Cranhill Carmen

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Mini Musical
Oran Mor, Glasgow
25th-30th June

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In Edwardian times, when out and about, a lady wore her hat. Not so to do, was frowned upon and any woman who wantonly displayed her locks in public might be given the pejorative term ‘hairy’. In Glasgow she would have been known as a ‘herrie’. Over the years, ‘wee herrie’ evolved into a set phrase that was used to describe a female of doubtful virtue.

IMG_8013i Charlene Boyd, Ryan  Fletcher.jpgWhen we meet Carmen walking the mean streets of Saturday-night Glasgow, back in the 1950s, she tunefully informs us she is “Herrie Mary from the Gallowgate”. She is also seeking the convenience of a secluded lane in which to urinate. (Drink has been taken.) Happily she finds one, squats in a corner and goes about her business. Her actions are seen (and heard) by a young policeman Donald, recruited from the Highlands to keep the city streets safe. With his heart full of love for his mother and his church, he feels he has no option but to take down her details for committing such an offence. Although extremely straight laced, he finds something in this foul mouthed beauty intriguing, could he be the one to save her? He has a rival for her soul in Glesga Millio, who believes he is the man Carmen is looking for and has the distinct advantage of being in possession of a half bottle, when Carmen has a right drouth on her. What’s a girl to do?

Charlene Boyd’s Carmen fizzes and bubbles with street smarts. The dress, lips and flower in her hair are all scarlet, indicating passion and danger, both of which she revels in. Innocence and illusions have long since been stripped; she is a woman who knows exactly what men see in her. She sings, struts and spouts bad language beautifully.

Ryan Fletcher’s Millio fancies Carmen something rotten and sets about to win her with wide-boy patter. He’s full of swaggering self belief, dodgy compliments and smutty innuendoes. Ewan Petrie’s Donald is a wistful young man from a sheltered background who is appalled and fascinated by Carmen in equal measure. His light voice brings a plaintive innocence to his sentimental songs that contrast with the brash, gritty reality of the other two characters.

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Benny Young’s musical play is a treat. Though based on the Bizet opera there is a fresh take on the story, further enhanced by staging it in Glasgow. The opportunity to use the local parlance has not been abused; each colourful, stinging retort is believable, true and necessary. The songs are well crafted and when comic, really funny. Seldom has foul, abusive vulgarity been put to such excellent use. This Carmen is a rebellious burd, well worth catching.

David G Moffat

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Edge Of The World – A Digital Detox Musical

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Mini Musical
Oran Mor, Glasgow
18th-23rd June

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Are you in love with your tech, Android-appy or iProne? Are you Microsoft in the head for your device; is it the Apple of your eye? If so, you might require a digital detox, somewhere a mobile signal just can’t penetrate – like up a close in Glasgow’s Hyndland, or on a remote, windswept Scottish isle that’s the last land-stop before Canada.

IMG_7952ii Isabelle Ross, Katie  Barnett, Simon Donaldson.jpgThis is where American, motormouth banker Lindsay (Simon Donaldson) finds himself, with fellow retreaters, writer Annabelle (Isabelle Joss) and web fantasist Charlene (Katie Barnett). All three have diverse problems. Lindsay is a wheeler dealer, barking orders down the phone to financial institutions all round the world, using cocaine to fuel his 24/7 life style. Annabelle can’t get through a meal without constantly checking her phone, endangering her digestion and marriage. Charlene is a Govan lassie who suffers from a sort of Stockholm syndrome – she presents herself on the internet as a glamorous, exciting, Swedish girl. How will they cope for an entire week, having surrendered their cellular gadgets to Hamish (Richard Ferguson), the organiser of the group’s rehabilitation? Will fresh air and porridge work their wonders?

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Richard Ferguson’s mini musical has a tangled web of a story. We are introduced to elements such as the island’s Norse history and dress code, its Julian calendar and the practise of chanting Om, none of which advance the narrative. If it’s a serious look at the problems of virtual realities then there’s nothing new being said here. If it’s a comic take on addiction to technology, there’s precious little in the way of wit or humour. The songs are far from memorable with a couple having a distinctly Sondheim feel to them.
The composer provides piano accompaniment throughout.

Barnett, Joss and Donaldson all sing well, both individually and when harmonising. It is their combined energetic efforts, which bring to the production what little life it has.
Not likely to go viral.

David G Moffat

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Melania

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Mini Musical
Oran Mor, Glasgow
11th-16th June

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Melania Trump is not a happy FLOTUS. The First Lady of the United States does not sleep well, as she can hear the obsessive tweeting of her husband’s stumpy ‘Kong-King’ fingers pumping away all night, just down the hall. Between that and the 45th president’s other women, she’s had enough of the White House. But there is no silver bullet to her problems, certainly not in the pistol she briefly considers using on herself. Luckily the spirit of former, redoubtable First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt has been keeping an eye on her and with the savvy guidance of glam ghost, Jackie Kennedy, Melania’s future might end up looking brighter than her husband’s perma-orange face.

IMG_7859i FRANCES THORBURN, KIRSTY  MALONE.jpgKirsty Malone’s Melania Trump is highly strung, full of nervous regrets, her heavily accented voice working beautifully with the comic songs she performs. Her dearest wish is to get back to the ordinary, simple life of shopping all day with her girlfriends. Margaret Preece’s Eleanor Roosevelt likes girlfriends too. She is self contained, erudite, hooked on current affairs, a sort of can-do librarian. Her lack of fashion flair is mirrored in the restrained, often clipped delivery of her songs. 12 years in the White House has left her with few allusions about the perfidious nature of men. Frances Thoburn’s Jackie Kennedy has pillbox hat glamour. A style icon, she is what she wears. A woman around when the 60’s began to swing, her voice resonates with upbeat vitality.

IMG_7891i MARGARET PREECE,  KIRSTY  MALONE, FRANCES THORBURN.jpgHilary Brooks and Clive King have written a highly entertaining musical play with songs full of humour and irony that not only entertain with current observations but cleverly reflect the eras of the two former First Ladies. Jackie takes us back to a pre-Beatles, sweet American, big-pop sound, for a song about her love for JFK during the 1960’s Missile crisis (Cuban heels and Russian spies, I lost myself in his blue eyes), while Eleanor sings of the Great Depression (The grapes of wrath made lousy wine) with stark, slow rolling, piano accompaniment. With plenty of jokes, surreal developments and the happiest of endings, this is a treat well worth seeing. Gr8, as tweeting thumbs might have it.

David G Moffat

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The Thinkery

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Mini Musical Season
Oran Mor, Glasgow
04-09 June, 2018

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Socrates, as we all know, was a chap given to rumination. He encouraged young men to have contemplative thoughts while musing on the ever changing shapes of clouds. The technical term we use for seeing pictures in otherwise amorphous shapes is pareidolia, appropriately enough from the Greek, para meaning something faulty or wrong and eidolon meaning image or form. According to ancient Athenian playwright Aristophenes, Socrates taught this philosophy at The Thinkery, which does exactly what it says on the amphora.

IMG-7831i.jpgAnd The Thinkery is where young spendthrift Pheidippides finds himself, having fled from a seriously peeved money lender intent on skewering the wastrel debtor, in lieu of payment. Socrates mistakes Pheidippides for a curious student and introduces him to the philosophy of the clouds and the three rules of life. The clouds can speak and offer advice, which is really handy and soon the youth is heading back to Strepsiades, his worried dad, confident he can logic his way out of the family’s liabilities. The mouthy, house slave has her doubts. All depends on whether the stop-out adolescent can become a citizen and take responsibility for his own actions.

Jimmy Chisholm’s Socrates is full to bursting with oratory, striding the stage like a wee colossus then stopping, sandals wide apart, manspreading in his toga, while tipping the audience a knowing wink. Sandra McNeely’s slave provides grounded, streetwise advice to the household and her cloudy Zenobia with the masked, cumulus face attempts to influence her sybarite son from beyond the grave.

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Nathan Byrne’s Pheidippides is gloriously gangly with all the misplaced confidence of youth, glibly avoiding consequences, happy to be a drain on the Bank of Dad. Tom Urie’s Strepsiades doesn’t have his troubles to seek. He does good gloom, missing his dead wife and burdened by worries about his dwindling finances, due to his errant son.

All four actors whether solo or together, are in fine voice when they sing and appear to be enjoying the performance as much as the audience, i.e. a great deal. Brian James O’Sullivan’s funny, musical play is full of delightful, knowing anachronisms (Nike is the god of victory, not trainers). There’s much to enjoy here, from Keystone Cop type chases around the stage, to a misunderstood dialogue between father and son that brings to mind the Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s On First’ routine.  The songs are good and drive the plot which is as relevant today as it was two and a half millennia ago, while Annette Gillies’ set, a collection of flat Ionian columns in front of a screen of moving clouds, captures the classic Hellenic atmosphere simply but perfectly. A super, Glaswegian Greek comedy, bearing gifts.

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An Interview with Aaron Sidwell

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“The gravity-defying ‘Wizard of Oz’ prequel” (Time Out) is coming to Edinburgh, playing for five weeks only from Tuesday 8 May to Saturday 9 June 2018. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether 


Your career has spanned TV and theatre. After EastEnders, is musical theatre something you wanted to go back to?
Absolutely, I always wanted to come back to musical theatre. Growing up, most of the youth theatre productions I did were musicals, so I feel like it’s where I came from and where I learnt the craft. I’ve always been more of a theatre lover to be honest.

Did you train as an actor?
I didn’t really have a typical training where you go off to drama school, as I was pretty young when I started on EastEnders. I was 18 when I was cast as Stephen Beale and it was my first job. Before that I was acting at Sixth Form College, so getting my first television job was a bit daunting but such a fantastic opportunity.

Was Wicked a show you’d always wanted to be in?
I first met the producers of Wicked about four years ago, and I came very close to joining the show then, so there has been a conversation about my playing Fiyero for quite a long time. I first saw the show about ten years ago and fell in love with it instantly. It’s such a great show with a really interesting political message.

Tell us a bit about your character in Wicked?
Fiyero is a student at Shiz University, which is where he meets Glinda and Elphaba as classmates. On the surface, he is a spoilt rich kid who’s a bit of trouble. But underneath all the bravado he has hidden depths, and it becomes clear that really he’s lonely and vulnerable, and is looking for some meaning to his life. He’s a great character to play.

What aspect of the show are you most enjoying? Do you have a big moment that you always look forward to?
The great thing about Wicked is that every song, every moment is hugely important to the story, so there are so many moments I could choose. Fiyero has two songs which are completely different in character, but I have a soft spot for “As Long As Your Mine”. This is a duet Fiyero sings with Elphaba, where they finally begin to be honest with each other about how they feel. It’s the first time we see Fiyero’s true character.

For anyone who have never seen Wicked, what do you think is the reason for its enduring success?
What audiences connect with the most is the story at the heart of Wicked. It’s a story of friendship, and standing up for what you believe in. It’s also a story of being misunderstood, which is something I think people of all ages feel at some stage. It’s a really special story which everyone can relate to. It’s also a spectacular production – what audiences will see in Edinburgh is the full West End show, which is an absolute visual feast.

What did you enjoy most about your time in EastEnders?
The people I met will always stay with me. They’re all stunningly talented. And the highlight for me was working on my exit storyline; it was difficult but a great challenge. I think in the end there was a lot of sympathy for Steven. He was a tragic character by nature, and he was really at his best when his back was against the wall and things were spiralling. His moments of happiness were very brief!

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How does touring in a demanding musical compare to the experience of working on a long-running TV drama?
Working in TV and theatre requires totally different disciplines. In theatre, the need to keep yourself at the top of your game at all times is far greater. You’re performing live eight times a week and there are no second takes, so it’s really important to look after yourself.

How do you balance being in the show with family life?
I have an amazing family supporting me – my mum, sister and kids are all so understanding of the demands of touring. My partner Tricia is incredible.

We know you were once in a band – do you have any ambitions for reviving that side of your career?
Music is something that will always be part of my life, but I have no aspirations for it to be the central focus of my career. It’s definitely a passion and a hobby.

Do you have any plans for 2018 after Wicked, and what would you ideally like to do next?
2018 is all about Wicked for me, so I’m just living in the moment and enjoying every minute!


Tickets can be purchased in person at the Edinburgh Playhouse Box Office, online, or by phone on 0844 871 3014.

Shrek: The Musical

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Edinburgh Playhouse 
19th December – 7th January 2017

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Reviewed by Ivy Oakman (aged 10)

A hilarious take on Dreamworks’ Shrek, based upon the original book by William Steig, this time transforming the piece into a wonderful musical with Stefan Harrri as Shrek, Laura Main as Princess Fiona, Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad, Marcus Ayton as Donkey, and Lucinda Shaw as the Dragon and Fairy Godmother.

The captivating story of Shrek the ogre who was left by his parents at the young age of seven, and Princess Fiona who was locked away since childhood in the highest room of the tallest tower of the feared Dragon’s Keep, is a love story with amazing musical turns, and overflowing with humour.

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 The acting throughout the performance I saw was compelling. Really convincing. Samuel Holmes stands out for me, not afraid to express the eccentric Farquaad. Villains are always fun characters to play, but I noticed that a lot of the audience agreed here, and there was something especially entertaining about his performance.

The musical, as a piece, I personally found to be a little song heavy, though – always well performed, but sometimes the plot got a bit lost in the songs. I preferred the storyline, especially conversations between Shrek and Donkey’s very opposing personalities, and would have been happier to see more of that. That said, I felt the singing to be excellent. Lucinda Shaw had a really beautiful voice.

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The costumes looked like something straight out of a medieval picture book with well illustrated backdrops to accompany them. Certain transitions were especially effective. The Pied Piper scene using mice-shaped shoes peeking out beneath the curtain to illustrate Fiona’s piping expertise stands out as my favourite. It’s definitely a musical for fans of all ages. Plenty of subtle Simpsons-esque references means that no one gets left out. I would definitely suggest seeing this.

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