Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 138 and 139 – Nae Birling

Ready to go

I took this picture in Granton-on-Spey as we were awaiting the start of a Strathspey Ball. Alas the 2020 Ball is yet another victim of the Covid-19 outbreak and this year, there’ll be nae birling.

However, folk are trying their best to have socially distanced fun and celebrations. We’ve been to a couple of distanced 70ths and the celebration online of the Edinburgh International Festival.

In addition, we had a great morning yesterday with family – outdoors. The weather was very much onside. Is it going to be quite as much fun into the Autumn and Winter?

Courting the Countess continues to be free – go here

A Debt for Rosalie is now off the shelves, but still available from the DC Thomson shop:



Out and About in Edinburgh

ENCOUNTER by Simon McBurney and Complicite was the water into which I dipped my first toe of 2015.

When Dominic Cavendish interviewed McBurney for The Telegraph – with ten days to go – he claimed the show wasn’t finished. He claimed it was waking him up at 4am and the stage manager was clamouring for a script.


Complicite, Théatre de Complicite, is about collaboration, but it defies my understanding that a show of the complexity I saw performed last night was so unfinished ten days ago, it was wakening the creator and performer up. What did he mean?

Did he mean one or two loose ends needed tying? Did he mean he’d read the book, Amazon Beaming, some time ago and a few ideas were floating about? Clearly, there’s room for misunderstanding about what ‘finished’ means.

The evening begins with McBurney talking the audience into their individual headphones – ‘This is a conference centre, not a theatre.’ he says with a laugh. Then he wanders around his stage and introduces us to a head on a stand. The technicalities will be familiar to many, but binaural technology was new to me. So when he introduced us to noise in our left ear and noise in our right ear and later when there were mosquitoes buzzing around the back of my neck, I was hugely impressed. I kept my eyes closed for much of the two hours and missed the occasional visual joke, but the effect was all-encompassing.

Without the nausea of 3-D cinema, the effect is so realistic I was just stopping myself slapping the ants and running from the rising flood-water. It’s wonderful story-telling.

Amazon Beaming is a 1991 book by Romanian author Petru Popescu. It recounts the remarkable period American photographer Loren McIntyre spent, 20 years before, in the captivity of an Amazon tribe. This is what McBurney based Encounter on.

In addition, he personalizes the creation of the story and the telling of the story by introducing his sleepless daughter and her pointed questions. The child’s voice punctuates the arc of the main plot as the artist creating the work tries to create while baby-sitting, and introduces some levity into the profound nature of Loren McIntyre’s experience.

Two hours on and McBurney has earned a standing ovation. It all looked finished to me. He took time to commend his technical crew and I’d second that. Perfect cues, great stage-effects (I was looking sometimes) and sympathetic or dramatic lighting added hugely to the production. Highly recommended.

Run continues various dates till Sat 22nd 7.30pm and 4 matinées. Performance has no interval. Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Morrison Street.


Festival – itis

After the Night Before

After the Night Before

Festival – itis is a serious, but treatable, condition. It’s contracted by persons whose lives are compromised by over-indulgence in an art form. Some difficult to manage cases involve more than one art form.

Edinburgh during August and early September is a challenging place to be if your addiction to an art form is live. Remember, there’s no shame in admitting this. None at all.

If the art form you struggle with is Books and Reading, then avoid Charlotte Square while passing through Edinburgh. Also there are book shops selling new books. These sit cheek by jowl with book shops selling old books.

Is Drama your passion? Really hard few weeks for you, then. The Traverse Theatre in Cambridge Street should be avoided at all costs. More shows in rep than you can imagine and mostly of five and four star quality. You’ve been warned.

Amateur Drama? Oh dear! Turn back now or be prepared for three and a half weeks of sleeplessness.

What about Music? Classical, orchestral, chamber, ethnic, guitar, solo voices, choral voices, pipe-bands, big bands, one-man-bands … Really, you need ear-plugs, but take care: visitors do find our traffic hard to manoeuvre. and there are the trams: silent except for the bell, apparently.

Dance? Okay, the Playhouse may give you the shakes, so stay away from the East end and watch out for the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. It can sneak into that space and they’ve erected a Studio Theatre now, too.

Opera? Well, the Festival Theatre needs steering around for you.

Street Theatre My own personal addiction is listening-in. Other than adopting artistic purdah for the month, there’s no cure for this one. Characters are all around. Enjoy.

Art – Is Art your art form? Sculpture, painting, drawing, screen-prints, textiles… It’s really easy to see a gallery – they’re generally quite large purpose built buildings. Or they’re a converted school. Keep your antennae polished.

Okay, so you’ve been warned. I’ll probably see you there. I was at Bloody Trams last night. review is here


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