Theatre Reviews for Arches Live

GUM checks out some of the plays at the 2011 edition of Arches Live. Read, enjoy and keep a look out for our next print issue for a story of a rather unusual theatre experience…

“Songs For A Stranger” by Nichola Scrutton

A soulless twenty minutes ended with half the audience standing unmoved and the other half covering their ears. When the applause came, it seemed more an appreciation of the vocal versatility the performers had just demonstrated, unrelated to the piece’s depth. The two females on the stage improvised to a soundtrack of multi-layered electronic music trying to create a song to reflect feeling like a stranger. The range of sounds they were able to make with their mouths and voices was remarkable, but it took a strong use of the imagination to escape the fact that all that faced us on the stage were two women making interpretive sounds and screams into two microphones. Had this piece been an improvised exploration of the theme in the rehearsal room, it would be hailed as brilliant. Had it been released on a CD it would have been labelled interesting and challenging. Yet as a performance it meant very little apart from sour ears.

“Beats” (early development) by Kieran Hurley

Hurley’s story-telling powers were unleashed on the Arches in January’s mesmerising Hitch and they return in this work-in-progress performance. Beats’ simple form is easy to watch. Backed by a DJ playing techno whilst strobe lighting punctures the small studio, Hurley sits at a desk with a microphone. As the strobes change to glowing lights, he tells the story of a young Motherwellian’s first rave. His captivating delivery seduces the audience into forgetting he is reading from a script.

Though enjoyable to watch, Beats suffers slightly from a sense of cliché. Hurley’s plot is unremarkable and ends in predictable fashion. It is not as alive and poignant as Hitch did. It feels unfinished, which is acceptable considering it is advertised as in ‘early development’, but the current script leaves the audience unsatisfied. Hurley has time to make amends as he develops the piece, but it is strange that the product does not match the tin; Beats’ blurb (on both its own programme and that of Arches Live) is focused mainly on the 1994 Criminal Justice Act which effectively outlawed raves, but the script mentions this only once in passing. What we expect to be a politically-motivated outcry yields only what feels like a tried-and-tested storyline of a first experience of rave culture and drugs.

Kieran Hurley is one of Glasgow’s most talented and exciting young practitioners and will strengthen this piece as he continues to work on it. Changes in the script are needed and Hurley must up the ante in his own performance, but Beats has the makings of an emphatic piece of theatre. In this early sight into the work, it is clear that Hurley’s presence and the uncomfortable lighting and loud techno is a combination that sets the scene for a provocative message to be thrust upon an audience. It is Hurley’s job to cultivate that message and make it thrive.

“The Bystander Effect” by Euan Ogilvie

In a small room beneath the Arches main floor, a group of audience members are left to tend a wooden mechanism that at first looks intricate and complicated. Once the usher (who at the end is revealed to be practitioner Euan Ogilvie) leaves the crowd unattended, they are left alone with the device. Connecting a rope to the head of a human-sized plastic dummy, the large wheel of the device will eventually be turned by an audience member out of curiosity. The head of the dummy is wrenched from its body and fake blood oozes across the floor.

Thus the audience are plunged into a simulation of ‘the bystander effect’, the brick wall that hits a group of people when they witness a stranger’s catastrophe in a public place. The effect is supposedly greater when there are more people together who are passing. In this instance the group of people were passive and clueless. Limited attempts were made to soak up the blood and reattach the head to the body. Nothing was achieved. In fact over half the audience left before the piece was over. Ogilvie had succeeded in what we assume his aim was: to reflect the neglectful nature of bystanders to their fellow man in moments like these. A fair point to make, but he insisted on keeping the audience in the auditorium for almost half an hour to emphasise it, which left some whining about missing the last train home. Ogilvie can be commended, as his piece not only reflected the average human’s inability to act when an accident occurs, but also their inability to care.

All reviews are by Abraham ParkerClare

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