Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Theatre Royal Ghost Tours Return

Bigger and better minds than mine have tried to answer this question. Even saying 'it is what happens in a theatre' is no good, because some bugger thought up 'site specific events' and put on plays in any disused warehouse they could find. I usually end up getting confused and deciding that theatre is something to do with 'performing on purpose' for an audience. Hence my attempts to define the dramaturgy of lap-dancing.

Anyhow, this is so happening in theatre, it has got to count...

Back by popular demand, be prepared to be scared on a haunting tour of the Theatre Royal Glasgow. An empty auditorium, a lifeless stage, out of hours, after dark – is your mind playing tricks or have you caught a glimpse of the resident ghost? Theatre Royal Ghost Tours is an atmospheric experience of stories and suggestion that will bring you out in goose-bumps.

As a fan of live art, this probably won't scare me. I've been in plenty of empty auditoriums, and I challenge ghosts to be as scary as Ron Athey. However...

The Theatre Royal has a chequered history. As the building stands it dates from 1895, having replaced earlier theatres built on the site in 1867 and 1888 - both of which were destroyed by fires. In 1969 tragedy struck once more and the building was again engulfed in flames. But who really knows the personal tragedies of the staff, or those performers who simply refuse to accept the curtain, for them, has well and truly fallen?
I bet it is going to be those actors who knew 'dear Larry' and insist on declaiming at the top of their voices: the sort that think Hamlet is the best script ever because nobody can say hello without prefacing it with a poetic description of some geographical location they enjoy. Either that or the back-stage crew who were ignored in life and want some payback...

What’s On Stage: “For thrill seekers, it offers a tense and at times terrifying night of horror and history. For theatre fans, it offers an exclusive opportunity to experience the inner-workings of a grand theatre, visit its most inaccessible corners and enjoy a private tour of a very public place. The result is an unforgettable theatrical experience which both stimulates and scares.”

If you dare...the tours take place immediately after the evening’s performance. Patrons are asked to meet in the foyer where an usher will take you to the Ambassador Lounge for a safety briefing before the tour moves backstage. The tour will last approximately 45 minutes and is strictly for ages 18 and over.



27, 28, 29, 30, 31 October, 9.45pm – after Dangerous Corner

2, 4, 5, 6, 7 November, 10.00pm – after Black Coffee

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 December, 10.30pm – after Top Hat
Tickets: £12 (plus bkg fee)

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (bkg fee)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Assessment @ The Arches

Jerome Bel's Disabled Theatre in 5 Lists of 5 Points

Five Instructions Bel Gave to the Performers

  1. Stand in front of the audience, alone, for a minute.
  2. Introduce yourself and your job.
  3. Introduce your disability.
  4. Perform a solo dance to music of your choice.
  5. Explain how you feel about the production.
Five Interesting Things the Performers Said on Stage
  1. I want to make people laugh.
  2. So what?
  3. I am sorry.
  4. I am an actor (all male cast members).
  5. I am an actress (all female cast members).
Five Cool Moves during the Solo Dances
  1. A Michael Jackson style pelvis thrust.
  2. A wild, almost heavy metal style whipping of long hair.
  3. Taking off a track suit top.
  4. Spinning around a chair on one leg.
  5. Making a scarf wave like the sea.
Five Questions Asked of The Audience (implicitly)
  1. Do you realise that each of these people are talented on their own terms?
  2. Do you realise that this is a patronising question in itself?
  3. Are you treating the cast like performing seals or something?
  4. Does this remind you of exploitative shows like X-Factor?
  5. How does this challenge your idea of yourself as an audience member at a show called Disabled Theatre?
Five Reasons that Disabled Theatre was Astonishing
  1. It refused simple ideas about the nature of 'disabled dance.'
  2. It gave space for the cast to show off and interact with each other.
  3. It revealed personalities on stage without sentimentality.
  4. It asked tough questions about how theatre and authenticity work.
  5. There was lots of loud music with strong beats.

A Manifesto

Political Musings (Again)

I hate writing reviews of shows that I did not like. I force myself to do it out of a sense that if I just ignored them, my blog would be a load of churnalism and cheer-leading. I was especially upset to dislike the NTS' production of In Time o' Strife  because I enjoyed the dancing, liked the cut of Graham McLaren's direction and Michael John McCarthy, who provided the musical arrangements, is an excellent musician and composer. I really admire the people involved, thought that they were poking at interesting areas, and still, somewhere in my soul, believe that theatre can address Political issues.

I don't review to persuade audiences to see, or miss shows: I write because I have to express what I felt. It's that compulsion, selfish, perhaps, but not so selfish as to think my opinion is definitive. Quite clearly, 
In Time O'Strife has its fans. Even some of the less positive reviews say that it has a place - as an historical piece, perhaps, or saved by the obvious energy of the cast and the relevance of the Politics (the death of the mother, for example, would not happen once the NHS was in place and, sadly, that seems to be under threat). It could be that this production is a warning against a return to the bad old days - although the mining industry, and the unions, are sadly long since defeated and don't provide a contemporary resonance.

I am also concerned that I have discovered a dogmatic position on Political theatre: I was always troubled by the gap between content and process (that is, whether the politics espoused on stage are matched by the way the production was created), or the actual Political impact theatre might have. Brecht's critique of Aristotle's description of tragedy kind of gave me an explanation.

Because of this, I am always glad when people disagree with me. I might laugh at them behind their back, or argue with them on Twitter, but I would hate it if my unhappy review was the only voice - or part of a consensus. I don't like being contrarian (much), but, like they say: there are three sides to every story: mine, theirs and the dialectic synthesis.

Having said that, anyone who says something is the 'best piece of theatre that they have ever seen' needs to see more theatre. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

In Time O' Strife

Although Graham McLaren strives intelligently to revive Joe Corrie's red flag-waving melodrama written both for and about striking Scottish miners, In Time o' Strife comes on like a perfect justification of my suspicions about Political theatre. Unsubtle, repetitive and predictable, it attempts to lend the struggle of the unions a tragic majesty, yet presents their defeat as inevitable and provides a middle-class audience with the perfect opportunity to purge those difficult emotions. 

McLaren's direction - and Imogen Knight's stompy choreography - go some way to rescuing Corrie's script from its weaknesses. Interspersing the routine loop of tragic incidents (mother's ill, the men want to give up, the boyfriend wants to be a scab, mother's ill, the men are determined, mother's dead, son's sent to prison, husband takes to drink, the boyfriend is a scab), McLaren's allusions to subsequent miners' strikes - the voice of Thatcher is as reliable as Vincent Price's voice for that authentic note of sinister horror - lend the tale a contemporary relevance. Knight's dance interludes convey the emotional tensions far more eloquently than Corrie's fake arguments, and the introduction of Corrie's poems cut to a more vigorous and immediate socialist anger.

The cast shakes a leg and the band beefs up the poems with rock arrangements - the savage The Common Man strays into punk rage, despite the polish of Jenny Reeve's vocal - and the final recitation of The International leaves no doubt as to the play's intentions. Yet it is clear from the first scene that the miners are going to lose: along with Corrie's atrocious characterisations (Jock is a worried about Bolshevik infiltration, then is suddenly shouting for a Soviet style revolution), dramatic tension and political rhetoric are drained of vitality. 

It is possible that McLaren's reworking of the script has left it so slight - he has adapted the script heavily and transferred the action from a house into a public bar - but his question in the programme 'if writers like Joe Corrie... had been encouraged... would Scottish theatre be different?' is left unanswered. Yet the trailer distils the ferocity of moments that suggest McLaren gave the production what fire it has. 

Pop-Up Migration Museum

I have doubts about the role of political theatre. Sure, my general sense that politicians have become increasingly disconnected from the rest of the country doesn't help (I mean, I just don't understand the foundation of most Conservative policies or how Nick Clegg can handle the horror of having hobbled his party's electoral hopes for the next generation). And I don't trust any media outlet, after reading Flat Earth News but... I used to believe that political theatre (in the sense of Politics, as in issues) had an important part in public debate.

It's Brecht who switched me onto the idea that the theatrical format contains the danger of presenting events as inevitable - or by exciting and purging emotions, like Aristotle says it does, actually pacifying an audience to accept injustice. Political plays, preaching positions I support, might prevent me from engaging more deeply, and usefully, with actual Politics.

Events like the Feast Your Eyes! cabaret have a political aim - supporting a food bank - but their line-up has no explicitly political acts. Of course, all art has a political edge in so far as it talks about power relationships, but unless Leggy Pee and Charlie are a parody of the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood, I don't see any issues in the routines.

Then again, Snookie Mono does swallow a sword, which does remind me of how it feels when I see the latest Tory opinions on the NHS or disabled people working at less than the minimum wage.

So - Feast Your Eyes does not bother me: it encourages the audience to do something (donate food) in exchange for some fun. It's clear and avoids the Brechtian critique that theatre presents a facsimile of life that is, somehow, given power by a passive audience's belief in it.

Here's another event that intrigues me.

UNTITLED PROJECTS presents Pop-Up Migration Museum
Curated by Untitled Projects featuring work by Rachel Thibbotumunuwe and Tawona Sitole.

Untitled Projects are on fire lately - they have got Slope in Glasgay! and Paul Bright is rocking the world on tour. And Tawona Sitole is the poet behind the Seeds of Thought events... a charming and articulate man. The idea of a museum exploring an issue sets the audience in a different position. 

The Glad Cafe
1006a Pollokshaws Road, Shawlands, Glasgow, G41 2HG
26th Oct 2014, 6-8pm

Plus, it is in my local....

Inspired by the diverse cultural populations that make up Scotland today as well as in response to Scotland’s colonial history; artists Rachel Thibbotumunuwe and Tawona Sitole have created an artistic interrogation of colonial and post-colonial migration to Scotland.

Scotland has a loaded colonial history. The nation, and specifically parts of Glasgow, prospered due to its position in the transatlantic slave trade notably the role of Glasgow merchants and plantation owners. Scotland’s role in the British Empire continued in the imperialism of African nations, India and parts of the Caribbean.

The absence of a permanent museum which specifically explores and depicts the Commonwealth diasporas in Scotland was all the more prevalent when the Commonwealth Games took place this summer. This pop-up Migration Museum creates a platform where the artists’ work seeks to foster discussions about creating a more permanent museum or centre of this kind.

Working in close collaboration with the Glasgow Open Museum Resource Centre, the artists have had exclusive access to their collections and have created new work in response to some of the artefacts. The artists’ work will be exhibited with other items from the Glasgow Open Museum’s Collections. There will be Museum assistants on site who will also have a couple of objects which members of the public can examine in more detail.


Rachel Thibbotumunuwe creates artworks and projects that are part of her enquiry into icons of ethnicity and cultural identity, both historic and contemporary. She is fascinated by the history and consequences of photography; its birth at the dawn of industry; subsequent rise of its abundance in mass culture; photography's innate representational quality and our perceptions of it as a medium to create narrative, documentary and referential meanings. 

 As well as working with photography, Rachel also makes short films, installations, audioworks and books.Rachel graduated from Glasgow School of Art's department of Fine Art Photography in 1998 and has exhibited in Scotland, Norway, Japan and Germany.

Tawona Sitole is a Glasgow based writer, poet, storytelling and educator. Since moving to Glasgow from Zimbabwe, Tawona has shared his heritage through using traditional influences such as spoken word and mbira music. 

Tawona is the co-founder of Seeds of Thought non-funded arts group which brings together creative writing, performance, music and art through collaborations with other artists. Tawona has worked with many diverse organisations including Glasgow School of Art, Ankur Productions, The CCA, and the Scottish Book Trust. Tawona is currently the poet in residence at Glasgow Refugee and Migration Network at the University of Glasgow.