jillian’s unaccompanied, pared-back version of A Red, Red Rose showcases her vocal ability.  The melody was originally written as a fiddle tune and features great leaps in range, which are normally technically difficult for the voice.  However, Jillian’s trained voice copes with the melody with ease.  It is one of the stunning highlight of the album.”

Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire is on sale now and can be purchased directly from Luckenbooth Music and Amazon, in selected retailers, or as a download via iTunes and Google Play.  Notes accompanying the CD give a comprehensive insight into Burns as a songwriter and song collector, while a glossary provides an understanding to the many Scots words used in the songs.

Born and raised in Aberdeen, Jillian Bain Christie studied fine print making at Glasgow School of Art, before gaining a masters degree in illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. The former Mile End Primary and Aberdeen Grammar pupil worked as an artist for a number of years before embarking on a music degree at the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 2012 with a first-class honours degree. 

She then studied in London at the Trinity London Conservatoire of Music and Dance, gaining a masters degree in fine art in creative performance practice.

Luckenbooth Music is an independent Scottish record label. Based in Aberdeen, it was established in 2016 by Frances Milne and her brother John Milne. The label’s first release was Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire, a collection of songs by Robert Burns which were performed by Aberdeen soprano Jillian Bain Christie and accompanied by pianist Catherine Herriott. 

A luckenbooth is a traditional Scottish wedding brooch given to a bride by her groom on their wedding day. For more information visit www.luckenboothmusic.co.uk or telephone 01224 311468.

A preview of the tracks can be listened to via SoundCloud by visiting https://soundcloud.com/luckenbooth-music

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Sep 212016
 

penny-wellsBy Penny Wells.

Well, today is International Day of Peace 2016, and as I sit with a coffee at home I ask myself the question ‘does Aberdeen care about peace?’ It does, and this is how.

In the seven years I have been singing at folk/open mics clubs in the area (Tin Hut, Fyvie, Cellar 35, Musa, Stonehaven, Blue Lamp) I regularly hear songs and poems about peace, although to be fair, there are also many which seem to revisit various historical battles and indeed, almost glorify war.

It is responsible reporting to mention both.

To see real imbalance, try looking around a good bookshop. How many books are there on wars? How many are there on peace building?

I consider myself a peace activist, although a passive activist (if that is not an oxymoron), and as this is International Day of Peace, naturally, it is peace I wish to focus on and reflect on how it connects with my musical activities.

I sing either solo or as part of a duo (Millbrig) with Steve Allan, and when not job-hunting (no easy task in Aberdeen’s current oil recession) I am busy writing/recording in my spare time.

There is an excellent series of events currently underway, and more being planned by local musician, Nigel Lammas, in which musicians and poets express themselves as pro peace.

I took part in one such event last Sunday at St Andrews Cathedral. Much of the material performed, by about ten very different acts, was self penned – as were my own contributions ‘Old Soldier’ and ‘Song for Syria’. However, most of the targeted audience from other cultural backgrounds were enjoying Eid in the Park … so perhaps I was at the wrong venue at that time.

‘Old Soldier’ empathises with ex-combatants. The song suggests that peace talks may be more productive than combat. Admittedly, the song was originally gendered as it included the line ‘Women prefer to hold peace talks’. I changed this to ‘Many prefer to hold peace talks’ at the request of men who wish to be considered as part of this.

‘Song for Syria’ was written after hearing Dr Samer Attar on Radio 4 (26.07.16). Dr Attar is one of many medics who volunteer to help in conflict zones, at considerable risk to themselves. An mp3 copy of the song was sent to Dr Attar in Chicago as a world exclusive, as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for his work and that of his colleagues. Steve and I were pleased to tell this story on Keith Community radio recently as guests on their ‘live lounge’ programme (an hour of chat and music).

The song expresses the wish that a safe place to live could be found for children of conflict, and bewilderment that we train medics to the highest standard, yet despatch them to places of conflict to patch people back together again after man made conflicts, which seems counterproductive.

A major contribution that Aberdeen makes, in my humble opinion, comes at grass roots level, as there are many musicians who think similarly. But it is not always considered acceptable to express these views at work, or in certain social circles, and some are reluctant to be named for fear of reprisal.

However the freedom to express oneself through song, poetry, spoken word or art is clearly evident in Musa café/wine bar, which I have enjoyed going along to since last November.

Musa is presenting a themed peace evening this coming Monday. Billed as ‘A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’, Performers, including those who regularly attend Musa’s open mic sessions will be joined by invited guests from the UN Association Aberdeen. All are welcome to come along, whether to do a turn, watch, listen, or chat in celebration of peace. That my friends is how Aberdeen ‘does’ peace.

A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’

Monday, 26th September – 8pm to 12 midnight
Regulars welcome!
Plus participation from UN Association, Aberdeen

Musa,
33 Exchange St,
Aberdeen AB11 6PH

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Sep 132016
 

trickery-aug16-8By Fred Wilkinson.

‘Something Different’ is happening in the Aberdeen entertainment scene.

With musicians and music lovers alike still smarting from the recent closure of yet another popular small venue, we certainly don’t want more of the same, and perhaps a taste of trickery may be just the tonic.

The Trickery is a monthly cabaret night which has been running in some shape or form for the last four years, and yet, for all I have been intrigued by the concept, had never managed to attend.

That was until August 26 when I found myself free to accept an invite, and to meet with organiser and compere, Iain Adam.

I asked Iain how The Trickery came about. Iain told me:

“The Trickery was first conceived as a magic show when we had the opportunity to bring one of the biggest acts in magic (Dani DaOrtiz) up to Aberdeen. He was booked for an event that was just for magicians, but we really wanted to show Aberdeen just what was happening in the magic scene.

“After the public show, people came up and asked us when the next event was and we said “next month” and so it began. That was 4 years ago and we have been going ever since. It’s run by me and my wife Gail.

“I describe The Trickery as ‘Something Different’. Everybody is looking to do something different, something that they wouldn’t normally do, and thats what we have for them.”

trickery-aug16-3Audience participation is key to the fun and the special atmosphere of The Trickery.

As compere, Iain Adam opens the show, engaging in humorous banter with the audience and whetting their appetite with hints as to what we can expect – including ‘the unexpected’.

Putting the crowd through its paces, it is made clear we are not only handed a leading role, but that a licence to heckle is included in the admission fee.

.

,

trickery-aug16-15First up is Mind reader/Magician Michael Brandie.

For a performer who publicly talks down his joke telling skills, he can be more than satisfied with the chuckles he winkled out of the audience.

Some laughter, possibly of a nervous nature, even occurred when he stuffed his head in a plastic bag and suffocated himself onstage to the point his heart stopped.

trickery-aug16-16OK, it’s only a trick, but I confess to having been more than a little concerned.

Then to prove his given theory that restriction of blood flow has an anaesthetic effect, he pushed an acupuncture needle through his hand …

….. and invited a member of the audience to yank it out!

‘Something Different’ was promised, and, well, it’s not every day …..

.

.

Next up is Professional Artist and Model, Sharrow.

trickery-aug16-1Tonight we witness her Trickery debut as a Burlesque Dance performancer.

Demonstrating her understanding of the art form, Sharrow wastes no time in catching the eye and holding on to it, and in glimpses, offers that characteristic, subtle element of ‘tease’ which plays more in the viewers imagination than elsewhere, which the audience own up to and call out with their vocal appreciation.

During her routine, the smallness of the stage is suddenly emphasised by the grandeur of her moves which the visually pleasing use of silk scarf ‘streamers’ served to accentuate.

trickery-aug16-4It’s all over a little too quickly, but on the other hand, not too soon for tonight’s special guest, Drag Queen, Miss Scarlet Diamonte.

As her name may suggest, she appears in a vivid, red sequinned dress, the hem of which is better friends with her waist than with her kneecaps.

Perched on four inch high Perspex heels, she appears appropriately imposing, and dare I say, Formidable.

And she lives up to that first impression with room to spare.

Scarlet Diamonte’s act is not for the fainthearted.

trickery-aug16-6Her humour is unashamedly, unapologetically brash and coarse.

It swishes past risqué without exchanging pleasantries, thumbs its nose at political correctness, and condescendingly pats Innuendo on the head in passing on its lunge for the jugular … and a few other anatomical features as well.

It is borderline brutal, and yet spills out warmth …. and the audience are lapping it up.

She is in complete control as she teases and toys with this crowd, up close, personal and physical, much to their delight, and for all the blushes and involuntary shrieks of laughter, no-one is getting hurt.

trickery-aug16-5However, should anyone ever be in a position to offer encouragement to Scarlet on her way to the stage, avoid the traditional three worded motivator. Scarlet may well ‘break a leg’, but I am certain it would never be her own.

I am reminded of the words of Johnny Rotten to an audience at a Sex Pistols gig. Something like:

“I’m not here for your entertainment, you’re here for mine.”

But the tables are most certainly turned when she turns to the songs.

Her command of her audience is sealed as the power in her voice, matched by an impressive pair of lungs, leaves us in no doubt of the extent of her stagecraft and talent.

trickery-aug16-10With admirable energy and style, accompanied by expressive gestures and movement from her face to her feet, and the occasional hilarious ‘aside’, she takes on and slays half a dozen ‘camp classics’, starting with ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

There was no danger of stopping her – at least not until her finale whereupon, mid song, we were treated to a remarkable transformation which would have had Ennio Marchetto taking notes.

De-wigged, peeled off and wiped clean, Scarlet was summarily discarded.

In her place now stood Tillydrone raised, London based actor Brian Elrick to take the song to it’s inevitable crescendo, take a bow and wallow in the whoops and applause of an impressed and thoroughly entertained audience.

Having been given some respite to catch our breath, if not a drink, we were eager to find out what the final act at tonight’s Trickery had to offer.

trickery-aug16-11That final offering was ‘Ray Guns Look Real Enough’ – and we were not disappointed.

In common with most great comedy duos with a certain unique chemistry, musical comedy duo Ray Guns and Luke Real bounce off one another beautifully.

This is a well worked act which skips along at a lively pace.

trickery-aug16-13Between the songs, the comedy interplay between the duo, and the audience, is slick … and very funny.

Still, space is afforded to flashes of spontaneous improvisation which always land ‘buttered side up’.

From the moment they arrive on stage, we are promised laughs merely by way of their appearance ( Sorry – I mean of course ‘image’ … they being a famous stadium rock band).

trickery-aug16-12Between them, their stage attire, from the ill-fitting cat-suit to the lacquered mohawk, appeared to be a jumble of iconic items of memorabilia stolen over the course of 3 decades from the biggest names in rock/pop culture.

And much the same could be said of the music as they ripped through a series of montages and mash-ups of pop/rock classics, all seamlessly stitched together and expertly delivered.

trickery-aug16-14Armed with no more than one guitar, a tambourine, and two well matched voices, it was puzzling to hear the sheer power of their sound and fullness of the arrangement.

The mash-ups were at times amusing simply by way of the zany unlikelihood of the elements combined, but always cleverly presented, and I suspect more than one musician in the audience will have wondered:

“Shit! Why did I not think of that?”

All in all, a superbly talented, creative and entertaining act who are so instantly lovable they could do no wrong if they tried. From their intro to the last second of their deserved encore, I was transfixed to the extent I have no idea how long they were actually on stage.

And with said encore, so ended a cracking night’s entertainment – other than the long remaining smiles on the faces of many a highly satisfied audience member.

I asked Iain how this show compares to past events, and what’s next for The Trickery. He said:

“The Trickery means a lot to me as it gives Aberdeen the chance to see some acts that they wouldn’t get a chance to see anywhere else at any time. In the near future, we have shows opening up in other cities around Scotland.

“We have had freak shows, pick pockets, mind readers, hypnotists and more. We’ve seen people shot with paint guns, people walk on glass and people break arrows with their throat.

“We’ve had Hollands biggest magician and the inspiration for the TV show The Mentalist. Every show is different, but every show is great.

“This month we have a double headliner show. Each headliner has just finished sell out 5 star shows in two different fringe festivals (Edinburgh and Amsterdam). Every act is must see, because you only get one chance to see them.

Iain is offering some complementary tickets to this month’s event featuring comedy musician, Friz Frizzle and Dutch magician, Fritz Alkemade which takes place on Friday, September 23.

Simply share the ‘September at the Trickery’ event page on your personal facebook page, then visit the main ‘Trickery’ page and ‘like’ the page. Good luck, and hope to see you there.

Aug 132015
 

Steve Harris spent some downtime from Iron Maiden at Lemon Tree with his new band, British Lion. Andrew Watson was in attendance. Pictures by Dod Morrison.

Steve Harris Lemon Tree (2)The album was released about three years ago, so it was refreshing that some newer material was thrown into the mix.

Upon the band name itself, Harris has reasoned it wasn’t necessarily harking back to the days of imperialist might on these shores; but more like supporting your local football team.

He certainly knows how to do that, with West Ham’s crest emblazoned across the body of his bass; his guitar strap a thick, woolly claret and baby blue.

Soft on the shoulders the key to his longevity perhaps. The Hammers, also known as the Irons because they were founded on Thames Ironworks – ‘Up the Irons!’ – provides a possible link to the origin in the name of his most famous musical endeavour.

One can’t help but draw at least some initial comparison to this setup and the formative spell of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career. They were originally meant to be called Blizzard of Ozz, yet in the end that was only the name of the debut album and not the band itself. Yes, again as in Iron Maiden, Harris is the primary songwriter, unlike Ozzy.

However, why say onstage the band is called British Lion, when the CD says it’s Steve Harris and that’s merely the album title. It makes sense in both instances from a marketing perspective, one would suppose. Band rebelling against record label? Never!

Before all that, though, were support act The Raven Age, of London. These guys featured none other than George Harris, Steve’s son, on guitar. They were really interesting, actually. The brutality of more modern heavy metal, combined with a more classic rock sensibility of desire for melody and completely refraining from screaming and growls.

What’s more, they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves and, shock horror, you could even catch them smiling from time to time. The only drawback was the singer appearing to thank, come the end, Edinburgh for a good show. Whoops. Which was kind of strange because Aberdeen was mentioned mid set prior to that, so let’s put it down to a mere lapse of thought; engaging tongue before brain.

It turned out they were actually a man down, with their current guitarist away getting married. The fill-in did a tremendous job. Oh, and Harris Jnr was every bit as flashy, dextrous and brilliant as his father; albeit just on a different instrument. As is done a lot, both guitarists took dual responsibility for leads and solos, but you could tell he was their driving force; and that’s no disrespect to the aforementioned.

Overall, very good.

Steve Harris Lemon Tree (1)Main act British Lion opened with the thundering ‘This Is My God’. This was quite a grungy number and a fair old rocker to get the crowd going. Think Alice In Chains or Stone Temple Pilots. Yet another comparison would be that the singer sounds like Brandon Boyd of Incubus, and that’s only part of his range.

His opening salvo to the audience was something along the lines of ‘the harder you work for us, the harder we work for you’.

The Aberdeen audience, perhaps conscious of perceived reticence in comparison to more vocal places like Glasgow, and of course, Edinburgh, duly accepted the challenge and went on to do this with much aplomb. Later he said the latter were good but Aberdeen was better. Very diplomatic.

He went on, perhaps as a titbit in reward for the crowd’s raucous behaviour, to explain that ‘These Are The Hands’ was about his hometown, it’s history and it’s struggle and perseverance to this day.  It’s driving, epic and links well to the tribal pride in your area or nationality.

There were chances aplenty to wave your arms in the air and clap to the beat of the drums, call and response football-esque chants and get shot by Harris Snr and his machine gun bass.

The song selection was generally good and featured, as said, a lot of new material. The likes of ‘Karma Killer’ was omitted, which was a shame because it’s punchy, groovy and little like anything Iron Maiden has ever done.

Speaking of the Irons there were at least a few numbers that sounded like that kind of material, but never explicitly so. Just like Bill Wyman warned his Rhythm Kings wouldn’t play Rolling Stones songs at the Music Hall a few years back, so British Lion are within right to demand the same.

However the influences do creep into some. Who is the audience to claim they don’t like the sound of dual guitars, or the performer to claim they don’t like pretending they’re Thin Lizzy when they’re doing them?

A pretty lively night, considering it was a Monday.