Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Performance Geography of Glasgow: City Centre

The concentration of theatre venues in the City Centre suggests that diversity is Glasgow’s hallmark. From The Arches - a re-purposed collection of warehouses beneath the train station - to the Theatre Royal, the venue of choice for both Scottish Ballet and Opera: Glasgow runs the gamut of styles and spaces.

The Arches’ programme reflects artist director Jackie Wylie’s enthusiasm for experimental and emerging artists. During her tenure, two festivals (Arches Live! and Behaviour) have shaped the programme into two distinctive strands. There are the local and emerging artists - most frequently seen at Arches Live! or in works-in-progress throughout the year - and the makers of ‘expanded theatre’. 

As the chosen venue for the National Review of Live Art until 2010, it has strong associations with performance art and its atmosphere - somewhere between a dungeon and a night-club - conjures up an underground den where anything seems possible. When David Overend studied The Arches for his Ph.D, he recognised that its multi-purpose space (it is also a nightclub, and has a rather nice restaurant) lends performances a spectral resonance. 

Further east, Andy Arnold, formerly of The Arches himself, has
reclaimed The Tron as a theatre where words are celebrated. The annual Mayfesto, originally a celebration of political theatre, has tackled themes of identity and post-colonialism, while affirming The Tron’s commitment to scripted theatre. The opening production of the 2014 Autumn season, John Byrne’s adaptation of Chekov’s Three Sisters is typical only in so far as it is based on a script: Arnold is more likely to book or direct classic texts than find a relatively recent work, possibly from an Irish writer. 

The adaptation of Ulysses in 2012 revealed how effectively Arnold could channel language into bold theatricality, and a rare commission - The Tron tends to use existing scripts - Land And Sea and Sky (2010) married a naturalistic staging with a script that examined World War I through arguments as much as action.

Both The Theatre Royal and The King’s Theatre are run by the Ambassadors’ Group, and are part of a national chain of theatres, which includes The Playhouse in Edinburgh. Although they do produce shows - most recently, West Side Story with the ‘original’ choreography - these are made nationally, not in Glasgow and the majority of performances are from touring companies. 

Occasional amateur productions fill out the King’s calendar, but the majority of productions are of musicals or popular plays, including work from John Godber , Alan Bennett and The National Theatres of Scotland and England. 

Other venues that include theatre in their programme include the CCA and The Glue Factory. The CCA has an ‘open source’ strategy - artists can book the theatre - and this has included a recent Butoh festival Moving Bodies and a production of The Madness of Lady Bright by Cardboard Fox Company. The CCA has a long history in Glasgow’s alternative arts scenes . Previously The Third Eye Centre, director Francis McKee has done much to research its past glories and consciously models its current identity on the freedom and eclecticism of its earlier years.

The Glue Factory was, until recently, the home of 85A, the

collective who have made a splash with their cross-platform, post-industrial entertainments. Although The Glue Factory is still in a state of redevelopment, with part of the premises acting as rehearsal space for The National Theatre of Scotland, the nights staged by 85A, including an interactive film Chernozem, and the Fringe for the Glasgow International Art Festival (GI), suggest it is an untapped resource for performance. 

1 comment :

  1. thanks for the comments on the Tron Gareth and your description of our focus on the spoken word through text based theatre is spot on. However, just for the record, contrary to the statement that we stage mainly classic texts rather than recent works and possibly from an Irish writer..well in six and a half years Tron Theatre Company has staged one classic text - Three Sisters in a newly commissioned adaptation..although there have been two Shakespeare's as co-prpoductions..but that's it. You say Ulysses was a rarely commissioned piece and it's true - we would commission more if we could afford to. However, apart from Dermot Bolger's Joyce adaptation, we have commissioned a reasonable number - Plume, Sea Land and Sky (not an existing text as you infer), Edwin Morgan's Dreams and Other Nightmares, Six Acts of Love, A Slow Air...and a few more if I could think of them. Apart from new work it has all been Scottish premieres of contemporary and largely unknown plays - The Drawer Boy, Defender of the Faith, Valhalla, This Wide Night, That Face, Bliss, Mud, Cooking With Elvis, Crazy Gary's Mobile Disco, Address Unknown, An Arab Woman Speaks, and more besides. We may well come round to your description as everything must change and certainly to 'channel language into bold theatricality' as you describe it will always be my chief aspiration in creating theatre at the Tron or anywhere else. Best wishes,
    Andy Arnold