56 The List 28June— 1 1 July 1991
She‘s been called one of the best Scottishjazz singers around; not exactly a field with much competition perhaps. but qualification nonetheless to take on the daunting role of the woman Frank Sinatra called the greatest singer he‘d ever heard - Billie Holiday.
Suzanne Bonnar’s new one-woman show. written byJim McNulty. relates the tragic story of how Holiday's talent was wasted by drug abuse and ofthe racism and exploitation she suffered. and naturally. also re-creates some ofthe songs which made her famous. Bonnar herself. daughtemf a Scottish mother and black American 01 stationed here. has taken a long time to come to terms with her experiences of racism and says this has helped
her to sympathise with the '
‘1 think a lot ofthings happened in her early life that set a pattern of self-abuse for her. being raped. being institutionalised. living in a whorehouse and the struggle of what she was trying to be up against all that pressure.‘ she says.
? V MUSICAL
! Bonnar s
‘For instance. because she
was very light coloured
she was sometimes seen as
too light to sing with a black band and they'd make her black up to go on stage, and even when she was the star of the show they'd ask her to use the trade elevator. Readingdocumentary about the racism that existed then. you feel you've got to explain and find out what being black is all about. it's a very painful experience in some ways.‘
For Bonnar jazz is part oftbis sense ofidentity. ‘l've lived through a lot in my life and there‘sa reason I sing. it‘s in my blood. I‘ve got to singto survive. i feel a lot of sympathy for Billie and i want so much to dotbis right.‘ (Andrea Baxter)
I Cover the Waterfront, Tron Theatre, Tue 2—5101 7 Jul.
Famous for 15 seconds
‘And this is Michael Brown, a member at the public . . .’
‘Chrlstl We don’t want his kind in here. Buggerottl’ comes the reply.
A wave at paranoia sweeps over the members’ bar at the Assembly Rooms and I ieel like a meatball that has just been discovered in a vegetarian lasagne.
‘. . . who is on the Perrier panel.’
‘Why didn’tyou say so, Iovey?’ enquires a celeb.
‘Well, i . . .’
’Really, so tell me, what do you do, you know, outside, In the real world?’
‘Well, i . . .’
‘Heailyi You will come and see my show now, won‘t you? it's simply the biz.’
You can almost taste the slncerlty.l drag mysell away from the sycophantlc clutches at my new lrlends; it is time tor some high-prolile mingling. Treadlng stealthlly between the assembled ‘anistes’, lnotlce the lithe lrame oi
Last year’s PerrierAward WinnerSean Hughes. You could vote tor this year's.
Mike McShane who is causing something of a partial eclipse at the tar corner at the room. Maybe l’ll impress him with a iew at my celebrated one-liners.
‘How do you do? Er. . . I've seen you on the telly, you’re the lat guy aren’t you?’
He’ll never iorgetthat staggering display at improvisation. Later, I catch mysell saying ‘super' and decide to leave. l have 40 shows to see and I’m late.
Ourilrst meeting a week later. The chairman beglns proceedings.
‘Now let us once again consider “the ioke’, its meaning and our intended response. Did we laugh and why?’
‘Because lt’s lunny?’ i suggest sheeplshly.
‘Oh dear. You have so much to learn. What about lighting, set design, programme typelace, backhanders?‘
The panel gasps at my ignorance. Even the Channel 4 crew scotls at my nalvety. They won’t let it lie.
With the shortlist chosen and a winner eventually picked, we stagger along to the party. I have the mingle tingle.
‘Aren’t you the nobody-in-particular
who was on the Perrier Panel?’ enquires a celeb.
‘Yes, that’s me.’ ‘Well, we don’twantyour kind in
‘But I’m iamous . . . was iamous. Just
ask Richard Jobson or Janice Forsyth or. . .’ (Michael Brown)
See Competition Page ioryour chance to lollow in Michael Brown’s footsteps and join the Perrier Pick ot the Fringe Panel this August in Edinburgh.
’Andrew Lloyd Webber has a similarly titled work,’ says Stewart Macpherson of his forthcoming production at Phantom ol the Opera. Surely identical ratherthan similar? ‘Well, yes, but it is legitimate, we don’t knock it. But Ken Hill's musical is a work in its own right and, of course, it’s the original.’
All oi this may come as a surprise. Who, alter all, is Ken Hill? Everybody’s heard at Webber, but iew can be aware that several months belore he had the ‘inspiration’ tor his Phantom, he had seen a production at Hill’s play.
The version coming to Edinburgh certainly owes little to its more iamous namesake. Rather than Webber’s melodies, the production relies on the eltorts oiVerdl, Gounod, Ottenbach and Mozart lortbe music while the lyrics are courtesy oi Hill himseli.
’We certainly don't want people coming expecting Andrew's Phantom,’ declares Macpherson, ‘and we want to emphasise the dllterences. Webber’s concentrates on the romance and, to some extent, the shock-horror ol distlgurement. Ken’s is much more
Phantom ol the Opera
rounded, has music lrom the period and a very high comedic lactor which is something that is singularly missing from the other piece. It’s also much closerto the book and, lthink, explains the story much better.’
The myth goes that Hill came across The Phantom ol the Opera in a second-hand bookshop and realised its potential ior translation to the stage instantly. ‘The book divides very neatly into parts,’ explains Macpherson. ‘Above the stage all is galety, light and humour while below the stage all is dark and serious. 80 there's comedy counterbalanced by drama and linking
the two worlds is the love between the , phantom and Christine.’ (Philip Parr) i
Phantom oi the Opera, Playhouse ! Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 8-Sat 13 July.
4 .I ~i
Electric Motion The first Stamping Ground rose to a spectacular finale with a collaboration between Lindsay John and Liani Chrismas. Organised by Glasgow’s Third Eye Centre. currently caught in a financial crisis. three programmes ofexperimental Scottish choreography have been spread over several months. The second part, presented this month, comprises two double bills of work
i by The X Factor. Maxine Railton
and David Munro. Electric Motion and Rosina Bonsu.
The project provides an important showcase for young companies. Perhaps the most successful of the four participants is Rosina Bonsu who won acclaim for her solo piece. Past Noted. performed at Mayfest this year. ‘Part of the success of the piece.’ she says. ’which The Third Eye has asked me to perform again. is the integration oflighting and music. composed by Nicky Hind.‘
Describing herselfas a middle-of-the-road contemporary choreographer. Bonsu is refreshingly articulate about her work. ‘I‘m not interested in experimenting with dance language. I'm interested in what the language
can say.‘ she states. Bonsu‘s pieces . are about very personal ideas. She
attempts to communicate these to her audience by distilling a clear statement which is expressed in a number ofways. Aware that dance can be perceived as obscure. Bonsu also likes to choreograph on other dancers. ‘When you are using your
' own body its even more difficult to
Electric Motion. on the other hand, are all about experimentation. Their performances are improvised around a basic structure. which according to dancer Susan Hay ’gives us an extra shot ofadrenaline’. While such a technique can add danger and excitement. the performance is not guaranteed to succeed. ’Once it ended up in complete chaos.‘ admits Hay. Now. however, she believes that the three dancers have learned each others’ body language. ’lfsomeone‘s got. for instance, a certain gleam in their eye then you just know that they are about to leap on you!‘ (Jo Roe)
The X Factor and Maxine Railton/David Munro, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow 10—11 Jul, Electic Motion and Rosina Bonsu, 12—13 Jul