Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Glasgow School II: A Rationale.

It is impossible to point to any single location or event and claim that it expresses the essence of Glaswegian theatre. Making the connection between Sister, an autobiographical two-hander that ponders the relationship between siblings, sex work and feminism, and Dominic Hill's upcoming interpretation of Hamlet could reduce both works to superficial comparisons, and the various theatre of Glasgow have defined identities that don't easily overlap: Tramway has a reputation for large scale international experimental theatre, The Oran Mor's A Play, A Pie and A Pint is all about new work.

Rather, there are several distinctive strands: the scope of this project is to explore whether they overlap or have a coherent shared identity. Again, this poses problems: the imposition of a single theory from above can ignore the individual artists' perspectives, and create an illusion of unity that is not manifested in the actual events.

Therefore, my remit is to engage with the artists themselves, question them about their work and processes, their relationship to other artists and venues, and examine whether any shared values emerge. Basing the questions on a broad framework, primarily developed through analysing the city's infrastructure, the answers will provide a foundation for a tentative summary of Glaswegian aesthetics.

Avoiding any grand statements from outside not only hands over the process to the artists and encourages an engagement with the definition, it also explores how this identity is determined through a dialogue. There is a model of criticism that sees the critic and performer as oppositional, with the critic in the position of grading a show like a teacher -- and the artist playing the student, who can either resist or accept. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with its obsessions about 'star ratings' undoubtedly encourages this attitude, as reviews become part of the marketing of theatre. A quick scan through the on-line presence of The Skinny  or The List will confirm that the review can become a site for conflict.

There is a hope that this project will encourage a more integrated engagement between artists and critics, as collaborators in the ongoing making of meaning, and expanding the discussion about theatre and its role in wider society.

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