Archive for August, 2010

The Illusionist

The IllusionistSylvain Chormet, creator of the quirky full length animation Belville Rendezvous, has focussed on a poignant Jacques Tati story relocated, like his film studio, to Edinburgh.      The Illusionist opened the Edinburgh Film Festival back in June, and opened in cinemas across the country on the 20th August.

On a night too damp for harvesting oats, and absolutely on the spur of the moment, we booked tickets to see this film at the DCA in Dundee.    We joined the packed lovely arthouse cinema, and sat down to enjoy the film.

The story is about a magician in the late 1950s who is past his best, and as new forms of entertainment like rock and roll take over the old variety venues, he embarks on a journey to seek out new opportunities.   Meeting a roaring drunk Scotsman in London, he takes the train north, shares a ferry with sheep and then a small boat piloted by a man in a delightfully blowy kilt.   His illusions beguile a simple island girl who steals away to accompany him to Edinburgh.

The story is touching although perhaps light on plot.    But that is perhaps to miss the point of this stunningly beautiful film, which so uncannily captures the Scottish light in the west and in the Capital.    There is a moment on the journey North as the camera follows the sheep ferry on a  sea loch at dawn when the mists suddenly clear to reveal the moutains and dappled sunlight.   It is breathtaking, and will stir the hearts of Scots everywhere.    

1950s Edinburgh was interesting, with lovely detail.    Part of the charm of this film is the small things that happen in the background to the main action.   And a nice touch to have Tati’s Mon Oncle playing at The Cameo.

At the end there was applause for the film, and people stayed for the credits.    Then a big cheer went up, for the cinema was full of the folk from Ink-Digital in Dundee who did a lot of work on the film.    Congratulations to them and their colleagues.    Clip and more about Ink Digital here.

Sad, beautiful and deeply haunting.   And (partly) made in Dundee.

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Decky Does A Bronco

Looking through actors’ biographies in theatre programmes in Scotland, Decky Does a Bronco is a play which actors are clearly proud to have been in, because it crops up time and again.    

Grid Iron is reviving this 10 year old play by Donald Maxwell.   It has been touring Scotland since June and is currently on the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival.   

The play is set in a swing park, and this production takes a  set of swings with it as it goes.      We caught it on a rather drizzly night at Lochee Park in Dundee and  sat in a circle of about 100 of us on wee camp stools, fairly happed up against a dampish evening with umbrellas at the ready.  

To bronco a swing you stand on it, worky up to the bumps, level with the bar, kick the swing over your head and jump beneath it.     This play is about a group boys growing up on a Scottish council estate, and their changing relationships as they grow older.     To be able to bronco a swing is a sign of acceptance – all the lads can do it – except Decky, who is just too wee, and therefore the odd boy out – a social ranking that leads to a tragic conclusion.

Decky Does A BroncoThe play is performed by six adults, three playing the younger selves of the others.    It held together engagingly by David, played by Martin McCormick who narrates the story.   There are  some thrilling acrobatics on the set of battered but carefully strengthened swings, and an atmospheric soundtrack adds to the piece.

The subject matter here has been dealt with in many plays and books, and I am not sure it all worked here.  In particular,  I really wanted to hear all of the writing, but at times words became lost in the background noise of traffic going past, despite the actors being miked up.    But it was a powerful piece, well acted, and we were really glad we saw it.

Catch it at the Edinburgh Fringe at the King George V Park at the bottom of Scotland Street.    Beware though …….. being it’s Edinburgh in August, the prices are well racked up:   we saw this on a Saturday night in Dundee:   2 adults @ £8 and a student at £5 is £21 all in.   To see the same thing in Edinburgh on a Saturday night would have  cost us £19 per adult + a £15 student which is £53.      Excuse me, but that’s a massive increase, way beyond what is reasonable for a show like this, which comes in at just over the hour.     The Traverse is being a bit greedy methinks.

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