The Ballad of Amber and Johnny

The thing about the defamation trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is that we don’t know what happened and we can’t know. All we can do is gather verifiable facts – police call outs, hospital visits etc – and decide who has the most plausible account.

Personally, I’m not buying either. He comes across as a smug, seething, overstuffed ferret. She’s like Tonya Harding starring in a High School version of Gone Girl.

Both of them are at the end of their traditional leading role years – the cut off for women is about 40 (kids are part of happily ever after), with men it’s 60 (they could have kids, but it looks grim). Even though we don’t stick to tradition as much as we did (thankfully), it still makes you wonder what either can possibly get out of such a public scandal esp one with terrible lighting.

Politically they’re being used by groups that despise each other – feminists and men’s rights activists. Feminists want to highlight that domestic violence is a gendered issue (in severity & frequency most victims are women, most perpetrators men), men’s rights activists want to highlight that it has no gender (mainly because feminism wounds their egos rather than for the genuinely neglected & often mocked male victims of domestic violence).

In a dubious development, Amber’s domestic violence op-ed in the Washington Post, the inciting incident of this round, was written and touted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) & timed to capitalise on Aquaman’s publicity campaign.

Less corrupt, but more trivial, Johnny’s campaign for Dior is being held up as a sign of his innocence, as if a fashion brand wouldn’t use infamy to shift units.

Socially Johnny’s in Hollywood Babylon territory – the ugly truth behind the glamorous facade. The rock star bad boy thing kind of lingers, but does struggle up against tales of staying in fancy trailer parks, like he’s Johnny Antoinette. Let them eat MDMA.

Amber has a slim hope of giving us Martyr For Love, but seems to be heading for Pretty but Psycho. She ruins every realistic detail by blubbering out conventional romance and conventional morality – something at odds with her lifestyle. The social media memes are against her. With TikTok and Twitter particularly brutal.

Johnny is forever an icon. You can’t erase those cheekbones or his work with Tim Burton.

Amber’s most famous performance may be this, but I hope she finds something better.

I hope they both get back to their careers.

The public has been entertained, but I don’t think there’s any wider public interest in this spectacle.



Some Reviews :

Theatre review: Viota, Glasgow Tron

  • by Jay Richardson
 Published on the04April  2013  02:04, The Scotsman

 * * *

As such, it’s very much an actors’ piece. But the playwright has distilled an ebbing and flowing succession of clashes into a simmering triangle between titled outcast and Bloomsbury-survivor Vivien (Frankie MacEachen) and her lodgers – her biographer, the journalist Vicki (Sophia Porter), and trustfund revolutionary Ursula (Erica O’Neill). The Vietnam War, the Moon landing and women’s lib form the backdrop as each struggles to find their identity, their self-imposed inhibitions as formidable as any obstacles imposed by society.

MacEachen capably conveys Vivien’s trepidation and vulnerability, even as she flourishes in the presence of her younger friends, while Porter and O’Neill are equally good as the repressed but ambitious reporter and the protesting-too-much, rebellious little rich girl. There’s solid support from Derek Banner as Vicki’s chauvinist fiancé and Maria MacCormack as batty Aunt Millie, a throwback to Vivien’s former aristocratic life, with the sense of suffocated sexuality palpable.

Although Viota occasionally approaches melodrama, the emotional maelstrom compels throughout.

Viota, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper
Theatre critic
Thursday 4 April 2013, The Herald 

Feminism may no longer be the dirty word it was, but it’s vital the movement’s foundations are never forgotten.

This new play from the boldly named Theatre Revolution probably isn’t the most radical vehicle for such a notion, though it’s a game enough look at the 1960s counter-culture as seen from the sofa by three very different women.

It’s 1969, Vicki is writing for the women’s page of a London tabloid and lodging with the bohemian Vivien while being courted by Jack. Into their lives breezes Ursula, an Australian actress and Vietnam protester who buys into hippy ideals more than any of them.

Over a series of episodic scenes we see them fall out, argue ideology, share each other’s self-absorption and spout naive platitudes as only children of the 1960s can.

All of which in Iain McAleese’s production of Karen Barclay’s script developed from a devising process looks and sounds like a more flamboyant and politically inclined take on female flat-share dramas such as Take Three Girls and The Pleasure Girls that used to pop un on screens great and small back in the day. In fact, so unremittingly naturalistic is the play that television would be a far better home for it than the stage.

If this seems odd given how the play was created, there are some well-observed studies of how both the class and gender wars could so easily go off the rails, particularly in Frankie MacEachan’s sapphically inclined Vivien.

Too often, however, the lines sound like they’re grafted to an idea that never fully allows them to breathe in a curious look back in languor.

Echoes of Virginia

Watching Viota is an almost exhausting experience for Hazel Robertson as the play examines radical culture changes in the shadow of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

Hazel Robertson, 15 April 2013, The F Word

Viota is an adventurous piece of theatre by small company Theatre Revolutions that examines culture clashes of the late 1960s. The three main characters are women so different that they seem to have arrived on the stage from distant planets to neatly illustrate radically changing social and political opinions of the era.

The moon landing, second wave feminism, drugs and hippy culture form the backdrop to this turbulent play, which examines a claustrophobic triangular relationship among strong women. However, this is not a simple examination of culture clashes but a pile up of world viewpoints. Class, sexuality and political opinions battle fiercely and openly in this character driven drama.

Aristocratic Vivian lived through both world wars, observed the free expression of the Bloomsbury Group, witnessed the scandalous love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis and can barely recount how many stately homes she has lived in. Rejected by her blue-blooded friends, forgotten by her ex-husband and neglected by her only son, she rules over her dingy boarding house with a nonchalant and often drunken hand.

Ambitious journalist Vicki is initially in awe of Vivian, with her exotic lifestyle and opulent background. Vivian regales Vicki with her memories of Vita and Violet and the controversy that their relationship caused in late Edwardian society while being accepted and even celebrated within the Bloomsbury Group. Vicki is there to type up Vivian’s autobiography, which she dictates whilst languishing on the beaten-up sofa, glass of neat gin in hand.

In a moving sequence, Vivian painfully recites from the pages of her memoirs and details the loss of her glamorous, night-club singer partner. Their passionate relationship, her acute sense of loss, the class-transcending domestic abuse that she faced at the hands of her husband and her ensuing mental health collapse are tenderly but angrily recounted.

Meanwhile, Vivian is fascinated by newcomer Ursula; an argumentative new-age hippy so gratingly nonconformist that she seems incapable of using any article of furniture the way it was intended. Ursula represents the modern and radical ideas of the late 60s: she’s a Marxist, a vegan and a feminist who never wants to get married and believes in equal pay for women. She’s also an anti-Vietnam war protestor (hiding the fact that her brother has chosen to fight there from her radical friends) and believes in a revolutionary egalitarian new world order. Vivian is enthralled by how easily Ursula shakes off societal constraints that have controlled her own life.

The drama explores the ugly collision of class cultures

The radical differing viewpoints between them are beautifully contrasted early on when they both exhibit their ideas of one woman theatre shows. Ursula screams and rants about babies being napalmed in Vietnam and corporate greed before outlining her plan to be stripped and painted by her fellow actors. Meanwhile, Vivian’s show is of the cosy chat show variety, featuring gardening tips and jolly anecdotes about her upper class friends. Initially clashing in their opinions, Vivian is excited to experiment and happily accompanies Ursula to moon parties and new-age theatre shows. It seems that after been thrown out of her aristocratic set due to her provocative same-sex relationship, she is happy to subscribe to an alternative way of life.

However, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boarding house is less than harmonious due to the quarrelsome relationship between Vicki and Ursula who clash nastily over their backgrounds and viewpoints. Vicki sullenly characterises Ursula as a fake: a spoilt foreign trust fund brat who can afford unemployment and the luxury of radical, impractical principles. She, meanwhile, must face the classic predicament of professional women: choose a career, which seems to have stalled at inventing the personal problems for the women’s pages of a tabloid, or become a wife to her young executive boyfriend, accompany him to his new post in Bahrain, have children and never return to work.

Her choice is undermined by both Ursula, who doesn’t need to make that choice, and Vivian, who never has. Here the drama explores the ugly collision of class cultures. Vicki, desperate for a meaty story, writes a revealing piece on “stinking” student protestors and their duplicity at both insisting on an equal society whilst failing to credit their own privileged background.

In the end, Vicki’s observations are revealed to be valid with the gradual unravelling of assured and dramatic Ursula. After a clash with a police horse at a protest, she is left with a permanent limp and rages about being “one of them…a cripple”, a figure of pity to be looked down on for the rest of her life. In a fit of bigoted rage she slurs Vivian as a “loony” and a “dyke”. Angry at her predicament she exclaims that she should never have got involved in politics, exposing it as a privileged “choice” of lifestyle and wishes out loud that she had spent her trust fund relaxing on a Greek island.

Viota is an ambitious piece of theatre that examines what we rarely get to see: women’s experiences of profound social and political change

First night nerves seemed to be running high in the small Tron theatre with an unsure stumbling finish and achingly long breaks between scenes. Music from the era was played at ear-splitting volumes as if they were songs on a radio rather than a score to complement the story. Although the set was as grimy and miserable as a late ’60s boarding house should be, this is theatre design with little imagination. The whole production could have been so much slicker, inventive and better co-ordinated. Meanwhile, the performances ranged from the perfectly pitched steely aspiration of Sophia Porter’s Vicki to Frankie MacEachan’s disappointing rendering of Vivian, which lacked the depth, gusto and volume that this complex character deserved.

Viota is an ambitious piece of theatre that examines what we rarely get to see: women’s experiences of profound social and political change. This is a chance to witness second wave feminism and its imagined impact on different characters, which vary from freedom from conformity for Ursula to a dangerous myth for Vicki that leaves her life mostly untouched.

The shadow that the Bloomsbury Group casts over the drama is a cunning move as the audience is able to see the inheritance of new ideas from generation to generation and the swells of feminist waves. More could have been made of Vivian’s experiences and the impact that their ideas had on her but the hint of historical gratitude was well placed.

Despite the ambitions of Karen Barclay’s script, this could be a case of a play taking on more than it can handle. The drama spends a lot of time dwelling on study of complexly-drawn characters and gradually revealing layers of their needlessly complicated backgrounds. Unfortunately, Viota tries to say so much that in effect it ends up saying little and is a missed opportunity to really draw out the tension filled experience of a revolutionary era.

Viota was on at Tron Theatre, Glasgow from 3-6 April. 

Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2017 – Love or Money


love or money quote poster 2

A double bill of romantic comedies about love and other circumstances.

Vote For Love by Karen Barclay

Suzie Love, stands against her careerist sister, Pamela, in a by-election in order to save a community garden from a high-speed railway, but risks it all by falling in love with her hapless brother-in-law, Archie Harris.


Some People by Tom Brogan

Single parents David and Ruth find themselves at loggerheads when their children are involved in a fight and their ‘punishment’ is to serve on the school board… gradually they realise they have more in common than they first thought.


Suzie/Ruth             Natalie Clarke

Archie/David         Paul Kozinski


Hamster Language

My beloved hamster Endeavour really did communicate through these noises & actions – and because I was impressed – I’m recording them here for future Ethologists:

ack ack ack = my bedding is in disarray, I am unhappy.

ACK! = I was arranging my bedding, put me back in my cage.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAK = the roof of my bed has come off, do something!

Filling bed with sawdust = my bed is stinky, I require fresh bedding…

Squeak, Squeak, Squeak = the slide has fallen off my platform, assist me to put it back up.

Banging a food bowl = I’m a free animal, remove me from this prison.

Hanging from the bars at the top of the cage – if you don’t immediately remove me from this cage I will fall & die & guilt will haunt your every waking hour.

Climbing into an exercise ball = I want to be in my exercise ball, close the lid.

Banging into things while in an exercise ball = I’m bored of this exercise ball, open the lid.

Falling asleep = put me back in my bed.

A desperate look while climbing = assist me to climb this item of furniture.

Head stuck in bedding or sofa, back legs waggling = I’m in a predicament, remove me at once.

Furious face, using back legs to kick bedding over her bed – I’m cold, put the heating on.

Look of alarm, then slowly moving away = AAAARRRRGGGHHHHH, it’s Scuttler, the spider!

Banging sandpit = these conditions are unacceptable, clean my sandpit.

Grooming = it will take me half an hour to prepare to leave my cage, do not shut the door.

sniffing along the open cage door – I might be going to bed, or I might not be, don’t close the door until I’ve made up my mind.

Darting = I will chew that wire & nothing will stop me.

Scenting = what are these non-me smells I keep encountering?

Paw on hand = who are you? You haven’t fed me for at least 10 minutes.

Squeaky Squeak Squeaky Squeak = unhand me, I wish to go in this direction.

Fast Waddling = I think I saw a crumb fall on the carpet, I will reach it before the hoover.

SQUEAK! = I’m missing, retrieve me.

Frantic scratching – I’m trapped in a box, let me out.

Banging food bowl, then reversing away from hand = I’m still sleepy, but require more food.

Throwing food out of cage = this is boring, I need variety.

Sitting on table = BRING ME A SNACK!

Climbing into cage & going into bed = that’s enough activity for today, please put the light out & be quiet.

Furious face with screwed up eyes (while in bed) = STOP THIS RELENTLESS NOISE!

Furious face (while in bed) = it’s morning, where is my toast?

And tons of other things – she was ALWAYS saying something.