Martha @ Tramway/What Tammy Needs to Know (3 stars)

Tramway / CCA, Glasgow, both runs ended


Glasgay’s live strand begins with two meditations on the nature of performance: one a more direct essay, and the other reflected through the prism of an homage to a great figure in contemporary dance. Each is warm and appealing, yet the self-reflecting nature of both means that it’s difficult to move the subject to higher planes.

In What Tammy Needs to Know (3 stars), Lois Weaver - not afraid to admit to being 56 as it forms a part of her investigation into growing older and the tree rings of personality this brings - becomes Tammy WhyNot, a country and western dolly, who in turn has become a lesbian performance artist. Wig, false eyelashes and a sadly moulting pink boa appropriated, Miss WhyNot explains her conversion in a song, describing getting into the wrong car in Memphis, the detail increasing each time the chorus comes round. She chats, exposes her obsessions (Tupperware, hotel soap packets, kid gloves, eyemasks - each collection classified and pathologised in a zip-lock bag) and shares her knowledge.

Weaver cleverly subverts the usual C&W dichotomy of buxom young virgin singing songs about heartbreak and loss, and Tammy is cute on Dolly Parton - ‘Those aren’t fake tits, that’s a fake waist!’ Her audience interaction is a touch too folksy, however.

Martha @ Tramway (3 stars) is a tribute to, and a recreation of, Martha Graham. The pioneer of contemporary dance died in 1991 after almost 97 years on the planet, and her relationship with the audience (as transferred through New York choreographer and dancer Richard Move) is one-way, and much more imperious and unsettling. Where is the centre of the stage? Wherever Martha is. How many types of dance are there? Two - good, and bad.

It’s clear Move is a devotee, and has extensively researched Graham’s attitudes, manner, life and career. Recreations of excerpts from dances are skilled, lifted by the excellent assistance of Jennifer Binford Johnson, formerly of the Martha Graham Dance Company. An opening film clip montage is overlong, however, splicing footage of Graham with tribal frugging, dance routines from Hollywood musicals, and random exclamations of ‘Martha!’

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