Kind of a BIG Deal – S01E06 – Philippa Langley

“I don’t know how to put this…but I’m kind of a big deal.” – Ron Burgundy

In each episode of Kind of a Big Deal you can listen to an exclusive & intimate conversation between our Features Editor and the kind of big deal folks our world-class arts scene attracts – writers, performers, movers and shakers.

Last Week: Alternative comedy legend, Andy de la Tour. Conversations coming up in season two of Kind of a BIG Deal include: David & Hilary Crystal (Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain); Phil Whitchurch & Sally Edwards (Shakespeare, His Wife and The Dog); & Angela Bartie (The Edinburgh Festivals; Culture and Society in Post-war Britain). WATCH THIS SPACE!

This week’s conversation is between Dan Lentell and secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society



Philippa is best known for her contribution to the 2012 exhumation of Richard III of England. She attributes the discovery to a feeling she had when first visiting the northern end of the Social Services car park in Leicester which acted as the catalyst to four years of research that confirmed this location, and where the king was later found. Philippa had gone to Leicester when researching Richard’s life for a screenplay she was writing.

She proceeded to raise money for, and organize the excavation of the site, leading to the eventual discovery of Richard III’s remains. She later contributed to a Channel 4 documentary about the project, titled The King in the Car Park. Philippa is co-author, with Michael K. Jones, of The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III.

This conversation took place during the 2014 Book Festival.

E49 Interviews; Dan Lentell talks to Philippa Langley

The jingle is used with the gracious permission of Moving On Theatre’s Laurene Hope Omedal (star of Piaf: Love Conquers All) and is voiced by Edinburgh Nights host Ewan Spence.

PLEASE NOTE! If you are subscribed to Edinburgh49‘s emailing list, you may not see embedded audio links in your email alert, but they are on the website. (Promise!)

‘The Baroness: Karen Blixen’s Final Affair’ (Traverse; 27-28 Sept ’13)

Dogstar Theatre The Baroness Roberta Taylor (Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) Photo credit Leila Angus

Image by Leila Angus

 “Among Denmark’s literary superstars few are more fascinating than Karen Blixen, pen name Isak Dinesen (1883-1962). The Baroness is the story of her final affair: a platonic entanglement with a much younger poet.”

Editorial Rating: Unrated

For a country where summer temperatures struggle to exceed 20°C, in terms of cultural exports, Denmark and all things Danish are surprisingly hot right now. Successes such as The Killing and Borgen have rocketed outside awareness and interest. Among Denmark’s literary superstars few are more fascinating than Karen Blixen, pen name Isak Dinesen (1883-1962). The Baroness is the story of her final affair: a platonic entanglement with a much younger poet.

We enter to find two harp-shaped window frames with fewer right angles than the Goetheanum. In one hangs a tribal mask intended to conjure images of Blitzen’s years as a coffee planter in Africa (I think it resembles Norman Tebbit). An eclectic harmony of furniture perfectly captures the sense that we are looking into the dwelling place of a mind born for the Belle Époque. Her young companion is evidently much less at home. He belongs instead to that new generation which Kennedy’s Danish-American speechwriter would describe a year before Blixen’s death as “tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace.”

The friendship of Blixen and Thorkild Bjørnvig is a matter of historical record. At times the script creeps into the realm of docudrama. When Blixen encourages her protégée to abandon his wife, child and work in order to compel the flow of his artistic creativity, she laments that Denmark is “flat as a duck pond”. Similarly, the muted script gives little sense of a tempest brewing in, or subsequently howling through, the hearts of the protagonists.

Roberta Taylor as Blixen and Ewan Donald as Bjørnvig provide well-rounded individual character sketches. There are flashes of real insight, such as Donald’s steadily improving posture, but there is little shared fascination. Blixen is portrayed at the centre of a social and cultural web in which she occultishly snares young bloods with which to feed her imagination.

Several of the techniques deployed to fill a stylized frame with stylish content are over hesitant. The dramatic function of the mutual friend (played charmingly by Romana Abercromby), for example, is uncertain – diverting more than developing the over-lengthy central narrative. By the interval I think I’ve got the point. Other than the brightly conceived set transition from Blixen’s home to Bjørnvig’s northern hideaway, not much more is said or done.

Pace was a problem throughout. Far from crisp efficiency, the frequent scene changes are slow (although composer Aiden O’Rourke’s bold, introspective score make this less of a negative). Projection was a problem too, I did not feel played to in the steeply tiered back row of Traverse One.

Dogstar Theatre squeezed hard and a good amount of zesty juice was delivered into the glass. If their future endeavours maintain the very high standards set by The Baroness for smart, funny staging of deep, moody drama then we can expect great things from them in the coming years.

Reviewer: Dan Lentell (Seen 28 September)

Visit The Baroness homepage here.