Amadeus & The Bard – National Museum of Scotland

Director & Creator – Mary McCluskey

Musical Director – Karen MacIver

Based on the works of Robert Burns and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Two champions of their time, etching a significant mark on history few can claim, Robert Burns and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived hundreds of miles apart, but an intense connection in their works ripple throughout culture. Paying homage to the pair, Scottish Opera shares a love of storytelling with these masters, bonding the pair’s verse, composition and passion with their creators and performers.

Where finer to set such a re-telling of these men’s lives than somewhere they both had a great deal of adoration for? The pub. Drinking aside, the infamous Poosie Nansie, this den of revelry, a place of familiarity to fans of Tam O’ Shanter is an excellent setting to present the works of both Wolfie and Rabbie. Taking in a few swallies, this band of merry misfits comprise a selection of Scottish Opera’s youth company, inviting you to jig, sing and join them on this journey. 

Full of vim and vigour, this zestful cast bring the likes of Don Giovanni, Jean Armour and of course, a spirit of two, to fruition with a notable Scots flair. Cementing the production with a stamp of Scottish Opera’s standards, baritone Arthur Bruce and Stephanie Stanway’s soprano role lend immense vocal prowess. Full of character, in control of their tone and range – the projection, even for a small venue, is admirable.

It isn’t as easy as one would imagine, aligning the works of these two artists. Both have notable works, singularly they spark cultural revolutions – so how can blending them maintain their original force? Luckily, thematically the pair share a great deal: in particular matters of the heart, of women and the supernatural. Never would one suspect that Rabbie’s ‘A Man’s a Man For a’ That’ work so sublimely with Mozart’s Queen of the Night? An aria which would define a genre works as a stellar foundation– it’s a pleasant thought what Karen MacIver’s musical direction could turn towards next.

The storytelling elements lacing around a freshly packed Tam O’ Shanter, its recitation to the tones of Mozart, lift the tone of the piece tremendously. Andy Clark’s storyteller may not carry the vocals of some performers, but he is paramount in the production’s success as the purveyor of tales. With an invitation to extend our imagination, Clark fuels a passionate fire for both the Bard and the composer, urging us to go into the word with a ballad, with a tune and a thirst for more.

Sitting there, accordion on her lap, fingers on the ivories and mind racing with direction – MacIver is the heart, beating beneath the chest of Amadeus and The Bard. Alongside exceptional violinist Shannon Stevenson, they are the lifeblood of the show. Together with Mary McCluskey’s vision, the pair breathe life into the memories of Robert Burns and Amadeus Mozart. McCluskey’s conception is profoundly evocative of Scottish humour, showcasing of the future of Scottish Opera in a manner which delights the people – just what Rabbie and Wolfie would have wanted.

Photo credit – Sally Jubb

Tickets available for Paisley Friday 4th October & Scottish Opera Production Studios 11th – 12th October: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/shows/amadeus-the-bard/

Suffering from Scottishness – Assembly Roxy

Written by Kevin P Gilday

Runs at Assembly Roxy until August 26th (Not 13th or 20th), 17.10pm

Irn Bru, Grand Theft Auto, Nessie, Haggis, the Telephone, Lewis Capaldi, Pride, Sense of Humour and the highest drug death rate in Western Europe Annie Lennox. With all of these things, why the hell wouldn’t you want to be Scottish?

Ever thought to yourself; “I know what would fix this country”, well, now you have the chance to prove yourself in envisioning a brand-new Scottish Citizenship Test. It’s an honour, you know. To be lucky enough to have a hand in fashioning the history of this magnificent country’s borders.  

Suited and booted, Kevin P. Gilday is here on behalf of a government body to gauge our responses to a vital question: Just what does it mean to be Scottish? Suffering from Scottishness is a part of HighTide’s Disruption, which sees six contemporary pieces presented in partnership with Assembly. In a turn of Orwellian ingenuity, Suffering from Scottishness is both social experiment and theatrical plaything.

If you’ve never seen Gilday before, you’ll quickly realise why he is an award-winning writer and spoken word artist. In particular, his control of poetry is a selling feature of the production above its unique concept. A well placed spoken word can turn a sea of people in a way a written one can only dream.

Nationalism. It’s a bit of dirty word these days. Wasn’t always, still has redeeming qualities, but quite often it now goes hand in hand with a sense of blindness. Blindness to see that Scotland has issues, so does the rest of the world, but we’re ignoring several life-threatening ones on our doorstep.

Audience interaction. The make or break of a production. Luckily, Gilday knows precisely where to gauge the level. Instead of directly involving the audience, he looks for their assistance, still seating, it draws us all in closer.

Everyone is now on even footing, we’re engaging together, not watching separately. If anything, there isn’t enough involvement – one suspects more is the plan, after testing waters.

Light-hearted, uplifting and a bit of fun, Suffering from Scottishness also has a ripple of commentary. It’s a mirror, which at first capitalises on Scotland’s idiosyncratic features – only for the glass to shatter, revealing the motive underneath. It’s a compelling play, with a profound poet notion, not only to its words but its concept.

Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/suffering-from-scottishness

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Urusla the Sea Witch

Book and Lyrics: Robyn Grant & Daniel Foxx

Director: Siobhan Cannon-Brownlie

There have been wicked witches, mistresses of evil, and fashionistas with a fetish for puppy fur. There is, however, only one Ursula. Plus-size, fabulous, proud and sick of your shit – this sea witch is going to give us the down and dirty. This Sea Witch is on a mission to save the oceans from the humans above, fight for the ugly, downtrodden sea-creatures and most importantly, reclaim her agency as a strong, independent, fat purple woman.

Fat Rascal Theatre has a name for transforming unique narratives into a hot, vivacious mess of colour, song and commentary. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is no exception. Bombastic scoring, belting vocals, and a host of eccentric reject puppets serve up the premiere musical of this year’s Fringe.

The year is 1989, the Walt Disney Company are facing a catastrophically poor decade of sales, faith and mediocre film receptions. They have to return to what made them a household name. Casting away the shackles of originality, taking chances and dark tales – they had to go under the sea.

Returning to Princess fairy-tales, Hans Cristian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid was their choice, and it was a staggering success. Most successful, something no one would have suspected, was an Octo-Woman based on the Drag Queen Divine. Large, scene-stealing and given life by Pat Carroll, Ursula was a return to form for Villain royalty and sits as an LGBTQI+ icon.

So how on earth do you capture such an iconic character? Robyn Grant not only oozes ambitious, authoritative control of the stage, but she also pays tribute to Carroll’s creation of the role in every sense. This is the Sea Witch, living, breathing, grinding and bundles more flair and energy. Vocally, Grant has sublime control, managing to break the fast-paced show into hypnotic, freezing moments as you soak in the atmosphere.

If you’re in the front row, a cautionary warning, this production may conjure states of unexpected arousal. No one on stage requires magic when they have this much rampant desire, filth and depravity. The script is laden with innuendo, firing out at you left, right and centre, sometimes obvious, often hiding in plain sight.

A Queen in every right, Grant must, unfortunately, share her crown with another. Allie Munro has boundless energy, staggering range and dedication to her performances. The pace in which Munro adapts from Jamaican, via Donegal, crab Sebastian into the sultry, sensually seductive Vanessa leaps above impressive.

No one leaves miserable – the only Poor Unfortunate Souls are those begging for tickets outside the door. With no-where else to turn, they listen to cackles, sniggers and on occasion the genuine heartfelt moments and rally cries against suppression. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is another exceptionally well-constructed production from Fat Rascal. It’s wicked, it’s saucy, it’s modern, but above all – it’s nasty.

Tickets available at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/unfortunate-the-untold-story-of-ursula-the-sea-witch