Elysian Feels: A Review Of SOYC’s Orfeo & Euridice…

SOYC’s Orfeo & Eurdice

It felt apt that the Scottish Opera Young Company‘s production of Gluck’s Orfeo & Euridice was staged in Greenock as the journey down the River Styx towards the Underworld is how many locals view the similar journey towards Glasgow up the River Clyde. Certainly the backdrop used in the first act looked suspiciously familiar to those who know that part of the world.

This allusion, deliberate or otherwise, was only one of the impressive and inspired aspects in this production. If any theatre company wanted a lesson in how to make their work look spectacular, while making a little go a long way, then they need look no further. The use of colours, costume, and even cloth, were all used to tell the story simply yet effectively.

The stage was alive with blues, reds, and silver – all indicating who was who and what they signified. White veils for the wedding party, black for mourners, silver masks to hide identities, and simple ropes and drapes used as shrouds, shackles, and more. With reflective surfaces coming and going, and an ingenious use of lighting, the attention of the audience was kept throughout. You couldn’t look away for fear of missing something.

And this was apt as ‘looking’ or ‘the gaze’ is a key theme to the story of
Orfeo & Euridice. As with the myths of Narcissus, Medusa, Diana and Acteon, or even the fate of Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis, forbidden glances, and defying deities, can only end badly. The inventive staging used this to full advantage, breaking the fourth wall by forcing the audience to become part of the performance, made aware of their own presence as blurred faces on the stage.

The other key to audience engagement was the pace that the story unfolds. There was little scene setting as wedding day quickly turns to tragedy before Orfeo begins his heroic journey to rescue Euridice. Although there were nominally three acts the storytelling felt seamless – told as concisely and precisely as possible.

Daniel Keating-Roberts’ Orfeo, (centre stage for the majority of the time), had to hold his own despite so much going on but he did so with aplomb, and the three Cupids stood out not only because of their silver suits, but because each brought a distinct personality to the role. However to single out individuals seems wrong as the whole cast, from Cupids to Chorus (and dancer Kay Davis) came together to deliver a true ensemble performance.

It was easy to forget, and indeed I didn’t give it a thought throughout, that this was the Scottish Opera Young Company on stage, and that tells you all you need to know. Suffice to say, it appears that the future of Scottish Opera is in safe hands

Thanks to Scottish Opera for the use of the images – credit to Julie Broadfoot.

Further details can be found on the Company’s home page, and the most recent SWH! podcast is an interview with SOYC artistic director Jonathon Swinard where he talks about the company and his role.
You can find the podcast here, or listen below:


Three’s Company: The Tandem Writing Collective At The Tron…


The Tron Theatre’s Victorian Room is one of the warmest and most intimate performance spaces in Glasgow. Over the years SWH! has been there for Warren McIntyre’s Seven Song Clubs, the launch of the anthology Out There, and various poetry and spoken word events. A recent, and most welcome, addition to its regular visitors are the Tandem Writing Collective who put on nights showcasing and developing new theatre. We were lucky enough to be at their most recent night where a sold-out audience had a rare old time. There were laughs, tears, tension and tunes as everyone in the room shared a rather special experience.

Tandem is the brainchild of three playwrights – Jennifer Adam, Amy Hawes and Mhairi Quinn – who have been putting on these nights in Glasgow and Edinburgh with the aim of making audiences think as they are entertained. The running order was six short pieces, two each from the writers, with a musical interlude in-between (more of which below). Their impressive cast (see bottom of page for details) have only a short rehearsal time before taking part in these “script in hand” performances. This is as fresh as theatre gets, with risks being taken from all involved, and it creates a thrilling tension in the room that you rarely get with other art forms.

The first half began with ‘Please Charge Your Glasses’ (Amy Hawes) where a wedding reception goes spectacularly wrong, and the dangers of a live mic have never been as clear. Any wedding where the spectre of pampas grass rears its head is never going to end well (and if you don’t know the reference, Google it – just not at work unless you want to be the talk of the steamie).

This was followed by ‘The Lodger’ (Mhairi Quinn), a two-hander which looked at mental health and anxiety, how it us regarded and treated, and the pressures applied by the modern world. With the psychoanalyst from hell and a patient who fears just about everything it was a wonderful example of what two fine actors, with a tight and insightful script, can do as roles become reversed. Then came Jennifer Adams’ ‘Whispers’, which all too clearly outlined how rumours and hearsay can turn quickly into something sinister, and that it’s important to remember that even when mobs rule they are still made from individuals who bring their own fears and prejudices.

The musical interlude was just perfect as sister and brother Marianne and Aaron McGregor were joined by David Munn to sing and play some clearly personal songs of love, loss, and cults. A beautiful voice, and some glorious harmonies, backed simply with great playing. It may sound simple but when it’s done this well then you don’t need anything else.

The second half kicked off with ‘Knowing Me’ (Jennifer Adam) another terrific two-hander where what begins as comedy becomes pitch black as technology turns, like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror meets Westworld. You would never use Alexa or Siri again! Then came Amy Hawes’ ‘Bathgate Murder Mystery Team-Building Weekend’ where all the cast were involved in a riotous comedy/mystery, which had salient points to make about the media, and which (knowing some people involved in such events) was pretty much spot on.

The night ended with Mahiri Quinn’s ‘Politics Of The White Stuff’, a very moving and thought provoking piece on how the current reporting of, and attitudes to, bad weather reflect class prejudice and inequality – not only of expectations but of thought, or lack of it. It was the perfect end to a night where every emotion was brought to the fore.

My advice is not to miss out on the Tandem Writing Collective if you can help it as these are exactly the sort of nights Scottish theatre needs, bringing it out of the big and expensive venues to spaces which are not just affordable, but which make for the sort of visceral experience that you just can’t get elsewhere.

Tandem at the Tron Cast

Cast: Kim Allan, Karen Bartke, Daniel Cameron, Catherine Elliot, Colin Healy and Rachel Ogilvy
Directors: Amy McKenzie and Jo Rush

Tandem on Twitter
Tandem on Facebook

Fine & Dandy: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Visits Aberdeen…

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Charley, Jon, Shane, Ali, & a hawk

After our recent Dundee podcast Ali moves up the coast to Aberdeen to talk to Charley Buchan from Fitlike Records (as recently featured on Radio 4’s Notes From A Musical Island), writer Shane Strachan, and arts blogger Jon Reid, otherwise known as Mood Of Collapse,

The three talk about the changes in, and challenges for, Aberdeen’s arts and cultural community, the influence of the city’s educational and civic insitutions, the importance of spaces and places, graduate and talent drain, what inspires them to do what they do, and their hope for what happens next. It’s an impassioned and inspiring chat about the past, present and future for the arts in Aberdeen.

During the hour there are mentions for Nuart Aberdeen, Gray’s School Of ArtJamie Dyer, 10Ft Tall Theatre, Painted Doors, Fat Hippy Records, Kathryn Joseph, Aberdeen Art Gallery, University of Aberdeen’s Creative Writing MLitt, the SAY Award long-listed Best Girl Athlete, Peacock Visual Arts, The Lemon Tree, The Blue Lamp, Iona Fyfe, and many more. Thanks to artist Mary Butterworth for putting up with us and taking the picture at the top of the page, and to Charley for being the perfect host. Continue reading

City Of Culture: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Visits Dundee…

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For the latest podcast Ali visited Dundee to talk about all things cultural in relation to that great city. To help him do so he was joined by the co-founding director of Creative Dundee Gillian Easson, the writer and playwright (and long-term supporter of SWH!) Anna Stewart, and the TV and theatre actor, (currently to be seen on the brilliant drama ‘The Terror‘ on AMC) Gordon Morris.

All three are proud Dundonians who have close connections with the city’s culture. They talk about the past, present, and their future hopes for the city and its artistic community, examining how it has become an internationally renowned centre for the arts while remaining determinedly committed to engaging with its citizens. It’s a fascinating discussion which gives a great overview of a place, its people, and its culture. Continue reading

Love & Regret: A Review Of Scottish Opera’s Eugene Onegin…

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I have written a few reviews of Scottish Opera productions, and they are more often than not along the lines of “I may not know a lot about opera, but here’s what I liked”. With their latest opera, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene OneginI at least can claim to know the source material, Alexander Pushkin’s 1833 ‘verse novel’ of the same name, which is arguably (and I will argue it) one of the greatest treatise on the nature of love ever written.

This makes it the perfect story for opera, something which Tchaikovsky clearly understood. He was nicknamed ‘the little Pushkin’ as a child by his governess, so it is perhaps unsurprising that he felt an affinity with this Russian writer in particular, but, with its themes of love, regret, vanity, obsession, selfishness, the passing of time and youth, duty, ennui, and passion vs convention, it is perhaps more suitable for realists rather than romantics.  Continue reading

Judge Dread: A Review Of Philip Glass’s The Trial…

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It’s difficult to think of a more apt time for Philip Glass’s take on Franz Kafka’s infamous 1925 novel The Trial to arrive in theatres. When a new American President is promising to refill Guantanamo Bay with inmates based on who they are rather than what they’ve done, the story of Josef K, a man who is arrested on his 30th birthday for a never specified crime, is one which carries a warning which will already be too late for some.

Glass’s ‘Trial’ is a co-production between Scottish Opera, Music Theatre Wales, The Royal Opera and Theater Magdeburg, and it is a great advert for European cultural collaboration. It opens in Josef K’s bedroom, a sparse set which will be subtly and inventively used throughout. Josef is awoken by two agents who appear to be the evil doppelgängers of Herge’s Thompson Twins from the Tintin books, with their bowler hats and wry moustaches. They are here to arrest him, but cannot tell him what for or who has accused him, something that Josef, after initial shock, takes lightly at first. But as the year unfolds, and his ‘trial’ begins, the seriousness of his situation begins to dawn. Is he an innocent man? Kafka asks which one of us can honestly claim to be, and that is part of the terror of this tale. Continue reading

Animal Magic: The Scots Whay Podcast Talks Tyke…

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For the latest podcast, Ali went to Edinburgh to meet writer Rebecca Monks in the very aptly named Circus Cafe to talk about her latest play, Tyke.  It is based on a tragic and true tale which some of you may be aware of, it promises to be one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and it’s available to all as part of the Free Fringe.

We also spoke to Tyke’s co-directors, Madison Maylin and Madelaine Cunningham from Black Sheep 13465935_760726547363707_6399035500877242826_n (1)Productions,  to learn about the practicalities of staging such a show, bringing the character of Tyke (see below and right) to life, and just  what drew them to collaborate on this play.

We then conclude matters with Rebecca by way of a discussion on the wider Edinburgh Fringe with reference to her work at the The List magazine, and more generally about the arts scene in Scotland today.  All together it makes for a fascinating listen, and we hope you enjoy.  Continue reading