JOYCE MCMILLAN on NEW WORKS, NEW WORLDS at the Arches, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 4.7.09
Hitch/Miasma 4 stars ****
The Sustainability of Sweetness 4 stars ****
The YelloWing 3 stars ****
A Woman In Berlin 3 stars ***
The Line We Draw 4 stars ****
Plane Food Cafe 3 stars ***
THE ARCHES is a chameleon venue, sometimes club, sometimes gallery, sometimes complex of theatres or rehearsal spaces; but this week, it feels like an intense creative laboratory, as the Arches new July festival spreads through the underground spaces. The idea is for a group of perhaps twenty young artists – performers, writers, visual artists – to get to grips with the strange new world in which we find ourselves, in the summer of 2009; so we begin with a pair of sharply topical installations, by Kieran Hurley and Lindsay Perth, that grasp the anxieties and angers of the moment with an almost painful vividness.
Hurley’s Hitch, in a room arranged like a darkened museum, is the beginning of a documentation of his current low-budget journey to L’Aquila in Italy, the earthquake-shaken town chosen by Silvio Berlusconi as the scene of this month’s G8 summit meeting; the tone is hesitant, but the political gesture of Hurley’s journey is both powerful and poignant. And Perth’s Miasma is a brilliant short video installation which takes two great disaster movies of the 1970’s – Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure – and shows dramatically similar scenes from each on facing screens, forcing a repeated, looping confrontation with the nightmares of disaster by heat and flood that now haunt our dreams.
Then it’s on to a series of disturbing one-woman shows about a once-patriarchal cultulre in crisis. There’s Naomi Shoba’s fierce, chocolate-stained meditation – inspired by Barack Obama’s inaugural address – on the moral sustainability of the American way of life, complete with bold and tragic images of sexual degradation and obesity. There’s Jaulia Taudevin’s new take on Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s feminist classic The Yellow Wallpaper, with astonishing flights of contorted movement, and flickering shadow images.
There’s A Woman In Berlin, a conventional monologue for a woman forced – like most of the female population – to trade her body for survival, in the weeks after the Red army arrive in Berlin in 1945; writer Iain McClure and director Deborah Neville identify a brilliant subject, but need a more adventurous form to express its full, disruptive weight. And there’s Skye Loneragan’s strange, fascinating verse monologue about the uneasy borderline between adult stories and children’s stories, the adult and the childlike, delivered with terrific, charismatic poise, and accompanied by live sketches from artist Jenny Soep.
After all that, Richard DeDomenici’s Plane Food Cafe – an environmentally friendly chance to enjoy airline food here on the ground, courtesy of a tiny airline cabin manned by himself and satirical stewardess Patricia Kavanagh – seems a shade too jokey to make us think much about the ethics of air travel. But in a Festival where every single show – including several more, this weekend – is a work in progress, there’s plenty of room for further development; and for a few laughs, too, in the face of grim and scary times.