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.


Bethany Black: Stand-up comedian


Bethany Black – Unwinnable. The Stand Comedy Club 2, Edinburgh fringe. Aug 5-12, 14-26 15.50. Adult.

Bethany Black has all the labels and appellations and she fucking well uses them in her Fringe show, Unwinnable: lesbian, trans, autistic, OCD, ADHD, alcoholic (did she say that?), agoraphobia. You name them. With her slick black Hitler hair (that’s her own joke), Manchester accent and cute smile, she rambles away most professionally, topics tripping off her tongue as she has been wont to do for the past 16 years.

She is like an experienced therapist: she does not hide her habits or mistakes (if there are such things in stand-up), she smoothly acknowledges them, gets an appropriate laugh and moves on. Not that she wears her heart on her sleeve exactly, although she sort of does, but she has her play-list on the back of her hand.

As if those personal themes weren’t enough material for an hour’s show, she tackles racism, Danish airport security which was ultimately unsecure for her (and I sincerely hope she reported him to the police), on-line paedophiles, and having a father who’s not just an ex-blacksmith but also a Morris dancer.

Most importantly she rants intelligently about the everyday bigotry which she encounters: the cyber bullying, the boys on the street who have to “warm up like an old radio” before hurling abuse (aaaah…you…!), the ‘incels’, the anti-trans protesters at the front of the recent Pride March and much more. She is understandably angry and gets her point across loud and clear. With her proven track record, why shouldn’t she use her show as a soap-box? It’s her reality and most of us, her four-star audience, are symp- and empathetic.

Bathany Black 2
She stays at home a lot : probably taking selfies!

At what turns out to be almost the last minute she stops mid story, checks the time and her notes, loops back to the beginning and neatly snaps off the routine on an up-note. Then the seriously loud music once again regales our ears (‘change must come through the barrel of a gun’ Mao Tse Tung Said by Alabama – was that Black’s choice?) and we’re off back out into the sunshine.

Stick By Me

Stick By Me, Andy Manley, Ian Cameron and Red Bridge Arts, Scotland. Dance Base. 3 – 26 August 2018 (not Mondays). Children’s dance theatre.

Charming, delightful, inventive. These are the words that come to mind on watching Stick by Me, a dance show for 3 – 6 year olds created by Ian Cameron and Andy Manley who previously came up with White which won a Fringe First and other accolades in 2010.

One man-child is dressed in a neat blue jacket with his shirt buttoned right up to the throat. He sits in the middle of a pale blue dance lino, the edges of which delineate his space and out of which he is not allowed to step (very cleverly done – you’ll have to see the show to find out how!).

In his playroom, he has minimal props: a school table and a chair from the infant’s classroom, countless rolls of tape, a cardboard box and an orb of see-through plastic. Like all youngsters he can create fantasies from the simplest things, using what he finds around him, and mostly that’s wooden lolly sticks. Inventive and unpredictable, the stories he plays with them and they with him are the stuff of innocent imagination.

The soundtrack is immensely important – directing our feelings, giving voice to the sticks, moving us through myriad emotions. The easy piano and percussion, the electronic soundscape of kisses and farts is an intrinsic part of the show, like his mind-music, like a non-verbal version of himself.

Initially, Andy Manley utilises mime and facial expression in particular, with subtle, simple movements of a single finger. As the show progresses, he fills the stage with modest movement: guileless walking, unsophisticated running. He is agile, not by any means looking like a traditional dancer, always focused, embodying the kid within. On and off the chair he climbs, corner to corner he capers until, close to the end, he dances a smooth solo, looping and folding, light in his centre, a gentle sort of joy.

stick by me 2
Alan Manley – man-child

The audience is with him throughout, experiencing his disappointments, buoyed up with his exaltation, relishing his discoveries, and when he exits we are sad to see him go and we want him to come back so we can keep on playing together.

Suitable for children 3-6 years old.

Four Go Wild in Wellies

Four Go Wild in Wellies, Indepen-dance is at Dance Base 3 – 26 August (not Mondays), 14.10. 3+ years.

Four orange pop-up tents sit on the stage while the audience waits for Four Go Wild in Wellies to start. We can count the wellies lined up at the front of the stage and a sprinkling of leaves sets the Autumn scene. The piles of clothes remind me of that race where you have to get dressed, putting on more and more as you run it. There is not a performer in sight.

Then the music starts – a plucking of strings, a flute -and a tent shivers. The opening section is a dance but not as you know it. It is original and amusing, neatly timed and immediately engaging. Part by part, the bodies emerge until the four performers are before us in their pants, vests and socks.

This is Indepen-dance, an inclusive company for disabled and non-disabled people who all participate fully and dance skilfully. Directed by Anna Newell (the 2017 Tonic Award winner for ‘women who are changing the face of theatre’), with trills of music composed by David Goodall  who has also won awards, cheerful designs by Brian Hartley and choreographed by Stevie Prickett, this company tours and gives fully inclusive workshops around the world.

A tale of friendships made and broken, Four Go Wild addresses a universal theme in a familiar way. The dancers move fluidly, their movements are bright and likeable. The dance language has been found from the emotions and relationships which are being portrayed and the unsophisticated meaning comes clearly through the lively leaps, pushes and pulls, with the gumboot dance happily reminiscent of the South African counterpart. There is nothing subtle about the use of mime and over-exaggerated facial expressions which match the primary colours of the woolly hats.

Four Go Wild

The choreographic high point is the ‘sad duet’. It begins with a sinking in his torso, a drooping of his chin and develops into apt falls which are interrupted by a fellow dancer placing her body in the way. Repeatedly he drops forward, side, back, and as she catches him in different ways, he is supported and eventually cheered up. It is more inventive and understated than the rest, more effective as a result.