JOYCE MCMILLAN on ARCHES LIVE! 2013 at the Arches Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 18.9.13..
4 stars ****
IT OFFERS more than 21 shows, installations and mind-blowing experiences, over a few evenings of performance; it feels like a trade fair of all that’s brightest in Glasgow’s booming young creative scene. It’s Arches Live! 2013; and this year – to judge by the first evening’s events – this seems like a festival with a split personality, on one hand strongly political, on the other almost militantly personal and inward-looking.
Opera Breve’s 15-minute opera One Day This Will Be Long Ago, for instance – staged at the far end of a long Arches tunnel, around a kitchen table – dwells passionately on a moment of shared bliss between a young man and woman, briefly glimpsed, and then lost; while a string quartet, with added keyboards, delivers Alexander Horowitz’s music from behind a shadowy screen. And Thomas Hobbins’s Land’s End is an impressively poised and well-structured account of a bike ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats, shaped around Hobbins’s boyhood passion for the film The Lord Of The Rings, and shot through with a Radio-4-comedy-style combination of wry self-absorption, obsession with the cultural minutiae that shaped a generation, and an oddly facile cynicism about human nature.
Much more rousing, by contrast, are Deb Jones and the wonderful Alison Peebles in Cuff, a brief and often participatory work-in-progress show about direct political action, from the protests of the suffragettes, to the moment when Sue Lawley, trying to read a 1980’s news bulletin, was interrupted by angry lesbians invading the BBC studio. And then there’s Amy Conway’s I-Happy-I-Good, which takes the radical step of blindfolding and deafening each audience member, and leading us one by one into the world of deaf-blind people, and those who care for them. It’s fascinating and terrifying, an experience of intense vulnerability; but if good theatre is about changing our consciousness, then I-Happy-I-Good certainly achieves that, precisely and unforgettably.