Thursday, 25 June 2015

Lest We Forget, eh?

Jackie Wylie of The Arches discusses the new programme for Behaviour, featuring new works by Gary McNair, Kieran Hurley, Rob Drummond and Nic Green

Although the transition from The Arches Theatre Festival into Behaviour has seen it expand past its original vision of a sudden burst of creativity into a longer season of intriguing performance on the boundaries of theatre, dance and live art, it remains the flagship brand for The Arches' distinctive identity. Now that the National Theatre of Scotland has become involved – showcasing their Auteurs' project – and off-site events are common (Brick Award winner #TORYCORE is visiting the Southside's Glad Cafe), The Arches' status as Glasgow's home of innovative theatre is clearly recognised.

The NTS Auteurs programme takes five emerging performers and supports them to create new work that follows on from their earlier successes, with four of the performers already enjoying strong associations with the venue (Gary McNair, Kieran Hurley and Nic Green are all previous winners of the Platform 18 award, an annual prize that encourages young artists to be more ambitious, while Rob Drummond knocked out his Wrestling there in 2011). 

"They are all also connected to the NTS," says Jackie Wylie, The Arches' artistic director. "When we selected the artists, one of the criteria was this connection: [artists who] have gone through their development programme but were a stage beyond that – beyond Platform 18 or Arches Live!

"These artists need a platform because they work with their own energy and determination," she continues. "There has been a change in the way that artists develop. The auteurs are capable of driving things forward - not necessarily all of the areas all of the time – but in an overlapping combination of areas." 

This independence, however, is not the only thing that they share. "I wonder if there is something about all of them starting with a conceptual spark," adds Wylie. "What is special about all of them is their ability to come up with original, pioneering ideas." These performances form the backbone of Behaviour, simultaneously expressing The Arches' committment to local artists and experimental techniques.

This combination of themes is supported in the two winners of this year's Platform 18 – Amanda Monfrooe and Peter McMaster. They come from very different backgrounds: Monfrooe is, amongst other things, a puppeteer and a prophet of enlightenment through post-modern pessimism, while McMaster is a graduate of The RCS and enjoys tinkering with classic texts – in this case Wuthering Heights – to examine assumptions about masculinty. And while they both grapple with serious topics – Monfrooe's Poke parallels the escalating sexual violence of the early twenty-first century and McMaster prods at the nature of men in feminist times – neither are afraid to entertain.

Looking across Behaviour, Wylie identifies the quality that makes the Arches' seasons distinctive. "A lot of the work is politicised, even if we define political in a broad way.#TORYCORE is Political with a big P, but something like Peggy Shaw is political with a small p. Both of the Platform 18 shows are looking at identity politics, gender in very specific contemporary frameworks."

This mixture, present in all of the Behaviour programme, from Gary McNair's look at standup comedy through to Taylor Mac's political songbook, encapsulates The Arches' attitude to the possibilities of performance.

Behaviour Festival, 3 Apr-11 May, various venues across Glasgow

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