Surge physical theatre festival brings The Venus Labyrinth to Glasgow

The Venus Labyrinth

Kelly Apter meets the organisers of Surge, a week-long festival of physical theatre, street art and circus that’s about to take Glasgow by storm

If you spot something which defies description hovering around Glasgow city centre during the last weekend in July, chances are it’s Conflux at work. Set up in 2009 to support Scottish physical theatre, street arts and circus, Conflux is about to hold its debut festival, Surge. Comprising seven days of indoor and outdoor events, the festival has given performers, directors and designers across the country a platform for weird and wonderful artistry.

‘We set up the festival in such a way that everybody working in the field of physical performance in Scotland had the opportunity to take part,’ explains Conflux’s artistic director Al Seed. ‘And we’ve calculated that there are 133 Scottish artists involved in Surge.’ Taking place in The Arches, The Briggait, Broomielaw Quay and various outdoor locations, the festival has a diverse range of entertainment to offer the public. According to Seed, however, Surge has another, even more important role to play.

‘Obviously it’s great that these events are happening,’ he says. ‘But more than that, it’s the fact that we’ll have those 133 people, plus international guests, in one place at one time. Inevitably all sorts of new collaborations and possibilities will come from that, which aren’t immediately quantifiable but are very exciting.’

One of the ‘international guests’ Seed refers to is Nullo Facchini, artistic director of Danish company, Cantabile 2. Their show, The Venus Labyrinth looks set to be a Surge highlight. ‘It’s one of the most remarkable shows I’ve seen in a long time, and takes the notion of one-to-one theatre to a different level,’ says Seed. ‘When you enter the labyrinth, the cast and crew actually outnumber the audience, so the level of care and attention you feel is quite unique.’

Facchini has staged the show in a number of locations, and was immediately taken by what The Arches had to offer. ‘It has so many different qualities,’ he says. ‘You go from completely derelict cellar spaces to newly painted modern rooms – some big, some small. So it fits the variety of spaces we need for the performance very well.’ Each audience member will visit a different combination of rooms, encountering some of the 14 female performers inside.

‘We call this kind of work human specific,’ explains Facchini. ‘Because although what happens in each room is fixed, every person who enters influences and interacts with the performer – and every meeting is as touching for the performer as it is for the spectator.’

At the other end of the scale from the intimacy of The Venus Labyrinth, is Used To Be Slime with their six-hour marathon of music and acrobatics in George Square, a 60-strong parade down Buchanan Street from Mischief La Bas, plus a whole lot more.

‘We wanted to celebrate the very different things physical performance can do,’ explains Seed. ‘And stretch people’s expectations of what street art can be. Because one of the great things about street art is it catches people who wouldn’t normally go and see performances, and encourages them to think again about the city they live in. You see possibilities for play and excitement in places where you might not expect it.’

Surge, various venues, Glasgow, Mon 19–Sun 25 Jul. See listings and for details.

The Venus Labyrinth

Performance installation in which audience members travel through some of 28 different rooms, each inhabited by a different woman and each corresponding to a different part of the human brain. Each journey lasts around an hour and audiences should enter via Midland Street.

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