Theatre review: Aladdin and the Twankeys @ York Theatre Royal

Published by theartsdesk

VIDEO: Aladdin and the Twankeys trailer

The best bit was the Wagon Wheels. Frisbeed, they were, towards the audience's outstretched arms and expectant faces, with the precision of a man who's been doing it for the past 35 years. With the assurance of a cult hero whose presence continues to dominate the York pantomime tradition.

They love Berwick Kaler here (seriously, how many local celebrities have much-admired ice sculptures of themselves in their city centre?) and the affection is mutual. "This isn't a pantomime, it's a family reunion!" declared the writer, co-director and indisputable star of Aladdin and the Twankeys, which is, remarkably, his fifth version of the classic tale, following 2005's The Lad Aladdin and previous productions in 1997, 1989 and 1981. As Britain's longest-serving pantomime dame had earlier quipped to a crowd member who claimed to have attended his shows for the past decade: "Oh, a newcomer, are you?"

Joining Kaler for this memorable festive knees-up were regular favourites Martin Barrass — who has spent much of 2013 appearing in the West End production of One Man, Two Guvnors — in the dual role of Wisehopper and Mankee, Suzy Cooper as Princess Peke-a-Boo, Sian Howard as the Empress of China, AJ Powell as the Genie of the Bling, Jonathan Race as the villainous Abanazer, and Canadian actor Alexander Braatz in the title role of Aladdin.

The two golden rules of pantomime — daftness and naffness — were impeccably observed, along with the cheeky puns and in-jokes that had our hands red-raw from all the clapping. There were, however, a few unexpected breaks with tradition. For starters, there was actually a plot, in which Abanazar seeks out China's oldest man to guide him to Aladdin, the Chosen One, whom he believes will lead him to untold riches - before discovering that Aladdin has an identical twin brother (who looks nothing like him), while the Genie of the Bling keeps knocking himself out and waking up thinking he's someone else. OK, a plot-ish.

Visually stunning costumes and surreal, anarchic sets were far, far too good, and several video montages of the cast's comical musical escapades around York made this certainly the first multimedia pantomime I'd ever seen. Plus, a camp-as-you-like cameo by Christopher Biggins — currently gracing Hull New Theatre's stage in Jack and the Beanstalk — simply cannot go without mention.

I suspect that if members of the audience were granted one wish, they wouldn't have changed a single aspect of this show. (In any case, I think I may have used mine to make myself invisible when Kaler began scouring the audience for a "volunteer".)

After one final sing-song, Kaler bidded his spirited followers farewell. "See you all next year!" he said, and they will — for this veteran entertainer's camaraderie with the cast, audience, venue and city adds an extra dimension to this seasonal treat of all seasonal treats. Across the country right now, homesick minor celebrities sit in dressing rooms, crossing dates off their performance calendars. Not here, not ever.


Aladdin and the Twankeys continues until 1 February 2014


Click here for more Theatre

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: The April Maze by
the April Maze

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Don't Let the Bastards Bring You Down -
the April Maze

Folk music is most enjoyable when you don’t have to close your eyes to imagine the knitwear, open fires and frosted windowpanes of winter that its rhythms evoke.

So with temperatures dropping below freezing as we head into the festive season, the arrival of the April Maze on our shores is above all timely.

The Melbourne duo’s debut European release – a self-titled mish-mash of tracks from their first two albums that were reserved for ears Down Under – is a moreish introduction to their acoustic delights.

From every banjo’s pluck and cello’s hum, to each skilfully balanced harmony and stirring lyrical turn, there’s an impressive range to this strong body of work. You sense there’s more to come from this most promising of husband-and-wife teams.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


#foundfiction – The Publishing Experiment That Connects with Readers Around the World

#foundfiction is a publishing experiment that aims to circulate new writing in public spaces around the world. At bus stops, on trains, in parks, bookshops and art galleries, it's been dropping short stories contained in envelopes marked READ ME – sort of like a message-in-a-bottle type of thing.

The idea behind the project is simple. When someone stumbles upon a piece of #foundfiction, they let people know by finding #foundfiction through the hashtag on Twitter or Facebook, and hopefully their day has been brightened. That’s it.

#foundfiction is not trying to compete with the big publishing houses or the ebooks market – it's trying to get through to readers by being in the right place at the right time.

It's keen to hear from any creative writers – emerging or established. They can send their material to fictionfound@gmail.com, and it will be printed and distributed for free. The project is purely about writing and reading. It’s all anonymous, so while the writers themselves won’t be getting exposure, their work will – and they can be safe in the knowledge that they’re getting a global, yet unsuspecting, readership.

#foundfiction is only a few months old, but it's already established a network of writers and distributors around the UK – and as far as the USA, Canada and Australia.

As for what the future holds, I'm not so sure. Perhaps it will extend its community across the world and potentially have pieces of #foundfiction translated into different languages, but who knows what’s around the corner? What it has is not a business model, but a quirky concept that can inspire people. If it ends up changing the world, it’ll be one envelope at a time.

#foundfiction on TwitterFacebook and Google Maps


Click here for more Culture

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter


Album review: Nation II Nation by
A Tribe Called Red

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: A Tribe Called Red - NDN Stakes
feat. Sitting Bear

There can’t be many other boats in sight as this trio of Canadian DJs navigate the unnervingly still waters between Aboriginal music and commercial dance.

While nobody can question the tremendous soul and energy behind the Native American drums, chants and wails that are the beating heart of each track on A Tribe Called Red’s second album Nation II Nation, their fusion with contemporary clubland’s beats and bleeps somehow fails to engage beyond a metaphorical level.

It’s not terrible; it simply lacks the cohesion and purpose to be considered truly innovative – as disrespectful as it seems to judge on a musical basis something that so proudly expresses a cultural identity.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


The Ego and the Eye

“The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates”

He recalled living in public housing not being all that bad – not the neighbor’s bloodshot stare between the gap in the garden fence.

He recalled not knowing the difference between having a mortgage and renting – not his family’s contempt for property TV shows.

He recalled being entertained by crappy comedies – not losing the remote in the duvet.

He recalled not being sure which things ran on gas and which on electricity – not his mother sobbing over the paper shredder.

He recalled thinking there wasn’t much point in getting insurance – not having designated pockets so he knew where things were.

He recalled not thinking twice about heating the house when he felt cold – not the condensation that stuck to the windows like warts.

He recalled being more dirty and sweaty, but not it not seeming to matter – not “No I haven’t showered. Have you?”

He recalled wearing odd socks a lot – not the smell.

He recalled thinking combat shorts and band T-shirts were a good combination – not the laughter he heard that day at the festival.

He recalled having an afro haircut – not stealing his sister’s straighteners.

He recalled thinking he had a beard – not buying black dye to make it more obvious.

He recalled believing everyone looked better with longer hair – not wearing hats in the summer.

He recalled not being able to tell how people’s noses are different – not his late uncle’s bent septum.

He recalled not caring what strangers thought of him – not waiting for the gang to disappear from the bottom of the street before he walked into town.

He recalled sitting around a couple of crappy disposable barbecues and overhearing a German accent, then a friend of his singing their national anthem and laughing – not the heated political debate afterwards.

He recalled dozens of people just hanging out together simply because there was nothing better to do and it was fun – not sometimes feeling like an easy target around other people.

He recalled buying eight beers for $5 and taking them up to that barn in the pitch black with people he cared about – not “I heard they put razor blades around here to scare us off.”

He recalled going wild with a disposable camera one afternoon, and generally not being able to document his experiences as easily as kids these days do – not losing it with people who struck stupid poses.

He recalled walking through a forest in the dark with his friends, and telling ghost stories to scare each other – not holding onto someone’s coat then pretending it was an accident.

He recalled no-one having any hang-ups about going camping – not the prank involving food and leaves.

He recalled going to Mass on Christmas Eve with some friends, just to piss off a few Christians – not catching the eye of his science tutor, who’d lost a son.

He recalled not really making a lot of money, but feeling good about himself because he had lots of friends he could see at any time – not really, really wanting money for menthol cigarettes.

He recalled walking home from a friend’s party, with the blue dawn reminding him that there was only a few hours before he’d have to get up for college, and smiling when he remembered that some people were still in bed – not crouching in the rain with sore eyes and sleeping skin.

He recalled staying up all night at parties in the summer – not the comedown shivers next to her.

He recalled having parties in his parents’ house and knowing people would throw up but just accepting that he’d have to clean up in the morning and that it would be OK – not the bathroom that flooded.

He recalled rushing to finish an essay so that he could make the bus leaving for the next town for a party – not his knee repeatedly colliding with the bagged bottles as he ran.

He recalled sticking photographs from parties and days out on his bedroom wall, knowing that they’d leave behind greasy stains – not the daily visual reminders of her.

He recalled falling in love with every new girl he met – not being embarrassed that each of this one girl’s loud sneezes sounded like she was trying to improve upon the last.

He recalled going sledging and drinking at the same time on a first date – not how the girl totally reminded him of her.

He recalled getting on just fine with ex-girlfriends – not sitting with her in the smoking room at work, frozen in fear and a bit of humiliation; silently bound by past, silently divided by present, as the clock’s tick was slow.

He recalled people his age from different towns coming to the bar his friends and he hung out in, because they’d heard it was a pretty fun place to be – not seeing a guy on the next table with sagging jowls, a receding hairline, and nervous mannerisms that were eerie embellishments of his own.

He recalled not understanding what calories were – not those weird red blotches on his face.

He recalled coming home from the bar and melting some cheese to put in a sandwich with some fried eggs – not waking up painfully full.

He recalled not having to remember to drink lots of water before going to bed after drinking alcohol – not sometimes peeing the bed.

He recalled not needing to buy decent alcohol to enjoy getting drunk in the bar – not bartender Stan, who was only nice because it was more effort to be mean.

He recalled sniffing poppers with friends one sunny afternoon – not the sudden headaches.

He recalled going to the bar and casually consuming alcohol prior to starting work on an evening – not the pool table’s sticky coin slots.

He recalled getting stoned on his lunch break before going back to finish his shift, and a customer asking him something like “Does this ‘orange juice with bits’ actually have bits in it?” and him having to flee down the next aisle to hide his adolescent giggles – not how the blurry unnatural light unsettled him.

He recalled his boss giving him an extra few shifts and then his boss being surprised to learn that he didn’t actually want to work that much – not regularly asking “Is there a bus that goes there?”

He recalled calling in sick for work while still at a party, with a fucking llama bleating in next door’s field – not the moment he’d started to get hangovers.

He recalled not being bothered about having a career and just wanting to devote himself to writing – not, in the end, listening to people rather than books.

He recalled having conversations with people’s cool mothers and fathers, who admired his spirit and determination – not the young woman who said “He keeps me out of trouble and off the streets!” while she held her baby son and a bag containing a plastic sword.

He recalled no-one really talking about jobs all that much – not a cashier saying “I’m always here,” and smiling, but not really.

He recalled quitting his weekend job and feeling fucking great – not that chat with his mother.

He recalled going to bed excited about tomorrow, and not really knowing a lot about anything, in the good old days, back when he had no worries in the world. With the nurse, his mother, his sister, and her at his side, he thought to himself “That was my best time. That was my best time.”


Click here for more Prose

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter


Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Why I Love TV's Trashiest and Happiest Show

Published by Sabotage Times

I’m a 27-year-old man. I like walks in the Cotswolds, oak furniture, and single malt whisky – particularly from the Islay region. My history degree is printed in Latin. I’ve read the complete works of Raymond Carver, and I don’t watch much TV – but by God, I love Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC.

The reality show follows the redneck Thompson family – child beauty pageant contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo”, stay-at-home Mama June, chalk-mining dad “Sugar Bear”, sisters Lauryn “Pumpkin”, Jessica “Chubbs”, Anna “Chickadee”, and her baby Kaitlyn, who was born with three thumbs.

Mountains of coupon-bought toilet rolls line the dining room walls of their crowded house in out-in-the-sticks McIntyre, Georgia. Freight trains pass loudly through the yard, and there’s an abundance of flesh-chewing gnats in the stuffy air. It’s as grim as life gets in America’s Dirty South – at least outside of the motels and trailer parks – but it doesn’t seem so bad, because their home is probably happier than yours.

The TV is always turned off, and there are no laptops or smart phones – so the kids make their own entertainment. This includes the Mystery Mouth challenge, which involves trying to guess the mixtures of food players are hiding in their gobs, and a farting game called Doorknob.

They cook together all the time. One of Mama June’s recipes is ‘sketti’ – spaghetti noodles topped with criminal heaps of butter and ketchup – and that old Southern favourite, pork and beans. There are mass gatherings, with “Poodle”, the homosexual brother of “Sugar Bear”, and, where budgets allow, family outings. Each moment of every day is enjoyed communally, and nothing fazes any of them – “it is what it is” being Mama June’s words to live by.

Yes it’s so very, very trashy, and yes it’s television, but theirs is a refreshing approach to a life in which they don’t have any more than they need, and there’s very little to worry about. Somehow their anti-American Dream seems more fun than the real thing.

So what can we learn from a bunch of good-for-nothing rednecks, with their high levels of cholesterol and often unintelligible patter? Quite a lot, as it turns out.


Click here for more Culture

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


The Former Sports Star

“Some people belong in school.”

The former sports star grinned annoyingly as he stood at the bar with his upper body wrapped in a pink shirt, the collar raised. His hair looked every hour that had passed since it was wet-combed, and his fingertips were all yellow from smoking. A cheap tattoo struggled to make its banal point over the acne scars on his neck. The former sports star laughed and spoke loudly with his two broad-shouldered buddies, who wore similar clothes. They pushed each other around playfully, spilling beer from the branded glasses they were holding, onto a floor peppered with their smudged footprints. Their shadows danced across the TV screen on the wall. It was noon. Long rectangles of sunlight moved gradually north-west across the bar's open-brick interior, as a man with a soul patch read a newspaper and a young couple ate brunch. A barmaid made a coffee machine hiss and splutter. Sting played on the radio.

The former sports star didn’t like it when his two buddies left him. He found himself drinking faster while he waited for them to return. The vermillion red of the former sports star's flushed face appeared at odds with eyes still wild from the previous night's chemicals. Beads of sweat made his temples shine. It was winter and the radiators had been going all day. He felt the couple eating brunch looking his way, and wondered whether his posture was questionable. After pretending to admire the generic canvas prints lining the walls, his gaze fell inevitably on the TV screen, which was showing football. It showed little else.

Between the ages of 11 and about 18, the former sports star played football at every competitive junior level. He’d captained teams in tournament finals, scored important goals, made rousing half-time speeches, and got pretty close to the summit of what a young footballer could achieve. Throughout the transcendental highs and lows, and the pervasive, harassing pressure from his coaches, the whole sporting experience had conditioned him to believe that the only ability absolutely necessary in a person was the ability to deal effectively with abuse and criticism. This explained why he'd picked on weaker kids back in school. It wasn’t about demonstrating his authority – it was about encouraging them to stand up for themselves, and he became offended when people like Stone wouldn't. He did stuff to Stone that neither of them told anyone about, for opposite reasons.

Even in his best years, there were times when the former sports star would be sat in Geography, looking out over the dark trees, the wind and the rain, despairing as he remembered that he had morning practice in an hour. His life changed when he met Kate. With every confidence he was doing the right thing, he sacrificed the seven years of training and a more-or-less-guaranteed career for that long, perfect summer when neither of them had any worries in the world. They became each other's first times. They made plans for the future. She went to university and got into books, while he got a job and saved. He went to visit her a couple months later, when she'd started calling herself Rice. When she kissed differently. When it was all over. He blamed her for changing, and himself for not. It was around then that he began needing a strong drink after every shift at work.

The former sports star watched the TV screen with a clenched jaw. His two buddies were unconscious upstairs. The couple eating brunch were still looking at him.

“Some people just belong in school...” Stone said again to Rice, wiping his mouth with a napkin.


Click here for more Prose

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Theatre review: Blood and Chocolate @ York Theatre Royal (well, sort of)

Published by theartsdesk

VIDEO: Blood and Chocolate trailer

Never before has “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” been a more fitting opening gambit. This sprawling wartime spectacle knew few bounds as it marched across York’s cobbled streets for an evening that produced watery eyes, open mouths and, admittedly, tired legs.

Treading the ever-narrowing waters between theatre and cinema was a travelling audience that followed the action through the city centre while listening on headphones. From the starting point in Exhibition Square, where young lad George (played by Luke Adamson) and his sweetheart Maisie (Edith Kirkwood) were introduced in a flickering projection on the neo-classical De Grey Rooms building, to the stirring finish at Clifford’s Tower – every minute beggared belief.

This innovative collaboration between York Theatre Royal, Pilot Theatre and Slung Low builds on the concept of Mapping the City – a smaller-scale theatrical experiment that took place around Hull as part of the Cultural Olympiad – and of course last year’s remarkable outdoor Mystery Plays in the York Museum Gardens.

Blood and Chocolate’s cast of 180, boosted by the 600-odd volunteers, was what it took to make Anna Gooch’s mobile set as epic as Olivier Award-winner Mike Kenny’s script, which examines the First World War’s transformative effects on some of York’s residents.

“There’s nowt to worry about,” says George, as, preparing to join the front line in 1914, he tries to reassure his mother (Lisa Howard) about his safety. With the conflict looking like it will continue past Christmas, the Lord Mayor of York decides to send a tin of Rowntree’s chocolate to every serving soldier from the city. “It smells jus’ like ‘ome,” George giddily tells another Tommy, opening his tasty treat while bombs explode on distant battlefields.

Maisie, meanwhile, has found work in the chocolate factory, and waits for George to return home. And waits. But when he does, shell-shock prevents him from functioning in society. “I imagined myself taking care of his bairns on a weekend,” says George’s mother between teary gasps. “We’ll have to think of something else to do with the rest of our lives.”

Couples and families huddled closer in those final moments – and not entirely because it was 9.30pm on an October night. The past-present juxtaposition on the city-wide stage made this tale of human love, loss, strength and weakness in times of war particularly heart-wrenching.

It was touching just seeing these wartime friends, lovers and dreamers lining the same streets as their bemused real-life counterparts who, standing by at cashpoints and outside pubs, might easily have been part of the lost generation themselves. (Although, on the night, they might have been forgiven for confusing some of the actors for Freshers in fancy dress.)

The marketing buzzwords “theatrical experience” are a thousand miles from summing up the sheer impact of Blood and Chocolate, which, quite simply, needs to be seen to be believed.


Blood and Chocolate continues until 20 October.
All performances are now sold out.


Click here for more Theatre

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: Repent Replenish Repeat by Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip and Flux Pavilion - Gold Teeth (official music video)

Scroobius Pip is a poet capable of silencing arena crowds with his spellbinding rhymes – so why does he choose such unflattering musical wallpaper?

The poignant stories, tragic characters and blunt pieces of advice behind his brilliant spoken-word passages are damaged, if not completely massacred, by the half-baked electronic beats and bleeps of Essex buddy Dan le Sac on the duo’s third album Repent Replenish Repeat.

Terminal and Porter are the tracks performing the rescue act here, and it’s no coincidence that they’re the closest it gets to acapella.

New single Gold Teeth sums up the truly rotten brand of hip-hop that blights 70 per cent of the record – which serves as an ugly introduction to Pip’s beautiful prose, but nothing more.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: MGMT by MGMT

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: MGMT - Your Life Is a Lie (official music video)

On this evidence, psychedelic rock group MGMT have shunned anthemic synth-pop once and for all.

Drenching echoes and foggy vocals dominate their self-titled third offering, which – by turns euphoric, reflective, downbeat, and with unexpected pace changes in each song – follows the haphazard trail left by its predecessor Congratulations.

If this record was cut up and arranged in order of rhythm, at some point there would be a marked shift in tone, where the music stops sounding like the inside of a child’s head after three lemonades at his 5th birthday party, to being the musical equivalent of being drunk at a funeral.

The thing about musicians’ bands is that they demand your full attention. And yet the necessary time spent with this album, in its deliciously surreal world, is absolutely rewarded.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Music preview: Red Hot Chilli Pipers @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Friday 6 October, 7pm, O2 ABC, Glasgow. £22.50 Tel: 0141 332 2232. www.o2abcglasgow.co.uk

VIDEO: Red Hot Chilli Pipers live in Dunoon, March 2008

With a truckload of awards, albums and world tours under their belts, Red Hot Chili Peppers are coming to Glasgow – and there ain't nothing that can stop them.

That's right – rock titans Kiedis, Flea, Smith and Klinghoffer (Frusciante's replacement) make their Sauchiehall Street debuts at O2 ABC this Friday, so you'd better make sure...

Hold on a second. Pass me that press release, and my glasses.

OK, my bad, it's Scotland's most famous bagpipers coming to town, not one of America's greatest rock bands. Yet despite the fact that everything I've just told you is absolutely false, based on a simple misreading, you should still go.

Having released four albums, the latest of which unbelievably reached Number Two in the US chart, these lads have demonstrated they're way more than just a novelty act.

Indeed, since forming in 2002, the group have brought "bagrock" – their trademark fusion of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary anthems – to millions of fans worldwide. Notable covers include Queen's We Will Rock You and Clocks by Coldplay, and there’s something for everyone in their eclectic setlist.

Unfortunately I won’t be going, as I'm away in Cumbernauld this weekend. What’s that now? Let’s have another read of that text… oh, right. I actually am away in Cumbernauld this weekend. Great.


Click here for more Music

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook

Album review: Tales of Us by Goldfrapp

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Goldfrapp - Drew (official music video)

Britain's favourite electronic music duo are back on track following a panicked retreat into their 80s synth-pop comfort zone on 2010’s disappointing Head First.

Sixth album Tales of Us is their most intimate release to date – a collection of intense ballads brought to life by acoustic riffs and cinematic strings, building on the folky charms of 2008’s Seventh Tree.

What the record lacks in anthemic power it possesses in astounding lyrical breadth, with each song an evocative character sketch – Ulla, Simone and new single Drew among the highlights.

And the softly whispered vocals for which the eponymous singer is latterly known almost make you forget her gyrating over theremins on stage a few years ago. Almost.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: TEN by Toolroom Records

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Toolroom Ten: Launching Toolroom Records

Rags-to-riches house label Toolroom Records are celebrating their 10th birthday – and they’re not the only ones at the party.

A triple CD ‘greatest hits’ collection features some of co-founder Mark Knight’s best work, including his groundbreaking remixes of Florence and the Machine’s You’ve Got the Love and Laurent Garnier’s The Man with the Red Face, as well as an array of jaw-clenching beats and bleeps by the likes of Faithless, Todd Terry and Digitalism.

To some it’ll be just another summer dance music compilation, but make no mistake – Ten demonstrates that Toolroom’s hands are among the safest in the realm of commercial house.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


The Scene Reeked of a French Romance, But without the Cameras or Background Music It Wasn’t the Same

We fell into an embrace and caught our breaths. I pushed my face a little further into the pillow and the adrenaline drained away, leaving behind a trace of something that wasn’t quite melancholy. Sweat cooled and dried on our entangled bodies. Her chest rose and fell. Beneath my left arm, her pulse fluttered. I silently counted the beats.

I realised that every bodily twitch signified our feelings towards each other. The desire to retain personal space, or the mutual comfort of contact. I thought about this after my toes stroked hers under the sheets. Did she wonder what I was thinking? Did I care?

The giggles and grins in the club. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The back seat of the taxi. It was supposed to feel empty. The drunken stumble through the front door. It was supposed to feel like nothing. The lamp knocked from the table. It was supposed to be punishing. What had we done? What had happened here? What was happening now? And what did it mean? I shut my eyes tightly, my head buried deeper in the pillow, and grimaced. I wanted to be asleep. I was already kind of pretending.

My arm brushed her pale ribbed skin and fell onto the crumpled bedsheets when she sat up and fumbled around for something, making the bed’s springs squeak. She unzipped her bag and got out of bed. Keys jangled. What was she doing? Was she leaving? I could feel her, still.

I took my head away from the pillow and looked at her. A rolled cigarette hung from her mouth as she pulled on her sweater and climbed into her jeans. Her blue Eastern European eyes glimmered like icy jewels. Why wasn’t she looking at me?

The scene reeked of a French romance, but without the cameras or background music it wasn’t the same. The room was big and quiet.

“Please,” I said.

She tied back her hair and picked up her jacket from the floor.

“Just stay, won’t you? Stay the night. Please.”

I covered myself with the duvet, realising that most of my body had been exposed for a while. She wasn’t looking at me anyway.

“Can’t stay,” she said.

Buckling her bag, she walked across to the bedroom door and opened it.

“Work in morning,” she said, and left.

I stayed up until it got light, watching the curtains quiver in the breeze and recalling the sound of her fading footsteps.


Click here for more Prose

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Edinburgh Festival | Theatre preview: Whatever Gets You Through the Night @ The Queens Hall

Published by METRO

Until 25 August, 7.30pm/10.30pm, £13.50-16.50, The Queen’s Hall (V72), Edinburgh.
Tel: 0131 668 2019. www.thequeenshall.net

VIDEO: Whatever Gets You Through The Night: Edinburgh Fringe 2013 (Trailer 3)

Worrying about the future. Reading books abysmally slowly. Subconsciously browsing the social profiles of people I never liked or barely knew at school. Dreaming about being in soap operas. Googling abstract nouns. Going to the bathroom every once in a while. Trust me – these days, what I get up to past my bedtime is about as uninteresting to you as sex is to pandas.

But there are other people with lives more remarkable than mine whose activities in the wee hours are the very focus of Whatever Gets You Through the Night – a multi-disciplinary live event taking place at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall this week.

Part of the 2013 Made in Scotland showcase, this inspired production incorporates music, theatre, cabaret and circus as it shines a spotlight on the country during its most vulnerable and revealing time – between midnight and 4am.

“We are really excited to be bringing Whatever Gets You Through The Night to the Fringe,” said writer and director Cora Bissett, who by the way is no stranger to festival success, having scooped every major award in 2010 with her sex-trafficking drama Roadkill.

She added: “It showcases the diversity and breadth of writing and songwriting talent across Scotland, as well as incredible acting, dancing and circus skills – all woven together into one big, gorgeous, complex, funny, touching tapestry.”

90 minutes is all it takes to portray the fantastic contrasts of this fair land in bedazzling fashion.

A heartfelt goodbye on the shores of Loch Lomond, a love affair between two people who’ve only met on Skype, a stoner going through a fit of paranoia, a man searching for a lover in the ‘palace of light’ and revellers getting their hands on treasured trays of chips and cheese are among the late-night tales told by a selection of lost souls, party animals and dreamers in this devilishly funny yet intensely moving spectacle.

“It's a show which is a huge sum of many parts, and reveals Scotland in its many different lights and characters,” said Bissett.

Featuring specially commissioned works by 'post-electro' trio Errors, theatre maker Kieran Hurley, writer Alan Bissett and many others, there are also live performances by the likes of vocalist Wounded Knee, beat-boxer Bigg Taj and alternative rockers Swimmer One.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night was a sell-out sensation when it ran at The Arches in Glasgow back in June, and it’s bound to become a highlight of what’s remaining of the Fringe (how quickly has this month gone?) before it goes on a nationwide tour.

Therefore, it’s your duty to catch this masterpiece while it’s on your doorstep.


Click here for more Theatre

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


In Howl Woods

Everything smelled of grass. The bottom of her sleeping bag, her hair, all of her clothes, even the stuff she hadn’t unpacked. It was everywhere. At least twice in the night she’d climbed over girls’ bodies on her way to the outside toilet, and had awoken that morning with her eyes crusty and an ache in her neck and left shoulder. She brushed down her combat shorts and stood up in the tent’s doorway. And stretched. Imitating the nonchalance of the others, whom she supposed probably felt similar discomfort, she coped.

The Brownies had spent their first night in Howl Woods. Daisy was in the Fox Group with the likes of Hannah Crosby and Georgina Matlock, who had been appointed leaders on account of being older. Daisy knew they’d been going through her stuff, but she’d said nothing. She was too young to have her complaints taken seriously.

Wiping her nose on her yellow jumper, she stood with the other girls as they waited for Brown Owl to fasten the flag to the pole and begin the morning meeting. Overgrown shrubs marked the end of the field, and that’s where tents were. They were small – both from a distance, and considering the number of other girls who’d slept together inside them. Daisy’s was second from the left. From her place in the circle, she saw that its entrance hadn’t been closed properly. A waterproof coat lay on the damp, trampled turf just outside the doorway, fluttering against the old white canvas flap. She thought of her dear grandma, who tended to spend the end-of-summer weeks casually swatting flies and humming songs while the radio in the corner of her kitchen played soft voices. The smell of baking, the cat’s curiosity. Daisy just wanted to sit there with her grandma, eat her cupcakes and talk about school. She didn’t want to be in Howl Woods with mean people. The coat was her grandma’s.

The wind side-parted Daisy’s hair as Brown Owl barked announcements. Two supervisors shared what was clearly an adult joke, their cold laughter making them appear less approachable. One of them tied her streaky blonde hair back tight and looked Daisy right in the eye.

Daisy straightened her posture so she wouldn’t be picked on. Over the other side of the circle she saw Mary and Annie whispering and smiling, and tried to make eye contact with them so they’d feel like she was also in on whatever they were in on.

“After breakfast you’ll be going orienteering in your groups,” Brown Owl said. “So I hope you’ve already washed.”

Daisy hadn’t. Behind her, Hannah’s mother pulled up her blue trousers upon exiting the toilet tent. The sun broke through the thin clouds, lighting up the field. Daisy stood up straighter.

Brown Owl smirked. “In these conditions, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all,” she said. “It’s a perfect day.”

The sun disappeared and the wind returned before Brown Owl finished her sentence. Mary looked over at Daisy and smiled. They lost eye contact when Annie said something to Mary, and in that moment, Daisy understood that Mary didn’t know how unhappy she was to be there. She wished Mary and Annie hadn’t been so lucky as to be placed in the same tent. She wanted Brown Owl to pick on them for talking. Daisy recalled how, whenever the three of them walked home from school, Mary and Annie walked together, in front of her, down the narrow bit of the path that wasn’t wide enough to fit three people. Every afternoon. Like it was a given. It was never the other way around. She recalled one time Mary and Annie walked home without her after she had to stay behind in French. They hadn’t even waited five minutes for her. She recalled how Mary and Annie shared a desk in Maths, which also went unquestioned. She wanted these things to change when they got back.

Brown Owl said there was one more matter that needed to be raised with the group that morning.

“I think someone misplaced something last night or this morning,” Brown Owl said.

Rotating so that everyone could see, Brown Owl presented a pair of knickers.

“Does anyone recognise these?” she said.

A few girls laughed. No one confessed to owning them. The supervisors scanned the circle for signs of guilt, but everyone looked puzzled. Squinting, Daisy saw the knickers were striped red. She thought that they looked like hers, before it dawned on her that they were hers. Fear spread through her small body, like some disease.

“Nobody?” Brown Owl said. “At all? Come on.”

Silence fell over the circle. The wind stopped. The sun illuminated Daisy’s blushes when it came out again.

“We can’t start the day until somebody steps forward. Can the owner of these please stop wasting our time,” Brown Owl said.

Daisy realised that Hannah and Georgina must have gone through her stuff. She kept all her dirty underwear in a plastic bag, which they must have found in the side pocket.

“It must be one of you.” Brown Owl said. “Come on.”

She turned the knickers inside out, revealing a dirty mark on the gusset.

“Oh my god,” said Hannah, covering her mouth.

Mary looked at Daisy. She knew. Most of the circle adopted various expressions of revulsion. The two supervisors snorted. Brown Owl paraded the knickers around the middle of the circle, and Daisy tried to react like the other girls, feigning disgust and shaking her head. She willed the moment to pass. She could feel that Annie was staring at her.

Brown Owl stopped to examine the knickers. Brown Owl fingered the label, and then turned to the group.

“Daisy Meredith,” she said above all the sickened cries, holding the knickers aloft. “Thank goodness your mother wrote your name on the label.”

Some time later, way after Brownies, Mary, and Howl Woods, Daisy said: “I spent the rest of that weekend in the tent, and cried for about a month when I got home. Honestly!”

The guy next to her smiled vacantly. It was the wrong type of smile, she felt, for that particular moment.

“It was awful. I’d brought this photo of my family with me to camp. I cuddled it every night in that tent.” Daisy went on.

He laughed. There was more to it, but she couldn’t find the words, and he wasn’t really listening. After a while, a different guy got up off the sofa and asked if anyone wanted any snacks from the shop, and that was that.


Click here for more Prose

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Edinburgh Festival | A Laughing Matter @ theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Published by METRO

Until 10 August, 5pm (not 4 Aug),  £6 (£4.50 concessions), theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (V53), Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 510 2384. www.thespaceuk.com

I used to spend a lot of time considering what my deaf father isn’t able to do. He’ll never know what my voice sounds like, for instance, or how a Scottish accent differs from an English one. He’ll never hear birdsong float in through the kitchen window while his morning cuppa brews. He’ll never be moved to tears by a piece of music.

These days, I try to focus on what he enjoys to the full – and value the things we can do together. Thanks to Hush Theatre’s A Laughing Matter, this now includes going to the Edinburgh Festival.

“The nature of A Laughing Matter is a comic performance which delivers a near-comparable experience for the deaf and able-hearing,” said actor Lewis Gadsdon.

Taking place at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall until 10th August, the show explores the art of the comedy double act. Tickets start at just £4.50, for which you’ll be lucky to get two lattes in some parts of town this month.

“We use clowning techniques with a twist and squeeze of classic silent comedians such as Chaplin, Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy,” Gadsdon added.

“We’re intrigued to bring this production to the Fringe as we’ve genuinely never seen anything like it before. We can’t wait for the audience’s reactions and feedback.”

So it looks like me and my old man’s first Fringe experience together is just around the corner – will you be joining us?


Click here for more Comedy

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - The Official Movie Soundtrack

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - Official Trailer

The soundtrack to British comedy of the year Alpha Papa may well have been torrented from the North Norfolk Digital archives, so closely it resembles the questionable musical preferences of its hero Alan Partridge.

In other words, it’s packed with tracks you don’t want to be heard singing while you’ve got your headphones on.

Alongside big hits by Chicago, Bryan Ferry and the Human League are the iconic theme tunes from Ski Sunday and Black Beauty, as well as a host of obscure one-hit wonders and soft-rock novelties.

Composer Philip Glass, producer Calvin Harris and house DJ Jakob Liedholm provide exceptions to the rule, but make no mistake – this record is a shameless celebration of terrible dad-rock.

A tongue-in-cheek release, it was never quite going to hit the back of the net. It's more Longstanton Spice Museum than Jurassic Park.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Preview: Vintage Glasgow

Published by Metro

Friday 26 & Saturday 27 June, various times, prices and venues, Merchant City, Glasgow. www.merchantcityfestival.com

VIDEO: Vintage Glasgow promo video
(including Wayne Hemingway interview)

You know what? We Brits are cool. The Roaring Twenties, the Flying Forties, the Swinging Sixties, you name it – we’ve played a role in all of the significant cultural movements that have taken the world by storm, generation after generation.

Just ask fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, who is bringing his acclaimed Vintage event to Glasgow – and Scotland – for the very first time this weekend.

Part of the Merchant City Festival, this two-day bonanza will take over Candleriggs, the Old Fruitmarket and City Hall as it revisits the music, fashion, film, art and design of seven iconic decades from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Among the many highlights is the opulent Charleston Brunch, which – in the year of Baz Luhrmann’s box-office triumph The Great Gatsby – is bound to be a hit, as guys in dickie bows and gals in flapper dresses learn the dance while gorging over the most decadent 1920s cuisine.

Then there’s the Soul Casino – a vibrant musical celebration of 1960s Northern Soul, the soul fusions and disco of the 70s, the jazz-funk and boogie of the 80s, and all the fun in between.

And let’s not forget the many free events on offer. The Vintage Marketplace, featuring hands-on creative workshops, hair and beauty salons, and more than 30 stalls, will cost you diddly squat – as will the chance to watch some classic movies, including The 39 Steps and Bugsy Malone, on the big screen.

See, high fashion does exist outside the bubbles of London, Paris and New York. As Vintage Glasgow demonstrates, it’s very much in the fabric of how this beautiful city expresses itself – and if that’s not enough to persuade you into town this weekend, especially with the weather on our side, then I really don’t know what is.


Click here for more Fashion

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


The Wind and Other Things

The train collapsed at the station with its evening clockwork. Paul hit the button and the doors slid open. He climbed off the carriage and onto the platform, carrying a sports bag that’s buckle creaked with his every stride. Minding his step on the icy outdoor surface, he kept his head down. It was cold. Paul watched the rear lights of the departing train get eaten up by fog as he fiddled with the platform gate’s latch, which was proving difficult to unlock through his winter gloves. Puffs of steam fell from his mouth and nose as he grunted and sighed with exertion. Up ahead, the road into town was invisible beyond the wet patches that glistened in the bleary spotlights emanating from the inside of the station pub. Everything else in front of Paul was very black and still.

Hearing footsteps behind him, he turned around and saw a woman’s nervous smile. Above her lips and nose, which the shadows flattered, she wore a beret. Paul noticed how her slim-fitting red trousers disappeared into her black boots, and her ears, of a paler red, were already sore. She was Vivian from work.

They mumbled their greetings. As they took off down the road, neither was entirely sure they wanted the other to be there. My lips are numb, said Paul.

Vivian laughed. She said she hoped the poor conditions would make the journey a little more exciting than usual. Together they were swallowed by the black.

I would lend you my coat, but… said Paul.

Vivian told him not to worry, accidentally bumping into his side and quickly apologising. She began to feel reassured that he was right there walking next to her, knowing she’d be terrified making the journey alone. The clip-clops of her heels were slightly faster than the thuds of his boots, as they tried to judge the path’s twists and turns – her by instinct, him by experience. Vivian felt like she was walking inside a giant coffin.

Do you often get this train back? she asked Paul. I don’t usually see you down here.

Every week, said Paul.

My boyfriend used to drive me back, but, well, he doesn’t anymore, Vivian said after a while. She inhaled sharply and coughed – the chilly air too harsh for her lungs.

He lost his car about a month ago, she said. I got in at a different time last week, but I think I’ll get this service from now on.

Lost his car? asked Paul. How?

Yeah, not actually lost it, just had it taken off him. He’s an idiot, said Vivian, again bumping into Paul, and again apologising.

It’s okay, he said.

A passing car’s headlights illuminated the distant but menacing silhouettes of a stranger further down the path.

How sinister does that look? said Paul.

They heard gasps of breath getting louder and closer, and sensed someone was running toward them.

Watch out, mate, said Paul. Vivian said hello at the same time. The whites of the jogger’s startled eyes sparkled momentarily before them, then he dodged past quickly and carried on up towards the station, saying nothing.

This is unreal, she said, shaken, adding that they would usually be able to see the streetlights that lined the road.

I wonder what else is out here that we can’t see, said Paul. I’ve seen foxes around here, he added. They feed on the roadkill and whatever they can wrestle from people’s shopping bags.

You’d better not be trying to scare me, said Vivian, before she tripped on something and almost fell over.

Sorry, he chuckled. Are you alright? Paul held Vivian as she regained her balance. She released her grip on his sides, and he stepped on an object on the grass underfoot. It felt like a tree branch.

She nodded, which of course he couldn’t see. And so they went on, the buckle on Paul’s bag still creaking. Looking across to his right, Paul tried to mentally assemble the skyline he knew was there but couldn’t see. Fields of long grass and tilled earth, a power station, telegraph poles, in a great patchwork, for miles and miles. The cold breeze beat down on his left cheek.

You know I said my boyfriend lost his car? Vivian said.

Paul said yes.

Vivian paused for a few moments. She narrowly avoided a road sign’s pole on her left.

Well, he didn’t. I don’t actually have a boyfriend any more. We broke up three weeks ago.

Oh, said Paul. I see, I’m sorry.

I don’t know why I made that up, she said. It’s just everything’s changing. But sorry, I should have been honest with you.

Paul said that she shouldn’t feel bad about it, that he understood. He felt obliged to tell Vivian about his fiancée. How she left him suddenly for a mutual friend – something he initially took well, but eventually needed to take six months off work because of. He talked about the stress and the drinking, and the thing that helped him turn a corner – a poem he wrote about her, which he later burned.

He recited the poem to Vivian. It wasn’t long.

I’m amazed I still remember it, said Paul. That was three years ago. He smiled and shook his head.

Sorry, that was unnecessary, he said, though he felt better for sharing it.

No, she said, her voice breaking. She was relieved Paul couldn’t see the water filling her eyes. She hoped her tears wouldn’t freeze. That’s sad, she added. But beautiful, thanks.

Vivian’s side brushed Paul’s, then she grabbed his arm. They both felt much warmer. He was relieved she couldn’t see his blushes. A glossy road sign indicated they were approaching the town centre, and that their journey through the black was nearly over. Soon it’s not going to be like we’re talking on the phone to each other, she said. It feels like a long time since I saw your face.

You’ve not missed much, said Paul.

They came through the fog, and Paul looked at Vivian. He saw how the orange of the sodium streetlights glowed on her silky skin, then he noticed something else.

Vivian, where’s your hat? he said.

I don’t know, she said, feeling her scalp. It must have come off when I tripped back there.

You’d think you’d have noticed with it being so cold, said Paul. Shall we go back for it?

Do you really think we’ll be able to find it? said Vivian. He shared her pessimism. Some fox has probably taken off with it by now, she added. They both smiled, and looked into each other’s eyes, watery from the wind and other things.

Well that was an experience, said Paul, standing at the entrance to an apartment building. The light in its foyer flickered on, sensing his presence. I guess I’ll see you around at work.

Sure, Vivian said. She beamed. He wondered whether he should hug her. Turning back towards the building, he reluctantly decided not to. They hadn’t known each other long.

Take it easy, he said.

Let me know if you find my hat, she said.

He said he would.

The key found its way into the lock. Paul yanked the door open and slipped inside, removing his gloves. He couldn’t stop thinking of Vivian. He sensed an opportunity was being missed, and every upward step he took felt like it was in the wrong direction.

He thought about going back for her. For the first time in years, he’d shared a moment with another person that needed to be ended with a kiss. Yet he remained stranded on the staircase, moving neither up nor down, as the moment passed away from him and further through time. Running back out there in the freezing cold, crying her name, was a scene that belonged in a film, he thought. He wondered what smiles like hers, when they said goodbye, meant, and thought he might have read it all wrong. He felt pathetic.

When a feeling in his gut grew, he knew what to do. Gripping the banister, he went down the stairs. His pace picked up, and he felt a rush of euphoria, the dizziness fading. The door of the apartment building flung open, and Paul ran out. Reaching the corner of the street, his arms flailed as he slipped to a stop. And then he just stood there, watching Vivian’s figure take its form through the mist. She faced him.

As Paul started walking towards her, his hand brushed against an unfamiliar object protruding from his pocket. Without looking, he realised what it was.


Click here for more Prose

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Why It’s a Tragedy That the UK Jack Kerouac Convention in Rotherham Was Cancelled

Published by Sabotage Times

It might have been the only weekend in Rotherham when drainpiped hipsters wearing berets would be safe in numbers.

In July, two all-day events were planned in the South Yorkshire town to celebrate celebrate an icon of the Beat Generation, American writer Jack Kerouac. Academics and special guests – including Carolyn Cassady, a prominent figure in the literary classic On the Road – were to be involved in a weekend of presentations, displays and entertainment at New York Stadium, the home of Rotherham United FC. All proceeds would go to charity.

A formal gathering didn’t seem in the spirit of anything the nocturnal, shagging, intoxicated Beats did – but hey, it’s kind of like when anyone wears a Sex Pistols T-shirt for their office dress-down day. I was up for it.

“Thank you to everybody who tried to make the event happen. We met some lovely people,” tweeted the organisers of the UK Jack Kerouac Convention as they announced its cancellation due to poor ticket sales. “Sorry we didn’t make it. You are all appreciated.”

There must be a plethora of similarly ambitious events that have befallen the same fate. A couple of cocky salesman probably once tried to tap into the car-boot market in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Maybe a dance troupe once gathered in the West End to hold auditions for a bold new production – Hillsborough: The Musical.

You have to question the logic of hosting such an artsy event in Rotherham, where things perhaps haven’t regenerated as well as they should have done since the mining days. Rotherham, where the EDL has staged marches. Rotherham, where the Chuckle Brothers are from.

But the organisers must have known this. Why wouldn’t locals be interested in discovering this revered author and learning a little about the life, inspiration and hope immortalised on every page of his novels? they must have thought. We only get one life, so why not take a risk?

The cast of Beat Surrender, a play about the writer, which had been scheduled to take place on the Saturday

I can imagine some of the few Rotherham residents who, for whatever reason, were receptive to their message. School-leaver Carl, who now won’t be driven to up sticks and explore the world, having instead spent the weekend being persuaded to follow his father into the factory. Kate might have met some people who would encourage her to pursue her secret writing passions, and become the author she’d dreamed of becoming since reading the Goosebumps books in primary school. But, because the Convention was cancelled, she just ended up having no excuse but to go out on the lash with her embarrassing friends, and meet a trucker who she’ll be too frightened to ever leave.

And others, who’ll just be left with a low opinion of a town that prefers to perpetuate its own misery than embrace other ideas.

I guess we just live in a world where a Jack Kerouac Convention in Rotherham always did sound like a euphemism for an event that was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.


Click here for more Society

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Album review: Love Your Dum and Mad by Nadine Shah

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Nadine Shah — Dreary Town

It’s difficult to know where Nadine Shah fits in.

As a strong-voiced female solo artist, she’ll probably be compared with Natasha Khan (for more reasons than one, as they are both of part-Pakistani heritage) but actually, many of her tracks evoke memories of Jeff Buckley – particularly recent single To Be a Young Man.

The singer's stirring vocals on Dreary Town undoubtedly illuminate her as an original talent, and under the guidance of producer and co-writer Ben Hillier – who has worked with Blur, the Horrors and Depeche Mode – Love Your Dum and Mad is a beautifully crafted artistic statement.

It may be that Shah is too experimental to make a mark on the mainstream at this early stage of her career, but this record should still be regarded as one of 2013’s most promising debuts.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Music preview: I See Hawks in L.A. @ Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Thursday 20 June, 8pm, Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, Glasgow. Tel: 07944 354 459. www.woodendbltc.co.uk

VIDEO: I See Hawks in LA - Humboldt (live)

Believe it or not, it’s possible to enjoy first-rate live music while attempting to get yourself seeded for Wimbledon.

Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, in Glasgow’s Jordanhill, knows its tunes as well as its middle-class sports, having seen a wide range of home-grown and international talent take to the stage in its members’ bar over the years.

Rising to its impeccably high standards this evening are Americana outfit I See Hawks in L.A., who are in town for a one-off gig on the Scottish leg of their current UK tour.

Comprised of main members Rob Waller (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Anthony Lacques (percussion) and Paul Marshall (backing vocals, bass), this Californian group are living proof that decent country-rock exists outside of the Deep South.

And while the US may not be lacking guitar bands that play in a folky, rootsy manner, three things separate these guys from the rest. First, their transfixing lyrics, which are riddled with politics and humour. Second, their gorgeous, soaring harmonies – and third, the way they reflect the laid-back vibes of the Golden State with a twang of Byrds-esque psychedelia.

Critics are calling new album Mystery Drug – record number seven in a 14-year career – their best ever.

So even if you can't tell your bowls from your bobsledding, or your tennis from your Taekwondo, then you really don’t know a lot about sport – but you’ll still be very welcome and entertained here.


Click here for more Music

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook

Album review: Kveikur by Sigur Rós

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Sigur Rós — Brennisteinn

These Icelandic giants have already made much of the “aggressive” step they’ve taken on Kveikur, their seventh studio album and second in the space of a year.

Indeed, from the first track – and first single, Brennesteinn – ‘til the last, this is a whole lot more punchy, pounding, and ultimately percussional, than anything that came before.

But “aggressive” is a strong word. After all, we’re talking about Sigur Ros, whose music remains the most beautiful currently being made. They haven’t become Rammstein overnight. The echoing falsetto vocals, euphoric waves of synth, dainty jingles, tender strings and softly hummed harmonies still stop you dead in your tracks.

The upping of the pace on Kveikur nevertheless makes it slightly less accessible than the band’s previous offerings, but it’s still every bit as bedazzling as you’d hope – given time.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Music preview: Limp Bizkit @
O2 Academy, Glasgow

Published by Metro

Saturday 15 June, 7pm, £25-£30,
O2 Academy, Glasgow. Tel: 0844 477 2000. www.o2academyglasgow.co.uk

VIDEO: Limp Bizkit - Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle) music video

I was one of those 14-year-olds who thought he knew everything. My hair had blond highlights, my favourite meal was a fried egg, cheese and mayo toastie, and my mobile phone rang to the tune of Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle) – a track that I felt was the most intelligent, controversial, and deeply moving, since Last Resort by Papa Roach came out the previous month.

Limp Bizkit was a moniker I used to think described the condition of a Rich Tea post-dunk – symbolic of how The Establishment eventually grinds everyone down, duh – but apparently signified absolutely nothing. It was nevertheless emblazoned across the Fruit of the Loom t-shirts and hoodies proudly sported by my friends and I, who’d each paid out a month’s worth of paper-round wages for the privilege.

It wasn’t a total waste of money, as I still wear the very same, now-moth-bitten t-shirts and hoodies whenever I’m painting or moving house. But hey, this isn’t about me – this is about the return of a band whose phenomenal success changed the landscape of mainstream rock music in the early noughties.

Say what you like about often-ridiculed frontman Fred Durst, who not only patented the oversized blue jeans, white t-shirt and red baseball cap look, but also made rap-rock a thing. And how could anyone forget guitarist Wes Borland, known equally for his musical experimentation as for his brilliantly bizarre visual appearances, which included face and body paint, masks and uniforms.

Together with bass player Sam Rivers, drummer John Otto and DJ Lethal on turntables, the Grammy Award-nominated nu-metal giants have sold in excess of 35 million albums since they formed in Jacksonville, Florida, back in 1994.

Now in the middle of another epic world tour, they take the stage at O2 Academy Glasgow this Saturday in the first of only two UK shows – the other occurring the following day at Download Festival.

The performance will see the group draw on material from their impressive back catalogue – from debut offering Three Dollar Bill, Yall, through the great commercial triumphs of Significant Other and Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, to their reunion release Gold Cobra, and beyond.

Those in attendance might even be graced with a few numbers from upcoming seventh album Stampede of the Disco Elephants, which is out later this year, as well as all the added entertainment from the band’s famously energetic concerts.

So, ladies, fellas, and the people that don’t give a damn, all the lovers, all the haters, and the people that call themselves players, hot mommas, pimp daddies, and the people rolling up in Caddies, rockers, hip hoppers, and everybody all around the world… I expect to see you all in the mosh pit this Saturday.

And to quote a certain American wordsmith – keep on rollin’ baby, you know what time it is.


Click here for more Music

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Theatre preview: Dìreach Dathan Dealrach / Bright Colours Only / Dathanna Geala Amháin
@ Tramway, Glasgow

Published by Metro

7-8 June 2013, 7.15pm, £6-£8, Tel: 0845 330 3501 www.tramway.org

Contrary to popular belief, not all of Scotland’s Gaelic speakers reside in the Highlands and the Western Isles. There's a community in Glasgow that is thriving beyond the bilingual name-boards at its subway and railway stations.

In February, it was announced that the city’s second Gaelic school was to open in the Pollokshields area as part of the Scottish Government’s five-year plan to revitalise the language. Now, just down the road at Tramway, one of the country’s most popular plays of the past decade is marking its tenth birthday with a unique translation into Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

Bright Colours Only is an interactive one-woman show that takes a darkly comic look at death. Set in a Belfast living room, it examines the wake ritual, as mourners are offered tea, sandwiches and whisky before attending a funeral procession.

Having began life at Tramway in 2003, this hilarious and heartfelt piece went on to tour the world from Northern Ireland to Brazil – memorably, in a hearse.

This anniversary production is performed in Gàidhlig and Gaeilge by Muireann Kelly – who last year won critical acclaim for her work in Tron Theatre’s production of Ulysses – and in English by writer, director and creator Pauline Goldsmith.

It's yet more evidence that Glasgow’s celebrated South Side venue simply doesn't do run-of-the-mill – only challenging, innovative, and ultimately unmissable.


Click here for more Theatre

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook

Album review: Dimly Lit by
Neils Children

Published by Press Association


VIDEO: Neils Children — Dimly Lit music video

The late, great Ray Manzarek, whose hypnotic organ riffs made Jim Morrison seem less of an idiot in the Doors, would have probably loved this record by Neils Children.

Why? Because keys dictate the flow of the alternative rock quartet’s new album, which veers well away from their guitar-led melodies of old – towards a more electronic future.

Yet despite the prominence it offers to ebony and ivory, Dimly Lit is of many colours. There are shades of MGMT and Blonde Redhead, as enchanting drum loops, jazzy bassline flourishes and John Linger’s floating vocals fuel the psychedelic momentum.

The songs vary in pace, with the quicker ones – including the title track – appended by gorgeous ambient samples.

Mature but goosebump-inducingly beautiful, this little gem might just turn out to be the band’s masterpiece.



Click here for more Reviews

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Escaping the Tourist Crowds with Turkey's Hidden Charms

Published by Yahoo

Turkey may be one of this summer's major tourist destinations, but it's still possible to escape the crowds. Steve Clarkson explores the Aegean coastline and unearths some hidden gems

It's likely you know someone who's been to Turkey on a package holiday. Blazing sunshine and great deals attract crowds eager to do nothing more than laze on the beach for a fortnight with a good book in one hand and a cocktail in the other.

But if you're willing to venture off the beaten track and explore a little further, this country has plenty of hidden charms to uncover. Backed by hills and valleys dotted with small villages, the Aegean coast, in the west, has wonderful food, beaches and historic ruins - yet still hasn't been swallowed up by the mass holiday market.

Eager to explore the real Turkey, I flew into Izmir (Turkey's third largest city) and visited towns in the surrounding area.

My first taste of Turkish culture - quite literally - was in Alacati, a town 80km west of Izmir. I arrived at dusk to find the rustic streets busy with young men on mopeds returning from work and shopkeepers gossiping with customers in their doorways.

The pretty town is popular with wealthy Turks and has an impressive choice of restaurants. Scanning the different menus, it quickly became clear that Turkish food is nothing like the greasy tray of doner meat that's served up in many British takeaways.

After taking my seat outside the Roka Bache restaurant, I was soon ploughing my way through a meze of juicy olives, crusty soda bread and mustard greens, followed by a grilled seabass, caught only a few hours before by a local fisherman. An ice-cold Efes beer completed an evening's consumption that was more than satisfying.

Food isn't the only thing that produces a smile here. The beaches in the region are beautiful, and with temperatures pushing 40C, enjoying the scorching sun is not just socially acceptable - it's an essential component of the Aegean experience.

For a chic beachside experience, I chose to take a sun lounger at the Babylon Beach Club. Launched by the Istanbul-based Babylon venue in 2005, Beach Club provides a great selection of food, drink and entertainment - including its annual Soundgarden festival, with a good selection of international headliners.

As the cool Mediterranean waters licked the pebble shores of this secluded resort, palm leaves danced gently in the welcome sea breeze. Babylon Beach Club is the sort of place that sways to the mellow rhythms of Jack Johnson and Norah Jones, where the people are friendly and the atmosphere tranquil.

As beautiful people relaxed underneath wicker umbrellas, I headed straight for a bar stool next to a giant fan in an attempt to control the ungraceful beads of sweat dripping down my back. After ordering another slushy strawberry cocktail from the bar, I learnt one of my first Turkish words - 'serefe', which means 'cheers'.

After a few days of relaxation, however, it was time to delve a little deeper into Turkey's history. This is a land that has been fought over by many of the world's greatest powers - thanks to its position along the ancient trade routes of silk from China and spice from India - and pretty much everything here is steeped in history.

An afternoon spent in Foca - a small fishing town further up the Aegean coast - gave me a great insight into Turkey's vibrant past.

Continue reading...


Click here for more Travel

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Film preview: The Stone Roses -
Made of Stone

Published by Metro

Thursday 30 May, cinemas nationwide www.thestoneroses.org

VIDEO: The Stone Roses: Made of Stone - UK trailer

All Stone Roses fans will remember where they were on 18th October 2011, when band members Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni announced not only their reunion, but a world tour starting with two – becoming three – dates in Manchester (where else?), and their intentions to record a new album.

Unexpected was the return of these semi-retired indie legends, who had barely been on speaking terms with one another since their acrimonious split in 1996. Large swathes of the British music press raised a collective eyebrow, and hits such as I Am the Resurrection, Fools Gold and She Bangs the Drums – featuring the group’s trademark blend of psychedelic pop, dance-rock and funky basslines – once again rang out from pub jukeboxes nationwide.

And… ACTION. Acclaimed filmmaker Shane Meadows captured the newly reformed four-piece in their everyday lives as they rehearsed for their first comeback performance – in front of a 220,000-strong crowd at Manchester’s Heaton Park. Stone Roses: Made of Stone is the definitive account of one of the most influential bands of the past 25 years.

Insightful, emotional and amusing, it illuminates the personalities and friendships within this charismatic quartet, and incorporates the personal experiences of many who were touched by their music.

Tonight, the much-anticipated film is broadcast live across 100 cinemas in the UK, and will be followed by a satellite-linked Q&A session with Meadows and special guests.

Tickets for the Manchester premiere of the flick sold out faster than it took you to brush your teeth this morning (about 60 seconds), so you’ll just have to beg, steal or borrow if you have trouble snapping yours up – or else miss out on one of the cinematic events of the year.


Click here for more Film

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook


Dance preview: Scottish Ballet:
Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling
@ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Published by Metro

22-25 May 2013, 7.30pm (Matinees Thu 23 & Sat 25 2pm), £12.50-£42.50, Tel: 0131 529 6000 www.edtheatres.com

Matthew Bourne is to contemporary dance what Steven Spielberg is to film, what Lionel Messi is to football, or what Ben Fogle is to being Ben Fogle.

The multi-award-winning choreographer has changed the landscape of a traditionally elitist art form – capturing the imagination of a mainstream audience with a collection of enchanting and accessible pieces, including Mary Poppins, Edward Scissorhands and Swan Lake.

This run of Highland Fling, originally produced in 1994, marks the first time Bourne has allowed a company other than his own to perform one of his full-length works. And it’s fitting that Scottish Ballet be permitted to take on this particular gem, given its Glasgow setting.

A wonderfully imaginative twist on La Sylphide, one of the world’s oldest romantic ballets, Highland Fling follows the antics of James – a young Scot with sex, love and rock n roll on his mind.

Recently married to his beloved Effie, James’s addiction to excess finds him in the presence of a beguiling gothic fairy, his love for whom becomes a dangerous obsession. As he embarks on a fateful journey through Glasgow’s meanest streets and nightclubs, James is led into a magical world beyond reality and reason.

Scottish Ballet continues to break new ground by introducing innovative modern works alongside its vast classical repertoire, and this bedazzling show perfectly complements Edinburgh’s own beauty and elegance.


Click here for more Dance

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Twitter

Click here to follow clarkspeak on Facebook