JOYCE MCMILLAN on deviator at the Arches, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 25.7.12
4 stars ****
HI, THIS IS DEVIATOR JOYCE here, high score 121. And if you want to know what I was doing, a few hours ago, chucking a wet sponge at an effigy of a banker on the corner of Gordon Street, or lying on my stomach on a yellow dot in the tarmac of George Square, or muttering an exorcism at a mobile phone shop on St. Vincent Place, then you should know that – at the behest of the pvi collective of Perth, Australia – I was pursuing the theory that it’s only through deviation from buttoned-up social norms that progress can take place.
The show, part of this week’s Glasgow Surge Festival of street art and physical theatre, is based on play theory, the kind of idea loved and popularised by Scotland’s own singing social philosopher Pat Kane. And although the technology is a bit of a faff – you need a smartphone with the deviator app downloaded, a large pair of headphones, and a superhuman ability to spot the QR codes for the various games, stuck to rubbish bins and crossing lights – once you get the hang of it, it’s both enjoyable and slightly other-worldly, as you wander among the rush-hour crowds listening to a different urban soundtrack on your headphones, and see the odd playful provocateur from the pvi company skipping around you, drawing peever squares or smiley faces on the pavement.
The thought the show provokes is about the odd tension, in 21st century urban life, between the infantile and the desperately over-controlled; between leisure lives that seem increasingly childish, and public and professional lives ever more grimly focussed and dehumanised. The value of deviator is that it bridges that gap, and reminds us that rich full lives demand a more integrated sense of humanity; both play that is less mindless, and a public life that is more playful, more creative, and less dismal.