Theatre preview: An Appointment with The Wicker Man @ Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Published by METRO

Tonight (28 February) until Saturday (3 March), 7.30pm (Matinees Thursday & Saturday 2.30pm), £9-£29.50, Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 871 7647. www.atgtickets.com

VIDEO: An Appointment with The Wickerman - promotional trailer

I didn’t want to mention Nicolas Cage this early on, believe me. But there’s no getting away from the fact that when people hear about this theatrical take on The Wicker Man, there’s a chance they’ll be reminded of the disastrous version that starred the American.

The 2006 horror remake, which earned five Razzie Award nominations and boasts a 15 per cent rating on review-aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, was an embarrassment.

A bunch of clips from the flick went viral for all the wrong reasons (‘the bees! Not the bees!’), and someone on YouTube re-cut some of its more ‘intense’ moments into a straight family comedy trailer.

In a way, though, this spectacular failure was a blessing. Could anyone else wanting to make their own mark on Anthony Shaffer’s original 1973 screenplay really fare much worse?

Probably not, but a National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) production at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal still has a lot to lose.

‘At first, when you get asked to take on a task like this, you are daunted,’ said Donald McLeary, who co-wrote An Appointment with The Wicker Man.

‘Then you go back and forth on whether you’re the right people to do it justice.’

McLeary – of Radio 4 comedy Fags, Mags and Bags – penned the show with Greg Hemphill – probably best known as Victor in BBC sitcom Still Game.

Hemphill also joins cast members Paul Riley, Sean Biggerstaff, Jimmy Chisholm, Johnny McKnight and Rosalind Sydney in the play, which is directed by NTS chief executive Vicky Featherstone.

McLeary continued: ‘Then you panic that NTS are going to offer it to someone else who will, you are sure, make an arse of it. So you stalk them until they give you the job because you realise you simply need to be involved in this.’

The duo’s re-invention of The Wicker Man is a bold one to say the least. It’s set on a remote Scottish island, where a strange amateur theatre group is rehearsing a stage version of the story. The lead has vanished in mysterious circumstances, so an actor from a TV cop show is drafted in from the mainland as a replacement.

And in this horror-comedy-musical that’s a play-within-a-play, there are many laughs and songs as things begin to get sinister.

‘If any stage adaptation of something you love this much is going ahead, it’s going ahead with the care, attention and respect that only a couple of lunatic fans can bring,’ added McLeary.

So as you’re enjoying this team of talented Scots put its intriguing spin on a cinematic classic at one of the country’s most prestigious venues this week, you can forget about Nicolas Cage’s overacting.

That said, the YouTube video I described earlier is definitely worth a watch.


Music preview: GMFF - A Psychocinematic Ritual

Published by METRO

Tonight (23 February), 8pm, £5 adv/£6 door, The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 222 2254. www.stereocafebar.com

VIDEO: A Psychocinematic Ritual: OV, The Psychogeographical Commission & The Wyrding Module - trailer

So today is Thursday, and you know the drill. Another morning commute, another day in the office, followed by another evening with nothing to do but channel-hop and plan the weekend.

Well, listen up. While the Glasgow Music and Film Festival (GMFF) is in full flow, there’s no excuse for letting yourself sleepwalk into a schedule so crushingly formulaic.

Taking place at The Old Hairdressers (opposite Stereo down Renfield Lane) tonight is a GMFF highlight – a mesmerising live experience that promises to shock and disturb.

It features occult project OV – comprised of Desalvo, Unwinding Hours and Sons and Daughters – performing film soundtracks over visuals that convey the beauty and cruelty of war.

Plus, a debut musical experiment by The Psychogeographical Commission focuses on themes of real and imagined landscapes in a style as thrillingly avant-garde as its name suggests.

The Wyrding Module (aka Christopher Gladwin) also gets in on the act, providing a miscellany of ‘psychotronic sounds’ inspired by post-industrial ambience.

Shows like this make the nightlife in the Weeg world famous, and your Thursday worth getting up for.


Theatre preview: A Beryl Full of Life, Love and Laughter – Roll Out the Beryl

Published by METRO

Tonight (22 February), 7.30pm, £11.25 (concs £9.25), Brunton Theatre, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 665 2240. www.bruntontheatre.co.uk

VIDEO: Beryl Reid as Concepción the Spanish waitress (from Beryl Reid Says Good Evening!, BBC, 1968)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to ask your gran.

‘Have you heard of Beryl Reid?’ I put to her over the phone.

We’d just sorted out when I was next coming round for Sunday lunch, so my question was a surprise.

After a pause, she said: ‘Of course I have!’

‘She started out on radio in the 1950s – on a comedy programme called Educating Archie,’ continued my gran. ‘Everybody used to listen to her.’

I was told that Beryl went on to star in her own television series, which drew in millions of viewers every week.

‘She was a popular name. You know who Simon Cowell is today – back then, you knew who Beryl Reid was.’

I said I was previewing a show about her.

Beryl’s most entertaining characters – including ghastly schoolgirl Monica, lovable Brummie Marlene, and hilarious Concepción, the Spanish waitress – are reborn in a very special performance tonight.

The late comedienne, portrayed by Elaine Pantling, will also prepare a three-course meal before an audience as she discusses her life, I explained.

‘Where’s this happening?’ asked my gran, who lives in Yorkshire. ‘At the Brunton Theatre in Edinburgh,’ I replied. ‘Oh, never mind!’ she chuckled.

Beryl tackled more dramatic roles as her career developed, becoming known for her versatility on stage and screen. Among her finest professional achievements were a best actress Bafta award and a Golden Globe nomination.

In later life, Beryl lived alone with her cats, and died from pneumonia in 1996 – aged 76.

‘Well I wish I was going, it sounds like it’ll be great fun,’ my gran said, adding: ‘Right, I’d better get dinner on.’


How to Spend Three Months in America for £1500

Published by Sabotage Times

Want a holiday on the cheap and don't mind sleeping on strangers' sofas? This might the solution to all your problems.

Alright, hands up – who’s already thinking about their summer holidays? Me too. Everything’s back to normal now, after all, and we need to aspire beyond our punishing routines.

But to go, or not to go, all inclusive? To venture abroad, or settle for – dare I say it – a ‘staycation’? And just to confuse matters more, here’s another alternative to consider.

Enough of the questions, though. I’ll begin with an image of myself in a busy Brooklyn diner, the smell of fresh coffee and that feeling of nostalgia you get at the end of a trip. With my homeward flight still a few hours away, I’m reflecting back on an incredible adventure around North America.

Since it began three months ago, I’ve clocked up 12,000 miles and made some lasting memories. Yet here’s the thing – I’ve only spent £1,500. And that’s including all my travel, food and accommodation costs. I’d probably pay more than that just making ends meet back in the UK.

This modest expenditure has been achieved by my chosen method of getting around. Through online travel networks, I’ve found places to stay all over the US and Canada. People have offered me their sofas, spare beds and sleeping bags, and not once has any money changed hands.

It’s not like it was very complicated, either. See, by signing up to Couchsurfing.org, you’re able to view the personal profiles of its millions of registered users worldwide. The ones who’ve agreed to provide temporary lodgings for others are filtered by location, age and gender on the website’s search pages.

Between sending your first ‘couchsurfing request’ to waving goodbye to your ‘host’ after a stay, there are no nasty catches.

The Help Exchange is a similarly structured service, but geared towards volunteering. For a small fee, you join as a ‘helper’, decide where you’d like to go or what type of work you want to do, and arrange a stay someone from the given listings. Then, you just find your own way there.

For an average of four hours per day, you’re paid in food, accommodation, and the pleasure of living like a local for next to nothing. And as with Couchsurfing, you set your own boundaries.

But away from the clear financial savings on offer here are far richer rewards. From swilling cocktails in Florida to hiking in the Canadian Rockies, going on shooting trips in Colorado to watching street slam poetry in San Francisco, repairing fences on farms in Tennessee to fine dining in Manhattan, I’ve traded the familiarity of trying to seeing the world through tourist maps for the fulfilment of understanding it through the lives of its people.

Of course there’s a leap of faith involved. Essentially, you’re relying on the good nature of strangers to make your trip a pleasant one, but both of these websites provide some reassuring safeguards.

On the Help Exchange, for example, you are able to see reviews of members that have been left by other helpers and hosts. You can also note the precise location of each project before committing to it.

Furthermore, the extent to which users fill out personal information on their Couchsurfing profiles gives you a good idea of who you’re dealing with. If that’s not enough, members give one another references – a staggering 99.8% of which are classified as ‘positive’.

And it’s not just free-spirited youths who have confidence in online travel networks. On a goat farm in the south, I worked with Jim, a 67-year-old American who’d spent a surprising chunk of his retirement travelling in such a manner.

I can also speak of the insightful experiences had with the Amish, city bankers, artists, composers, scientists, ranchers and college sports stars on some of my Couchsurfing and Help Exchange stays around the continent.

Yet I regularly encountered individuals willing to go that extra mile. Earlier this month, American artist Josh Hailey set off on a mission to ‘couchsurf’ across each of the 50 US states. It will take him as many weeks to complete it.

You see, however crazy this idea seems, you can be sure that there’s someone else doing something far crazier. Yes, these web-connected communities operate on hospitality and trust, but think of it like this – if they weren’t safe, they wouldn’t be so popular.

So how will I be planning my summer holidays? Well, a year since I left that busy Brooklyn diner, and North America, I think I’ll log on and ponder my options once again. And if you were interested enough to read this far, I reckon you’ll probably check it out for yourself.

You can find my Couchsurfing profile here.

Further information


There are 3.5 million ‘couchsurfers’, representing 232 different countries and territories, in the world. Even in the earth’s most unpopulated areas there are ‘couches’ available, cluttered among far eastern Russia, Saharan Africa, and the North and South Poles. There are around 53,000 members in London.

Before negotiating a stay with another Couchsurfing member, you can read what previous ‘surfers’ and ‘hosts’ think of them in their references. To date, there have been 5 million couchsurfing experiences recorded.

You’re not obliged, although you are encouraged, to pay forward the service and host others when possible. Couchsurfing is a completely free of charge service.

The Help Exchange

In addition to the 83 in the west of the US alone, there are hundreds of hosts across North America, Europe and Australasia. Hosts also exist in fewer numbers in Asia, South America and Africa.

Particular jobs vary, but there are many opportunities to work on farms, and in hostels, restaurants, classrooms and homes. Farms usually require the minimum stay of one week; hostels are happy to accommodate helpers for a whole season, but everything is negotiable.

For a two-year membership fee of £18, you can become a Premier Helper. This entitles you to view all provided host details and reviews in every network worldwide. Free membership is an option, but it means being unable to contact hosts directly.


Comedy preview: Joe Heenan's Movie Madness @ The Stand, Glasgow


VIDEO: Stand-up comedian Joe Heenan performing at Magners Pint-sized Comedy with Dave (2010)

If – like my old friend Gaz – you’ve watched The Matrix trilogy so many times it’s ruined your life, then you probably consider yourself a film buff.

But really, it’s not all that useful knowing how long the first instalment’s lobby shootout scene took to shoot, is it? (Ten days.)

Apparently so, because Joe Heenan’s Movie Madness tests this very passion for pictures.

Taking the form of a comedy panel quiz, the show gets you thinking while it tickles your funny bones.

It involves a fairly-presentable bunch of stand-ups going head-to-head with the audience on questions of small screen trivia – and may just be the best thing to happen on a Monday night in Glasgow’s West End for a while.

The eponymous host and quizmaster will be well-known to The Stand’s regulars – after all, Joe Heenan is one of the venue’s MCs – but what of tonight’s team captains?

Well, they’re also fine specimens of Scottish comic talent. Pitting their wits on stage are Stuart Murphy, of the popular Whose Lunch Is It Anyway? improvisation show – and Mark Nelson, whose dark and cutting brand of humour might soon be filling a Frankie Boyle-shaped void on the UK stand-up circuit.

And while there’ll be jokes shared, there’ll be no cheating here. You’ll be hung, drawn and quartered before a baying crowd if you go on IMDB for answers.

But even if such a disproportionate punishment were enacted live, this show would still be a laugh. It’s also only £4 to enter a team of up to six.

So maybe we should head down there after all? I’ll drop Gaz a line if you want.


Music preview: The Wendys @ The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow

Published by METRO

Tomorrow (4 February), 7.30pm, £7, The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 237 3235. www.berkeleysuite.com

VIDEO: The Wendys - Something's Gone Wrong Somewhere (Gobbledygook, 1991)

Everyone loves a good comeback in music, don't they? In recent years, the homecomings of acts such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been fleeting yet memorable.

And now, following in the tracks of their alternative indie-rock contemporaries The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, The Wendys make their grand return to the stage.

This Edinburgh four-piece represented the Madchester era's Scottish contingent, and were signed to Factory Records - the home of James, Joy Division and New Order.

However, their debut album Gobbledygook was released shortly before the legendary label's financial collapse in 1992.

The band subsequently called a long hiatus, which was briefly lifted for their second LP - Sixfootwingspan - in 1999.

Last year, the original line-up announced they would reform for a one-off gig in Glasgow - and that time has come.

'Rehearsals have gone well. Cobwebs dusted off,' the group posted on Twitter.

The reunion celebrates the Pop Pills re-issue of Gobbledygook, from which tomorrow's set will draw heavily.

This may be one of the first high-profile bookings at new North Street bar The Berkeley Suite, but it's a third bite of the cherry for The Wendys.