REVIEW: Semi-Toned Presents: A Study in Burgandy | Semi-Toned

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Music, Reviews

Aug 16-28 | 6.30pm | theSpaceUK@Symposium Hall | Get Tickets


I know I’ve said this about improv but you also can’t do the Edinburgh Fringe properly without seeing a bit of A Cappella. Usually, you can do this by swanning up the royal mile and checking out the mobile stages but alas this year it’s a little more difficult to come by. That’s why I was so delighted to see fringe regulars Semi-Toned back on the bill at theSpaceUK this year!

As ever they intertwine witty banter and panto style comedy with flawless A Cappella arrangements of classic and modern hits in a choreographed performance in which you can’t help but smile all the way through.

The standout song for me was a medley of James Bond songs, and performers worth a special mention include incredible beatboxer Max, who is so good he gets his own percussion solo and Jacob who is wonderfully consistent and engaging from beginning to end.

What makes this show even more amazing than usual is that, due to covid restrictions, the lads only had a week to rehearse in real life. I mean, damn! That is incredibly impressive! If they’re that good after a week I can only imagine how fantastic it’ll be next year!


The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • Semi-Toned used to be just another one of these university A Cappella groups and (although admittedly on the upper end of the quality scale) used to blend in with the rest of the unaccompanied music scene. That was until they got involved in some Reality-TV shows, winning BBC2’s The Choir in 2016 and becoming finalists on Sky One’s Sing in 2017. I’m not saying it’s easy to do Reality-TV but it has created an amazing platform for this group to perform shows year on year with massive audiences. So never disregard platforms that could act as launch pads.

REVIEW: ABCd’airs | Anne Baquet, Claude Collet, Amandine Dehant, Anne Régnier

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Music, Reviews

Aug 6-30 | On Demand | French Institute of Scotland Online | Fringe Player | Get Tickets

ABCd’airs (translating to the ABC of tunes) is a feast of different art forms all baked up into an innovative Fringe show. Classical Musical meets Theatrical Cabaret crossed with sketch comedy, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this performance.

Even with my limited knowledge of French (which this show is performed in) the astonishing women have such excellent comic timing and slapstick expression that I was still able to clearly understand and enjoy much of the action.

The highlight of this performance by far was the encore in which an A-Z of songs were performed in different genres, so you never knew what was coming next. Whoever decided to create a medley for the letter Y including The Beatles classics Yesterday and Yellow Submarine layering The Village People’s YMCA over the top deserves a medal!

Enthusiastic, inspirited and always energetic these women don’t let up for a second, constantly changing tacts to take the audience by surprise. You won’t regret viewing this show, but you will be exhausted just watching.

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • If you work in the music industry, think about showcasing different instruments. In many of the segments of ABC D’airs the double bass to pole position leading the music which is rarely seen. It adds a great vibe to the show and is a way to showcase underrepresented musicians.
  • Experimenting with the traditional form or nature of a creative endeavour is exactly what the fringe is about, so don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of your artform. You just might create some beauty.

REVIEW: Corona Cutie: A Digital Quest for Love | Spotlight MT

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Music, Theatre

6th-30th August | On Demand | Fringe Player | Get Tickets


This new musical explores the ordeals of finding love and keeping sane in a locked-down world. It’s created using simply filming and editing techniques tied in with comic book style graphics to ask why pandemics don’t feature in romcoms?

I am a firm believer that if you write a show around current affairs along with what’s trending around you and stick it in a musical you are bound to attract a fringe audience, which is exactly what Spotlight MT has done.

Mom, that one annoying person who’s doing really well in lockdown training for 10ks, constantly meeting mates online and annoyingly optimistic tells their introverted daughter who is living alone and wonders what they can find to do once they’ve tidied their room, to get dating!

There are some catchy songs including ‘Whatever I Say,’ a dark, jazzy look at creating your dating profile and ‘Alive,’ about how it’s okay not to be okay, as long as you stand tall and keep going.

Spotlight MT has developed the perfect platform to showcase this group of new graduates with fantastic voices singing to the great score developed by Lucy Gellar. In a world with limited creative opportunities, they have made their own and show young creatives everywhere that you don’t need to be a film wizard, a sound pro or a costume designer to get your concept across, so long as you have a passionate team to work with.

Graduates should take note that this work was created with the support of the Marian and Charles Holmes Performing Arts Fund, a small funding body from Claremont College where these grads and students have done their training. These funding solutions exist so don’t be afraid to ask your college or university if they have any options you could apply for to help you show off your ideas!

A great work in progress from this inspiring group of individuals. I have no doubt you all have careers ahead of you if this is your beginning!

La La Land: Fantasy vs. Reality

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Music, Theatre



I don’t live in LA, nor have I ever been, but in the same way I’m sure that no movie about American High School has actually accurately depicted an American High School I am positive that La La Land does not accurately depict what life is like for an out of work actress and struggling jazz musician living in Hollywood.  Feel free to stop me if I’m wrong (those of you who are struggling actors in LA will know better) but Emma Stone seemed to swan in and out of mansion parties as if this is the normal way to network.  The production parties I’ve been to have mainly consisted of a theatre foyer with a dodgy catered buffet and box wine but who am I to judge?  Maybe life is that different across the pond.  Now, I’m not stupid.  I know that embellishment is added for the sake of entertainment.  I’m not here to pick holes…


Despite the mixed bag of reviews I received before finally getting round to seeing it myself and the poor singing and dancing that is bettered every year on Strictly Come Dancing aside, I think La La Land raises some important truths worth pondering over which tend to play out in our careers and businesses, wherever we may be in the creative industry.


I was mentoring a young actor, a year into her drama degree, who moaned that she was sick of her retail job and was looking for something, anything, even remotely associated with theatre, her chosen specialised field.  Isn’t this what Mia (Emma Stone) does?  What Seb (Ryan Gosling) tries?  What we all do?  Many of us start off in the arts working in bars or restaurants, front of house or box office.  So long as it is part of a theatre or gallery or festival or music venue we feel in the thick of the action and it’s ok for now.  And I commend these people!  The passionate dreamers!  Our dreams get a little more jaded as we age but we start off fighting!


The audition process illustrated in La La Land unfortunately can be faithful to real life, which is a shame.  When they are run by bored minds who no longer really care about the work they are involved in they leave hopeful actors worn out and weary, hope dying with every rejection, like Mia.  She tells us she has been ‘trying to make it’ for 6 years and basically can’t be bothered with it anymore; dejection and fear has settle in.


The general consensus across the creative industries is that no one gets into the arts for the money so the moment you stop really loving what you’re doing is the moment you should stop or at least change course.  Sometimes it’s the rebuffs, sometimes the lifestyle.  I used to work in stage management and found my decision pretty much came down to this: Do I want to have a social life or do I want my work to be my entire life.  The love wasn’t there any more, so I left.  But what can I say: lady theatre dragged me back, just down a slightly different path.


Obviously, everything works out in the end, in the film at least.  Mia becomes a Hollywood Star due to the unprecedented success of her one woman show and Seb uses the money he made in his modernised Jazz band to fund his dream jazz bar business.  Obviously not entirely realistic but very Hollywood (and with a dream ballet sequence, the likes of which haven’t really been seen since Oklahoma!, who is complaining)!


So what should you take away from this movie?  What is the moral?  Sorry to sound pessimistic but dreams don’t always come true, at least not in the way you think.  I think the moral is that your life has to adapt with your craft, sometimes we must compromise and other times we must evolve.


The speech that struck me was that of Keith (John Legend) who tells it Seb Straight:


“How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?  You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.”


He has remembered something integral: art is a business.  To stay on top we need to roll with the punches.  He takes traditional jazz and gives it that contemporary, commercial twist for a new audience who, with any luck, will look into the origins of where this music came whilst continuing to carry it into the future with them, introducing a new audience and a new, evolutionary art form.


Seb makes his money in this band uses it to fund his dream bar.  Clearly, during his time spent with The Messengers Seb has learnt a few lessons, which are reflected in the bar set up.  The layout of his club takes us back to a 1940s feel of what jazz bars would have felt like, something which is fashionable at the moment, especially if you’re looking for that new hipster hotspot.  It serves fancy drinks in  fancy crystal, also super trendy, as opposed to the fried chicken sticks he originally longed for (now presumably reserved for the end of the night).  Then the jazz is the cherry on top.  He has nailed a business which gives him an outlet to perform the music he wants, whilst turning over (we hope) a profit.


You might be thinking this is a corporate way to analyse this movie, I prefer realistic.  So, look at Seb’s success, cut past the romance, the song and dance, the bright colours and remember to keep business and at the heart of your operation.  Drive your desire constructively to developing your values alongside the current climate with the aim of breaking even or making money so that you can reinvest it and do more work that matters to you and your viewers!  Adapt your mind set and progress with the times.


Your enthusiasm will always show in what you produce.  When things get tough, always remember your audience can see more than you think.  After all as Mia says:


“People love what other people are passionate about.”


What did you take from La La Land?  Any business strategies you think I’ve missed?  Or opinions your yearning to share?