Underneath The Arches
Kirstin Innes gets excited about a one night only performance tour of one of the country’s best-loved venues in all its eclectic glory
Glasgow’s Arches, as anyone who’s worked there will tell you, is the sort of place that doesn’t so much defy your expectations as consistently confound them. Audiences might marvel at the sort of building that can stage a theatre show, art exhibition, rock gig and 2,000 strong club night all on the same evening, but hanging out behind the scenes reveals a very different side to the building. This is what Arches Artist in Residence David Overend is aiming to reveal to the public, for one night only, with a promenade performance piece-cum-guided tour called Underneath The Arches.
‘My brief, as Artist in Residence, is to make performance that responds to everything that happens in the building. A lot of site-specific work is just about responding to the geography of a particular building, but I’m looking at the people that work there, the club, the bar, the café, the corporate events, the art. I want to incorporate as much of all of that as possible.’
The event will take the form of a guided tour of the building, with the 100-strong audience broken down into small groups, all departing from the bar area at different times. They’ll go deep into the building’s bowels, witness actors preparing for Alien Wars, waiters finishing up shifts at the café, and technicians setting up for the Death Disco club night.
‘I want to let people experience all the facets of the Arches,’ says Overend, ‘so during the performance Death Disco will be rumbling into existence – really loud music from the club night booming through the concrete floors down all the dark corridors.’
This isn’t just a straight behind-the-scenes tour, though. There’s a team of 50 actors, dancers, writers and musicians involved in the project.
‘We wanted the theatrical aspects of the project to have the same status as the daily workings of the venue: blurring the lines between the Arches as it is every day and the Arches when it becomes a performance space.’ In doing so, he’s referencing the original modus operandi of the venue, where founder Andy Arnold ran Café Loco, a club night that mixed DJs and live performance. In fact, Underneath the Arches incorporates many aspects of the venue’s history.
‘I uncovered a lot of rumours while I was researching this. That children sheltered here during World War Two. That there was a Glaswegian parrot living wild in here. That Wet Wet Wet used the space for early rehearsals! I decided early on not verify any of them: I like the idea of all these myths becoming part of the building’s story.’
The Arches, Glasgow, Sat 17 Jan.