The Unthanks’ voices are a wonderful thing and tonight’s crowd sat in rapt awe. In the resonant acoustics of an old church, the harmonies acquired additional depths. The combination of the flat Northern vocals and close harmony work makes for a captivating ninety minutes and that may come as a surprise to some as they had no instrumental accompaniment at all.
The Unthanks never play it safe and their career is a list of projects – whether it is musical theatre, songs to a theme, collaborating, working with a brass band or digging up historical pieces. Tonight is not only a solo piece but two of the trio having one year-old babies, probably quite a challenge against sleep deprivation and reaching the stage with clean clothes. The Unthanks tonight are sisters Rachel and Becky plus Niopa, the newer member.
They worked their way through a dazzling mix of material. The lovely Weary From Sleeping Alone, Doo Wop stylings of Honey Bee, a grisly ghost story inspired by Australian bush ballads. Chat between songs is always good humoured and suggests a real enjoyment in performing. Babies are mentioned a couple of times and a small run of lullabies featured. The Sandgate Dandling Song is a highlight and one that turns up in different shapes in other places (even one of Cilla Black’s hits). Its fusion of pride, love and desperate sadness makes it perfect for The Unthanks. The very loveliest harmony work is with the well-known Magpie and the audience melts.
The encore sees the sparky music-hall figure of their support act join the trio for a gospel song. Tim Dalling helps it swing hard before we are quietly eased out with Underneath The Blackthorn Tree and it’s hypnotic “the wind, the wind, the rain the rain”. It has been an almost religious experience with an awe-struck audience and focussed attention on beautiful sounds and thoughts. Always different, always fascinating, The Unthanks are an act that carries the very best of the folk tradition into the twenty-first century, alive and relevant.
The funniest show on British television came to an end after six glorious episodes this week — and as of today, it’s also available for Australian viewers to watch for free in full.
This Time With Alan Partridge marks the latest outing for the character that comedian Steve Coogan and Veep creator Armando Iannucci first devised way back in 1991.
Partridge is a consistently inept veteran light entertainment personality: ruled by ego, an appalling listener and cack-handed public speaker and yet somehow — perhaps by virtue of being a straight white man — he remains gainfully employed.
In his latest outing, Alan has been handed a career lifeline: He’d been slumming it as a presenter on a North Norfolk digital radio station when he’s whisked back to the hallowed corridors of the BBC in London.
He’s the new stand-in co-host of weekday lifestyle show This Time, the show’s regular host having fallen ill.
Scene one, episode one and he’s already feeling the pressure:
Partridge and perpetually chipper co-host Jennie Gresham have a total lack of chemistry, Gresham gamely trying to keep her program on the rails while her new co-host demonstrates time and time again he’s really not the man for this job.
It’s hilarious — and frequently ridiculous. Here’s Alan giving viewers an unsolicited demonstration of how to use a public toilet without ever once using your hands:
The Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig has written a serviceable adaptation that covers most of the story’s bases but lacks its romantic sweep, writes PATRICK MARMION.
Back then, the idea of the legendary Hollywood tough guy rocking up in the Highlands in a helicopter was out of this world. It made Forsyth’s story seem so much bigger and less parochial.
This genial new musical version of the film could do with some of that A-list stardust. The Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig has written a serviceable adaptation that covers most of the story’s bases but lacks its romantic sweep.
And even with songs by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, developing his original film score for the stage, John Crowley’s production feels a bit run-of-the-mill. Continue reading →
Lisa McGee’s comedy is that rare thing – a hysterical and moving show about life as an adolescent girl. And with a bus-load of Protestant lads pitching up, it shows no sign of fading
The girls are back in town! The girls are back in town!
The town is Derry (“or Londonderry, depending on your persuasion – a troubled little corner in the north-west of Ireland” as Erin records with customary flair for the dramatic in her diary) and the girls are the quartet of best friends who live there; our diarist Erin, her offbeat cousin Orla, Clare (permanently anxious and probably gay, even though Erin “doesn’t believe in lesbians”) and Michelle, who is basically a pure id with a perm, all attend the same Catholic girls’ school. So too, for reasons we won’t get into here, does Michelle’s despised cousin James, over from England.
A second series about their teenage travails set in the 90s against the backdrop of the Troubles was commissioned as soon as the first episode of Lisa McGee’s hysterically funny and occasionally profoundly moving creation was broadcast last year. As it finally reached our screens, we found the girls caught up in a bridge-building school overnight trip – arranged by Father Peter, in whom they induced a crisis of faith last series and who has taken a ‘sabbatical’ with a hairdresser, been dumped and returned to the priesthood since we last saw him – to mingle with the people who call it Londonderry. Where English teens might cross the Channel to experience other cultures, the Derry girls need only travel to a draughty town hall to meet Protestants.
Name badges on, they are told to pair off. “Sister Michael!” cries Orla. “I don’t have a Protestant!” “You’ll just have to share with James,” Sister Michael tells her. “There aren’t enough Protestants to go round.”
Father Peter is keen to get them to concentrate on their similarities. Can any of the students think of anything Catholics and Protestants have in common? “Catholics really buzz off statues and we don’t so much” shouts one not of the convent’s number. The good father points out that this is a difference. They try again, repeatedly. The blackboard for similarities remains stubbornly empty while the differences board covers every facet of life, from “Protestants don’t like Abba” to “Protestants keep toasters in cupboards.”
One secret party that night (nerdy Jenny-with-the-trust-fund dobs them in – “You will go far in life, Jenny,” Sister Michael tells her informant, “But you will not be well liked”) and an equally disastrous attempt at abseiling later and both sets of parents are called. The experiment is over. Back to your toaster cupboards and your statues, kids. And spare a thought for Father Peter, who was only doing his best. Desperate.
It was more than enough to reassure everyone that the Derry Girls’ magic remains intact. The evocation of the 90s is as lightly done as ever (Elizabeth Hurley is fleetingly referenced – “She’s a total ride but she paperclips her frocks together”) and the Troubled setting, even when the division is brought unusually to the fore, never overwhelms but simply throws into relief the ordinariness of the girls’ lives in the middle of extraordinary depths of conflict. Meanwhile, the story unfolding back home about why – why? Why? – Michelle’s mother doesn’t want her big bowl – her big bowl! – back from Erin’s is one to bind us all.
The new series retains all the unmistakeable, genuine flavour of teenage life, and does that rare thing of concentrating on all that was good about being an adolescent girl. Instead of the inner torments, it showcases the overwhelming confidence that somehow co-existed in equal proportion to the angst. The unabashed sexual curiosity (remember Michelle last series reckoning the time was ripe “to lose the rest of my virginity”) alongside the nervousness (“I haven’t put the hours in,” explains Erin to ‘her’ Protestant boy she is convinced is about to unleash his sophisticated moves on her, “It’s just not part of our culture, but if you’re okay with that I say we just crack on”). And above all, the sheer volume at which life was lived. No half measures, no doubts (for long), no second-guessing, just a headlong, passionate rush at everything until the day you find yourself exhausted and unwittingly embark on the long, inexorable journey towards the Sister Michael state of mind in which you will end your days. You may not actually take the veil, but life in a nunnery will start to hold attractions you never dreamed of when it was still your gang hanging tight against the world.