Theatre review: Neu! Reekie Xmas Kracker, Central Hall

OF the many signs of Scotland’s continuing cultural confidence, Neu! Reekie!’s success is one of the most endearingly wide-ranging.

Central Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Neu! Reekie! Xmas Kracker

Central Hall, Edinburgh

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Rating: ****

Words, music, film; throw them all together, they suggest at their events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and further afield, and let’s see what emerges. Returning to the site of their largest gig yet back in June, for their Christmas party they welcomed few hundred party-loving literary hipsters to Edinburgh Methodist Mission’s grand Central Hall on Lothian Road.

A strong spoken word bill included a set from Liz Lochhead, but it was the return of Irvine Welsh (Neu! Reekie! is co-run by Welsh’s old Rebel Inc publisher Kevin Williamson) to his home city which intrigued the most. Mirroring Welsh’s own homecoming, the short extract he read revisited the character of Begbie – played with menace by Robert Carlyle in the film of Trainspotting – as an older man, now an artist married to the American art therapist he met in jail, but drawn back to Leith by the death of his son. Revisiting “paggers past” and his down-at-heel ex-partner, it offered a dark, fever-dream perspective on memories best forgotten.

Even in this spacious auditorium, young and thoroughly recommended Glasgow disco-punks White were a ferociously good proposition, playing loud and with driving, irresistible rhythm on key tracks like Living Fiction and Future Pleasures.

Their singer Leo Condie is key to their appeal, an animated and ever-watchable presence with a hugely expressive voice; the opposite in style if not in impact to John “Louie” Lowis of Hector Bizerk.

The latter group closed the evening with curfew-beating haste and an appearance from singer Be Charlotte, their music a more desperately action-packed celebration, their concerns political to go with the personal.