My Light Shines On – Ghost Light

Written by Hope Dickson Leach

Direction of Photography by Kate Reid BSC

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The streets may teem with life as ‘normality’ restores itself, but for many, this year will always sit as a stark reminder of the time the Festival city doused its lights for the safety of all. Well, we kept a few lights on…

Erupting across Edinburgh, as a part of the new digital 2020 season from the International Festival, My Light Shines On finds several Scottish art institutions from Scottish Ballet to The National Chamber Orchestra and of course, The National Theatre of Scotland delivering a spectacular series dedicated to preserve the Festival spirit – and in the case of Ghost Light to remind us of the diverse and rich foundation we stand upon as we look forward.

Conceived by Hope Dickson Leach, featuring extracts from James I, The Panopticon, The Enemy, Adam, Waiting in the Wings, to name but a very few, Ghost Light is the spectral tale of our experiences at this moment. Set amidst the blanketing darkness of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, save for a solitary light illuminating the stage and the industry’s hope of a return, not to normality, but an inclusive, stronger future of Scottish theatre.

Glimmering, glittering and splendid – the remaining source of light upon the stage rekindles in a year which has already claimed so much. But, with some faith, trust and of course, pixie dust, magic can happen. Guiding us into Ghost Light, Afton Moran’s Peter Pan sets up the temporal shifts of the narrative, as her presence draws as much enchantment as it does ambiguity as she frantically scours the theatre’s corridors for a glance of Tinkerbell, of the lost magic. A wonderful take on the character, it’s the beginning of a series of short anecdotes from Scotland’s tremendously rich history of theatre and literature, with stand-out performances from James McArdle, Hannah Lavery and Adam Kashmiry as these revenants pass one another in the night.

Theatrical at its root, Kate Reid’s direction of photography carries Ghost Light with exceptionally mesmeric clarity as it weaves a cinematic presence around the hallowed halls of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. A behind-the-scenes tour like no other, the walls indeed have ears as echoes of the scandals, stories and emotions seep from the Theatre’s stone eeking into the multitude of performances conducted from the stage, the wings, the dressing rooms and the tech boxes. Along with the sordid secrets, rivalries and disappointments which lurk.

Acknowledging the prejudices and errors in the industries inability to weed-out inequality and steps still to be taken towards diversity and inclusivity, there’s a glimmer of hope that this will mark the pillars of the way forward – rather than quotas. Whether comedic or dramatic, the observations are stated throughout Ghost Light, so let’s just hope the fabulously eruptive Kirktoon Players Ride Again remains an observational comedy and not a reflection of returning too much to normal.

Beyond the stretch of performances, a touching rendition of Gaidhlig song drives a sense of movement and music, echoing out into the empty stalls. A glimpse at the transitional achievements of the elves behind the scenes, the endless waves of prop and stage-hands, make-up artists and lighting crews. Ghost Light shines as bright a light into the inner workings of theatre as it does the crowd-facing performers. Everyone comes together to seamlessly stitch together a living, breathing machine.

And while each scene presents merit worthy of mention, there must be time dedicated to the hypnotic perfection of Siobhán Redmond’s rendition of Waiting in the Wings. Struck to the precise notes one would imagine, the faint ethereal blues cast against the absence of life, of buzz or bustle only aid in accentuating her control. Marvellously transitioning into the back and forth movements of Dylan Read as he prepares the stage for its eventual return, his final words and longing of the history and generations who stood on the stage before him, serving to remind us all as the light flickers and dims that despite it all, theatre will return.

Hope Dickson Leach’s Ghost Light breaths with the consecrated dust of the past, acknowledges the adjudications of present situations, but vitally it lives with the future’s eyes.

Refusing to shackle itself in memory, Ghost Light may reminiscence, but this journey from where we have been maintains a steady gaze to the future. This isn’t only a love letter to the industry, it’s a heartbeat – a pulse throughout time which ripples across the minds and moods of the nation – of the world, into a realm of plywood forests, costumed scandal and familiar lights which will never be extinguished.

Ghost Light is available to steam from Youtube

A full cast listing and information about Ghost Light can be found at The Edinburgh International Festival’s Website

Photography Rights – Peter Dibdin

Magic Gareth Live! – Review

Produced by Gareth White

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August in Scotland. The only four days of sun you’ll experience, no one seems to be wearing a shirt and of course the much beloved or dreaded Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Well… perhaps not this year. Or just maybe, with a little bit of luck and determination, a certain few will shine through and stage their own events. A local favourite, Gareth White has taken to digital performances throughout Lockdown, conducting well over 300 shows. Now, Magic Gareth Live! seeks to deliver that quality Fringe experience to newcomers and a few dab-hands.

Now, remember, if you can’t figure out the trick – well, that’s half the fun. Gareth’s repertoire primarily concerns the classics, with a couple of unique or digital twists (extra points for the Disney references). Chiefly aimed for the tots of the home, Gareth’s charismatic style is evidently targeting the family bracket, but don’t let those puns fool you – there’s some wit behind those cheeky grins. It’s entertainment for everyone, with enough back and forth discussion to involve adults and equally capture their sense of awe.

A compact routine, just over half an hour, Magic Gareth Live! fills a tremendous amount of jovial fun into the timeslot, more than enough to set those imaginations ablaze for the rest of the day. Personal, the Zoom feature shows Gareth control of the room, including any kids who want to get involved and have their days made or allowing those quieter tots to branch out a little and still involve themselves in their own way.

What’s particularly wonderful is Gareth’s refusal to cop-out a cheap get-away with a green screen. It’s there as a projection tool, to create a charming spellcaster’s locale rather than offer quick illusions or short-cuts in the magic. Technical wizardry only makes a brief appearance in a couple acts, while the remainder of Gareth’s set is a fine welcome to the world of the mystical as any tiny ones can hope for (and a way for the old fans to brush-up).

Sleight-of-hand, sleeves, and top hats, and even a jolly holiday – Magic Gareth Live! is a Fringe-lite experience without dealing with the crowds, heat, and expensive baked potatoes. Ideal for kids stuck at home, struggling to find a sparkle in their day-to-day activities, this live experience may be precisely the sort of jolt of energy they require.

Magic Gareth Live! is performing daily at 11am from August 2nd – August 9th. Tickets can be purchased from: https://www.magicgareth.co.uk/live2020

And if you’re feeling social, why not give Magic Gareth a follow on Facebook?

Bare E-ssentials 3: with a Vengeance – Encompass Productions

Produced by Liam Fleming, Rachael Owens & Jonathon Woodhouse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who says the sequels are never as good as the original? Back with a vengeance, Bare Essentials, one of London’s leading new creative writing evenings returns for their monthly reminder of the talent out there in the world. The now award evening 17th edition (third virtual), is as strong as ever and ready to grab life by the unmentionables and explore unique stories, original creators and some fresh takes.

This evening we’re treated to a quartet of fresh innovative writing, all helmed under the watchful eye of the charming host Liam Fleming. Each comprises different genres, styles and aesthetics, as these four pieces make up a cluster of imaginative premises, exceptionally prepared and thought-out through lockdown and isolation – many incorporating the now normal struggles, working with the limitations of COVID rather than actively struggling against.

Despite what pretences may come with new writings, nothing about Bare E-ssentials is scratch media or a melting pot, these are fully-fledged concepts with finished productions. Evident in the direction and writing, the online format opens up the conceptual dynamics of the shorts, where inspirations from cinema and theatre are seeded into original concepts.

First up, there’s a set of Rules which must always be adhered to in life, especially those concerning sex and friends. Lucy Jamieson’s short production takes two friends stuck at home, Jess and Alex, as they lament the struggles of life, and the difficulties of balancing relationships, friendships, and syphilis. Together the pair have terrific energy and chemistry, and the jarring sense of the comedy settles quickly, with Rachael Owens direction coming over as a Channel 4 pilot episode. It’s the richest laugh of the evening, and the finest way to start.

It isn’t all giggles and comradery, however, as both Emma Dawson’s Stones Around My Neck and Jacquie Penrose’s Listen take a substantially darker turn, well – it wouldn’t be a new writing night without this turn. Sat alone, Deborah Garvey effortlessly holds attention in Dawson’s piece as she reflects on the relationship (or lack of) with her youngest daughter, and the influence she has had weighing down aspects of her life – sombre, it’s an investable performance. Equally, a combination of Fleming’s direction with Amelia Parillon’s performance in Penrose’s chilling Listen, which perhaps adheres to the idea of a shot in lockdown the quickest.

Throughout are reminders as to why the recent session of Bare E-ssentials was the honourable winner of an Oncomm Award. The creativity practicality behind scripts, particularly James C Ferguson’s The Chair, where Jonathon Woodhouse’s direction shows how Encompass Productions takes steps beyond the traditional shot-at-home premise, elevating the pieces and working some of the stretched writing mechanics.

An essential lifeblood for the arts community across the nation, Bare E-ssentials is a brief monthly reminder of the exceptional community we’re at risk of losing. Episode 4 of the online series is due to release on August 26th, and couldn’t be recommended enough with a small glass of your favourite and some solid company. And while there’s no possible way to know what spectacles, wonders and oddities may emerge from that evening, it’s safe to say there will be a tremendous showcase of emerging and undervalued talent.

Further information about Bare E-ssentials can be found at Encompass Productions: http://www.encompassproductions.co.uk

You can catch the third installment, and catch up on the rest, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amwtba7YPN0