Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
David Greig is not all talk. This is a man who walks the walk: he says he believes in the democratisation of theatre, then translates this belief into a diverse programme that truly opens those ‘elitist’ doors. First we had The Suppliant Women, with its chorus of fifty community volunteers. And now we have the Lyceum’s first ever variety night, bringing in a range of performers who wouldn’t normally appear in a venue such as this.
Organised and compèred by Jenny Lindsay of Flint & Pitch (ably assisted by Siân Bevan), this is an eclectic mix – but it’s all high quality, and well-worth the effort of venturing out on this cold Sunday evening.
First up is A New International, a seven-piece band with a lively folkish feel. The violin is glorious, and the singer has a real presence. They’re truly energising, and set the evening’s tone.
Christopher Brookmyre is up next, and he’s really very good indeed, reading a short story set in a Glasgow park about an open air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s spellbinding and hilarious; I’d have come here just for this.
He’s followed by Emma Pollock, with three beautifully plaintive tunes. She clearly has a real fan base in the audience, and this is an assured set.
Jenna Watt performs an excerpt from her award-winning spoken word show, Faslane, about her complex relationship with nuclear weapons. Her delivery is soft and understated, but she’s telling us hard truths. It’s a fascinating piece and makes me want to see the full version.
Andrew Greig and Leo Glaister are a stepfather and son, and their act is hard to define, producing something that’s somewhere between music and spoken word. But it’s never less than engaging, and it’s witty, nuanced stuff.
Luke Wright is probably my favourite act of the night; he’s a charismatic performance poet, and his poems are both funny and challenging. The one about Iain Duncan Smith (using no vowels apart from ‘i’) is very clever indeed, and earns rapturous applause for its audacity.
Rachel Amey is another poet, and also a highlight of the evening. She exudes a quiet dignity, a serious sense of purpose that makes her verse compelling. There’s an honesty and integrity to her work, that leaves us pondering her ideas long after she has left the stage.
Proceedings are wound up with A New International, performing three more songs, confirming our initial impression that they’re a band to watch out for.
Bravo, Lyceum! Bravo, Flint & Pitch and David Greig! This evening was a real triumph, and we’ll definitely be back for the next one.