Friday, 22 August 2014

The Glasgow School X: The Three Festivals

Again, these were tentative notes...

The three theatre festivals represent different strands of performance. The youngest, Buzzcut, is entering its third year, having been instituted as a response to the absence of New Territories, a festival that programmed high quality experimental performance. Founded in 2012 by Rosana Cade and Nick Anderson, Buzzcut has a mission statement that emphasises the creation of new spaces for performance and bring new audiences to live art. For 2014, it runs between 23rd and 27th April in The Pierce Institute (Govan).

In past years, it featured a mixture of local and national artists working in similar territory to The National Review of Live Art, which was held in Glasgow until 2010. Unlike the NRLA, it does not pay its artists, and has an open application process. Although the majority of performances are live art solos, it has included musicians (Glasgow experimentalists In Posterface in 2013), video game competitions (Thom Scullion) and readings from poets.

In its first year, Buzzcut was advertised in The Arches' season as part of Behaviour: although this was never a formal connection – it was independently curated – it emphasises the programmes' shared aesthetic. In 2014, Behaviour runs from March until May: in previous years, it has picked up on successes from the Edinburgh Fringe, supported new performance from emerging artists through its Platform 18 fund, offered international names – Ann Liv Young has been a regular visitor - and a season of 'auteurs' from the National Theatre of Scotland.

Behaviour, previously known as The Arches Theatre Festival, is curated by Jackie Wylie with the intention 'to create a platform for the best Scottish work and put that beside companies with international status.'

Mayfesto was founded in 2010 by the artistic director of the Tron, Andy Arnold, to 'connect the city's strong political traditions with its love of theatre. Now in its fourth year, it runs from 6 -31 May in 2014 and has a theme of 'post-colonial theatre,' and presents work in association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which is also based in Glasgow.
Previous years have seen new plays from Scottish authors, including David Greig and Cora Bissett: Andy Arnold has directed several productions and while there are two available spaces in the building (a main auditorium and a studio space), the emphasis has been on scripted theatre.

Each festival has its peculiarities, most notably in venue choice. Buzzcut has moved to the Pierce Institute in Govan, an area not known for theatre and recognised as needing regeneration. The Arches, a converted series of tunnels beneath a railway station in the city centre, is a multi-arts venue, featuring gigs and clubs alongside theatre. The Tron, meanwhile, is a traditional theatre space in the city centre.

The Problem of the Question
The framing of the question – whether 'Glaswegian festivals' share not just a geographical location but also an aesthetic sensibility – is deliberately problematic. Discussing cultural homogeneity relies on the assumption that a culture can be broadly defined: in Scottish Drama and the Popular Tradition, Elizabeth MacLennan claims that 'Scotland is distinguished by its socialist, egalitarian tradition, its Labour history, its cultural cohesion' (ed. Stevenson and Wallace, 1996: p180), a generalisation neither supported by evidence nor easy to prove. As Wolfgang Iser (ed. Counsell and Wolf, 2001: p180) reminds, the impossibility of determining objective truth ensures that all analysis becomes an analysis of perceptions. The interrogation of the festivals' takes on Glaswegian identity will be based on the assumption that there is no final definition, but a series of interpretations that inform the programming, performances and reception of the festivals.

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