Raise The Curtain – Capital Theatre’s Digital Engagement

The curtain will rise again. But until then, we invite you to Discover it. Create it. Perform it

From the heart of one of the nation’s Theatrical epicentres, Capital Theatre, managing charity for Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, King’s Theatre and The Studio announces Raise the Curtain, a wide-range of events and digital activities to engage with the audiences while theatres are closed. So, whether you’re a young connoisseur of the arts finishing a nap, or keen to engage in some intergenerational ballroom dancing before a nap, Raise the Curtain will allow a range of live virtual performances, and interactive engagement sessions straight to your home.

Below you will find details regarding the outlines for many of the activities which are open to the public, as well as private projects developed for specific community groups.

Finding it tough to keep the Wee Creatives entertained? Or perhaps you’re looking for an excuse to crack out the art supplies and play-dress up? Well, no excuse is required for Wee Creatives which will offer free creative sessions for young children and their adults to enjoy. These weekly sessions shift from The Studio Theatre and directly into your home, with each week being led by a different performance artist who will lead a child friendly session. Presented live from Zoom and located on YouTube, these sessions begin as of today (May 28th)

And starting in July, over the period of eight weeks you’ll have the ability to learn to dance from the comfort of your own home, through a series of live and pre-recorded sessions courtesy of Shall We Dance? Hosted by former Scottish, International and World Champion dancer, Dawn Irvine. Dawn will bravely lead these bimonthly sessions in a for you to learn how to perform your own ballroom classics such as the Foxtrot, Jive, Waltz or the infamous Cha Cha Cha. Between sessions you’ll also gain access to these pre-recoded videos to ensure those two left feet don’t act up between lessons. All leading up to a grand spectacle, as Capital Theatres will host an afternoon, live on Zoom, for everyone to join in and strut their stuff, including a show dance from Andrei Toader and Mia Linnik-Holden.

We’ve spoken on Corr Blimey before about the marvellously popular Tea and Jam sessions held by Capital. A part of their dementia inclusive programme, this family friendly event is a monthly Zoom must, whether you’re cracking out the old guitars or warming up those vocals, all ages are welcome. This 45-minute session of uplifting melody is led by professional musician Gus Harrower and will held the last Friday of each month from 11am until noon.

QOTA was the highlight of the two-year partnership with LGBT Youth Scotland, a co-created original piece made with a group of young trans-activists across Scotland. Performing in front of 300 MSPs and invited guests at the Scottish Parliament in February, Capital have moved their activities with the group to a digital creative platform, where there is a continued supported to engage with the performing arts during lockdown.

Ever thought about what it’s like high up the lighting rig, or behind the box office? Well, with Behind the Scenes the public are invited to join an interactive call with staff at Capital Theatres to share the secrets of the theatre and how the tricks and magic come together. Having started last night (May 27th) this is sure to be of tremendous interest to those theatrical fans and budding performers.

Still not learned enough about the way Capital works? Well, with their Virtual Backstage Tours you can get your fix of all the secrets and mysteries lurking beneath The King’s Theatre, or some of the historical accomplishments the Festival Theatre (once Empire) has achieved. Starting June 2020, if you’ve been lucky enough to attend these tours in person, you’ll know how fascinating these sessions can be.

As part of their long-standing partnership with Harmeny Education Trust (a residential care home for care experienced children, in South West Edinburgh) Harmeny has been adapted to become a co-created storytelling project during lockdown. Gradually building the world and narrative around them, children create the story, choose the characters and environment and steadily, each week share, through various creative means, how they would like the story to advance. This in turn is then transformed into an artistic response through video the following week. By the conclusion of the six-week programme three short films of the children’s stories will be made available to enjoy and share.

FUSE is a project for anyone who is care experienced. For the last two months, participants over the age of sixteen have been digitally meeting weekly to discuss challenges presented, or heightened, by lockdown such as isolation, anxiety, and loneliness. Broadening their experiences, their weekly theatre club Zoom involves participants watching theatre online, bringing the group together to discover new performing arts and sharing the experiences.

Finally, Joy to the Moment looks to provide entertainment for residents isolating in care homes, or those shielding in their own. A series of small performances, wonderfully inspired from Gracie Irvine, a young pupil at The Edinburgh Steiner School, whose concerns for people isolating and in care surroundings, wanting to find a way to provide comfort and entertainment, starting June 1st.

We may, presently, be unable to soak in the rich atmosphere of the theatre, but it will return. And until that day, we can maintain a cultural adoration and encourage a continued and right to engage with and develop art.

Full information regarding specific events can be sourced directly from Capital Theatres, either from their social media channels or website: http://www.capitaltheatres.com

Photo Credit – Phil Wilkinson info@philwilkinson.net http://www.philwilkinson.net 01316186373

Cirque Berserk – Festival Theatre

Creative Direction by Julius Green

What’s a circus without a tent, but maintains all the wonderous surprises we would find within? Why a Berserkus of course! That’s precisely what Cirque Berserk aims to achieve with their touring production. An amalgamation of more than thirty circus stunts honed within the big tops of the world and melding them into the stages of the UK, pairing the traditional artform of the ring, with the approach of the stage. Motorcycles, gymnasts, clown antics and even the occasional ‘animal’, they certainly deliver on a circus front, but can you really contain such a large event to a smaller, confined space?

Authentic circus experiences (complete with expensive merchandise), made for theatrical setting, this is the mantra for Cirque Berserk. The best of both worlds, capitalising on the idea of staging this production, attempting to communicate the circus experience, but on occasions, scope suffers. Fundamentally, their staging cannot replicate a ring, no matter the construct or innovation. Now, replication may not be the intention, aiming to present a new form of artistic creativity, but at times, the additional space would limit the feeling of a crowding.

Presenting danger in such proximity with the audience though is a game-changer. Particularly the feats of the daredevil Lucius Team, who silence the neigh sayers with their first act performance, and leave them aghast at their return. Exhilarating and occasionally breathtaking, you only need to listen to the audience around to gain a semblance of the impact these stunts still take. Knife-throwing, human launches and trapeze work command silence before thundering applause follow. Occasionally the sadists out there may not sense a genuine aura of danger, but on the whole, the trickery and stunt work is second to none – these are masters of their respective talents, with the Khadgaa Troupe and the Timbuktu Tumblers claiming the right of death-defying feats and the audiences’ appreciation.

An authentic circus requires a focal point, a driving force for the audience to connect with. Storytelling isn’t an inherent part of Cirque Berkerk’s format, it’s a collection of impressive stunts, rather than a narrative performance. We may not build a personal relationship with The Lucius or Khadgaa Troupes, but boy do we find a charmer with Paulo Dos Santos. The comedic heart of the show, with acrobatic skill rivalling the headliner acts, he embodies berserkus nature. He may have a few loose screws to sign up to these stunts, but there are lashings of performance capabilities and diverse skill.

Santos is a weapon of sorts, a key component of what separates Berserk from others of its ilk, but in places, it isn’t enough. There is no question of merit or skill, but there are concerns on originality for circus fans or regular visitors. Only a spattering of sets feels unique, sometimes for peculiar reasons, such as the large, robotic invader who fails to make an appearance outside of his fireworks display or the swooping owl, a brilliant piece of costume design, but peculiar in placement.

No longer do you need to trek into the wilderness to catch the circus, but perhaps that’s where Cirque Berserk loses the magic. Achieving their goal of theatrical experience, the dimensions of the tent don’t carry over, and remove a smidge of the adventure quality. No question of skillset, nor the solid teamwork present by the company, this paves the way for similar experiences within closed settings, but you may find yourself enjoying the spectacle, but missing the crunch of grass beneath your feet, and the warm aroma of popcorn pervading the air.  

Cirque Berserk runs at The Festival Theatre until Sunday March 15th. Tickets are available from: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/cirque-berserk

Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show – Festival Theatre

In the past sixty years, social media has become a dominant force as Great Britain has joined and then left the European Union, gone through twelve Prime Ministers and somehow, Allan Stewart’s career survives it all. Quite rightly, Stewart may host the Big Big Variety Show, we may be celebrating his sixty years in the business, but the celebration is about the industry, the lights, the songs and the people within. With his two best pals onstage, this is genuine entertainment in a manner which, regrettably for some, has died out.

Striking the band, working with them in a way only a comfortable performer can do, Stewart and The Andy Pickering Orchestra once again settle into their old haunt. It isn’t just panto pals who join Stewart on the King’s Theatre stage, supporting the show are eighties’ treasure Mari Wilson and comedian Mick Miller, a legendary comic whose stylings hark back to club gigs. A woman of stupendous talent, Wilson’s career spans decades, rubbing shoulders with the greats, and on occasion eclipsing them. Taking the boy’s sketches in her stride, Wilson rolls with the laughs and warming the audiences cockles, there’s no finer way to celebrate Stewart’s prominence on the scene than with a wealth of vocal talent.

From song to laughter, the inclusion of a comedian at first seems a jarring decision, with a trio of capable entertainers, and from Miller’s first gag we are reminded of the stark difference between a comedian and an entertainer who happens to be humourous. His control is effortless, like a true stand-up if a joke doesn’t land, his rebound does. Puns, crowd work and a few dated jokes, Miller’s finale, a radio drama featuring the story of Noddy, as told by an alcoholic, is a grand concoction of audio humour, imagination and echoes of a genre the audience will connect with.

Let’s face it, much of the crowd is here for The Three (Scottish) Stooges; Allan, Andy & Grant. Chemistry hardly needs to be mentioned in how authentically charismatic and enriching they are with one another, and their reliable delivery of the one thing no crowd can resist – cockups, massive ones, or wee ones depending on who you ask. Taking it all on the chin, Stott and Stewart recognise where the evening is turning, how the scene is playing out and precisely not to fix it, to accept the mistakes, run with them, build on them and cause the audience to howl.

Showbusiness ain’t the same, or at the very least it has (d)evolved into an incomprehensible behemoth of social media, quick ‘likes’ and faux-images. In reality, the construct images celebrities manufacture is no different than before, just quicker to process and digest. Reaffirming the concept of variety, in places, the show suffers from the bulk of music and comedy, it’s an overload. There is something to be said though on Stewart’s capitalising on nostalgia, making a comprehensive argument for it. As he recites tales of the old stars, or his ten-year-old self is projected onstage at his first Barrowlands gig, it’s difficult not to find a fondness for the decades Fame has left in her wake.

Sixty years in showbiz, thirty-nine pantomimes and a dash of fake-tan, Stewart’s career spans a wider pool than the dameship with which many are familiar. Ignoring the idea of a ‘triple-threat’, Stewart decides to tackle different aspects, with some choice impressions to boot. The Big Big Variety Show seems to be taking a permanent vacation, and if this is the case, there is only one way for the city to thank a remarkable Scottish legend, and that is to let him thank the crowds for their support, appreciation and money adoration.

Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show runs at The King’s Theatre until Saturday March 14th. Tickets are available from: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/allan-stewarts-big-big-variety-show