Jenny Lindsay

Lyceum Variety Night 3



Lyceum, Edinburgh

Flint and Pitch’s Variety Nights are fast becoming a thing of legend. Hosts Jenny Lindsay and Sian Bevan are as engaging and irreverent as ever, setting the tone for another fun-filled evening in their company.

Tonight’s proceedings kick off with a song from Maud the Moth, an interesting jazz-classical-fusion band built around the distinctive vocal stylings of Amaya Lopez-Carromero, featuring keyboards, drums, violins and, on the opening number, Queen Maud, electric guitar. It makes for a haunting start and I’m already looking forward to hearing more from them later.

Up next is Kieran Hurley, a storyteller whose schtick, he tells us, doesn’t really lend itself to ten-minute pieces, shorn of context. Still, he manages to contextualise tonight’s reading with wit and brevity, and it’s a real treat: an excerpt from his 2013 play, Beats. Two intertwining monologues tell us the story of an illegal rave – and we’re hanging on to his every word.

Audrey Tait and Michelle Lowe are The Miss’s, a Scottish singing/songwriting duo with a compelling set tonight. Tait’s plaintive voice is the perfect foil for Lowe’s more gutsy vocals, and they absolutely take my breath away. I love these two and could listen all night.

But it’s a variety night, so of course we are moved swiftly on. And it’s fine, because Caroline Bird’s performance poetry is a delight; in fact, she’s our favourite act of the evening. Her diffident, unshowy persona allows her poems to shine – and shine they do. They’re as charming as she is, illuminating dark truths about love, life and mental illness with cheerfulness and compassion. We’ll certainly be seeking out more of her work.

Jack Webb is the first dancer/choreographer to grace the Lyceum Variety Night’s stage, and this is certainly a very striking piece. Let’s be honest, interpretive dance isn’t an area we know much about, and we’re not sure we fully understand all this performance wants to say, but it is nevertheless clearly a corporal feat, all precision and control, conveying pain and a heightened sense of physicality.

It’s safe to say that Mairi Campbell is unique – she plays the viola and sings which is a pretty unusual combination, but she makes it work really effectively. She gives us a brace of memorable folk-tinged songs, the last one involving us all singing along on the chorus, and it’s evident why she won the Instrumentalist of the Year award in 2016.

Kathleen Jamie is a poet in the most traditional sense. She offers us a collection of lyrical pieces based around the beauty of the Scottish landscape and her childhood memories. The one that covers stamp collecting is a particular delight (and that’s not a line you get to say very often). Weirdly, despite winning a whole plethora of awards since her first in 1981, she doesn’t come across as the most confident of performers – but there’s no doubting the quality of her work.

It’s left to Maud the Moth to come on and finish off the night with three more of their excellent songs and highly original songs, before we head back to (as Jenny and Sian point out) the harsh reality of the world. An excellent night then and we only have one minor quibble – why have we still not managed to win the raffle?

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield and Philip Caveney





Lyceum Variety Night 2


Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Those enterprising people at Flint & Pitch have been busy putting together another night of  entertainment at the Lyceum Theatre, featuring the best of spoken word, theatre and music. Hosted by genial regulars Sian Bevan and Jenny Lindsay, this eclectic second helping kicks off with the jazz-inflected rhythms of Pronto Mama, a band who revel in slippery time signatures and who soon have everybody bopping along in their seats.

Next up, poet Aidan Moffat treats us to some of his wry and rather saucy poems (plus some rather wonderful extracts from his son’s diary). He finishes his section with a dedication to all the people he’s canoodled with down the years, complete with a raised can of Tenants Lager at the end. I’ll drink to that!

Actress/musician/singer/author Gerda Stevenson offers us a varied selection of items – a traditional Scottish ballad accompanied by one of those strange droning instruments that resembles a wooden suitcase (and which I’ve annoyingly never learned the name of), a trio of prose pieces commemorating great Scottish women, and a final song for which she enlists the help of a couple of friends for the harmonies.

After a short break, festival favourites, The Creative Martyrs take to the stage, looking like a cross between Estragon & Vladimir and Laurel & Hardy. Incredibly, they soon have us chanting along to the suggestion that we should ‘Burn The Books’, while their song about drowned refugees is also incredibly provocative and revealing, the final line leaving the audience temporarily too stunned to applaud. These two performers are really quite brilliant.

Tonight being the anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death, singer/songwriter Rachel Sermanni kicks off her segment with a haunting cover of one of the great man’s most famous songs, A Thing Called Love, and then offers a couple of songs of her own. Her voice is remarkable – ethereal, haunting, quietly amazing. I fully expect to hear more of her soon.

The advertised act, Don Paterson, is down with the flu, but Colin McGuire fearlessly steps in at the last moment to give us an extract from his work-in-progress play, which is all about that most important of subjects – sleep. He goes down a storm with the Lyceum audience.

Last up, American poet (and BBC slam-champion), Adele Hampton offers us some of her wry and distinctive poems. She admits that she is feeling a little nervous but despite that, acquits herself well with tales of weight-lifting and belonging. She leaves the stage to heartfelt applause.

It is left to Pronto Mama to finish off the night, which they do not with the usual pounding rock song, but with a plaintive acapella tune, which sends everyone home feeling happy and thoroughly entertained.

The next variety night is penciled in for Sunday 4th June. Miss it and you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Lyceum Variety Night



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.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield