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Reviews / Student showcase a ‘collaborative effort between the arts’

Fully Licensed on stage at the student showcase.

THURSDAY night saw the welcome return of Mareel’s Student Showcase, featuring drama, film and music students of UHI Shetland, writes Daisy Anderson.

I have been a part of the Student Showcase since 2019. Initially with the High Level Hot Club, through two Skills for Work courses in S3 and 4, and finally my now completed HNC music course. I can say, with all honesty, that this showcase has been one of my favourites.

We began the evening in screen one, watching the various short films from the many groups Mareel is home to. The youngest of the night, the Creative Lab group, offered two short films; The Rescue of the Little Princess and A Minecraft Adventure. Both showcased such playful creativity, imaginative plots and some very skilful use of greenscreen. Congratulations to all the youngsters who took part in this.

The Skills for Work group offered us a collection of short films, which were both eerie and hilarious. S4 students directed Don’t Eat the Burgers, a Sweeny Todd-esque comedy featuring sinister fast food and an excellent evil cackle. A particular favourite from the night came from the 3rd year students, who directed The Sad Story of Robot-Child, a tale of abandonment and revenge. It featured a hilariously unintelligible mad scientist, whose every line was accompanied with subtitles.

Our senior phase group offered us a wealth of short films, 15 in total. I especially enjoyed A Sassermaet Scandal directed by Hayden Brown, depicting how far a man will go to get a Sassermaet Roll – it was wonderfully humoured and well filmed. The carnage of Keiran Black’s Monkey Business had the audience laughing aloud, with a man egregiously stealing a takeaway off a monkey, who responds, rather reasonably, with a cry of ‘Ooga booga.’

Throughout the various year groups’ films, we got a taste of what was to come. Andy Anderson, who has been providing us with promotional material for our Facebook page, showed us a variety of edits of our musicians on stage. This was a welcome bridge into the evening, crossing over from film to music, demonstrating the value of having drama, film and music students under one roof. The showcase is always a collaborative effort between the arts.

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The audience then filtered into the auditorium, ready for our musical acts.

First up was Fully Licensed, they kicked off the night in excellent style. This act featured previous students Lonnie Paton and Ethan Percival alongside current HNC student Lewis Richardson. I first saw this group at the 2022 Student Showcase and they have gone from strength to strength. Every element of the band is confident and professional.

Our next act was from multi-talented film student and comic artist Andy Anderson, who sang a heartfelt rendition of Words by the Bee Gees, accompanying himself on piano. Alongside his performance, he was also hard at work filming each act and acting as compere for the night.

Sam Renwick was next, whose ever confident stage presence took us through the night as compere and through their own selection of songs, namely a beautiful rendition of ABBA’s Slipping Through My Fingers. Their song choices had a bittersweet nostalgia and brought to mind the fact that for many, including myself, this would be our last student night.

We then had Khmer Rouge, a punk band who emerged from the Shetland Young Promoters Group and are now becoming a staple of the Shetland music scene. Their songs were groove heavy, and featured confident vocals and steady guitar riffs.

I was up next, playing songs from Jeff Buckley and The Smashing Pumpkins. The audience was very welcoming and I really enjoyed my set. I want to give a massive thank you to Ewan Moncrieff on the sound desk, Lyall Halcrow on lights and Tim Matthew as our stage hand. It has been a real privilege working with these industry professionals throughout my course and their essential work throughout the night meant the whole concert ran smoothly.

Drummer and composer Eamonn Watt.

We had an excellent set from Hayden Brown, who is both a talented film student and an assured musician. As a singer myself, I really admired his vocal control. He showed immense consideration in each line he sang and accompanied himself fluently on guitar.

Michelle Henderson then took to the stage with her family to perform us an electronic-infused traditional set. Alongside Eamonn Watt, they performed various folk melodies with fiddles, piano, drum pads and backing tracks created by Michelle during the course. We also got a taste of NC student Ella Robertson’s composing skills, with an original, unnamed tune being played by the group.

We then saw more of Eamonn Watt, who started his set by sharing his experience as a previous student of Mareel and the UHI. He told us how he started way back in 2011 as an NC student, and said encouraging words about how far he has come as a professional musician using skills the courses had taught him.

He is now a familiar face around Shetland, a teacher, performer and a very successful recording artist on Spotify. The highlight of his set for me was hearing his composition Aquarelle, which was elegantly put into a visual score, projected onto the stage. After many high energy acts, the audience was completely mesmerised as we watched and listened to the thoughtful piano piece. You could have heard a pin drop.

Capping off an outstanding night was 8-Ball Jacuzzi, who began their set with Sweet Child O’ Mine, sung to great effect by vocalist and guitarist Logan Tulloch. Their classic rock songs were well arranged and played with excellent control. The whole band has great presence. Logan, Isaac, Hakki and Lewis are all musicians to watch out for in the future.

This event above all, demonstrates the commitment and capability of those working in arts education in the UHI and Shetland Arts. Our lecturers, namely Fraser Mouat, Bryan Peterson, Carol Jamieson, David Boyter, Barnum Smith and Stephenie Georgia, have weathered budget cuts, a pandemic and various challenges along the way to ensure that Shetland’s young talent are given qualifications, professional development and a platform to showcase their art.

I, among many others, have been able to use these courses to start our professional careers. So as I go away to study music further, I know that more young people will have the same excellent opportunities to hone their craft. The arts in Shetland are in safe hands.

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