Artlink Review Writing Project, Festival Theatre, Venue 244 July – September, 2011

There was a certain tension beneath the hearing-friendly welcome. Could Q, M and Moneypenny transform this motley crew into a band of intrepid reporters, skilled up to infiltrate the very heart of the Festival, and unleash reviews, set to influence arts accessibility for all hearing impaired folks?

No time to lose.  Within minutes of arrival, the seemingly innocent big green jotters distributed, M set the first task.  This was no namby pamby project – would the recruits stay the course, or shy away from those high hurdles?

Here’s what one ‘behind the ears’ reviewer had to say ….

‘We all kept coming because, quite quickly, we felt part of something bigger than the individual – we had a real chance to give feedback to venues and make a difference.  Yes, it was very challenging, getting out and about, working on finding the words to make our reviews say what we wanted them to say – but we had great leadership – people who knew what they were doing – and knew the motivating power of praise and encouragement.  Their excitement at how well the Postcard Reviews were being received was catching.  I loved the challenge of improving my writing – and enjoyed every workshop – the fun, the shared purpose.  I felt proud, too, of the scope and fluency of the reviews the group produced.  The website looked so professional.  A real confidence booster – and well worth following through with another project.’

So, Q and M – what next in your Masterplan for Arts Inclusivity?

Heads Up Dance Dancebase, Venue 22 August 26th

5 separate groups + 70 minutes of new work = a micro-festival of diverse dance.  No voice involved, apparently, so I wouldn’t need the portable loop.

All groups impressed but 3 were simply thrilling:

  • The evocative, flowing movement of Kelly McCartney and Neil Price from ‘Indepen-dance’,  with their  submarine piece, ‘Submerge’ ;
  • Powerhouse duo ‘Company Chameleon’, whose ‘Search and Find’ played out to the thrumming vibrations of Miguel Marin’s original score;
  • And my standout act, ‘Taciturn’ with an excerpt from ‘Grapple’.  4 ordinary women, with extra-ordinary talent.  Lighting caught faces, hands and bare feet, casting tuxedos and trousers into dark relief.  Tightly choreographed Mexican Waves of mechanical moves built in brilliantly executed, complex sequences, as individual personalities peeped through the regimentation – sneaky glances, naughty twinkles, playfulness, a flash of silky-pink lining breaking the ‘uniform rule’, as the metallic beat gave way to marvellous Philip Glass music.  These women drew their delighted audience into their enjoyment.

I’d love to see more of all 3 acts.

Footnote:  Wish I’d taken that loop – missed all the presenter’s anecdotes and, if I could have made out the voice-over in ‘Exquisite Corpse Dance Theatre’s’ sound track, perhaps their ‘Dead Voices’ would have gelled for me.

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland

This play is set in a pub, a rather large pub with lots of tables.  The performance was packed and everyone was given free whiskies – it was like a large lock in in a pub.  The play is set in Kelso on a cold, snowy winter’s eve.  The cast were very good actors and musicians, the music was good and one can imagine being trapped in Kelso in that sense it was much ado about confusion.

Sriyah – The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble – Friday 26th August 2011 at King’s Theatre – 8pm

An experience for the senses, the spirit and the mind was how I received  this evening’s performance.

An Indian woman’s voice reaches out into the darkened auditorium, introducing  the first work: a song of praise for the Mother Goddess and a prayer to ‘ask for her divine presence to light the dancers’ path’. Such sincerity and calm prepare us for the opening still poise of Surupa Sen.

As  both teacher and choreographer, she leads her colleagues Bijayini Satpathy and Pavithra Reddy with humility, stillness, fluidity.  Based in ancient Odissi traditional, classical dance the women move synchronistically, their red and gold Indian-style costumes emphasising the lines and shapes formed by their bodies. Bells round ankles and arms accentuate the rhythm; sinuous movements lead into still postures with limbs  perfectly and precisely placed with seemingly effortless control.

Accompanying the dancers is a remarkable group of musicians: Sanjib Kunda violin, Srinibas Satapathy flute, Sibasankar Satapathy mardala (percussion) and Rajendra Swain voice. The music, composed by Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi, assisted by Srinibas Satapathy wove the texture for the dance, Rajendra’s voice chanting or lilting throughout.

It was a mesmerising performance, enthusistically applauded by a smaller audience than was deserved by this talented and well-trained ensemble. They come  from the unique village of Nrityagram in South India- a village dedicated to dance and ‘to being a good human being’.  Sadly for Edinburgh dance-lovers the Ensemble are giving only four performances this year – Don’t miss them when they’re next here!

My only negative criticism is for the King’s Theatre: Why not give people with hearing loss the benefit of reading he spoken introductions on the overhead screen(s)?

The Queen, Art and Image, Scottish National Gallery until 18 September

This exhibition displays images of Queen Elizabeth II spanning the 60 years of her reign.  There are formal portraits, official photos, media images and those by contemporary artists.  They reflect the traditional majesty, sovereignty and splendour of her position, her family values, the intrusion of press and television into her private life, major events affecting her role, and a modernised monarchy where she has changed her style and is more accessible to the nation.

Overall, the tradition of royalty is captured, but in an ever changing world the transformation to modern royalty (greater informality) has been portrayed.

The Wheel, National Theatre of Scotland, Traverse Theatre 6 – 28 August

Captioned, unfortunately only on one side.

This allegorical play opens in a poor farm on the border of Spain and France.  Two sisters, Beatriz and Rosa are happy, preparing for the wedding of the younger sister, Rosa.  Suddenly the house is commandeered by soldiers, including the groom, who has led them there.  A covetous farmer enounces his neighbour to the army, who plan to execute him but due to the intervention of Beatriz, he is sent into exile leaving his daughter, who is the catalyst for what follows.  She never speaks and no one will take responsibility for her.  Unwillingly, Beatriz, who is the pivot of the play, takes it upon herself to take her to her father.

In their search they stumble from conflict to conflict, through time and space where they experience some kindness but more often are witnesses to the apathy and horror during war, pestilence and famine.  Beatriz is further burdened with a small sick boy and an orphaned baby.  In the different areas the girl is seen as the cure or the cause of the troubles.  In this seemingly hopeless tast Beatriz becomes more depressed and anguished at the futility of it all  However after words of encouragement that she shouldn’t give up continues with feelings of renewed hope.

The cast were very good, but special mention should be made of Catherine Walsh, who played the part of Beatriz, and was seldom off stage druing the continuous performance. The set was cleverly designed into three areas on different levels, with several exits and allowed the story to progress.

A very thought provoking play.

Moscow State Circus, Ocean Terminal Site (9-21 August)

The noise, the excitement of the children and young at heart, the smell of popcorn and candy floss and the flashing lights fills the tent.

The soundtrack begins playing, the music complementing the acts.

A story of a search for treasure, which has been hidden in one of twelve chairs, loosely holds the show together.  The two clowns are looking for the chair.  While they are in the ring, the equipment is changed for the various acts of the acrobats, who perform in their glittering costumes.

There are so many brilliant acts.

A girl doing a hula hoop act suspended in a ring 40 feet in the air – men supporting long poles on their heads while girls balance and pose at the top and sides – jugglers on revolving platforms performing with great precision.  A skipping rope act, jumping and somersaulting and adding more ropes until they surround the ring – the aerialists gliding and swooping high above the ground – the high wire gymnasts balancing and doing splits high in the air – the double act, where a man is suspended by loops round his ankles and holds the girl with his hand or by a strap round his neck, while she twists and turns.

The last chair is seen high up and a tower is built placing the eleven chairs one above the other by one of the gymnasts until he reaches it. The treasure has been used to make the circus.

The finale was an exuberant performance by tumblers, who were joined by the rest of the company around the ring.