Saturday, 22 August 2015

Heart of Midlothian 3 Partick Thistle 0

Heart of Midlothian 3 Partick Thistle 0
Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership, Saturday 22 August 2015 – Tynecastle
For a brief period on Saturday afternoon, Hearts were knocked off their perch at the top of the Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership table. League champions Celtic had defeated Dundee United in the early afternoon kick-off meaning Robbie Neilson’s side – tipped to be champions earlier this week by former captain Steven Pressley – were in second place going into the 3.00pm kick-off against Partick Thistle at Tynecastle. Their fall from top place didn’t last long. By 4.50pm, the marauding maroons were back on top of the league following a fine 3-0 win over the Jags.
Hearts had suffered a pre-match blow when the influential Jamie Walker was ruled out of the game due to a foot injury. Gavin Reilly took his place.
Hearts normally start games in Gorgie in a frenetic fashion. However, on Saturday it was Partick Thistle who applied the early pressure although they didn’t seriously trouble home keeper Neil Alexander. Inevitably, it was Hearts who came closest to scoring when fine play from the skilful Sam Nicholson was almost finished off by Juanma.
It was Sam the Man who almost broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a ferocious effort from 20 yards which forced Thistle keeper Cerny to push the ball over the bar. Next, skilful play by Hearts captain Alim Ozturk found Prince Buaben who set up a shot for Callum Paterson but the Scotland Under 21 player’s effort on goal was deflected. Then Juanma found Igor Rossi but the defender showed why he is a defender when he volleyed an effort wide of goal.
It was all Hearts now and after 29 minutes, the Maroons duly went ahead. Nicholson’s corner was headed on by Paterson and as the Thistle defence tried desperately tried to clear, Osman Sow showed a predator’s instinct by prodding home from six yards.
Half-time Hearts 1 Partick Thistle 0
After an initial flurry from the visitors trying to get back into the game, Hearts almost doubled their lead ten minutes into the second half. Great play from Buaben set Sam Nicholson free. The young winger hared in on goal and looked certain to score. However, he pulled his shot agonisingly wide and Tynecastle collectively groaned.
Nonetheless, the youngster didn’t let his head go down. Minutes later, Hearts were awarded a penalty kick when Paterson was brought down in the penalty box. Juamna’s spot-kick was saved by Cerny but Sam Nicholson was the quickest to react to the rebound and blasted home for Hearts second goal.
Just two minutes later, Nicholson was involved again when he played Juanma through on goal and the Spaniard showed real composure to chip the ball over the Thistle keeper to make it 3-0 and seal the points for the Maroons.
The Firhill side have only scored two league goals all season so their chances of getting anything from the game were slim to say the least. They nearly pulled a goal back with ten minutes left when substitute Osman headed goalwards but Hearts young substitute Sean McKirdy cleared off the line.
Gavin Reilly almost made it 4-0 but the former Queen of the South striker’s fine effort was pushed away by Cerny.
There was just enough time for Hearts to introduce yet another product of their flourishing youth academy when 16-year-old Calumn Morrison was given a late run out.
At the end of another fine afternoon, Hearts were back on top of the Ladbrokes Premiership after a fifth league win on the bounce. Yet, afterwards, Robbie Neilson was still not entirely happy.
“We were a bit wasteful in the first half,” he told the official Hearts website. “We got into good areas but didn’t create a lot of great chances.
We were OK today, not great. The second half was better in terms of attacking, and I’m pleased with the clean sheet, but there’s a lot we could have done better.”
It’s this kind of attitude that will ensure Hearts continue to make such astonishing progress under Neilson and Craig Levein. A title challenge this season? Perhaps not. But a top six finish is certainly achievable.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Ozturk, Rossi, Oshaniwa, Sow (King, 64'), Buaben (McKirdy, 74'), Gomis, Nicholson, Reilly, Juanma (Morrison, 86'). 
Partick Thistle: Cerny, Miller, Seaborne, Welsh (Osman, 61'), Booth, Amoo (McDaid, 74'), Bannigan, Doolan, Stevenson (Lawless, 56'), Frans, Fraser. 
Referee: John Beaton
Att: 16,657
Top man: Sam Nicholson

Friday, 21 August 2015

Soweto Afro Pop Opera

Among the plethora of big names at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe are some little golden nuggets of entertainment from those whose name may not be immediately recognisable to some.
Soweto Afro Pop Opera are back in town following on from last year’s visit and although their show this year has reduced somewhat in size, it is still very enjoyable. The 2015 version has just three young men from Soweto but their talents showcase light opera and modern popular music as well as traditional South African music which had their audience clapping and foot-tapping enthusiastically.
The trio aren’t short on humour either and their interaction with their small but appreciative audience was warmly received. Although the talented threesome had to rely on backing tracks as their musical accompaniment, their version of 'Somewhere There's a Place For Us' from the musical West Side Story and 'There's Music in the Air' by Soweto-born jazz singer Letta Mbulu were excellent.
Soweto Afro Pop Opera are steadily building a reputation for musical excellence and versatility. Their wide-ranging repertoire is aimed at culturally bridging the UK and South Africa – and they are succeeding. My only minor gripe is that the show isn’t long enough and the fact there were fewer than 100 people watching such talent was a tad disappointing.

Their show at Chambers Street in Edinburgh (just off the Bridges, so it’s easily accessible) starts at 5.00pm and finishes before 6.00pm. So, if you’re heading to another later gig, why not pop in and see this splendid family show. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hardeep Singh Kohli

Hardeep Singh Kohli’s show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is tagged ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’. The blurb on the Fringe website states ‘The Fringe’s favourite comedian, broadcaster, journalist and chef explains all in a brand new show’.
Of course, reviews such as this are all a matter of opinion and what is funny to one person may not be even mildly amusing to another. His self-description as ‘Big Mouth’ certainly rings true. The Glaswegian certainly isn’t slow at giving his opinions on politics, faith and the good citizens of Edinburgh of which he now is, having decided to live in the capital city. The assertion that he is ‘the Fringe’s favourite comedian’ is surely open to debate, certainly if Thursday evening’s performance at the Pleasance Dome is anything to go by.
The die-hard fans in the audience certainly lapped up what was on offer although there were some who either didn’t get his humour (or couldn’t make out what he was saying given his propensity to mumble on occasion) or simply found him unfunny. One person actually walked out of the performance halfway through although it wasn’t clear if he had to dash elsewhere or had simply had enough.
Hardeep’s political views are well-known and while I personally agreed with the content of his rants about the Scottish independence referendum and Tony Blair’s input into the current Labour Party leadership contest, I suspect I wasn’t the only person who felt that they had come to see a stand-up comic and not a political rally.
The funniest line of the evening came not from Hardeep himself but a member of the audience who was called Daniel. When Hardeep made the assumption Daniel was Jewish on account of his name, the instant retort of ‘and I’m also an accountant’ brought arguably the biggest laugh of the evening. And that said a lot about the performance of someone who is reputed to be one of Scotland’s top comedians and broadcasters. It was funny in parts, repetitive in others (the Edinburgh Castle gag just became tedious after an hour) and for some ‘gags’ tumbleweed wouldn’t have been out of place.

As I left the theatre, I couldn’t help but feel there should be a revised tagline for the show: Hardeep Singh Kohli – Big Disappointment…

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Whisky Galore!

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has a vast array of shows, the majority of which are in the centre of our stunning capital city. However, there are some fine performances to be seen away from the more obvious venues – and one of them can be found in Leith.
The Leitheatre’s fine production of Compton Mackenzie’s classic comedy Whisky Galore! is currently showing at South Leith Halls, just off Great Junction Street. Directed and produced by Lynne Morris and Stephen Hajducki from an original stage adaptation by James Scotland, Whisky Galore! is a gentle meander through a bygone age set on the fictional Outer Hebridean island of Todday during the Second World War.
When a ship bound for America is run aground on the island following dense fog, thousands of cases of the finest whisky are washed ashore. The locals are intent on ‘saving’ the cargo but the Home Guard Commanding Officer, the officious Captain Waggett is intent on spoiling these intentions.
The Leitheatre’s production of this famous story is humorous and couthy with a wee bit of romance thrown in for good measure (if you’ll pardon the pun)

At more than two hours it’s good value for money even if the first half of the show did seem overly long.  However, it’s a splendid evening’s entertainment.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Craig Hill - Playing With My Selfie

There are some comedians I look for every time the programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes out in the spring. One of them is Scotland’s very own Craig Hill.
I’ve gone to see the lad from East Kilbride appear in the capital for several years now. Every year he never disappoints. And this year is no exception. In fact, I would go as far to say this year has been his best show yet.
If you’ve not heard of Mr Hill – where the hell have you been? Okay, no need to answer that. Just don’t do as many innocent naïve people have done when they go to see the great man for the first time - and sit in the front row.
Hill scans his audience and selects his ‘victims’ for general mickey-taking but his fans, of whom there are many, simply love it. His comedy is gloriously camp and no-holds barred. Resplendent in kilt and tee-shirt, Hill seeks to discover where his audience are from and the mockery begins, particularly if you’re from Fife or parts of East Lothian (Prestonpans was given the Craig Hill treatment at his show at the EICC on Tuesday evening)
The show has been described as wickedly subversive as well as risqué and rib-tickling. If you’re easily offended his show is, perhaps, not for you. But most of the near sell-out shows have the hugely appreciative audience lapping it up and begging for more.

Craig Hill is one of the funniest men in Scotland. If you only see one show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe go and see his. You will simply love it.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Rodney Bewes - Whatever Happened to The Likely Lad?

For those people of my generation who grew up in the 1970s, 2015 has been a sad year. So many ‘weel-kent’ faces from that era have passed away this year. The likes of Patrick Macnee – John Steed of The Avengers – Irish singer Val Doonican, Liverpool’s Cilla Black and Stephen Lewis aka Inspector Blake of hit comedy series On the Buses, have all taken their leave in recent weeks.
So when I saw another favourite of mine from four decades ago – comedy actor Rodney Bewes – was appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month, I simply had to go and see him live.
Bewes and his co-star James Bolam played Bob and Terry in the hit television comedy series The Likely Lads in the 1960s and its 1970s follow-up Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads. Bewes and Bolam played a couple of loveable Geordie ‘characters’ who kept the nation amused with their antics for more than a decade.
While Bolam has a string of television credits to his name in the intervening years, most recently in the BBC series New Tricks, one may be forgiven for asking whatever happened to his pal Rodney Bewes? Well, during his one hour show at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms in George Street, Bewes – now 78 – is happy to tell his adoring public what he has been up to. He has been heavily involved in the theatre in a variety of shows including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Funny Money, The Odd Couple, Three Men in a Boat and The Diary of a Nobody.
Bewes told the story of how he got the part in Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads thanks to his part in the film Billy Liar where he played alongside his good friend Tom Courtenay in the early 1960s. He also regaled the story of a working-class boy from the North who washed-up by night to fund studying at RADA. In his own words, Bewes describes his laddish behaviour in swinging London with some of the biggest stars of the day.
Bewes entertained those in attendance at the Assembly Rooms with tales of his career and, while he may have ‘struggled with new technology’ (a cd player that played the theme tune to Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads at the beginning of his show) and had to refer to his notes a couple of times, the glint in his eye displayed a sharp sense of humour that hasn’t diminished over the years.
After the show he gladly signed photographs and chatted with those who had seen his show – something not all of today’s ‘stars’ can claim.

The show will appeal to those who still remember Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads (the programme is still being shown on the UK Gold channel) although perhaps not so much to those who have never seen the show. But it’s a splendid hour nonetheless.

Scottish Labour Appoint New Leader

Cartoon by Chris Cairns - published in Wings Over Scotland