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Hands together for a year of debuts and final bows (sarah michelle gellar mention)

Sunday 8 January 2006, by Webmaster


THE BIG EVENT OF 2006 will be the reopening in the summer, after three years, of Glasgow’s greatest treasure, the Art Gallery and Museum at Kelvingrove. The restored building will be very exciting. It had grown tired and sad. The décor was dingy and the spaces cluttered as offices crept into corridors and doors were blocked off. This has all been cleared away and the building returned to its original glory. The same may not be true of the displays, however. It is a great collection, but it sounds as though it is going to be subjected to the indignity of politically correct presentation, all condescending storytelling with labels written for illiterate, infant aliens. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

In Edinburgh the city’s Art Festival should take off this year - a curator is being brought in from America to give it focus. The main exhibitions announced thus far at the National Gallery go from the sublimely small to the ridiculously large. Adam Elsheimer was a German painter with a Scottish wife who worked in Rome at the beginning of the 17th century. He was one of the artists Rembrandt most admired. Even his biggest paintings are tiny, but they are quite brilliant. Devil in the Detail: Paintings of Adam Elsheimer is at the RSA from midsummer. The ridiculously large is the work of Ron Mueck, also in the RSA from August. He may be one of the least boring of Saatchi’s Brit pack, but I hardly think he is fit for a slot once occupied by Cézanne. His work is theatrical and so may catch the popular imagination, however. That is guaranteed to happen with the show that the National Gallery is putting on at the Dean: Van Gogh and Britain. Van Gogh conjures the crowds no matter what work is shown - but this is a fascinating story, exploring the early collection of Van Gogh’s work in Britain, in which the Glasgow dealer, Alexander Reid, Van Gogh’s flatmate in Paris, played a significant role.

In London, the Tate is putting on Gothic Nightmares by Fuseli and Blake in February and Constable in June. The Constable will certainly be worth a trip as it brings together his great landscapes, the six-foot canvasses that he wanted to be remembered by. They will be shown with the full-size sketches he made for them, along with small sketches and preparatory drawings. Should be a feast.


IN A few months’ time expect two major announcements from the Edinburgh International Festival, one of which will have a major impact on the future of music-making in Scotland.

The first, though, has a valedictory purpose - the full details on 22 March of Sir Brian McMaster’s final programme as Festival director. Over 15 years in Scotland’s most prestigious arts post, McMaster has exercised a mix of reliability and daring in his programming, with a particular strength in the musical field.

This year’s story looks to be no different. McMaster regulars Sir Charles Mackerras, Donald Runnicles, Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra are more or less perennial figures. More adventurous is a new opera by young Scottish composer Stuart MacRae (with staging by Emio Greco, who made such a sensation with his radical production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice two years ago). Fellow Scot Garry Walker will conduct the première.

But given the teaser announcement that Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic will also be there, is McMaster holding back on surprises? Of course he is. He has still to tell us, for instance, that a concert performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersingers will close the Festival.

Before all that, however, we should learn who McMaster’s successor is going to be. Names have been bandied about - among them, London’s Barbican Centre director, Graham Sheffield, and former Glasgow 1990 deputy director, Neil Wallace. But until the Festival society trumpets the news officially - in "late spring" - it’s anyone’s guess.

Those charged with making the decision would do well to reflect on McMaster’s success. His term of office has been one of integrity, high standards, calculated risk and artistic balance. Unlike his predecessor, Frank Dunlop, he resisted pressure to dilute the world’s most highly regarded arts festival with cheap political correctness. He brought it back from the brink. And he has safeguarded the independence of the International Festival as the flagship around which the other Edinburgh festivals feed and flourish.

The ground is laid for his successor. The challenge of reaching new heights is even greater.


THERE’S only one big story in Scottish theatre in 2006, and that’s the launch on 25 February - after 100 years of campaigning, and two years of preparation by director Vicky Featherstone and her team - of the National Theatre of Scotland. The opening night won’t be a conventional mainstage performance in a grand theatre. Instead, there will be nine site-specific shows across Scotland from Stornoway and Caithness to Dumfries and Galloway, staged by nine brilliant young directors. The aim is to emphasise the NTS’s intention to serve and reflect the whole of Scotland, and to look to new forms of drama rather than old.

Later in the spring, though, the NTS moves indoors with a first-ever stage musical version of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s great children’s story, The Wolves in the Walls. During the Edinburgh Festival, NTS will stage Gregory Burke’s new play about the Black Watch in Iraq, plus a new play by Anthony Neilson, co-produced by the EIF. And in the autumn there will be a new stage version of John Byrne’s smash-hit 1987 television drama, Tutti Frutti, and a new take on Schiller’s mighty Maria Stuart by star playwright David Harrower, both on tour. All this from the NTS in 2006, and much, much more.

Not that there’s nothing else going on. In January, Suspect Culture launch their latest Tramway show - The Escapologist, a new work based on imagery drawn from the life of Harry Houdini. Edinburgh’s booming Royal Lyceum Theatre opens the year with a long-overdue revival of Liz Lochhead’s Tartuffe, followed in February and March by a massive 21st-century reworking of Goethe’s Faust, with text by leading Scottish playwright John Clifford. Andy Arnold’s Arches Theatre in Glasgow celebrates its 15th anniversary with a subterranean production of Dante’s Inferno. At the Traverse, a thrilling spring season features new plays by Douglas Maxwell and Jules Horne. This is the year when Scottish theatre is set to become more talked about than at any time in the past century. Be there, and join the conversation.


LIKE every other year so far this century, 2006 will be dominated by a comic-book movie. In Superman Returns, director Bryan Singer (X-Men) promises a return to the style of the first two Christopher Reeves-starring movies, with newcomer Brandon Routh donning the blue tights and red briefs, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther.

I’m more excited about the return of maverick directors Richard Kelly and Darren Aronofsky. Five years after the brain-bending Donnie Darko comes Kelly’s Southland Tales, a mysterious musical/fantasy/whatever starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Aronofsky’s (Requiem for a Dream) sci-fi mind-melter, The Fountain, has Hugh Jackman on a 1,000-year odyssey to save the woman he loves. Meanwhile, Richard Linklater’s trippy "rotoscoping" animation version of Philip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly might be the first film to capture the twisted spirit of the author.

The season’s Oscar contenders are debuting in the coming months. Sam Mendes’s Gulf War drama, Jarhead, will split opinion; Memoirs of a Geisha should make a big splash, as will Spielberg’s Munich. George Clooney gets serious again with Syriana, a politically charged thriller about the impact of Middle East oil on American foreign policy, and his second directorial effort, the no-less contentious Goodnight, and Good Luck, about newscaster Edward R Murrow’s fight against McCarthyism.

Look out for Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, a biopic recounting the creation of the author’s most famous book, In Cold Blood. And there’s more true-life drama in Walk the Line, a predictable Johnny Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Man in Black.

On the art-house circuit, South Korean crime flick A Bittersweet Life could be the year’s first foreign-language hit; Oldboy fans should steel their nerves for Lady Vengeance, the final part of Chan-wook Park’s bracing revenge trilogy; and last year’s Cannes favourites, Hidden and the Dardenne brothers’ Palm d’Or-scooping L’Enfant, hit cinemas. My big tip, though, is The Proposition, a brooding, brutal, brilliant Australian Western, written by Nick Cave and starring Guy Pearce.


NO COURTESY New Year hangover fortnight for the Strokes, who released one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated albums, First Impressions of Earth, on Monday. They play Glasgow’s Carling Academy (7 and 8 February) and Edinburgh Corn Exchange (10 February).

Ex-Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft (inset, below) releases his latest solo album on 23 January and plays a sold-out gig at Glasgow’s ABC on 20 January. Belle & Sebastian play three nights at the ABC (15,16 and 17 January) and one at Aberdeen Music Hall (18 January) prior to the release of their album, The Life Pursuit, on 6 February.

Band of the moment, Arctic Monkeys, are set to be the big noise on this year’s NME tour, which visits Carling Academy on 27 January and the Corn Exchange the next night. Last year’s NME tour graduates Kaiser Chiefs have sold out their SECC date on 19 April.

On the Scottish front, Simple Minds play the Academy on 5 February, Mogwai release their new album, Mr Beast, on 6 March, former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell teams up with gruff US rocker Mark Lanegan on their Ballad of the Broken Seas album, due at the end of January, and Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble spearheads a project in which bands including Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian write music to lyrics penned by Scottish writers such as Edwin Morgan and AL Kennedy.

Outdoors, Bon Jovi plays Hampden on 3 June. The same venue will also host appearances by the Eagles (23 June), the Rolling Stones (25 August) and Robbie Williams (1 and 2 September). T in the Park this year is on 8 and 9 July. Finally, for those who really like to plan, Cliff Richard plays the SECC on 1 December.

• Read Kenneth Walton, Duncan Macmillan, Joyce McMillan, Alistair Harkness and Fiona Shepherd in S2, Monday to Friday.