Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Glasgow School: the artists reply i

Rosanna Hall is both a critic for Exeunt and one of the driving forces behind Newsboy, a night of DIY political theatre that had a residency at the Tron. She is also one of the first people to reply to my questions about Glasgow performance, which makes her an official VileArts favourite. And that's before she gets the props for a bunch of intelligent and thought provoking answers.

Newsboy  is a new addition to Glasgow's programme (at least relative to my time covering the scenes), but I have a suspicion that chimes with some of the qualities that might make up any definitions of the city's theatrical identity. Unashamedly political, it is an open forum - curated, but welcoming - for artists to try out ideas. It is one of those events that is hard to review: is it necessary to talk about the specific acts in a show, or ought the concept be the matter under consideration. Since it is a mash up of sketches and short plays - including the first example of Forum Theatre that I have seen in Glasgow - it is another important strand in the city's provision for works in progress. 

But here is the conversation, in full. It's an example of how I am going to be making burgers with some prime beef.

Vile limbers up with a deceptively dull question...
Are there any aspects of your own work or practice that you feel are defined by Glasgow? If so, what are they and how would you describe Glasgow's influence?

Glasgow audiences are often mixed in terms of the type of people you get in the door. This helped us at Newsboy to create a variety type show, which would hopefully have something for everyone. We found that audiences are very forgiving, and therefore the scratch-style of our show is allowed to work as more of an experiment than a finished/ closed off show. This draws on a legacy of Scottish political theatre tradition. 

And gets a smart answer - Newsboy is given a context and the idea of a political tradition is noted. A generous recognition of the audience's role, too - something too often ignored in critical analysis of an event's 'value' (star ratings).

Can you name any other Glasgow-based artists with whom you feel an affinity? What shared characteristics do you have with them?

A: I love the heart and head combination of Stef Smith's work, and the get-up-and-go philosophy of writer/performers such as Kieran Hurley. I believe I share the drive to get work out there as soon as makes sense to do so and see how it works in the living breathing space even if unfinished or imperfect. I love Jamie Wardrop's visual work and Rosana Cade. The culture of Glasgow having lots of free spaces and audiences willing to come to scratch nights facilitates this culture of shoving the shit out there and letting audiences suck it and see. 

Some interesting names mentioned there - they really ought to be part of this process. Stef Smith has a wide range of work, but she does scripts (although she has said that she likes letting directors run with the words). And Jamie Wardrop is a multi-skilled maker who did the visuals for Kieran Hurley's Beats and knows how to drop video into theatre.

If you had to describe Glaswegian performance in three sentences, or phrases, or even words... what would these be?

A: Raw, Brave and Unpretentious. 

The opposite of me, then.

Are there any events or festivals throughout the year that you would say are influential in developing particular sorts of work? This could apply to both theatre and non-theatrical events.

A: Festival events like Doune the Rabbit hole and cross- disciplinary places help fuse theatre/ performance with other forms. For example I am looking to do a digital storytelling project with a computer games designer and the audio-visual art at a festival inspired me into looking to do this. I've also been inspired by working extensively with youth theatre.

How would you describe your own practice (as an artist or participant in the arts in whatever form)?

A: A playwright, a maker, and a former critic/ cultural voice. 

A former critic? For shame!

This last question is my lazy bucket for anything the respondent fancies adding. Luckily, Rosanna is more engaged than I am...
Do you have any further thoughts on the relationship of the performance arts and Glasgow?

A: The performance art in Glasgow has always seemed to me a bit more closed off than the 'traditional' theatre world, and I am excited by makers who look to blur these divisions. Distinction has been made between writers and 'wrighters' who make work as one might wrought iron, crafting it like clay. We've run into problems unionising everyone because of this, as what a 'script' is becomes more and more unclear.

I would like to see the theatre world in Glasgow become more inclusive and more egalitarian. I feel there is not always enough critical responses to performance art, finding more critics who feel comfortable writing about this would stop this.

I don't even need to add anything to this - although it has me thinking, hard. I am going onto the porch to think a bit harder!

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