21.12.12

Event preview: Hogmanay Celebrations

Published by Metro

31 December, Glasgow and Edinburgh


One night, hundreds of events, thousands of hangovers. Hogmanay's just around the corner, and here are your options.

Slip into a pair of skinny jeans and a vintage sweater and you'll feel welcome at Glasgow's Stereo, where experimental music is the order of the evening with Croc vs. Croc & Friends.

Just down the road at Classic Grand, the burlesque beauties of Club Noir provide a glittering and glamorous end to 2012, with electrifying shows by Morag Antoinette and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

At the other end of the M8, Afore the Bells at The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh offers a more traditional way to enjoy the festivities in the form of whisky, food and a ceilidh – while Cabaret Voltaire will operate at a different rhythm as house DJ Isaac Tichauer sets its dancefloor alight 'til 5am.

So just have fun, and don’t end up sat in front of the telly watching Bullseye on Challenge as the clock strikes midnight.

———

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12.12.12

Dear Diaz



UNDATED, UNADDRESSED LETTER FOUND AT

GREYHOUND BUS STATION
100 W MCBEE AVE
GREENVILLE
SC 29601

TELEPHONE MAIN: (864) 235-4741
BAGGAGE: (864) 235-4060
GREYHOUND PACKAGE EXPRESS: (864) 235-4060


Dear Diaz,

I really fucking wish I were you right now. You’re just opening your eyes as the sun flickers through the curtains in your bedroom, aren’t you? Mum’s risen early to make you a huge breakfast; you’re beginning to feel safe in familiar surroundings. Last night, you ate a large dinner with your family and then discussed some of your experiences out in the field over a good few beers with dad. Ice-cold beers. Tonight you’re probably going to meet with friends in your town, spend some time with a girl you haven’t seen in months – or years – get laid, and generally have a good time.

Do you want to trade places? You wouldn’t believe how envious I was of you when you returned to Atlanta and embraced your parents, right here in this bus station. Of course, you completely deserve it. Where did you serve? Afghanistan? Helmand? I had a couple of friends out there. I see them when they come home on leave, maybe once a year. Sad how some of them get into fights … [illegible handwriting] … they never used to be like that, before they signed up. I imagine it’s pretty difficult to deal with, working hard to adapt to a life of such discipline and order, only to discover that the streets at home inhabit so much of the opposite when you return. Beefed-up Neanderthal jocks taking advantage of girls dancing to bullshit chart tunes on tables of booze, is what you’re fighting for out there. You’ve given your own sweat and blood and seen men you knew die for this. It’s an insult.

Your shoes had been shined very well, I recall. You wore a sand-coloured military shirt and grey trousers, and carried a bag that looked heavy. The bag had wire hangers poking from it, and lay on the tiled floor as you held your sobbing mum. Your thick-framed spectacles matched your dad’s. You looked alike, but he had slightly longer hair. Still a crew cut. He wore a t-shirt bearing a photo of you in your full military gear, standing next to the stars and stripes. He looked oddly solemn, but I don’t doubt for a second he was thrilled to have you home – he just didn’t seem to know quite what to say, or how to feel. Then you started laughing into your mobile phone. I tried to eavesdrop over the CNN bulletin on the TV screen, before realising you were speaking Spanish. Your parents waited for you to finish the call, all the while looking at you and not talking to each other, then your dad took the bag and you all walked into the parking area outside.

I sat a few benches away while this was happened, but, unlike you, I won’t be going home for a long time. I was supposed to have spent last night in Charlotte, but things went wrong. I was supposed to have my bus pass ‘redeemed’, or something, and then get my connection to Charlotte – but it didn’t quite work out that way. For a couple of hours I stood at the ticket desk, trying to reason with an angry man who wore the expression of someone who’ll probably one day develop fairly severe blood pressure problems. He was supposed to ‘redeem’ the sheet of paper I had into a bus pass, which would enable me to travel on any Greyhound bus service around the US for the next 60 days. I don’t think you had the displeasure of encountering him, but, trust me, he was useless. Angry and useless. He didn’t understand what ‘redeeming’ something meant, and never really tried to, so I missed my bus from Atlanta to Charlotte.

I tried calling Greyhound, but some girl at the other end could only repeat the very same sentiments printed on the sheet of paper I had, which the ticket desk guy couldn’t understand. “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” he told me, chewing gum like an arrogant cliché. “Especially not concerning anyone that’s from Ukrainia.” I’m not from Ukrainia, nor does any such place exist. He told me to wait while he called up the numbers printed on the sheet. That came to nothing. He claimed he was being kept on hold and obviously had to serve other customers in the meantime. When they did get through to someone, I overheard him say I was from Canada. He really didn’t give a shit.

I tried to call my travel agency’s US branch from a pay phone, but this also came to nothing. I even tried to call its offices back home. Nothing. I met this girl who started saying things like: “don’t panic, you’ll get there when you’re meant to” – as if it was supposed to help. The security guard was trying to cheer me up, I think, telling me stories of tramps coming in begging for $1 to get to the hospital – one guy apparently doing this while carrying his right eyeball and most of its socket.

About five minutes ago I gave up and bought a regular ticket for another bus service. $87 from Atlanta to Charlotte. Not bad, really, only it doesn’t leave until 11pm and won’t arrive until 2pm tomorrow.

I have about three text messages to let my girlfriend know what’s happening, which will hardly reassure her. I miss her so much – everything seems infinitely blissful and simple in her arms. If I were thinking straight, I’d write her a poem.

[page missing]


I often remember
holding your hand
skipping in rain
dancing on sand.

Never such innocence
before nor since
that spread, like … [following line crossed out]


This bus station’s pretty uncomfortable for me. People stare at me with suspicion. I’m not really doing myself any favours – I’m an odd-looking guy with an accent, dressed in linen and moccasins in a station that’s quickly taught me that only the poorest Americans ride the bus. Plus the only other white people in this place are on the TV screen, reading the news. But I don’t feel as scared as I perhaps should. Perhaps looking pissed off makes people stay away from me.

--- --- ---

For ten hours I sat next to a large man who must have gotten through at least half a dozen bags of crisps. The crunchiest crisps you can imagine, as the lights of northern Florida and Georgia rolled past the window. In between the lights was the dark, which allowed me the pleasure of knowing I was in motion without being able to tell how little things were changing outside. I sat upright and clung to my bag, trying to get some sleep. We stopped at a couple of lonely gas stations in between Savannah and Macon, just in case we wanted to get our hands on one of those tasteless sandwiches from a fridge that probably contains traces of the urine of hundreds of truckers. I elected to stay put and take the opportunity to get comfortable. A couple of people had left the bus and I could almost slouch across two seats and close my eyes. But then the driver’s voice boomed over the crackly PA: “Welcome to Greyhound. No loud talking, no cellphones, no music, no cursing.”

I wanted to sleep for the whole journey, to avoid feeling more miserable than I did when conscious, but sleep wouldn’t visit me – I was way too stressed and distracted to get any shut-eye – and the longer I stayed awake, the hungrier I became. I began to evaluate the concept of waiting … [illegible handwriting] … I mean, how much of a person’s life is spent waiting?

And why do I always happen to be sitting next to an emergency exit? At home and here … [illegible handwriting] … symbolic? A journey between one stage of your life and the next, but always the option to change your mind?

--- --- ---

Perhaps there were a few copies of Great American Novels floating about within your quarters/barracks/whatever out in the field. Have you ever read On the Road? I’d suggest you do so, though I fear its appeal has become somewhat over-saturated here on its home soil. This is summed up almost perfectly in the form of an arcade machine back in Jacksonville, where I boarded, called Road Trip. It involves the player attempting to navigate their way from New York to Los Angeles, via Chicago and Denver, picking up different cash prizes, the value of which corresponding to the distance travelled.

I’m now somewhere in Greenville, SC. Fortunately a nice lady has sorted me out with some tickets and a temporary bus pass. I’m taking some comfort in the fortune of still being about use the rest of my travel funds to buy a one-way flight back home. However, I figure that after this journey, which will total 24 hours by the time I’ve arrived in Charlotte, I’ll be ready for anything Greyhound throws at me next. Surely it can’t get any worse than this.

I’m pressing ahead with my trip for now, in spite of all these obstacles that I bet sound irritatingly mundane to you. Are you rolling your eyes at this? Someone like me moaning to someone like you about late buses. Pathetic. But I just really wanted to share this with you. I miss home.

Anyway, man, my bus north leaves in a little while. I sincerely apologise for the rant, I really do. I’m fully aware that neither myself nor the experiences I’ve described mean anything to you. I just want you to know that I cannot remember longing to step into someone else’s shoes quite as much as I did yours, many, many hours ago, and I’m not sure you would expect that, given all the horrors you may have seen and memories you wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I hope these don’t continue haunt you, if they ever did, and that you really enjoy your time at home.

All the best,

x

--- --- ---

There’s no bus. The nice lady’s gone home and the sun’s going in again. Not sure how long I should sit here waiting for. It feels cloudy behind my eyes. Sleep deprivation driving me mad … [illegible handwriting] … and I can’t face another minute in this station. A man who’s offered me a place to stay said he’ll be back shortly to collect me if this bus doesn’t turn up. He looks strange but so does everybody.



———

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11.12.12

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


I’ve been asked to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which offers writers an opportunity to discuss their latest projects. I was “tagged” by Louise Gibley, author of Girl Meets Boys, who’s currently working on her second novel Scrabble Pieces. At the end of this self-interview, I’ll pass the baton on to couple of other scribblers.

This seems a bit like those narcissistic questionnaires I recall once doing the rounds as MySpace bulletins, which I actually really hated, but in this case I'm quite interested to read about what sort of magic is happening in Word documents worldwide. Here’s what’s going on in mine...

What is the working title of your next book?

Pillow Talk for Insomniacs.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

I'd not considered writing a book until I started to wonder if a poem I was writing would work better as a short story. It became He Was Raised to Believe These Things Were Possible. After that, I found that my narrative and subject matter were more suited to this format, so I decided to write a collection.

What genre is your book?

Literary fiction.



Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m not sure I want it to be filmed, but I’d like Ben Whishaw to play a part if it were. Peter Mullan for one of the fatherly roles. Joaquin Phoenix and James Franco if they can do British accents, Tilda Swinton, aaaaand it might be polite to stick my girlfriend and actress Molly Kay into the mix too.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your next book?

An occasionally bleak patchwork of moments that define my lost generation.

Will your books be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm not sure. I'm aware of the buzz surrounding self-publishing in the e-book market, but I think any emerging author can benefit from the professional guidance of a literary agent. We'll see. I've got to get the darn thing written first.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It's still in progress! Having started my first short story in March, and now up to 10,000 words with about half a dozen others under my belt, I might have something resembling a first draft this time next year.



Which other books would you compare this to in your genre?

I fell in love with short stories after reading Raymond Carver's collections, so there's a lot of him in this. He wrote in a deliberately spare, minimal style that conveys meaning in a very efficient way, and that's something I've taken on with my own writing. And probably Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace — a book I’m currently reading, and a truly incredible literary feat by a writer who tragically killed himself at the age of 46.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Ordinary people, mundane routines, the drudgery of work, small talk, hope, tragedy, comedy, prejudice, envy, innocence, cups of tea, whisky, insomnia, awkward moments, heartache, euphoria...

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

If you read only full-length novels, you're in for a shock. I like to get in, get out. Short stories leave more to the imagination, and some of my material might be a little close to home — I consider those two things to be hugely positive, but I'm biased.

Here are two talented authors who I have tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing:

Sarah Michelle Lynch | Author of The Ravage Trilogy – futuristic novels combining romance, sci-fi, action, suspense and thriller

Sophia Moseley | Freelance feature writer and author of Charlie – a book of children’s short stories

4.12.12

Album review: Lucifer in Dub by Peaking Lights

Published by Press Association

RELEASED 10 DECEMBER

VIDEO: Peaking Lights — My Heart Dubs 4 U



Married couples make pretty good music. Jack and Meg White, Ike and Tina Turner, Johnny Cash and June Carter — and now Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, who, as Peaking Lights, are currently producing some of the best downtempo on the planet.

To those unfamiliar with the dark delights of electronica, krautrock and psychedelia, Lucifer in Dub might sound like the extended soundtrack of the next luxury car advert.

But for the enlightened, this record is a blissful, end-of-the-party mix of hypnotising vocal loops, melodic grooves and plodding rhythms.

It belongs in a CD rack alongside the likes of Nightmares on Wax, Fila Brazillia and Thievery Corporation — unless, and only unless, your collection’s arranged alphabetically.

8/10

———

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22.11.12

Arts preview: Heliotrope @
Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

Published by Metro

24-27 November, every half hour 4-8pm, FREE,
Kibble Palace, Botanic Gardens, Glasgow.
www.heliotrope-project.com



As the nights continue to draw in, there'll be more urban foxes sniffing around your Waitrose bags. Worse still, anyone hoping to take an evening stroll through Glasgow's Botanic Gardens will find its gates bolted shut at the depressingly early time of 4.15pm. Except for over the next few nights, that is, thanks to an exciting new art project being housed at the West End park's Kibble Palace.

Free of charge and lasting only 12 minutes, Heliotrope gives us the chance to experience the impact of natural light on our minds and bodies across the four seasons. It examines Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — a negative emotional reaction to darkness during the winter months — through a fusion of audio and visuals involving a "sonic bath" and a rotating cocoon.

Produced by Trigger — an arts organisation that's previously collaborated with comedian Josie Long, musician Aidan Moffat and theatre performer Gary McNair — this magical spectacle has been created by a team of artists, designers and scientists.

One of them is Hanna Tuulikki, whose own creative diversity is more than worthy of that presented in the show. Primarily a sound artist, Tuulikki sings for local bands Nalle and Two Wings, and occasionally dabbles in illustration. Her varied methods of expression are brought together with those of DO Architecture — a multi-disciplinary studio devoting itself to site-specific works across Glasgow.

Joining the ranks of this unique assortment of talent are psychiatrist and author John Eagles, acclaimed poet and playwright Molly Naylor, designer Stefanie Posavec, and developer Justin Quillinan.

So try your best to fight those winter blues, because one place the sun is guaranteed to shine is here.

———

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21.11.12

Music preview: The Imagineers @ Stereo, Glasgow

Published by Metro

23rd November, 7pm, £5 (adv), Stereo, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 222 2254.
www.stereocafebar.com


VIDEO: The Imagineers CBS Promo —
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson



There's a bit of a buzz over at Stereo. It might have something to do with the arresting sense of cool inside Glasgow's trendiest cafe bar and arts venue — where hundreds of drainpiped hipsters gather to slurp ground coffee and nonchalantly exchange tales of debauchery — or, it could be because four local lads will be working their magic on stage tomorrow night.

Fresh-faced pop-rockers The Imagineers have been bringing their infectious Latin-inspired rhythms, lively guitar riffs and perfect harmonies to growing crowds ever since their first gig in 2010.

This year has been something of a breakthrough for Stevie, Scott, Stephen and Ali, with appearances at T in the Park and on Craig Ferguson's top-rated US chat show charting their rise towards musical stardom.

Now the band are set to launch their new EP, Karma Soundcheck: Part 1, in their home city.

"We like to make big occasions of our home shows, as do our faithfuls," said bassist Ali Greig. "This one's special because of the EP release, and we're excited to be joined by some great support in The Hummingbirds and The Holy Ghosts."

You know that really fun Friday night out you're after? This is it.

———

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20.11.12

Interview: Five Minutes with Westlife

Published by Press Association

Westlife have hung up their mics for the final time after 14 years as one of the biggest boybands in the world. Here Shane Filan, Nicky Byrne, Mark Feehily and Kian Egan discuss their break-up, legacy, and future careers.

VIDEO: Westlife — My Love (2000 BMG Entertainment International UK & Ireland Ltd)



SO WHY HAVE YOU DECIDED TO CALL IT A DAY?

NB: There are many reasons, but 14 years is a long, long time. You’ve got to remember that we started when we were kids, did everything we were told, and then what happens when you grow up is you develop your own opinions, and that changes things.

KE: We were sitting here discussing a new record deal and we just got around to thinking: “you know what? Don’t we all think this is kind of time?” Everybody felt it, everybody knew it, everybody could see why.

YOU'VE HAD SO MANY CAREER HIGHLIGHTS.

SF: Such amazing experiences that we’ll always remember. Getting our first award, performing for the Pope and Barack Obama, dueting with Mariah Carey… money can’t buy stuff like that.

MF: For me, as someone who used to have posters of her all over his bedroom, working with Mariah Carey was a massive moment for me.

YOU MUST FEEL LIKE YOU'RE LEAVING BEHIND A BOYBAND LEGACY.

SF: I think we’ve become part of a pop history. We’ve achieved an awful lot, and by ending it on such a high we’re protecting our legacy.

MF: We’re not deluded – we know we haven’t changed the face of music or anything like that. But in our world, with our fans, we’ve left something behind.

VIDEO: Westlife — Unbreakable (2002 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited)



LOUIS WALSH HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE THE VERY BEGINNING OF THE BOYBAND SCENE IN THE UK AND IRELAND. WHAT'S HE LIKE?

NB: What Louis knows is how to put five good-looking lads together and make them work!

KE: Louis is actually more of a music man than anything else. He knows a hit song when he hears it. And he has a natural knack for looking at a person and thinking: “that person’s got something”.

WHAT BECOMES OF YOUR LIVES AFTER WESTLIFE?

MF: A solo record is at the top of my list, without the shadow of a doubt.

KE: Just normal living stuff, I suppose. I’m not chasing a professional direction. I kind of feel like after 14 years of Westlife being hugely successful, we all deserve a little break.

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IT?

NB: I’ve always known I’ll be in Westlife and give it my utmost 'til the very end, and when it ends, for whatever reason, it’ll be time to get on with my own thing.

MF: I’m not nervous because at the end of the day I know all I can do is my best. Whatever I do or don’t do for the rest of my life, nobody can ever say I didn’t make something of myself. No matter what happens, I’ve done something really big with my life.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER BECOMING TALENT SHOW JUDGES?

MF: To be honest, I’d consider anything that I can make a difference in. I don’t want to do something just for the sake of it, or just for money or fame.

KE: I enjoyed doing The Voice Ireland. The Voice UK was brilliant - up until the live shows, then it kind of fell apart. The coaches were all over the place. They were jumping on their chairs, dancing around... it’s not about them, it’s about the singers.

HOW ABOUT ACTING?

SF: Maybe someday, but singing is my number one choice of what I’d like to do. I did a lot of acting when I was younger.

NB: That’s definitely something I’d consider. I did an acting course in New York about five years ago and I made a decision that one day I’d go to the States and try to get an agent. But times change. Now I’m married, with twin boys…

SAY YOU COULD STAR IN A WEST END SHOW OF YOUR CHOICE. WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?

NB: Probably something like Grease, that’d be pretty cool. The songs and characters are so well-known.

MF: I’d try to go for something a little indie, a little edgy. Something like Spring Awakening.

VIDEO: Westlife — Us against the World (2008 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited)



WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO BECOME POP STARS?

SF: Not just yet. My daughter Nicole is a good singer, she likes doing Irish dancing, but I don’t know if she’ll be doing pop star stuff!

KE: I would encourage my son to pursue a career in whatever it is that he really wants to do. If it was music, I’d obviously be able to guide him that little bit more, but I’d be more interested in just letting him be what he wanted to be.

WILL YOU GUYS REMAIN GOOD FRIENDS NOW IT'S ALL OVER?

NB: I share a serious bond with the lads, and we’ll never lose that bond. I like to think we’ll be able to keep in touch and pick up the phone at any point.

MF: There’s certainly no reason why we wouldn’t continue to be friends. We all come from the same town in Ireland.

TAKE THAT AND BOYZONE HAVE GOT BACK TOGETHER IN RECENT YEARS. WOULD YOU RULE OUT A REUNION IN THE FUTURE?

SF: I don’t think anyone should ever close the door to Westlife, but a reunion is not worth thinking about at the moment.

KE: No, I really don’t see that happening. I feel like - because we ended on a high note – it could damage it coming back and trying to do it all again. I like to think we can get back on stage together sometime, but come back and do albums, tours, etc - all of that is ridiculous.

IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO FORM A SUPER-GROUP, WHO WOULD BE IN IT?

MF: I’d like to sing with girls for a change. Beyonce, Azealia Banks, Rihanna, Robyn. And I’ll randomly put Celine Dion on the end.

KE: I’d just be replacing Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters and putting him on lead guitar!

HAVE YOU ONE FINAL MESSAGE FOR YOUR FANS?

NB: I can’t, no many how long you have, or how many words you can think of, be able to come up with the right sentence to capture this past 14 years. You’ve given me a million memories that I’ll take to my grave.

KE: Just the biggest thank you, and the biggest respect for each and every one of them for making what happened, happen. I don’t think you can say much more than that. You can go round the blocks about it a million times over, but it is just that feeling, you know?


Westlife’s The Farewell Tour is out on DVD now


———

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11.11.12

Inside the Bowels of
The Jeremy Kyle Show


Published by Sabotage Times

He's a daytime TV institution and an ally of the disenfranchised, but he really likes it when people cheer for him...


What would you do if a middle-aged woman confided in you this: that she used to be a man who took to binge drinking to combat the frustrations of not being female, and that the hormonal confusions surrounding her subsequent sex change had led her to further alcohol abuse and to regularly fly off the handle in violent rages. Most of us would run a mile, but how's this for advice? “You were a binge drinking man – now you're an alcoholic woman.” Meet Jeremy Kyle, whose daytime programme on ITV reels in millions of us every day.

And here’s where it all begins. Huddled together down a damp, dark avenue outside Granada Studios in Manchester queue The Jeremy Kyle Show’s audience and I – waiting patiently to put our own problems at bay so we can be entertained by a talk show host exploiting other people's.

After bearing the rough edge of the rain for an hour, we are led inside and nudged into a seating area, where a woman holding a clipboard lectures us. She has the energy of a Butlins redcoat. “On today's episodes, we have DNA results!” she enthuses, to the giddy murmurings of this eager crowd. “And remember, you must all show your most extreme emotions together, because Jeremy likes it when you cheer for him.”

We practise in unison our gasps, cheers and boos, and I make a mental note of a group of five who seem to be taking this far too seriously as we make our ways into the studio itself. Chaos reigns for fifteen minutes as many of us are made to swap seats in the name of audience balance. Then, suddenly, the man himself emerges. “Ladies and gentlemen, Jeremy Kyle!” announces the floor manager. Everyone goes wild.

Kyle walks across the stage and takes a seat. Then he breaks into a stand-up routine. “My daughter came from school today, and she's started saying a new word – boys,” he says with a smirk. “Well I'm alright with that, because what boy in their right mind will ever want to go near JEREMY KYLE'S daughter?” The crowd cheers and applauds.

“You alright Will, you twat?” he asks the floor manager. “Listen everybody, Will needs a girlfriend. His last girlfriend was quite rough, so he’s after something a bit more classy.”

It continues like this, with Kyle picking people at random, telling them to “get a job!” or asking: “Are you pregnant? Who's the father!?” and revelling in the laughter of the audience. He seems to enjoy referring to himself in the third person for a while, before he finally gets on with the show.


“So let's bring out Kevin,” Kyle announces. In this episode, Kevin will discover whether he is the biological father of his ex-girlfriend Tasha's unborn child. Tasha, who admitted that she “might have slept with someone on New Year's Eve” while they were still together, is confident that Kevin is the father, and that they could still have a future together. Kevin, still in love with Tasha and willing to forgive her, is hoping that he is the father too. You know the drill.

“Kevin,” Kyle pauses as the audience prepare to go live on their gasp rehearsals, “is NOT the father.” Kevin punches the wall and storms off stage. Tasha begins to cry. Kyle offers some banal advice about “using protection in the future” before quickly cutting to an ad break, and Tasha is ushered quickly off stage.

And it's back to Kyle bathing in his own self-importance. “That was very good,” he says to himself. He doesn't need to be told. “Hey, Dom!” he shouts across the studio. A man fiddling with camera wires looks up. “Don't you feel like you owe your whole career to me?”

Kyle disappears for a few minutes, before re-emerging for two more episodes. A few more gasps, cheers and boos later, and the whole thing is finished. The TV crew pat Kyle on the back, and he grins.

If you've watched the show, you'll know that at the beginning, Kyle enters to a cheering, whooping, applauding audience and shakes a few hands. That must be his favourite part, because after all, “Jeremy likes it when you cheer for him.”

Just as the TV crew are about to let us leave, Kyle speaks up over everyone. “One more thing, guys,” he says with a smile, “can we just do the beginning bit again?”

9.11.12

Album review: ¡Dos! by Green Day

Published by Press Association

RELEASED 12 NOVEMBER

VIDEO: Green Day — Stray Heart



You wait years for a new Green Day record, then three come along at once.

This, the second in the band’s ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tre! trilogy, invites us to pretend we’re at a high school bash somewhere in suburban California — where tracks such as Fuck Time, Wild One and Makeout Party champion the high-fiving, beer-chugging pop punk for which this three-come-four-piece has become most celebrated.

If this album were a person, it would be a 20-something skater named Cody. Recklessly hedonistic, quietly sensitive, moderately politicised, Cody can be pretty fun to be around, but over the years we'll probably lose touch.

So no, ¡Dos! doesn’t break new musical territory, but Green Day aren’t a jack-of-all-trades here. Just the master of one.

7/10

———

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8.11.12

Pillow Talk for Insomniacs


Hello,

Please can you stop the church bells ringing? I haven't slept for five weeks.

Every 15 minutes through the night is extremely inconsiderate, not to mention completely unnecessary, for the surrounding residents — many of whom have converted to atheism as a result of the noise.

I appreciate that you feel you're doing God's work, but, really, if the old man in the sky condoned this, he wouldn't have given us ears.

Please understand that I've tried to present these concerns calmly and with clarity here, despite the ruthless, perpetual DONG... DONG... DONG... DONG... DONG... DONG... DONG... echoing around my truly shattered brain.

I get frustrated at not being able to string basic sentences together in speech, I'm so tired. It's become a task to raise a spoonful of porridge to my mouth, or spread jam to the corners of a slice of toast, because of the shaking. My eye sockets actually feel like they've been raped.

So do let me know if I'll need to get a petition together or go through the courts to ensure I have any hope of getting even 40 winks in the future.

Please.

Yours,

———

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7.11.12

Festival preview: Sonica @
various venues, Glasgow

Published by Metro

8-18th November, various times, prices and venues, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 354 0544.
www.sonic-a.co.uk


VIDEO: Sonica 2012 official promo



Bloody hell... they've started putting up posters for pantomimes in bus shelters. Pantomimes starring egotistical radio DJs, reality show failures, televisual embarrassments, and John Barrowman (does that guy EVER turn down work?). Fear not, though, as a new festival is about to rescue us from this annual saturation of the arts, for now at least.

Sonica showcases the most exceptional practitioners of 'sonic art' — an emerging genre that fuses audio and visuals. Produced by Glasgow-based art house Cryptic, this ten-day event features both intimate and large-scale productions, screenings and exhibitions, at venues across the city.

"With sonic art you don’t just hear the sound, you see it and feel it too. It’s immersive, it’s visual, and it’s about performance," said Sonica co-curator and artistic director Cathie Boyd.

"Over the next few months and years you’ll hear a lot more about Sonica, and we’re proud to launch it in Glasgow, a fantastic city at the cutting edge of culture."

Among an exciting array of domestic and international talent on the bill is Claudia Molitor, whose piece Remember Me — a multi-sensory, miniature opera staged inside a desk — is presented at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Scotland Street School Museum tonight.

"Sonica is the perfect platform for Remember Me, because it, like the festival, is a joyous and curious exploration into sonic and visual possibilities," said Molitor.

Other programme highlights include Justé Janulyté’s Sandglasses, in which four cellists are shrouded in transparent columns, and Our Contemporaries, by Mookyoung Shin, which involves hundreds of tapping fingers.

Quite clearly, the only antidote to pantomime despair is Sonica — the most avant-garde event this side of the Fringe, and a welcome addition to Glasgow’s artistic repertoire.

———

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5.11.12

Event preview: WWE Raw World Tour @ Braehead Arena, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Tuesday 6th November, 6.30pm, £30-£60,
Braehead Arena, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 277 6062. www.braehead-arena.co.uk


VIDEO: WWE Main Event — Ryback vs Dolph Ziggler (24/10/12)



As two bleary-eyed, flannel-shirted drunks rather energetically demonstrated to a crowd outside an unnamed city centre bar last week, you can watch wrestling for free just about anywhere in Glasgow.

If you hang around long enough in the wee hours of a Friday or Saturday night, when tanked-up guys and dolls stumble between watering holes and takeaways, chances are you won't be denied some grappling action.

But tonight the professionals are in town. Yes, the over-the-top stars of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) — including the likes of Layla, Daniel Bryan and Kane — will be throwing punches, chokeslams and neckbreakers over at Braehead Arena, where the WWE Raw World Tour takes place.

This extravaganza also features the Ryback v CM Punk bout for the Championship, and the Special Attraction Match between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler.

True, it's all fake, but so is Santa Claus, and he's pretty fun. The WWE is a darn good show, and whether you have to fight a small child to get your hands on a ticket, this is a spectacular audience experience you deserve.

22.10.12

Russian Ark


We named it after a film, and there are only ever four of us doing it. The same four. It just feels better that way. We trust each other, because we know more or less how we act when we’re doing it. It’d just be weird if there were anyone else involved. I’m not sure what the others think. Okay, let’s say it were to happen. It would take at least a few times for us all to become familiar with that person being in the room, going through the same process as the rest of us, before it would be genuinely worthwhile for the group. Because it feels pretty powerful, the O.

It’s a very special moment. An important moment. Vaguely religious, we’ve said. I really don’t understand folk who take it at parties, or with people they barely know outside nightclubs. I just don’t get that. They don’t understand O is far better under controlled conditions. Perhaps that’s putting it a little strongly, but, well, how best to put it…

You know how even the best paintings must stay within the confines of a canvas? Or a frame?

Andre gets things started. He invites me over for the evening, usually midweek, and I’m at his door in 15 minutes. After climbing four floors, I collapse on his sofa and throw him a couple of beer bottles to open with his lighter. I still can’t do that. Some people make it look so easy. Apparently the trick is leverage, not force.

Andre’s room’s getting pretty dark by this point. There’s a lamp at the end of his bed – one that he’s had for years, and refuses to replace. He has a tall bookcase that stands in the corner, then there’s his recording equipment, like, everywhere. We’ll share those couple of beers and a cigarette while I talk about my studies, and he plays me some of his recent tunes on his laptop. He’ll never let anyone hear a track that’s unfinished, though.

Jennifer might be there, too – in his bed, or at least en route – while this is happening. Jordi’s usually knocking around in his bedroom, or cooking, or something. I don’t know Jordi as well as Andre.

Sooner or later, all four of us are together, sitting in various positions of comfort on Andre’s furniture. We take a few lines of O, then just sit back and enjoy the trip. Jennifer starts hallucinating pretty much instantly, while the rest of us try to hold conversation as we were. When we begin trailing off mid-sentence, we know we’re almost there. Then my heart starts racing and I begin on this wacky train of thought. Like about how being involved in artistic expression informs how you might choose to handle events in your own life. Like about how life can imitate art’s example of dealing with tragedies in your family, unconsciously. Like about how, in the film I was watching earlier, the score perfectly complemented the tempo of that guy’s voice. Like about how everything’s in some sort of rhythm because everything’s constantly making reactionary movements.

There’s a huge lampshade in Andre’s room. One of those flimsy, baggy, nicotine-yellowed ones ribbed with metal wiring. You’d know what I meant to see one. I had one in the room I shared with my sister, back when we lived with our uncle.

Well, that thing gets interesting. It becomes a focal point for us all. We’re all on our own journeys towards the Zenith, but the lampshade sort of pulls us towards one another. Like the moon. It’s incredible. It’s really, kind of, involving.

So we’re all hanging in the lampshade’s quasi-lunar pull, and we’re very conscious of it. Jordi’s pulling some really strange faces and looks like he’s having a nightmare, while Andre plays the music of some early 20th-century Polish cellist or other and lights some candles. When I arrive at the Zenith, I start seeing things in shapes. Like, a rectangle. A rectangle that’s thick at the top and thin at the bottom. A trapezium, I suppose, packed with particles – small, miniscule dots, each one fending for itself. Despite being gradually inter-connected, there’s a hierarchy among them. Just as in human society. These particles are organisms, creatures, and inside them are all the little aspects that comprise their existence – basically anything that has the capacity to be strong or weak at some level. In human society, we have sport. We have athletes and tennis players. We also have bacteria and diseases. These things are acting selfishly. There are strategies involved in them fighting, desperately, to survive, to become the best. Battling, growing, shrinking. They interact with others for their own gain; to boost their own contentment and morale, which they require to optimise their own performances and therefore rise within the trapezium’s order. Some of the particles learn techniques of achieving this success, while, for others, such knowledge is innate. And these techniques have their doubters and advocates, which live and die like the particles themselves.

You know, perhaps human beings are the most emotionally sensitive organisms in the universe. Above us, in a larger trapezium, to use a relevant metaphor, may exist far more numb, robotic nuances of life.

I catch Jennifer’s eye across the other side of the room. The light’s on. She sits on Andre’s bed, gently rocking her back and tugging the bedsheet beneath her. Her eyes roll backwards before fixing on a stare in my direction. It’s not particularly alluring or erotic – it’s just a locking of eyes, against a wall of colour. In that moment, it’s like we’re mentally fused. Then we begin laughing about something both of us have already forgotten.

After a thing happened involving Jennifer and I taking photos of ourselves, I find myself in the kitchen. I’m looking at one of Jordi’s knives, the point of which is dug into a wooden chopping board on the side. I’m not sure if it’s wobbling slightly. It could actually be very still.

A half-helped-from stir fry stews away in a rusty wok; a stray noodle dangles over the side. The sink is a long way from where I’m stood, or probably leaning. I can just about make out the dishes, which are sprinkled with slowly crusting matter, the bent and/or chipped crockery emerging onto the draining board to the left, and the handles of pans that must have, at some point, been carelessly thrust into this miserable equation where everything’s either wet or cold. But that isn’t really of note. What’s of note is what looks like a pool of blood on the floor beside the washing machine. There’s red trickling from inside the circular door, running along the grooves of the plastic flooring, settling in a watery well about four feet away from where I’m stood. Or leaning.

I want to go over and check it out, but the O is making me feel like I’m wearing boots that weigh thirty times what they do. My fingers have pins and needles, but my focus is sharp. Everything I see is given an angled embellishment, and I find myself staring at objects unexpectedly. For how long, I’m not sure.

The dial on the machine is lit up, and the timer is blinking 16:32, which is impossible. I come to the conclusion that it’s better I go back in the room with Andre, Jordi and Jennifer, in Andre’s room, where I find out pretty quickly that what I thought was blood isn’t blood – it’s juice. Juice. They’re laughing at me, and I recall seeing the knife, its blade sitting deep in the chopping board, and wonder why it ever seemed so menacing in the first place. After that I, for just a few moments, begin thinking as if I’m in a psychiatric ward. I begin examining my most significant flaws as a person, which include


1) Worrying about what others think of me.

a. Am I an embarrassment?
b. Am I a let-down?

And also

2) Why do I always want people to be pleased with me?

(One day, I should probably tell you about my uncle.)


So, having laughed at me for thinking it was blood trickling from the washing machine, Andre, Jordi and Jennifer’re all now just laid there, dreaming, silent. The moon shines in through the window. Cars pull up at red lights on the road outside. Even with Andre’s place this much higher than the street, I can hear them. Street sweepers, too. Jennifer exhales and waves her hands in the air. Some time before, when we’d locked eyes, maybe, her hand-waving would have appeared beautifully rhythmic, superbly synchronised with the ticking or buzzing of something else. But not now. Now it’s the dead of night. Now it’s clearly time to go.

My wired mind drags my sleeping skin off the sofa, and each considered stride towards the door feels like a Herculean effort, as the O clings on defiantly. When I eventually make it out, my boots mark frost on the street as an icy wind stings my throat like a cigarette before work. I pass through the city’s dying sodium nightlife and ask myself: was that fun?

A few nights later, when I get bored again, I decide that it was.

———

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15.10.12

Theatre review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof @ West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Published by theartsdesk

VIDEO: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof trailer



It’s not easy bringing the Mississippi delta to Leeds city centre – yet here its hanging moss and tea-coloured waters fill out every inch of the expansive Quarry theatre stage. Indeed, all that’s missing from Frances O’Connor’s remarkable set is a hungry alligator or two, though in the drama for which it provides a backdrop – Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about death, desire and deceit – the human characters are capable of inflicting quite enough damage on themselves.

The fragmentation of the cotton-rich Pollitt family is presented with brutal clarity, beginning with the fractured marriage of the attention-craving Maggie the Cat (Zoe Boyle) and her husband Brick (Jamie Parker), an injured ex-football player who’s taken to alcoholism following the death of his best friend Skipper.

Parker, fresh from starring as Henry V at the Globe, rises to the task of playing Brick. With each line of Southern-drawled melancholia, frustrated hobble towards the liquor cabinet, and reckless swill of bourbon from his tumbler, the deep-seated torment of this tragic individual is brilliantly captured by the Middlesbrough-born actor – and particularly impressive as his first major stab at the American repertoire.

Brick spends his days searching for the “click” that sends him into a drunken oblivion, where he is completely indifferent to his wife’s needs. Perhaps better known for her television credits – including Lavinia Swire in series two of Downton Abbey – Boyle’s Maggie commands the stage with more strop and swagger than you’d probably expect for this female lead.


As the ceiling fan above Brick and Maggie’s bed slowly revolves, it appears to embody the perfunctory nature of their relationship. “Living with someone you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone,” the frustrated Maggie is left to muse, a solitary saxophone melodising her situation, “if the one that you love doesn’t love you.”

Things aren’t – or rather, ain’t – more pleasant anywhere else in the Pollitt household. On the 65th birthday of Big Daddy (a perfectly cast Richard Cordery), the family gathers in Brick and Maggie’s bedroom to celebrate. However, unbeknown to the self-made patriarch or the adorably feeble Big Mama (Amanda Boxer), he’s dying of cancer, and his children and their partners are privately concerned with securing their share of his 28,000-acre plantation.

The pervading “mendacity”, involving not only Brick and Maggie, but Brick’s older brother Gooper (Benedict Sandiford), his wife Mae (Hannah Stokely) and their gaggle of “no-neck monsters”, is unearthed across three emotionally charged acts – a vivid interpretation by director Sarah Esdaile that draws from both the 1955 original text and 1974 revision.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the first Tennessee Williams play to have been produced by West Yorkshire Playhouse since it moved to Quarry Hill 22 years ago, and the meticulous detail it achieves is worthy of such a homecoming. Maggie’s appropriately feline stance throughout owes much to the influence of movement director Etta Murfitt, whose extensive work with Matthew Bourne makes her an unusual, but inspired, choice. The jazz score accompanying the background skyline’s seamless transition from sunset to moonlight, as the Pollitts’ hidden tensions are thrashed out, is a medley by Leeds Improvised Music Association, recorded alongside the cast’s early rehearsals.

The production’s exotic setting is so convincing, in fact, that it should probably carry a warning – as it’s a rather rude surprise to suddenly find yourself navigating the busy city traffic upon exit. Like the bourbon of which Brick consumes such impossible quantities, this masterpiece just gets better with age.

4/5

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof continues at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 27 October

12.10.12

Theatre preview: Hitch/Crunch
@ Platform, Glasgow

Published by METRO

Saturday 13 October, 7pm, £3.50—£8,
Platform, Glasgow. 0141 276 9696.
www.platform-online.co.uk



Two of Scotland’s most exciting young theatre performers have been very busy this past fortnight.

While you spent your October evenings arguing over whether it was time to start putting on the central heating, Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair were touring Hitch/Crunch nationwide.

This challenging double bill – a pair of critically acclaimed solo shows – arrives at Platform in Glasgow’s Easterhouse tomorrow night for its final curtain call.

Hurley’s autobiographical piece Hitch deals with themes of protest and change as it takes us on an inspiring ride from the Weeg to the Italian town of L’Aquila, where the G8 summit was held in 2009.

‘It’s been great showing an old work to new audiences,’ said Hurley. ‘Hopefully the gig in Easterhouse will be a continuation of that, maybe with some familiar faces in the crowd, too.’

Crunch – written and performed by McNair – is a thought-provoking live experiment that questions the value of money through a five-step programme designed to liberate ourselves from the stuff.

Missing out on just one of these bold works of purpose and cohesion would be a shame, but you’d be a downright fool to miss out on two.

4.10.12

Theatre preview: Lifeguard @
Govanhill Baths, Glasgow

Published by METRO

Friday 5 - Saturday 27 October, 7.30pm (matinees 20/27 Oct 2.30pm), £12 (concessions £9), Govanhill Baths, Glasgow. 0141 565 1000. www.thearches.co.uk


Swimming pools — you know, those places that charge money for the apparent pleasure of sharing a well of chlorinated liquid with a bunch of people you wish weren’t there — are about to get more interesting.

Specifically, one of them is hosting a piece of theatre this month, as Arches Artist In Residence Adrian Howells presents a bold new work at Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.

Incorporating movement, projection and sound, Lifeguard examines our psychological relationship with water — a substance that inspires both comfort and fear — and evaluates the positive role swimming can play in our lives.

If that isn’t original enough for you, audiences are encouraged to come along to the show in their swimsuits (however nippy it is outside). They can even have a dip, if they want to, while Howells and actor/dancer Ira Mandela perform a scripted splash-about.

Complementing this theatrical experience is an art exhibition entitled Water Water Everywhere, which is created by children at primary schools across Glasgow’s south side.

Yes, you really are reading these words. No, you are not in need of more coffee. This is, quite simply, a unique event that needs to be seen to be believed.

27.9.12

Music preview: Paul van Dyk @
O2 Academy, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Saturday 29th September, 9pm, £16,
O2 Academy, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 477 2000. www.o2academyglasgow.co.uk


VIDEO: Paul van Dyk feat. Austin Leeds — Verano



Paul van Dyk is a titan of trance. He’s the boss of beats, a hero of house, and – here’s my favourite – the daddy of decks.

Seriously though, this German DJ has appeared on the back of more Ibiza compilation albums than angelic photographs of women in yellow bikinis, bending down for out-of-shot bottles of Hooch. Yes, Hooch – that thing from the nineties.

Honing his craft on the dance music scene back in his native Berlin, PvD moved to UK shores to take up a residency at Sheffield’s legendary Gatecrasher nightclub in 1998. He scored a major hit with For An Angel that year, and quickly established himself as a pioneer of progressive trance, joining the likes of Paul Oakenfold, John Digweed and Carl Cox on an exclusive circuit of superstar DJs.

Six studio albums and countless remixes later, PvD’s tunes continue to set dancefloors alight across the world. His latest record Evolution is vocal-heavy and packed with anthemic tracks including new single Verano, which features Austin Leeds.

It’s 80 minutes of the usual euphoric piano chords, electronic grooves and thumbing beats that PvD fans have become accustomed to over the years – and Glasgow can expect more of the same when he takes the O2 Academy stage on Saturday night.

So come on now, I know times are hard, the weather’s cold, and the week’s been tough. That’s precisely why you need this in your life.

21.9.12

Music preview: George Michael @
SECC, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Sunday 23rd & Monday 24th September, 8pm,
£51-£86, SECC, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 395 4000. www.secc.co.uk


VIDEO: George Michael — A Different Corner
live on Parkinson (BBC, 1998)



Rarely will you feel comfortable spending a day’s wages on a gig, but then again it’s not often that George Michael comes to town.

Fresh from his energetic performance at the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony last month, this world-famous pop star takes to the stage at Glasgow’s SECC on Sunday and Monday for his rescheduled Symphonica Tour.

Hits like A Different Corner and Kissing A Fool will echo gloriously around the vast interior of ‘the armadillo’ as Michael, supported by a live orchestra, belts out material from his undeniably impressive back catalogue and cover versions of classic songs in much-acclaimed new arrangements.

From his early days as an eighties pin-up in Wham!, to selling out the planet’s biggest venues as a respected solo artist, this music legend still offers as much bang for your buck than at any point during his glittering 30-year career.

18.9.12

Album review: 'I Walk' by Herbert Grönemeyer

Published by Press Association

RELEASED 8 OCTOBER

VIDEO: Herbert Grönemeyer - Will I Ever Learn



Soft-rock star Herbert Grönemeyer is über-popular in his native Germany, but then again, so is David Hasselhoff.

I Want, Grönemeyer’s debut English-language recording, is a classic example of middle-of-the-road mediocrity.

Imagine a 56-year-old James Blunt, singing clichéd yarns about broken hearts and kindred souls from the side of his mouth, as a backing group slogs through the theatrical power chords and synths of a recent Bryan Adams B-side. Yeah.

It’s not terrible – James Dean Bradfield and Antony Hegarty make notable appearances on the album – just a little too safe.

Herbert Grönemeyer is surely on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in soft-rock. Sadly for him, though, only literally.

5/10

11.9.12

He Was Raised to Believe These Things Were Possible



December


He wanted a new shirt for work. Just so he could feel fresher for a couple of weeks. Was that too much to ask? He also wanted a pair of slippers, but didn’t want to wait until Christmas to receive some.

It was a cold, black morning and he was ready. He liked to get ready quickly, so he’d have a good fifteen minutes to relax before he set off. But he hadn’t slept well. He wanted to be able to sleep whenever he wanted to, just like everyone else seemed to do whenever they wanted to. He’d slept three hours that night. He felt awful, wired, but was getting used to it. 6.20. Time to leave. He had his eyes shut all the way to the front door, saving his energy.

Work went okay. Same pleasures, same frustrations with every shift. He’d find something better really soon. He spoke to people in his job. He spoke to old friends, strangers and his colleagues all day long. Sometimes this annoyed him, he thought, walking back to his aunt’s. He wanted to learn to drive again, but didn’t really like cars.

He wanted people to ask him questions about himself when he asked them questions about themselves. He wanted people in his town to take notice of him, and not consider him an oddball. But, in a way, he wanted to be considered an oddball more than he did a regular person. The conversations he wanted to be included in were about football and drugs. Topics he felt he had authority in. He was interested in none of the other conversations that came up at work. And he wanted a new shirt, damn it. The shirt he was wearing was as old as his job.

February

The window pane rattled as his friend moved her chair. His friend laughed. The clock struck two, as he was trying to explain himself articulately. About a book he’d recently read. He worried about his articulacy sometimes. Or was it ‘articulation’?

They both looked at someone standing outside. There were lots of people around. Some he knew, some he didn’t. The fire was roaring. All against the wall were more books. Choked together in bookcases.

Pouring wine into a glass, he thought of the house he might one day own. He wanted a nice, big bookcase in it, so he could justify holding on to his own books all his years. He wanted people to visit his house and look at them, and for those books to inspire further elegant conversations. And he wanted to write his own books, yes, and put them on the same shelves. His friend laughed a lot. She was rich, people said. He listened to his rich friend talking about social inequality.

At the end of the party, he entered his flat alone. He fell straight into bed, and deep into thought. He wanted people to think he was middle class, so he felt like he’d improved upon the conditions in which he was born. But, on the other hand, he wanted people to think he was working class, so he could gain respect in certain situations.

He wanted the people he grew up with to do well for themselves, so he could continue to reflect positively on his childhood. He also wanted them to do well for themselves so he couldn’t feel guilty when sharing good news with them. And he wanted them to stand up to people who weren’t used to being challenged. He missed home. He wanted to go back in time to the summers when he was seventeen and eighteen. He longed for those days.

He recalled an old man he used to work with. The old man had always lived in his small town and had been pushing trolleys for twenty years. The old man had never been married, kept himself to himself and was never seen at the pub, unlike so many others his age. The old man was the kind of guy who could go his entire life without saying a word to anyone and be just as content and bitter as the next old man. The old man definitely gave that impression, but was nice and approachable all the same. Very occasionally, the old man would tell people a story or two that made them feel even more sorry for him, as he stumbled over his words and avoided eye contact in a kind of instinctive way. The old man owned a little dog that he would walk a few times a day, going up to the castle, around the woods, or down the main street, depending on which day of the week. Like clockwork. People could see the old man muttering things to his little dog, having conversations with it, but they weren’t even good conversations, just about the weather and stuff, which somehow made it seem even more tragic. The little dog was the old man’s only friend, but he appeared happy enough with this arrangement. The old man had everything he needed. He wasn’t a freak, either, just a quiet, lonely guy who had values and never asked any questions. Absolutely nothing twisted about him whatsoever. The old man’s little dog became ill and died, and the old man went on compassionate leave from work. Nobody would see the old man around town like always, as the only reason the old man had been out there anyway was to walk his little dog. Everyone was sad thinking about it. The old man came back to work as soon as he said he would. People started to greet the old man in passing, perhaps trying to make him feel better as nobody would have ever done that before, and the old man would smile politely back. The old man got a new little dog just like his previous one a few weeks afterwards.

It was very late. He rose from the bed and rubbed his eyes. Stretching, he picked up a glass from his desk. Then went to the bathroom.

August


He put down the newspaper. Economy’s bad, people were saying. He’d read all the sport, news and opinions, even the obituaries, before shutting the window. It was starting to cool outside. Little flies were trying to creep in. Next to his wallet and keys on the desk were some train tickets. He looked at them, then turned off the light.

The walk to his friend’s place was long. He’d forgotten how long. Following the path through the park and heading left through town, the journey took about forty-five minutes. Daylight was fading and there was a lot of traffic. A lot of people out and about, too. Sirens.

Along the way, he’d been worrying about his future. He knew that above any other profession, he wanted to be considered a writer. He wanted to become a playwright, or something, and try to be in the right place at the right time, but he knew it could be a wasted effort. He could give up on a career and write creatively all the time on little income, but he knew he wouldn’t really enjoy the relative poverty. He wanted someone to discover his writing and catapult him into the literary world. He had ideas. He could much better express himself in written rather than spoken words, yet his writing tried to capture how he intended to discuss things in speech. He wanted to be in a job where the prospect of travel was always possible. He wanted to travel forever as that’s how he learnt most. He wanted to visit each continent by the time he turned thirty, just because he’d had that idea in his head a long time. He wanted to live in the USA for a few years, too. Maybe he could own his own property in somewhere like Oregon. Walk around in boots, drive a pick-up truck and own a large dog, he thought. Or maybe he could rent an apartment in San Francisco and work 9-5 in Silicon Valley. Right then, he wanted both these lifestyles. He also wanted to live in London, so he felt like he was furthering himself. Anyone who achieves their potential in this country lives there, he thought. And he wanted to spend a lot of his life in the Lake District, rowing on the lake in a village he visited when he was younger, or sitting atop a mountain with a flask of tea, alone. He was raised to believe these things were possible, if he worked hard enough. And he felt like he had.

His friend was talking about this sort of thing, too. Twisting a cigarette butt into a saucer, his friend offered him a drink. He accepted. Then his friend started talking about music. The room they were talking in was a mess. Plant pots sat on dinner plates on the windowsill next to stacks of CDs and newspapers. The light bulb hung, uncovered by a shade, from a cord attached to the ceiling. The place was covered with dust.

He liked the feeling of living among an artistic, bohemian community. But he liked more the thought that he’d moved on from that. Now, he wanted to be in the presence of people who were professionally ambitious.

His friend didn’t think about his future as much as he did. He’d made this observation before, but it seemed more striking now. It represented a big difference between them now as people. A few hours later, it was time to leave. He heard someone playing an acoustic guitar as he emerged on to the footpath outside his friend’s flat. The sound of it inevitably faded as he walked away. On the journey home, it occurred to him that he wanted to be with his girlfriend for the rest of his life.

January

He was dancing around with the vacuum cleaner when the phone started ringing. He answered it quickly. It was someone from the job centre. Would he be able to make it next Tuesday at ten o’clock, the woman at the other end was asking him. He said yes immediately. He found it pleasant that she was referring to him by his title and surname, and speaking formally. They both hung up a minute later.

When he’d finished washing and drying the dishes from breakfast, he sat down on the sofa and flicked through the TV channels. He experienced a heightened sensation of time passing as he did this. Then he heard something. It sounded like something being powered, like the fridge or the dishwasher. But it was just house sounds.

He settled on some property show, and then started to itch. He scratched and changed his position, but the itch refused to go away. He tried not to think about it, but it couldn’t be ignored. The itch spread from the small of his back to somewhere between his shoulder blades, and then around his neck. Was it his clothes? He’d showered that morning, and pretty regularly all that week. Maybe showering too much was the problem, he wondered. Or perhaps his body wasn’t used to his mother’s detergent. It could be that.

The phone rang again the following Tuesday morning. The same person he’d spoken to before was confirming where the job centre was located, and what time he’d have to be there. He nodded as he wrote down the details on the back of an old birthday card.

At the job centre, he was given a slip of paper and shown the waiting area. He took a seat on one of the blue cushioned chairs and picked up an old magazine, but didn’t read it. He just held it on his lap and fingered its pages as he waited for his name to be called. The place was filling up with people, and the carpet was becoming soiled with the slushy dirt they’d brought in from outside. He tried to think about what he was going to say.

He wanted a job he loved doing, so people he knew in high-paid but uninspiring jobs would look up to him. Then again, he wanted a high-paid job that would earn him the respect of the ambitious people he knew who were struggling in low-paid but exciting jobs. He wanted to believe that his ambition would eventually make the things he wanted to happen, happen. He wanted to commute to work alongside others so he could feel that sense of purpose. He wanted to become a farmer and live the simple life, but he knew full well he’d come to resent the people he’d encounter. He wanted to feel accomplished at age fifty. He wanted to be able to retire when he could still enjoy life. He wanted his mother to feel accomplished that her son achieved far more in his life than she did. He wanted his successes to make people think there was still justice in the world. He wanted to be someone’s protégé. He wanted to be someone’s teacher. He just wanted to leave some kind of legacy, you know?

He didn’t really say any of this to the woman sat in front of him, when his time came. They spoke instead of his work experience and availability, but mostly about paperwork. While the woman was talking, he noticed she wore a silver locket, which hung delicately over her collar bone. As she bashed on her computer’s keyboard, he observed how her veins glowed beneath her perfumed skin. He saw that her eyes were the same colour as a lot of people’s when she looked past him and asked for his signature, pointing to a dotted line on a form with the nib of a pen. All this didn’t feel very momentous, he thought, waiting for his moment of clarity. In that nano-second, when it arrived, he wanted to know if he had already lost himself. As he went to take the pen, the woman’s face creased up and she sneezed. She dropped then pen and said sorry as it rolled across the carpet, before she sneezed again and again. He rose quickly to pick it up, and while he was on the floor, a boot fell heavily on to his right hand. He squealed loudly. People looked across at him, and the man wearing the boot muttered an apology. The pain took his breath away. His eyes watered a little, and his dirty knuckles ached. His nails, which he’d slowly bitten into thorns, had been forced into his fingers by the boot, and that was what had really hurt. The woman asked if he was alright. He chuckled and nodded, but he wasn’t really. He signed the form and left, terrified of many things, when he was supposed to.

Over the coming weeks and months, he started to want different things. He wanted his own dog so he could go out for walks and people wouldn’t worry about him. He wanted to smoke marijuana more often. He wanted to watch more plays.

He rarely held on to his thoughts and ideas, but he had started to write down his dreams in a book. He never showed them to anyone, or even cared to read them back himself; he just wrote down whatever he dreamed, and, whenever a new dream came along, he wrote that down too. One night, the rain drops were racing each other down the window pane as he switched off his electric heater and watched the bars turn from red to black.

23.8.12

Edinburgh Festival | Comedy preview: Barry Morgan's World Of Organs @ Underbelly, Cowgate, Edinburgh

clarkspeak | arts reviews, travel features, creative writing and more | clarkspeak.blogspot.com Published by METRO

Until Monday 27 August, 7.20pm, £11.50/£13.50 (£10.50/£12.50 concessions) Underbelly, Cowgate (V61), Edinburgh. Tel: 0844 545 8252. www.underbelly.co.uk

VIDEO: Barry Morgan — Big Bossa



There must be a reason why virtually every church organ player looks like their dog has just died. I just don’t get it; if you’re bashing out a tuneful Psalm on one of the coolest instruments in the world, what’s not to smile about exactly?

Well, the Fringe is traditionally a place of firsts, and this year is no different. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Barry Morgan – the first-ever happy organist. He’s a little too happy, to be honest, but nevertheless hilarious.

Proudly hailing from Adelaide, Australia, but physically reminiscent of someone from The Fast Show’s ‘Chanel 9’ TV sketch, this celebrity organ salesman (portrayed by Stephen Teakle) crosses hemispheres to share his love for the instrument in his debut show at Underbelly, Cowgate.

It involves him charming his way into your ears with the velvety tones and exotic grooves of a vintage 1981 Hammond Aurora Classic.

Now, while a moustached, organ-crazy Aussie might be the stuff of nightmares for most of the year, this is character comedy at its funniest here at the Fringe.

13.8.12

Music preview: Karen Matheson @ Òran Mór, Glasgow

Published by METRO

Wednesday 15 August, 7pm, £18, Òran Mór, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 395 4005. www.oran-mor.co.uk

VIDEO: Karen Matheson with Donald Shaw —
Crucán Na bPáiste (Downriver, 2006)



You’ve probably heard about all the fun happening in Edinburgh. About the thousands of people rubbing shoulders on the Royal Mile to feast their eyes, ears and goodness knows what else on some of the genius on offer at this month's Fringe.

But there’s plenty happening at the other end of the M8 — where Glasgow is keeping it simple, and very Scottish.

Tomorrow night, Karen Matheson takes to the stage at Òran Mór for a warm, intimate show befitting of the enchanting West End venue’s evening glow.

In a spectacle for folk enthusiasts nationwide, the Gaelic singer’s impassioned vocals will manoeuvre delicately around the tender rhythms of two long-time collaborators — guitarist James Grant and pianist Donald Shaw.

As frontwoman of Celtic super-group Capercaillie, Matheson has sold one million-plus records, performed in more than thirty countries and starred in the blockbuster movie Rob Roy with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange.

She's worked with a host of respected musicians so far in her solo career, playing sell-out gigs across the country and winning a number high-profile fans — including Sean Connery.

Her most recent studio album, the 2005 acoustic masterpiece Downriver, featured the talents of folk legends Michael McGoldrick (pipes) and Aidan O'Rourke (fiddle) — however, with Matheson currently working on new material for release later this year, tomorrow's audience might be treated to some rare works in progress.

So forget the Fringe, and how amazing and worldly it is, for now — because this isn't a bad time to sit back with a single malt whisky and listen to the stirring sounds of this Scottish daughter.

Theatre review: The York Mystery Plays

Published by theartsdesk

Continuing until 27th August
at York Museum Gardens


VIDEO: The York Mystery Plays — cinematic trailer



Is it the greatest story ever told, or the most indulgent nativity ever staged? The return of the York Mystery Plays — this summer’s blue-ribbon theatrical spectacular in the North — beguiles upon entry but bemuses by exit.

In between is a sacred tale about the eternal battle of good and evil, from Creation to the Last Judgement. The show’s subject matter is as epic as its telling, which involves more than 1700 volunteers (including 500 cast members) and takes place in the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. It’s the UK’s largest outdoor theatre production this year.

The timing of this showpiece alone is enough to make its mark on a 700-year-old heritage in York. As birds flutter over a pink, cloudless sunset, a sense of history is not lost on a crisp-crunching, wine-guzzling audience, who take their seats, prepared with blankets for the evening.

The Plays were once paraded through the streets of the medieval city, the earliest known performance dating back to 1376. For hundreds of years, they were a method by which Christian messages were transmitted to the public, continuing until the early Reformation. Since the revival of the tradition in 1951, there have been regular stagings of the Plays, the most previous falling during the Millennium celebrations.

Directed by Paul Burbridge and Damian Cruden, this latest addition to the cycle — performed at York Museum Gardens for the first time since 1988 — has been adapted by Mike Kenny, the man who put his hands to 2011’s Olivier Award-winning The Railway Children. Ferdinand Kingsley, son of Sir Ben, plays God and Jesus, opposite Graeme Hawley — former Coronation Street villain John Snape — as the Devil.


The bespoke, 1400-capacity auditorium houses a multi-layered set of smoke-billowing trapdoors and spotlit platforms. Kingsley takes to the stage a few minutes early, with the final few arrivals still finding their seats in the crowd, and his eagerness doesn’t let up — growing, in fact, into a fiery-eyed, hyperbolised portrayal of the Creator. Hawley encounters no obstacles as Satan. Though, despite his experience playing bad guys in soapland, his performance here never quite manages to draw blood.

Some minor pyrotechnics, a 97-strong choir and an array of giant balloons guide us through the opening scenes — including the Garden of Eden, which features dozens of merry hedge-trimmers along on bicycles. Christopher Madin’s cinematic score is perfect acoustic foil for the melodrama on stage, and, at times, the choreography and general direction is bedazzling.

The costumes are undeniably impressive, too. Mary wears a headscarf and Joseph a flat cap as the biblical narrative sets itself in post-war Yorkshire. Lines like, ‘Nae Noah, I am not best-pleased,” provoke echoes of elderly laughter.

Yes, visually, it is stunning, majestic, superb. But there comes a time when, perhaps as the midges begin biting your skin, you realise that any sort of intellectual stimulation just isn’t going to happen — because this is a summary of the Old and New Testaments, and not much more. That these Plays — going right through when Jesus made the blind man see, the last supper, the crucifixion, and… well, you know what happens next — are a bit much at over three hours long.

There’s also something formulaic about the way in which the large swathes of cast are assembling and then dispersing en masse at the end of each scene, and a lack of chemistry between some of the performers — whose hundreds of names run four pages in the programme.

And yet, in the end, the colossal effort that went into this production — the 2500 people involved, the hours of rehearsal time, the 1400 metres of cabling required — is mostly let down by the greatest story ever told itself. The dialogue offers little to engage a modern, secular audience, and, even accounting for the Yorkshire-tinged embellishments in Kenny’s script, fails to build on your prior impressions of the Bible.

For all the seductive grandeur of this project (more shows to be staged here, please) it feels like an opportunity missed.

6.8.12

Edinburgh Festival | Cabaret preview: Edward Reid: Living The Dream One Song At A Time @ Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

6-15 August, 6.15pm, £10.50/£11.50 (£9.50/£10.50 concessions), Assembly George Square (V3), Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 623 3030. www.assemblyfestival.com

VIDEO: Edward Reid's Britain's Got Talent 2011 Audition (ITV1, 2011)



What becomes of a talent show semi-finalist?

Do they try to get one over their siblings by Googling themselves at family get-togethers? Hope to be recognised while they take orders at the bar of an airport Nando’s? Or carry on entertaining the public with just as much energy as when they were on the telly?

Scottish comedy cabaret act Edward Reid stands triumphantly in the latter category.

Having fallen agonisingly short of making the 2011 Britain’s Got Talent final, he’s back at this year’s Fringe with a show that features what a nation came to love – his hilarious re-workings of pop songs using nursery rhymes.

Reid will also take audiences on a retrospective journey through his life, recalling memorable moments and characters from his Coatbridge upbringing to present-day fame.

He’s performing at the Assembly Rooms for just one more week – so what are you waiting for?

3.8.12

Edinburgh Festival | Theatre preview: Best in the World @ Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

3-25 August, 12.45pm (not 6, 13 & 20 Aug),
£14 (£10 concessions), 3-5 August previews £10, Northern Stage at St Stephen’s (V73), Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 558 3047. www.northernstage.co.uk


VIDEO: Best in the World — trailer



I’ll be honest with you – I’m no darts fan. It’s a game played by men who’ve spent far too much of their lives (and cash) in hygienically questionable watering holes that sell Scampi Fries, if you ask me. So why should I, and you, come to see this?

Well, Best in the World puts the art in darts. Inspired by the undeniable sporting achievements of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, this intriguing piece of theatre takes audiences on a warm-hearted journey through how it feels to be at the very top of your game.

A largely improvised event that takes the form of a seminar on sports psychology, it features insights from world champions, and also, in part, tells the story of late Scottish darts legend Jocky Wilson.

There’s plenty of fun on offer here, too. Presented by Unfolding Theatre in association with Northern Stage, Best in the World gives audience members the chance to celebrate their own personal triumphs, and take part in a live darts tournament.

‘This is a real festival show,’ said Annie Rigby, director of Unfolding Theatre. ‘We’re based in Newcastle, so it’s great to be heading up the road to share this production – both with Scottish people and those who’ve travelled to the Fringe from around the world.’

‘While on tour, we’ve been keeping track of our audiences’ darts scores across the country. Washington Arts Centre in Sunderland is in the lead,’ she added.

So, in summary: you could be the best crowd this show has ever had, but, more importantly, this could be the best show you see at the Fringe – whether you’re the world’s biggest darts fan or not.

2.8.12

Edinburgh Festival | Comedy preview: Dr Brown – Befrdfgth @ Underbelly, Cowgate, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

2-26 August, 9.05pm (not 13 & 20 Aug), £10.50/£11.50 (£9.50/£10.50 concessions),
2-3 August previews £6,
Underbelly, Cowgate (V61), Edinburgh.
Tel: 0844 545 8252. www.underbelly.co.uk



Even if you left Philip Burgers blindfolded in the jungles of the Congo, he’d somehow find his way to Edinburgh by August. Some people, like him, just belong at the Fringe. It’s their natural habitat.

This American comedian and mime artist made his name as absurd entertainer Dr Brown back in 2009 with Behaves, and then – again with his alter-ego – won a handful of awards for Because (2010) and Becaves (2011).

Now, Dr Brown returns with Befrdfgth (good luck pronouncing that one when you call the box office) – a surreal and hilarious hour of clowning, mime and naughtiness.

Having already toured four continents, this show has left a trail of chaos around the world on its journey to Underbelly, Cowgate, where the bedlam continues all month long.

1.8.12

Edinburgh Festival | Theatre preview: XXXO @ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

1-26 August, 7.10pm (not 14 Aug), £9/£10.50 (£8/£9.50 concessions), 1-3 August previews £5, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh.
Tel: 0131 556 6550. www.pleasance.co.uk



Chopping onions? Reading romantic fiction? Saying goodbye to loved ones? Ask yourself, reader, what makes you cry?

That’ll be one of the many questions on your mind after watching XXXO. Indeed, this highly original new work will have you feeling pretty contemplative as you leave Pleasance Courtyard one of these mad Fringe evenings.

The show basically involves two girls trying to get their tears flowing. For 50 minutes, Charlotte De Bruyne and Nathalie Marie Verbeke scour their computer files for material that makes them weep in a live exploration of, well, weeping.

‘The starting point of making XXXO was the discovery that both Nathalie and I take photos of ourselves crying at home,’ said Charlotte.

She explained that the girls became fascinated by what drove them to do this, and so decided to stage a performance expressing how relieving and beautiful such a habit could be. This exasperatingly emotional piece of theatre bears the fruits of their labour.

It is presented by Ontroerend Goed – the Belgian-based group behind the multi award-winning 2008 Fringe hit Once and for All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen.

‘I’m curious to see how our audiences will react to XXXO,’ added Nathalie.

‘We performed the show at Adelaide Festival last winter, so have a sense of how English-speaking people will receive it, but every crowd is different.’

Now the choice is yours. You either stick with a safe Fringe option, or take a punt at the bizarre end of the spectrum. The red pill, or the blue pill, Neo…