Glasgow's Surge festival showcases street theatre and live arts scene

Glasgow's Surge festival showcases street theatre and live arts scene


Work from companies including Conflux and Mischief La Bas

In 2010, Conflux, a new producer of street arts, physical theatre and circus, burst out of the Arches and onto the streets of Glasgow with the first ever Surge festival. A diverse array of performances, ranging from the mainstream to the decidedly leftfield, culminated in the Surge Grande Parade up the length of Buchanan Street.

Inevitably, the festival involved longstanding figures from the Scottish live arts scene, including Conflux’s artistic director Al Seed and perennial piss-takers Mischief La Bas. They’ll be involved again this year.

However, as Seed explains, while the festival intends to go on into the future, 2012 is a special year for Surge. ‘This is the festival it’s all been building towards. Conflux was set up with the intention of having a big, climax festival on the Olympic opening weekend. It’s definitely grander than the ones we’ve done before.’

In particular, the 2012 programme emphasises the two dominant strands incorporated by Surge. ‘In terms of outdoor performances and street theatre,’ says the artistic director, ‘populist, light-hearted, fun work has its place, and we have it in our festival. However, we also want to engage with making productions that are more challenging and unusual. We want to explore what’s possible in an outdoor setting.’

Top of the bill is Deviator, a major outdoor work with acclaimed Australian company PVI Collective, which runs throughout the festival. Before arriving at the Arches, where the show begins, the audience will download an app with instructions. ‘The idea is that it’s like game playing,’ Seed explains. ‘The show is using new technologies and live performance to disturb the natural rhythms and flows of parts of the city. It’s deliberately and playfully about the audience being provocateurs.’

Various venues, Glasgow, Mon 23–Sun 29 Jul

Seven Hungers

  • Directed by: Ewan Downie

Ensemble physical theatre that blends movement, sound, text and song to explore what lies behind the mysteries and histories of human hunger and desire. Booking is essential.


Radical street theatre game that turns Glasgow into a grown-up playground. Install the deviator app on your smart phone (or hire one of a limited number of smart phones from The Arches 20 minutes before the performance begins), and spend an hour following hidden audio instructions across the city, encountering a team of…

Fish Out of Water

A large-scale community project bringing 50 Scottish performers to Glasgow, with marine-themed educational theatre and storytelling as a shoal of gigantic fish infiltrates the Merchant City. Part of SURGE Festival & the Merchant City Festival.


Dialogue piece in which the ground substitutes language, in 'an exchange of earth and fingerprints'. Part of SURGE Festival.

Scope: Bird

A feral creature struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Part of SURGE Festival.

Scope: Ratcatcher

A 'black panto' romp through diseased fairytales and a dystopian vision of contemporary society, painting a portrait of the jilted generation through violence and existential comedy. Part of SURGE Festival.

Scope: Spiked

A memory that's been hidden for a decade is gradually revealed through acrobatics, percussion and rhythmical movement. Part of SURGE Festival & the Merchant City Festival.

Surge Cabaret Club

Enjoy some theatre with your cocktails at this cabaret performance night. Choose to watch just one or all twelve performances from a menu of intimate 10-minute plays, from comic pieces to dark explorations, with fantasy, edginess and surprises in between. Part of SURGE Festival.


French performer and sculptor Olivier De Sagazan uses clay and paint to perform live sculpture with his own face as a canvas. A work exploring deformity, transformation and the unlocking of the creative process, or every toddler's dream? Part of SURGE Festival.

The People's Tower

Build a giant cardboard representation of the Royal Arch.

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