Moonlight on Leith

Moonlight on Leith, Theatre show at the Free Fringe, Edinburgh 2018. Bar Bados Room 1, Venue 32 Cowgate. Aug 5-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-25. 20.00 hrs. Adult.

The free fringe is gi-normous and btw it’s not all one programme there are lots of free fringes with slightly different names. My advice: give yourself ample time to find Moonlight on Leith in the backroom upstairs at Venue 32 of Bar Bados – oh, if it’s like this now, what will it be like in four week’s time!

The young ClartyBurd Theatre Company who perform this show are spirited and well rehearsed, they are versatile and they have a mission: #SaveLeithWalk. The show is to be unhappily found amongst the litter and debris of the Cowgate, but its heart is firmly on Leith Walk and the banks of the Shore. This brave piece of writing – I would go so far as to say the Scottish Under Milk Wood  – spins yarns of local citizens: from Mrs Potts, the earth mother with an underlying rage and generally disinterested yuppie husband; to Hank, the policeman abused by his wife and secretly in love with Sandy the prostitute who doesn’t work on Sundays (something to do with God).

The five performers (four female and one male), directed and co-written by Laila Noble (with Emilie Robson) sport plain dungarees and hold lightbulb torches. Other than the iced buns and the furry cat’s claws there are not many other props. Like all the best young theatre companies operating on a shoestring, they are resourceful and artful. Each person takes many roles, declaims in various accents (most are more than passable, and all operate a ‘barry’ Leith dialect) and plays male as well as female characters.

With poetic expression – “foxtrotting across the sky”, “blind with libation”, “joyriding juveniles” – and especially once they warm up, they twist their tongues around the flowery language ((that’s not a criticism) and the phrases flow pleasingly, comically. There is a great audience tonight, singing along to ‘no never, no more’ before it even starts and that encourages them to ‘gie it laldy’ (in the ‘vigorous or energetic action’ sense of the words).

The tour de force which is Moonlight is both a celebration of this peculiar village within a city boundary, and a protest at the sort of town planning which is out of touch with the community having seemingly given the green light to yet more student accommodation and another hotel in place of the current 1930s red sandstone Stead’s Place which includes the popular Leith Depot music venue.

It says a “resounding no” to this so-called development and a clear message to ‘preserve our heritage’ which encompasses the architecture, yes, but more importantly the people at the heart of Leith.

moonlight on leith
It all takes place in the light of  the moon

Save Leith Walk on Facebook

The Spinners – Contemporary Dance

The Spinners, Dance Base Edinburgh Fringe. 3 – 19 August (not Mondays). 16.45. Adult.

The Spinners is a most unusual dance work: futuristic with ancient undertones; incredibly fast-paced as well as thoughtful; it’s a highly original blend of storytelling and pure dance. It uses an old tale in such a way that it speaks to us 21st century folk, makes comment on contemporary themes as all good art should – no preaching, no clunkiness.

In this Australia meets Scotland three-hander by Limosani Projekts and Al Seed Productions, the women and set are sombrely dressed in grey tones and it’s the accomplished lighting which transforms this base line with washes of electric blue, sci-fi green and blood (scarlet) red.

3 fates
The Three Fates – Greek mythology

This piece is rich in mythological imagery and deep in movement source material. From the goddess Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, to the martial arts to Bharatanatyam Classical Indian dance with hints of Louise Bourgeois’ spider women, it is an inventive re-working of the Greek Three Fates who ‘spin the threads of human destiny’. With palms upturned, elbows bent at right angles, and arms deftly interlinked, the women line up, switch positions, interchange and weave themselves in endlessly interesting and dynamic friezes.

Threads are pulled and stretched, woven and tied to create tasselled figures which are hung on strings around three sides of the stage. This is all done through dance, not for a minute does the choreography cease. Representing androgynous figures of various hues, they are made and re-made, sacrificed and re-born.

the spinners 2
Louise Bourgeois as inspiration?

Between the frenzied lunges, the quizzical stares and determined gazes, are still points where one dancer watches, one rests and the third consults a burnished oil drum of a console-cum-oracle which doubles as cauldron (Macbeth’s as many witches?) and womb.

The complex vocabulary is thankfully often repeated allowing us the chance to re-watch, to become reacquainted with the subtleties and intricacies of the interlocking bodies as they hastily group and re-group, hesitating for a suspended moment to breathe collective life into their puppets with fronded fingers – each a wondrous moment.

After maybe 30 minutes, the rushing around starts to tire a little, the on-going dullness of light, and seeming repetition occasionally results in a sort of heaviness, but this does not detract from the choreographic artistry. There is a section where one character appears to go a little wild, choosing a white doll instead of a grey, then apparently sacrificing herself when thwarted, before being pulled out by the others and reunited. It was unclear what exactly was taking place.

In this show there is a combination of recognised steps and gestures entwined in a new and inspiring form. The Spinners is simulating and thought-provoking.