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Daisys Dilemmal 300dpi 

DAISY’S DILEMMA from:

MuseItUp and amazon. Links are below. What’s it about? Back to London for this one, 1822, when Lady Daisy, sister of Tobias, Earl of Mellon, is recovering from food poisoning.Lady Daisy was one of those secondary characters who simply cried out for a place to tell her own story. So, here it is:

Lady Daisy should be ecstatic when her brother, the earl, allows Mr. John Brent to propose. She’s been plotting their marriage for two years. However, she is surprised to find herself underwhelmed and blames their distant cousin, Reuben, for unsettling her.
Reuben Longreach wonders whether the earl understands the first thing about Daisy’s nature and her need for a life with more drama than the Season allows. It’s abundantly clear to him that Daisy and John are not suited, but the minx accepts his proposal nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Daisy hatches a plan to attach Reuben to her beautiful, beleaguered Scots cousin, Elspeth. Little does she know that Elspeth is the focus of a more sinister plot that threatens Daisy too.
Will Reuben be able to thwart the forces surrounding Daisy before she is irretrievably tied to John? Will Daisy find the maturity to recognise her dilemma may be of her own making before it’s too late?

amazon UK and US or  MuseItUp or kobo

 

Mariah’s Marriage Mariah Fox is dedicated to being a teacher in 1822 London, but when Tobias, Earl of Mellon saves her from a charging pig, her world view is disturbed forever.

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Bella’s Betrothal comes north to Edinburgh in 1826. Bella is fleeing scandal and an unhappy home when architect and laird, Charles Lindsay invades her room at the inn. Is he a rescuer or a danger?

An Edinburgh skyscape for Bella

An Edinburgh skyscape for Bella

EIF – The Toad Knew – King’s Theatre

The Toad Knew by James Thierrée and Compagnie du Hanneton opened last night at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh.

I am grateful to Mark Fisher and Dorothy Max Prior whose programme notes fill in and explain so much of the experience that is The Toad Knew. They tell one, for example, of Thiérrée’s circus and theatre forebears. Charlie Chaplin, Victoria Chaplin and Eugene O’Neil for starters are bound to have produced an intellect of depth and a body capable of the strength and grace needed for circus performance.

Supported by Valérie Doucet, Samual Duterte, Maraima, Yann Nédélec and Thi Mai Nguyen onstage, together with puppeteers, and backed up by a formidable array of stage props and costumes, the production is a delightful hour and a half.

Part dream sequences, part clowning, part musical, part acrobatic, part illusion – where did all those plates come from? The ever-moving set was a constant surprise and delight.. Not only was it interesting in that it appeared to be an electrical shop full of upside down saucer-shaped fittings, but the acrobats made full use of it for up-in-the-air performance.

Run continues till Sunday 28th August, ’16. Do go: Tickets are here

EIF 2016 – Measure For Measure

Ruling Heads, Naples

Ruling Heads, Naples

 

MEASURE FOR MEASURE  presented by Cheek by Jowl and the Pushkin Theatre is a masterly production of a seriously unpleasant play. Why choose this one?

The excellent programme notes provided in part by Cheek by Jowl, in part by James Shapiro and finally Peter Kirwan are full and informative. The play, Measure For Measure, is reckoned to be Shakespeare‘s first Jacobean one, but the text used today is also thought to have been updated by Thomas Middleton. Shakespeare’s play may well have been set in Italy, Ferrara, but the one we now see performed is in Vienna.

James 6th and 1st was obsessed with how his subjects thought and what they did. The Duke, in M for M is likewise interested in how nobly his subjects would behave without his guiding hand. So off he goes, but not far. Disguised as a friar, he lurks in the dark corners of the big city and is soon hearing people’s confessions as they await an illegitimate birth or their own execution. The play covers moral breakdown, personal and political, the over-zealous enforcement of laws and inflexible good as epitomised by the doomed man’s sister, Isabella.

It’s one of the mysteries of the play that one is unable to warm to Isabella until her final few scenes when she is left aghast by the Duke’s decision to marry her (without asking and in the face of the implacable godliness referred to above). I suppose the traditions of the time meant all available child-bearing women needed a husband and this match rounded the numbers off nicely.

Despite the handicap of the story, the production by Declan Donellan and Nick Ormerod with a cast from the Pushkin Theatre, is full of wonderful, quirky beats and an excellent staging. Short scenes and multiple exits and entrances can be an issue with Shakespearean performance, but this production answers the problem by keeping the cast on stage and revolving them as a silent chorus from which the central performers peel off. Three large red boxes provide ample cover for costume changes, although there is a moment of fleeting male nudity.

The play runs at the Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 20th when there’s also a matinée. Tickets are here

EIF 2016 SHAKE -adapted by Dan Jemmett from 12th Night by William Shakespeare

Singers, Bengal

Singers, Bengal

SHAKE is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Dan Jemmett and the Eat a Crocodile company have crafted a delightful show full of cultural nods – music hall, end of pier theatricals, cross-dressing set-piece humour, filmic song and dance routines – in French with side-titles.

Identical twins Sebastian and Viola are ship-wrecked and each thinks the other perished. Viola dresses as a man and seeks work as page to Orsini with whom she falls in love. Sebastian is looked after by Antonio, who harbours a hopeless love for him, and eventually Sebastian is married by the beautiful Olivia – who is the object of Orsini’s desire. Okay, still with it? Into the mix, we have Feste, yesterday’s jester, who tells jokes in American English, and Malvolio, the buttoned up steward and perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most well-defined character studies. Not forgetting Sir Toby and Sir Andrew – one of them is a music/pier show dummy and one a drunk.

The Eat a Crocodile company deliver a touching, humorous and polished show from a set of seaside bathing cabins. They sashay through two wonderful hours of acting, singing, dancing, costume changes, a ventriloquist’s dummy and more……….

Tickets for the two remaining performances Sat 13th  2.30 and Sat 13th 7.30 are here

EIF The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams

Buy your ticket for The Glass Menagerie here

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is a modern masterpiece.

I first encountered The Glass Menagerie when I signed up to study American Literature as part of my English Literature degree at Edinburgh University. I first met director, John Tiffany when I signed up to the Traverse Women’s writing group in the nineties. There’s a sort of quiet satisfaction when areas of one’s life come together in such an unexpected, but altogether satisfactory way.

Five star reviews of this production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, which began life on 2nd February 2013 at the Loeb Drama Center for The American Repertory Theater, abound. I don’t award stars but I don’t argue with those assessments.

Memory is a strange thing. Take six of us witnessing an event and ask us what happened a year later. The accounts will vary. We may not even be able to agree on the result! Add family relations with their perceived inequalities to the mix, and the result will be even further from exact.

Tennessee Williams also stirs physical disability, mental instability and the pernicious effect of the Great Depression into his pot. The results are reaching boiling point when the play opens and bubble up to engulf the stove by the end.

Cherry Jones reprises her role of Amanda Wingfield and what mother in the audience hasn’t felt the frustrations she’s experiencing? Amanda is a monster of motherhood, but the reasons are compelling. Tom Wingfield her much put-upon son and financial support comes in for almost all of the flak. He is not, however, his absent father. He is a young man with his hopes and ideals shackled by duty. Laura, the daughter with a mild visible disability, which gentleman-caller, Jim, had to be reminded of, and a much greater personality disorder, is the catalyst for all that ensues. Her mother does not, or will not, take on board the issues. She does delude herself though, that Jim, the much wanted gentleman-caller, will resolve all them all for the future of her vulnerable adult daughter.

The audience sighed with satisfaction as the house went dark. It’s by no means a happy ending, but the cast and the direction brought The Glass Menagerie to life with such care, all the over-heards while leaving were of an evening that could not have been better spent.

Buy your tickets here. There are another 11 performances till run ends 21st August.

 

 

NORMA Bellini

Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness

NORMA by Vincenzo Bellini is this year’s BIG EIF production.

Written by Vincenzo Bellini in the early nineteenth century, NORMA was set in Gaul where Druid resistance to the occupying Roman army was led and dictated by the High Priestess, Norma. Cue 2016 and we’re morphed into the second world war and German occupation of France. I didn’t really take to this.

Much of the human drama of Bellini’s NORMA is universal and timeless. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Gaul or France because a wronged woman is a lethal enemy to make in either time-frame. However, there were issues. The scene where NORMA collects all the mistletoe her followers have secreted about their persons would work so much better if the actors were in robes than in 1940s dress. The dramatic climax where her betrayed followers set alight a pyre made of school classroom furniture is saved only by the chorus member who is determinedly snipping off NORMA’s hair. It was a chilling reminder of they way the French treated women identified as collaborators.

All of these issues apart, what of the music – the singers, the period instruments and the chorus?

I enjoyed all of the soloists and don’t have enough technical knowledge to get involved in the arguments about whether a mezzo-soprano should sing a soprano role and so on. I also enjoyed the chorus. Some critics have found them understated. I thought they sounded really good and they were also acting a community under oppression. Would they be loud and joyful – it’s not as if the audience couldn’t hear them.

The I Barrochisti period instrument ensemble’s regular conductor was indisposed and the chorus master, Gianluca Capuano, stepped in to conduct. An excellent job in the circumstances.

Tonight’s off-stage entertainment was provided by the huge number of people we knew in and around our seats. Congrats to the 4 chaps who arrived last and departed first. Hope you made the 10.30 show, wherever it was.

Supposing you’ve read one of my historical romances, I’d love a review. August is ‘leave an author a review’ month. Did you know/ Here’s my collection.

EIF 16 The Destroyed Room

THE DESTROYED ROOM by Matthew Lenton and Vanishing Point is a much less comfortable evening in the theatre. Three folk left from seats around us when the male character, played by Barnaby Power, described the video showing the death of the Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS, frame by frame. Those who conscientiously avoid such graphic material on the web have every right to feel cheated.

The play’s point at that moment was to show how clever such manipulation is.

The script is naturalistic, the behaviours of three folk coming together and falling into one of those conversations – this one started “If you had to destroy one thing in your house, what would it be? – and led on, as scripts must, into deeper and darker territory than might have been expected.

THE DESTROYED ROOM is a play for our times full of the big questions and its performance by three talented actors – Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith joined Power – is incomparable.

Also on stage are two cameras and their operatives sending close-ups of the performers onto big screens. Does it remind us how everything we do today is recorded – or do they just get between the audience and the play? I began to watch for the close-up when any of the three performers held sway, my companion was simple irritated. He’s not on FB and has only ever appeared in one selfie.

I was able to open the sweeties for our neighbour.

Run continues and tickets are here

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL2016 – Interiors

And we have lift-off…

In-flight entertainment was provided by ‘Wee Hughie”s antics trying to get to Edinburgh for the Preview of Matthew Lenton’s Interiors presented by Vanishing Point.

He’d messed up, ‘Wee Hughie’ had  and the lady  whose telephone conversation with his mum/girlfriend/sister was broadcast on speaker phone to the whole Grand Circle was not pleased. The rest of us were much entertained, although very happy that it was all switched off in response to the authoritative voice from the outer darkness, ‘Switch it off now, Love, switch it off.

So following this, Lenton and Vanishing Point had ground to recover. And recover it they did with a warm, affectionate look at the frailties of both the human condition and a community living on the edge. The polar bears, the narrator informs us, are very hungry at this time of year. Where society is small, the individuals making it up have to get on, compromise and respect one another.

They might also entertain one another and there is a dance routine you should try not to miss.

Interiors is in rep with Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room at the Royal Lyceum theatre till Monday 8th August. Tickets from the EIF Ticketing Hub

Do you have my historical romance on your e-reader? Buy for kindle here

GAME PLAN by ALAN AYCKBOURN

Theatre Al Fresco

Theatre Al Fresco

 

Game Plan by Alan Ayckbourn at Pitlochry Festival Theatre was an absolute delight. Directed by Richard Baron and starring three female actors, the play explores that most volatile of human relationships between a mother and her teenage daughter.

Lynette and Sorrel Saxon – Amanda Osborne and Kirsty Mackay – find themselves abandoned (for another woman) and penniless ( internet business is like that). Lynette works as an office cleaner and Sorrel is faced with having to commute into her prestigious London school. While Lynette is securing interviews and calling in favours with various degrees of success, Sorrel goes off to talk to the ‘BAD Girl’ who was expelled from her school for soliciting. She also leans on her dotty friend, Kelly – Gemma McElhinney – to help.

Let the farce begin.

Delicious one liners, slow burning jokes (what is that sink plunger doing there?), excellent costume choices and a superb ending ensure the whole play captures and enthrals from the get-go.

Run continues. Tickets here

Starter’s Orders Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2016 season opened for us with the towering production of CAROUSEL. Musicals often have a dark underbelly camouflaged by sparkling songs, energetic dances and a sharp book. CAROUSEL scores on all levels.

Ferenc Molnar was Hungarian and he wrote the original play, Liliom. According to the programme notes he had already turned down approaches from Puccini and Kurt Weill before agreeing to let Rodgers and Hammerstein have the right to adapt and set it in America.

The Pitlochry production opens with a dance routine and the setting up of the carousel where Billy Bigelow is the barker. Apparently having a young and attractive male barker was the key to running a successful carousel as it drew in the girls. Of course being young and attractive can go to a guy’s head and it’s not long before the conflicted Billy is breaking hearts and breaking his own ties with a job and his self-esteem.

George Arvidson delivers a memorable performance as Billy shining as both actor and singer. He’s from Denver and has already been heard as Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro. He’s well supported by the ensemble cast.

The techies and stage designers have had a great time with this production and bring some wonderfully humorous touches to it just when the audience might be feeling the emotional strain of the domestic violence theme. I won’t spoil that because you’ll want to be surprised in your turn.

Our performance was a sell-out.

Run in repertory with matinées at 2pm and evening performances at 8pm until Saturday 15th October 2016.

tickets here Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Anne Stenhouse’s historical romance is here

Prelude and Fugue by Clifford Bax – Theatre Broad for Forth Valley Art Beat Venue 45

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Rebecca Fergus

Prelude and Fugue by Clifford Bax is being produced by Theatre Broad of Stirling for the Forth Valley Art Beat.

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Carol Metcalf

Prelude and Fugue

The play, written in 1918 as one of twelve short verse plays, for this production is set in the 1930s. The company have used the musical interlude ‘Prelude and Fugue’ by Johann Sebastian Bach to allow reflection between the verses of conversation and interior monologue. It tells the story of Rosemary, who a week before her wedding, is having her likeness drawn in Charcoal by Joan. As Joan sketches, the two women discover a dark secret shared by both of them.To save Joan, Rosemary must decide whether or not to reveal all. Will she do the right thing and save the younger woman?

Prelude and Fugue is an excellent choice for an Art Festival and in Rebecca Fergus the company have found the perfect choice to play Joan as she is doubly trained in both Art and Acting. Indeed some of Rebecca’s intriguing pieces adorn the stage. Together with Theatre Broad’s founder member, Carol Metcalf, the women tease out the agonising steps of deciding whether to share a dark secret or not.

Often the revelation of bad news depends as much on whether the hearer can face hearing it as on whether the teller can expose themselves by telling. Perhaps the social repercussions would be greater in 1918/1930 than today, but the effect on trust between friends and lovers certainly wouldn’t.

As apposite for today as for the time it was written, this delightful production of Prelude and Fugue, takes one out of the world of petty concerns to reflect more deeply on a fundamental.

Theatre Broad was founded in 2003 and aims to provide regular, affordable, quality theatre in Stirling, the surrounding area and on tour throughout Scotland and Northern England. Directors, Carol Metcalf and Tangee Lenton have a team of regular actors, associate actors and associate playwrights.

Forth Valley Art Beat is an annual event of Performance, installations, exhibitions, open studios and pop-up studios. It’s situated across the Forth valley and if you visit their 2016 facebook page (link highlighted above) you’ll find out a lot more.

Run continues – take a moment out of your busy day for this lovely dramatized poem with its haunting music.

Venue 45 Cowane Centre, Stirling in the Studio Theatre Mon 13/Tues 14 June at 2.30 and Fri 17/Sat18 at 7.30 Ticket from the Albert Hall, Tolbooth £5. From the venue before performances.