Reviews / Press
‘Time to Begin’, which features in Refrigerator Cake, was published in The Scotsman on 15th November 2014. You can read the online version here.
The Red Man Turns to Green – Reviews
Secret Weapons – Reviews – August 2012
Dickson Telfer commands the stage from beginning to end in this hilarious and intelligent depiction of the burdens of being a teacher in Scotland. With the support of a musical accompaniment, Telfer single-handedly depicts everyone in the play, from the wearied teacher who cannot control his class, to the main antagonist Trevor, to the slightly mysterious Dr Alex Ricketts. Every scene is excellently told and well timed; each character that he inhabits adds another layer of comedy to the performance. The real power of the performance lay in the universality of the tales; everyone in the room could empathise with the position of at least one, if not all, of the characters. ‘Secret Weapons’ is a slickly scripted and powerfully performed story.
tw rating 4/5 | [india doyle]
There’s always a comedian. Actually, in Edinburgh at the moment, there are thousands of them: not just in person, but staring down from every railing poster and high-rental billboard like fashionably scruffy politburo members, dictating your choice of entertainment.
In Secret Weapons, Dickson Telfer’s excellent one-man drama, Trevor, the class clown, is the eye of a perfect disruptive storm of a class. Every teacher’s worst nightmare, the collegiate collection of compulsive mobile phone botherers and the easily bored is instantly recognisable whichever side of the lectern you’ve been on.
Enter the Mephistophelean Alex Ricketts, with his secret weapons for our hapless hero to control the class with. But every sword, secret or otherwise, has a double edge…
Telfer plays the parts of the teacher, assorted students, and Ricketts, brilliantly. He is ably abetted by his long term musical collaborator, Will Treeby, and a number of strategically placed audience plants. The razor-sharp script, from his own story, is full of inventive dialogue and laugh-out-loud humour. I can’t recommend this piece enough.
Ignore the overpriced comedians. Go and see Dickson Telfer do something genuinely funny and insightful instead. It’s on till Sunday 26th at Gryphon Venues, at the Point Hotel.
One thing though. If you’re a teacher, don’t try this at home . . .
Teaching is a demanding and, for the most of the time, a rewarding profession but for this Scottish Higher Education lecturer, things are not going well as he tries to teach the class from hell. If you’re not Scottish, you may need a little time to tune into the dialect, but it’s rich and worth the effort.
Dickson Telfer has created a sharply-observed play of life in the classroom. He plays all the characters with skill and they are totally believable and you squirm at the sheer horridness of these students who are determined to wreak chaos in lessons.
The myriad characters include the ringleader Trevor eating a burger in class and Johnny who is on the autistic scale with Grace his note taker, and then there are the mature students who really want to learn.
The lecturer is not coping, suffering from sleepless nights and has become disillusioned with teaching this bunch of ungrateful, disrespectable students.
But Grace has a friend, Dr Alex Ricketts, who offers some positive advice and secret weapons to regain control, much to the surprise of his students and, in particular, Trevor that creates ripples throughout the class.
The ending is unexpected and quite shocking but has the desired effect. With musical accompaniment by Will Treeby, this play will resonate with everyone who has been to school and the audience lapped it up.
Storytelling at its Best
A review of the Blairlogie Reading Room event – by Ruth Watkins, March 2012
Saturday night; a buzzing atmosphere; an intimate glass of wine; the promise of music; an air of heightened anticipation and great excitement. A new nightclub in town? No, Blairlogie Reading Room! On this cold night, we turned out for a “Spoken Word with Musical Accompaniment” event taking place in the quaint village hall of this beautiful clachan.
The occasion was to promote Killing a Spider, a new book of short stories by Falkirk author, Dickson Telfer. Mairi Campbell-Jack (Edinburgh poet and writer) and Alan Bissett (Glenfiddich Scottish Writer of the Year 2011) were special guests, also presenting recent material. The evening was well organised and very enthusiastically compered by local resident, Lucinda Allen. Top notch cupcakes (including a butternut squash variety) were also on sale courtesy of Alison Wilson.
‘Reading’ (a term suggesting a relatively sedate activity) is definitely not what springs to mind when describing the evening’s entertainment. Each writer gave an engrossing performance, bringing characters to life and injecting levels of emotion and intensity that are rarely present when reading a book alone. In one way or another, all the contributions had the themes of reflection and relationships at their core so there was something for everybody to engage with. We laughed loud throughout the evening but the juxtaposition of humour with serious underlying themes left us with a deeper sense of unease at some of issues raised.
Dickson’s attention to detail to elicit laughter was well illustrated in his story “43 and in Asda”. We chuckled as the central character skulked round the supermarket reflecting on his wife and life before opportunistically taking revenge on a school bully. The desperation of supermarket shopping was ideal for mirroring the difficulties of middle- age domesticity. In another (yet to be published) story, Dickson carefully revealed how secret weapons can be used to maintain class discipline and bring even the most reluctant student to attention, a story that built to a shocking climax. Musical accompaniment (written and performed by William Treeby) helped to build the tension, bringing an added, unexpected dimension to the tales. The most heartfelt contribution of the evening was a short piece by Dickson – “The Past, Alan Bissett, Janice Galloway and the Future”, a refection on the importance of writing, not just by professionals but for everybody. This was an inspiring piece, urging all potential writers to action.
Reflecting on relationships was a theme echoed in both of Mairi’s well crafted but very contrasting works. “Just Passing Through” used the unlikely setting of a pub toilet to explore issues of domestic abuse. However, it was in the second story (about a young chimney sweep close to death) that Mairi’s superb use of language invoked strong emotions. This was simple but shocking tale about beauty and brutality.
The highlight of Alan Bissett’s performance may have been familiar to some but you could not fail to appreciate Moira Bell brazenly defending her wee dog from the local Rottweiler, demanding apologies on all fronts. Delivered in character, the audience was drawn into a scenario which was so funny, but oh so serious, with the difficulties of domestic life seeping through the saga.
The evening finished with a short set of songs (singing by Ronnie Bissett) with Dickson Telfer and William Treeby playing guitars (what a multi-talented group of people!). This was the opportunity for the audience to reflect on the stories, collect their thoughts and prepare for the lively questions and answers session.
This was storytelling at its best. Performed with passion, breathing life into the written word and invoking a range of emotions, the evening was intriguing, entertaining, fun, absorbing, though-provoking and above all, inspiring. If you get a chance to see these authors performing, they come very highly recommended.