The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the tag “music”

Harriet Braine: Art History Songs

First off – the show has to be up for ‘the most inappropriate venue for the subject matter’ award. The whole beer-soaked sports-mad Dante’s Inferno (not even ironically arty) that is the Sportsters Bar totally at odds with the more esoteric offering of a collection of songs about art history (or ‘performance essays’ as the blurb describes).

Happily once past the Inferno entrance the Sportsters back room is quite a cosy little space well suited to a low-key laid-back show about a potentially niche subject. The show is one woman (Harriet Braine), her guitar and a set of art prints. Her first song involves a fair bit of lip-trumpeting which made me think I was in for an Earl Okin (remember him?) tribute act. In fact the trumpeting only appears in one other song so all you Fringe veterans can relax.

So is the subject of art history too niche? Well, not according to the relatively substantial audience who must have made a determined and informed decision in making their way to that back room. Accepting that – the choice of subject matter was far from niche with artists like Picasso, Leonardo, Bosch and Cezanne being name-checked. There are also nods to female artists – Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Marina Abramovic – which is commendable but they are possibly the least effective songs because of the niche interest (hey, I don’t make the rules!).

The music itself is a straight lift from songs that fall in the period between classic(al) and modern. So we get Wuthering Heights, Roxanne, Abracadabra, 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up? and Blondie’s Maria. Original tunes with some subtle musical referencing might have been good but probably too much of a rod for the back when a quick recognisable reference is needed to get the audience engaged in two minutes bursts.

Entertaining, educational and all in all not a bad way to spend forty-five minutes.

(Review for 21 Aug)


Laurence Owen: Cinemusical High

Laurence Owen’s Cinemusical was one of the big hits of last year’s Fringe. With all the popular (deliriously happy full houses) and critical (Malcolm Hardee award winner) acclaim resting on those shoulders – can the man do it again? Oh yes!

This time round it’s the 80s teen flick serving as inspiration. Now I have to ‘fess up and say I was more Betty Blue than Breakfast Club in the 80s but I know the main tropes and I did enjoy Heathers so I’ve seen them pulled apart. Laurence’s incredible talent though is he can take quite a niche theme, write narrative lyrics which border on an Asperger’s attention to detail and set it to a score which sounds both familiar but fantastically fresh. Put it through the Laurence Owen feel-good-factor-machine – always cranked up to eleven – and you’re guaranteed a level of entertainment that’s almost freakish for a one man show.

The story is pretty much The Breakfast Club (I think, see above) with five main stock characters: the popular girl; the nerd; the ‘bad’ sassy girl; the jock and the goth girl who doesn’t say much. They all get their own character-setting song which collectively serve to propel the (intentionally) predictable-but-hugely-satisfying-all-the-same story-line along. A lovely touch though – which just may become a Laurence Owen trademark – is the uplifting finale as delivered by a completely unexpected icon from sci-fi/fantasy cinema.

You may be asking can one man really play all those roles convincingly? Yes, actually. As well as being a ridiculously talented composer, musician and singer Laurence also has fine acting chops. Watch him become the sassy bad girl with a subtle change of tone and physical stance and be totally convinced. The Hollywood originals may have been created in one dimension but with his musical breath of life each one becomes a multi-layered character study. And -this is the cleverest bit – the musical motifs are so richly informed and full of love for the subject they manage to encapsulate every bad boy, bad girl, loser, outsider you’ve ever seen portrayed as they underscore the narrative (I particularly enjoyed the Officer Krupke from West Side Story influence used for ‘the jock’)

You know the joke about Andrew Lloyd Webber audiences whistling the tunes before going into the show? The great thing about Laurence Owen is he wouldn’t think it an insult if you said it about his work. But for my money – Laurence is a lot more subtle and a lot more talented. As with last year’s show this is really becoming the hot ticket so get along early to make sure you can get in.

(Review for 16 Aug)



Seven days in -flagging, waving or drowning?

Sunday 6th April – One week into the social experiment (don’t call it a holiday – right?) that is my four weeks in Pigneto, Rome. Okay you backpackers, world travellers, ex-pats and exchange students – that may not seem that impressive to you but it’s four weeks out of my healthy comfort zone of one day fasts, limited caffeine and dairy diet, fresh (in comparison) Scottish air and soft Scottish water – so to me it’s a big deal. But apart from that I (we) are taking to it like ducks to water. So on this lazy Sunday afternoon as we sink a couple of beers in Yeah! to a consistently brilliant soundtrack – alternating between Morrissey and Pulp – here are some (general) observations so far:

1. Social capital is key – forget your northern european stay indoors culture. People get out and about, to see and be seen, even if it’s just to down an espresso on the way to work or back home – it’s five minutes of chat and goss. Totally invaluable!

2. There are a lot of very cute dogs and they seem to like eating bread when it’s chucked out for the birds in the park – what do the birds eat?

3. Everyone wants to practise their English which is a disaster for learning Italian – hey ho…

4. Everyone smokes and drinks coffee – along with the pollution – how does everyone look so healthy? It must be having access to loads of fresh fruit and veg and a good old mental attitude.

5. There’s a brilliantly integrated vibe whereby younger people, older people and cute little dogs can chill out together into the wee small hours. There’s no hint of aggression or any pressure to drink yourself silly (one week in we’re still working on that one…) Maybe it’s because the sanctified surroundings of Yeah! are something particularly special but I get the feeling that’s just the Italian way.

Pigneto in particular:

The Energy Park is a great place for chilling out, people watching and one cheeky little Jack Russell with a fondness for bread (see above). Today there was a demonstration to save the lake in the park from developers who want to build a shopping centre there. The demonstration was passionate with loudspeakers, banners and people banging on a padlocked gate. The gate did seem quite flimsy so I’m sure the banging was more symbolic than anything else but as two Jocks we were tempted to offer to kick it in for them if that’s what they wanted… ┬áThe police were there and even though feelings were passionate it did seem good natured with pregnant women and little kids in the crowd. Also there seemed to be no paranoia re filming the event. It seems like a good cause and I hope the people of Pigneto triumph!

We went to Marguri for a pizza the other night with our new good friend Alessandro. Checked tablecloths; people from little kids to really quite elderly crowding in quite late on; strangers sitting close together (gasp!); bright lighting (eek!) and just the complete Italianess was like The Jolly turned up to eleven (is it possble to feel nostalgic about an Edinburgh pizzeria when in Rome?) In short though – well recommended for a great quality Neapolitan style (puffy base) pizza.

Above was actually only our second eating-out night. First off was Food Art just down the road from Yeah! Highly recommended with a yummy veggie antipasti, Roman style (crispy base) pizzas and a litre of house red for only 5.50!!! They apparently make ther own seitan which I’ll try later as we’ll definitely be going back.

Tuodi is our local supermarket, just across from Food Art with a bigger branch just at the top of the pedestrionised bit of via del Pigneto. There’s also a Conrad half way between the two but think Tuodi has the edge for prices and choice. Finding it pretty hard tho to source any spices other paprika, luckily we brought our own packet of curry powder and Richard cooked up a spicy storm last night. We’ve invited Alessandro around for a curry night – R has told him (ironic humour here) it’s a national Scottish dish and I think he believes him…

Saw a terrific local band called Zman (there’s an accent on the ‘a’ which I can’t do on this keyboard) in Yeah! the other night. A four piece – guitar/vocals, bass, percussion, keyboards/saxaphone – playing sort of psychedelic folk-rock. A bit like early David Bowie meets The Doors with touches of Gruff Rhys’ Candylion and The Coral in their more acoustic moments. Well worth checking out.







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