Aye Elvis.

Elvis tribute actI went to see “Aye, Elvis”.   It was such good fun. It’s a  musical.  So poignant ,  I laughed tears and wept at the pathos.   A Scottish woman, leading desperately lonely life, looking after her wheelchair bound mother, working for next to nothing as a checkout girl at the local supermarket, not well educated but the salt of the earth.  From Aberdeen.  Who have you heard of from Aberdeen?      At a local pub karaoke competition she performs an Elvis number.  In pure Scottish, if yer ken wha I mean.

Arre ye lonsime ta neet

De ye miss me ta neet

Ah yer sorrie  wer driffin apairt

She was awful but she is convicted she has it nailed.  She puts her whole heart into it  and it was a joy to watch and to listen to. She wins the £20 karaoke prize and emboldened by the win she buys herself a full glittery sequined Elvis jump  suit and enters a national Elvis Tribute competition And it is glorious, she puts her heart into it.  And it is funny and poignant.  But she’s noo good enough.  There is a happy romantic ridicules ending full of pathos and Elvis songs.   Ahh, its such fun, just what the festival is all about.  Five stars from me.



Private Peaceful – review.

morpengoMorpurgo;s  Private Peaceful is very disappointing.   Perhaps we expected too much after the stunning writing of War Horse, , its astonishing stage production and the film.  Or perhaps World War 1, as a vehicle for drama has passed its peak and needs to take a rest.

Of course one reason may be that without the need of any spoiler alert, we all know the end of the story. it is a universal and self evident truth that a world war one rank and file soldier, executed by firing squad is invariably innocent, has been treated unfairly and unjustly and his killing is a tragedy.

But this was a poor production.   As Private peaceful recalls for us, on stage, his life we see him terrified and traumatised by the horrors of  trench warfare.  He cowers under the barrage of artillery.   We all know, particularly from War Horse, what can be achieved on a stage, but here, the soundtrack of the gunfire and artillery is almost in the background and has none of the volume and horror that would induce the kind of terror and trauma being enacted upon the stage.  It is as if they had got a bog standard recording of  gunfire/artillery from Bargain sound effects for your drama group.com    One would reasonably, I think, expect to flinch from the sounds/ horror of a full scale artillery bombardment, but in truth, you could hear a crisp packet rustle.     And the shots that bring Private Peaceful’s life to an end, surely they could have been loud enough to shock us in our seats, just a little bit?

The story was not as powerful as I had imagined it would be.  Almost every cliche of world war one was thrown in.   Below age signing on;  close friend signing on with you;  friend getting killed;  nasty shouting sgt.:  weak officer;  girlfriend back home; letters about babies.

I have not read the book and cannot say whether this was an accurate reflection of Morpurgo’s  work.  If it is then Private Peaceful is not his finest hour..






Part 2:  A New Presidential election is Imperative.

This is a follow up to a piece I wrote back in 2012 entitled “The RTE have tarnished the Presidency” (http://bit.ly/2MoCa1Q

It is widely accepted that Trump secured the presidency of the United States of America with the help of some dodgy tactics, fake news, manipulation of social media and a ruthless disregard of ethics.

Let us accept that is true.

When it comes to manipulation of  social media and fake news then it worth recalling how Michael Higgins became President of Ireland.

He, personally played no part in the social media manipulation and the fake news that swamped the electoral process won him the election.   But he was, and remains,  the principal beneficiary of a manipulative process that effectively stained the election and stained the office of the presidency.

Let us recall.

We are a small country and national television debates have a markedly greater effect here than they might in a country with a massive population and many many cities and centres of population.      So it was that our most important TV station, deploying its most notable and expensive presenters, and having the most sophisticated monitoring  process  for   filtering “public” contributions and participation in their programmes, (and a wealth of experience in so doing), allowed a entirely fake social media account to plant an entirely fake story, at the prime moments of the principal national debate and  to entirely destroy the campaign of the then frontrunner.    No not just the front runner.  Sean Gallagher was way ahead, no one could catch him and no one would have caught him had it not been for the fake account, the fake allegation and RTE’s role in allowing it to run.

One of our major political parties,  Sinn Fien, was responsible for the fake news, manipulative attack, and they were aided by a supine RTE.

It undermined the integrity of the election and, in my view the integrity of the Presidency.

So now, when we have to consider whether there should be a new Presidential election or whether we should allow President Higgins into a second term without having to face the electorate, then let us remember what occurred.

It is, in my view imperative there be an election to clear the Presidential electoral process of the legacy of a fake news, manipulated unpleasant odour that saw the wrong candidate win.   Or perhaps, for I am a supporter of Michael D, the right candidate win for the wrong reasons.

Of course Michael D should stand, again if so wishes and if he does he would certainly be the candidate that I would support.  But not to have an election is to give legitimacy to the fake news manipulative process that took over the election, for if we are authentic in our collective condemnation of fake news, Trump and all that goes with it, then we owe it to ourselves.


De Profundis compared – Edinburgh Festival


De Profundis  must be one of the most powerful letters in English literature and each year, it appears, in one form or another at almost every Edinburgh Festival.

This year it was Simon Callow in a highly praised performance at the Assembly rooms on George Street.  He attracts, as one would expect for such a distinguished figure in the world of the theatre, large appreciative audiences.

I last saw De Profundis at the Edinburgh Fringe some four years ago, performed, on that occasion, in a much smaller theate, by Gerard Logan and I must say that it was a superior performance to that of Callow.

De Profundis is a very intimate letter and resonates its power when the theatre is smaller and the audience not so vast as that that gathers in the great music hall theatre on George Street.   That, I think, must have contributed to my preference for Logan’s performance.

But there is more.  Callow performs the prose in anger, accusatory anger, for it is an angry letter, whereas Logan’s performance was one of despair and regret.  He did not shout his accusations against Bosie and I think, by doing so he  caught the passion of it better.

The setting of such performances in Edinburgh, indeed, for must shows in Edinburgh, including De Profundis is mostly black curtains and almost nothing on the stage.   Callow had a wooden chair, rather a big chair.    The performance is set in prison but it did not look like a prison chair, nor feel like a prison chair.   It looked too comfortable for a prison, like an IKEA chair rather than a prison stool.  For most of Ca[low’s performance he was seated in the chair, sitting bolt upright angrily proclaiming his accusations against Bosie.   By comparison with Logan it was rather stilted, for Logan was at a desk and it looked much more like a piece of prison furniture; and he was standing, with the “letter” itself in his hands, and he moved with the rhythm of the despair in the letter and it produced a more convincing performance.

Wilde was 43 years old when he wrote De Profundis.   He was a broken dandy.   Callow is now 70 years old.   It is terrible to be so ageist but I think Logan rather carried it off a little more successfully.

For both men, the simple act of committing to memory, not just a few lines but the entire 50,000 word text of the long, powerful prose as it meanders over the minutiae of the Bosie/Wilde  relationship, at times petulant, full of self pity, seething with humiliation and regret, anger and love, is quite astonishing.

Callow’s performance brought forward prolonged  and deserved applause.  Logan’s, as I recall, brought us to our feet.

The wise and foolish Wicklow Virgins

It is the unusual, out of the way things you might accidentally stumble across that make a visit to a famous city memorable.   Edinburgh, like all great cities has it’s must see places, must go to events, its great houses and  art galleries, its long turbulent history, royal and religious and of course the Castle, the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh tattoo and the finest International and Fringe festival in all the world.

We took a house, for the festival, in the Broughton district.  It’s a little off the main city, to the east, close to Leith walk, but still full of those fine stone grey Edinburgh town houses.   traquair-church.jpgAcross the road was a rather noble and superior looking grey stone church, incongruous and a little anonymous, sitting as it does on a busy roundabout.  It turned out to be long de-consecrated. It had been a church of the Catholic Apostolic movement, zealous believers in the second coming, but it  is now preserved as a Scottish heritage project know as the Traquair centre.*

It is a fine building, from a distinguished Scottish Architect,**  but it is  the interior that is most important and for which the building is now listed and protected, for it is adorned with over 500 square meters of the most beautiful religious murals.***  A touch of Italy in the Auld Reekie.

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.28.23

For me, one of the more exciting aspects of the murals, far too little known outside of Scotland, was that the artist was Irish.

I like to think I know a bit about Irish artists. I  have a small collection of Irish works myself. But I know that I have much to learn and I must confess that I had never heard of this Irish artist, not a whisper of her name in Ireland.  And she was a real revelation, for she is exceptionally well known in Scotland, exceptionally talented and in fact enjoys an international reputation.

phoebe anna traquair

She was Phoebe Anna Moss, born in Dublin in 1852, raised in County Wicklow, the daughter of a prominent Dublin Physician, she studied art and design at the Royal Dublin Society.

She was employed, in Dublin,  by a Scottish paleontologist, Ramsey Traquair, then working at Dublin’s National History Museum, to illustrate his collection of fish fossils. They fell in love and married in Dublin, in 1873.  A year later her husband was appointed Keeper of natural History at the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art and she left Dublin for ever.   It was in Edinburgh that  she made her name as a major, internationally recognised artist.  One of her great admirers was W.B. Yeats who wrote of her, to Lady Gregory,

Nearly all my time in Edinburgh I was absorbed in Mrs Traquair’s work and find it far more beautiful that I had foreseen – one can only judge of it when one sees it in a great mass, for only then does one get any idea of her extraordinary abundance of imagination . . . I have come from her work overwhelmed, astonished, as I used to come long ago from Blake, and from him alone…”

She became a noted member of the Arts and Craft movement and the church murals, while clearly having an Italian influence in their concept, also  display influences from among otherstraquair centre Burne Jones, Rossetti and William Morris.  I was particularly struck by the Morris like details she painted above the arched stone doorways.

By all accounts she was a feisty red headed Irish woman, but five foot tall and full of creative energy.  It was she who simply approached the deacons of the church and told them she was going to paint their walls for them!

It took almost nine years, (between 1892 and 1901) to complete the work and for  the Irish, the greatest  interest will be her series of panels within the church narrating the parable of the wise and foolish virgins****

Here they are in all their glory, in one  of the five virgin panels, being summoned by  the Lord and clutching their famous oil lamps.  Five of them, the wise virgins, carry containers of oil.  The other five, the foolish virgins, have lamps but carry no oil.


The background landscape is  unmistakably the hills of Wicklow, and who, in Ireland will fail to recognise the Sugar Loaf mountain

Henceforward, at least for me, these virgins, wise and foolish, will always be known as the wise and foolish Wicklow Virgins!

Let the trumpets sound:

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.28.10



* Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB

** Robert Rowand  Anderson (1834 – 1921)        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Rowand_Anderson    

*** Although the obvious Italian influence would suggest they are Frescoes it is more correct to describe them as murals.  The Fresco technique involves applying  pigment to a wet plaster surface whereas here, Mrs Ttarquaid has applied oil paint, diluted with turpentine,   onto a  hard dry surface prepared with lead white..

****  “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, “Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “What if there isn’t enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Most certainly I tell you, I don’t know you.” Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man  is coming.”       Matthew 25:1-13