JOYCE McMILLAN on RATCATCHER/INVISIBLE EMPIRE at the
Arches Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 30.7.12
3 stars ***
THE WEATHER may be changeable; but this week, Glasgow celebrates its annual weekend of explosive street art, with the Merchant City Festival in full swing both indoors and outdoors, and the Surge/Conflux international gathering of street art and physical theatre at the Arches. When I arrived in Glasgow on Friday evening, the Merchant City Festival had the magnificent giant puppet known as Big Man Walking working its magic around George Square and Ingram Street, arousing ancient dreams of lost leaders and returning heroes; but along at the Arches, achievements were more mixed, as the Surge Festival played host to a couple of emerging works.
Ali Maloney’s Ratcatcher is a 45-minute piece for two actors about the grotesquery of poverty; it seems set in some mediaeval, Bosch-like dystopia where people produce children only to eat them, and all rulers are fierce tax-grubbling tyrants. Moloney’s idea is strong, and his poetry shows occasional flashes of pure brilliance. In terms of dramatic development over 45 minutes, though, Ratcatcher seemed stuck in a single theatrical gesture of loud disgust; so that its chosen performance style – a tired mixture of limp satire and Ubu-like absurdism – only distracted from the poetry in hand.
Company of Wolves’s gorgeous work-in-progress Invisible Empires seems much more promising and contemporary, using deep resonances of choral music, performed by a superb company of seven, to explore contemporary ideas about isolation and alienation. At only 25 minutes, the piece is still embryonic. Yet the atmosphere is clear, adult, humorous yet serious; and the sound is simply sensational.