Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh Variety Night Review Sunday 6th November 2016


Lyceum Variety Nights are back at The Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, and as many reviewers will tell you, there are few phrases that can strike potential terror into you more than the great trips into the unknown offered by “amateur dramatics” and “variety nights”.  To keep this one a real surprise I had deliberately not looked at any of the online listings for the line-up or content...I wanted this to be a real unknown and possibly a good surprise.

Lyceum Variety Nights are back at this venue as part of new artistic director David Greig’s vision to make the theatre both an artistic and community hub, and with Flint & Pitch incorporating this event into their core review programme, this first of two (next one Sunday 26th February 2017) events at this venue was a carefully selected programme of established and emerging talent from the world of music, writing and spoken word and as far away from any images of “variety night terrors” that I might have had in my mind. 

Spoken word featured heavily in this show, and Christopher Brookmyre, Jenna Watt, Andrew Greig with Leo Glaister, Luke Wright, and Rachel Amey provided wide ranging examples of the endless variances in stories and messages possible with words.  All of our wordsmiths had something unique to say, but Luke Wright seemed to be having the most fun at times with a playful and instinctive use of words in his poetry as well as a great understanding of the meter, cadence and rhythm of words themselves.  Words are wonderful things with the power to literally inspire and change lives and it was a joy to watch their creative use on stage tonight.

Music was from Emma Pollock and the band “A New International”, and the contrast between the two musically was interesting.   Emma has of course already made her creative mark with bands including The Delgados and The Burns Unit, but this set featured three songs from her new album “In Search of Harperfield” which took us into songs about the often less than happy events that we all have to face at sometime in our life.  Performed songs “Cannot Keep a Secret” and “Intermission” provided stark contrasts in their subject matter while “In The Company of The Damned” gave us all an insight into the dynamics of school relationships.  These three songs illustrated not only the musical talents of Emma, but her skilful and insightful use of words as a songwriter.

For more information on Emma Pollock and her new album visit

As most reviewers will probably tell you, listening to so many performances can at times make you just want something special to happen on stage that was not expected.  That little magical moment for me tonight was hearing the band A New International and the unique sound and stage presence of singer and writer “Biff Smith”.  This band opened and closed the show, and “Tenterhooks” has just become one of my favourite songs of the year.  I have checked a few online resources before writing this review and due to the issues of sound compression on music files out there, there is nothing that does any justice to hearing Biff Smith perform live.  If you get the chance to hear this band performing anywhere near you soon, take the opportunity to go and see them.
For more information on the band visit

With our comperes Sian Bevan and Jenny Lindsay providing warm introductions and good humoured links between the acts (not an easy job to do), this was just an enjoyable evening that I hope develops well beyond its current two date run.
More information on Flint & Pitch Events at

Review by Tom King

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