The plight of Hidden Door

The winner of last year’s “Best Cultural Event” at the Scottish Thistle Awards, the not-for profit Hidden Door Festival is in dire need of funds.

Edinburgh is a deeply creative city. There’s always something going on, a festival or a show or a gallery opening or a theatrical event – always something, right up to the Fringe Festival itself. Hidden Door Festival is one such event, and it’s a pretty good one at that. Hidden Door seeks to give a little limelight to lesser known performers and artists, as well as putting on a few big acts to make sure there’s a hell of a show.

Hidden door CREDIT - Tom Parnell

Photo Credit: Tom Parnell

The non-profit, all volunteer festival’s final distinction is its reclamation of unused and derelict spaces around the capital. This came to a head last year when the festival resurrected the old Leith Theatre while the festival was on, which also paved the way for the theatre to stage several events during the Fringe Festival during the summer.

All funding from the event goes back to the contributors and to funds future festivals. Hidden Door has made amazing progress in utilising old, forgotten parts of the capital. All this could be lost, however, as the organisers are struggling to make the money needed to put on the festival next year.

Originally, the goal was to raise £80,000 between August and December. However, as the end of the year approaches, the festival has only managed to raise a quarter of its goal. There’s two options: if the festival raises its initial goal, the annual 9-day event goes on as planned. If at least £40,000 can be raised, there will be a Hidden Door “weekender” – the same promotion of emerging artists, the same fascinating venues, but across a smaller timescale.

Hidden door 1 - CREDIT TO Tom Parnell

Photo credit: Tom Parnell

Essentially, Hidden Door needs your help. One can either donate directly on their fundraising website, or you can attend the Hidden Door Christmas Art Sale this weekend at Skylight Cafe. The sale, which takes place on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th will feature 200 artworks donated by supporters of the festival as well as the emerging artists that have been part of the festival in past years.

In conclusion, while the capital has a lot of cultural events, losing any of them is a blow to Edinburgh’s unique reputation. Also, none of the shows, galleries, and gigs can take place without a little bit of support being thrown behind small-scale artists – this is exactly what Hidden Door exists to do. So please, support this festival in any way you can. It’s a pretty worthy cause, and when it’s on next year, you’ll be very happy that you did.

 

Film Review: Ralph Breaks The Internet

While not an instant classic, this sequel to Wreck It Ralph defies expectations simply by being “surprisingly not terrible”.

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ralph Breaks The Internet

It’s a strange thing, being a grown man and going to watch a kid’s movie on your own. Still, I’ve managed to apply a critical eye and not simply lurk around the theatre, looking creepy.

The plot of Ralph Breaks The Internet follows essentially what the title says. Our hero Ralph, a lovable 80s arcade game villain, journeys to the internet with his feisty young accomplice Vanellope to save the latter’s arcade cabinet (which is in need of spare parts). They find what they need on eBay, there’s some shenanigans, they get the thing, there’s yet more shenanigans, and then some minor peril ensues as Ralph’s best intentions go awry. However, everything ends well and leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling inside. If that’s a spoiler for you, there’s a few Disney classics you’ll need a peek at before you read the rest of this.

The film mostly takes place inside a fictionalised version of the internet, so the humour centres around internet culture, memes and social media. This is an incredibly difficult kind of joke, as it needs to be incredibly up-to-date. More so than any movie that has spent two years in production has any right to be. Yet, they actually manage it. There’s still a few bits of banter that really would’ve been funnier six years ago when the first one came out, but for the most part the in-jokes and references are pretty on the ball. One particularly notable scene from the trailers involving all the various Disney princesses is actually a great laugh.

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Promotional movie poster

I think the way they manage to not entirely miss the punchline with all the internet humour is by not delving too deep into online culture. They do cover a lot of interesting points – the viciousness of comment sections, viral videos, even the highly illegal “Dark Web” – but there’s always more references you can make when you’re talking about the internet. Doing that, however, would just create some horrifying remake of The Emoji Movie. Instead, the writers have shone the light back onto the characters themselves for most of the jokes, and made a lot of self-referential jabs about Disney movies. Looking back is a good theme, I suppose, for what is Walt Disney Studios’ first theatrical sequel since 2011 – the one you’re thinking of when you see that fact and go “Really?” is either a Pixar movie or was straight-to-DVD.

While I seem positive here, I am being very generous with the term “entertaining”. It’s a great movie to watch with gullible, easily distracted children, or to put on for a couple hours while you play with your phone. You can (and should!) tilt your head up every so often to enjoy the odd sequence but the film doesn’t overly grab you. It’s also pretty long: nearly two hours, and this is supposed to be a kids movie. My attention span isn’t even that long, let alone that of the standard pre-pubescent cinema goer. There’s laughs, but it seems like it mostly just appeals to the hard-core Wreck It Ralph fan –  if that’s even a thing.

See movie times for Ralph Breaks The Internet here. 

Thousands rally for pay equality

Glasgow is seeing its biggest equal pay strike in decades as 8,000 march on George Square.

Hundreds of schools, nurseries, and other local government organisations are striking due to a long-running dispute about equal pay for women.

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GMB General Secretary Tim Roache with striking workers at Glasgow City Chambers

Although Glasgow City Council has said the strike is unnecessary, GMB and Unison workers unions note a distinct lack of progress in negotiations over the pay issue.

The problem has arisen from a pay and conditions scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006. The scheme means that due to differing work conditions, workers in female-dominated industries like teaching, catering and cleaning are receiving up to £3 an hour less than workers in male-dominated industries like refuse collection.

Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of GMB, spoke to us about the march in Glasgow:

“The Glasgow Women’s strike is the biggest ever strike over sex discrimination and equal pay. 8000 women have downed tools and brought large parts of the city to a halt. This is a magnificent display of solidarity amongst the women of Glasgow.”

Other industries which are unaffected by the pay dispute – or on the other side of it, such as refuse workers – have also been striking to support the female marchers in Glasgow.

GMB European Officer Kathleen Walker Shaw told EN4 News:

“The strike action and demonstration has met with widespread public support in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and internationally with messages of solidarity pouring in from public service workers across the world.”

These messages included a speech from Rosa Pavanelli, the general Secretary of the 20-million-strong PSI Global union:

Councillors in Glasgow reiterate that there is no need for the strike. Council Leader Susan Aitken spoke to the BBC, stating:

“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”

Over 12,000 claims have been made to the council to alert them of pay issues caused by the 2006 scheme. After pay increases and payouts for backdated claims, the issue could ultimately cost between £500 million and £1 billion.

Review: Flying By Mirrors at The Garage Attic

Good tunes, good band, good venue — but a disappointing turnout for Flying By Mirrors

★★★☆☆

You can be a great band, but there are always going to be factors that will make a gig sub-par. For Flying By Mirrors, Glasgow-based indie rockers, all these factors collided last night. I’ve seen the band before, and they can really wow a crowd, but there does actually needs to be a crowd for that to happen. EN4 News spoke to the boys afterward to hear their side of the story.

Flying By Mirrors line-up

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Clockwise from bottom left: Aidan, Ross, Kieran, Callum and Jamie

Clockwise From Bottom Left: Aidan, Ross, Kieran, Callum, and Jamie.

Aidan Curran – Guitar

Kieran Brown- vocals

Ross Cowan – Drums

Callum McCulloch – Guitar

Jamie Cowan – Bassist

“It was a strange gig for us,” says Aiden, one of the band guitarists. “We had no overdrive on our guitars [which would give the band a very clean sound, not like their usual rough-and-ready energy] and there were a lot of technical issues.”

Ross, the band drummer, agreed: “We had to drop a song from the set because there was no overdrive”. Aiden also noted that it was a first in a long time that the band had played first support at a gig. “Our last gig was at King Tut’s [ in Glasgow], and that was a headline slot,” says vocalist Kieran. “It’s weird coming to something like this where you’ve got to cut your set and you’ve got a tiny wee venue.”

The show itself was pretty much as the lads described. Songs that usually get people up and moving, such as the fast-paced “Let’s Go Dancing”, received a lukewarm response from the dwindling crowd. The sound wasn’t quite right, and the band knew it. With something like that in mind, it’s hard to give your very best performance.

Still, it’s not all a downward slope for Flying By Mirrors. Their other guitarist Callum has set about organising a show for January: “Time To Talk”. The event, which will feature themselves along with a few other acts, will have all its ticket sales donated directly to SAMH — the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

“I set it up on the idea that there’s not a lot being done regarding mental health,” says Callum. “Depression’s the biggest illness in the world. I’m also a massive Linkin Park fan, so after Chester Bennington [who committed suicide last summer], you do think to yourself ‘that shouldn’t be happening'”.

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“Time to Talk” will take place at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy on the 12th of January.

Callum has paid for the venue, sorted out the other acts, and of course, roped in his bandmates to play. Now, everything is set for January 12, with a third of the venue already sold out. Tickets are on sale now.

So if you went along to the gig on October 22, the guys can only apologise. But with their January gig organised, and at least two more singles to be released by the band this year, the future looks bright for Flying By Mirrors’.

You can listen to Flying By Mirrors here:

Spotify

Apple Music

Amazon Prime

You can follow their latest news on Facebook and Instagram. 

 

 

Interview: Forrest Can’t Run

Edinburgh-based rockers launch debut EP with a bang.

The five-piece pop-punk outfit has been around for about a year and a half now, wowing various venues across the capital. Their debut EP “Time Will Tell” launched Friday so now you can be wowed at home, too.

EN4 News caught up with the guys after a loud and energetic launch show at Edinburgh’s Opium Nightclub. We spoke about their songs, their shows, and what the future holds.

The Band

  • Danny Crawford – Vocals and Frontman
  • Cal Carruthers – Lead Guitar
  • Ross Jenkins – Normal Guitar
  • Lewis Connell – Bass Guitar
  • Simon Drummond – Drums

EN4 News: Before I forget to ask, where exactly can we find your EP? Where is it available?

Danny: Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music

Ross: Amazon, Google Play. (Laughing) KKBOX

EN4 News: What was that last one?

Ross: I just looked up “Forrest Can’t Run” on Google, and it turns out we’re available on KKBOX, it’s a Southeast Asian streaming service. We have no idea how it got there.

EN4 News: During the show you said you’re on Guitar Hero as well? How did you manage that?

Danny: Basically one of my mates, Liam [On Twitch as Docy93] is one of the best Guitar Hero players in Scotland. He remastered an MP3 of us into Guitar Hero and Plays our stuff during his live streams.

EN4 News: So tonight’s gig: how was that for you guys?

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Forrest Can’t Run onstage at Opium.

Lewis: It was unreal.

Danny: I’m very tired, let’s put it that way. The crowd was amazing! To hear them singing our songs back to us was so cool.

Simon: I really enjoyed it, absolutely class.

Danny: It wasn’t just one song either, it was stuff that wasn’t even on the EP release! That was awesome. Mainly because I was really out of breath, and couldn’t sing, so it’s nice to have someone do my job for me. The crowd was probably my favourite thing about the night.

EN4 News: How was recording the EP? Quick and easy or do you all hate each other now?

Danny: Well… (Laughing)

Ross: We recorded two songs back in April, with another drummer who’s left us, and then the two other ones in August with Simon.

Simon: Yeah, I’m technically just the poor substitute.

Danny: “Masquerade” and “Voices” were produced with Mark Morrow Audio. “Stephanie” and “Time Will Tell” were done with a band called Woes who’ve been really helpful.

EN4 News: How have they helped?

Danny: Two of the guys from Woes, Luke and Sean, they took our stuff on a tour they did.

Simon: The tour was for an album they’ve just released.

Danny: Yeah, so after we recorded with them they did all the production, basically made the magic . Really cool. And the EP art was Laurence Crow, I’ll throw that in there as well.

EN4 News: You seem very well organised for only being together for 18 months. Is there any one of you that’s especially behind that?

Danny: If any of you say me I’ll hate you. But I…

Lewis: It’s actually mainly me and Ross.

Danny: What? No.

Cal: I help as well though. So does Simon.

Danny: What?!

Cal: I guess Danny does too.

Danny: Shut up! Ok, I suppose in terms of the merch, (Buy It Here!), that’s all of us. Logos and art is Ross. We even have a band bank account, me and Lewis do that. Lewis brought a card reader too for selling our stuff.

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Lewis Connell on Bass (Right), Danny Crawford on Vocals (Left), and Simon Drummond on Drums (Centre).

Danny: But really, in regards to organisation…

Ross: None of us, really.

Danny: If you look at our band group chat, it’s mostly me telling people what to do and trying really hard not to seem like an arse about it. I try to take charge, but the big decisions are left to the band.

Lewis: And I make sure they’re not crap decisions.

Danny: (Laughing) That’s fair, Lewis does quality control. My job is just making sure everyone does what they’re supposed to. I can be pushy about it but it’s mostly teamwork.

EN4 News: Last big question: what does the future hold for you guys?

Danny: Dunno.

Ross: Album.

Lewis: Album!

Cal: Album.

Simon: Yeah, album.

Danny: Well, we need to write new songs for it first. Maybe music videos too?

Ross: Yeah, We’ll hopefully have a video by early next year.

Lewis: Possibly a Christmas song?

Danny: God no. Anyway, the main idea is to get some new tunes put together, and hopefully also a tour at some point – we’d love to get down to England and play across Scotland. It’s all about broadening our horizons, you know?

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Clockwise from left: Cal, Simon, Lewis, Ross and Danny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BlacKkKlansman Review

Director Spike Lee’s new flick highlights racism in the present using a story from the not-so-distant past – but he still manages to provide some laughs along the way.

BlacKkKlansman is the story of Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), who becomes Colorado Springs’ first black police officer, and then more or less immediately takes on the job of infiltrating the local KKK chapter. Working his way into the most racist organisation ever proves difficult for a man of his skin colour, so he enlists the aid of fellow (white) officer Phillip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to act as his surrogate at Klan events.

Incredibly, it’s all a true story. Ron Stallworth was a real cop, and really was black, and really did infiltrate the KKK over the phone. Some dates and places have been slightly altered but the idea and the ridiculousness is all fairly true.

There’s some incredible acting, especially from Washington and Driver in their scenes together – the real Ron Stallworth wanted Denzel Washington to play him in the movie, but was ecstatic to have Denzel’s son portray him instead. Psychotic klansman Felix is also played with disturbing realism by Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen.

The only bit of the movie I disliked was the ending, in which the fiction ends and we are bombarded with newsreel from recent right-wing events in America. It’s depressing, and then I realised  that’s probably the point. Throughout the movie the language of the klansmen mirrors that of the current american administration: Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke refers to “making America remember its greatness”, which sounds not unlike something I’ve seen on a hat recently.

Since October 1st was also the start of UK Black History Month, I wondered if the real life parallels of the film were also a major issue in Britain. I asked a friend of mine, Ore Malaolu, what his opinion was. Ore’s Nigerian, and has lived in the US for some time before moving to Scotland:

“[UK Black History Month] is almost nonexistent” he told me. “I know about it, but it’s not as brought to the forefront as it is in the US. Black history just isn’t really talked about.”

He also spoke about how his peers aren’t overly aware of the Month as well,

“My university have pictures up [about Black History Month] but I still find myself telling people ‘did you not know that’s a thing?'”

Hopefully, with movies like BlacKkKlansman become more popular worldwide (as opposed to just seeing success in the US) awareness of black history will become more prevalent in the UK. We seem to have a spotlight on black culture, but as a society looking back just isn’t our strong suit.

By Bryce Arthur

Game Review: Spiderman on PS4

Combining nostalgia with cutting edge graphics and simulation, Spider-Man on PS4 gives players an insight into what it would be like to swing about New York, unrestrictedly punching people in the face to save the day.

pIMG_1697The latest Spider-Man instalment from Insomniac games combines a solid and interesting story with a wide variety of in-game missions, content and web based gadgets plus a supremely satisfying web swinging mechanic that far surpasses Treyarch and Activision’s iteration on the PlayStation all the way back in 2002. The latest game brings the beloved neighbourhood superhero crashing into the 21st century two feet first with fun combat and typical Spider-Man puns – some that will leave you without a smile on your face.

From the outset Insomniac has managed to nail that feeling of being the web swinger himself. The opening cutscene thrusts the player into Spider-Man’s shoes and impressively simulates the hero gliding between skyscrapers at great height. It is supremely satisfying to move fluidly around the city, with only a press of R2 at the right time. The mechanic takes a little getting used to at first, but after a few hours of gameplay you begin to realise there is nothing more satisfying than combining a swing, a wall run and a backflip as you fly through the New York City skyline.

And what a skyline it is. New York has been lovingly recreated here in impressive detail. Although not everything is in its place, Insomniac really has done an amazing job of making the player believe in their surroundings. With impressive scale and tall buildings to jump off of, there is never a dull moment.

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Spider-Man also has a variety of cool costumes to zip around in, each with a unique look and power-up that comes along with them. From the iconic spider outfit from  the Sam Raimi movies, to the iron spider suit from the latest Avengers movie, the references to Spider-Men from throughout history is impressive. The suit powers bring an added spice to combat, allowing the player to face challenges more easily.

Combat is smooth and the buttons are intuitive. The range of enemies keep you on your toes as you zip and zoom between them, knocking them into the air and finishing them with a sweet combo. My main qualm with the combat is how vast Spider-Man’s move list is, but you soon find yourself using the same few moves over and over, as the higher level moves can feel clumsy to carry off.

Although I won’t spoil the story here, the game does a wonderful job of mixing the worlds of Peter Parker and Spider-Man together, and holds a host of villains for you to battle. There are also lighter sequences played as other characters, such as Mary-Jane Watson infiltrating an art gallery, breaking any repetitive nature of the game.

Spider-Man does an excellent job of combining smooth and easy to pick up gameplay with a strong story and likeable characters. It isn’t perfect. There are a few bugs I have found, from collectable backpacks being stuck inside the scenery to a few combat glitches, but overall this an excellent game and a highly recommendable pick up.

By David Paul

Megalomatic Review

Three-piece heavy rock/prog band Megalomatic headline the Banshee Labyrinth on Saturday 29th of September. The mighty Glaswegian band is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Craig McKenzie, drummer Jamie Barnes and bassist Ben Reffin.

There is a buzz of raw excitement rising from the dark basement beneath the bar in the Banshee Labyrinth. It appears as though I have descended into a heat-trapping, scarcely lit mausoleum, but alas, it is where tonight’s gig will take place. The eager crowd have come to see the Glasgow’s favourite stoner metal/prog rockers, Megalomatic, wrap up the final leg of their UK tour.

After a roaring performance from real-life Thor Craig Carnegie, lead vocalist for Leith band The Kyrss Talmeth Experience and a bold debut set from Not Robots? It is time for Megalomatic to give the fans what they are here for. One such fan to my left says it is his 21st time seeing Megalomatic, having followed them around Scotland over the years.

They launch into their set with an energetic performance of their new single ‘Coil’. The single, from their EP titled Symbolism, is a somewhat of a metal mash-up masterpiece. It uses a surprisingly delicate melodic riff to mirror a deep, groovy bass line. The drums are unrepentant but methodical. Megalomatic frontman Craig begins singing in a soothing whisper before building the tension until he is projecting a guttural scream. The wall of emotion and sound hits me instantly, and I’m left in awe of what I’ve just heard.

Megalomatic have started off strong. They quickly settle into a stellar set composed of songs from their EP that somehow sound even better live and raw. The band seem to be enjoying themselves, they are effortlessly tight as musicians and don’t fall into the pitfall of overthinking – either their playing or on-stage banter. Megalomatic seem tteful for each member of the audience being there. They even give a shout-out and play an older, rare song for the fan who has seen them 21 times – who then beams with joy – before head-banging vigorously, of course.

After the blistering performance, I managed to catch up with lead vocalist, guitarist and founder Craig McKenzie to gain an understanding of how they developed their tight, heavy sound as a trio.

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Craig McKenzie, lead singer and founder of Meglomatic

“We’ve worked out how to make ourselves sound as big as a four piece but as a three piece and it’s ended up working out really well for us. It’s been three years now and we’re still going strong.”

The band was formed in 2013 by Craig, and has went through numerous line-up alterations since. In bands prior to Megalomatic, Craig was always a guitarist and had never sang outside his bedroom walls before. Second before their first gig as a band, the former bassist and intended lead-singer suffered stage fright and Craig has to step forward and fill the role of singer.

“I was awful – but it felt really good even if I was struggling I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Even though I don’t have a lot of confidence off stage, it’s a totally different beast being on stage. When I’m on stage it feels like a totally different mind-set. I’m more confident in front of loads of people, with a guitar around my neck pouring my soul out than I am speaking one to one to somebody. The band is my release.”

Megalomatic have recently returned from playing shows in England, with the thought one gig in Norwich bringing a particularly fond memory back to Craig; “It blows my mind that we can drive seven hours away and there are people who are invested enough to show up and know our songs.”

With skilfully crafted, melodic but ear-shatteringly heavy songs and a pleasantly humble nature – it’s no wonder the fan favourite has people supporting them around the country. As the band say themselves, they play with “muscle and heart”.

Megalomatic can be found on Spotify, Apple music and YouTube.

Listen to them yourself here: https://youtu.be/M2dWGCIjZNw

By Rachel Lee

 

 

Day of the Dead Festival: Desecrated, for your pleasure

Celebrating the dead is common to most cultures worldwide. Mexico holds the enduringly popular Day of the Dead on October 31st, which has had a recent surge in popularity throughout the English-speaking world. It might be because of the wholesome practice of remembering loved ones who’ve passed away, but it’s almost definitely just because their stuff looks cool. This cultural appropriation has led to events like the Edinburgh Festival of the Dead: a very bizarre, action-packed, drunk and debauched dance party.

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Proud witch and boyfriend, both making maximum effort

The pictures give a taste of the Day of The Dead’s idiosyncratic look. The real question: are people fascinated by this because it’s a colourful take on a dark topic, or is it because skulls are totally rad? I may be simplifying the issue. Loving the style of the Day of the Dead does not exclude one from appreciating the message. For example: I met a lovely woman [pictured right]  who was dressed in full Day of the Dead regalia. I expressed understandable confusion about walking into a building full of people dressed as Rave Skeletons. The woman then told me that she was a witch, and knew all about the Day of the Dead.

She explained how on October 31st, the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and this is why most cultures have their “spooky holiday” around this time – Pitri Paksha in Hinduism, Halloween in Christianity, and Samhain in Paganism. She added that as a witch, October 31st was actually her new year, and assured me that she was a good or “white” witch and therefore wouldn’t do any curses. Then she gave us cool free masks, so I trust her wholeheartedly.

This conversation would imply that there was an ongoing interest in the spirituality of The Day of the Dead. However, the conversation took place while we were standing in the line for booze. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for drinking and dancing. I just feel like when you name your event after what is – for an entire country of people – a solemn and respected pseudo-religious festival, and then you have that event be a non-stop late-night techno-fest with acrobats and sexy dancers and DJs, it’s somewhat disrespectful. The MC for the night brought a dude onstage to do tequila shots with him. Is that part of the Mexican tradition? Somehow I doubt it.

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If you look closely you’ll see that the arm on the right is in fact a detached mannequin arm, as is tradition in Mexico

 

The show itself was pretty good. But the sheer amount of debauchery involved meant I felt I had to write something about the divide between what the name means and what this event was. At one point, the MC held out a large bag of fake cocaine, and after several jokes, was dragged bodily offstage by dancers in risqué police costumes. This was followed by a DJ set. If this had been a Halloween ‘Techno Night’ with the same amount of drinking and costumes, I would’ve thought that was really cool! But they just had to call it the Festival of the Dead, and reference all the Dia de Muertos stuff. It’s not Dia de Muertos

“Festival” is absolutely bang on though: the disclaimer here is that the event was great fun and absolutely fascinating to see, cultural appropriation aside. If the show ever comes back to Edinburgh, by all means go for the lights and music and performance, because it’s one hell of a show they put on. But don’t go for the traditional Mexican values. There’s not a lot of those.

For a less ranty explanation of the event, see Iona Young’s overview here: https://en4news.com/2018/10/02/festival-of-the-dead-comes-to-edinburgh/

By Bryce Arthur

Still Alice: Revealing what we all need most to live

Poignant play ‘Still Alice’, adapted by Christine Mary Dunford leaves its mark on Kings Theatre audiences.

We all know what it is like to converse with ourselves, reacting and answering ourselves like our mind is another person. In “Still Alice”, this is exactly what Harvard professor Alice Howland finds herself doing. Except in her case her mind is personified, on stage alongside her, for the audience to watch and hear. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 50, Alice begins to lose grasp of the life she truly loves. Directed by David Grindley and newly adapted by Christine Mary Dunford from the original novel, the play is raw and emotional.

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Sharon Small as Professor Alice Howland

What binds the show together is Sharon Small’s portrayal of Alice. What we see, over the 90 minutes of the play’s duration, is a woman disappearing before our very eyes. Both her physical and mental decline is authentically done using stage effects and complex make-up – as well as Small’s superb acting. So unapologetically emotive is Small’s performance that one finds themselves happy to be reminded it isn’t real as the cast take their bows at the end. By Alice’s side throughout is the physical embodiment of her mind, portrayed by Eva Pope. Her mind is both her best friend and her worst enemy – a feeling we all know. One minute her mind is encouraging and caring. The next, it is hiding her phone in the freezer.

While living with Alzheimer’s is not something everyone in the audience can relate to, most can easily relate to the tempestuous nature of family life. Alice’s family struggles are what most links the audience to her: a husband (Martin Marquez) whose life is only getting better while she is left behind. A daughter (Ruth Ollman) whose attitudes and lifestyle cause only confrontation. A son (Mark Armstrong) whose children will never experience the real Alice Howland.

Of course, due to the main thread running through the play – Alice’s worsening mental state – all of these complex and intense relationships begin to fade away from Alice’s mind. This decline continues to the point where she is unable to articulate how she feels by the end of the play. The light in this dark finale is Alice’s realisation that her daughter’s playful and whimsical nature is exactly what she needs. A relationship that was once so cold becomes warmer than ever.

Also reflecting Alice’s destitute mind is the set on stage. What starts as a vast and busy production becomes minimal and unexciting, mirroring Alice’s dwindling train of thought. The audience is left pondering upon the memories of their own lives as the play comes to an end. “Emotions happen when you can’t get what you need most to live” – for Alice, her needs are her words and her memories, things which are vital to all of us while we navigate through life. Overall, this is a good play, made fantastic by talented actors and fascinating stage design. A drama that is well worth going to see.  

‘Still Alice’ returns to Scotland at the Theatre Royal Glasgow from the 13th- 17th November. Get your tickets here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/still-alice/theatre-royal-glasgow/

By Emily Hewitt

Photo credited to Geraint Lewis

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