National Review of Live Art

National Review of Live Art

Live and kicking

As the National Review of Live Art returns to the Arches Kelly Apter prepares to open her eyes and fill her mind

A bit of tunnel vision is required at the National Review of Live Art (NRLA). Not least because it takes place in the atmospheric, underground warren that is the Arches. Filling every available space in the building – foyers, bars, studios, theatres – the NRLA lasts five days, from early morning to late at night. A day ticket buys you an invitation to leave the real world behind and immerse yourself in a sea of experimentation, exploration and innovation.

Blending theatre, performance art, film, music and a few things which are beyond classification, the NRLA acts as a magnet for international artists. Hailing from Canada, Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Croatia and the UK to name but some, they all head to Glasgow with one common goal: to open your eyes and fill your mind.

Among the 40-plus group of ‘Invited Artists’ are Japanese performer anti-cool whose role model for a store clerk, takes place ‘in the gap between the smile and the clerk’s true feelings’; Gary Stevens’ Ape, which features three performers who copy each other’s behaviour; and Jiva Parthipan who will cook and explore the threat of terrorism.

The ‘Elevator’ strand, meanwhile, celebrates the work of artists in the early years of their professional careers, and features 18 shows, including one by Leeds-based Paper Birds. Last seen in Scotland garnering critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the company is returning with its uncompromising work, In a Thousand Pieces (pictured). Exploring the often ignored world of sex trafficking, the show mixes real-life stories with opinion canvassed on the streets of Britain.

‘The piece is quite hard-hitting and dark,’ says director, Jemma McDonnell. ‘But people are surprised how much they laugh during the show, mainly because of the verbatim statements – we couldn’t make them up! At times we read out other people’s and audiences are shocked, amused and embarrassed by the public’s opinions.’

According to the NRLA’s Master of Ceremonies, Ian Smith, there’s no real division between newcomers and old hands. ‘As far as performers go, I cast no distinction between the old lags and the young whippersnappers,’ he says. ‘In this game experience can often be trumped by innocence.’ Artistic director of Glasgow-based performance company, Mischief La-Bas, Smith has the job of ensuring people know where to go, what to see and what it’s all about.

‘I’m a cross between a headmaster and a bus conductor,’ he says. ‘My role is to maintain a thin veneer of understanding so that the punters feel there is at least one pair of safe hands in the place.’ Having moved with the festival from the Arches to Tramway and back again, Smith is well used to keeping the momentum going. ‘Just as we got used to the Ikea spaces of Tramway, we’re back down the devious dungeons of the Arches,’ he says. ‘But the work is so varied that I relish the thought of herding eager punters from cavern to cavern, not knowing exactly what to expect.’

National Review of Live Art, Wed 11–Sun 15 Feb.

The National Review Of Live Art

The NRLA returns to its original home in the Arches, with five days of innovative, experimental and international live art. Japanese artist anti-cool, DJ Miss Electric Gypsyland, and the brilliant Franko B are amongst those in residence. See for full listings.