The Wilds of the North … of Princes Street

Much of my day today was spent down past Leith Street, in a hitherto unexplored section of the city. First up was the History of Britain at Greenside, from the Roman invasion to the present day – in slightly different settings, such as Alfred the Great’s fight against the Danish as a wrestling match, King Arthur as a game show, or 1066 as a job interview. A satisfying romp through the ages.

The Really Terrible Orchestra, set up by Alexander McCall Smith and with him on baritone sax and giving a short speech in the middle, then played in St Mary’s Cathedral to a capacity crowd. Their renditions of pieces such as Carnival of the Animals or The Bartered Bride truly had to be heard, and it is to their credit that there were only a couple of places where I felt nervous for the piece running away from them. (Interestingly, I spotted someone else also conducting amongst the brass section, I wonder what that was for?) I don’t expect many people will ever see the head of the Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, singing The Hippopotamus Song from the pulpit!

Four Women of the Apocalypse at Walkabout was actually one woman, Roisin Rae, playing four parts. Telling a humourous story where the world has ended and only these four women have apparently survived, it followed how they were all in their own way coping, from anthropomorphizing hair straighteners (and stealing the radio battery to use them) to keeping pet cockroaches. Sadly for them, it looks like the human race might not survive much longer, as their encounter with a surviving man ends in disaster.

Picture by Spinneyhead (CC BY-NC-SA)

Now a diversion back to my normal haunts, firstly for Toby Hadoke’s Now I Know My BBC, wherein Toby tells us how he met his wife thickly disguised as how the BBC has always been there for him and others, and what it does for us all. Learning disappointment early on when your pictures aren’t shown in Tony Hart’s Gallery, explaining old TV shows by comparing them all to Hollyoaks, how Grange Hill taught as well as entertained, this was a funny and heartfelt look back at TV of yesteryear combined with a heartfelt polemic on behalf of the BBC. From a quick Google, I am also surprised to learn Toby was partly responsible for Lemn Sissay’s giant poem on the side of Hardy’s Well in Manchester!

John-Luke Roberts Distracts You From A Murder contained a large array of audience insults, a wonderful joke about starfish, a lovely public information film about a sexually transmitted disease, and included, amongst others, the punchlines “it disrupts the tides” and “you know, context”. It absolutely did not contain a murder that I could see, as I obviously did as I was told and ignored any screams I could hear coming from the wings.

Lastly, back up north at New Town Theatre, Barockestra did exactly what it said on the tin, performing rock versions of various pieces of classical music, vaguely in chronological order (though there was some Tchaikovsky inbetween baroque and classical that wasn’t even commented on). Two opera singers and four ballerinas completed the group, and they added to the slightly surreal air, being the vaguely straight people to the rock going on around them. There were a few basic typos in the background text telling us about each piece of music, and Queen of the Night could have done with being a tone lower, but that’s a tiny moan and did not detract from the great music on display (especially the Flight of the Bumblebee solo) and the engaging way it was performed.

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