The Best of Scottish Comedy – Stand Comedy Club – 21 December

The shortest day of the year coincided with my final pre Xmas visit to Edinburgh’s no 1 comedy club The Stand for the aptly named Best of Scottish Comedy night.

The milder weather seemed to draw a whole host of visitors to the club including a pack, and I use the term deliberately, of off-shore workers who were determined to have a good time following their release back into society.

The compere for the night was the effervescent and funny Ayrshire hairy man Billy Kirkwood. Now he has always been a favourite MC at the Stand and he was in his element, a packed house ready for fun and just a little boisterous giving him plenty of scope to sharpen his wit, tasks he performed with his usual aplomb.

Opener for the night was Ray Bradshaw, a young Glaswegian comic who in my opinion has bags of potential. I first saw him a couple of months ago and was looking forward to seeing him do a longer set. His material as always was snappy and funny, some I was aware of but most was new to me, and although slightly suffering from our oil workers, still turned in a quality performance. I feel this guy has the possibility to reach the very top and I certainly look forward to watching his progress.

Opening act of part two was another of my favourites that being Jay Lafferty. Now I have seen her on stage numerous times over the last few years and she has always delivered a fine set and tonight was no different. Ms Lafferty has stage presence a plenty and a wicked side to her seemingly innocent look. He set was a fine mixture of some new material with a few of her greatest hits blended in. I’m sure she did nothing but enhance her already glowing reputation as she was well received by one and all.

Sean Grant closed the out the second section with the assured performance of the seasoned pro that he is. It has been quite a while since I had seen him perform and thought how much he had matured. Calm, controlled, yet funny throughout histime, with a wide ranging topic selection,  this occasionally self-deprecating comic is well worth seeing if you get a chance, I know I’ll be there when the opportunity arises.

Following the second interval and prize draw it was time for the headliner and what a treat for everyone. Glaswegian maestro Janey Godley is a confirmed favourite of mine, partly because you never know where she is going to go on the night, but what you can be assured of, is whatever avenue she goes down, the result is a set packed with quality, very funny and well written material delivered as only she can. Ms Godley is no shrinking violet, hell no. She shoots from the lip and nobody is immune from getting their comeuppance. She is occasionally slightly shocking for the more delicate palate, but probably draws more belly laughs per set than anyone on the circuit. I find myself being so engrossed in her stories that the time just passes before you know it, and I just know the next time I see her it will be the same, only the material will be different.

And that was it, unfortunately. Billy closed the show and we drifted away into the night, and I like many others I suspect heading for the website www.thestand.co.uk to see what other fare in on offer not just in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but at the new venture The Stand Newcastle.

Reviewed by Geoff

Aladdin – Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline

It must be Xmas time, the festive lights are on, the shops are busy and it’s Panto time!! Oh yes it is, and big time Panto is no longer the province of Glasgow or Edinburgh. Dunfermline’s Alhambrais staging an extravagant production of their own this seasonal time with all the razzmatazz one has grown to expect with this medium.

Now I must confess to not being a total fan of this style of entertainment, but if there is a show that could possibly change my mind,  then this just maybe it.

Starring Edinburgh’s own ‘Joseph’ Craig Chalmers in the title role with the stunning Soraya filling the love interest as Princess Jasmine in this new production written by Stuart Thomas, the show hits the right note from the very start. Ably supported by the Evil Abanazar, played by James McKenzie, Widow Twankey, by Stephen Docherty, Wishee Washee played by David Ashwoodand, with Alan McKenzie as The Emperor together with the aptly named So Shy, Jill Nadin,  director Lawrie McNicol and the rest of the creative team have put together an excellent production, complete with some hi-tec effects that were impressive to say the least.

But the essence of true Panto is woven throughout the entire show, that sticks closely to the original comcept plenty of audience interaction encouraging the kids to get involved, references to local places and current events, the obligatory distribution of sweets launched into the crowd and of course the mandatory sing song towards the end prior to the inevitable wedding. All tried and tested stuff, and that is what the audience demand and is certainly what is delivered.

This lavish and slick production is running up to 24th December with evening shows and matinees on offer, check the website www.alhambradunfermline.com for all the dates, times and prices and you will be able to put the ForthBridge queues or the trek to the Weeg behind you, Oh yes you will.

 

Reviewed by Geoff

Blood Brothers – Alhambra Theatre Dunfermline

It says plenty about the quality of a production when it has been running inLondon’s West End continuously for twenty plus years, and also there is usually a Bill Kenwright touring production on the go as well. So something must be very right in this classic Willy Russell musical. And there is.

This is of course the story of separated twins, Mickey Johnston and Eddie Lyons and features the whole debate of nature v nurture, as the story line tracks their lives from birth to the finale some 25 years later.

Mrs Johnstone, played by Vivienne Carlyle, can’t stop having kids, her employer Mrs Lyons, Tracy Spencer, is less fortunate and when Mrs J discovers that she is having twins they agree that Mrs L should have one as her own which seems good to them  initially but maybe not such a good idea in reality.

The storyline is kept moving along by the somewhat sinister narrator, Craig Price, as Mickey, Sean Jones, and Eddie, Chris Carswell, grow up as near neighbours yet poles apart in upbringing.

The love interest of Linda, both twins are enamoured with her, Anna Sambrooks, is yet another complication in their development and comedy and tragedy are never far away throughout the superb production with the excellent script turned in by Willy Russell.

Now I have seen this musical umpteen times over the years and in essence it hasn’t changed, both dark at times, yet almost frivolous at others a real mix of emotions are generated, belly laughs occassionally, genuine tears at others. The current incumbent cast of those already listed and supported by Daniel Taylor as Sammy, Tim Churchill, Graham Martin, Joanna Dalladay Jonathan Vickers, Karl Greenwood, Suzi Power and Alex Harland are as good as any I have seen over these performances.

The music is of course an integral attraction, again written by Russell, and the very talented singers are given a tight platform by the band under the direction of Kelvin Towse.

The whole quality of this show was illustrated by the universal standing ovation that marked the end of the opening night performance, one that was richly deserved in my opinion.

Blood Brothers is running at The Alhambra until Saturday 10 December so if you are quick you still have time to catch it, See www.alhambradunfermline.com for details and also of all other shows they are currently planning over the next few months.

Reviewed by Geoff