Whatever Gets You Through the Night
Powerful piece exploring the many Scotlands that exist in the wee hours
Not even the most hardened cynic could sniff at the ambition of this Vital Spark project headed up by Cora Bissett, who has invited writers and musicians from across the land to create work exploring the many Scotlands that exist between the hours of midnight and 4am. The resulting book and album are still to come, as well as a screening of Dan Warren’s film work at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but the live element – currently enjoying a four-night run at the Arches – is at its most successful when these disparate elements are layered and woven together.
With the audience dotted around the Arches’ main theatre space, on scattered cushions or bus seats, surrounded by the debris of a cluttered student flat, the performances take place on unadorned raised platforms in front of screens showing filmed footage by digital artist Kim Beveridge. While the contributions, including text by Kieran Hurley, Alan Spence and Alan Bissett as well as songs written and performed by Emma Pollock and Ricky Ross, have been given a loose structure by Bissett and playwright/director David Greig, overall the piece works as a series of vignettes, enhanced and linked by gorgeous music from the Edinburgh-based Swimmer One music collective.
Some of the themes and scenes, performed by John Kielty and Frances Thorburn, are familiar: a club scene; a woman’s drunken late-night taxi ride that culminates in a handbag full of vomit and a desperate craving for chips and cheese; a late-night encounter at a bus stop; an Eastern European woman selling individual roses. Others use movement, including climbing and aerial skills, to conjure up the feelings of euphoria, melancholy and longing that can creep up on us in these wee hours. Technically the production is a major achievement, moving fairly seamlessly between the individual set pieces. On their own some of the texts feel a little slight, but there are many moving moments here in which the bare pieces of prose, poem or song, are sent soaring by the complementary elements of performance, music and film.
Whatever Gets You Through the Night runs at the Arches, Glasgow, until Fri 29 Jun.