Friday, 9 August 2019

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 - Colin Cloud

I’ve been going to see Colin Cloud at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the last five years now. And every year he never fails to entertain, amaze and astound.

The illusionist extraordinaire has appeared on the Royal Variety Performance and recently appeared on America’s Got Talent. His shows at the Fringe are one of the highlights of the three-week arts and entertainment extravaganza and this year has proved to be no different.

This year’s show is called Sinful and for the first time he has a special guest – his fiancée Chloe Crawford.

The great man begs the question – are you an honest person? And, having answered – did you just lie to yourself? Believe me Colin Cloud will know – he knows everything about you.

He listens to your whispers and gleans those innermost secrets.

Without giving too much away, I can say that Colin Cloud is at his most brilliant this year. I always leave his shows asking myself ‘how the heck did he do that?’ I don’t know – and, if truth be told given what he knew of some of his unsuspecting audience the other night, I don’t want to know.

His shows are utterly compelling – he is simply a genius. His show is well worth the rather lengthy wait in a queue outside the Grand at the Pleasance, even allowing the stewards rather messing up the queuing system for Tuesday evening’s performance.

Colin Cloud – Sinful is at The Pleasance until 25th August 2019.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 - Something About Simon

Fans of Paul Simon will want to ensure they catch Something About Simon, the story of the American singer songwriter, which is on at the Assembly George Square Studios as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In this brand-new show, fellow singer songwriter Gary Edward Jones recites the music of one of his idols and, between songs, tells the story of the great man from his early days in England to his partnership with Art Garfunkel and his ground-breaking album Graceland.
A natural storyteller, Liverpudlian Edward Jones weaves together songs and stories that cross the Atlantic from New Jersey to the North West of England. He traces the sometimes-poignant moments in Paul Simon’s life and career that occasionally mirror his own.
There are no fancy gimmicks or expensive sets on the show. Just one talented musician with an array of guitars in the intimate setting of Studio One at the Assembly George Square studios. Edward Jones is an accomplished singer and musician and he effortlessly glides through classic Simon ballads such as The Sound of Silence, America, Homeward Bound, Wristband and the classic Bridge Over Troubled Water.
It’s a hugely enjoyable performance and one perfect for a late afternoon when thoughts perhaps turn to a glass of wine or two to relax. Something About Simon is not a tribute show but simply a recognition of one the greatest singer songwriters of the last century. If you enjoy the music of Paul Simon you’ll love Something About Simon.
Something About Simon – The Paul Simon Story is in at the Assembly Rooms George Square Studios (Venue 17) from Aug 3-11, 13-18, 20-26. 

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 - Faulty Towers - The Dining Experience

One of the more positive elements of those satellite television channels showing endless repeats of programmes from the 1970s and 80s is that they bring true classic shows from that era to the watching audience today. One of those shows is Fawlty Towers, the hilarious comedy set in a Torquay hotel with John Cleese playing the hotel owner Basil Fawlty. He treats paying guests with a mixture of rudeness and reverence and his daily battle with all that life has to throw at him resonates with many today.

I am a huge fan of the show so when the opportunity came to see the Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience at the Edinburgh Fringe I went unabashed even though I had doubts that the players would struggle to make the same impact as Cleese and the other cast members of the television show such as Prunella Scales, who played Fawlty’s unbearable wife Sybil and Andrew Sachs who played the hapless but loveable waiter Manuel.

The setting is the impressive Principal Hotel in George Street and such grand surroundings are at odds with the television’s setting in a small crumbing Torquay hotel – but such is the demand to see the show it does need to be held somewhere as grand.

Fawlty Towers the television show was made forty years ago so it’s possible – although unlikely – that some people may not have heard of it despite it being constantly repeated on the satellite channel Gold. Those who loved the television show probably knew what was coming as they firstly assembled in the waiting area where Basil Faulty ( a subtle change in the spelling of the surname) – played by Jack Baldwin who mimicked Faulty’s eccentric behaviour perfectly – announced the seating plan, passing surly comments on those he felt had not dressed appropriately for the occasion. Baldwin’s physical comedy was brilliant – it’s worth watching what he does particularly when Sybil and Manuel are hogging the limelight.

Inside the dining area the hapless Manuel – brilliantly portrayed by Oliver Harrison – created havoc with guests who loved his antics, nonetheless. Harrison stole the show and his performance was such I feel sure the late, great Andrew Sachs would surely have approved. The domineering Sybil Faulty was played with some style by Karina Garnett and her love-hate relationship with her husband underpinned the show.

And what makes this performance different from so many others is that not only do you see brilliant comic actors at work you are served a delicious three course meal, the quality of which was far superior to the service provided by a certain Spanish waiter (he’s from Barcelona…)

What followed before, during and after the meal was what most of the paying guests came to see – the chef’s loss of a personal item in someone’s soup; the fire drill, Manuel’s escaped hamster which is really a rat; Basil’s attempt to hide his bet on the horses from Sybil and his rant against Germans.

Whilst the food was delicious – albeit the menu was limited – and the performances sublime my only small gripe was the performers would have benefited with being fitted with a small microphone. I struggled to hear some of the dialogue when the action took place at the other side of the dining room.

That said, Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience is two hours of brilliant entertainment. Be prepared to be ridiculed, be prepared to be part of the slapstick action. But, above all, be prepared to be thoroughly entertained. But not a word to the dragon!

Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience is on at the Principal Hotel, George Street until 26th August 2019. 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Smile and...'ll know these little blighters are after something.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Paul Weller Moves On Up at the Castle

Photo: @paulwellerHQ
Like so many people of my generation I grew up listening to The Jam. The ‘angry young man’ that was lead singer Paul Weller produced songs that resonated with my teenage years. Modern World, News of the World, In the City, That’s Entertainment, Town Called Malice – a song that resonated with me during my time in Aberdeen - these and many more made such an impact on me and millions of others all around the world…

It’s one of my regrets that I never got the chance to see The Jam live. Weller split from the band in 1982, the year I first got married but after a spell with The Style Council, his solo career has taken off. Thankfully, I’ve now seen the great man live three times in recent years – with his gig at Edinburgh Castle last Thursday the latest.

The weather forecast for that evening had not been promising. I had been keeping a weather watch in the days leading up to the event; heavy rain had been forecast which then moved on up (do you see what I did there?) to thunderstorms from mid-afternoon to late evening. That literally threatened to put a dampener on things. However, the weather Gods must also be aficionados of Mr Weller because the rain didn’t materialise, and Thursday evening saw the clouds part and the sun shine on the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
The support act   - The Sound Foundation – set the tone with a Welleresque set before the great man himself appeared around 8.30pm. A truly sublime two hours followed. 
In his recent gigs I’ve attended, Weller has tended to focus more on his solo compositions and latest album releases, with the odd Jam number thrown in. On Thursday, Weller played far more songs from The Jam – Man in a Corner Shop, Precious, That’s Entertainment to name a few – as well as some numbers from The Style Council (Shout to the Top has always been my favourite Style Council song) 
He also performed some of his more memorable solo numbers such as Wildwood, From the Floorboards Up and the heart-tugging You Do Something To Me.
Naturally, Weller’s well-deserved encore just had to include Town Called Malice. His adoring audience simply lapped him up. 
Paul Weller never disappoints. On Thursday at the magnificent setting that is Edinburgh Castle he excelled yet again. 
Long live the Modfather.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Review: The Bodyguard - The Musical

I headed to the Edinburgh Playhouse on Wednesday evening not sure what to expect from The Bodyguard: The Musical. The premise of the show is a star singer, Rachel Marron, who is threatened by a fan who is infatuated by her. Enter Frank Farmer, a bodyguard with a past hired to protect her. Not the kind of thing to be taken lightly. However, there are comedic and touching moments in a show that turned out to be hugely enjoyable.
Produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian, The Bodyguard is based on the 1992 Oscar nominated film which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.  
Former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke plays the part of Rachel in the evening performances (Jennlee Shallow plays this part in the matinee shows). Burke certainly has a singing voice and has done well to cultivate an American accent. Her rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’ was particularly impressive and an array of instantly recognisable songs such as Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody ensure the show hits the heights.
Benoît Maréchal plays the bodyguard Frank Farmer and he and Burke seem the perfect pairing. The story of the show is the relationship between the pair. Each expects to be in charge but what they don’t expect is to fall in love. The show concentrates in Marron’s relationship with Farmer but also touches on Marron’s family’s reaction to their flowering relationship. Catching some considerable attention are Micha Richardson as Nicki Marron - who, herself, falls in love with Farmer - and Archie Smith who is one of six youngsters playing the part of Marron’s young son Fletcher.
The ingenious use of sets allows the stage to transform in every scene although the use of lights in the more upbeat numbers does tend to dazzle rather too brightly.  However, the sets and impressive dance numbers ensures The Bodyguard is a spectacular show. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry but, at the end of the night, you feel thoroughly entertained. 
The Bodyguard is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse from 9th to 20th July 2019. 

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Neighbourhood Ain't Bad

The Auld Reekie Ranter and she-who-must-be-obeyed aka Marion moved house recently. It's farewell to Leith and hello to Abbey Lane, in the heart of Scotland's capital. We're just a few yards away from these scenes:

The neighbours were in this afternoon. Stick the kettle on, Brenda...

We're lucky to have such a stunning environment on our doorstep.