Thursday, 25 August 2016

Songwriting Talents Old and New(ish). Edinburgh Festivals 2

My first compilation piece from Edinburgh is in the Morning Star today. It includes the Angel review in last Thursday's blog, and also a review of Road - Jim Cartwright's slice of Lancashire life under Thatcher (to be posted later) - and two reviews of singer songwriters. Rab Noakes has been around for a little while now. and made a triumphant return after a break fighting cancer. While Roy Harper's son Nick, is not a callow youth (he first recorded in 1994 for f***'s sake!) his live set now has the kind of range and depth that deserve bigger audiences than Edinburgh's Jazz Bar can provide. The full reviews of both artists are below.

Rab Noakes – Acoustic Music Centre - August 14 – (*****) 
Noakes returned to the fringe after a year out – fighting tonsillar cancer – and delivered a superbly
Rab Noakes. pic by Alan McMillan
polished and sparkling solo set.
Although he understandably concentrated on his newest album – I’m Walking Here – for the largest number of the tracks, he also went back into the history for Branch (his best-known single) and Jackson Greyhound – a reflection on the civil rights fight in the Southern States.
As must be an occupational hazard with songwriters, Noakes has used his fight against cancer to inspire new songs – in particular the defiant, That won’t Stop me! And the more reflective Water is my Friend.
Add in some treatments of other songwriters’ material – like Michael Marra’s The Guernsey Kitchen Porter – and you have a full picture of a singer-songwriter back on top of his game. It’s good to see him back! He's got a show in Cupar in October.
Nick Harper. pic by Mark Hunt
Nick Harper – The Jazz Bar – until August 27 (then on tour) (****)
Harper’s unique guitar playing ensured his talents as musician and writer are displayed to the full.
Son of singer-songwriter Roy, Harper uses a finger-picking style all of his own. As his song Simple proclaims, he has ‘everything he needs, no drums, no bass’ to produce intelligent, articulate songs.
A short set nevertheless marked both the passing of Prince (Purple Rain) and Evo – his tribute to Bolivian President Evo Morales.
His undoubted talent deserves a bigger venue than this.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

An angelic sniper brings war home to us. - Edinburgh Festivals 1

Angel, by Henry Naylor, Gilded Balloon Teviot – until 29 August (*****)

Filipa Bragança is the Angel
Of all the definitions of ‘angel’, the least common would be ‘sniper’ – but that’s just what Angel, a new play from the pen of comedy writer Henry Naylor wants us to take on board.
The play, the last of his Arabian Nightmares trilogy, delivers a powerful and emotionally draining story about the ‘Angel of Kobanî’ – a legendary female fighter who defended the (mainly Kurdish) town from the hordes of ISIS fighters, shooting ‘over 100’ if truth is (unusually) not a victim on this occasion.
Filipa Bragança, a recent graduate of Drama Studio, London plays Rehanna, a young woman determined to leave her father’s farm and make her way as a lawyer. With little effort she also delivers, the ‘parts’ of her mother and father, herself at 12, her nemesis Waheed, and a number of other smaller characters.
It is no exaggeration to say that her performance is spellbinding, and is quite the crowning part of the play. She takes the packed audience through her life, and death on her own and with only a barrel for props. She never loses our rapt attention.
Tight writing ensures the retention of our concentration, and while there are moments of lighter humour, the grim reality of the war is never undercut. The second part of Naylor’s trilogy – Echoes -  also features Bragança and is still touring. Hopefully this too, will go on the road shortly. It is produced by Pipeline Productions.
It may be heavily booked, but if you can, you should try and see this play.

Revolution in the Magic Square. Ian Saville, Theatre Arts Exchange – Until 21 August (****)
Unprecedented! A socialist has been elected Leader of the Magic Square! As the only socialist
Who does this look like, again? Oh Yes.
magician, can Ian Saville fend off  the plots and coups of the people in the Square who hate, don’t like or are even lukewarm to him?
Can Karl help him? Or is he going to stick to telling him to ‘ask Gramsci.’? I know – why not ask an ordinary person? Can he overcome his natural reluctance? After all, he is a socialist – they don’t do that.
A new show – thinly based on events in another organisation which is definitely NOT the Labour party – oh no. Ian starts off slow, but when he warms up to a cracking pace the sparks fly. Try and see this show before it goes at the end of this week.
If not, well we’ll have to see what we can do to bring him back some time. Oh Jez we can!