Monday, 29 May 2017

Butoh and the Bard

Butoh is for me, as explained by Lindsay John, the highest of the performance arts. Not that I especially care for its stereotype of white-faced Japanese men contorting themselves into painful poses: when John identified as it as an expression of the interior through the body, an attempt to make the invisible manifest, I thrilled at the possibilities and realised that it was this intention that has driven most of the dance that I have loved.

From C de la B’s VSPRS, which took the twitches and twists of the mentally disturbed and choreographed them into a shamanic evocation of the divine, through Dot 504’s fringe hit Holdin’ Fast to Hofesh Scheter’s attempt to delineate his relationship with his mother, I have always been inspired by movement that strains at physical possibilities and seems to chase an idea or emotion that cannot be conveyed by words. This extends to a suspicion of the script as the foundation of a theatrical performance, since it mediates the actors’ sincerity, and an enthusiasm for devised drama when it allows the performers to process the play’s theme through their own experience.
It’s one of the reasons that I increasingly champion cabaret: the outsider status and emphasis on short, solo work ensures that imagination and experimentation are given respect, alongside the neo-traditionalist routines. I am hoping that there will be a gradual meeting of Live Art and cabaret, and a subsequent explosion of fun and challenging evenings.
There are some companies that combine the best of both worlds- David Leddy and Vanishing Point spring to mind. However, there is a strand of Scottish theatre that I find troubling, which explicitly relies on the written word, usually of Shakespeare, another classic author or a new vibrant talent, to provide the template for the action. At its worst, it can rely on the language - sensible if it is Aeschylus, usually disastrous if it is a contemporary author - to lead the drama.
This can’t be said of the Bard in the Botanics. Consciously crafted for Kebble Palace, its Richard III stripped the expansive historical to a cast of three, who made considerable use of the venue’s resounding echo, bellowing out the great speeches in a fast-paced, back to basics romp. Richard was suitably mesmerising, while the other two actors fleshed out the multiple roles with chameleon enthusiasm.
While I have reservations about the choice of plays – Macbeth is done too often to justify even a site-specific production, and a little more romance might cheer up the rain-splashed Glasgow summer – the annual BB season does offer no-frills classics, and Richard’s gradual accumulation of guilt was strikingly captured as black cloth was wound around him with every victim. The use of location is key. I don’t think that the glasshouse was used to full potential, but it makes for a pleasant evening just a little out of the ordinary, and such a straight-ahead version leaves plenty of scope for after-show discussion over vodka.
And so to the Fringe.

No comments :

Post a Comment