Created with Sketch. Artboard Created with Sketch. Created with Sketch.
The GRIT Orchestra Photo: Ryan Buchanan

The Young Herald Critics reviews

Blog

Read the reviews penned by young reviewers participating in The Herald Young Critics Project. They were coached by The Herald at the end of last term and the best review of each performance is printed in The Herald. Below you can read them all.

Karine Polwart performing at Leith Theatre | Photo: David Wilkinson
Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook
reviewed by Leith Academy students

Sunshine on Leith Theatre
As we sat outside Leith Theatre early Thursday evening, watching flocks of diverse people going to see Karine Poltwart’s Scottish Song Book, I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of sitting through Scottish music as it’s not my favoured genre. But as I entered the venue the atmosphere was uplifting, exciting chatter filled the theatre as people began to flood in. Immediately my attention drew to the lighting. Red gels flooded the floor which stimulated people’s emotions, the colour vibrant and energetic setting the tone of the show before it started. The blue lights reflecting more emotional songs such as ‘Whole of the Moon’ and more dramatically aggressive songs represented by dark tones of purple and eccentric orange.

Her funny anecdotes kept the audience’s attention but, as a seventeen year old, some of this was missed as the show was age appropriate.

As Karine came on stage her presence was endearing. Her personality came across charismatic, her laugh was contagious, you couldn’t help but smile. Her set list was chosen carefully, every song meaning something different to her. The diverse choice of music reached a variety of different audiences playing on emotions going from nostalgia to tributes. As the second half started the audience came alive. As I looked down it was like a sea of heads bobbing along in sync to the music, all engaged with Karine. It was heartwarming. Her last song was a tribute to Leith, finishing with ‘Sunshine on Leith’. As the show came to an end inside Leith Theatre the sunshine of Karine’s personality shone. 
Shannon Louden

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook

Karine Polwart, a folk singer/songwriter from Banknock, Stirlingshire, truly captured the essence of Scottish culture and tradition through her music on Thursday evening at the Leith Theatre. An end-on stage composed with enthusiastic fans flowed throughout the room to produce an outstanding atmosphere. Regardless of my own music taste I wasn’t hesitant at all to try something new, which resulted in me being pleasantly surprised. There were multiple factors that night which contributed to create this outstanding gig. For instance, the lighting. The strobe of lights bouncing off the wall and ceiling made the concert as a whole more exhilarating. The line of exotic instruments played a massive part within the show. The drums, tambourine, guitars, xylophone... The list is endless! The chime and harmony merged together to create a prodigious tune while Karine’s soothing voice played over. My most memorable and favourite part of the performance was when Karine played tribute to a fellow Scottish singer who sadly took his own life. Although the concert was massively uplifting, she came upon this sad topic which touched the hearts of many. As well as this, the song “Don’t want to know” by John Martyn showed the of versatility between each song. I and many others appreciated her engagement with the audience, Karine’s wittiness and terrific spirit showed her of as a person perfectly. At the end, Karine played the famous song “Sunshine on Leith” The harmonious gig which brought the whole community together was the perfect ending to the night.
Chloe Catherine Mitchell


Somewhere in my heart there is a light that shines on the shore
Rather than 100 sweaty bodies within a compact space, with beer oozing from the floor, Poltwart’s show hit its audience with a wave of nostalgia, an audience of my parents era. I drifted away in to Karine’s medicinal voice in the wide acoustics of Leith Theatre and truly listened to the music rather than fighting in a mosh to keep myself on the ground. Not that I expected a lot of jumping for a group of middle aged men and woman with boots cards. From Polwart flapping and jumping around in the blue entrancing lights, hilariously in the style of Clare Grogan to heartwarming tributes to Aretha Franklin and Scott Hutchison, it was a joyful celebration. There was a mass archive of story’s to tell behind each song and with each one came a blast of youth. The connection with the band and the audience was electric. By the end everyone’s hands and some Zimmer frames were in the air.

If younger it wasn’t structured for you but I was just lucky to have my dad’s Blue Nile records and had gone to the Rip It Up exhibition. I could see the reminiscing eyes of the adults who were once at bliss in the Barrow Land Ballroom listening to pop they remember so well whilst growing up in Scotland. Maybe they'll have something similar for when I'm 55 and I can call my babysitter in for the night.
Ewan Burns

Akram Khan in XENOS | Photo: Ryan Buchanan
Akram Khan Company's XENOS
reviewed by Portobello High students

★★★★★
An enduring image captured in my mind comes from the very beginning of XENOS where we watch Akram Khan under a soft warm orange glow, rhythmically dancing to the beat of the konnak drum and the sonorous vocals of Aditaya Prakash. With a sense of utter freedom and belonging he emphasises that this is who he is and where his roots lie.

The Indian soldier is stripped away of his identity as World War One and its shell shocking gun shots take away the light and literally drags away all that makes him feel human. Engulfed by darkness and frustration, he becomes a prisoner of war, trapped in the treacherous trenches among the “voices in the mud, half already dead”.

During some moments of this hard hitting performance his identity makes a fleeting come back, giving the audience not only a sense of hope but a refreshing change from the drone of minor chords. Despite this, it is interrupted by erratic and piercing noises causing the light to flicker and his rhythm to deplete, exposing us to the exhaustion that has riddled him physically and mentally from being an instrument of war.

To fully appreciated the energy and emotions that Akram Khan portrays during this performance an understanding of the plot line before is recommendable. XENOS is completely remarkable and I have to congratulate Khan on how he has exposed such darkness through such a beautiful performance. This is his final show it is definitely not one to be missed.
Millie Stirrat

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of XENOS

★★★★
XENOS is a story of a young colonial solder told through the medium of dance and music. There are a few words and the bulk of information given is through Akram Khan’s deliberate moves and the music’s many changes.

The opening of XENOS is sudden and painful, the joyful music is instantly replaced by a terrifying metallic sound that plays as the soldier is flung to the floor, being forced into a war against his will. He does a moving but short lived dance before the stage goes black, lit only by a small light held in the soldier’s hand.

He then delivers one of the few lines in the show “Do not think this is war, this is the ending of the world.” A powerful statement showing the dying of his solo career and the horrors of war.

The music in the whole of XENOS is terrific and I do mean that in both ways. It was powerful and moving, and provided meaning to many of the more obscure scenes. Such as when the soldiers world was being dragged away from him. It helped show true desperation and made it truly seem as though all he had was being taken into an unforgiving abyss. The music is always interesting, either subtle and surprising or roaring and powerful. But always magnificent. 

The last stand of Akram Khan was magnificent and largely due to the amazing set design and music XENOS will no doubt be talked about for years to come.
Jacob Blue Kenrick


★★★★★

Impeccable choreography, a visually stunning set and powerful themes of war and identity; some of the many reasons XENOS is utterly unmissable. Akram Khan shines, performing solo, leading us through the life of a colonial Indian soldier ripped from his homeland to fight a foreigner’s war through a series of developing dance styles and routines. Prodigious as Khan’s performance undoubtedly is, the true power of XENOS lies in its reflection of horrors that have haunted mankind, xenophobia and the wars that will destroy us. 

The pain caused by war is stripped back and exposed by Khan’s performance on stage. This is enhanced by an intense musical score and lighting display which mimics life in the trenches. The development of dance styles within XENOS reflects the loss of identity of colonial Indian people, specifically soldiers sent away to fight. In the initial scenes Khan performs traditional Indian Kathak dancing, a raw expression of Indian culture which flawlessly develops into contemporary style representing loss of identity.

An extract from a Sepoy’s letter is read to develop themes of violence; “This is not war. It is the ending of the world”. Khan interprets this in his finale performing a dramatic, desperate piece in a pit, perhaps referencing the fiery depths of hell. The myth of Prometheus also heavily influenced the questions at the core of XENOS in regards to the capability of mankind to create both euphoric joy and crippling fear.

XENOS is a masterpiece in motion.
Grace Baird


★★★

Akram Khan’s performance in XENOS was captivating and completely mesmerised the audience within seconds of coming on stage.  The idea of XENOS was surrounding one man telling his story through a mixture of contemporary and traditional Indian dance, Kathak.

The audience really enjoyed how the talented musicians helped Khan tell his story by hauntingly soundtracking the different scenes. The show revolves around the unheard voices of World War One soldiers which the music really helped to convey by getting louder and more intense or calming down when it got more serious. 

As the performance begins it is just two musicians and Kahn on stage where it’s set up with rope and furniture laid out to look like a room with red lighting to help create a haunting yet beautiful scene. As the show progressed the furniture was literally pulled from stage with the performer pulling at it, possibly symbolising him becoming homeless. Some main themes were death, rebirth, identity and reflection. These themes really showed throughout especially with the music and lighting carrying this one scene where he ‘dies’ and reincarnates along.

XENOS was a very interesting cultural experience for me. As it was Kahn’s last solo performance you could see how he literally threw himself into it with every shred of passion he had. Overall, some may find the show confusing unless they understood the context of war.  Akram Khan made the experience so enticing you couldn’t take your eyes off the stage.
Carolann Mcculloch


★★★★
XENOS was an interesting experience. The show was created by Akram Khan who is an incredible dancer that managed to seamlessly combine the styles of contemporary and traditional Indian dance in a show that depicts the experience of a man thrust into a conflict he should’ve had no part of. 

The set was masterfully put together by Mirella Weingarten was used throughout the show to convey the places that the character found himself in, from his peaceful home to the horrifying landscape of war. It was a large sloping stage that was used to anchor the meaning of Khan’s dancing in every scene, from reflection to rebirth to death, which the slope helped clarify.

Some may find XENOS quite confusing in parts as the show was open to interpretation. Everything had to be shown through the medium of dance. It may be helpful to know something about the brutal history it depicts but if you don’t it’s still worth watching. What makes the show so noteworthy is its abstractness and the feelings of joy and sadness experienced by the audience due to Khan’s emotional dancing.
Ciara Meechan


★★★★
Akram Khan’s XENOS is a beautifully depicted cultural experience. A blend of traditional Indian music and Kathak dance infused with contemporary movements explore various themes of war and isolation in a striking way. As you step into the theatre two musicians are performing the music causing you to be instantly catapulted into the show – much like Akram is, signifying the show has officially started.

The costumes create a cultural feel of the show, bells wrapped around his ankles to reflect his status – the more bells you have the more experienced you are – transformed into bullet holsters mark his entry into war with puppet-like movements to show how he’s being controlled.

The lighting is used to intensify the scenes, with warm tones to represent home and belonging switching to cold blues which form a feel of isolation and war, then finally to a deep red to portray a mixed sense of blood and anger reflect Khan’s emotions in a captivating way.

It’s easy to get lost in the abstract nature of the dance and sudden sounds however his movements are so enticing you can’t take your eyes off of him. Struggle and alienation are strongly evident as his belongings are ripped away with ropes, you have to watch helplessly as he tries to wrestle against them and when he desperately tries to find contact through the gramophone.

The show is open to interpretation. The experience was unforgettable with the use of intense emotion, an effective way to finalise Khan’s solo career.
Kirsty Allan


★★★★
Akram Khan’s solo dance performance, XENOS, is like nothing I’ve seen before. The way Khan was able to contorts his body with twists and turns mimicked what stress and confusion feels like inside our heads. Paired with sinister music and repetitive whispers it felt like you were in the mind of a person controlled by fear. Khan really achieved to convey the unease and struggle of Indian soldiers during WW1.

The use of loud grumbling noises combined with low flickering lights created a sense of unrest. When the stage was in complete darkness, a high pitched wailing accompanied by a low drone was intensely loud and was uncomfortable to listen to. Silence also meant these loud moments resonated more. The unexpected sounds and changes resembled the unpredictability of the trenches.

The props used looked simple but were well used, making ropes look like wires, chains and puppet strings. It was a clever combination of using background music and visuals to show the ropes as wires. At some points the ropes looked like they weighed him down and at others it looked like they controlled and trapped him. The ropes conveyed the overpowering control that war has on soldiers.

Overall, XENOS was mesmerising. However unusual it may have been I was unable to take my eyes off it. The audience could clearly see what Khan was trying to convey and his last full solo performance tour was certainly different and something that I will never forget.
Megan McIntyre


★★★★★
Akram Khan’s XENOS portrays the destruction of war and self image through classical Kathak dance and contemporary dance. Khan displays an intense performance of the First World War, it tells the story that many haven’t heard, that’s why I believe it’s an experience. 

I have never been a history lover and only know briefly about the war, in schools we are taught the facts not the emotions. I truly believe anyone who wants to feel new emotions and see the war in a different light should go and see XENOS as soon as possible.

XENOS captivated the auditorium with the intense darkness and music. It touches on the themes of death, war, rebirth and struggles with identity. Even though his work is a reflection of WW1 it can reflect the current conflict in humanity. The reflection of World War One is brought through by the song “Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire” a song dedicated to the fallen men that is played while Akram Khan supposedly gives up hope.

As an audience member you can feel the emotion coming off Khan’s body as he dances around the  marvellous sloped stage. The sloped stage gives the dynamic of trenches, the rubble and soil he incorporated gives an effect of the world crumbling around him. The falling pinecones represents the fallen men that have died fighting for their country, I believe it’s the most touching part to an amazing performance, by an excellent, dedicated dancer.
Rhona Johnson


★★★★
Akram Khan really pulls out all the stops with his latest and greatest production XENOS, allowing him to finish his solo career on a definitive high. 

As the audience fills the auditorium, they are met with a pre show which consists of two men sitting on the stage performing traditional Indian music and wearing traditional Indian clothing.  

However on the odd occasion the lights would flicker and there would be static noise, creating an eerie sense of what’s to come.

I found myself about a third of the way into the performance on the edge of seat 22 in row G, relatively clenched and unable to blink even when there was nothing to look at, just intimate darkness with nothing but amazingly dramatic music creating an almost palpable atmosphere.

Prior to this however was an awe inspiring show of amazing stage work, with the props on the stage coming to life and migrating up the stage thanks to amazing stage production.

Throughout XENOS you can’t ignore the obvious influence Indian culture has on it working in harmony with the powerful theme of World War 1, from the traditional music of India to the war cries and classic war chants such as “Hanging on the old barbed wire” from WW1.

As XENOS progresses, so does the intensity of Akram Khan’s dancing, from traditional dancing to throwing himself down the marvellous sloped stage as if he were a lifeless body being thrown from an explosion.

In short, XENOS deserves the capital letters.
Coll Simpson


★★★★
The unforgettable story of Akram Khan’s last solo performance, XENOS, embodies the disarray of the world as it is thrust into WW1 and captures the deprived life of a soldier. 

XENOS is the story of an Indian dancer, who becomes a foreigner to his own self after being forced to fight in the British Army. Accompanied by haunting music, Khan’s combination of Kathak and contemporary dance creates an indescribable struggle of a broken man. The bare but symbolic set by Mirella Weingarten represents the stark reality of war, and acts as the bare background for an unknown soldier.

The performance begins with mesmerising Kathak dancing, with a warm and happy glow of orange light that dances across the set of his home. Slowly, we watch Khan crumble into distress as his life is dragged away from him up into the darkness, the light fading. The atmospheric tension remains with you until the very end. I have never seen such a performance like XENOS, but the overwhelming sadness I felt watching Khan, intertwined with rope whilst the old war song ‘Hanging from the Old Barbed Wire’ played is a traumatising truth of the horror of war.

XENOS is a perfect blend of fear and enlightenment, giving a voice to the discarded soldiers through Khan’s bewitched movements. The performance left the audience in amazement for the sheer passion XENOS had for every aspect of war was unlike any other.
Erin Stevenson


★★★★★
“This is not war. It is the ending of the world.”
- Letter from a wounded Indian Sepoy

Before finding your seat you’re greeted by an astonishing percussion, enveloping the viewer, welcoming them into a traditional Indian wedding. 

Behind the performers stands a menacing, ominous ramp that stands tall, resembling exaggerated features of a trench. The ramp remains on the stage throughout the performance the entire serving as a constant threat of impending war. Each piece of furniture has rope strapped to it, later being dragged up the ramp and slowly disappearing, the soldier played by Akram Khan resists this new equilibrium by grabbing the ropes, Ultimately failing as the furniture out of sight behind the ramp, this serves as a stark metaphor for war collapsing literally dragging the world as the soldier knows it away from him. The performance is abstract featuring limited dialogue, gifting each viewer their own take on the performance. 

The audio equipment achieves its fullest potential, it does an incredible job of highlighting the performances varied and raging soundtrack, from warm inviting traditional Indian music to the hard hostile modern music. The audience at one point feel the vibrations of soundtrack, this involves the audience and paired with the astonishing visuals provides an extraordinarily unique experience.

Each element of the performance is more than strong enough to stand its on, but masterfully combined by a passionate team of professionals creates in the viewer a breathtaking rush of emotions whilst providing a unique and unforgettable narrative.
Jamie Blair


★★★★★
XENOS takes us through an emotional and thought provoking journey exploring the horrors of war and the effect war has on man. Using classical Kathak and contemporary dance, Akram Khan expresses what it’s like to be a stranger fighting for someone else’s war. 

With a sloped stage and different uses of ropes, dirt and bells, Khan has brought  World War One trenches to life, helping the audience experience the soldier’s struggles. Traditional Indian music fades in and out of XENOS showing a yearning for home which many people can relate to and creating the memories of his past life back in India. 

During the first scene, two Indian men play traditional Indian music whilst Khan dances with Indian bells round his feet representing the shackles of war that will always haunt him. After this the stage goes empty and is showered with dirt taking us to the empty void of war, similar to the void of hell creating an eerie melancholiac atmosphere. The lighting also helps enhance this atmosphere, changing colour to represent the psychological pain of the Indian soldier.

Akram Khan paints the colonial soldiers vulnerability and innocence through dance and throughout the piece empathy is gradually built for this lost soldier. XENOS shadows an intriguing message questioning humanity and humanity’s destructive nature, giving us  insight of the mistakes we have made in the past so we do not repeat them in the future. XENOS is a memorable and breath taking performance that I highly recommend going to see.
Eva Donnelly


★★★★
XENOS started with percussion from a duo which played cultural music from his heritage. Akram then stumbles on screen and starts dancing in his contemporary style.The lighting at the start is light and welcoming with connotations of his home land then throughout the play the lightening increasingly darkens showing how has gone from being happy in his homeland to be thrusted into battle of the Great War. 

On stage the props  begin to be dragged up by rope behind the stage like he is being removed from his home land.Through this section the metal on the wooden stage makes a screeching noise which made me think of nails frantically trying to cling on to what was once there. Akram then clings on to  props also highlighting his mournful state.

After this scene the narrative is portrayed through the clay which he scatters on the stage this was  show the rubble of the battle field which I thought was very moving. On top of the stage there was a gramophone.  He tangles the rope around him which portrays the encapsulating experience of the war created. The gramophone then shines a light on the battle field that was shown by the rubble. While playing a song “ I know where you can find your old battalion” which tailed off the performance.

All in all the performance was extremely well produced show.
Michael Pantony


★★★★★
XENOS, is a breathtakingly modern solo dance piece by Akram Khan who communicates the post traumatic stress of Indian soldiers mobilised into WW1. Khan uses the hallucinative spinning of ‘kathak’ -his first dance form- to transport the audience into the soldiers muddled memories of the frontline. 

Musicians appear as blank figures above the trenches, igniting your senses with the eerie waves of warfare, numbing you to the outside world. Khan incorporates contemporary ‘western’ dance as he spirals through the trenches in reflection of the soldiers enrolment tearing their own culture- Kathak dance- away. The mix of contemporary and kathak dance emphasises the emblematic theme which Khan questions the value of war by voice intervals, including:

‘Do not think that this is war, it is not war. It is the ending of the world.”

XENOS is a visual masterpiece, with the setting itself telling its own story. For the majority of the performance Khan tackles the sloped stage which embodies the trenches monstrous shape, this quirky layout conveys the isolation and loneliness the Indian soldiers felt as he is often stuck at the bottom of the stage, trying to escape. As Khan unravels the story he unravels his ghungroo bells, transforming them to shackles forming raw, violent movements to carrying the theme of pain and violence surrounding war with him.

With this being Khan’s final solo performance, you would be mad to miss it. His dancing shows the journey of one Indian soldier but tells the story of four million more.
Hayley Cunningham


★★★★★
XENOS by Akram Khan is breathtakingly emotional and liberating. The performance gives great justice to the Indian soldiers fighting in WW1, under the British Empire. Khan use of Kathak style dance unravels the stories gone unheard, complemented by Indian music that amplifies around the theatre by the extraordinary B.C. Manjunath and vocalist Aditye Prakash. 

From the harsh tone lights channelling the ongoing struggle, to the warm tones showing strength and resilience, XENOS was delightful. The performance was Khan stretching his body ear to ear to bring to life the physical and mental struggles of the soldiers. The music was one second up in arms with climatic sounds and war artillery, followed by uncomfortable silences. Khan’s use of chains to show the entrapment of the situation cross cut with his choreography showing his ailing legs unable to climb up the slope.

Khan’s dancing coincides with the voice overplayed from the gramophone, that pessimistically said, ‘This is not war, this is the ending of the world.’ I think the best performances are the ones that leave you questioning and I can undoubtedly say that everyone in the theatre felt that way.

The part which resonated with me, was when Khan rolled across the slope, holding onto the rope which tactically crossed into a Y shape, which resembles nooses, showing the unparalleled sorrow and mental fatigue he faced.

XENOS exceeded my expectations, Akram Khan and the rest of the crew gave me an experience to remember.
Christy Graham

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus in rehearsal | Photo: Ryan Buchanan
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
reviewed by Broughton High students

★★★★★
I think it’s safe to say that last night’s concert was a success for the Edinburgh International Festival, with a cleverly put together programme and a full audience. 

The evening started with Stravinsky’s Funeral Song. Written in 1908, the score was lost for over a century, leaving an excited anticipation about hearing this rarely played piece. The orchestra certainly delivered, each instrument playing its part in saying goodbye to an old mentor and friend as Stravinsky intended. It was atmospheric from start to finish, with haunting melodies and the orchestra coming together impeccably to portray the grief within the music. 

This was followed by Elgar’s famous Cello Concerto, the highlight of the evening, with cello played by Sheku Kanneh-Mason. The performance was confident, assured and passionate. The slow, soulful movements contrasted with the light and virtuosic ones beautifully, with hints of nostalgia and reflection coming through.

The performance was greeted by cheers, whistles and a huge round of applause, and Sheku even came back on to play a short, unaccompanied encore further displaying his talent and passion.
The final piece of the evening was Daphnis and Chloé by Ravel.

With breath-taking use of choir and full orchestra, to sweeping lyrical melodies, it could only be described as magical. The dynamic contrast and rapid changes in colour told the ballet’s story of nymphs, pirates and love perfectly. Despite brief moments where the orchestra weren’t quite together, this work provided a magical end to an outstanding concert.
Stephanie Humphreys

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

★★★★
A sold out Usher Hall eagerly awaited the International Festival debut of global cello superstar and Royal Wedding performer, Shaku Kanneh-Mason, and the reunion of Ludovic Morlot with the famed City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

First, Stravinsky’s recently rediscovered Funeral Song - a patchwork of introspective laments never far from typical Stravinsky experimentation. A hushed shimmer of strings opened the concert as Morlot and the orchestra got their bearings. The performance gained conviction as it progressed and rhythmic tightness was admirable, particularly in the quieter sections.

The evening’s most anticipated performance then followed as 19 year old Kanneh-Mason bounded onto stage in trainers. Elgar’s renowned Cello Concerto opened a little unconvincingly but once Shaku was off, his confidence returned. He effortlessly handed off many melodies to the orchestra and his stylish and passionate finish was met by rapturous applause and cheers from the festival audience. A mesmerised Usher Hall then watched as the young cellist re-emerged to perform a stunning reverie-esque encore as Morlot watched in admiration from behind the celesta.

Post-interval came the highlight of the evening’s programme: Ravel’s Korsakov-inspired Daphnis et Chloé. The audience were transported to far-off lands in this filmic and lush interpretation. The Hollywood-style strings sparkled as the Festival Chorus angelically floated atop the lavish soundscapes. The more climactic moments throughout were rich and full and the orchestra’s superb soloist line up made this a performance to remember. Sublime.
Ethan Gillespie


★★★★
2016 BBC Young Musician winner, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, debuted at his first EIF in the Usher Hall performing Elgar’s cello concerto accompanied by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The CBSO also performed the Scottish premiere of Stravinsky’s “Funeral Song” and closed with the truly spectacular “Daphnis at Chloé” by Ravel.

Stravinsky’s general idea with his Funeral Song was that “all the soloists of the orchestra each laid down their own melody in quick succession”. Well, a success it was, and a very refined orchestra they are to make one instrument blend into another so well, forming a seamless, soaring melody between the musicians.

Elgar’s cello concerto is a very respectable work, however, it lacked that “wow-factor” perhaps expectable from a performance from a cellist so highly-acclaimed, however, Mason did perform with great passion and immense musicality.

Daphnis et Chloé, on the other hand demonstrated an orchestral virtuosity unlike any I’d ever heard. The countless colours that Ravel has chosen to paint with in this piece left me in a suspenseful yet calming void somewhere amidst reality and a fantastical utopia in which he takes you. The conductor and orchestra have cooperated well to ensure that no colour goes astray and extremely attentive work has been done on the dynamics in particular to ensure that Ravel’s intended moods were effectively conveyed 

Given the chance, I would definitely grab it to see more phenomenal orchestra works by French composers such as Ravel but wouldn’t rush to see another Kanneh-Mason performance.
Leon Thomson


★★★★
A Friday's concert, by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with an amazing cellist- Sheku Kanneh-Mason, definitely was one of the very good concerts. I've never thought that someday I'll want to cry at the concert, but that happened.

As an opening, the orchestra played an awesome piece by Igor Stravinsky called 'Funeral Song Op 5' which was the Scottish premiere. The piece introduced as to the sad mood in which we were to an interval.

For a second piece, the orchestra played Elgar's 'Cello Concerto in E minor Op 85'. As a soloist was a British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, which in 2016 won BBC Young Musician competition. The whole piece was outstanding and awesome modulation helped to imagine the youthful ( probably because of Sheku, which narrated the whole story so good) love with many problems and obstacles.

For the finale, the orchestra with choir played Ravel's 'Daphnis et Chloe'. The piece finished the whole sad story with the happy end. Sadly, that piece was a bit too long and it started to be boring. 
Overall, the concert was very good. There were the awesome orchestra, amazing young cellist plus talented choir. If you ever have an opportunity to go to the same concert, I recommend you that. 

And probably you'll see me there too.
Patrycja Malysz


★★★★
The Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with Ludovic Morlot as their conductor, started their performance tonight with Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, Op. 5. The piece begins with tremolos from the strings, which creates an atmospheric setting. This passage becomes progressively louder and culminates in a fanfare played by the trombones and trumpets. The piece continues with a major section, which creates a completely different mood. It then ends with a section that is similar to the first and fades away to nothing. This was played sensitively by the orchestra and was a joy to listen to.

The next piece introduced the soloist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a fantastic young player, who delivered a magnificent rendition of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. He demonstrated amazing control over the tremolos and high register, and his tone quality was spectacular. He finished the first half with a rather unnecessary encore, during which he suffered from a number of intonation issues. Overall, however, he gave a fantastic performance.

The concert piece was Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. This was played and sung with exceptional skill by the orchestra and choir. In fact, this was the highlight of the concert for me. If you thought that Mars from Holst’s Planet Suite was dramatic, just wait until you hear this. The ending of the piece was played particularly well, with the crescendos from the orchestra and choir building and building to reach the final chord, which created a spectacular effect.
David Watson


★★★★
Mesmerising. People don’t know that music is magic. If you attended yesterday evening’s performance you can now say that magic exists because you felt it, heard it throughout the music.

Three years ago parts of The Funeral Song by Igor Stravinsky were rediscovered and so they took the opportunity of the Edinburgh Festival to have the Scottish Premiere. It was performed by the outstanding CBSO conducted by Ludovic Morlot. As soon as they played the first note the hall became silent. Every musician was telling us a story throughout the most beautiful form of art which created a lump in your throat. The rich melodies tugged at your heartstrings. 

We were lost in the music as Sheku Kanneh-Mason took us on a journey with him. Even though a whole orchestra was accompanying him you could only see Sheku, he was one with his cello and every note he played, every rest he took the audience was with him, holding their breath. His performance was pure, casting us under his spell making his interpretation impeccable. You could see he was in love with music making us fall in love too.

As the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the CBSO gradually got louder throughout the piece you could feel the vibration through your whole body and your heart beating in time with the music. The acoustics helped the hypnotising sound of the chorus and the orchestra fill the hall with powerful melodies making the audience live what I call, magic.
Chiara Lordi


★★★★
In the heart of Edinburgh’s International Festival, beneath the ornate ceiling of the Usher hall, was seated the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and an audience, hushed in anticipation for what would be an excellent concert.

The Scottish premiere of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song had us on the edge of our seats. The atmospheric opening lines of the piece almost seemed to hint at its mysterious story of disappearance and discovery. Creeping and flowing, the acclaimed conductor Ludovic Morlot held both audience and orchestra, mesmerised, at the end of his baton.

Then came the young star for Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor: Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician Competition, and incredible cellist, his presence in the programme drew pockets of younger listeners into the mostly aged audience.

His passion and emotion poured out into the lyrical melody, and even escaped in a small cry after a particularly captivating ascent. After the first movement Sheku mopped his brow. The audience chuckled.

His encore was magical. 

The final item of the programme was Daphnis et Chloe from Ravel’s ballet. Joined by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the large orchestra now sprawled impressively across the grand stage. The performance began with the haunting sound of choral voices, but soon increased to such volume that I could feel the vibrations run through my fingers into my hands. A powerful composition.

I am in no doubt, that each of the 2200 audience, were moved at some point during this entrancing and liberating performance.
Elianna Proud


★★★
A buzz amongst the audience: warm, expecting. On comes the re-acclaimed and sophisticated City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Brisk applause precludes this Scottish premiere of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, recently discovered. An atmospheric opening with a familiar and enveloping sound; a professional orchestra. Stravinsky would have been proud.

Next, a homage to Elgar, who conducted the orchestra in 1920, with his Cello Concerto in E minor starring Young Musician of the Year, Sheku Kanneh-Mason. A communal chuckle as Mason wipes his forehead. Amongst a backdrop of delicate pizzicato and a Timpani played with relish, Mason glides over the strings with ease and emotion in all the right places. You could nearly hear the jaws hit the floor. This is followed by an intimate solo encore.

Then, Ravel’s music to the ballet Daphnis et Chloe featuring the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. Intense, ethereal, cinematic. The Orchestra do the pieces more than justice but do the pieces highlight the ability of the players?

Will the “ahh”’s from the Chorus get old? Thirty more minutes and I find myself retreating to my programme. With a fidgeting audience after the first half, shouldn’t the finale be short and sweet? Maybe it was the lack of dancers that made it seem to go on forever. Finally, the ending, triumphant bows raised and a big clap from the thankful audience.

Off we go with a bounce in our step. Luckily the lengthy finish was saved by the cello-extraordinaire, still humming in our ears.
Keara Koterwas

Martyn Bennett's 'Bothy Culture' performed by The GRIT Orchestra, reviewed by Boroughmuir High students

★★★★
Martyn Bennet’s ‘Bothy culture’ is a dynamically charming contemporary music display that I believe perfectly encapsulates the flowing traditional excellence of the Celtic fusion musical landscape. The often hopeful, spirited atmosphere that exuded during the performance can be traced back to the turbulent cohesion of every member of the orchestra. Witnessing such a wonderful mixture of characters working in tandem towards a passionate blending of primal pagan sounds and upbeat energy evokes a true sustaining energy within the audience. 

What I found to be an engaging approach to the performance was the orchestra’s ability to produce bright golden, uplifting pieces of music before fluidly transitioning into an eerie, culturally rooted piece like ‘Shputnik in Glenshiel’ that handles a lingering dark undertone and doesn’t necessarily invite you to like it immediately. 

It’s the twinkling percussion, punctuated by adjoining moments of foreign sounds and the interwoven recital of poetry that wholly sets ‘Bothy Culture’ apart in the best way possible. I frequently found myself totally calmed and hypnotised at the rising vigour of the instruments, emphasising to me the immense passion and emotive impact that has clearly been put towards this deeply rooted, loyal homage to Bennet and Scotland’s culture.

The strong, expressive vocalists supporting the articulation of the almost physically palpable natural symphonies of each and every member of the orchestra demonstrated the unmatched feeling of community and togetherness present made ‘Bothy Culture’ a genuine experience of Celtic innovation.
Lewis Church

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of Martyn Bennett's 'Bothy Culture' performed by The GRIT Orchestra

★★★★
‘Bothy culture’ can only truly be defined as an expression of Scotland’s diverse musical culture. Bennet’s eclectic style borrows expressions from many different  genres of music, ranging from his own country’s Gaelic culture to the music of Islam. Passion and clear emotion was expressed deeply through the rhythm of the music and the highlighting of each individual musician and their unique talents.  

His invitation for audience participation was widely accepted. Numerous humorous interludes were responded to with a chorus of laughter, dancing was encouraged and even attempts were taken when Scottish singing presented itself. This vibrant and lighthearted atmosphere framed the full-hearted showmanship of Bennet and his orchestra.

Each song was taken to with ease and many of the musicians were tapping their feet along to the tune, evidently experiencing the same amount of excitement as those in the audience. Although many songs were unorthodox, they were also revolutionary and brought a unique style of music that has taken time for people to appreciate. This fusion of contemporary and traditional music can be appreciated by those who are nostalgic or for others who enjoy unconventional music that doesn’t adhere to the classical boundaries.

Some of the crowd pleasers were ‘Ud The Doudouk’ and ‘Joik’ however my personal favourite was the thought provoking poetry ‘Hallaig’ which had a strong, clear delivery. The night ended with a double encore, resounding applause and a well deserved standing ovation.
Annie Gillies


★★★
A recreation of Celtic Fusion composer Martyn Bennett’s 1998 album Bothy Culture, led by charismatic conductor Greg Lawson, this show definitely provides some enjoyable Celtic music, but is not without its faults. 

For most of the show, the impressive orchestra of around 100 musicians, including strings, brass, and an assortment of instruments from around the world do well, playing the traditional Celtic folk arrangements in an engaging way, exciting many members of the audience.
However, the instrumentalists are overshadowed by the choir and vocalists that come to the stage for the second portion, providing both a haunting, ethereal backdrop and a powerful melody over it.  I almost wish that the group perhaps would have taken more liberties and incorporated these elements into more of the show.

That’s not to say the main show wasn’t worthwhile though. The atmospheric brass and bagpipe lines of ‘4 notes’ and the accented, driving ‘Joik’, a loving parody of traditional Celtic vocal styling serve as enjoyable highlights. 

Unfortunately, one criticism of the performance was that it felt more like a traditional celtic folk gig with the occasional element of other scenes and cultures rather than the melting pot I expected. It also suffered from a cramped stage presence, though the additional performers and scenic effects apparently provided at Glasgow shows potentially improved this. 
Overall, a solid showing with some excellent musicianship that unfortunately suffers from something of a limiting feeling.
Matt Dalyell


Grit Orchestra Wows with Bothy
The Grit orchestra’s performance of Martyn Bennet’s Bothy Culture was unique to anything I have attended in the festival; not just because of the programme but due to the general atmosphere. While some halls can feel stuffy and sombre with audience members not daring to make a peep, this event felt relaxed and more energetic with audience members never being shy in showing their great appreciation for the performers, even trying to recreate some of the peculiar vocal stylings used on stage…though failing miserably.

The very first piece told us what we were in for: an evening of weird, wacky and wonderful music, with clear Scottish and Irish folk and Turkish inspirations. The first piece was fun and rousing, with some brilliant melodies on the pipes, creating a joyous feeling amongst the listeners that continued till the end of the evening. 
The rest of the programme proved to be just as intriguing with each piece being different from the previous; most notably the second feature which included a voice-over of a telephone conversation so that above the music you could hear “aye…hmm…oh aye”, and the fourth piece which featured a recital of a poem set to beautifully atmospheric movement.
Probably the most impressive part of the performance was the way that the performers took all the different elements that in all logic should have clashed but brought them together to create a spectacular symphony of noise that although was reminiscent of Gaelic and Islamic folk music still had a sound all of its own.
Olivia Smith


★★★★★ 
An ode to the Earth, poetry and music alike- Bothy Culture is a monumental musical landscape of intrepid genius, not only instrumentally but visually.  Vigorous violin bows undulating like ship sails transport you around the world on what could be described as a musical voyage.
 
The congregative energy generated by the sensational Grit Orchestra was almost tangible and created a satisfying sense of Scottish pride and identity among the captivated audience. We were treated to almost two hours of ballsy, unadulterated sound, with the odd charming interlude of explanation from composer Greg Lawson. In the run up to the finale, the performance took an ecclesiastical turn with a touching rendition of Bennett’s most notable piece “Blackbird” from the orchestra, accompanied by members of the Glasgow Chapel Choir. 
 
It would be an insult to music to say that Bothy Culture is just another successful Edi Fest gig, but that much is obvious by the reception from the audience alone- the performance was met with a full house, and multiple standing ovations throughout the show.  This was a large part of what made the show so delightful- the buzz, the unashamed in-seat dancing, even the frequent (but wholesome and supportive) heckler.  
 
Bothy Culture is a bold and refreshing experience that encapsulates the spirit of the festival, and is a must-see for anyone with a love of Scotland or an interest in world music.
Holly Hayward


3.75 / 5
As someone that doesn’t have a keen interest in Bothy Culture, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat captivated throughout the course of the show. With the ambient indigo and green lighting, and the fusion of a dazzling orchestra, kitted with a booming rhythm section - a merry atmosphere remained present during the majority of the set. 

The sharp and angular strings kept the audience on the edge of their seats, leading us through a vibrant musical landscape, with bright yet dark tones flourishing throughout. Thanks to the conductor, the audience received an overwhelmingly dynamically interesting orchestra, with brisk turning points showing us the wide array of styles within the Bothy genre.  Though it was the two full drum kits and bagpipes that kept the set driving along for me, setting a brisk pace along with the dancing string section - bouncing from song to song. 

A real sense of community could be felt due to a plentiful amount of audience interaction – with the conductor sharing humorous stories about the Bothy culture in between songs and the main ‘singer’ (or mumbler) attempting to get the crowd to mumble along with him. Unfortunately, the crowd as a whole was not quite intoxicated enough to go along with this, although it still made for several funny moments. 

Despite a few longwinded speeches from the conductor and the set feeling like it dragged on for just a couple too many songs, Martyn Bennet’s ‘Bothy Culture’ made for a rather refreshing and enjoyable evening.
Rowan Gallacher 


★★★★
The influence that the GRIT Orchestra has is explicit as it overwhelms and inspires us to either dance within our seats or pick up an instrument as soon as we’re home. The sheer musical talent that is spread across the stage, ranges from bagpipers to flautists, celloists to violinists, percussionists to singers. 

Martyn Bennet’s work fuses an array of instruments that defy the conventional combination and achieved a mix of traditional Celtic with a little techno. So much so, at times it can be difficult to differentiate between what is simply a sound coming from the audience and what is coming off stage. Nevertheless, we wonder how sharp and creative one must have been as each sound seems to compliment another. 

While the GRIT Orchestra performs Bennet’s 1998 album ‘Bothy Culture’, it is notable however, that Bennet appears to have used a structure in his music: we hear a new equilibrium follow the climax, time and time again. Consistent this may be, it does make you more susceptible to a slight degree of boredom, regardless of the performance’s initial entertainment.

Despite Bennet’s passing away in early 2005, those on stage do not mask the unfortunate fate of the mind behind the music, but rather, radiate humour and credit Bennet’s work. The magnificently uplifting influence the songs have is conveyed as the room unites for the night. Conversation is engaged between artists communicating in sound and anecdotes, and the audience in applause and laughs.
Alicja Turek


★★★★
The sense of anticipation before the lights went down was palpable and the audience were not to be disappointed by this captivating four star performance. ‘Bothy Culture’ was originally created in 1998 and is being preformed at the Edinburgh Playhouse as part of the Edinburgh International Festival by the GRIT orchestra. Martyn Bennet’s charming sense of humor is woven throughout; the audience enjoyed the monosyllabic one-sided phone conversation in the appropriately named ‘Aye?’ The late Martyn Bennet not only came to life through the force of his music but also through the amusing anecdotes of his close friend, the conductor Greg Lawson. 

‘Halliag’ was a particularly compelling piece, with powerful Scottish narration but a distinctly Islamic sounding rhythm. This encapsulates the dynamic fusion of cultures and genres which are continuously drawn upon throughout. The most profound aspect was Bennet’s ability to successfully harmonize a myriad of musical influences with Celtic cultural references. The evocation of setting was especially impressive ranging from the African plains to the fairy glens of Scotland. 

The orchestra preformed energetically under the skillful direction of their conductor bringing the audience to their feet after almost two hours. The standing ovation was a testament to the revival of the keen interest in the work of Martyn Bennet, tragically he never lived to see the high esteem that his work is now held in. ‘Bothy Culture’ deserves it’s place on the world stage at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Ellen Robson


Contemporary music
Martyn Bennet’s “Bothy Culture”
Edinburgh Playhouse
Katie Moore 
3 stars

★★★
Once seated time could be took to appreciate the use of stage and unusual lighting. The orchestra, set out in informal rows with each musician in what could be seen as today’s comfy smart causal, were split in apart by warm industrial lights. The overall atmosphere was rather spontaneous, informal and relaxed. 

Initial impressions are indeed positive, and as the conductor introduced the orchestra with a few humorous anecdotes the mood relaxed even more. 

They started with a rather upbeat number which captured the essence of the whole night. The piece took a modern take on rather traditional Scottish music adding electric guitars and modern drum kits alongside instruments such as the bagpipe and the fiddle. The added use of unorthodox vocals which included a man saying words of gibberish in tune and time to the piece was in my opinion rather off putting. However sometimes poetry was used and even a phone call which was revived better. 
The theatre was packed to the rim, not a seat empty. The enthusiasm of their fans filled the room and you couldn’t help but be smiling if not to the music but to the audiences reactions. 

The conductor spoke fondly of former composer Martyn Bennett who unfortunately passed before any of his music was able to make money and has left him in debt in which the group are trying to pay off. The emotion that went into the number dedicated to Bennett was clear from both orchestra and loyal fans. It was impossible not to be moved, however the emotion was not of sadness but of the pure joy playing to Bennett’s memory.
Katie Moore 


★★★
Martyn Bennet’s ‘Bothy Culture” performed by the Grit Orchestra and conducted by Greg Lawson was an uplifting and unique experience. Visually, the stage lights and sheer number of musicians involved that could be seen performing was impressive in itself. Musically the Orchestra provided a unique compilation of pieces with some Scottish essence and twang, appropriate for tourists wanting a taste of Scotland. The performance’s opening developed a welcoming atmosphere. This lighthearted and welcoming mood was consistent throughout as the conductor provided a tale in relation to each pieces’ origins, often humorous. The pieces themselves were uplifting, and despite perhaps not being for everyone I believe that anyone can appreciate the talent demonstrated by the many musicians. Although each piece was different they each remained cohesive with the overall tone. The closing pieces were powerful and differed from the earlier pieces which added variety and a sense of tonal progression. If you enjoy and admire music and Orchestras this may be the performance for you, I do believe however that it is an acquired taste.
Ailsa Phaup


★★★
On the 20th anniversary of Martyn Bennett's album ‘Bothy Culture’ being released, the GRIT orchestra perform a spectacular show of it at the Edinburgh Playhouse. ‘Bothy Culture’ captures the excitement and sense of community within scottish music, conveying this in a new and quirky way filled with imaginative complex ideas.

The first track of the album is instantly captivating. Atmospheric recorded vocal sounds over the top gave a music concrète feel to the opening of the song. A unique and enchanting hybrid of music, it sounded notably scottish in parts but had a definite oriental sound to it as well which provided an exhilarating, engaging beginning.

Track two begins more softly than the first, with acoustic guitars introducing a soft melody. The fiddle players did not only play technically demanding music but seemingly enjoyed themselves on stage as well which added to the warm atmosphere, as there were clearly many fans in the audience, eager to show their appreciation making the whole show feel more special. Characteristic bagpipes permeated the music to maintain a lively beat that you couldn’t help tap a foot to.

Each song was different, creating a unique sound and mood in each. The scottish folk style is fast paced and lively, but there are moments of eerie, high pitched playing that create an entirely different mood, all within a single song.  This eclectic range of music was created masterfully by Bennett, and the instrumentalists performed outstandingly to capture the depth and range of styles in each song.
Emily Clegg


★★★
When the floodlights snapped on to reveal an oddly eclectic gathering of instrumentalists lead 

by a charismatic, crazy-haired conductor, it became clear to me that the music to come had a strong chance of being just as colourful as the GRIT orchestra’s flashy clothing.

So when the hilarious monologues of the conductor (Greg Lawson) carried over into a very humourful, yet also deeply passionate and rhythmically intimidating style, I found myself split between sitting there, shell-shocked, and jumping up to claim the dance floor. The flashing lights, beating of the drums and dance-like gestures of the enthusiastic conductor even gave the air of a Disco.

The style itself was both exciting and slightly jarring. It sounded like someone had taken a blender and thrown several different cultures into the mix to produce one, gigantic beat-driven symphony; melodies and patterns collided and bounced off of each other, creating a fiery, pulsating music sometimes undermined by the strange whines of a single chanter or bagpipe.

Until the very end it was obvious that the style seeks to grab the attention of an audience and doesn't always expect to be liked - the conductor arguing that the music only wants to tell you the way it thinks; something I unfortunately still didn't manage to get after two hours of listening to its indecisiveness. Yet despite its intention to sometimes make its audience uncomfortable (which completely succeeded in my case) its driving beat never failed to captivate its audience.
Naomi Meiksin


★★★★
Martyn Bennett’s ‘Bothy Culture’ performed by the Grit Orchestra and Greg Lawson was an extremely unique and exuberant orchestration. With Edinburgh’s play house completely packed with an exhilarated crowd I feel very privileged to have been there although I would have not placed myself there had it not been for the compulsory English trip. Straight away there was a very comfortable and laid back atmosphere between the audience and conductor Greg Lawson; who consistently delivered his performance with great passion clearly showing how much it meant for him to be up on stage enlightening the world to Martyn Bennett’s creative and intriguing work. The opening number was a triumph, particularly driven by the buzz and anticipation of the audience. All throughout, the music was powerful and touching, reeling me in as if it were telling a beautifully emotional story. The music of the bagpipes evoked a sense of patriotism and pride in me thus making it an excellent phenomenon for tourists as they’d have got to experience classic Scottish culture but with an interesting new twist. Another thing that must be mentioned is the way Greg Lawson talked so fondly of Martyn calling him a “hero” and drawing in appreciation from the audience for Martyn’s memory, it is clear that all he has worked for has been to honour Martyn. The orchestra managed to capture this love and emotion on stage with the help of the Glasgow University Choir which was the highlight of the night.
Amy Hepburn


★★★
As someone who had not yet heard of ‘Bothy Culture’ I can definitely say that it was not what I hadexpected! The performance at the Playhouse was an eclectic mix of orchestral instruments andtraditional Scottish bagpipes, complimented by atmospheric lighting and some interesting vocals.

To start, there was some good-natured back and forth between the audience and the conductor thus establishing a positive tone which continued throughout the performance. The conductor’s charisma acted as a diffuser to make a perhaps more serious orchestra setting into a lighthearted performance, encouraging an extremely positive response, and multiple standing ovations, from the audience. As regards the music, fusion of these musical genres made for a very interesting performance: the music was very upbeat, encouraging a great deal of ‘seat dancing’ as recommended by our conductor. This genre of music was somewhat unique and unusual, however, it does appear to have a great following and this particular performance was enjoyable for someone who had not before heard Bennett’s work. As the performance came to an end, the orchestra was joined by a Glasgow choir who gave a great performance before the evening ended on a seemingly very popular finale song. 

Overall I very much enjoyed the pieces and the ambience, however, my criticism would be that an interval is perhaps necessary to maintain the viewer’s (or at least my own) attention.
Mairi Robertson 

La Cenerentola | Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin
La Cenerentola
reviewed by Royal High students

★★★★

Opéra de Lyon will leave you giggling like a schoolgirl at this rebirth of Rossini’s almost-forgotten Opera, La Cenerentola. This light-hearted take on Cinderella is a profound melee of ethereal singing, over-the-top acting, and hilariously questionable dancing. The blend of cultures in this French production led by up-and-coming Norwegian director, Stefan Herheim, artistically compliments the rich cultural flavours of the Edinburgh Festival.

One of Rossini’s forty operas, (which he notoriously wrote in twenty minutes) is sculpted for a Scottish audience with moments that leave us reeling- when Cinderella aids a beggar, offering him bread and coffee, multi-talented lead, Michèle Losier, promptly brandishes a box of Gregg’s Yum Yums and a reusable coffee cup. 

Lines separating the stage and the audience blur as characters interact with the audience and orchestra. Edinburgh's own Katherine Aitken momentarily breaks character, giving a hearty 'Get tae-' to conductor, Stefano Montanari, who infiltrates the stage in disguise, adding genius elements of pantomime to the spectacle. The perfectly-timed comical moments help the Opera glide along smoothly, and without them the production would seem slow paced.

Comedy is not the only layer of entertainment found in this old-new tale. Cinderella and Prince Ramiro (Taylor Stayton) share several elegant duets, their voices blending in such a way that we are left grinning giddily in our seats. The core of the story is not lost in this almost-parody, leaving an all round gleeful production with a message: ‘Goodness will prevail'.
Rachel Cronin

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of La Cenerentola

★★★★ 
An enchanting twist on the favourite cinderella tale would be my verdict on the lovable drama by Rossini. As this marvellous performance unravels we are propelled into the comedic experience from the Choir of narrator angels to the unexpected twists. To me, coming from such a foreign language it is all the more poetic, the characters easily spring to life. The sisters duo and their mocking tone with petty attitudes is at times irritating and hugely over acted, but their crisp pronunciation and lovely melody’s create full interesting characters. 

Fans of the opera experience mixed with the pantomime will love the ‘La Cenerentola’. From the initial cleaner in modern times being whirl winded into the magical world with two evil step-sisters and a cruel step-dad, only one of the many fascinating turns in Rossini’s writing. Although you can get lost in the emotion of the tale and it can feel like the instruments overpowers the mood of the vocals. The extended projections from Michèle Losier (Angelina) resolve these minor mishaps and create the flowing mood once again.

The set and costumes are superbly constructed and greatly eccentric but connect perfectly with the story. The device of a white feather commanding the story and Cenerentola eventually taking control in the end leave you fascinated with the tale and make this a wonderful night out. Even though the length can be tiring, each time the voices are heard you are quick to return to feelings of complete amazement at this production.
Emily Goddard


★★★★★
The International Festival’s opening night production of Rossini’s opera, La Cenerentola, was a spectacular representation of Norwegian director Stefan Herheim’s talent for the performing arts. Rossini’s rendition of the classic fairy-tale, Cinderella, injected cheek and vivacity into the protagonist and abandoned many familiar supernatural elements. However, Herheim had no difficulty in replacing this with sprightly surprises and joyous energy that created what could only be described as “stage magic”.

Herheim’s rendition perfectly depicted the chaotic nature of Rossini’s original Cinderella-inspired tale; the cast’s exaggerated performance and elaborate costumes created a visually overwhelming effect that left us dazzled. Costume designer Esther Bialas’ work was matched only by the Edinburgh Festival Theatre venue itself, as the intricately embellished curtains and stonework complimented the grandiose of the performer’s ballgowns.

Herheim’s ingenuity in the operatic world could be seen from the very beginning, where a lone Cenerentola is framed against a plain background, a blank canvas upon which Herheim created a vivacious and visionary rendition of Rossini’s original opera. Not only did Herheim’s production continuously break the fourth wall, it broke the boundaries of traditional opera, involving both the audience and orchestra in the hilarious stage antics.

The chorus moved like a crowd of cats as each member assumed their own motif, adding even more depth and perspective to an already intricate opera. Their explosive movements were complimented perfectly by the animated, upbeat sound of the Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, conducted by Stefano Montanari.

La Cenerentola’s seven characters had been beautifully cast, the most notable of which is the wonderfully talented Michéle Losier (Cenerentola) whose resounding alto added emotional depth and richness to the main role. Moreover, former Broughton High School student Katherine Aitken had a comedic talent that suited her perfectly to the role of Cenerentola’s insolent half-sister Tisbe. Having left Edinburgh to pursue her career in opera, Aitken returned to grace the Festival Theatre Stage with a hilarious performance that truly portrayed the extent of her operatic prowess.

Herheim’s La Cenerentola was a thrilling spectacle, and it’s safe to say opera has never been quite so enjoyable.
Alia Davie


★★★★
La Cenerentola preformed by the acting company 'Opera De Lyon' was not only extremely riveting but also a brilliant masterpiece of work that introduced opera in such a way that made the common perception of it being quite dull and dated null and void.

Through the actors and actresses I saw La Cenerentola, which is a version of the well known tale of Cinderella (a young servant destined to marry a prince and escape her cruel upbringing) be preformed marvellously. From the perfection of their lines which never once hit a faulty note to the costumes they wore that helped to ease us into the scenes and acts, the company Opera De Lyon brought us a timeless classic and made it so engaging that any notion of it being more of a children's tale was forgotten instantly.

If I was however to highlight one problem it would have to be the humour. While most was fine and helped to engage the audience more, some I found cheapened the opera as a whole and made it seem to me more like a pantomime. However this was a small grievance and only happened a few times throughout the performance and overall I would highly recommend seeing this opera if one has no plans and wishes to spend their afternoon in Edinburgh wisely.
Harry Graham


★★★★★
This outstanding and heart warming Cinderella inspired opera made the audience truly believe that true love can be found anywhere if you, yourself truly believe in it. 

The way the music really fit in with the operatic singing made me really understand how the actors were feeling and if the tonality changed I was able to know why by just knowing what the instruments played. The conductor was able the whole way through, to keep the orchestra in time and also add in some humour to the playing and he actually went on stage with the actors. The conductor going on stage was so well executed because nobody noticed he was, until the ugly stepsisters figured it out.

There was so much humour within the opera which really helped elevate the performance. There was also a lot of the operatic singers involving the audience which made me feel like I was really there with them and made me understand the setting better too.

The periodic costumes were definitely a nice touch to the performance. There was a really lovely contrast between the costumes and the acting style as the acting felt extremely modern with modern style humour also.

There was some subtle changes in La Cenerentola such as: instead of a glass slipper there was two matching bracelets and the prince had to match the bracelet up with its pair. The names were also changed so for example Cinderella was Angelina.

Overall I really enjoyed this performance and I would recommend to anyone.
Ellie Rae


★★★★
Director Stefan Herheim vibrantly brings Rossini’s cinderella tale to the festival theatre stage in a whirlwind of colour, humour and originality. This two act spectacle explores new modernistic presentation whilst preserving its classical operatic roots. 

Even to an untrained ear the voice of Cinderella, played by Michèle Losier, entrances audiences with flurry of trills and accents that causes a swelling of emotion to elevate you to a higher level of an appreciation for this age old form of theatre. With a swift flick of her wrist she is able to convey both charisma and grace which is a tasteful concoction for the off beat opera.

Whilst the soloists were a huge asset to the show, what brought the play to life was the strong dynamic between the characters and the chorus. A thriving competitiveness between the step sisters allows subtle comedy to seep through in such a way that does not divert the mind away from the time-honoured story line.

Along side the mischievous encounters, the set transformations help to immerse yourself into 17th century streets, ballrooms and, oddly, an array of fireplaces…

Taking the forth wall down brick by brick with the simple action of a slowly turned head shows the professionalism and talent that Opèra de Lyon can produce. This is a comedic opera for the newly introduced and the most experienced. A timeless tale of goodness, truth and love just hits the spot.
Charlie Ashcroft


★★★★★
Opera de Lyon’s performance of Rossini’s Cinderella story was a magnificent Piece of Opera, which took elements of fairy-tales, combined with modern stagecraft and humour. 

The most impressive element of the production was the amazing setting, which created a palace expanding from rear of the stage out of a fireplace. Suddenly, it would transform into the collection of staircases and landings which were Cinderella’s home.  The pieces were used in ingenious ways, from places for the prince to hide, to boxes for the chorus to watch from. 

However, the performances were also standout: a highlight was Renato Girolami’s Don Magnifico, Cinderella’s cruel stepfather, with three vocally impressive and humorous solos, (one about a flying donkey!), an audacious costume including the biggest wig I have ever seen, and perfect comic timing. He truly was a sight to behold.  Another standout performance was Edinburgh native Katherine Aitken’s turn as Tisbe – one of Cinderella’s jealous stepsisters. She provided the single funniest moment in the whole show with the help of a stage invasion from the orchestra conductor.

What really set the performance apart was the direction, which was very self-aware with nods to the audience and intentional pantomime moments, including Cinderella being chased by a cleaning trolley. The costumes were also very creative – the characters each had a colour symbolic of them as a person. A fiery red for the prince, a regal blue for Cinderella.

Overall the performance was a true spectacle and a brilliant gateway to the world of opera.
Alex Enaholo


★★★★
For the first time over 200 years ago in Rome, Gioachino Rossini showcased his new opera La Cenerentola to the world. And now it is back, more enchanting than ever. 

Stefan Herheim’s magnificent production of Rossini’s Cinderella opera tells the story of a young servant girl who is forced to clean by her governing step-father Don Magnifico while her wicked step-sisters prance around, fighting for the attention of Prince Ramiro. Little do they know, the prince is in disguise and the servant girl Cinderella is the one that he truly admires.

A story of true love, Cinderella falls in love with the prince Ramiro, dressed as a servant while her step sisters fight over Dandini, the Prince’s servant disguise. 

Italian conductor Stefano Montanari conducts the opera de lyon orchestra with spectacular music that captivates the audience. Starting and ending with an empty stage, the opera is given a modern twist with Cinderella dressed as a modern day maid and stunning background visuals playing in the background throughout the story. 

Scotland’s own Katherine Aitken plays the role of Tisbe, one half of the evil stepsisters who share laughs with the audience when in a Scottish accent she removes Montanari from the stage. 

With vibrant costumes, effortless set changes and vivacious comedy, this spectacle is not one to miss.
Emma Logan


★★★★
Cinderella: I had a ball!

This production of Rossinis La Cenerentola by Stefan Herheim and Opèra de Lyon was a captivating, must-see reworking of Rossini's reworking of the classic fairytale with a clever twist at the end!

The story follows Don Magnifico (Renato Girolami) who hopes to have one of his daughters Clorinda (Clara Meloni) and Tisbe (Katherine Aitken) marry the prince Don Ramiro (Taylor Stayton) in order to escape debt. Little do they know that Don Ramiro and his servant Dandini (Nikolay Borchev) have switched roles so that Don Ramiro could observe the women in secret, and he ends up falling in love with Don Magnifico's stepdaughter Cinderella (Michèle Losier) with the help of Alidoro (Simone Alberghini). Then of course you know the rest.... or do you?

By enhancing the opera 'buffo' aspect with clever devices and asides which flicks the audiences attention from different narratives in the tale-within-a tale the audience is transported in a whirl of music, songs and visuals to the inevitable denouement. The dream-like quality of the narrative is underlined by surreal interventions from the chorus, consisting of Oscar Wilde-like cherubs and courtiers. The music conducted by Stefano Montanari really fits the fast paced and whimsical tone of the opera along with its outstanding choreography.

A highly recommended outing, though better a seat on the lower floors, as it was impossible to see the actors on the extended stage from the upper circle.
Frederick V Brown


★★★★★
La Cenerentola is a humorous, ingenious and engaging production, directed by Stefan Herhiem and conducted by Stefano Montanari. This 200 year old opera stems its plot from Cinderella but uses deception and humour to create a different perspective, which is both refreshing and captivating for all ages.  

Almost immediately the audience is engaged with the play, as the narrative is cleverly displayed, capturing everyones attention.  We are then introduced to Cinderella who is destined to clean the fire and sweep the floor whilst her stunningly dressed step sisters Clorinda and Tisbet argue over trivial matters. When the Prince declares that he will hold a banquet where he wishes to meet a girl who he will marry the deception begins.  Don Mgnifico, the father of the girls immediately enforces the idea that either Clorinda or Tisbet must marry the Prince, he makes it apparent that their wealth and future rests on this potential marriage and that love is not of any importance in comparison to status and wealth. 

As the story evolves and it becomes clear that there is no fairy godmother or glass slipper and that the wicked step mother has been replaced by an immoral absurd step father. However it is then revealed to the audience that Cinderella’s real dad is the Pope and the real Prince was disguised as a mere servant. Changing Cinderella’s fortune.

Through the dynamics of the music that the Opéra de Lyon Orchestra eloquently plays, the characters emotions are clearly portrayed whilst also creating an atmosphere that the whole audience understands. Weaved in throughout the play are hints if humour which are produced through narrative, props and elaborate costumes.
Emma Shopland 


★★★★
Rossini’s realistic version of the fairytale “Cinderella” is as striking as it was two centuries ago. The up and coming stage director Stefan Herheim added a few tricks to the production to modernise such a classic opera. He not only brought Rossini in suspended from a cloud, but used an enormous mechanical fireplace and other fascinating props to bring this opera to life.

The star of the show was Michèle Losier, playing Cenerentola magnificently. She falls in love with the prince who switches roles with his valet in his quest to find innocence and goodness. This conveys a certain quality of feminism, for Cenerentola is no damsel in distress as the original fairytale paints her. Rossini’s lead makes it her mission for the prince to fall in love with her as well as actively challenging him to find her again in order to return her bracelet, rather than the glass slipper.

The dynamic between the sisters can be only described as comical and petty. The comedy is apparent throughout - especially when Don Magnifico enunciates his words so rapidly they are barely perceptible in his tongue-twisting ramble! This opera breaks the “fourth wall” by acknowledging and speaking to the audience in a humorous manner, extending the realism that Rossini intended.

I found myself watching the orchestra from the upper circle in admiration, the music was simple and minimalist and it complimented the singing perfectly. It never overpowered events on stage, blending with it, enforcing how opera brings all the arts to one performance. This was my first opera and even though certain parts confused me I was too entranced by the actual performance to remember to look at subtitles!
Lindsay McLellan

The Prisoner | Photo: Ryan Buchanan
The Prisoner
reviewed by Holy Rood RC High students

★★
The set for Brook’s first production in Scotland for years is sparse: rocks on stage, scattered straw, dead trees toward the back. This is classic Brook and emphasises inner struggle, rather than outward spectacle. Written and directed by Brook and collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, ‘The Prisoner’ dramatises a memory from his time in Afghanistan, of a man condemned to sit facing a prison.

There are moments of beauty on stage. Actors sing, make bird noises off stage, helping excite the minimalistic set. The audience is set up as the prison he watches - undeniably clever, it deepened the question of punishment. We’re similar criminals wondering how to gain our own redemption while passing judgement on another.

The prisoner, Mavuso, killed his father having found him ‘in bed’ with his sister, Nora. He loved her ‘as father did’ and killed in jealousy.

This play explores sin and redemption. These are important issues but more crucial lessons are missed. Brook uses violence against a woman as vehicle for a man’s self-discovery, exploiting Nora’s experiences making them a stepping stone for more universal – more masculine – things.

Her feelings are neglected, any details (father raping her from age 13) are gleaned from discussions about Mavuso, then she is blamed and accepts that blame. And we know this isn’t criticism of attitudes towards women: it is respected Uncle Ezekiel who calls her selfish and gets her to leave.

Brook’s long career deserves celebration but ‘The Prisoner’ does not.
Eleanor Campanile

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

More reviews of The Prisoner

“The Prisoner” by directed by peter Brooke could possibly be known to me as the most infatuating piece of theatre to ever be put on. With themes of violence, insanity and rocky relationships, I was put through an emotional rollercoaster whilst intently watching. Mabuso, also known as “The man on the hill” has been sitting outside a prison for a long time. It is unclear whether this was intended by Mabuso or if he was forced into it. We see that Mabuso murdered his father after he raped his sister and she has his child. This darkness within the play defiantly made the audience at times, feel quite uncomfortable. Its eerie atmosphere enticed the entire audience into fascination at the odd and frankly off-putting plotline. The set was extremely minimalistic with only a few rocks and stick used throughout the performance. I found it confusing at times to recognise the time line of events and this was an obvious downfall to the theatre piece. What struck me about this was that it really made the audience use their brain and almost work about what was happening for themselves using their own interpretation. To me, I felt like whilst Mabuso story was being told, it was all in his head. I felt as though Mabuso tried to cope through his time in prison by literally dehumanising his fellow in mates as the sticks and rocks on stage. The moment when I was most dumbfounded was when the fourth wall was broken and the sections within the audience were cells in the prison. For me, this made it feel as though we were watching an animal in a zoo which was very unsettling to me. This performances biggest downfall was its lack of showing the time of day and the setting of where they were at each given moment and this made the play slightly hard to follow. However, peter Brooke defiantly managed to create a strong sense of confusion which I don’t think was a bad thing in any way. I would recommend seeing this if you can as there can be many interpretations of what was happening within it and I would be very interested to hear them.
Rhiannon Falconer

The End of Eddy | Photo: Ryan Buchanan
The End of Eddy
reviewed by Leith Academy students

★★★★
‘The End Of Eddy’ directed by Stewart Laing and adapted by Pamela Carter is based on the book of the same name and is set in the small French town of Hallencourt. Here, young Eddy grows up around stereotypes around masculinity that are widely accepted. Men must be strong, violent and would frequently go drinking. Eddy denies he is gay because of these stereotypes. 

The actors Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills play both Eddie and other characters in the play. They also have the job of telling the story to the audience and at all times it was clear which actor was playing which character.

Overall the play felt at times both comedic and light hearted, and intense and dramatic. The play itself could have been very dark throughout, however the moments of comedy allow room to breath from the more intense moments. The more dramatic parts were done well as they strongly suit the idea of masculinity that is a large topic in this.

The play incorporates recordings of the actors displayed on TV screens playing other characters in the performance. The actors interact with the characters on the screens which I first thought was a comedic element, but, it is also used effectively with the more dramatic scenes. The actors would be acting alongside the videos of the characters which was both accurately done and very unique as not many other shows have had this same idea.
Carmen Thomson

(Winning review, printed in The Herald)

Read more reviews of The End of Eddy

★★★★
As I walked in to the theatre I immediately noticed that the set was unlike any I’ve seen before, it was 4 TVs on stands placed side by side with a small bus shelter in the background with a bin with the 2 actors sitting down. The play focused on the character Eddy bellegueule and his upbringing with his family and him being different in a town that is focused on masculinity and being “hard”. Eddy himself knows that he is gay and more feminine than all the other boys in the village, his family are disappointed in this as it brings their status down. Throughout the play we learn more about his family and how they do not have enough money to support themselves, and his school life where we learn that he gets bullied for 2 years straight and is a joke among other students.

The characters in this play were all represented by the 2 male actors on stage, however others were shown on the TVs but still played by the same 2 men. There was a lot of light changes to help show what location the character was in, for example when they were in a nightclub the lights were dimmed down and turned purple. The sound in this play was pretty basic with a couple songs being played as background music except for a scene near the end where we see the actors singing along to Celine Dion.

Overall I enjoyed the play as I thought the issues it dealt with are very real in this day and age and the way that it was portrayed and shown to us was very clever as it kept me gripped throughout. I would recommend this show to anyone interested.
Eliott Berthin


★★★★★
'Educational, Inspriring and utterly fantastic!’

The End of Eddy is a true story which was originally a book about Édouard Louis’s coming out story. Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills are playing Eddy, the family member and the bully’s. They also step out of character to further explain to the audience his experience. This shows them using a very Brecht approach. As well as being with us in person they also share his story by playing characters which are presented in video form. 

I thought this play was very successful in showing Eddy’s struggles and his journey with coming out. It was really smart with how they used the screens to act as the other characters and how they came out of character but it was also easy to understand and to follow along with which made it more enjoyable.

Both Alex and Kwaku done a amazing job telling the story but also acting it out as all these different characters. I could tell who they where and when which also made it more easy to follow along with. One key moment that stood out to me was when Vincent hit his father after his father defended Eddy. Alex and Kwaku made it very hard hitting which made me feel Eddy’s pain and struggles. Another key moment which stood out to me was when they keep repeating into the mirror, which was the screen, “today I’m going to be a man”. I liked how they used the screens to act as mirrors and how Alex and Kwaku spoke to it so it looked like he was actually staring into a mirror.
Kim Stronach


★★★★
End of Eddy written by Edouard Louis tells us about his rough childhood living in a small village called Helencourt where he was abused and discriminated by local

The play starts off with an introduction where we learn about Eddy family, his Mum and Dad his two brothers Vincent and Rudy. The scenes starts with Eddy in school as he is wondering down the corridor where he is approached by two boys who call him homophobic names and spits on him.

During the play there was some moments that showed the struggles Eddy went through as he was constantly abused by the same bullies and problems within his family with who his father wanted Eddy to be more like a man.

There was some bits in the end of Eddy that connected with the audience that made them laugh there was some scenes that showed where Eddy was trying to come to terms with his sexuality whether or not he was sexually attracted to men.

There was also some bits that made the audience understood that the place where Eddy grew up was a very rough area that is against people being gay and why it’s hard for Eddy is that he was accused of being gay for some things. Eddy couldn’t open it up to anyone as they would disown them because of his sexuality.

Looking back on this play I would give this play four stars as it had everything that helped discuss about Eddy life and why he had to go through this phase in his childhood where he was both physically and verbally abused by most people but the ending showed a new begging for Eddy as he was no longer this kid going through a tough moment in his childhood and that he can finally be a man.
Stephen McLean


★★★★
"The End of Eddy" was a gripping and unique performance based around the young life of Édouard Louis, and the struggles of both growing up in poverty and learning to accept sexuality. From the very start the audience were involved as the actors broke the fourth wall, addressing the audience as they told the story. The actors had a way of telling the story which meant that the audience were gripped the whole time.

The use of technology was particularly clever, as the two characters were multi-rolling throughout, and the pre-recordings of the different characters helped the story flow. Both actors displayed great skill as they jumped from one character to the other, and yet managing to show a clear difference between the characteristics. The subtle use of movement and sound also helped add to the story and created more dimension to the performance.

There were several points in which the actors would break character and act as a narrator, it was clear that the actors were there to tell a story rather than fully embody the characters which created a truly unique theatre experience, which as an audience member you felt uncomfortable, or empathetic, or even joyful.

The play is quite nicely brought to an end as the actors read  excerpts from the book itself, and then in unison read a final quote. This made for a nice yet simple ending that was very effective. Overall the play was captivating and told the heart breaking story with great style.
Eilidh West


★★★★
The End of Eddy was a really gripping and creative performance which conveyed themes such as family, sexuality and poverty. As an audience member, I felt as though the performance was brilliant as it portrayed a serious message about life, yet also created a light hearted atmosphere.

One aspect of the performance that particularly stood out to me was the unique use of the televisions to help tell the interesting story of Eddy’s childhood. I felt this was an extremely creative use of set  which contributed greatly to conveying the storyline.

There were only two actors who were wearing the exact same costume. This had a powerful impact on me as an audience member as it was such a powerful touch to the performance as the conveyed every character. Both actors played all characters and this helped to show us as the audience their amazing talent as I imagine it took a lot of rehearsals to perfect what they did.

Overall, I thought that End of Eddy was an outstanding performance. It conveyed a thrilling story line with many twists and really helped me as an audience member feel exactly how Eddy was feeling through the actors use of voice and movement. I would definitely recommend going to see this performance as I left the studio after feeling my eyes were now wide open to his life after I found out it was a true story.
Amy Donald


4.5 stars
Unique,quirky,gripping. if I had to describe end of Eddie in 3 words that’s what I would say. a fantastic performance all round. 2 young energetic actors Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills tell the story of a young French man Eddy Bellegueule’s journey to becoming Édouard Louis in an unconventional but brilliant manor. We here of Eddie’s ups downs and struggles with sexuality through the use of 4 screens and multi rolling from Mills and Austin. It focuses on Eddy’s life from ages 10-15. We here all about his problems with 2 bullies at school , his own family and the whole town he lives in being homophobic towards him. Some of the graphic descriptions given of what Eddie went through made you squirm in your seat but i guess that’s all part of the brilliance the way the story is portrayed by the actors can really make you feel like you are there in the moment and grip you to the story. The use of the 4 screens is not only brilliantly clever and unique it is also symbolic of the fact that there was 4 TVs in Eddies house that were constantly on and would just make the whole family oblivious to each other. Overall End of Eddie was a very different performance to anything I’ve seen before and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Stan Ross


★★★★★
Walking into the Festival Theatre Studio, I already had large expectations of how impressive this play would be following the popularity of the published book, walking out of the theatre, I easily could say it  completely met expectations, I could even say it overcame them and impressed me further .The show took such a interesting approach to the storyline and with the use of narration, multi casting and prerecorded videos on screens, I found this extremely effective and helped produce an exciting sense of story telling. When we first walked in the actors where on stage already and the windows weren’t covered , creating a bright and welcoming atmosphere. I felt this continued throughout the play as they talked to the audience directly and  even took a selfie with us, you really felt often , like a part of the show. The End of Eddie produced some beautiful yet heartbreaking moments , however in other scenes would have the audience in fits of laughter , this was the perfect balance and really created the perfect performance.. The whole show only had two actors in it and they both did absolutely amazing, they had a lot of pressure on them to be able to not only amuse an audience with only them acting , but also be multiple characters throughout, however they made it seem easy and preformed fantastically. Overall I think The End of Eddie was incredible to watch and would absolutely recommend it.
Cara Moloney


The End Of Eddy is an autobiography written by Édouard Louis, but in this case it is an adaptation, an adaptation by Pamela Carter. The play its self was directed by Stewart Laing. The play tells the autobiography as a story one of which that follows the life of ‘Eddy’, later on to be Édouard. The play starts and stays with the same set: four tv screens positioned across the front of the stage hoisted up on poles that adjust the height of the screens, a concrete bus shelter and a bin centre back stage.

Hallencourt is the French town in which Eddy grew up, isolated from any other major town, sitting in the middle of nowhere, Eddy had only the thirteen thousand residents that hated anything out of the ordinary as he grew up. Hallencourt as a town experienced poverty as it was described to be on the other end of an industrial boom. Poverty was only one of the things Eddy experienced growing up in Hallencourt. There was also the shame that came with being gay in a town that despised it and the violence that came with the classic gender roles, the manly man that’s the breadwinner and the stay at home mum. And lastly pride, the pride that comes hand in hand with the violence.

Throughout the story Eddy is constantly trying to fit in, fighting with himself over something he can’t change but he tries anyway and of course this lands him in all sorts of trouble- having to deal with bullies, school rumours, his unsupportive family and the confusion of why he was the way he was.

There are several things that I particularly appreciate about this performance one of which is the smaller details, for example the journey route that is written across the bus shelter, it is easy to spot for it is red against yellow. But the reason I like it is because it follows the story of his life: Hallencourt where he grew up, vers Abbeville where he went to school and vers Amiens where he went to university.
Beth Patterson


Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills performed in this brilliant adaptation of Édouard Louis' autobiography, by Pamela Carter and directed by Stewart Laing. The story followed a boy named Eddy and his childhood, in the town of, Hallencourt. The town was described as being poverty ridden and post industrial, with one main road leading to the only bus stop. Strictly equipped gender roles, is one of the driving forces in this wheel of misery for the thirteen thousand residents, its the idea that men are very masculine and work in manual labour at the old brass factory while, women stay at home and raise the children. He was bullied in school and didn't find comfort or support at home, despite this he found the classroom was one of his favourite places due to the fact the teachers taught acceptance. He joined the drama club, and after a solo performance he was approached by his principal and offered a place at an performance arts school, of which from where he would be able to attend university. He took the opportunity and left his home.

What stood out about this performance was its use of production areas such as media and lights. There were four TVs positioned centre front stage, and they portrayed important information such as Eddy's family members and mirror effects with the actors. What I liked most about this performance was the inspiration of the practitioner, Brecht, as the actor's came out of character and spoke to that audience. I thought it was a nice touch as it meant the audience were more included in the thoughts and feelings behind the piece. I would give this performance a 5 star review as I found it intriguing, entertaining and inclusive.
Joanna Paterson


The end of eddy is about the writers child hood and who he grow up in poverty and that he was bullied through primary school and  through to college he is bullied because he is gay. He lives in a time we’re in The world the looked at gays as being different and that it should happen but this was not the case with eddy he deals with the bullying and all the name calling even from his own family.

Eddie lives with his mom and dad and two twin siblings and his half brother they are a family living in poverty. The play starts with the actors talking about the writer and how he wrote the book and how he was only 22 when he published it and the talk about the character of eddy and how old. After this they start acting out eddys life by starting in his school. I one of the school corridors where he is confronted by to bulled as he describes one being tall and ginger and the other short and dum we see these bullies through the play has they harass him for being different and when it comes to it the start to call him a fag. Eddy though never fights back he just smiles and takes it because he doesn’t want to fight back. The play goes on going through life and comes to parts like how he had intercourse with his cousin and he started getting more and more bulled for it. But the play comes to a good end with eddy finishing school and going on to college and it comes to an end with someone walking up to him in a corridor like in school an someone saying to him “eddy looking as gay as ever and him replying yes I do “ the end of eddy was a good play altogether I would give it a 4 start raining it has good depth to his story and it’s a really hart braking one.
Reiss Trench


★★★★
The End of Eddy tells the true and heartbreaking story of the early years of Édouard Louis, a little boy from a small town in France called Hallencourt. The emotional story talks about Eddy’s struggle to fit in as everyone suspects him of being gay, being from a small town that would make him different from the rest. The drama begins with the two amazing actors directly speaking to the audience, setting the scene. 

‘Wanna be straight with you”

That line stuck with me as the play revolves around Eddy being different because he is gay so that line coming from one of the actors who played Eddy showed him trying to hide he true sexuality. The actors played all the characters, sometimes on stage sometimes on four flat screen TV's that they often interacted with.

The story talked about his strong relationship with his mum as she was quite the chatterbox and talks about his conflict and distance with his dad as he wasn’t the conversationalist and often spent an evening in front of the telly as a “family bonding experience”.

This drama goes on the journey of sexuality and self-discovery as an emotional rollercoaster that shows a young man's strength and deep desire can overcome any hate that people and bullies have.  I found this performance gripping and emotionally challenging, I would highly recommend.
Jenny Duncan


★★★★
The End of Eddy took its audience through a technological journey of violence, shame, poverty and pride and brought us all through the other side. The original autobiographical novel has been translated into simulating, stirring, Brechtian theatre and made its audience abstractly and critically think about the structure of social class and possibly their own ideals of toxic masculinity. From entering the room the atmosphere was intriguing and vibrant from the start all the way through the beautiful use of light, communication and storytelling until the end. In the studio festival theatre space the set was kept simplistic and minimalistic only including, in the upstage a tarnished, messy looking bus shelter giving us the insight into the isolated, small minded, home of Eddy Belleguelle. Then further down stage four screens representing the four televisions that were constantly running in his childhood home. Through the use of these wired, innovative and meticulously timed screens it gave both a clever and comical effect to the performance and an intriguing one which kept us gripped through the emotional ups and downs presented in Eddys life. From the beginning we were constantly kept on track with seamlessly, smooth narration and with skilled multi rolling from the actors Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills live upon stage and upon the pre-planned visual perfections projected on to our eyes. I left the theatre uplifted and took away new ideals of my own masculinity and what that means to me and no one else.
Ewan Burns

Opening Event Young People Call Costumes

Our work with Young People

Kadamati Reh © Ryan Buchanan 027

Make a donation and support our work

Other news

blog

2019 Playlist #11

A flavour of what you can expect from this year's Virgin Money Fireworks Concert featuring the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and mezzo soprano Catriona Morison.

news

Leith Academy meets Beatbox Academy

On the curriculum this week – beatboxing.