On Thin Ice

The film, predicted to scoop a host of awards at film festivals around the world, tells the story of a climber who seeks adventure over publicity, with a pure approach to climbing that sees him put up some of the boldest solo ascents in history. With no cameras, no rope and no margin for error, Leclerc’s approach is the essence of solo adventure.

When Mortimer and Rosen began to work on The Alpinist, the plan was to follow Leclerc on his adventures and see where they ended up. That was easier said than done: Leclerc would sometimes ‘forget’ to tell the filmmakers where he was heading. As Leclerc comments in the film, “It wouldn’t be a solo for me if somebody was there. It wouldn’t even be remotely close to the adventure I was looking for.”

Comparisons with Free Solo – about climbing superstar Alex Honnold’s rope-free climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan – are inevitable. However, The Alpinist is much more than Free Solo with snow and ice. For a start, the characters are very different; while Honnold was already one of the most revered figures in climbing even before Free Solo, the gawky, camera-shy Leclerc was largely unknown outside of the climbing community of Squamish, British Columbia.

And there is another crucial difference between the two films. In March 2018, as filming neared completion, Mortimer and Rosen received news that Leclerc had gone missing while climbing in Alaska with a local man named Ryan Johnson. In a moment, the film switches from a celebration of adventure to a devastating reminder of the risks attached.

The bodies of Leclerc and Johnson were never found, only a length of rope sticking out from a pile of heavy snow following what was presumed to be a huge avalanche.

Having had time to take stock, all those involved agreed to continue with the film. The filmmakers did two more interviews – with Brette Harrington, Leclerc’s girlfriend and herself an elite climber, and Leclerc’s mother, Michelle Kuipers – to include layers of grief that add a searing honesty to the film.

The Alpinist screens at the Eastgate Theatre at 7pm, Thurs 28 Oct. Tickets £15, £25 adult and under 16, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

Carmen becomes The Car Man

Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge in a powerful and uncompromising vision of small-town America.

Screened at the Eastgate Theatre on Tuesday 19 October, the performance by Bourne’s New Adventures dance company combines vivid storytelling with one of the most passionately dramatic, and instantly recognisable, scores ever written.

It’s another memorable reworking by a choreographer and dance repertoire that have become known for telling stories with a unique theatrical twist. Perhaps best-known for its production of Swan Lake, with its corps de ballet of menacing male swans, New Adventures have also made their mark on a whole range of ballet, opera, film and literary classics.

“Of all our New Adventure’s dance productions, The Car Man has become the show that is most often mentioned as a ‘favourite’ by audience members, and it’s loved by the dancers too who relish the chance to perform such gutsy and challenging roles,” commented Bourne.

Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man screens at the Eastgate Theatre at 7pm, Tues 19 Oct. Tickets £17, £10 under 16s, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

RANT Reel into Peebles

A meeting of four of the country’s finest players, the quartet use just their fiddles to weave a tapestry of melodies, textures, layers and sounds.

Together, Bethany Reid from Shetland, Anna Massie and Lauren MacColl from the Black Isle, and latest member Gillian Frame from Arran showcase the combined power of their instruments with a repertoire unearthed from both old collections and their own contemporary writing.

The band’s most recent album, The Portage, was recorded over four days in the renowned Mackintosh Queen’s Cross – the only church in the world to be designed by architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The recording – a close reflection of their live sound – was awarded ‘Top of the World’ status from Songlines Magazine.

RANT play the Eastgate Theatre, 7.30pm, Fri 8 Oct. Tickets £17, £15, £8 under 16s, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

When Jamie met Phil

Jamie, an S3 pupil at Peebles High School has been playing the accordion for a little over four years and, though he has played with Peebles Youth Orchestra and Peebles and Biggar Accordion and Fiddle Clubs, he usually plays solo.  He first came to the attention of the Eastgate in 2019 when he won the Callants Annual Busking Competition during the Creative Peebles Festival.

One of the tunes Jamie plays is one of Phil’s songs called Miss Rowan Davies and he first saw Aly and Phil play at the Eastgate three years ago just as he was about to leave Eddleston Primary School..

Jamie said:

“It was amazing to be able to meet Phil Cunningham and chat to and play for him.   He was really nice and gave me some good tips.   The best bit was when he had a shot of my accordion – I’ve never heard it sound so good.   I feel really privileged that Phil Cunningham has played my accordion.  Watching both Phil and Ally playing up close too was so good – I can’t believe how fast their hands work, and really inspires me to keep on learning.  I’d like to thank the Eastgate Theatre for inviting me to come along to meet Phil and Aly, and I would also like to thank everyone who donated when I was busking this year.   I managed to raise £165.40 for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.”

To complete what turned out to be a fantastic evening Phil offered Jamie a free accordion lesson on zoom.   He can’t wait.

Comedy Crime Caper Comes to Peebles

A two-man comedy gem starring Julian Finnegan and Dominic Goodwin, Holmes and Watson: the Farewell Tour is a delightfully bonkers show from Pyramus and Thisbe Productions. Its premise sees Sherlock Holmes, just before slipping into well-earned retirement, convince Dr Watson, his landlady Mrs Hudson and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard to join him on a farewell tour of the British Isles in which they will re-enact this most baffling unrecorded case.

Shrouded in secrecy until now, this case – an affair upon whose outcome the security of Europe once hung by a thread – has only now been approved by the government for public disclosure.

It is also understood that Mr Holmes has been entrusted by Her Majesty with the conveyance to the Tower of London of the fabled Satsuma Stone – stolen from the crown of William of Orange in the seventeenth century and only recently discovered in a midden in Maastricht. The evening, we are told, may include a glimpse of this priceless gem.

The play garnered glowing reviews when performed before the pandemic, with Julian Finnigan excelling as the straight man Holmes and Dominic Goodwin’s Watson full of comic excellence.

“When we decided to bring the tour back after Covid, we agreed that the need to laugh will never have been greater,” commented Goodwin. “We’re pretty sure this farewell tour will provide that laugh!”

Holmes and Watson: The Farewell Tour plays at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, 7.30pm, Thurs 30 September. Tickets priced £16, £14, £6 under 16s, available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.

Eastgate Expands Health & Wellbeing Programme

Brand new for this season is a weekly Memory Lane Music session – a cheerful hour of song and music led by local tutors Frances Taylor and Robbie Tatler. The free sessions, provided in partnership with Peebles-based music school Nomad Beat, will be held across two blocks on Wednesday mornings from 15 September through to 24 November.

Initially helping to reduce feelings of loneliness and problems with communication, the long-term aim is to demonstrate the improvements that music can make to peoples’ lives, so it becomes an important part of their provided care systems.

The season also sees the return of Dance for Parkinson’s, a series of weekly dance workshops offered in partnership with Scottish Ballet and Edinburgh’s Dance Base, Scotland’s national centre for dance.

Suitable for people with no dance experience, the sessions help develop participants’ confidence and creativity while addressing specific concerns around balance, coordination, flexibility, mobility and social isolation.

Sessions (priced at £5) are held on Thursday mornings from 15 September to 9 December, and include live music, refreshments and the chance for a good blether at the end.

For more information, visit https://eastgatearts.com/take-part/engage-programme/

Music Month at the Eastgate

The October programme kicks off with the finest fiddle playing recently to emerge from Scotland.  Fara launches the month on the 1st.  the fiery sound produced by Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price on fiddles plus Rory Matheson on piano perform the music of Orkney in intricate playing and rich harmonies.   Seven days later, on the 8th , RANT pick up the roots music baton.  Four of Scotland’s finest fiddle players create a sound both rich and lush weaving a tapestry of melodies, textures, layers and sounds.

Between these two, on Saturday 2nd , The Spirit of Bad Company and Free celebrate the music of Paul Rodgers.  The Music in Peebles season continues with an extraordinary hybrid classical concert/drama production called Creating Carmen. This fun filled evening of fantasy, comedy, drama and tremendous music is on Tuesday 5th .

Bizet’s music makes an extraordinary return on Tuesday 19th at 7pm when the big silver screen is filled by Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.  This extraordinary dance/drama interpretation of the opera transports the story to a greasy garage diner in 1960s America, where the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge.

Wednesday 27th sees the frenetic energy turned down just a little as internationally renowned guitarist Martin Simpson rules the stage.  One of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players in the world, Martin’s interpretations of traditional songs are masterpieces of storytelling as he combines elements of British, Afro-American and old-timey music with his own songs.  Heidi Talbot and Boo Hewardine bring the month to a close on the 29th as they celebrate Heidi’s 20 years as a professional singer and the release of her new album featuring tracks from her first 5 solo albums.

Whatever your musical taste the Eastgate is the place to be this month.  Performances (except Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man) begin at 7.30pm.  Tickets can be bought in person, over the ‘phone on 01721 725777 or online www.eastgatearts.com where there is a lot more background information.

The Eastgate Theatre’s recently launched autumn programme – its first season launch for almost two years – will have trad music fans in particular licking their lips in anticipation, with a host of talent from near and far playing live between now and November.

Step into the Surreal World of Gary Meikle

Having enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks, forging a career in stand-up after finding inspiration from his life as a young single dad, Gary has become known as a fast-paced, punchy storyteller with a barrowload of playfully dark material. His cheeky chappie demeanour and ability to get away with talking about anything leaves audiences laughing at things that they probably shouldn’t.

As always, Gary draws material from his own real-life experiences, including his unique family dynamic – he became a granddad at 40 – and his rapid rise to online fame. Quickly putting his audiences at ease, a night of stand-up with Gary feels like time in the pub chatting with friends – albeit a chat that covers topics ranging from evolution to bee sex, how to deal with burglars and small man syndrome.

And Gary Meikle is just the first in a series of stellar comedy performers coming to Peebles over the next few months. Eastgate regular and all-round kilty cult figure, Craig Hill, returns in November with his new show, Pumped – just launched at the Edinburgh Fringe.

And in January, Glasgow’s critically acclaimed Scott Gibson – one of the finest storytelling comedians in the country – will take audiences on a deep, dark and meaningful dive into the year gone by.

Tickets for performances by Gary Meikle (7.30pm, Tues 26 Aug), Craig Hill (7.30pm, Fri 5 Nov) and Scott Gibson (7.30pm, Sat 15 Jan 2022) are available from the Eastgate Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.

Scotland’s Deer Dilemma Debated on Screen

The thorny issue of how to manage Scotland’s vast population of red deer will take centre stage on the opening night of this year’s Peebles Outdoor Film Festival (13-15 Aug), with a screening of multi-award-winning film The Cull: Scotland’s Deer Dilemma.