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

Jun 282012
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and helps Voice readers to get their whites right. By Suzanne Kelly.

One of the best events in recent memory?  The Party in the Park held by Common Good Aberdeen last Saturday was fantastic, despite the rains.  Nearly 4,000 people visited over the course of the day, all of the thousands of home bakes Mrs B created over a course of weeks disappeared long before the day ended, and the shelter of the marquee made the rain a minor inconvenience rather than a show-stopper.

And what a show it was.  Gerry Jablonsiki and the Electric Band opened the entertainment, and played an extraordinary set (I must say the solos Gerry comes out with are riveting, but you can’t play like that without a solid rhythm section.

The big surprise for many was the unique, creative duo ‘The Pounding’ whose electronic compositions went over a storm.

The final act of the day were the school choirs performing ‘Sing’.  The audience went wild as they danced to Danse MacCabre’s ceildh music.

I was honoured to have been asked to do a speech of thanks at the end; it was a privilege to thank the many volunteers who made the day a success, and Mrs B in particular, without whom this would not have been realised.  All around the gardens people commented ‘there should be more events like this’, ‘we don’t need to build anything here, just hold events’ and ‘get me some more of this delicious cake!’

Marie Boulton, Depute ACC Leader, made a brief but wonderful speech; many politicians came out to have fun and talk to their constituents.  Everyone was pleased in particular that Dame Anne Begg MP was there, proving that the gardens are accessible.  They could be made more accessible it is true – but access does exist, despite odd claims to the contrary.

I would like to apologise for not getting to have proper chats with a number of people, but I was charged with getting the acts on and off stage according to a strict timetable. Neale Bothwell and I did a fair job of it, I think.  Don’t wait for someone to throw another event, but when we next do get a dry, sunny day, use your gardens – they are common good land, and you own them.

Another event of this past week was Aberdeen Voice’s 2nd anniversary drinks held in Ma Cameron’s, where the idea for AV was launched.

Members of local band Toxik Ephex had been talking about the need for an independent  newspaper, and two years later Fred Wilkinson and a host of volunteers are keeping AV going.

People came and went over the course of the night; we were pleased to see some of the Aberdeen cyclists, a member of the Silver City Surfers, and in particular Anthony Baxter.   Baxter has a new version of ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ about to start a UK and North American tour (details elsewhere in Aberdeen Voice) with new footage of The Donald.

All of these positive developments are enough to sap a girl of any sarcasm.  Thankfully, there are always a few banking, tax, trident, deer cull scandals to keep me on track.  So, without further hesitation, here are a few definitions.

White Cliffs of Dover: (noun, Eng. geography) A steep, dramatic chalk cliff face on the South of England.

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover are in the news this past week; some NIMBYS are objecting to a proposed housing development near them.

The Cliffs also have some problems with erosion, but the main issue of course is that they are not accessible.  There is no access for the  able-bodied, let alone people with any mobility issues, and to be honest, the connectivity is just not there.

If the cliffs could just be raised (or would that be lowered?) to street level, and a bosque, theatre  and parking be thrown in, they might just be onto something there.  As to refusing a housing development, well, that would mean that England is not open for business.

Craig Whyte: (Proper Noun, possibly Improper noun) – a colourful character.

Oh dear, could it be that Craig Whyte is not whiter than white?  The would-be king of Rangers has had one or two previous problems in the boardroom.  This would-be white knight  sadly no longer looks set to take over Rangers.  Private Eye magazine unkindly suggests that someone with a failed directorship or two is not a fit person for the Rangers role.

Indeed they are correct; Whyte’s considerable talents would be used to best advantage in central government.

To add to this week’s colour theme, it would seem that Green owns the club, but Brown is trying to make the fans see  red, and opt for a buyout.  Will Rangers ever be in the black again?  It is currently a bit of grey area.

Whitewash: (verb, mod English) to cover up bad news, dilute the truth, gloss over facts for political, personal or monetary gain.

Aberdonians and UK taxpayers will be most unfamiliar with this term, and Old Susannah thought you might like to know more about it.  It will be difficult, but I shall try and find some examples.

On the national level, there have been one or two little Inquiries which have unjustly been described as being whitewashes.

There was the Hutton Inquiry into the small matter of how a bland dossier about Iraq was magically transformed into a document proving Sadam Hussein was about to use his Weapons of Mass Destruction on the UK, and would only need 45 minutes to wipe us  out.  This Inquiry found that changing a report into a justification for waging war was a bit naughty, but was fair enough.

No less a person than Alasdair Campbell said he defended ‘every word’ of the ‘sexed-up’ dossier.  Why bother to have an Inquiry at all I wonder?  If the man who wrote the thing for his boss Tony Blair says it’s above-board, then who are we to question it?

We’ve also had the Levenson Inquiry, a great spectacle for the whole family.  One frail little old pensioner, a Mr R Murdoch is cruelly being asked questions about newspaper reporters hacking into phonecalls and emails.  The poor Australian gent keeps telling the investigators he can’t remember anything, but they keep asking him questions.

Just because he and his family own the newspapers which carried out the illegal spying is no reason to think he’d know about it or be in any way responsible for it.

Are there any whitewashes going on here in the Deen?  Let’s think.  The city has been totally transparent over the Tullos Hill deer cull; they pride themselves on their transparency and consultation with the people; quite good of them really.

Freedom of Information requests are answered immediately and clearly.  It’s not as if the FOI officers are waiting until the last moment to supply information, or that the information they supply contradicts information they’ve previously released.   Surely they have nothing to hide?

Were the city in the right to have guns blazing on a hill used by families, motorcyclists, animals and indeed the occasional free-range arsonist without giving warning?  The mainstream press quoted a ‘council spokesperson’ as saying ‘there was no legal requirement’ for any warning signs.  Has this whitewash covered the matter sufficiently?  We shall see what the public and the authorities think.

White Collar Crime: (Modern English phrase)  to commit a non-violent, financial criminal offense.

WE must pause to think of those in our society who are being asked to go without, who are being forced to justify their dependence on State handouts.  Yes, I am worried about our banking sector.

We clearly did not give them enough of a bail-out, in fact, they can’t even afford decent IT systems, and some financial institutions are  experiencing problems with their electronic banking and cash machines.  I do hope none of the bankers will be terribly inconvenienced by people demanding money.

Sometimes however, when forced to the wall, a banker will have no alternative but to turn to crime.  It is because we do not have a caring mentality, and because we do not yet have ‘The Big Society’ (whatever that is) which Cameron wants that poor Barclays was forced to what certainly looks like white collar crime.

Unkind authorities are asking for £290,000,000 from the Barclays group for a wee matter of its fixing interest rates.  What’s the problem?  I thought we wanted fixed interest rates?  Unfortunately the bank seems to have given false information about rates it was borrowing money at.  Firstly, £290,000,000 is really small change, in fact, it would only get you two granite webs at today’s rates.  Secondly, how is a poor bank like Barclay’s going to get its hands on this kind of money?

I think the taxpayer should voluntarily help this poor bank out.  After all, if we don’t do so voluntarily, no doubt the treasury will just give them our money anyway.  I believe there used to be a commercial with Mr Bean with the repeating phrase ‘Well, thank you BARCLAYCARD!’.  Barclays, thank you indeed.

Old Susannah is going to have to cut it there, as she is in Edinburgh – and the sun is out.

Next week:  A look at some of the little arguments within Council Chambers.

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Nov 102011
 

Books really are the gifts that keep on giving. Have you ever tried turning down the corner of your Kindle to mark where you left off reading? With an eye on the calendar and mindful that Voice readers should be sending letters up the lum shortly, David Innes performs a labour of love in reviewing a seasonal offering from a fitba hero for whom every month was Movember.

Willie Miller is indisputably the greatest-ever Don. The image of him, bristling of moustache, jet black hair matted with Scandinavian May rain, nonchalantly holding aloft in trade mark single-handed triumph the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, is etched indelibly on every Dons fan’s retina.

It’s will be no surprise to learn that this iconic image dominates the front cover of Dream Team, in which Miller evaluates Dons with whom he played, stars who he managed whilst also trawling the Pittodrie archives to give brief pen pictures of legends of yesteryear as he chooses his best side and, unusually, backroom staff.

When football fans, always much more knowledgeable, of course, than those qualified and paid to make selection decisions, cannot even agree who should be in their team this week, selecting an all-time XI from their club’s entire history is guaranteed to cause arguments.

No doubt  Miller’s volume will engender more disputes than it will settle. Such debate is a huge part of football’s attraction to those addicted to it and happy in the knowledge that there is no known cure for this affliction.

Without giving too much away in case a Dream Team-shaped parcel finds its way under your festive tree next month, Miller rules himself out and selects a side in 4-3-3 formation, with seven substitutes. Unsurprisingly, most are his own contemporaries, but given that he played at the top level for 16 years, that gives him a wide constituency from which to choose.

All very interesting, but it is his – or perhaps co-author Robertson’s – research into Wasps and Reds icons of the 70 years of club history before Willie’s own career began that fascinates most. Although previous volumes have covered this before, an appreciation of Dons giants written from a player’s perspective gives occasional new insights to familiar and less-familiar names.

The fact that the terms “we” and “us” are used, even when discussing the author’s distant club forebears, is quite endearing.

What is disappointing is the editing. Occasional errors will slip through, but facts are easily checked. If the text is to be believed, the peerless Eric Black scored on his debut against Dundee United in another dimension, since there is no 31 September on any earthly calendar known to me.

The writing could frequently be sharpened, tightened up and sprinkled with some editorial pixie dust, but football books are rarely contenders for literary awards.

If you love the Dons, you’ll find Dream Team is of considerable interest and worth reading. If you don’t, I want to know why.

Willie Miller’s Aberdeen Dream Team
Willie Miller with Rob Robertson
Black and White Publishing. 236 pp. £10.99

Sep 222011
 

Techfest rolled into town last week; one of its attractions was a free session of whale and dolphin watching from Torry Battery.  Ian Hay of East Grampian Coastal Partnership led the event. By Suzanne Kelly.

Torry Battery – Saturday morning 10 September: it was a bit windy, rainy and overcast – so it was almost perfect. Well, perfect for whale and dolphin watching anyway. Expert and marine mammal enthusiast Ian Hay of the East Grampian Coastal Partnership met a group which had gathered this morning as part of Aberdeen’s Techfest. And the marine life did not disappoint.
There was a small pod of dolphins – but these decided to head north along the coast just as the talk was due to start.

Those who got there early saw an impressive display, and were able to make the dolphins out as they headed away from the harbour. Ian then delivered an amazing talk; everyone present took away new information however young or old they were.

As the dolphins headed away, Ian turned his attention to the rich, varied bird life.  He pointed out the cormorants and eider ducks on a harbour jetty.  He reminded us that bird watchers from all over the world come to our City and shire for the wealth of species that are found here. Some species are protected; but he mentioned that the eider ducks (from which eider down comes) were protected since the time of St Cuthbert in the 8th Century.

Some birds travel here in the winter from the north (soon the great geese flocks will appear); some come up in the spring from the south. The lighthouse in Torry is as useful to birds as it is to ships – it serves as a beacon and aids seabirds to find land. Aberdeen also has a famous Sycamore tree loved by bird watchers – any number of rare species can make their way here.

Ian then returned to his specialist subject, our marine mammals. He rightly called this harbour:

“The best place in Europe for watching whales and dolphins.”

Ian said there are locally five predominant types of mammals:  Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Minke Whale.

The Bottlenose are the animals most commonly seen here; they travel in pods of upto 30 or 40; and are a coastal animal. The Harbour Porpoises are the most common species in the area – but ‘they don’t do very much’.  The White-Beaked Dolphins are very special to the area, and the Risso’s dolphins are identified by their large heads.

This species eat squid – and usually pick up a few scars in the process of catching them. The scars turn the Dolphin’s skin white, so if you see a white one, it’s going to be an older one.  This species is a bit more solitary than some of the other mammals which travel together in larger numbers.

If a Minke (or other) whale is around, a clue will be a large number of seabirds together at sea.

Their presence means a whale has found a shoal of fish and is rounding them up. Gannets, gulls and puffins will be seen picking fish up from the surface. Suddenly the birds will scatter as the giant whale’s mouth emerges to catch the fish.

Ian told us the unfortunate (if not heart-breaking) story of some humpback whales that appeared here each winter. There were a mother and her calf, and a male.  They made an impressive sight, however it is thought that the mother and calf were found on an Angus beach having become tangled in fishing nets.

Being mammals, they could not surface; they could not free themselves – and they died. Thankfully in general terms the population of the Humpback and other whales is returning. (Feel free to write to the Norwegian, Icelandic and Japanese Embassies and protest at their pro-whaling stance in the meantime).

Fisherman or not, we can all act responsibly to encourage and protect our marine life. 

For openers, don’t throw your plastic trash out near the shore, and don’t flush anything plastic down the toilet. You otherwise risk having your unwanted plastic junk (like cotton buds) ending up eaten by sea creatures that will probably die.

If you have slightly greater ambitions than not littering the sea with plastic goods, then by all means come to Torry Battery and look for marine life. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find something to see.

As our talk came to an end, the dolphins reappeared almost on cue. Many people had been surprised to know whales could be spotted, and many people planned to head back to Torry soon. I had been asking a family (originally from New York) for some comments on the morning’s activity.
The re-appearance of the dolphins left Iona and her brother little left to say except ‘did you see that one?’ ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Look there they are again!’

Things to do further afield

  • Visit Fowlesheugh RSPB site, south of Stonehaven. The quantity of birdlife (c. April to July) is astonishing.
  • Go watch the incoming, dramatic goose migration at Strathbeg
  • Join a beach litter clean-up. There is an upcoming event tomorrow – Don Mouth at 10am – and one in early December. Further information from Techfest offices – http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/tis/
  • Consider joining a Norcet as ‘Citizen Scientist’ marine life observer – get a free trip to the Shetland Islands and help watch sea life at the same time – details on this opportunity and a host of other marine life issues and events from http://www.egcp.org.uk/
  • Are you a jet skier? Then please stay away from the dolphins! It’s the law: the dolphins cannot hear you until it’s too late, and they can’t get out of your way quickly. Thanks.
Jun 102011
 

With thanks to Mike Shepherd.

Peter Williamson was kidnapped from Aberdeen harbour in 1743 and shipped as a child slave to the American colonies. Following the death of his master, he married into a wealthy family and set up a farmstead on the frontiers of the province of Pennsylvania.

On the 2nd of October 1754 his farm was raided by Indians, set ablaze and Peter was captured and used as a slave by the Indians to help carry booty from their raiding expeditions.

After two months in the winter camp, the Indians set off with Peter on a new raiding campaign.

“I began to meditate on my escape; and though I knew the country round extremely well, having been often thereabouts with my companions, hunting deer and other beasts, yet was I very cautious of giving the least suspicion of such my intention. However, my keepers thought proper to visit the mountains in search of game for their sustenance, leaving me bound in such a manner that I could not escape.  At night, when they returned, having unbound me, we all sat down together to supper on two polecats, being what they had killed, and soon after (being greatly fatigued with their day’s excursion) they composed themselves to rest as usual.

Observing them to be in that somniferous state, I tried various ways to see whether it was a scheme to prove my intentions or not; but after making a noise and walking about, sometimes touching them with my feet, I found there was no fallacy. My heart then exulted with joy at seeing a time come that I might in all probability be delivered from my captivity, but the joy was soon damped by the dread of being discovered by them, or taken by any straggling parties. To prevent which, I resolved, if possible to get one of their guns, and if discovered die in my defence rather than be taken. For that purpose, I made various efforts to get one from under their heads (where they usually secured them) but in vain.

Frustrated in this my first essay regarding liberty, I dreaded the thoughts of carrying my new design into execution; yet after a little consideration, and trusting myself to divine protection, I set forward, naked and defenceless as I was. A rash and dangerous enterprise!

Such was my terror, however, that in going from them I halted and paused every four or five yards, looking fearfully towards the spot where I had left them, lest they should awake and miss me; but when I was about two hundred yards  from them I mended my pace, and made as much haste as I could to the foot of the mountains, when on a sudden I was struck with the greatest terror and amaze at hearing the wood-cry, as it is called, and may be expressed – Jo hau! Jo hau! – which  the savages I had left were making, accompanied with the most hideous cries and howling they could utter.

The bellowing of lions, the shrieks of hyenas, or the roarings of tigers, would have been music to my ears in comparison to the sounds that then saluted them.

They now having missed their charge, I concluded that they would soon separate themselves and hie in quest of me. The more my terror increased, the faster did I push on; and scarce knowing where I trod, drove through the woods with the utmost precipitation, sometimes falling and bruising myself, cutting my feet and legs against the stones in a miserable manner, but though faint and maimed, I continued my flight until break of day, when, without having anything to sustain nature but a little corn, I crept into a hollow tree, in which I lay very snug and made thanks to the Divine Being.

But my repose was in a few hours destroyed at hearing the voices of savages near the place where I was hid, threatening how they would use me if they got me again. However, they at last left the spot where I had heard them, and I remained in my circular asylum all that day without further molestation.

At night I ventured forward again, frightened and trembling at every bush I passed, thinking each twig that touched me to be a savage.”

After three days on the run he spotted what looked to be a white plantation.

“In the morning, as soon as I awoke, I continued my journey towards the nearest cleared lands I had seen the day before, and about four o’clock in the afternoon arrived at the house of John Bell, an old acquaintance, where knocking at the door, his wife who opened it, seeing me in such a frightful condition, flew from me like lightning, screaming into the house.

This alarmed the whole family, who immediately fled to their arms, and I was soon accosted by the master with his gun in his hand. But on my assuring him of my innocence as to any wicked intentions, and making myself known (for he took me to be an Indian), he immediately caressed me, as did all his family, with a deal of friendship, at finding me alive, they having all informed of my being murdered by the savages some months before.

They for two or three nights very affectionately supplied me with all necessaries, and carefully attended me until my spirits and limbs were pretty well recruited, and I thought myself able to ride, when I borrowed of these good people a horse and some clothes, and set forward for my father-in-law’s house in Chester county, about 140 miles from thence, where I arrived on the fourth day of January, 1755.

Now returned, and once more at liberty to pursue my own inclinations, I was persuaded by my father-in-law and friends to follow some employment or other; but the plantation from whence I was taken, though an exceeding good one,  could not tempt me to settle on it again. And their being at this time a necessity for raising men to check those barbarians in their ravaging depredations, I enlisted myself as one, with the greatest alacrity and most determined resolution to exert the utmost of my power in being revenged on the hellish authors of my ruin.

General Shirley, governor of New England, and commander-in-chief of his Majesty’s land forces in North America, was pitched upon to direct the operations of war in that part of the world.

Into a regiment immediately under the command of this general, was it my lot to be placed for three years. The regiment was intended for the frontiers, to destroy the forts erected by the French.”

From: Peter Williamson “The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, Who was Carried off from Aberdeen and Sold for a Slave”. York, 1757.

To be continued.