Symphonic Ibiza & A Complicated Man

When the invite to Symphonic Ibiza appeared in my inbox, I jumped at the chance to be at the opening night.

Since 2015’s BBC Ibiza Prom, I’d been interested in the mix of club classics and orchestral accompaniment, and DJ Andy Joyce has managed to capture the thrill of this unusual combination. Conducting the orchestra alongside Joyce is musician Steve Etherington, whose career has spanned such diverse highlights as working with The Rubettes and The Temptations, to performing at Ibiza superclubs Pacha, Amnesia, Eden, and Café Mambo.

Set in the beautiful surroundings of Underbelly’s latest venue in Tollcross, Symphonic Ibiza played to a mixed crowd of all ages – a particular delight was seeing a man in his sixties throwing shapes to Insomnia by Faithless!

The setlist covered a good selection of hits; there was everything from the old-school Where Love Lives, through ATB’s 9PM (‘Till I Come) to more modern offerings like Daft Punk’s One More Time and a touching tribute to the late Avicii. Born Slippy went down very well with the Trainspotting-loving locals, and really benefitted from the extra live rhythm section. I could see a few of us getting misty-eyed for our student clubbing years, even though they’re in the distant past!

My only criticism would be that the wonderful vocalists suffered from a few mic issues, but this was soon resolved. The live musicians were excellent, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to this slice of the Balearics, and Etherington’s enthusiasm soon rubbed off on the crowd. Even the cynics around me, who’d been brought along by their partners, were won over in the end.

If you’re looking for something to round off your Fringe day, I highly recommend Symphonic Ibiza for a dose of feel-good fun. It had our little reviewer corner of the venue dancing our socks off. Bring your glowsticks!


Symphonic Ibiza, Underbelly Central Hall, 15-25 Aug, 21:00


Thanks to the Edinburgh Queer Fringe meetup, I found out about this curious show, A Complicated Man.

The title conjures up the proem from the ground-breaking translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson, which begins ‘Tell me about a complicated man’. In this one-person play, Big Mammal disrupts Homer in unexpected and entertaining ways, unravelling Odysseus as hero, warrior, husband, and ultimately a flawed human.

Identity is a central theme, in particular notions of queerness and gender fluidity. Emma Henry is a commanding presence, using wigs and costumes to transform themselves into Odysseus, the creatures he meets on his journey, and even Homer himself. Key plot points are soundtracked with pop songs, leading to a surreal recreation of the Trojan horse with a bathtub and Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, and a sassy female-coded Polyphemus dancing to Kelis’ Milkshake.

While this was an inspired move, I was occasionally confused as to what the tone was intended to be. There were strong segments reminiscent of passionate slam poetry, transforming Homer’s work into a sharp lyrical weapon – Calypso’s insistent ‘Am I your Ithaca?’ stands out as an example. At the same time, a scene where Henry leaves to visit the toilet, then returns to dance in a dog costume to Laurie Anderson’s O Superman, baffled the audience somewhat. Perhaps this was a nod to Circe turning Odysseus’ men into pigs, or it could have been simply a surreal interlude. Whatever its purpose, for me it disrupted the otherwise coherent narrative thread.

‘Am I Odysseus yet?’ is a common refrain in A Complicated Man. As a Classicist who studied Homer for three years, I still can’t say if Henry’s performance is the definitive version. But Big Mammal have certainly produced a play of great complexity that’ll leave you pondering who Odysseus really was.


A Complicated Man, Bedlam Theatre, 16-20 Aug, 15:30

Laura is a fiction/creative non-fiction writer based in Edinburgh. Their work has been published by Scottish Book Trust, Monstrous Regiment and the Dangerous Women project.

Twitter: @uisgebeatha, Instagram: @lauraclayauthor



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