Sunday, April 29, 2007


Artist: Arches Award For Stage Directors - Cora Bissett
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Friday 13th April 2007

Maria was a fierce old prostitute, she died independent and world famous, she loved all her clients for the length of the session and people came from all over to see her. But who was Maria - daughter of a bankrupt family, they leave Spain behind them, arriving in South America as a teen. An excitable young girl, she rushes towards the train tracks to wave at passengers, but something happens, and she ends up brain damaged.

From there Amada is a tale of tragedy. Failed marriages, children, ending up abandoned and alone, a whore holding on to hope. A play based on an 8 page short story by Chilean writer Isabel Allende. The play is performed by 3 actors, a singer and a guitarist, all but Maria shifting roles as they shift the basic scenery about, adapting to each new scene. Despite periodic snatches of Spanish, and the use of Spanish accents, there are still scenes where they manage to put on a pronounced Scottish accent - something common in performances here, even if there is no apparent reason for it. The play is bleak in topic, though handled with a certain absurdity and humour, that while not quite hitting the magic realism target it claims, still makes the result lighter than one might expect.

Artist: Poorboy
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Saturday 14th April 2007

From the restriction of a single performance space with Amada, my second event at the Arches Theatre Festival makes use of the venue's unique properties. From the foyer we are escorted into the first tunnel, a closed off space where we are confronted by a girl on a space hopper, bouncing around our feet, forcing her away through the audience as they collect in the area. A man storms in to the area, wearing a track suit, carrying a football - he points at random members of the audience tells them they are in the team, and that they had better play better than last week. The girl stops in front of me, demands that i button up the backwards blouse that she is wearing, my fingers fumble with buttons till she gets bored, wanders off to paint her name across the wall.

From there we are led into the next arch, down one end behind a misty curtain two musicians play, at the other end a stage, along the walls cardboard cut up frames of dresses, watches, and other products. Here we are faced with Richard White, the footballer turned business manager. Richard is behind the development of a new online community - Better Life - where all sorts of virtual products, property and are available to the avatars of users. Though the real money is more likely to come from the "red zones", where "anything goes".

Through this, the little girl on the space hopper is now an 18-year-old art student, Amy Rose. Rejected by art school on first application, she despairs, she has to get closer to her subjects apparently, have a more mature approach. She needs to get a job until she can apply again, so she ends up as a temp PA at Better Life. Initially won over by the wonder of the vision Richard presents, and then latterly at the fore-front of his break down as things get messy.

As Spanglebaby goes on, we are led up and down the length of the arch, from set piece to set piece, switching back and forth between the two characters. As things get messy in Richard's life and he takes it out on Amy, we are led to seats and cushions, to watch how the finale plays out. Ranging from the far end of the tunnel to right in front of us, making full use of the space they have available.

Title:Mother, Father, Son
Artist: Arches Award For Stage Director - Rosie Kellagher
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Saturday 14th April 2007

A family drama. A domestic stage. Mother and Father potter around the house. A retired old couple. Son never leaves his room. They leave food for him at his door, in the morning an empty plate sits. They take turns sitting and talking to a lonely wooden door. Their only answer the occasional single knock for yes, a double knock for no. One morning they find a note - stop calling me son! When they question him on it he knocks three times!

What is going on? The doctors said there would be changes, but really Mother and Father haven’t seen Son in years. How do they even know that the person in the room is even Son? So they ask, a strange noise follows, the door opens a crack, and a finger is thrown out!

Mother, Father, Son is a sinister black comedy. Presented in the Arches's rehearsal studio, down below the regular archway tunnels, as part of the Arches Theatre Festival. A 3 person performance all on a single set stage - a kitchen and a door. Delivered in utter dead pan, regardless of utterly absurd events become.

Title:Oedipus Love You
Artist: Pan Pan
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Tuesday 17th April 2007

Oedipus has left home because of a curse that he will kill his father and marry his mother. He has shacked up with Queen Jocasta, who is indifferent about rumours about plague, but things that Oedipus is perhaps a little over-familiar with his daughter Antigone. Still Oedipus is concerned about the plague, and he has sent is brother Creon to Delphi to consult the Oracle. Though Jocasta reckons that Creon will just use the bus fare to get drunk. Meanwhile Antigone has been bullied by blind Uncle Tiresias into letting him join the band that she has with Creon. As tensions grow, Jocasta makes a dire prophecy - after all, how can Oedipus survive as King, when he can't even cook a fucking barbecue?

Irish theatre company PanPan present an updating of the Oedipus story. Greek tragedy performed with mad staring gravitas, a naked man balding man in high heels as the sphinx greets the audience. Tragedy as Irish soap opera, a family in therapy, refusing to face up to the secrets at the centre of their lives. Rock opera absurdity, as each member of the family grabs an instrument and cranks it out loud. Multi media production, the man in the sound booth scribbles the song lyrics on a bit of paper, camera focused on his actions showing on a screen, replaced by card board cut outs of the cast, other screens showing the bedroom from above as various characters retreat there.

The results of Oedipus Loves You is a wilfully dramatic piece that turns from tragedy to comedy in an unpredictable manner.

Artist: Ann Liv Young
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Tuesday 17th April 2007

Ann Liv Young is an established young American choreographer. Solo is inspired by an idea expressed by Camus, relating to memory and how things are associated with memory. The bulk of Solo is made up of music, presumably each piece evoking a memory. The stage is simple, a couple of instruments, an oversized doll in exercise gear, Ann Liv and another woman in Swimsuits wearing horse riding hats, a man in a suit and horse riding hat.

Regardless of what idea Solo might be based on, most people could probably be forgiven for letting that slip there mind. It isn't long before the two women are naked, Ann Liv being quite considerably more pregnant than she may have been in the publicity shots. The pair sing along to cover versions, do sexy dances, and play toy instruments. Which is all bizarre enough, and you can watch members of the audience either laughing nervously or looking at each with uncertainty. But with each piece Ann Liv gets increasingly annoyed, her fellow performers just can't get anything right. She shouts at them, each piece is stopped, re-started, cancelled all together by tantrums. One moment Ann Liv is going through a dance routine with chocolate sauce, the next she is smashing the doll to pieces with a microphone stand.

Solo is theatre of the crap, of the consciously rubbish. But it knows that, and it isn't pretending to be something else. With that it comes across as being silly, kind of fun - as Ann Liv realises they have over run their time, she suggests people are welcome to leave, though no one does.

Title:Apeneck Sweeney
Artist: Paul-Vincent McInnes
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Wednesday 18th April 2007

“A clutch of rarely rendered texts by T.S Elliot provide the jumping-off point for this surrealist nightmare concerning call-girls, cannibalism, pimps, Americans and life on a crocodile isle.”

Based on that description listed in the season brochure for the Arches Theatre season I thought that Tokyo-based director Paul-Vincent McInnes’s “Apeneck Sweeney” might be quite interested. The audience files into one of The Arches’ performance spaces, with two women already standing on the darkened stage. Before anything happens a voice over reads out a piece, presumably the most direct referent to Elliot’s material, dark and brooding words, dripping with potential.

The women are dressed up as geisha, the full kimono and make-up deal, holding brushes, so that once the words finish and traditional Japanese strings play, the pair sweep the floor, gathering cherry blossom that drops from the ceiling. Animated sequences loop across the back wall of the stage, repeating throughout the performance with periodic variations, a cool style of cool people in cool situations.

Once the pair have done they strip out of the kimono, to reveal lingerie like evening dresses, in which they lounge around their flat, drinking wine, doing the tarot and waiting for clients to call. The pair chatter away, until one casts the card for the coffin, and that changes the mood. Shortly after that Sam arrives, with him he has an American couple, interested in being shown a good time by these two professionals.

They go out on the town, Sam performs some Karaoke for the audience, includes us all with a raffle draw - a bottle of whisky from the season sponsors being given away, followed by tickets for Solo. In the midst of this we have the arrival of Mr. Sweeney, a regular customer, who draws out the girl that drew the coffin card. There is something sinister about Sweeney, something threatening, and he invites her to his cannibal paradise, his crocodile isle, all through song, jaunty and pseudo-witty little pieces. And just as you think, “ok, this is getting started now”, it finishes, and its all done, and its over, and I sat with a feeling of anti-climax, of how there had been all these little gimmicky things, and while the mood of the piece was in the cracks in between, the whole just did nothing for me in the slightest.

Title:The Endurance
Artist: Al Seed & Ben Faulks
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Friday 20th April 2007

“Men wanted for hazardous journey.
Small wages. Bitter cold.
Long months of complete darkness.
Constant danger.
Safe return doubtful.
Honour and recognition in case of success…”
-Advertisement placed by Sir Ernest Shackleton in The Time, December 1901.

Two men crawl across the cruel landscape. The wind howls, chasing them, biting at their heals. Bent double they drag their burden behind them. Heads shrouded in thick head gear, eyes covered in goggles, ragged beards crusted white. Every step is an act of exertion, every inch an act of endurance. For these are explorers. Actors. They put themselves through this in search of the fabled stage, where brother would kill brother just for the worst seat’s in the house. Behind them they pull a piano, hanging from it their costumes and the latest technology for travel - tinned food and a compass.

The Endurance is a surreal comedy drama, with Al Seed and Ben Faulks taking on the role of the two explorers. The stage is set, an archway beneath Glasgow’s central station, trains rumble over head every now and then, while ironically across the space tracks have been laid out, a piano balanced along the tracks, the pair dragging it with ropes. After the initial minutes of exertion, of howling wind sounds, and flashing lights the pair stop for a break. Here the story unfolds, between songs about the wonders of tins, the asides to the audience that explain the journey, the wonders of the stage. Insert into this a tortoise hand puppet, who taunts them, goads them onwards, and then add something, something unknown which dogs their trail, a darkness, a stinking brimstone threat that suggests failure and doom.

The results are an odd tale of endurance, an inspired parody, a high comedy, and a thoroughly enjoyable piece.

Title:Faust 3.2360words
Artist: Akhe
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Friday 20th April 2007

There is loud dance music and three Russians are running around, dancing in a kind of gleeful aerobic fashion. The audience take their seats, the men doing circuits stop at the front, do their little dance and carry on. There is a large shrouded cube, a glass tank full of water that hangs from chains, and some kind of desk contraption. On our way in we have all been handed headphones and power packs, this evening’s performance of Faust is in Russian, by the St. Petersburg company Akhe, a translation being delivered to our ears as the piece develops.

Faust 3 is a multi media piece, and it’s a bit barking mad. The short bald man is Dr. Faust, he has a desk which he uses for drumming, for containing all his electronic black boxes and Theremin type stuff for providing the show’s soundtrack. He dictates to the audience, a monologue shouted out, the history of Faust, of how he learned, of how brilliant he was. Behind the curtain we have the lurking Mephistopheles, the master of puppets, and things that go bang, squelch and the like - he buys Faust’s soul in exchange for ever increasing knowledge. But the third man, the lurker, the man who pulls strings, he waits for Faust, for he is the devil and he will come to collect.

The results are manic, and at times a little confusing. We rely on the man breathing in our ears to tell us what is going, and initially it really isn’t clear what parts the actors seem to be taking, since only one of them seems to talking - so was he explaining what was going on or was he talking about himself? But it didn’t really matter, the point was the spectacle, the amount of layers and textures the little tricks brought to the entirety.

As the play ends, the streaming electronic sign at the back of the stage shifts, switching from digitized flames, to the scrolling words - Faust Bar Now Open. Having taken the applause, the cast transform the stage into a bar, producing bottles of vodka, wine, and the apples used as props and offering them up for sale to the audience, an odd little twist to the proceedings.

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