theatre review: Valhalla at The Tron

July 10, 2010

It was after one of those “what do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversations that I started googling for what was on at the Theatres on the off chance, and saw something called Valhalla at The Tron (a theater I’ve never been to).  All the info we had to go on was…

“As camp as Carry On, as outrageously funny as Cooking with Elvis, as historically accurate as Blackadder, the Tron Theatre Company invites you to enter the glittering halls of Valhalla this summer. Cast includes Johnny McKnight and Joyce Falconer”

Not much to go on, but the tickets weren’t too much, so worth a punt.  Also since we had an hour and a half to get there just time to squeeze in a pre-theatre meal if only I could get parked in the busy Merchant City area.  I got parked right outside Maggie Mays, we had a fabulious (quick) meal there and crossed Argyle Street to The Tron, all very handy.

Valhalla, has a difficult to describe plot which follows two different characters Ludwig, prince of 19th century Bavaria and James Avery a cowboy in 1940’s Texas. It follows them growing up, discovering their sexuality (sort of) until the camp prince becomes a camp King and James and his friend get called up for world war II.  As the 19th century king grows in his obsession with Wagnerian opera and a love for building fairytale castles, the two soldiers parachute into Europe and eventually discover the greatest folly that the king built centuries before – Valhalla.

However, none of the actual plot really matters much because of the pace at which the one liners and visual jokes take place the show doesn’t give you a chance to think about actual plot too much.  Just before going in we saw a warning about the language, content and ‘some nudity’ but by then it was too late to find out more so we went for it (and I’m glad we did).  The content that people may be offended by is very brief full frontal male nudity and the homosexual storyline.  However you may also be offended by hump-backed princesses, southern Baptist preachers, opera or sea-men jokes.

The production is very good with a stage extending into the audience, ‘stage hands’ stumbling into view, very clever usage of set and lighting to switch between the time periods and locations where the action was taking place.  But ultimately this show is all about the laughs which were so fast flowing I felt I was constantly laughing through the whole show.  If anything detracted from the overall experience I though the climax was a little weak, but hey I’ve got to pick something not to praise.

Valhalla is playing at The Tron till 24 July 2010.

movie: Exit Through The Gift Shop

April 6, 2010

This film is having a very limited release but I’m really glad I caught it at the GFT tonight.  “Exit Through The Gift Shop” is or might be a documentary about street art.  It is the first movie by Banksy and has various tag lines like:

“The world’s first Street Art disaster movie”
“The incredible true story of how the world’s greatest Street Art movie was never made…”
“The story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed” – Banksy

However, it is a little tricky to know where to start with this because it is “semi-fictionalised documentary” so there is no way of really knowing what parts of the story are true and what has been re-created for the camera.  I also found it difficult because in general I don’t like what is termed ‘street-art’ that I simply see as graffiti and vandalism, while at the same time I do like a lot of Banksy’s work.

OK, now I’ve got that out of the way I have to say I really really enjoyed this film.  It starts out with a simple documentary of how a French guy called Thierry Guetta is obsessed with recording everything on video and who then stumbles into the ‘street-art’ scene. Then it starts to creep up on you as less and less serious and increasingly ludicrous and funny.    Above all, this is simply a very, very funny story poking fun at the art world and an extremely enjoyable film.

Visiting the Past

March 13, 2010

My mum and her sister my Aunt Annie were from the small village of North Tolsta on the Isle of Lewis and at some point I think in the late 50s were working on the Maid of the Loch which at that time would take passengers from Balloch to Tarbet at the head of Loch Lomond.

I have some old photos from those days and figured that the only time they could be taken would be while the boat was tied up in Tarbet because that would be the longest break the crew would get.  So today when on my way to Dunoon I took the long way around and looked for where these photos might have been taken.

Here is Aunt Annie with an unknown cheerful looking bloke on Tarbet pier, the pier isn’t the same but I lined up the hills (Ben Lomond) and got as close a match as possible.

Then on the main road in Tarbet (there really isn’t much more than one road) I managed to match up this photo with my mum on the left and I think her brother Hugh on the right.

These photos are fairly small so not much detail, but here is the best I can get of the faces…

The thing at Tate Modern that blew my mind.

February 6, 2010

Later searching tells me that this was “The latest commission in The Unilever Series How It Is by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka” this is a bit self-indulgent because I want to remember how I experienced and ‘discovered’ it.  Feel free not to read :-)

As blogged earlier when in London I visited Tate Modern (or should that be ‘The Tate Modern’?) and being somewhat underwhelmed by both its collection and exhibitions that I saw.  As you work your way around the exhibition spaces the lobby areas on each floor overlook the massive ‘Turbine Hall’ (this building was originally a power station) and to be honest I had always thought that this was much more part of the Tate Modern – but by approach the building from the Millennium Bridge and entering through some anonymous doors there is no obvious way to go into the Turbine hall.

Anyway, I had looked out and down to the Turbine Hall a few times and couldn’t really see anything to go look at.  One end was just the gradually sloping floor from the entrance and at the other was this big steel box. Then that I figured out that this huge steel structure was in fact ‘art’ !

It was big! To quote Douglas Adams “Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean…” It reminded me of way back when I worked in a Clyde Shipyard because it is simply an unadorned large steel box.  “Hovering somewhere between sculpture and architecture, on 2 meter stilts, it stands 13 meters high and 30 meters long.” (the web site seems reluctant to say how wide it is )

So, it is a big steel box to look at and walk under, but as you walk to the far end (nearest the back wall of the Turbine Hall) the box is in fact open and has a ramp to walk up and enter the pitch black box – if you dare.

There were a few people inside when I walked up the ramp, an older couple a few meters inside and someone else further in that I didn’t know about yet.  I stood at the top of the ramp looking into the deepest darkest dark darkness I’ve ever seen while the couple to my left gave up and turned around saying “that’s far enough, I don’t like it” and as they turned “oh, it looks better this way, when you’re looking out”.  I gradually walked further in, savouring the atmosphere and immediately started to “get it”.

As a piece of ‘art’ to look at this big metal box could talk of scale, strength, power, etc. but that really isn’t much.  This is all about the experience and emotional reaction you get as you walk into this complete darkness and it was an experience that blew my mind!  You are walking forward in darkness, towards more darkness and your senses begin to disappear.  The inside is covered with some kind of thick fabric so you aren’t walking on steel – no loud footsteps.  I clapped my hands to test the acoustics and very little echo, the sound was extremely dampened which seemed to contradict the space.  Darkness, no sound, nothing to taste, smell or touch – so other than the knowledge that you were walking and the feel of your own weight on your feet you are removed from all senses and have no point of reference for whether you are moving or not.

Out of the blackens I saw a guy making his way back out and by then there were more people coming in behind.  I recon I was about three quarters of the way in at that point when I looked back for the first time – another totally alien and unique experience!  The entrance is one whole side of the structure but with the perspective of where I was this huge gap appeared to be far away, and all that was outside was the structural end wall of the gallery itself. Silhouetted against this was the strange site of people in ones or twos making there way in or out of the structure, all uncertainly and with some trepidation – many not making it far in at all.

I managed to get all the way to the end wall to find it covered in the fabric (I think), like the floor, which is when I figured that was why the sound was muffled.  I walked along the wall for a while running my hand against it then started to make my way back out.

The think I experienced this thing in exactly the right way by not knowing anything about it and having no expectations.  It was an utterly strange and unique experience that was for me all about how you felt entering this space and being engulfed by –nothing-

Since (IMHO) art is about the viewer’s reaction rather than the item itself, this really is art.

More about “How It Is”

Guest Blog on Musicademy site

November 2, 2009

screengrabI’m a guest blogger on the Musicademy site today.

Musicademy provides training resources for worship musicians, worship leaders and churches.  Among the resources are instructional DVDs and recently I’ve been trying to learn Bass guitar using their Beginners Worship Bass DVD.  It has been slow going because of my irregular practice, complete lack of any background in music and not really liking worship music much, but I will persevere.

Anyway, it is a privilege to blog for them about my passion, the integration of video in worship. If you read it, do let me know what you think.

Radiance 07 – Glasgow Festival of Light

November 25, 2007

Radiance is part of Glasgow’s “Winterfest” (not sure how I feel about Winterfest – seems to gloss over Christmas too much but at least it pulls great events like this). Over the course of this weekend unique lighting, video and audio-visual displays were installed in various places through the city center -well Merchant City area really

Radiance07-1Radiance07-2  Radiance07-3



Rottenrow Gardens and some of the buildings of Strathclyde University were lit in interesting ways.  The low level lights shining on paths and plants picked out architectural details and changed the way the space was used.  In fact one of the delights about wandering around the city on a dark cold evening looking at all this visual art was the number of other people doing the same thing which made for a strangely mellow, but fun sense of community.

Some buildings were lit to show their architectural detail – Ramshorn was bathed in slowly changing LED lighting.  Other placed had AV displays set up.

The third photo shows what was described as ‘social sculpture, a performance and a video screening.  I didn’t think much of the actual video (or accompanying audio) but the setting was incredible – located in a dodgy back alley that I’ve never noticed before and certainly wouldn’t have ventured up at any other time of day or night other than the fact that a massive screen was hung between the buildings to create this spectacle.

The big show-case area seemed to be Glasgow Cathedral where the scale of the building was used very well to project onto two sides to match an audio track.  It was captivating, but I’m not sure if there was supposed to be a narrative that I missed.

There wasn’t time to go around everything and some pieces were small scale, stand alone others required participation.  My favorite was three massive led lightboxes set up in John Street between the City Chambers building called Triptych.  This was totally interactive in that if people simply stood and looked at the lights they gradually faded and stopped doing anything, but as people moved around in front of them, fast or slow, close or not-so – simply the more attention that is paid to these large boxes of light the more they do.  The sound system backing all this up as good too -heavy loud bass mostly, very good.

Painting Bruce

June 11, 2007

youtube link