Friday, 13 December 2013

SDT chatter...

Scottish Dance Theatre: New works by international choreographers Victor Quijada (ex Peter Darrell Choreographic Award Winner) and Jo Strømgren (TOURING: Spring 2013)

uses the Los Angeles street-dance culture of his youth in his new piece Second Coming. Quijada’s first piece for Scottish Dance Theatre was supported by a Peter Darrell Choreographic Award and went on to win the National Dance Award for Outstanding Company Repertoire (Modern) in 2003.

Scottish Dance Theatre is the first UK company to commission Norwegian 

He will take the dancers on a wild journey through the darkest, coldest season in Winter and will create a radical dance theatre that is both enigmatic and mysterious. He was a big hit of Aurora Nova's programme in either 2005 or 2006 with The Hospital and The Convent.

Jo Strømgren

I am interested in the way your career has moved from classical ballet towards Ibsen and the famous "nonsense" languages. Do you see a continuity from your training in ballet into the pieces that you brought to the Fringe, and are most easily described more as"physical theatre"?

Somehow I’m happy that my education was classical ballet. It’s a rigorous and authoritarian artform, where you need to fill a form that is already defined, by others or by history. Happy because it made me realise that this is NOT me at all. It sort of vaccinated me against becoming a dedicated follower of any method or ideology. So the continuity from classical ballet to a wide range of genres and artforms is more a liberating reaction to this strict introduction to the art world. At the same time, this complete lack of bonds to anything also allows me to actually work fearlessly with classical ballet. I create freely and with ease with the most conservative companies there are, experiencing something not unlike the Lego-box trance I remember from childhood rainy days. It’s as if I cannot fall. Or as if a fall isn’t something negative. An open approach, driven by curiosity, has a value on its own, no matter bad reviews, booing, or empty auditoriums.

In the press release, the work is described as being formed by a process that is "wild and rigorous." Certainly, I can see from previous works that both disciplined technique and moments of chaos define your work, but how do you reconcile the two approaches when you create a work?

One can do something new (which always means reinventing the wheel since everything has been done before somewhere) by theme and form and style etcetera. But I find it more interesting to always change my own way of working, as in always looking for new tools to tell a story or what can be associated into a story. On one level I reduce my own importance, trying to be a humble servant to the idea itself. On another parallel level I become a dictator since I tend to like the idea of a distinct personal vision. I like this also when I see other shows. There is always a lot of chaos in my process, that’s at least how some people experience it. But that’s a tool also, to keep people a bit confused. Some may think I’m whimsical and impulsive in the process, but I’m actually a cynical efficiency freak. I just hide it well. But “wild and rigorous”…well, I wouldn’t know. But for the record: No dancers were harmed in this production.

You are using Schubert for this work: at what point did the music come into the process?

Quite early. I wanted to do something nice on the surface, but with a sinister undertone. And those words could be a description of Schubert himself. I would call his life a tragic one, and I sense this in the music. It’s not rock’n roll of course, where you can scream your guts out with anger and despair, but still there is a nerve in this romantic music that implies he’s not on top of everything. Not at all. He’s going down. And he did. I had another idea on the list also, featuring the music of Matt Elliott, which he granted me the permission to use, but I hope I can use that idea somewhere else. Perhaps if I’m invited back to Scottish Dance Theatre??? Haha. In that case it should NOT be in wintertime.

Do you feel any identification with the label of "Norwegian choreographer"? Does your work reflect a national character, or is it informed by Norway?

“Norwegian choreographer” as a label has little relevance I think. Even though we tour the world more than others. Actually, the export of Norwegian dance is currently bigger than the export from all the other 6 countries in the Nordic region together. But still we’re a small community and too small to be a label of any importance. And there is no wave or trend either, we’re all different. I don’t know what that’s a token of really. Culturally it’s more relevant to use a label like “Nordic choreographer”. There are some sets of references that are alike for all of us. Not sure exactly which they are though. But people outside the region seem to detect a certain something. My first review abroad mentioned “a healty dash of Nordic scurrility”. Perhaps there is something in that.

How was working with SDT? How far do you make work "on" dancers, using their particular physicality?

I used to be a hardcore improvisation dancer, but got tired of it. Perhaps I went to far. For sure I injured myself badly after some years. And improv is sometimes as talking when drunk – the words lead by themselves, and a point can easily get lost. In the end you may just talk but have nothing interesting to say. So I have been exploring other ways to produce material. Like the old-school way of showing movement patterns to the dancers. Creating steps yourself, if ever so intricate, and transposing this onto dancers is in many dance genres and communities a handicraft that is lost completely. But going back at times is also good. In Dundee, the rehearsal period coincided with a knee injury of mine, and I thought why not – I’ll sit on a chair this time, and ask the dancers to provide shitloads of material. A refreshing flashback to earlier days for me, and hopefully a good process for them with a lot of personal investment. As for now, “Winter, Again” is definitively a company piece, they have adapted my vision and made it their own.

What keeps you making dance theatre, or theatre at all? Is there something about the medium which you find especially exciting?

I dislike when artists over-estimate the communicative potential of their art form. Some tend to grasp more than they can carry. Some may try to give answers to complex political situations through neo-classical choreographies. Some may try to round up philosophical issues by rolling on the floor with loose limbs resembling worms. Good luck. I don’t mean to undermine colleagues, but there is something about using the power of abstraction in dance for what it’s worth. Competing with far more efficient vehicles of communication is rather useless I think. As experiments it can be interesting, but I witness a certain inflation in the dance world today with pieces that actually says nothing, even though they try harder than ever. Or they say nothing compared to what you can read efficiently in a newspaper article, or in a book, or see in a documentary film. As a thumb rule, the people we compete with have often a far more intellectual education, a far more experienced civilian life, and far more info to rely on than a dancer, or a choreographer for that matter, who has spent most of his/her life in a dance studio. 

I think much of my drive is to explore more and more of the communicative potential in dance, as in what can I transmit to the audience that they cannot get anywhere else. I’m not an expert, and I’m not excessively confident, but when knowing that I my work has been exposed in 55 countries by now, I tend to conclude that I must do something right. I’m not famous, I’m not trendy by far, and I’m definitely not from a cool country. So I think it has to do with the attitude towards this communicative potential. As in using the abstraction for what it’s worth. Either in theatre, dance, or dance theatre. Or puppet theatre or film, or whatever risky project I’m into.

Victor Quijada 

Hip hop theatre is a growing concern in the UK. How well do you feel the art is handling the transformation from street to theatre space?

wow, BIG question.

i'll try to keep the answer short.

I think I was asked that question when my company performed at the first Breakin' Convention in 2004.

and this theme brings up a lot of other questions...

like what constitutes Hip Hop Theatre?

When a b-boy crew performs a showcase routine at Battle of the Year, is that "Hip Hop Theatre"?

I think a lot of things have, and will continue to change.

Transformation from street to stage is not just happening in "Hip Hop Theatre";

The way i see it, the way that the street dance (urban dance) forms are shared and learned and experienced has changed dramatically in the last decade.

Technology has been a big part of this, but also, when Hip Hop went from subculture to pop culture as it has, then you start seeing traditional dance studios that once taught ballet, tap & jazz,

adding hip hop and break classes to their curriculum; you see studios specifically dedicated to the urban dance forms become more common.

I believe that the popularity, the dissemination, and the technical codification of the forms all have an effect on how Hip Hop dance culture will continue to develop in the traditional theatre setting.

How well do you feel the art is handling the transformation from street to theatre space?

With so much being out there and with such variation in the degree to which the transformation is actually happening, or wanting to happen, it is hard to generalize.

Everything has rules or intrinsic principles. There are rules in Hip Hop; and each dance style has its rules. There are also rules to the theatrical event.

I believe that the more understanding the Hip Hop Artist has of the inherent Theatrical rules, the easier and more successful he is at transgressing these rules.

I see more and more young dancers that have had an excellent training in classical ballet technique, in contemporary, AND can pop, krump, or do a six-step.

This is the future: dancers and artists with knowledge from different ends of the artistic spectrum. This allows the transformation to take hold and flourish.

Is there anything in hip hop dance that makes it especially suitable for the type of work you have made with SDT? I know that it is a personal story, but beyond that, is there something about its style that allows it to be more expressive, perhaps, than ballet in this case?

The work I make uses a movement vocabulary that is influenced by my past as a young b-boy & hip hop freestyler, and very heavily informed by the contemporary ballet works I performed during my career. I have developed a distinct style that (in my eyes) allows a dancer to be all things: explosive, acrobatic, sharp, fluid, gentle, introspective, honest..

For me, the movement vocabulary is a means to an end; the shapes the body makes is not the goal in and of itself. I use movement as a replacement for text and dialogue. Physical partnering sequences are back and forth negotiations of will between two performers.

I open the "hip hop" drawer, open the "break" drawer, the "contemporary" drawer, and the "theatre" drawer - and I leave them open. I draw from each as it I need, usually leaving the stereotypical cliche identifiers alone and taking the essential that is needed to serve the purpose of the work.

How has it been working with dancers trained in a different tradition?

Over the past 10 years I have become quite well equipped to introduce dancers safely and efficiently to the demands of my choreography.

You have been describing as having "a signature style." Are you comfortable with this description and how would you define that style?

I would probably describe it as a "post-contemporary ballet-break dance-theatre" style.

I can imagine that LA is a little more temperate than Scotland at this time of year... how have you found working in Scotland, and is there much continuity between the US and Scotland culturally?

Born and raised in Los Angeles, my dance career took me to NYC when i was 20. Since 2002 I am based in Montreal.

I created the bulk of the piece last summer, and Dundee was beautiful. I was back recently and not so lucky with weather.

but rain or shine, you can always count on Scotch whiskey. :-)

Data for the Doubtful Part 7

Having had my own dreams of Tramway (someone was re-staging classic works in a decaying building, I am was trying to persuade my family to join me at a midnight showing), the deconstructed lullabies of Data for the Doubtful Part 7 visits a location that inhabits my consciousness like a brooding Leviathan... 

when Barry Burns recites from his dream diary, he inadvertently slips into my dream-space. Twenty-four hours later, it's the specifics of certain scenes that remain, the music has receded into atmospheric background, gentle and illustrative.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sarcastic Churnalism

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I still get sent stuff I'd rather not put up here... but here's a press release that I am sure is going to end up as the basis of an article in a national newspaper. Pretty sure this is offensive in some way, but I haven't quite worked out how yet. Probably gender, possibly an example of how the English aren't taking the referendum seriously...

Over to you, internet...

Inline image 1London, 5th December: Victoria Milan, the controversial online dating site for married or attached people looking for an affair, has launched a new campaign in the United Kingdom with David Cameron and Alex Salmond.

Can't help but love it when a business calls itself controversial... it's so radical and dangerous, being an on-line dating agency. I bet the establishment is shaking in its shoes, because no politician ever has had an affair.

Mobile billboards with images of David Cameron, Alex Salmond, and a British women wrapped in the Union Jack flag boasting the slogan “Relieve the passion, have an affair. Don’t burn the flag” are gracing the most famous places in London before heading to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for the following month starting on 4th of December.

The campaign shows that sometimes it’s better not to break up a genuine relationship, such as the one between Scotland and the United Kingdom (or between men and women), but rather to have an affair.

“Alex Salmond and his fight for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom is a perfect example of a relationship crisis that could use an affair” says Sigurd Vedal, CEO and founder of Victoria Milan. “We know from the "thank-you" letters of our 3 million members that an affair can bring passion back into their lives, helping them to revive their marriages and long relationships” he adds. 

I'll just take a moment to ponder what on earth Sigurd is talking about. Is he suggesting that Alex Salmond is sexually frustrated? Or that the entire Scottish nation just needs a quick bunk up with France? 

Right, and letters from members does not constitute proof of anything... why the hell did some Christians spend so long worrying about gay marriage when Victoria Milan is a far greater threat to traditional values.

I would spend some time mocking the company's name, but I can't be bothered. I bet it's the name of a porn star, too. Anyway, this review, which was probably put up by a rival site, says it's rubbish anyway.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sick (a repeat... from 2010) by Theatre Modo

Scared of hospital? Theatre Modo have the cure

Back in the days before I became an international performance critic, I worked as a cleaner in a hospital. Between my abortive quests to find a rich doctor to marry and prevent the spread of MRSA, I noticed that the children's ward was being visited by men with frizzy, coloured hair and red noses. They were Big Ray, a porter with an alcohol problem and Monkey John. Other days, there were clowns.

As it goes, I am more frightened by the circus than hospitals. An incident with a Planet of The Apes themed show– the gorillas on horseback shooting rifles leaped into the audience – was followed by a Halloween Big Top Extravaganza when I found a dead body slumped over a car door. I was happy to be in The Burns Unit when the clowns arrived.

Modo's director, Martin Danziger explained why my fear of clowns is irrational. "Clown doctors are very different. We don’t wear make up, we don’t squirt water, we don’t wear big shoes. We do wear a red nose. We also don't do ‘routines’ or mini-shows. Really we visit the children and normally the play follows from there."

The role of the clown doctor is simple. "We can provide all sorts of positive things. From simple laughter, to bringing a little chaos into an ordered world," Danziger affirms. "To being the person that the child can boss about at a time when they have to be such passive recipients of their care. Even just having someone who is not ‘looking out for you’ can be a relief. When so much attention is focused on the sick child (by health care workers and friends and family), we focus entirely on the well child and hopefully through laughter and interaction help stimulate well-being at some level."

Finding himself in hospital in 2007, after a diagnosis of cancer, Danziger was inspired to fuse his clowning skills with real life experience. "We chose clowning for SICK because of the vulnerability, honesty and universality that a clown could bring to the situation," he continues. "There is something about a clown’s gaze that exposes the absurdities of the world without it becoming an attack."

The juxtaposition of the clown and the patient is a sweet match of form and content. Modo "wanted to show what a bizarre experience hospitalization can be, and how strange a situation it is to find oneself in, and a clown seemed a perfect way of doing this, without it turning into a polemic, or into one person’s tale of woe."

Avoiding that tale of woe- undeniably popular with writers and critics who can't get a date, but not often with audiences – would usually be a challenge for a show that is tied up with the director's personal history. "Being a recipient of care, submitting to imposed routines, the helplessness of it all – it was all bizarre. And I wasn’t very good at talking about it, because it was scary, because it was embarrassing, and because I didn’t know which bits were unique to my experience and which were shared."

Thankfully, Dazinger avoids a didactic approach. Although he is working with the NHS on SICK, his intentions are far from preaching about good health and proper responses. "I wanted to create a show as a catalyst for discussion, so that others could see it and maybe chat more openly as a result."

At the same time, he is not rejecting the potential comedy. "While it was not exactly a fun experience at the time, it was full of the ridiculous and the surreal, and it felt like a rich vein of human experience to be mined," he confides.

If the show's genesis was simple, the devising has followed a complex process. "We have been working with various patient groups leading workshops and discussions. The groups have included patient groups with Maggie’s, Macmillan and Taktent as well as young people at Yorkhill." From this, the company distilled "a huge range of anecdotes and experiences" into "those that seemed to sum up the experience, and the ones that most people had in common."

"The show essentially follows the clown through a day in hospital, so we see her having her meals, doing her physio, taking her observations, waiting for the consultant, and more than anything else filling the spaces in between with all her thoughts, her little rituals, her flights of fancy and her worries," says Dazinger. In this attention to detail, Modo bring alive the hidden life of the hospital patient.

"It’s a one person show, and we have deliberately keep it like that so it is all about the secret life of the patient; what happens when no one else is there."

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The National Theatre of Scotland

sure I saw an opinion in there somewhere...
The past year has been a quiet one for the National Theatre of Scotland. To put it another way, the past year has been a busy year for the National Theatre of Scotland.

While there was plenty of noise during the fifth anniversary year, 2013 has seen the company getting on with work without excessive fanfare. The change of artistic directors is always a time for a company to go for a rest, and although the new man at the top hasn’t burst out with a Big Plan, the NTS have been consolidating their strategies. The Auteur season, in collaboration with The Arches, offered evidence of their commitment to the rising generation of theatre-makers, the revival of Dusinane reminded audiences that they could still go a Grand Theatrical Event (even as it turned into a scenery-chewing contest between the stars), the ill-fated Patterson’s Land venue at the Fringe at least suggested they were still interested in ambitious projects. All of these share a preoccupation with the new: new approaches, new plays, new artists.

The birth of the NTS promised a ‘theatre without walls’ both literally – they have no home venue – and metaphorically: there are no boundaries to their vision of performance. Supporting Claire Cunningham sees them wander into choreography; the Jump project is a bold attempt to shape community theatre. A few years ago, The Arches had a reputation for allowing artists ‘the freedom to fail.’ It’s an unfortunate phrase, but the NTS is founded on a similar principle.

Vicky Featherstone liked to mention how, as artistic director of a national company, she was most excited by theatre that was led by the creator. Rather than shaping the company according to a pre-ordained vision, she looked to the theatre community to provide ideas and enthusiasm. While there is a whole discourse about what ‘failure’ means within art (generally, ‘I don’t like it’ becomes the foundation of deeper criticism), the ‘failures’ of the NTS ought not to be counted as the occasional poor production, but in terms of the organisation’s overall remit and ambitions. On these terms, it is doing pretty well.

The Auteur season, although it produced two complete works and a selection of works-in-progress, was a more intriguing success than Blackwatch. Sure, Kieran Hurley’s Rantin is designed to be a smaller show, and won’t ever garner the same international audiences. But it revealed that the NTS is ready to get behind emerging artists and throw down theatre that doesn’t confirm to some grand ideal but engages immediately with specific moments in time. Rantin didn’t conjure up a mythical statement about Scottish identity, but it did sketch out opinions and possibilities. It was also an intriguing fusion of post-dramatic and ‘popular’ theatre, of the sort that once made 7:84 a big deal.

The Auteur selection was all about a National Theatre that speaks to its nation’s artists. Back in the 1960s, when that National Theatre in London was being built, there was still a trace of the ardent nationalism that made a state-supported theatre an urgent need: like Opera Houses, or a good ballet company, matters of British pride were at stake. Somehow, the NTS has avoided that. Sure, it has Blackwatch and whatever Alan Cumming vehicle it needs to show the world how wonderful Scotland is. More importantly, it is cultivating artists who work in the country. There are probably a few competing agenda in there somewhere, but its output has been remarkably free of the kind of pontificating national pride that sadly marked Dear Larry’s stewardship of the NT down in the Big Smoke.

The National Theatre in England

not at all totalitarian font, then

The traditional histories of the National Theatre (of England, or Britain) tend to begin in around 1848, when the idea of a state-funded company was first given formal, public expression. There then follows a slightly depressing litany of the various attempts to persuade the government to stump up the readies, with Kenneth Tynan emerging as a bit of a super supporter in the 1950s and being rewarded with the post of Literary Manager (not, as he testily points out in one interview, the dramaturge).

It’s a lovely, coherent story, and has plenty of very English heroes, struggling manfully against institutional inertia while the state manages not to be blamed since it was usually a war that stopped it fulfilling its various promises (or, in the 1950s, the building of the Welfare State). It is so delicious and lineal that it has the quality of a myth, and immediately awakens my distrust.

These days, the meaning of ‘national’ is far more contested. The growth of Scottish Nationalism mocks a National Theatre based in London as any sort of representative body, while even my gentle Wessex Regionalism questions the unity contained within the concept of a British (or English) nation-state. Back in the 1970s, they joked about “The People’s Republic of Yorkshire,” both to identify the county’s leftist bent and the distinctive character of its inhabitants. These days, regional identity is more difficult to define (Yorkshire was once notable for refusing players who were not born in the region of flat caps and vowels) but promoted more heavily. Scottish Nationalism has made a point of not limiting itself to any racial, religious or even geographical purity.

And so, thinking about the Establishment of ‘The National Theatre” is a pain in the arse, and not something I would be likely to do without the motivation of an academic requirement. I am not even sure of the best way to name the bloody institution – it is too easily confused with “The National Theatre of Scotland” or “The National Theatre of Wales.” For the record, I am talking about the one that was set up in the early 1960s with ‘Dear Larry’ Olivier as the first artistic director. From now on, it gets called the NT, so I can cut the angst.

Anyhow, back to that delicious creation myth. Part of the myth depends on those plucky characters who fought to establish the NT: Granville Barker, Archer, Winston Churchill (he made one speech about it, then promptly forgot what he had said), GB Shaw (who was probably hoping that it would provide a warehouse for his interminable issue plays), Kenneth Tynan (shameless enough to apply for a job immediately after his lobbying for the NT) and Olivier himself. They provide an elegant, acceptable structure to the narrative. Not only do they fit the traditional English stereotype of ‘the great men, who made history,’ allowing the NT to follow the same pattern as the Tory version of the past, their plucky failures give them a quintessential English glamour.

What this version lacks is something I cannot provide because I understand history in flashes of lightning against a dark background of ignorance: the economic and social vagaries against which the evolution of the NT as an idea was played out. One book makes an effort to compare the two great exhibitions, one in Victorian times, the other in 1951 to show how the political context changed. This was inspiration enough to encourage me to climb towards a more… dare I say… comprehensive analysis.

In another sidebar, it’s worth saying that comprehensive is not the best word. Let me stick with alternative. The problem comes from noticing how, in ten years, the very idea of ‘National’ has changed so much – leading me to consider that in the century between the first stirrings and the NT’s origin, the intentions and understandings of building a National Theatre would have changed so much that they would scarcely recognise each other.

What do I know about 1848? Well, there were revolutions all across Europe – mild ones compared to the gore-fest of the previous century, but ones that would lead to the birth of the German state (about thirty years later) and the Italian. Britain had no Labour Party, so the representation of either socialist or working class politics in government was minimal (in that respect, 1848 is closer to 2013 than 1951). Actors were low in the hegemony of Victorian society (Queen Vic got pelters for watching a play about The Corsican Brothers).

Britain had already had a Glorious Revolution (1688, I think) and was getting better at reforming through parliamentary democracy. I am sure we had the Corn Laws around then – I can’t remember what they were exactly, but they get mentioned in any history of how British democracy became more inclusive. I am betting on an increased social confidence, the growth of Empire and the presence of a capitalism that might be recognisable to the contemporary observer, albeit with more mutton-chop facial hair and a dash of philanthropy.

I am probably talking about the period around 1848, up until about 1900 or so. Just long enough so that I can point at the next time slot during which the NT was debated (Shaw, Granville B and Archer) and pretend that I can delineate the differences. Shaw was a Fabian and intellectually respectable, so I am betting on their being a good socialist aspect to the discussion in this period. By the time of Tynan, socialism was perfectly legitimate for the Oxbridge cabal that runs the country (once the back of the aristocracy was broken, they took over. Let’s not waste time debating that and pretending it’s all meritocracy in these isles). So the meaning of ‘National’ had expanded from meaning ‘the rich and the bourgeois’ to everyone living in the country.

The idea that the UK was inclusive is put to shame by the sudden memory of Dear Larry blacked-up for his Othello. Even if that version of the Moor wasn’t racially offensive, I don’t think the chat about it suggested that the Jamaican migrants were part of the national conversation. When Jonathan Miller sniffily called Olivier’s Othello a clippie, he wasn’t exactly breaking down stereotypes.

But it was, in the way of the UK until post-modernism broke it all, getting more inclusive. Slowly and relatively, the UK was becoming more diverse and, possibly cosmopolitan. In 1848, the Empire was emerging, and was A Good Thing. By 1951, intelligent people had learnt to be ashamed of running about the world and enslaving people for economic gain.

Now that I have established how Britain went from a tentative parliamentary democracy to the land of happy joy, I have two different very different contexts for the discussion of the National Theatre. Stupid generalizations aside, the state in 1848 and 1951 had two distinct sets of priorities, and the results from history show that the latter had more will to establish the NT. I wish I had the skill to prove that the latter date was establishing an organisation that is fundamentally different to the one proposed, thereby destroying the usual myth and disconnecting the NT from the traditional history.

I have proved nothing of the sort, but I have introduced a degree of doubt, enough to make me think that there are other ways of reading the evolution of the NT than tracing its slow development to fruition as the story of Great Men Inspired.

Artists! Apply to the Arches and do a massive event starring me

As part of BEHAVIOUR, The Arches’ festival of international performance, The Arches is planning a special late night event in Spring 2014 which uses the cavernous spaces of The Arches and takes in the astonishing breadth of The Arches’ activity, whether it be live music, performance art, theatre, clubbing, or any more of the building’s disparate strands.

It's more churnalism time from Vile. This press release comes from Glasgow's top night-spot and the venue that has hosted the Mighty Criticulous Trilogy (see blog posts passim for details of that revolutionary process).

Here's the bit that got my attention:

We are looking for a dynamic artist/producer/collective to work with The Arches to create an immersive and innovative clubbing/party experience which will appeal to a wide variety of people, using the space in new ways and showcasing some of the most exciting national or international artists around.

My first thought was: here's a chance for Criticulous to organise an entire evening. Sadly, the phrase 'will appeal to a wide variety of people' probably counts me out as a leader on this project. My current work, The Naked Critic, has a niche audience. 

However, I know that there are plenty of readers of the blog who could deal with this. My suggestion is that someone picks up on it, and invites me to be part of their team. I have a couple of suitable solo pieces that they could program. Plus, I know a bit about dramaturgy now.

We are looking for statements of interest from:

> Performers, makers and practitioners of all disciplines who also have the skills to produce events
> Curators
> Producers
> Producing/arts collectives

We are open to a variety of ways of interpreting this brief as long as the night has a celebratory, hedonistic atmosphere combined with groundbreaking artistic work. The evening itself might include elements from disparate artist disciplines, including live art, visual art, digital art, music, theatre, dance, film and cabaret.

Hedonistic? Watch me party. Live Art? I recently devised a witty response to the rigours of being a critic. Cabaret? I can take my clothes off, burlesque style, for a fee. Dance? Better leave that to the experts...

We are offering a total production budget of £7000 which should include:

• Producers’ fee (including travel and accommodation if necessary)
• Performance fees plus travel and accommodation (per diems as appropriate)
• Space dressing/effects
• Any extra technical hires outwith Arches stock

And a finder's fee if anyone applies and gets it after reading my blog. I think 50p for a cup of tea would be fair.

In addition, The Arches will provide:

• Project management support
• Administrative support
• Technical assistance
• Staffing for the event
• In house sound and lighting facilities
• Rehearsal space (if necessary)
• Billing and marketing of the event
• Headline music act (to be announced)

N.B. While we are open to proposals from national and international artists, travel and accommodation will need to be considered within the £7000 budget.

How to apply

To apply, please return the following information to Niall Walker ( before12 noon on Monday 16th December:

> A statement of intention including related interests and experience, your vision for the event and/or approach to programming, and why you would like to work specifically on this event at The Arches
> Biogs and/or CVs of the main people involved
> A very rough indication of how you would break down the £7000 budget
> Indication of time available to work on the project between 14th – 26th January, and surrounding the two possible event dates (21st March and 11th April)

Successful candidates will be invited for interview and provided with further information including the name of the headline music act and final event date by Thursday 19th December.

Download the Dark Behaviour: Call For Proposals Information PDF
Download images of the unique Arches space

About The Arches____________

The Arches, one of Europe’s leading cultural venues, is both an arts receiving and production house with an international reputation as an exciting hub of ground-breaking creativity. Housed within seven Grade A listed Victorian railway arches in Glasgow city centre, the venue presents a year-round programme of theatre, performance, dance, visual art, live music and club nights. The arts programming team employs calculated risk-taking in all of its creative decisions, nurturing emergent talent and rewarding bold approaches with a supportive environment for further innovation – showcased each autumn at Arches LIVE, a two week long celebration of new, Scottish, contemporary performance talent. Alongside local artists, the Arches presents world-class international artists and companies such as Gareth K Vile, his ego, The TEAM, Derevo, Ann Liv Young, Mammalian Diving Reflex, Ontroerend Goed, Akhe, Taylor Mac and Tim Crouch in the venue as part of its annual BEHAVIOUR festival of live performance. The Arches regularly wins awards at the Edinburgh Fringe and tours work internationally – in recent years this has included taking shows to New York, Spoleto Festival, Sao Paolo, National Theatre and the Barbican.


No time to waste on making this sound like anything other than a cut and paste of the press release. I want to be one of the first people to announce this...

The Citizens Theatre today announces its Spring 2014 season including:
· Scottish premiere of Stephen Jeffreys’ The Libertine in a new production directed by Dominic Hill
Greek theatre meets post-dramatic tricks

· A new production by Dominic Hill of Zinnie Harris’ adaptation of Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie

Two new Hill productions: and the fandom rejoices. Let us hope that this sees the continuation of 'Dominic Hill's trademark technique of blending multiple historical dramaturgies into a distinctive and focused style.' ((c) Gareth K Vile) 

· A celebration of the life and work of Ivor Cutler by Vanishing Point in association with National Theatre of Scotland.

From the most bracing Scottish entry into the International Festival to a man who was the most famous musician to support the Noise Abatement Society - Vanishing Point will surprise. 

· Work celebrating and reflecting Glasgow’s people and culture including the return of hit musical Glasgow Girls; a stage adaptation from West Yorkshire Playhouse of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy; David Harrower’s five-star Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit Ciara starring Blythe Duff and Sports Day, a large-scale community project celebrating the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with material from some of Scotland’s best-known playwrights and songwriters.

This is the fun stuff... if a play about the Glasgow Underworld counts as fun. Or the mistreatment of asylum seekers...

With 2014 set to be a landmark year in Glasgow and Scotland’s history, Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Hill has programmed a season of works which put Glasgow and its citizens centre-stage, alongside new productions of classic texts that have become his signature style since taking up his post in 2011. Headlining the season is a bold and bawdy new production of The Libertine, which reaffirms the Citizens’ role as the leading producer of courageous new theatre in Scotland.

Announcing the new season, Artistic Director Dominic Hill said:

“I’m really excited to be bringing The Libertine to Scottish audiences for the first time. It feels to me like such a “Citz” play, with everything that has made the Citizens famous: visual flair, grand theatricality, impressive spectacle and, of course, lavish and flamboyant costumes. There’s long been a tradition at the Citizens of theatre that’s risqué and bit outrageous, and I think the bawdiness of The Libertine will serve that tradition very well. I’m also very pleased to be directing a new production of Zinnie Harris’ adaptation of Miss Julie, the first time the play has been presented on the Citizens’ main stage. Zinnie’s version set in 1920s Scotland looks at the politics of Strindberg’s play through a new prism, with many of the issues explored in the play resonating with today’s political landscape.”

Traverse Theatre
By David Harrower
Directed by Orla O’Loughlin

Designed by Anthony Lamble

Lighting design by Philip Gladwell

Sound by Daniel Padden

Main Theatre
Dates: Tue 21 – Sat 25 Jan, 7.30pm

Press night: Tue 21 Jan, 7.30pm
Matinee: Sat 25 Jan, 2.30pm

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)
Tuesdays £12

Filter Theatre Company

By William Shakespeare

Created by Filter Theatre Company

Directed by Sean Holmes

Music and sound design by Tom Haines and Ross Hughes

Main Theatre

Dates: Tue 28 Jan – Sat 1 Feb, 7.30pm

Press night: Tue 28 Jan, 7.30pm
Matinee: Sat 1 Feb, 2.30pm

Schools performance: Wed 29 Jan, 10.30am

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)

Tuesdays £12

Schools: £8.50 + 1 free ticket with every 10 purchased

Citizens Theatre
MISS JULIE A new version by Zinnie Harris

Based on August Strindberg’s original play

Directed by Dominic Hill

Designed by Neil Haynes

Lighting by Stuart Jenkins

Main Theatre
Dates: Thu 6 – Sat 15 Feb, 7.30pm (no performances Sun & Mon)

Preview: Thu 6 Feb, 7.30pm

Press night: Fri 7 Feb, 7.30pm

Matinee: Sat 15 Feb, 2.30pm

Audio Described: Wed 12 Feb, 7.30pm

Signed: Fri 14 Feb, 7.30pm

Captioned: Sat 15 Feb, 2.30pm

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)

Previews £8 | Tuesdays £12

50p Tickets | 10 tickets, 10 performances on sale at 10am Saturday 2 February.
NB – 50p Tickets must be bought in person at the theatre, cash only.


National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Citizens Theatre, Richard Jordan Productions Ltd, Pachamama Productions in association with Merrigong Theatre Company (Australia)

GLASGOW GIRLSConceived by Cora Bissett
Based on the book by David Greig
Directed by Cora Bissett
Designed by Merle Hensel
Lighting by Lizzie Powell
Sound by Fergus O’Hare
Choreography Natasha Gilmore

Main Theatre
Dates: Thu 20 Feb – Sat 8 Mar, 7.30pm (no performances Sun & Mon)

Preview: Thu 20 Feb, 7.30pm
Press night: Fri 21 Feb, 7.30pm

Matinees: Sat 1 & Sat 8 Mar, 2.30pm

Schools matinees: Wed 26 Feb & Wed 7 Mar, 10.30am

Audio Described: Wed 26 Feb, 7.30pm

Captioned: Sat 1 Mar, 2.30pm

Signed: Fri 7 Mar, 7.30pm

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)

Previews £8 | Tuesdays £12
Schools: £8.50 + 1 free ticket with every 10 purchased.
50p Tickets | 10 tickets, 10 performances on sale at 10am Saturday 15 February.
NB – 50p Tickets must be bought in person at the theatre, cash only.

West Yorkshire Playhouse
REFUGEE BOYWritten by Benjamin Zephaniah
Adapted for the stage by Lemn Sissay
Directed by Gail McIntyre
Designed by Emma Williams
Dramaturg Ben Jancovich

Main Theatre
Dates: Wed 12 – Sat 15 Mar, 7.30pm

Press night Wed 12 Mar, 7.30pm
Matinee: Sat 15 Mar, 2.30pm

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)
Tuesdays £12


Scottish Opera

MACBETHComposer Giuseppe Verdi

Conductor Derek Clark

Directed by Dominic Hill

Designed by Tom Piper

Lighting design by Warren Letton

Movement Director Kally Lloyd-Jones

Cast: David Stephenson, Elisabeth Meister, Thomas Faulkner, Anthony Flaum, Katie Bird, Sioned Gwen Davies

Revival of 2005 production. Sung in English

Main Theatre

Dates: Sat 22, Thu 27 & Sat 29 March, 7.30pm

Press night: Sat 22 March, 7.30pm
Tickets: £14.50, £18.50, £22.50 (concessions available)



Main Theatre

Dates: Mon 31 Mar – Sat 5 Apr

RORY BREMNER Mon 31 Mar, 8pm. Tickets £15
SIMON EVANS Tue 1 Apr, 8pm. Tickets £14/£12
AND THEY PLAYED SHANG-A-LANG Thu 3 Apr, 8pm. Tickets £15/£13
SHAPPI KHORSANDI LIVE Fri 4 Apr, 8pm. Tickets £14/£12
JAMES CAMPBELL COMEDY FOR KIDS Sat 5 Apr, 2pm. Tickets £7.50. Recommended for 6+
RUBY WAX – SANE NEW WORLD Sat 5 Apr, 8pm. Tickets £17.50/£15

Vanishing Point and National Theatre of Scotland
THE BEAUTIFUL COSMOS OF IVOR CUTLERCreated by James Fortune, Sandy Grierson and Matthew Lenton

Directed by Matthew Lenton

Text by Sandy Grierson & the Company

Main Theatre

Dates: Wed 9 – Sat 19 Apr, 7.30pm (no performances Mondays or Sundays)

Preview: Wed 9 Apr, 7.30pm

Matinee: Sat 12 Apr, 2.30pm

Tickets: £12-£19.50 (concessions available)

Preview £8 | Tuesdays £12


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Come Off It (Strictly Come Dancing tour)

It's another less than fascinating fact from my childhood that my mother banned us from watching Come Dancing. In a house where ballet ruled, ballroom was not seen as appropriate viewing, a bit like Grange Hill and those films on Channel 4 with the red triangle. This might explain why I would later champion the most difficult choreography I could find (I was an early adopter of Michael Clark), and that my attitude towards Strictly Come Dancing (which my mother and father now watch) is limited to grinning every time it is mentioned (thanks to a memory of the playground joke).
However, the tour of Strictly has answered one of my key questions about the SECC Hydro, Glasgow's newest venue. Would any theatre or dance shows manage to fill the space? I know Still Game managed, but the Strictly tour explains everything. There can be stadium theatre and dance - just like stadium rock, relying on the large gesture and the immensity of scale - as long as it has been on TV first. 
They have stars lined up for it - I have never heard of them, not having a TV (Natalie Gumede and 'actor and funny man' Mark Benton) or being a rugby fan (Ben Cohen). The press release promises more celebrities will be announced soon, and my mind wanders to a fantasy version, called Strictly Interesting Dancing in which celebrities don't do a cha-cha-cha but, instead, a scene from works by Pina Bausch or Swan Lake

Back in the day, Come Dancing did champion a social dance form - whatever my mother's objections were, she can't deny that it tapped into a lively tradition that was still tearing up the community halls across the UK. I am not sure about the current status of ballroom in the hearts of the nation (frankly, I remain a snob and anyone who does a tango that is not strictly Argentinian gets little respect). But this Strictly business is all about the cult of celebrity. Much as I would like to claim it as a triumph for public perceptions of dance, I think it is the BBC's version of that show where Ant and Dec make desperate stars gobble ants and that. 

The tour also has a judging part, as well: just like the TV show, they have a panel. The panel are celebrities as well, mainly for being the panel on the... 

I am regretting getting into this. I wanted to do a little piece about what the tour might signify. Instead, I am getting exhausted by having to type 'celebrity' every other line. Hell, no-one is reading this far. I might deconstruct the press release later. Unfortunately, my savagery towards the show is tempered by the enthusiasm of the stars. They read as rather sweet. 

On announcing his place on the tour, Ben Cohen said: “I love to test myself and Strictly has certainly been a challenge, but I’m growing in confidence with every week that passes and I’m starting to feel at home on the dance floor now. What better way to take things one step further than to perform in front of thousands of people every night, in some of the biggest arenas in the country? Count me in!”

Natalie Gumede added: “I'm hugely excited to be part of the Strictly tour, it’s the perfect excuse to keep dancing! I'm having so much fun and I've learnt so much already, I just want the experience to last as long as possible. Dancing for all the fans who have voted to keep me in the show will be really special, I can’t wait.”

Mark Benton also commented: "Entertaining arena audiences with my ever evolving dance steps will be a fantastic way to start the New Year. I cannot wait to hit the road and recreate my favourite routines for fans around the country."

If you must go, here are the dates. I actually quite fancy seeing Cohen shake his booty - the connection between sport and dance is under-examined and I might even be able to write something about 'physicality and the arts' on the back of it. I'll probably get annoyed by Benton - he's the 'funny man,' so I bet he does it badly and gets pelters off the panel, to the crowd's amusement. 

Maybe I could be less close-minded about entertainment that, you know, appeals to a big audience. Even my mother has got over it.

17 – 19 January Birmingham: NIA 0844 338 8000

(Friday 17th at 7.30pm, Saturday 18th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Sunday 19th at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

20 – 21 January London: Wembley Arena 0844 815 0815

(Monday 20th at 7.30pm and Tuesday 21st at 7.30pm)

23 January Liverpool: Echo Arena 0844 8000 400

(Thursday 23rd at 2.30pm and 7.30pm)

24 – 26 January Leeds: First Direct Arena 0844 248 1585

(Friday 24th at 7.30pm, Saturday 25th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Sunday 26th 1.30pm)

28 – 29 January Sheffield: Motorpoint Arena 0114 256 5656

(Tuesday 28th at 7.30pm and Wednesday 29th at 7.30pm)

30 – 31 January Newcastle: Metro Radio Arena 0844 493 6666

(Thursday 30th at 7.30pm and Friday 31st at 2:30pm and 7.30pm)

1 – 2 February Glasgow: The SSE Hydro 0844 395 4000

(Saturday 1st at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday 2nd at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

4 – 5 February Nottingham: Capital FM Arena 0843 373 3000

(Tuesday 4th at 7.30pm and Wednesday 5th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm)

6 – 7 February Manchester: Phones 4u Arena 0844 847 8000

(Thursday 6th at 7.30pm and Friday 7th at 7.30pm)

8 – 9 February London: O2 Arena 0844 856 0202

(Saturday 8th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday 9th at 1.30pm and 6.30pm)

Glasgow Girls is back

Theatre must be getting like films these days: look at this selection of companies.

National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Citizens Theatre, Richard Jordan Productions Ltd and Pachamama Productions, in association with Merrigong Theatre Company (Australia)
It took all of them to make Glasgow Girls - a musical, inspired by a true story and taken to the stage by Cora Bisset, with a little help from David Greig, Sumati Bhardwaj (Soom T), Patricia Panther and the Kielty Brothers. 

And Musical Direction & Arrangements by Hilary Brooks, Associate Musical Direction by Jon Beales, Set Design by Merle Hensel, Lighting Design by Lizzie Powell, Sound Design by Fergus O’Hare, Choreography by Natasha Gilmore.

I guess this isn't the most inspiring way to start off a preview of what is, after all, a rare example of a contemporary musical set and staged in Scotland. It has a tough political edge, and an urban (not my favourite adjective but appropriate here, for once) vibe to the tunes. But there is something in the amount of people involved that says something about the collaborative nature of theatre. Descriptions and opinions are all very well, but sometimes the names and numbers count for more.

Pulling out a few strands - Natasha Gilmore was on fire recently - her Tiger was choreography that acknowledged both the emotive potential of dance and played around with format in a sophisticated, refreshing manner. Cora Bisset deserves to be a big film star - although there isn't really a Scottish industry that supports this. In the meantime, she is applying her talents to intriguing mash-ups like this - a musical that is political that is cheerful. David Greig needs no introduction either. He writes some. 

20 February until 8 March 2014 at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

The mainstream press had a few words to say. That the Express and the Telegraph gave respect to a show that, essentially, critiqued the government's policy on immigration is impressive. Then again, I am not sure about the effectiveness of these comments: I can't name any politically engaged British musicals apart from Blood Brothers. As for a milestone... that would suggest there is a theatrical journey going on, and I don't see enough musicals made in Scotland to suggest that Glasgow Girls marks a moment in their evolution.

Tum-de-dum. "Worth seeing because it tells a story about Glasgow's recent history and has a couple of toe-tapping hits" doesn't look so good on the bill-board. How about - "better than most television, and certainly rewards the effort of going out on a cold evening?" These do have the advantage of being 'entirely true'.

“Staged and performed with an integrity that makes it the most politically engaged and enraged British musical since Blood Brothers, but it is even more raw and heartbreaking because it is entirely true.”

★★★★★ Sunday Express

‘There can be little doubt that Bissett and co have created a significant milestone in Scottish musical theatre.’

★★★★ Daily Telegraph

Home at The Oran Mor

Previous production from PPP
Being the champion of the experimental, the painfully hip and the downright challenging, I'd like to disrespect Oran Mor's Play, Pie and a Pint. Now that I have found out that the theatre which has inspired me over the past decade has a category (it's called post-dramatic), I am all set to attack the very idea that a script is the foundation of theatre.

Unfortunately, I can't argue PPP. It offers a new play every week, pretty much, and has had plenty of shows move onto bigger tours. It has given Scotland new works by David Harrower and Rona Munro. It even hosted a few of my own post-dramatic heroes (Monfrooe, McNair). It's a good thing. I have to silence my angst-ridden post-modern trickiness, and salute the audience - loyal - the producers - persistent -  and the artistic director - the best Omar Sharif impersonator north of Manchester.

The following press release is another example of why PPP  is a good thing. It arrived from Edinburgh University.

 Writing student takes centre stage, with a pie and pint on the side

A playwriting student has won a new prize to have her work performed as part of a popular lunchtime theatre programme. Jenny Knotts from the University of Edinburgh has been awarded the inaugural David MacLennan Prize for her play, Home. It will be showcased in Glasgow theatre Oran Mor’s long-standing series, A Play, a Pie and a Pint.

Jenny’s winning piece is a comedy tinged with sadness, centring on twin sisters Maggie and Agnes’ last day in a house that has been their home for decades. Maggie suffers from Alzheimer’s and Agnes uses a wheelchair.The twins are from Ireland and their voices are inspired by Jenny’s own grandmother.

I am restraining myself from suggesting that the characters were inspired by Oran Mor's audience. 

Jenny was moved to write Home after watching a documentary about the care of elderly people in Scotland. Jenny said: “Winning the David MacLennan Prize is a dream come true – I have been going to see plays at Oran Mor for years and know how important it is to the Scottish theatre scene. I think it is so generous of them to support a new writer like myself with a fully commissioned play, and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.”

David MacLennan is an acclaimed Artistic Director at Oran Mor who champions new writing – producing more than 30 weeks of new plays every year. He initiated the new award exclusively with the University of Edinburgh, offering Postgraduate students in Playwriting the opportunity to have their work performed as part the renowned theatre series.

I am hoping that MacLennan has a look round the corner of Byres Road later this year: there are a bunch of immensely talented playwrights up at Glasgow this year, on the Playwriting and Dramaturgy course. I've heard a rumour that one of the writers has written a twenty minute tragedy called 'Trigger Warning.'

David said: “We are delighted to produce Home at Oran Mor – Jenny’s distinctive voice is unlike any I have heard before and I think our audiences will really enjoy it. The calibre of the students’ writing was incredibly high this year and it was a challenge to choose a winner. Moreover, the partnership with the University has been a success and we hope it continues.”

Jenny is a student on the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Playwriting, led by award-winning playwright Nicola McCartney. The programme aims to give its students real experience in Scotland’s theatre scene.

Jenny Knott’s Home will be performed in Oran Mor at 1pm from 25-30 November. Tickets can be purchased here:

Saturday, 16 November 2013

True West

True West is a difficult play to interpret. Despite an apparently simple premise - two brothers duke it out for literary and macho bragging rights - it alludes to grand conflicts without ever settling on a resolution. There's the obvious - Cain and Abel re-imagined for the USA, the battle between the cerebral and carnal energies - and the more obscure (are the two brothers manifestations of the same person, or is their anguish a symbol of 'Merica's double nature?). But Sam Shepherd's script seems unwilling to give up its secrets, content to merely suggest reasons for the brother's enmity before enjoying their inevitable intellectual and physical throw-downs.

Philip Breen's direction goes large on the comedy: Alex Ferns (the big, bad motherfucker) and Eugene O'Neill (the writer) bounce off each other, the walls and the script like old school cartoon characters. The humour, mostly slapstick, is fierce and brutal: the rivalry between the two is so intense, they wave golf-clubs, steal a street's worth of toasters, tear apart the set and wrap telephone cords around each others' necks. Ferns is horrifying, thick and fat, snarling in a high-pitched voice: O'Neill is vulnerable, his occasional boasts laughable for being so frail.

But while Breen's last outing at the Citizens revealed a deft hand with the tragi-comedy (A Day in the Death of Jo Egg, helped by a star cameo turn from Miriam Margoyles), his True West overdoses on the laughter. The final scenes - when the boys remember their dear old dad and his tragic loss of teeth, or finally attempt fratricide (in front of dear old mum) - retain the comedy and don't expose any hidden depths. The last image leaves the battle inconclusive, and the reasons for the fraternal warfare are equally obscure. There's something horrible lurking in the depths, but it never breaks the surface.

Breen's touch is sure, and the comedy goes full-tilt: abandoning any attempt to balance it against tragic motivations, True West is a block-buster, a vicious chuckle-fest that entertains before it provokes. Laughter replaces empathy in the stalls, and Breen works the crowd like a master (Fern and O'Neill are good with the emotions and physical shenanigans: great performances, aside from their accents which wander all over the States and occasionally take quick trips back to Scotland).

Violence as comedy? Respectful of the audience, enough to let them realise on the way to car-park that they have been laughing at the early stages of a murder (or, if this is one man's internal conflict, a mental breakdown)...

Orla O'Loughlin interview from 2012

I remember 2012... it was a time of optimism. Dominic Hill was bedding in at the Citizens (and the fandom rejoiced) and Orla O'Loughlin was taking on the role of artistic director at The Traverse. I spoke to O'Loughlin just before her production of Morna Pearson's The Artist Man and the Mother Woman. Then I left the transcript of the interview in my drafts file for a year, only to find it now and remember how generous she had been to my faltering questions...

GKV: If I may dive straight in... Critics- well me, at any rate- like to try and predict the future trajectory of a director... Taking a play like this then becomes the subject of augury. Having cast the lots, words like 'accessible', 'serious yet funny', 'Scottish language and identity' come up... But what attracted you to this particular piece by Morna Pearson, and am I right to look for clues to your future programming in the choice?
OO: Morna is a brilliant Scottish writer, with a very distinctive voice. another writer said to me the other week that the thing about her work is that it isn't like any anyone else's. Her writing is instantly recognisable as her own. for me, Morna has a style that tonally dances on a knife edge: at times out and out hilarious, at others profoundly tragic, and sometimes a compelling fusion of both. Her work is deeply bound up with where she is from and there is no doubt she is interested in the relationship of people to place. In this play, as in her previous play for the Traverse, Distracted, that place is the north east of Scotland.

In terms of future programming, I'm ultimately interested in getting the best work possible on the stage and attracting as wide an audience as we can to see it. What that work is remains to be seen, but yes, all your chosen words chime...

GKV: I really like the idea of seeing a show that uses Doric- it's not represented that often on stage. How is it as a language to use on stage?
OO: It's fantastic. a real privilege to dive into. I'm completely smitten with the lyricism, rhythm and wit of her words. Morna's particular use of Doric means her characters speak with a muscularity and poetry that feels both ancient and modern at the same time. familiar and strange: beautifully theatrical.

GKV: I have a pretty bad habit of over emphasizing my own preference for physical theatre, to the
extent of acting like I don't like scripts at all- it's one of my many charmless idiosyncrasies. But looking over your past work, there is a roll call of writers who reveal that new writing is very healthy. I'm interested in both what encourages you to believe in the script, but also the aesthetic criteria you use when you pick a script... Because your work so far does give me faith in your choices!

OO: Thank you. I tend to respond to the words Iread on the page instinctively and emotionally. If a script makes me laugh out loud or despair or have to have a conversation, that's generally a positive indicator for me. I'm also massively visual, I'm drawn to scripts where the stage pictures in my head challenge, inspire and excite me.

GKV: This is probably a question I ought to have asked in January... But what is it about The Traverse that persuaded you that your aesthetic would be best served by becoming artistic director?
OO: I love new writing and new work. I have eclectic taste and have made a wide variety of work, with very different writers in very different ways. There's something of the chameleon spirit of the Traverse that has always resonated. and appealed. and both spaces are legend in their ability to hold and successfully deliver a broad spectrum of work. And so, for me the traverse is a creative gift for theatre makers of all kinds. it's a huge privilege to be at the helm.

GKV: And finally... I always ask whether artists believe that theatre is an important part of social discussions... They say yes and I have wasted a question. However, very briefly, can I ask if you feel that critics can be a dynamic part of the debate not around theatre itself but the way theatre engages in wider discussion..

OO: Of course, critics are a vital part of the debate about the way theatre engages in a wider social discussion. The very nature of their role is to publicly and regularly go on record with their opinions. theatre, and in particular new writing and new work, is inextricably bound up with what it means to be alive in these times. A contemporary view is being expressed or explored. A voice is being heard. an experience shared. a question being asked. as such, theatre is a political art form, not least because it invites debate. And the critics are charged with professionally taking that on and as we've seen in Scotland recently that opinion has extended to include not only the politics inherent in the work being made but who has the power to decide who should make work in the first place and how it should be funded.

Orla O’Loughlin is Artistic Director of the Traverse Theatre. Prior to taking up post at Traverse, she was Artistic Director of the award-winning Pentabus Theatre and International Associate at the Royal Court Theatre.

Directing work for the Traverse includes: Group Portrait in a Landscape by Peter Arnott, Most Favoured by David Ireland,Catterline by Sue Glover, Clean by Sabrina Mahfouz, Rachael’s House by Nicola McCartney, Room 7 by Jonny McKnight,National Health by Lynda Radley, Skeleton Wumman by Gerda Stevenson, A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity by Douglas Maxwell (all readings). Orla will direct the The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society in December 2012 (in association with Peepolykus).

Other directing work includes: For Once (Hampstead Theatre Studio); Kebab (Dublin International Festival/ Royal Court Theatre); How Much is your Iron? (Young Vic); The Hound of the Baskervilles (West Yorkshire Playhouse/ National Tour/ West End); Tales of the Country, Origins (Pleasance/ Theatre Severn); Relatively Speaking, Blithe Spirit, Black Comedy(Watermill Theatre); Small Talk: Big Picture (BBC World Service/ ICA/ Royal Court Theatre); A Dulditch Angel (National Tour) and The Fire Raisers, sob stories, Refrain (BAC).

Orla has also directed two large-scale, site-specific productions: Shuffle with the National Youth Theatre at Merry Hill, one of Europe's largest shopping centres and Underland, performed 200 feet below ground at Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean.

Orla was winner of the James Menzies Kitchin Directors Award and recipient of the Carlton Bursary at the Donmar Warehouse.

Morna Pearson is from Elgin and currently lives in Edinburgh. Her first full professional production was Distracted at theTraverse Theatre in 2006. Distracted won the Meyer-Whitworth Award 2007 and was nominated for a CATS Award. Morna was given the inaugural Rod Hall Memorial Award in 2006. Her other plays include: Elf Analysis (Òran Mór); The Company Will Overlook a Moment of Madness National Theatre of Scotland and Òran Mór); Skin; or How To Disappear (Agent 160) and Ailie & The Alien (National Theatre Connections, 2013). Radio work includes: McBeth's McPets (BBC Radio Scotland); Side Effects(BBC Radio 3/Bona Broadcasting).


One of the great joys of being a student again is the freedom to hang around in the University library. The downside is that I am more painfully aware than usual of how ignorant I am. I also have a bad knee, exacerbated by a dubious aesthetic choice in my Devising Practice Module.

Here's the latest press release that is confusing me.


Festival organisers DF Concerts and founding partner Tennent’s Lager are delighted to announce that T in the Park is the recipient of the prestigious A Greener Festival Award for the sixth year running, in recognition of its sustained efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the festival.

T in the Park is the second largest festival to receive the award this year, after Glastonbury. The list of winners have been hailed as some of the greenest festivals in the world by A Greener Festival’s Executive Committee, after the Committee analysed the environmental policies, waste management plans and CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions of each festival. Each festival had to sign up to a strict check list of environmental good practice, and was inspected by one or more environmental auditors.

I went to T in the Park this year and spent the time making smart-ass remarks about The Society of the Spectacle and wishing My Bloody Valentine hadn't looked so old. Given the amount of mess being left behind by the crowd, I am impressed that the organisers had strategies in place not to leave the site looking like a bomb crater, let alone win a green award.

The efforts of T in the Park organisers to make the festival more environmentally friendly include various fan-focused initiatives. These include Citizen T - an audience manifesto which encourages binning litter, recycling and tent re-use. Fans are encouraged to take their cups to special cup recycling points situated around the festival site and receive a 10p deposit in return, and festival-goers are also encouraged to use public transport to travel to the festival to help reduce the event’s carbon emissions.

I am suspicious of any organisation that uses the word 'citizen' (except a certain theatre on Glasgow's Southside), because it makes me think of Big Brother and totalitarian states enforcing public jollity. That said, when I started this blog, I intended to mock the whole thing as a form of Greenwash, but this kind of initiative is the sort of thing I vaguely approve. 

Then again, it is a bit sad that people need to be told not to leave stuff all over the countryside in the first place. And a few facts and figures would be good: what is the actual carbon footprint of the festival, does the reduction mean anything in real times and will people like me ever be convinced that T in the Park could make a difference?

Geoff Ellis, Festival Director, said: “We’re incredibly proud to receive the prestigious A Greener Festival Award for the sixth consecutive year, and are really delighted to be recognised as one of the greenest festivals in the world. We’re committed to reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint, and also involve our fans in the process - initiatives such as Citizen T are all about inspiring a culture change within our audience and encouraging them to aid us with our efforts through recycling and tent re-use. We’re incredibly grateful to them for their continued support.”

It's all good, I guess. There are a few issues surrounding aesthetic pollution still - the big festival encourages a certain sort of music to become dominant, and might encourage bands to tailor their sets/tunes to work in vast spaces rather than consider their music as self-expression. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Yes, yes, more press release related laziness... but this is going to be smart. The idea is that a bunch of artists come along and project their art onto the walls. Last year it was at The Glue Factory, but they have moved round the corner to The Whiskey Bond.

The speed with which these artists reclaim unused space is astonishing. Let's see who we have this year...

G L A S G O W 2 0 1 3

15th NOV 7PM - 1AM .
Following the success of last years event at the Glue Factory we have decided to stage another, bringing together a wide variety of local/international video art and other forms of projected image (e.g. gifs, live visuals, performance et c) in a multi-projection exhibition for one night only. The works will be presented floor-to-ceiling, in varying scales and throughout the multitude of spaces to create an immersive environment of imagery, colour and light. Artists have also been welcomed to work with site specific ideas whether it be projection mapping, installation and performance.

ALEC MACKENZIE / JACK WRIGLEY (him off 85A and the secret gig at Sonica. Best known for Bucket over head and raw techno antics, with added dinosaurs and flashing lights: anarchic fun at its best) / ANNIE CRABTREE (has been known to mash up spoken word classics) / BEN SKEA ('My work primarily focuses on my interest in the cyclical, transformative nature of experience, memory and matter')/ CRISTINA GARRIGA / MOYRA CAMPBELL (previously the maid of honour at the Queen's wedding. I think my web searches are letting me down) / CRAIG JACKSON / ROSANNE DAVIDSON (Google search provided me with images of 2003 Miss World) / MARCO BIAGINI (former student of the world's worst Latin teacher) + JESSICA ARGO 

BRENDAN BENNETT / EWAN SINCLAIR (possible Gilbert and George influence in formal terms, content aims more for a post-psychedelic disorientation)  / AILSA MARGOT MACKENZIE (Cargo collective connected, has a work with cool name, Return to the Centaur) / EYEGRID / JASPER COPPES / KATIE SHAMBLES / JO TOMLINSON / CHRISTOPHER MACINNES  

ANDREW HOUSTON / HEATHER LANDER / BETH SHAPEERO / KIM STEWART / PAWET BIGNELL / PAUL SAAG / SCOTT CARUTH / PHILIPPA WALL (well worth checking out the play with fabrics and thread...) / NICK THOMAS (apparently co-owner of Qdos, who put on the pantomime with the Krankies in it. Either this is a bold new direction or I am making a sardonic appeal for artist biographies to be included in press releases) / ANDREAS FELIX TRITSCH / KORNELIA KLOKK / GUY VEALE (he did some work with Al Seed and Alex Rigg, which makes him alright by me. Well worth following his twitter, and has made some tracks that 'sound like Arvo Part played through a biscuit tin'. Which is good) / HANNAH EDWARD 

CALLUM MONTEITH (that is his exhibition in the picture) / JAMIE MCNEILL (possibly makes videos for bands? I am not sure, and I am armed only with Google here) / SHARON GRAHAM (wedding photographer? I think all artists ought to have names like Vile, so they are easy to find online...) / KRYSIA KORDECKI (found one! Connected to Cargo Publishing, digs electronic music)/ SARAH GLASS / SQUISH KIBOSH (does a radio show that seems to link to the wonder of Plunderphonics... but still throws down some heavy duty beats)

Try looking them up on Google, and it becomes clear why Orpheus is a bad name for a choir. Then again, if this really is a proper choir and not a cheeky live art connected project, then the combination with the beamers and noise music will be special...
Man, these guys live up to their name. Noise meets drone meets soundscape fun.