Friday, 21 September 2012

Arches Live - Round One

The Arches Live! has become an annual gathering for artists - not just performers - with an interest in testing the boundaries. The first few days have seen a Minotaur stunble around, trapped in the basement; a young woman revisit her youthful failures; Prometheus and ancient creation myths envisioned through a feminist filter; a relationship stripped of romance and exposed as disfunctional and two friends test their boundaries.

Nothing fits easily into the notion of traditional theatre, and the diversity of styles - God Loves a Trier owes much to the comic experiments of Byrony Kimmings,  Minotaur/Monitor is classic Performance  Art with added mask, From Above Here echoes the performance installations that were a feature of the lamented National Review of Live Art - suggests a generation of young artists adapting a variety of traditions to their own, personal ends.

Fire into Song and Minotaur/Monitor, in different ways, return to classical mythologies and question their contemporary meaning. For Calum MacAskill, this means donning massive headpiece and shoving Pasiphae's shameful issue into a room beneath the railway station: the juxtaposition of a clinical analysis and the ancient story recasts the Minotaur as a victim of parental failure, bellowing in pain and more cripple than ancient archetype of horror. Meanwhile, Cara Berger retools a Graeco-Roman creation myth before cracking open the story of the divine being who gifted humanity fire.

Fire into Song is impressionistic - a first draft at rewriting the myths for an age after the ascent of feminist thought. The rigorous, intellectual approach is palliated by an elegant reading of Ovid and associated texts from the ancient world, and a symbolic dance to fragments of Prometheus' passion: the creation of the universe is mirrored by a clearing of the stage - a beautiful parallel to the work of the demiurge tidying  up the undifferentiated mess of chaos.

Roses are Dead is far easier to understand: a couple fight over the remains of their relationship. He is condemned as obsessive, deceitful and more in love with the idea of romance: she seems more conwith cerned blaming his self-love than engaging in the process of understanding. The vicious arguments that snake through the performance articulate the bitterness of romantic failure, but the image of love as a battlefield is only occasionally displaced to show the couple's emotional connection. Both characters come across as self-interested and complacent.

What all of these pieces share, alongside From Above Here which is structured around a long conversation about friendship between Stephanie Black and Abby Watson, is a presentation of youthful ideals and experiences. It's appropriate that much of the work feels unfinished,  hinting at further development: Arches Live! is designed to offer the opportunity for artists to sketch out new ideas. In these first performances, a  storehouse of strategies, philosophies and experiences is being constructed for future construction.

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