Sunday, 3 March 2013

NTS The Arches Auteurs (Part One)

It's natural to assume that The Auteurs season is the result of The National Theatre of Scotland's pause between artistic directors. With Vicky Featherstone now at The Royal Court and new director Laurie Sansom yet to arrive, The Auteurs are a creative development programme that looks back to Featherstone's emphasis on artistic led projects and lines up some of the artists who are likely to play a part in the NTS' future.

The selections are bold and diverse: Claire Cunningham, dancer and aerialist, currently touring her previous NTS production Menage a Trois across the world; Gary McNair taking on the comments that his work is analogous to stand up comedy; Kieran Hurley, already an award winning monologuist now pushing himself further into collaboration and format busting; Trilogy designing and break out live artist Nic Green, furthering her interest in ecology; Rob Drummond, who has decided to learn yet another skill after the overwhelmingly popular and intelligent Wrestling.

There is little to connect these artists in terms of style or subject. They share a home city in Glasgow, but their approaches and interests vary. Although McNair and Hurley have toured together, they cast very different lights on matters personal and political. Cunningham began her career as a singer, before demonstrating astonishing choreographic skills. Nic Green's most famous work has integrated community engagement with focussed, polished performance. And Drummond's restless script-writing has seen him tackle old school vaudeville tricks, men in lycra having a fight, instant authorship and now, the myth of The Rite of Spring's first performance.

Between them, however, there is a shared energy and a belief in a theatre that can change things. And while none of them comfortably fit the simplistic tag of "political" theatre makers, they are unashamed to address complex issues and engage with tough philosophical quandaries.

Hurley has perhaps the most political history: early work at The Arches saw him Hitch to the G8 Summit and bring back a report that was half reportage, half personal reflection on the protests, and his contribution to Oran Mor's A Play, A Pie and A Pint was a collaboration with Julia Taudevin which responded to the London riots of 2011. But Hurley is no mere ideologue in the mood of the 1970s' playwrights who sought to examine Marxist theory and potential in theatrical form. At his best, as in Beats, he is capable of taking the most personal story and demonstrating how it relates to grand cultural movements.

Throughout his career to date, rather like Drummond, he has shown a willingness to expand his repertoire of styles. Hitch and Beats were collaborative monologues, using music as an integral device. Rantin takes this further by offering a show that is "part living room gathering, part play, part gig session." Yet his writing is precise, using the telling detail to open up landscapes and pining his thoughtful intellect on specific lives and circumstances.

After a deeply personal Menage a Trois, Claire Cunningham is heading towards the global in Pink Mist. Teamed up with sound artist Zoe Irvine, Cunningham's research into land-mines during a trip through Cambodia has inspired a show that "takes it time. Gradual creeping time. The kind of time it takes to slowly demine a strip of land one metre wide and ten metres long."

Past pieces from Cunningham have revealed an artist with a cheeky sense of humour and an eye for the dramatic: Mobile/Evolution, her Fringe success, demonstrated  a danger-defying panache  and a bold aesthetic sense. Again, she is a restless artist, connecting her experiences both to her performances and the wider world.

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