writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Monthly Archives: August 2012

So, farewell then, the Fringe

So, as the massive juggernaut that is the Edinburgh Festival/Fringe ploughs to a juddering stop at the end of Princes Street’s beloved tramworks, thanks to everyone who clocked in during my virtually Free fringe experiment. It’s been fun!

Remember, you can still experience my virtual event, RLS’s Thrawn Janet, now the final version is up on Soundcloud.
I have some very exciting news about some pretty special gigs in October … but for now, hasta luego!


Secret Weapons – Review

There’s always a comedian. Actually, in Edinburgh at the moment, there are thousands of them: not just in person, but staring down from every railing poster and high-rental billboard like fashionably scruffy politburo members, dictating your choice of entertainment.

In Secret Weapons, Dickson Telfer’s excellent one-man drama,  Trevor, the class clown, is the eye of a perfect disruptive storm of a class. Every teacher’s worst nightmare, the collegiate collection of compulsive mobile phone botherers and the easily bored is instantly recognisable whichever side of the lectern you’ve been on.

Enter the Mephistophelean Alex Ricketts, with his secret weapons for our hapless hero to control the class with.  But every sword, secret or otherwise,  has a double edge…

Telfer plays the parts of the teacher, assorted students, and Ricketts, brilliantly. He is ably abetted by his long term musical collaborator, Will Treeby, and a number of strategically placed audience plants. The razor-sharp script, from his own story, is full of  inventive dialogue and laugh-out-loud humour. I can’t recommend this piece enough.

Ignore the overpriced comedians. Go and see Dickson Telfer do something genuinely funny and insightful instead. It’s on till Sunday 26th at Gryphon Venues, at the Point Hotel.

One thing though. If you’re a teacher, don’t try this at home…


Resting like a six-foot butterfly

And so a rare night in the Magic Kingdom! Last night’s Book Festival event, Translation Duel, was a very interesting concept – give two pro translators the same French passage and see how different the resulting translation is.  All very civilised.
Tomorrow night it’s over to the Big Smokeless again – to see Dickson Telfer’s one man show, Secret Weapons.  Looks intriguing: “All teachers have had that class, the one that disturbs your sleep at night, the one that makes you wonder why you even bother. When action is required, enter the strange and charismatic Alex Ricketts to shake things up, force you to analyse yourself, and give you some secret weapons to use in the classroom. Dickson Telfer, ‘an outstanding new writer/performer’ (Alan Bissett), will take you through the trials and tribulations of the graduate teacher in this hilarious one-man show.”

Point Hotel, 7p.m.

Magic Words, and Music

Modesty prevents me reviewing a show I was actually in, but Mark Harding’s review in the Skinny was very positive.

Venus in Transition went well tonight – thanks to everyone who made it. The new songs are now battle-hardened, and will surface in a bit of a bigger show later in the year.

And finally…

The full version of Thrawn Janet is available on Soundcloud. Enjoy! I’ll post a bit about the text and the recording and mixing process later, but in the meantime any crits/reviews welcome.

Illicit Ink at Unbound

See the Virtual Fringe page for the link. Turns out I’m now appearing at this…

Thrawn Janet

Word of my virtual RLS event is spreading… amongst other things, via a news item on the City of Lit site (thanks, Peggy and Ali)

Opening Day at the Book Festival

I was going to do an extended review of the two events I went to yesterday at the Book Festival, but as it now looks as if I have to clean draft and rehearse a story for an event on Wednesday (of which more presently) I’ll be brief:

Hans Kochler, John Ashton and Jim Swire on Lockerbie: interesting discussion on a subject I feel I should know much more about. Who set off the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103? Who ordered it? Was it in revenge for the Americans bombing Libya, or for bringing down the Airbus over Iran? Working in the public sector, I definitely favour cock-up over conspiracy. However, the real sadness, amongst all the conspiracy theorists and their minute details on what fragments might have been found in the fields in the weeks and months following the atrocity, is the feeling that the victims and their families will never see true justice done.

Andrew Motion’s event on his new(ish) sequel to Treasure Island, Silver, was, as you’d expect from a former poet laureate who performs on the radio, polished and charming. All the same, there was some real raw emotion in his motivations for writing it – and for his delaying writing it till after his father’s death.

The weirdest thing though was, right at the start of the event, there was a noise behind us at the back of the tent that sounded to all the world like a man with a stick and a wooden leg pacing the breadth of the room…



Camille O’Sullivan – Changeling: Assembly Rooms, Tuesday 7th August

Camille O’Sullivan is the kind of woman your mother would’ve warned you about if only she’d had the imagination.

On Tuesday night Camille set the newly corporate-bland Assembly Rooms alight with her performance. If an evening of songs by the likes of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits sounds like a gloomfest, then you need to catch this Irish singer’s interpretations of them.

Backed by her superb five-piece band, she took us on an emotional and musical rollercoaster through this dark material. It almost goes without saying that O’Sullivan’s voice is a powerful, versatile instrument, capable of anything she chooses to set it to. Cave’s Red Right Hand rocked out with the band at full throttle; while Dylan’s Don’t think Twice It’s Alright started with just her and fingerpicked guitar, slow burning through the verses until the last verse was a joyous whoop of disdain for the song’s discarded lover, singer and band fully engaged with all guns blazing.

For other performers in the audience, it was a masterclass. Waits’s All the World is Green started with O’Sullivan winking as she pulled herself aboard the perilous-looking swing that formed part of the stage set; by the song’s end though, there were tears in her eyes, and not just hers, as the pathos of the lyrics struck at every beating heart in the auditorium. Jacques Brel’s masterpiece Port of Amsterdam was sung a cappella, delivering a similarly huge emotional punch.

Throughout, the Changeling theme was interwoven with the songs as O’Sullivan worked the hall. A shawl became a scarf became a veil; plastic animals and music boxes were toyed with; at one point she donned a pair of woolly bear ears and a fox mask worn on the back of her head. ‘Second date,’ she told the audience of that outfit. Her banter, seemingly artless, played its part in bringing the moods up and down for the next song: light and shade, soft and brittle, sexy and serene and downright shameless.

At the end of night, the whole hall was singing Cave’s The Ship Song as the band joined hands with her at the front of the stage. One final encore courtesy of Leonard Cohen, and our heroine apologised for keeping us for keeping us so late on a school night. At 12.40, after two electrifying hours, we would have had her singing till the sun came up.

Camille is Amongst Us

For those of us awaiting with baited breath for our fix of the utterly wondrous, luminous, lustrous Camille O’Sullivan (I go tomorrow night) a Telegraph inteview: “I can spend all day swimming in Shakespeare and Dylan and Waits.”

I make no excuse for incoherent noises of yearning.