The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

Enjoy yourself – it's later than you think!

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Sixty Glorious Years!

EurovishOnce upon a time it was terribly uncool to say you watched – far less liked – the Eurovision Song Contest. Now it seems the very opposite is true. So when BBC Breakfast presenters like Louise Minchin confirm with a snigger that they will not be watching, all us Eurovision lovers know we are on the right rainbow-coloured team.

So when did Eurovision get its credentials? It didn’t happen overnight, you know. From flickering b&w folks with evening dress and received pronunciation in the 50s. To candy-coloured childhood days of 60s innocence. Onto the difficult gawky teenage years of the 70s. The 80s and 90s were wilderness years in a way with too many nights lost to too much cheap alcohol and E Number snacks; such was the response to the increasingly ridiculous image of Eurovision which in turn was a therapeutic response to the increasingly momentous events in Europe. From New Romantics to Brit Pop Britain was far too preoccupied to be bothered.

A new millennium and a brave new Europe with Eurovision serving as a crash-course for those without a clue. Who knew there were so many countries that had previously been swallowed up by the Soviets? And – shock horror – they could do things cheaper and better. Okay, maybe there were still mullets and stone-washed denim – but they were getting there.

Now well into the 21st century, Britain – and the old Europe core of countries who always pay but never win – are pretty much nowhere. The vast majority are in it to win it; they put forward their best artists, they take it seriously and they work hard. Any parallels with Europe proper can’t be a coincidence.

As for tonight’s favourites – Sweden is indeed special with existential angst lyrics teamed with very clever visuals. Belgium also plays to type with a deliciously surreal feel that has Magritte written all over it. Australia is well crafted with a typically upbeat mood. Italy channel Il Divo, going all the way over the top and coming back for more. And whilst not a favourite, the UK also play to type with lyrics about catching nasty diseases, self-medicating and getting into fights – with a tune nicked from the potato waffles ad!

Whoever wins though it’s going to be a memorable night with the inimitable Conchita holding court. And with the (potentially positive) result of the gay marriage referendum winging its way from Ireland you can be sure Ms Wurst will put that centre stage – about the only thing that could grab the limelight from her!

So get the party started – and wish the old girl (I don’t mean Concheets!) a huge rainbow-coloured happy 60th!!

A Silent Pleasure

monellolargeYou may think that there would be enough outstanding experiences to pack into any stay in Rome. After all una vita non basta… You may think a trip to the theatre would be pretty far down the list. There are the practicalities – when your Italian barely stretches beyond ordering a meal and getting directions. Maybe the theatre would be a good way to improve language skills?¬† Hmmm… Buoyed up with the fact that I’m a veteran of many Edinburgh Festival (the official one, the international one) productions that have been performed in everything from Cantonese to Serbo-Croat with the inevitably non-working or non-visible super-titles. I’m used to not having a clue about what’s meant to be going on – the important thing is going along with the flow – just letting the magic wash over you. It also helps of course if there’s no dialogue and if you’re also familiar with the story…

So… imagine my joy when a friend pointed me in the direction of Teatro Vittoria in Testaccio where the current production is Il Monello which translates as The Kid. OK – you’re ahead of me already. It is The Kid as in the Charlie Chaplin creation. And it is (almost) completely silent. To explain – it’s a frame-for-frame recreation of the original film (well, I think so… it has been a few years since my last viewing… ) It’s the one where Charlie accidentally adopts a young scamp – the Kid of the title – and they rub along together on the lower edge of society getting into various scrapes until the inevitable revelation threatens to tear them apart. If you’re not familiar with the story I won’t spoil it by telling you the outcome. I will tell that you may need some hankies with Chaplin’s original music tugging at the heart-strings from the start.

The actors themselves are outstanding  Рthe lead player: Brian Latini Рappearing like a Chaplin reincarnation. Every nuanced move drawing laughter, gasps and tears from the enthralled audience. The Kid (Gabriele Davoli) is suitably cute and precociously talented and inevitably elicits the biggest cheer from the predominately nonna crowd present on the Sunday afternoon we were there. Working hard are the remaining two members of the cast РRoberto Fazioli as the towering, glaring foil to the little tramp in the shape(s) of cop and local hard-man. Particularly good is Francesca di Franco who beautifully merges silent-cinema-luminosity with stark neo-realist angst especially in the heart-wrenching moments when she has to give up her child.

The run of Il Monello finishes this Sunday (17 May) so you’ll have to hurry to catch it. Truly, it’s a real treat and the whole idea of taking the intimate magic of classic cinema and recreating it as an intimate theatrical treat is bold and very effective. If you can’t make this one please keep Teatro Vittoria in mind for a future visit. I noticed in ‘forthcoming attractions’ a production of Coriolanus which looks visceral and exciting enough to transcend any language barrier!

From Maw Broon to Nippy Sweeties

Maw BroonApart from the obvious benefits of spending time with friends in Italy, it’s pretty good being away from the whole sorry farce that is the British general election. In particular the tartan spin part which is like the school wallflower who’s had a makeover and suddenly can exert an unholy influence over the cool-set who never looked at her twice in the past. Trouble is there’s those dodgy neds who want to do her bidding but they’re neds who want a punch-up and not political debate. She should tell them to bugger off but it’s difficult, eh?

I was on the Frascati to Rome train on Sunday night and what should have been a relaxing half hour journey after a blissful day with friends turned into something quite different. A hundred or so Germans boarded the train and proceeded to carouse, stamp and sing for every second of the journey. They spanned a large age range and there were women in their number but they were all fired up by being in a group, a lot of beer – of course – and being German? That’s a bit unkind – I like Germany, I like German people – but there was something slightly threatening about the whole mob mentality bound together by a national identity. They stopped short of singing ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ but the whole idea was the same. Funny then – but maybe not – when I heard the news from my homeland the very next day about nationalistic meat-heads storming a democratic meeting. The chill that ran down my spine was bigger than the one experienced on the train from Frascati.

Proud to be Scottish? Of course! Proud to be a Scottish woman? A thousand times yes. That didn’t start with Nicola Sturgeon though – from Annabel Goldie to wee Jimmie Krankie – we’re strong women who don’t take ourselves too seriously. Most importantly we’re tough and we know how to knock heads together. I’m sure Nicola knows how but it’s the when that’s a bit of an issue right now. Meat-heads have a vote – but for all their bluster they only have one vote each. Unless the marching and the singing and the shouting can convince good people to join their mob. I think – I hope – Scottish people, particularly women, are better than that…

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